A number of milestones in Michael Mindlin’s life have involved Andy Blankenbuehler, and vice versa. Mindlin’s first role in an original Broadway cast was in 2009’s 9 to 5, choreographed by Blankenbuehler. Now Mindlin is performing in Bring It On: The Musical, which marks Blankenbuehler’s Broadway directing debut.
The two met years ago at Broadway Dance Center, where Mindlin began taking Blankenbuehler’s theater class as soon as he moved to NYC and now teaches himself. “I pretty much attribute my theater-dance training and any kind of confidence I’ve had going to auditions and working to what I learned from him in those classes,” Mindlin says of Tony winner Blankenbuehler. “He was, and is, a big influence—and now he’s become a good friend.”
Among other career highlights, Mindlin shared the stage with such stars as Rosie O’Donnell, Ben Vereen, Charles Busch and Laura Benanti in a 2009 benefit performance of Pippin choreographed by Blankenbuehler. And it was in Blankenbuehler’s Broadway Dance class a decade ago that Mindlin met Elizabeth Racanelli. They started dating when they performed together in Footloose at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, N.H., during the summer of 2005 and were married this May.
Mindlin and Racanelli’s wedding (and Greece honeymoon) took place right around the time Bring It On was wrapping up its national tour, which launched last fall. Mindlin was also in the workshop production of the cheerleading musical at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in early 2011. He got the part after what he calls “an insane audition process” that encompassed some half a dozen callbacks. By the time of the final callback, Mindlin had performed about five different songs from the show in auditions and learned about “stunting”—the cheerleading moves in which someone is lifted or thrown. They’re a big part of the Bring It On choreography, and Mindlin is now performing them on the Broadway stage, though he’s generally at the bottom of the pyramids.
When his agent first called him about auditioning for Bring It On, Mindlin thought it was just a courtesy from Blankenbuehler. “I don’t do hip-hop, I don’t tumble, I don’t cheer,” says Mindlin. “It just didn’t seem like the right fit.” He even left the first audition early to get to his Broadway Dance class; if he’d suspected he had any chance of being cast, he would have asked the studio to get a substitute teacher. Yet he continued to get called back for Bring It On. “The more auditions I went to,” Mindlin says, “the more I thought maybe I could get the gig, and the more I wanted the gig. The more they expressed interest, the more my interest grew. And then by the end, it was: I need to get this gig.”
As Bring It On is set in high school and many in its cast—including most of the stars as well as the professional cheerleaders in the ensemble—are making their Broadway debuts, Mindlin is an elder statesman in the company. Just shows you what a difference a few years can make in the life of a gypsy. In 9 to 5, Mindlin was one of the younger and less-experienced cast members. His next Broadway show, Mamma Mia (which he was in throughout 2010), also had actors older than him as well as of his generation. “But with this show I do feel like a veteran,” says Mindlin, who turns 30 at the end of the year. “When I think about my colleagues and a lot of the people I hang around with, I consider them veterans. I love learning, I love pushing myself. When I take dance class or go to auditions, I always follow the people who I feel are better than me and I can mimic. So I don’t like feeling like a veteran. I have a lot more to learn and am not even close to being done in this business.”
Just as Blankenbuehler did, Mindlin is planning eventually to transition from dancer to choreographer and, he hopes, director. He’s already accumulated choreography credits, including last summer’s Xanadu at ReVision Theatre on the Jersey Shore; 9 to 5 castmate Ann Harada’s 2010 “Christmas Eve With Christmas Eve” concert (in which he also performed); a 2006 production of Beauty and the Beast at Vermont’s Northern Stage that his then girlfriend Racanelli was in; and Evita at the Encore Musical Theatre in Dexter, Mich., costarring that theater’s producing artistic director, Daniel Cooney (the December 2011 Gypsy of the Month), a friend from 9 to 5.