Center Stage

Corey Greenan sends his regards from Broadway.

March 13, 2009  | 3 min read

It's the age-old story: kid with a voice packs his bags and moves to New York, armed only with talent and a dream of making it big. This story, however, is set to the music of ABBA.

In 2004, Corey Greenan (BA ‘02) was that kid, and the Big Apple didn’t really agree with the native Californian right away. “Life is very different out here. Everything is so fast and loud. The cost of living is so high, and the winter is freezing. Those first eight months were pretty tough,” he remembers.

Though Greenan had been involved in choirs since the fourth grade, he didn’t perform in a musical until his senior year of high school. “They were doing Once on This Island and they needed a tenor, so I did it. It combined everything I loved about singing in choir with this whole new aspect—acting and dancing. It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done.”

As they say in the business, Greenan was show-buzzed. “That year I decided to major in theatre,” he laughs.

It wasn’t long before he made a name for himself as a performer as an undergraduate at Seaver College. “He was bright,” explains Cathy Thomas-Grant, chair of the Fine Arts Division. “He had a spark in his eyes, and a spark in his physical presence.”

As a freshman, Greenan was an ensemble dancer in Guys and Dolls, and scored his first big role as a sophomore in the musical Evita as the character Che. “It was a huge vocal role,” he says. “Che is sort of a biased narrator—an antagonist, but really passionate. Based on the response I got, I realized that this was something I could do really well.”

Greenan continued to knock out crowds during his career at Pepperdine, playing Honza in I Never Saw Another Butterfly, Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, and Tony in A Westside Story. As a senior, he studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he played Lang in The Water Engine.

After graduation, Greenan lived in Santa Monica, California, for two years, building up his professional chops in the civic light operas around Southern California and earning his equity card. “Los Angeles doesn’t have a whole lot of equity contracts to go around, so I decided to pick up and go to New York.” He and a buddy drove cross-country and landed in the big city.

It was eight long months before Greenan got his big break. He was working as a busboy when he auditioned to be a part of the national tour of Mamma Mia!, the blockbuster musical based on the songs of ABBA. “Some auditions you go in and you get to sing 16 bars of one song, if that, and there’s one person behind the desk, and it’s probably a casting intern. For this audition, I walked into the room and there was this big, long table and 12 people staring at me. The windows behind them were looking down on Times Square. I thought wow, this is a different world here.”

Despite his nerves, Greenan must have done something right in that audition, because the next day, he received a phone call asking him to “come and play.”

For six months, Greenan traveled the country as part of the Mamma Mia! ensemble before moving up to the role of Sky, the lead female role’s fiancé, which he played for another year. “It was so much fun,” he says of the show. “Every night you have an audience, no matter what city, even New York. People are up on their feet, dancing and clapping and singing along. It’s just a wonderful energy to end the day with.”

In March 2007, Greenan was offered to renew his contract, but, having tired of life on the road, he declined. “It’s a really good gig, but I wanted to leave while I still wanted to stay,” he says, and with much hesitation, he walked away from the tour.

He returned to New York City to pursue his dream of performing on Broadway, but once again, he struggled to find regular work. After a year, and just when he was starting to really regret leaving Mamma Mia!, he got a life-changing call from them once again. “Mamma Mia! called out of the blue, and they said they have an ensemble spot opening up on Broadway, and if I was interested and available…”

Two weeks later, in June 2008, he was back onstage in his original role in the ensemble, but this time, on Broadway. “It’s surreal and wonderful and new and familiar,” he says. “I’m in New York, walking to work and going in and out of that stage door in Times Square. My dream has come true.”