The lead role in a high school production is like the Holy Grail for a kid who’s been performing since before he could walk – a sure sign that it was all destined to be. But what about a kid who snags the lead role in the spring musical andthe play, in the same year, as a sophomore? Does it double the speed of destiny?
For Union City High School student Dany Milano, that seems to be the case. Aside from his leading man roles in “Pippin” and “Romeo and Juliet” in school this year, Milano was also seen on the MSG Varsity network’s weekly competition, “Talent Show,” that premiered last Sunday at 6 p.m. on Channel 14.
“[My experience on television] validated that this was what I was meant to do.” – Dany Milano.
Singing before he could talk
Though Milano had been, according to his family, singing since before he could talk, he had relatively little vocal training – “a couple weeks here, a couple weeks there” – until he joined the school choir in eighth grade.
Last year, he applied and was accepted as a freshman into UCHS-AEA (Union City High School – Academy for Enrichment and Achievement), and began to really build his voice and theatre experience.
He credits his vocal improvement to Shawnee Taylor, who came in to vocally train those involved in last year’s musical, “The Wiz,” and “really took all of our voices to the next level and brought our talents from being great to amazing.”
And this year? Well, “This [whole] year has been amazing,” Milano said.
As a mere sophomore, he has snagged this year’s lead roles of Pippin in the school’s spring musical “Pippin” and Romeo in the school’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” which will be performed in early June.
Add in his participation in the televised MSG Varsity competition, and the word “amazing” may be an understatement.
In only the last few years, Milano has wholeheartedly entrenched himself in the world of dramatic arts. And whether they respected his commitment, or simply sensed his star power, Milano quickly gained fans in his teacher and choir instructor Ms. Alvarez – who told him of the MSG Varsity competition – and his “role model,” the late Jack O’Connor, his English and musical theatre teacher.
Milano met O’Connor when he auditioned for Smokey Joe’s Café the year before high school, and continued to work with him his freshman year in “The Wiz” at Union City High School.
“Many students were intimidated by [Jack’s] sarcasm and witty attitude,” Milano said, “but being with him after school in the theatre and rehearsing showed a whole new side to him, and he became a mentor and second father to me. He made my freshman year the great year it was.”
To the great sadness of many, O’Connor passed away during the summer, but his memory lives on with Milano.
There’s one memory he has in particular. Last year, Milano had been unsuccessfully trying to sell tickets for “The Wiz” in the school cafeteria. O’Connor, seeing this, silenced the entire cafeteria and told the students that they should all buy tickets to the show because “[Milano] may not be a good salesman, but he’s a wonderful actor and singer.”
“So,” Milano related, “Mr. Jack O’Connor is my role model because he believed in me, and he was and will always be, remembered.”
With the support of teachers like Alvarez and O’Connor as well as family and friends, Milano decided to audition for MSG Varsity’s Talent Show competition.
He chose the first song that popped into his head – “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga – to sing, and collaborated with fellow student and pianist Steven Pereira, whom he refers to as a “prodigy,” for the audition.
“One of the luxuries of being a singer in UCHS is that you meet so many talented individuals,” he said.
Milano was happy with the audition.
“We were able to take the song and make it our own and really dissect the meaning of the words and bring it to light,” said Milano. “Probably one of my best audition tapes.”
MSG Varsity thought so too. After receiving the recording of the audition, they called him back with word that he was one of 32 finalists.
“When filming for the talent show,” he said, “I was in heaven. It was everything I thought it would be: lights, camera, action. But it happened so quickly. I wish it could have gone a bit slower, but I have no doubt I’ll be doing this again sometime soon.”
With two leading roles, various plays, and a television performance under his belt, Milano is already looking forward to a very bright future.
He plans to study musical theatre in college and to record demo tapes and go on auditions in his down time.
“The competition gave me a sneak peek into the world of show biz,” he said. “[My experience on television] validated that this was what I was meant to do.”
In 10 years, the ambitious Milano hopes that he will have released a couple records, “to have won a Grammy, to have changed music history, to be working on my first film and then hopefully win an Oscar.”
At the rate he’s going, it just might come true.