• Mike Hallinan


By Mike Hallinan | Arts & Entertainment Columnist

Welcome back to another #MikeCheck! Last week, I talked about steps we can take to endure the intermission as theaters have remained shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, I want to talk about an activity that we can do everyday, which is to relive some of our favorite memories of the stage. One particular memory that continues to provide a smile to my face is the first concert that I ever assisted after graduating college. It is, as is frequently the case in regards to my life with theater, a particularly crazy story, but an inspiring one nonetheless and carries a lesson that is completely applicable to the current environment. Now, let’s turn back the clock and take a trip down Mike’s Musical Memory Lane.

The year was 2012. I was a practically freshly minted college graduate looking to make a leap into the world of marketing and promotions on Broadway. The problem was, I had no idea where to start. I had picked up jobs here and there, but not a whole lot that could provide me the inside track to get where I wanted to go. As a result, I was becoming more and more frustrated as I had no idea what to do. This dilemma was exacerbated one evening when I was physically emotionally injured. That incident, coupled with my professional dilemma, sent me to a rage and I took to Twitter to just unleash all of this frustration regarding my situation. I thought I had left it at that, until one day checking the email account linked to my Twitter account I came across a notification that I had received a direct message from a Broadway star of some renown. Thinking it was spam, I went to Twitter to delete the message. When I opened my inbox, I stopped and stared. The message was not spam, after all, but instead this :

“Hey Mike...I've been there. Trust me when I say that the higher road (as tough as it may seem) will bring you greater peace & sense of self.”

The Broadway star who sent me that message was Mr James Barbour. I was absolutely floored. This was someone who, when I had wanted to be a performer, had been an idol. I had had the pleasure of meeting James in 2008 during the Broadway run of A Tale of Two Cities and now, four years later, he was messaging me out of the blue to let me know that everything was going to be alright. Now, I knew that James was scheduled to perform at a Frank Wildhorn and Friends concert at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, so I figured I would attend. After the concert, I approached James and thanked him for the message that he had sent me. James told me that it was not a problem and that if I ever wanted any help with anything in my life.

Birdland Jazz Club, New York City

Things had been taking a turn for the better for me in that I had had a couple of interviews for internships in the city. One of them, which I really felt strong about, was for a Broadway marketing firm. I would learn that it was this firm that, as luck would have it, would be handling the marketing for the Broadway musical, Rebecca, which James was to be in the cast for. However, due to circumstances that have been reported on since, Rebecca would end up not having a Broadway run, leaving me without an internship, and James without his next Broadway gig. I found myself looking for the next step in life when I saw James announce on Twitter that he would be doing a concert at Sardi’s. It was then that I made the boldest decision I have ever made in my career. I messaged James and offered to help with marketing for his concert. As soon as I sent that message, I feared that I had made a terrible judgement call.

Who was I, a young man a year out of college, with very little experience in marketing and promotions, to ask to assist a Broadway star? A reply, however, would soon come from James, stating that he had actually planned to ask me to help out on some things for the concert. I would find myself assisting James mainly by providing posters to businesses near Times Square to display.

Sardi's, New York City

The day of the show would finally arrive. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. In fact, I remember that, in an effort to calm my nerves, I attended an afternoon showing of Frankenweenie. It then came time to meet James at Sardi’s, where the concert was being held. I assisted setting up sound equipment as well as tables in the room. James then said, “Okay. Let’s get some dinner.” I replied, “Ah. Let me get my jacket.” James then explained that we were having dinner at Sardi’s. While having dinner with James, it suddenly dawned on me that here I was, some kid from the burbs, a year out of college, and already achieving goals that many would think to be insurmountable. The concert would happen, with me acting as will call, and then, I finally was able to sit back and watch James give a stellar concert. That concert would prove to be the first of countless I have had the honor of assisting this one time idol who has since become a dear friend and mentor.

The lesson I learned in fall of 2012 is a powerful one that I, as well as others, should constantly remind themselves. We all go through times in our lives that are less than ideal. We must remind ourselves, however, that all it takes is a helping hand to pull us out of that rut we are facing. Tomorrow is a new day, that shall undoubtedly provide challenges, but hidden in those challenges lie opportunities that, if we seize them, will lead to extraordinary success in life. Since 2012, I am eternally grateful for the guidance James has provided me and attribute much of the success I have attained with the knowledge he has imparted. I only hope we can all have someone like that in our lives.

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