Elon University music theater alumni Michael Callahan and Sean Ronayne, both class of 2013, wanted to make it together on Broadway, but neither expected it would happen so soon. The former classmates are co-stars once again in the ensemble of the Tony Award-winning “Cinderella.”
Both had been auditioning for the national tour as well as the Broadway cast for months, until slots opened up on Broadway. Callahan and Ronayne are both part of the show’s ensemble. The former plays the Raccoon/Driver and is the understudy for one of the show’s newest characters, a rebel named Jean-Michel, and the latter is the understudy for Prince Topher.
Ronayne was elated by the chance to perform on the Broadway stage.
“It’s nice to finally focus on what I want to be doing,” Ronayne said. “It’s been crazy emotional, but I’m so excited. I’m working with people I’ve listened to on albums, people I look up to. It’s so surreal.”
Ronayne and Callahan’s vocal coach, Elon Professor April Hill, expressed her delight at having two former students debuting together.
“It is pretty exciting,” she said. “They were in the same class and had the same instructors. They are both hardworking and beautifully talented.”
Unlike Elon shows, where Ronayne and Callahan learned the show with the entire cast from the beginning, the actors are, as Ronayne puts it, “placing [themselves] in a machine already running.” Callahan explains the small-scale rehearsals were more relaxed compared to the high intensity of the actual performance.
“Rehearsals were very laid-back,” Callahan said. “I worked one-on-one with the dance captain for about two weeks before joining the show. The difficult part came soon after. My first time doing the show with the entire cast was my first night performing. It was terrifying. Everyone was extremely helpful, but nothing can prepare you for entering a show with 20 other people.”
Hill, said she is not surprised by her former students’ success, especially so early on. She said the intensity of Elon’s music theater department gives the students the ability to succeed.
“The Elon program is very demanding,” Hill said. “They basically train as triple majors in voice, dance and acting, much like in a conservatory setting. They do so many things, staying on top of the liberal arts requirements and rehearsals, that they develop stamina and have to work hard.”
Callahan and Ronayne’s friendship began long before their four years at Elon. The two met while participating in the Broadway Theater Project in 2008 before reuniting as classmates at Elon. Ronayne says having a familiar face in the cast has made the adjustment that much easier.
“It is so nice,” Ronayne said. “We are some of the younger ones [in the cast], and we’re both making our debut. He relates to everything I’m going through, and that makes me less nervous and self-conscious. We can talk to each other, and that’s a smoother process.”
Both alumni said their success in the show is largely credited to the training they received while they were in Elon’s music theater department.
Ronayne added his training at Elon is what helped him get to auditions in New York City.
“I know what I need to do to take care of myself and prepare for auditions,” he said. “They’ve given us a solid technical basis to jump off. Everyone [in this industry] knows that Elon alums will be prepared and ready to handle anything.”
Callahan and Ronayne are now living out their dreams of performing on a Broadway stage, and they said trusting yourself and your abilities will grant you the opportunities.
“You can’t compare your path to someone else’s,” Callahan said. “Everything happens to you in your own time. It doesn’t make you more or less talented than those around you. Performing and auditioning is more of a mind game then anything else. It’s about keeping your mind and spirit in the right place.”