- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - How do you land a plum Broadway role? If you’re Alex Brightman, you follow your own advice.

The actor-writer-comedian - who between gigs teaches young actors how to nail their next stage audition - plays the lead in the “School of Rock” musical at the Winter Garden Theatre, handpicked by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Brightman got the job largely by being himself, and that’s what he imparts to others in “Alex Brightman Teaches You to Kick Auditions in the Ass.”

“If you leave the room without the job, you have gained or lost nothing,” he says. “I go, ‘Sometimes, they’re just looking for a redhead. So just have a good time.’”

He’s doing exactly that as he plays Dewey Finn - the Jack Black role - in a stage adaptation of the 2003 film about a lovable loser who turns a prep-school class into a rock band.

Brightman attended a reading of the musical and performed the part of one of the kids and an ensemble character. He made an impression on director Laurence Connor.

“While we were reading around the table, I was always drawn to him,” Connor says. “He was such a child himself. There was this wonderful energy from him.”

The 28-year-old from Saratoga, California, was raised on Aerosmith and Queen. He did community theater after being inspired by a stage-door meeting with Tony winner Michael Cerveris on Broadway.

That was when he was 8 and Brightman had just seen “The Who’s Tommy.” Cerveris came out to greet fans, knelt down and shook the boy’s hand, saying, “Thanks for coming to my show.” Brightman says: “It changed my life forever.”

Brightman took off seventh grade to do a play in San Francisco. He later left New York University early to be in “The History Boys” in Los Angeles.

“I was not for school,” he says.

On Broadway, he appeared in “Wicked” and “Matilda the Musical.” During his 11 callbacks for “Wicked,” he walked out and said simply, “Hi, how’s everyone doing?”

Brightman could see everyone’s shoulders lower and all the anxiety leave the room. “I teach that: How to create a shoulder-lowering atmosphere in a room.”

He also endured rough times, as when “Big Fish” slumped in 2013 and the musical “Glory Days” closed after one performance in 2008. That’s given him his hard-won perspective.

“Anything that goes beyond opening night is a huge win for me,” he says, laughing.

For his new role, Brightman has resumed guitar lessons and stopped going to the gym. He gained 10 pounds and arrived for an interview with a button popped on his pants.

Like his character onstage, Brightman is a whirlwind of energy. With his writing partner, Drew Gasparini, he’s written the musicals “Make Me Bad,” ”The Whipping Boy” and “Everything in Its Place.” He’s also writing stand-up and trying to enjoy the last few days of anonymity.

But you’ll be able to bother Brightman at one place: “At the stage door, I’m signing every autograph.”

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Online: http://schoolofrockthemusical.com

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Follow Mark Kennedy at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mark-kennedy

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