Age & Hometown: 26; Tokyo, Japan
Current Role: An off-Broadway debut as Romeo Montague, the young, impulsive lover who would rather die than live without his beloved Juliet (Elizabeth Olsen) in Classic Stage Company's revival of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.
Something's Coming: According to his "very smart" entrepreneur father, Julian Cihi expressed a childhood dream of running a ramen noodle restaurant in Japan when he grew up. Fortunately for theatergoers, a teenage Cihi was bitten by the theater bug. "I started out doing show choir, but it wasn't until I auditioned for my high school's production of West Side Story that I fell in love with acting," he recalls. "They needed someone who could sing high enough for the part of Tony." After graduation, Cihi, who attended international school in his hometown, followed one of his "cool, articulate and chill" friends to Brown University, where he took theater classes, joined an a cappella group and majored in international relations and theater arts. He says wryly, "I double majored so my father wouldn't get so upset."
Not Totally F*cked: Like a typical twentysomething with an affection for musical theater, Cihi found inspiration from two shows: Spring Awakening and Rent. "I auditioned for Melchior in the national tour of Spring Awakening," he says. "I didn’t get the part, but [director] Michael Mayer pulled me aside and said that I did well and should work on my technique." The Tony winner's advice convinced Cihi to pursue an M.F.A. in acting at NYU. He credits those "amazing, life-changing years of absolute madness and questioning of self" with making him a stronger actor. Last fall, Cihi played Roger in a Japanese production of Rent directed by Broadway vet Andy Señor. "I was able to see my family and I was doing what I loved and meeting amazing people."
From Ramen to Romeo: "I had been auditioning for months and working at a Japanese restaurant when I found out about Romeo & Juliet," Cihi recalls. "It hit me in a different way than other audition opportunities have." Cihi was initially cast as Tybalt, but when Finn Wittrock withdrew, director Tea Alagic asked him to play Romeo. "My first thought was, 'I need to start learning my lines,'" he says with a laugh. "But there was a calmness in my body as opposed to when I was yelling and jumping up and down for Tybalt." Cihi admits he was shy when he first met co-star Elizabeth Olsen, but they've become close: "She's such a sweet girl, and she really knows her stuff." As he gets set for this first big opening night, Cihi reflects, "It's such an exciting time for me. I'm ecstatic to be in New York working on fantastic projects."