What Was Frankie Grande’s Very First Audition Like and Who Became His First Onstage Kiss?

Interview   What Was Frankie Grande’s Very First Audition Like and Who Became His First Onstage Kiss?
 
The star of Off-Broadway’s Cruel Intentions answers Playbill’s theatre firsts column.
Frankie Grande_glikas (6).jpg
Frankie Grande Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Frankie Grande was skiiing down a mountain peak in Telluride when his phone rang from an incoming 212 area code. “When I see it I always say ‘Oh, it’s broadway calling!’, so I answered and it was Off-Broadway calling!” That call let Grande know he’d be joining the cast of the smash Off-Broadway musical Cruel Intentions, based on the movie of the same name. “I flew down the mountain with an added swish in my skis,” says the actor.

Frankie J. Grande
Frankie J. Grande Jones Crow

Having made his Broadway debut in Mamma Mia! and later starring in Rock of Ages, Grande returns to the New York stage as Blaine. Here, the actor, TV personality, philanthropist through his work with Broadway in South Africa, and LGBTQ activist, tells Playbill about his first talent crush, the first time he saw his name in a Playbill, and more theatre firsts.

What was the first piece of theatre you ever saw?
Frankie Grande: My first Broadway show was Little Shop of Horrors, which became and is still my favorite musical ever! I MUST play Seymour one day... no option! 😁

Who was your first theatre-celebrity talent crush?
It was ABSOLUTELY Sarah Brightman! I saw her in Phantom ten times before my tenth birthday and was absolutely obsessed. She’s a queen and I’ve seen her in concert so many times since then. I love her.

What was your first audition ever?
My first audition ever was for Bye Bye Birdie in fifth grade. I was asked to sing a section of a musical theatre or pop song so naturally I chose “Wind Beneath My Wings” and sang the entire song! I remember the director tried to stop me before the bridge but I steam-rolled her with: “Fly.... FLY!!!! FLY HIGH AGAINST THE SKY!” straight through to the end. And I booked the role of Birdie! 🤗

What was your first paid acting gig?
I was Boots The Monkey in DORA THE EXPLORER LIVE: Dora’s Pirate Adventure and it was the greatest! I played 12 shows sold out at Radio City and I’ll never forget the screams of joy when that curtain came up to reveal me all alone, standing on my head, making monkey noises. I miss it.

When did you first see the movie Cruel Intentions and what was your first impression?
I was 16 years old and honestly... I had no idea what was happening. I knew nothing! Like... nothing! So I was actually so surprised when I re-watched it prior to joining the cast and was like: Oh that’s what that was. 🤔

Was Blaine the first character you thought of when contemplating who you’d like to play in the musical?
Yup. No Option.

What was the first song you learned for Cruel Intentions?
Well I knew every single song in the show, which was amazing and allowed me to be off book very quickly, but the harmonies were super tricky. Our version of “I’ll Make Love to You” took me until my fourth show to figure out. 🤣

When was the first time you felt like you had slipped into Blaine’s skin?
I would say it took me up until the day after my opening to finally let my “where do i go” brain shut off completely and allow me to just be the character onstage. It was a very unconventional rehearsal & put-in situation so it felt like a puzzle at first... one that I was thrilled to solve!

When (and with whom) was your first onstage kiss?
That would be with my boyfriend in the show, Greg McConnell, played by the beautiful and talented Brian Muller, and he made me feel so comfortable and great. He’s the best. We make a great team!

In one word, what was your first performance Off-Broadway like?
Whirlwind

What was it like to see your name in a Playbill for the first time?
OMG I have my Mamma Mia! {laybill framed in my bedroom. It was magical! I totally cried...a lot! I remember collecting Playbills my entire life, and then to be in one… I have No words... 😍

What is your first thought when you make your entrance each night?
HERE WE GO!!!!!!!

What was the first fan gift you ever received?
I have the most incredible fans and they have given me so many wonderful gifts. My apartment is decorated almost entirely with fan art... and it’s beautiful! I really can’t say what the first gift was, but I can say that I love each and every one of them!

Who was the first person you greeted during your first exit from the stage door? OR What was your first night like greeting fans at the stage door?
In this show it was my agent, David Kalodner, and his assistant, Michael Salimbene, who came to my very first show even though I begged him to give me a second to figure it out! But when I saw them smiling as I came out from the green room I was very very happy and really glad that they came to the first show.

What was the first stage door you ever visited?
It had to be Little Shop, but I stage-door every single show I go to. At first it was to meet all of the people who performed for me and who I wanted to join onstage one day, and now it’s to see all my friends that are in the shows. I love theatre, so I’ll never just head home after a show, no way!

What is the first thought you have when you take your bow?
Can’t wait to do it all again!

Cruel Intentions is now playing at Le Poisson Rouge. Click here for tickets and information.

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