Q&A: F. Michael Haynie of the ‘Frozen’ North American Tour

F Michael Haynie in Frozen

F. Michael Haynie plays Olaf on the North American tour of Disney’s Broadway musical Frozen. Olaf is an adorably sincere snowman with a case of serious summer envy. He is also indispensable in helping Anna find her sister. Frozen also stars Caroline Bowman as Elsa, Caroline Innerbichler as Anna, Austin Colby as Hans, Mason Reeves as Kristoff, Jeremy Morse as Weselton and Collin Baja and Evan Strand alternating as Sven. The tour opened at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles and goes to Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Tulsa, Dallas, Cleveland, Charlotte and Chicago, with more cities to be announced. The original Tony-nominated production also continues its hit Broadway run. Haynie’s Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include WickedCharlie and the Chocolate FactoryHoller If Ya Hear Me, Carrie and Dogfight. On film and TV, he can be seen in Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Convert, Peter Pan Live! and Not Fade Away. He is a member of the comedy and musical group The (M)orons with Drew Gasparini, Andrew Kober and Alex Brightman.

Can you take us to your audition for the Frozen North American Tour?
FMH: It was really exciting. I had seen the show. I thought “That would be so much fun.” At the time, I had most of my head shaved. I had a Mohawk and a beard. When I walked in, the entire team leaned into me as an actor, and said, “I want to see your version of this person.” I brought him to life, and then (Frozen’s director) Michael Grandage asked me if I would shave. I told him I would shave half of it. We laughed together. And I thought, “Wait, I might get this job.” They trusted me as an actor. For something that is a giant Disney production, that is how much they care. They went actors, dancers and singers on that stage.

And how did you hear you were cast?
FMH: I remember I was rehearsing for something I was working on. A different production. I was alone in the hallway sitting in a chair. My agent called me and said, “It’s happening, I’ll call you with all the other details later.” It was amazing to have the support of my friends and family.

What is it like to be on tour?
FMH: To pick up your entire life to go on tour for a year is very exciting. It’s also an interesting burden. I will not be in my home nor will I be near my best friends for a year. I’m going to miss shows here in New York. I love the theater community in New York so much. But even more so, on days off I am excited see shows in Portland and Seattle. I am excited to meet thriving theater communities around the country from high schools, middle schools and community theaters. I think of people who love theater so much, and do it in their hometown. I get spoiled that my community theater is 42nd Street. So to get to see those communities of actors is thrilling. My mom is a community theater director, and my brother is an actor in Macon, Georgia.

What was one of the first shows you did when you were a kid?
FMH: One of the first things I remember was a Maurice Sendak piece called Really Rosie. I played a character named Chicken Soup, and it was Carole King music. It was so much fun. I had never wanted to do theater professionally. It was not ever a goal, even into high school. I wanted to be a band director. That was it. But every day, I got to do theater with my brother and mom. I did theater for fun. I’m very fortunate to have all the people who believed in me, and all of the hard work that I put in.

Can you talk about your Broadway debut?
FMH: My Broadway debut in Wicked was insane. I played Boq. Alex Brightman is one of my dearest friends, and he’s great. And I got to see him play Boq several times. All of a sudden, my Broadway debut was just a Tuesday in September. The year was 2012. I got to make my Broadway debut with my moms, my brother and my best friends, Drew Gasparini, Andrew Kober and Alex Brightman. But the rest of the audience had no idea. They were just seeing Wicked in year nine. And it was many people’s first Broadway show. I suddenly realized the responsibility you have doing a show that already exists. That is something we’ve learned with Frozen. We are a very new, exciting continuation of the trajectory of Frozen, the brand. But also, this is a brand-new show.

Do you remember when you first learned about Frozen?
FMH: I saw it in the movie theater. I think it was on 84th Street. I had been doing theater and was really excited about my life in New York. I remember seeing it, and thinking about the theater connections. I ended up doing Wicked later, and there was Idina Menzel. There was Josh Gad. Kristen Bell is theater person. There was Jonathan Groff. I knew of Bobby Lopez and his work, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her work. I thought, “This feels like theater.”

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By Jeryl Brunner

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