Young actors dream of unexpected opportunities to lead their careers to great success.
And There you go.
Less than two years after moving from Colorado to New York, Kyler Hershman received an email about an audition.
The name on the other end of the email was familiar to me. While studying at the Institute for American Musical Theater, Hershman found that his classes often featured visits from special guests from the theater world.
One visitor was Gayle Seay, a casting director, who offered advice on the competitive casting process. Like other students, Hershman performed a few songs for Seay.
A few days later, he received an email from her. Seay wanted Hershman to audition for a new nationwide touring production of “An Officer and A Gentleman: The Musical.”
“I was very surprised,” Hershman said.
He was also very excited. And a little confused.
“I had no idea what the show was about,” he said. “I immediately had to google it.”
He read about the 1982 romantic drama film. It won an Oscar. Noted critic Roger Ebert called it “the best love movie I’ve seen in a long time”. That didn’t ring a bell for Hershman. Then he saw the name Richard Gere.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, yes,'” Hershman said. “I know him.”
Even with the star power of the main man, “An Officer and a Gentleman” doesn’t have the overwhelming recognizability of films such as “Pretty Woman.”
And there’s nothing familiar about this musical version, as it only existed in 2021.
For Hershman, that made the first touring experience all the more exciting. Yes, he got the role.
“We have to be part of the creative process to help build this new show,” Hershman said. “It was very rewarding.”
The show’s story follows a young man named Zach Mayo as he enters United States Navy Officer Training School. Surprises ensue, like a demanding drill sergeant, self-discovery, and falling in love with a local factory worker.
The musical, which “celebrates triumph over adversity,” also celebrates the music of the era with songs such as “Higher Love” and “Love is a Battlefield.” The score also includes “Up Where We Belong”, a song recorded specifically for the film.
Hershman recognized these songs from years of listening to the radio with his parents.
“When I saw some of the music that was in the show, I knew it was going to be awesome,” he said. “It’s 80s rock music.”
In “An Officer and A Gentleman: The Musical,” which stops Thursday at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs, Hershman plays the youngest officer candidate, named McNamara.
In real life, Hershman is the youngest cast member.
He had only been a student at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch for a few years, where Hershman decided to give up football and wrestling to pursue acting. In 2019, he received the Best Actor award from the National High School Musical Theater Awards, also known as the Jimmy Awards, which took him on a trip to New York.
He fell so in love with the city that he moved there to pursue his dream. He quickly secured a place at the Institute for American Musical Theater, which offers a two-year program.
“Without it, I wouldn’t be touring the country right now,” he said. “It’s a lot of pinch moments and being very grateful.”
He is grateful for these kinds of occasions. And for the chance to perform near his hometown. There will be a few familiar faces in the crowd at Pikes Peak Center.
Or more than a few.
“My mom has about 70 people coming to the show,” Hershman said with a laugh. “I think it’s very special.”