Roosevelt University Musical Theatre Alumnus Enjoys Spectacular Broadway Debut

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–November 2, 2015.  Performing on Broadway always has been a dream for Roosevelt University theatre alumnus J. Michael Finley, who recently joined the cast of Les Miserables and starred last week in a number of performances of the Broadway show.

An ensemble member and understudy in the lead role of Jean Valjean, Finley (BFA, ’11) had the opportunity to perform for the first time as Valjean on stage at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre on Oct. 25, and was well received when  he took a solo bow at the end of the show.

“He was absolutely fabulous,” said Rebecca Schorsch, a Roosevelt University theatre faculty member and Finley’s long-time vocal coach who prepared him for his winning Broadway audition and made the trip to New York for his debut as Jean Valjean.

“There was quite a bit of fanfare from the crowd,” said Schorsch of an audience that she believes was clearly impressed with Finley’s performance. “It’s unusual for an understudy to be that enthusiastically celebrated, but John’s performance warranted it,” she said.

One critic in attendance, Celebrity Radio’s Alex Belfield, called Finley’s debut as Valjean “masterful” and “a stellar world class performance as good as anyone I’ve ever heard and seen in the role.” Audience members who were in attendance surrounded Finley with requests for autographs following the show.

A native of Lebanon, Mo., Finley credits his training at Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory as well as some of the contacts he made as a Roosevelt musical theatre student for putting him on a path to success and toward his goal of performing on Broadway.

“Roosevelt was perfect for me. It was a large enough program and in a large enough city to provide the kind of training one needs to work in any arts business,” Finley said. “At the same time, the program was small and intimate enough to give me the kind of one-on-one training that has helped me get where I am today,” he added.

Renee Keen (BFA, ’08) recognized Finley’s singing and acting talent while she was a student in Roosevelt’s theatre program.   Today, she is Finley’s agent.

“I remember hearing him at the Freshman Showcase and thinking that he had a powerful voice, which is rare to find,” said Keen, a theatre agent for the Shirley Hamilton Talent Agency in Chicago.

Not only did Keen reach out to Finley with a proposal to represent him shortly after becoming a theatre agent about two-and-a-half years ago. She also paved the way for Finley to do a taped audition that led to him being cast in the Broadway show.

Since graduating from Roosevelt, Finley has appeared in as many as a dozen musicals, including appearances in The Dead at the Court Theater in Chicago, Carousel at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Jean Valjean in the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre production of Les Miserables in Colorado.

“We are so proud of John and the great success he is enjoying,” said Sean Kelley, director of Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory and associate dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts. “He undoubtedly has a promising future ahead of him and is also another example of the impressive strides that our students and alumni continue to make.”

The Theatre Conservatory has had a number of alumni recently appearing in Broadway shows, including musical theatre graduates Courtney Reed who is starring as Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and Scott Stangland (MFA, ’05) who recently played Eamon in Once, which closed this fall on Broadway after more than 1,000 performances.