Hometown: “Sewickley, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.”
Currently: Taking the lead as star-crossed heartthrob Tony in the Broadway revival of West Side Story.
A Gentleman of the Theater: Born and raised outside Pittsburgh with his older brother, Hydzik’s childhood was all about sports, family and education (mom is a teacher, while dad designs construction for Carnegie Mellon University). “I had my own mother for math class in middle school,” Hydzik groans. “And she gave me a C!” His first taste of performing came in fifth grade, in his school’s inaugural theater production, Of Mice and Mozart. “It was profound. And my first time in tights. I was smitten,” he jokes. Performing really piqued his interest in middle school, however, when students were required to enroll in etiquette classes. “We studied dance, pulling out a chair for a lady and how to be a gentleman,” he recalls. “Before long I was helping teach the dance classes, which led to taking theater and voice classes.”
High School Musical: Though he studied dance, voice and acting outside of school for years, most classmates didn’t know Hydzik was a “theater guy” until high school. “I was a lacrosse player and track runner. I didn't audition for a play or musical until my junior year of high school,” he explains. Hydzik wowed everyone, landing the title role in Pippin. “After that [experience] I never really looked back. It was theater, not sports.” Just a year later after his theatrical coming out, Hydzik found himself at his parents’ alma mater, Penn State University, auditioning for the theater department. He'd barely left campus when he got the call he'd made it in.
Doing it for Mom: Four years later and a few credits short of graduating, Hydzik left school upon booking his first professional gig, a tour of Grease. After a year on the road, he returned to the city and continued performing, first as Slim in an off-off-Broadway production of Cowboy Mouth and then as Nick in the Asian tour of Fame. Hydzik was about to leave for yet another tour when mom stepped in. “I went home to visit and she started crying!” he remembers. “She reminded me I’d promised her to finish school.” Like a good son, Hydzik crumbled. “I left the city, went back to Penn State, got a job at Eddie Bauer and crammed a year of math and science into one semester. I hated every minute of it.”
Grease is the Word: Post-graduation, Hydzik was starring as Danny in a regional production of Grease when he got a major phone call. “Broadway was asking me to be the Danny, Kenickie and Teen Angel understudy. Having done the show so much, I felt ready.” Hydzik headed to New York to join rehearsals with the cast ("a great group of misfits who happened to be really talented") and director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall. He has especially high praise for Marshall, who gave him his first opportunity to appear on live TV: "She fought to make sure even the swings performed at the Tony Awards."
The Big Audition: Hydzik heard about a Broadway revival of West Side Story while still in Grease, but says he put it out of his mind. “I figured I was too old.” His voice teacher, Matt Farnsworth, disagreed. During a lesson with Hydzik, Farnsworth called the WSS casting agent himself. “He said, ‘I’ve got someone you have to see for [the role of] Tony. He’s perfect and Polish.’” At the audition, Hydzik got a taste of just how the stakes were for the job. “I was trying to just stay cool and not worry,” he recalls. “Then I felt someone sit down next to me—it was Stephen Sondheim!” Fortunately, the actor kept his cool, surviving four rounds of auditions before ultimately being cast as the Tony standby, opening with the production in March 2009. He assumed the role full-time on December 15.
My Favorite Year: As New Year’s Eve approaches, Hydzik reflects on his “surreal” year. “Standing onstage at the Palace Theatre in this musical on Broadway is overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of it. I love this cast—I love all of it.” In addition to becoming a Broadway star, Hydzik also recently assumed another major role: fiancé to actress Megan Arnoldy. “Marriage is one of those huge thresholds in your life. I still can’t believe she said yes—I’m the luckiest man alive.” So is it safe to assume 2009 was a good one? “Oh god yes! I’m going to start wearing a helmet outside, because it feels too lucky. I’m not even going to ride a bike!”