Two years ago, BSSC Alumnus Charlie Munday took the difficult first step to his new life in America.
Born and bred in Bendigo, Munday had long dreamed of studying at the American Musical and Drama Academy with the hope of forging a professional theatrical career on the stage.
He graduated from AMDA in March and has enjoyed the rollercoaster of experiences that come with being an actor.
“It’s been a whirlwind but I’ve loved every second of living here,” he said.
Over the past 10 months Munday has accepted four professional contracts, worked in three theatres, choreographed two shows and appeared in 12 musicals.
“Every day I wake up and pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming,” Munday said. “Being a professional performer is all I’ve ever wanted. I was sure I could make it happen one day and here I am.”
His work has so far taken him from New York to Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
“I’m working in Tennessee at the moment in Holiday Inn at the Cumberland County Playhouse, which is more than 1200km away from my home in New York,” he said.
“Working constantly is difficult as an actor because performance dates often conflict with each other, but somehow the stars aligned for me and I’ve been travelling and working consistently since March.”
Munday has also been nominated for a Broadway World award for best choreographer.
“Finding out that Broadway World had nominated me for best choreographer was one of the proudest moments I’ve had in my career so far,” he said. “It’s incredibly exciting to be nominated among choreographers that have worked on Broadway and professionally around the world for years.”
Next year he has offers to take on roles in productions of Matilda, The Addams Family and Young Frankenstein. But it’s his early 2019 role of John Caleo in a reading of Australian play Holding the Man that has Munday the most excited.
Holding the Man is a memoir by Timothy Conigrave that follows relations between two high school boys in Victoria in the 1970s. It is being presented in New York for the first time as part of a benefit for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
“This project is so important to me,” Munday said. “As actors, it’s so important to use our talents to tell stories that evoke thought and change. Holding The Man is such a powerful, monumental play and I am so honoured to have such a significant role in the first time this play is being presented in New York.”
The reading will be Munday’s New City debut, something he can tick off his bucket list.
“Getting to work as an actor in New York City is rare – there are tens of thousands of talented performers that never get the chance to be seen on a New York stage,” he said.
“It’s such a surreal feeling knowing that in a couple of months, I’ll be making my New York City debut in a leading role in such an incredible, moving play as Holding The Man.”
The bucket-list item also puts the Bendigo-born perform one step closer to his dreams of performing on Broadway. But before Broadway was ever considered a possibility, Munday’s theatrical career began with a few drama classes in primary school. He said it wasn’t until he turned 12 that theatre beckoned as a hobby.
“I really started to get involved when I was 12,” he said. “I was taking musical theatre classes from the legendary Kerry Lorenz, was Robin Hood in primary school and had started taking some singing lessons.
“On my 13th birthday, I walked into the Bendigo Theatre Company for the first time to audition for Annie. After that, I dived head first into the Bendigo theatre scene and my passion grew from there.”
The same year as his first BTC audition also saw Munday’s passion for theatre ignite after seeing Mamma Mia in Melbourne. Bendigo has seen him in Peter Pan, Hairspray, Chicago, Mary Poppins, The Addams Family and The Boy From Oz.
“That was when the thought of having a career as a performer became real to me,” he said. “It ignited a passion in me that I couldn’t control. Pretty soon I filled up every second of my spare time with dance classes, singing lessons, rehearsals and researching the craft.”
And when did the passion turn into dreams and determination to have a theatrical career?
“In 2014, I was in BTC’s Chicago and I remember this moment so clearly,” he said. “It was opening night and I had just come off stage from the opening number All The Jazz. I looked back onto the stage and I could hear the buzz of the audience and I could feel their excitement.
“Something clicked in me, and from then on I knew there was nothing else in the world that could make me feel the way theatre does.”
From that moment, all of Munday’s spare moments were devoted to chasing his dream.
“Nothing that is worth having comes easy,” he said. “Being so far away from my family and friends has been the most difficult thing I’ve had to go through. I want young aspiring performers to know that hard work and determination is all it takes to have a professional career.
“When I was 14, I couldn’t sing a single note in pitch, I’d never taken a dance class and I was scared of acting. Instead of giving up, I worked hard, really, really hard.
“Every second I had to spare; I was practicing and improve my skills. If you want to be a performer, the first step is to believe in yourself and block out anyone who tells you it’s not possible.”
As Munday continues to strive for Broadway and beyond, Bendigo audiences can only wonder when he might return to The Captial or Ulumbarra stages.
“Both of those theatres hold such important and significant memories in my life, I would never turn down the chance to return to my old stomping ground and perform there again,” he said.
“Bendigo is really starting to get a reputation for excellent theatre, and I can’t believe how much the theatre scene has grown since I left. I can’t wait to see how far it progresses in the next few years.”
You can follow Charlie Munday at www.charliemunday.com
Chris Pedler – Bendigo Advertiser