Some nights when Taylor Trensch is on stage — surrounded by lights, packed houses and swelling music — it hits him.
He's on Broadway.
All the trips to New York for auditions, the hard-won roles and the personal sacrifices paid off. At 22, the Temple Terrace native has fulfilled his childhood dream.
"It's an amazing feeling," Trensch said. "I never thought I'd be here, especially at this age. I'm so grateful."
He recently made his Broadway debut as Boq, the lovesick Munchkin in the Tony-award-winning Wicked. It happened quickly and he knows this role won't last forever but, for now, he's soaking in the experience.
Trensch, who graduated from Blake High School in 2007, had recently finished a run of the stage adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine in California and moved to New York to do more auditions. He tried out for an off-Broadway production and, though he didn't get that role, he made an impression.
The director of that show was Joe Mantello — also the director for Wicked. Mantello needed someone to fill in for another actor taking a three-month hiatus.
Mantello knew enough about Trensch to cast him in the role for Wicked without an audition. Trensch rehearsed for two weeks and joined his fellow actors at the end of January.
Trensch's acting career had started with the original version of the wicked witch story, The Wizard of Oz. He was 5 when he found out that the Masque of Temple Terrace was staging a musical of his favorite movie at the time. He told his father, Frank Trensch, that it would be fun to do the show live.
He played a Munchkin and was hooked from the curtain call.
In fourth grade, he started attending Philip Shore Elementary, a performing arts magnet, which showed him he could pursue acting as a career. From there, he attended Orange Grove Middle, another arts school, then Blake High School for its arts program. He also studied musical theater at the Patel Conservatory at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. He won the most outstanding performer award in 2007 at the Florida State Thespian conference.
Eric Davis, artistic director at Freefall Theatre, taught Trensch for a couple of years at Blake and said he always was interested in improving his skills.
"He has a lot of natural talent, but he's an incredibly hard worker," Davis said.
Trensch jokes that his father drove him to do theater.
That's true, Frank Trensch said. He drove him in the car. To his rehearsals.
Frank Trensch knew his son had talent — he had a beautiful singing voice and teachers would select him to sing at assemblies. But it wasn't until he reached college that he started to get some big breaks. In 2009, when he was a sophomore at Elon University, he was cast as Moritz in the touring company for Spring Awakening and put college on hold.
For years, Trensch had been auditioning for Spring Awakening because the show wanted real teens, not trained actors. He submitted a video audition on a whim while still in high school and got called back for several follow-up auditions before finally getting cast. He would go on to win a 2009 Denver Post Ovation Award for best supporting actor in a national touring production.
Afterward, he found more work in New York and later was cast in Little Miss Sunshine.
Frank Trensch, a physicist, said he believed postponing college for theater was a good decision for his son. Now, seeing him in Wicked leaves no doubt.
Shortly after his son's Broadway debut, he and a group from Tampa traveled to New York to see the show. It was amazing to see the child he had watched on countless school stages appearing in a hit musical.
"This was just really overwhelming to see him on Broadway," Frank Trensch said.
He says his son has stayed modest about success, sitting for hours with the Tampa group to answer questions and give backstage tours.
Taylor Trensch's Broadway run is scheduled to end April 22, with the original actor cast in the role expected to return April 24.
"Then I'm out on the street," Trensch quipped.
But maybe not for long. A new production of Into the Woods is coming up, and Trensch loves the role of Jack, which he played in high school. There's also a chance, he said, that Little Miss Sunshine will premiere on Broadway, opening up another possibility for Trensch.
Until then, he'll enjoy the Wicked ride.
Courtney Cairns Pastor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.