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Passing Strange

Get tickets to this rock ’n’ roll ride and go from LA to Amsterdam to Berlin and back.

Daniel Breaker

Age: 27

Hometown: "My dad was in the army, so it's a little hard to say where I'm from," Breaker says. "I was born in Manhattan, Kansas [also known as "The Little Apple"], but we traveled a lot. I spent most of my time growing up in Illinois and Germany."

Currently: Wowing critics and audiences alike as a character only known as "Youth," a young man trying to find his place in the world, in the new musical Passing Strange.

Refuge in Theater: Growing up as an army brat, theater, to Breaker, was a sort of shelter—a way to protect himself. "Traveling all over the place, I felt like sort of an outcast, and one of the few constants was theater," the actor says. "In every school program there was theater, so I sort of ran to it." It wasn't until he arrived at Juilliard, however, that theater "turned into something I fell in love with," and only after he graduated was it something he realized he wanted to do professionally. And now that's he making a career of it? "I can't imagine not doing theater."

Year to Remember: In between Passing Strange's summer run at the Public Theater and its current Broadway incarnation, Breaker appeared in Lincoln Center Theater's production of Cymbeline and still found time to get engaged to director Kate Whoriskey. Though he's been busy, the whirlwind has definitely been worth it. "Thanks to Cymbeline I could afford a ring," he laughs, "and thanks to Passing Strange, I can pay for the wedding!"

Rockin' the Bard: Though he's done mostly Shakespeare throughout his career, Breaker doesn't view Passing Strange as a dramatic departure. "Shakespeare at its core is based in a musicality and a love of poetry, and that's the exact same thing that [Strange author and star] Stew is doing," he says. "The story is different, but they actually utilize the same muscles." The big difference? "If I'm doing Shakespeare, I'm in tights and a doublet, and if I'm doing Passing Strange I've got a guitar and a microphone." Though he looks pretty convincing sporting that guitar, Breaker is actually a classical music freak, and his dressing room at the Belasco is adorned with a Mahler poster and Brahms score. Is his love of classical music at odds with the rock vibe Stew brings to the theater? "Some could say that Mahler 9 is pretty rockin'."

Stumbling into Strange: As it turns out, Breaker never even had to audition for the role that is now garnering him so much attention. Arriving at the Sundance Theater Institute in 2005 to workshop another show, he was asked to be a part of Passing Strange because they "needed a black guy." Though he didn't know anything about the play going into the process and was not at all familiar with Stew's work, he immediately identified with his character. "Certain aspects of the show are very close to my life—this whole idea of masks and stereotypes is close to what I had to deal with growing up." And how does he feel now, two years later, that the show has made it to Broadway? "I had no idea when we were up in the mountains at Sundance that I was going to be doing this on Broadway. On opening night, Marian Seldes was reading the review from The New York Times in the middle of the dance floor at the after-party, and I thought, 'What is happening? Where am I? Is this really going on?'"

Everything is New Again: Despite the fact that Passing Strange marks his third appearance on the Great White Way in addition to Cymbeline, he also appeared in Lisa Kron's Well, the excitement surrounding the show has made Breaker feel as though he's experiencing Broadway for the first time. "We feel like we're in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory right now; it's just so brand new for all of us." The audience's discovery of the show has also contributed to the thrill. "It's amazing seeing your average Broadway audience coming in not knowing what the hell they're watching and then fall in love with it. They don't know what to expect and we get to totally wow them each night."

Starting to Feel Real: Though critics have used words like "sensational," "magnetic," "hilarious" and "brilliant" to describe his performance, Breaker tries not to let the acclaim go to his head. "I think the only way to get through this whirlwind," he says, "is just to do the show every night—to get up there with a terrific cast and try to get an audience up on their feet. Who knows what will happen with this show and with the future? I'm just trying to enjoy the whole experience as much as humanly possible." How about talk of a potential Tony Award nomination? He laughs it off, saying "I leave that to my mom to spread those rumors."

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