It was 2017. After a solid run of professional roles in musical theater, 2016 UNC Greensboro graduate Deon’te Goodman decided to take one last regional role to save some money before he moved to New York City. Broadway was his dream, and what he’d been preparing for so many years. A major in classical voice in the School of Music with a minor in musical theatre in the School of Theatre, he was prepared and eager.
Then, the show was canceled. A friend told him: You can be upset about this for today, but tomorrow you’ve got to plan what you’ll do next. The friend told him about “Freedom Riders: A Civil Rights Musical.” And the director happened to be the assistant director of a staged reading of “The Prince of Egypt,” which Goodman had read for. So, he contacted him. And the director contacted the writers. Two weeks later, Goodman was cast for his honest-to-goodness New York City debut at the Acorn Theatre.
“What is for you will not pass you,” says Goodman. It’s one of his mottos.
Following the six-week summer run with “Freedom Riders,” he took part in concerts, competitions, and staged readings in New York City, and also performed in Orlando, Florida, for an eight-week run of “In the Heights,” by Lin-Manual Miranda.
Fast forward to March 2019: In just days, he’ll hit the biggest stage of his life, as part of the “Hamilton” ensemble at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway. Read the interview below to hear about Goodman’s experience with “Hamilton” thus far, the audition process, his time at UNCG, and advice for other up-and-coming performers.
What do you think about “Hamilton” – what’s unusual about it and what will you enjoy about it?
One thing that I’m so happy about is that I can do a show that I truly believe in. For me, this success is beyond being recognized or having a Broadway career, but more about my debut being in a show that I’m passionate about. This show has changed the trajectory of theater, theater for people of color, and representation in theater. The show tells the history of Alexander Hamilton, but it does so through representation of people of color and immigrants and shows how people of color have done the groundwork for building this nation. I have enjoyed every night of rehearsal, for the music and the story. Lin (-Manual Miranda) and Alex (Lacamoire) have done a beautiful job of creating a show everyone can enjoy and find a way to relate to, and the cast is incredible. Everyone involved has been so kind.
What was the audition process like?
It was not for the faint of heart. For a show of this caliber, the process is long. I auditioned over a period of six months. It’s a show where there are a lot of words and memorization, and the cast has to be able to tell the story the way it needs to be told. There were “Hamilton” boot camps, where we had work sessions and weeks of rehearsal time going over music and choreography. It’s beyond learning material but seeing where performers will fit. It’s a long-term contract and the directors need to make sure it’s something you can grow with over a period of time.
It’s an intense process but rewarding, because once you are in, you know you have gained a new family and grown more disciplined in what you do.
How did UNCG prepare you for this?
I spent four years in the School of Music’s classical program, and I loved it, and it gave me great discipline, but I also knew I wanted to do musical theater – it was my passion. My music theory and ear-training classes gave me an advantage in the musical theater world. I walk into music rehearsals confidently knowing that no matter what, I can rely on those skills.
I was one of 12 students in the first musical theater program cohort at UNCG. It really shaped the trajectory of my career and gave me a new confidence in myself. I really gained from the Audition Techniques in Musical Theatre course, and voice lessons.
My voice teacher Carla LeFevre gave me room to pursue musical theater and along with Dominick Amendum and Justin Cowan, helped me prepare an audition book for my real-world career. The training I received from them was professional training, so I was never surprised by the challenges after graduating. They are great influences on my life even now.
What advice do you have to offer other actors and singers, particularly UNCG students, who may be at the start of their professional careers?
You are going to have everyone telling you how hard it is for the rest of your life to be a professional actor, singer, or dancer. It’s important to remember that your journey is your own, and in all things remember to practice self-care. You are working hard, and everyone else is as well. You will be faced with rejection. The most important thing I have learned is that before I was ever an actor or a singer, I was a human being. And it’s important to feed my human self before I can feed my career. I think that’s important to tell students because that’s something that is often missed. It’s so easy to look at what everyone else has and forget what you have to offer. Your story is different, and that’s okay. What’s for you will not pass you. It’s easy to become discouraged and feel like you should have chosen a different path, but I think that when you can’t see yourself doing anything else but this, that means you are doing the right thing. Your success is not going to look like anyone else’s.
To learn more about Goodman’s career, visit his website or Instagram at @thedeontegoodman. To learn more about his areas of study at UNCG, visit the School of Music, School of Theatre, and program in Musical Theatre.
Story and interview by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Anthony Chatmon, Evan Zimmerman/Murphy Made, and Mia Winston