NEW YORK—A Western Michigan University graduate is dancing his way into the spotlight in one of the hottest shows on Broadway.
Mikey Winslow, who graduated in 2009 with a music theatre performance degree, joined the cast of "Hamilton" on Broadway in January.
"It's pretty wild. It feels great," says Winslow.
Winslow is cast as a "swing." In this role, he is tasked with learning the vocal lines and choreography for the entire male ensemble.
He'll jump in, sometimes at a moment's notice, for those cast members who are unable to perform for reasons like illness, injury or vacation.
"It's a very important role, but it's not a role that often gets a lot of light shed on it because it's an off-stage role," says Winslow. "It's one of those jobs where, if you have the brain for it, it's really rewarding because you get to understand the show from a much larger perspective."
Landing a role in "Hamilton" is impressive in itself. But Winslow's success in the show is an even larger accomplishment considering that less than a year ago he had a full hip replacement.
"This is huge, because it's a major dance show. We're dancing for basically three hours straight," says Winslow. "So, coming back after this recovery, which was a very trying time in my life…it just feels like the greatest gift."
Winslow attributes his success, in part, to his education.
"I learned individualism at Western. I found myself. I don't think I'd be the person I am today if I hadn't had that experience."
WMU is also where Winslow cultivated his work ethic, something he relies on constantly as a professional performer.
"That skill is so necessary, especially as a swing. Learning "Hamilton," I come home every night and do about two hours of homework to make sure that I really am prepared to jump in at a moment's notice. I'm constantly dancing around and doing the work. Luckily, I live in the basement. So, I can sing as loud as I want," Winslow laughs.
"It's that inspired work ethic that, if I hadn't had a taste for it and explored where to go with it back at Western, I don't know if I'd really have the ability to dig in like I am here."
His advice to current students hoping for a career in theatre?
"Diversify yourself," he says. "If it's a hobby, interest or passion of yours, practice it and get it so your skills are above average. Whether it's woodworking or guitar or unicycling; anything you can do to elevate your individuality and your skill sets above normal makes you more available as a performer."
Above all: be yourself.
"Western gives people an opportunity to find themselves as individuals and promote that," Winslow says. "I think it's a different thing that Western does and I think it's something to really lean into."
Winslow says WMU gave him the launching point he needed to succeed.
"It is always a great day to be a Bronco."
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