The heat is on for Colby Dezelick as the Rider University graduate recently made his Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of “Miss Saigon.” Since opening night, the understudy has taken center stage as Chris a whopping 12 times [and counting]. Dezelick is also gaining notoriety with his popular YouTube vlogs, chronicling everything from his daily adventures in NYC to sharing first-hand advice to aspiring artists. I caught up with the triple threat to chat about the demands of being in the ensemble, how he maintains physical and mental well-being & why everyone should check out his vlog!
As a member of the ensemble, please describe what the rehearsal process has been like over the past few months.
Well, after 3 months the process has started to even out. When rehearsals began, we worked six days a week from 10-6. When we moved into the theatre and started tech, we had even longer days. When previews began we had 8 shows a week plus rehearsals daily. Once the show opened we had 8 shows a week but I still had understudy rehearsals as well. Just this week it has started to calm down slightly. We have finished up the majority of understudy rehearsals so it’s just 8 shows now. Even that requires a lot of time and energy though. Miss Saigon is an epic show and can take a lot out of you, especially on two show days.
You’re also the understudy for the role of Chris. Does that require further rehearsals?
As for understudying Chris, that adds a whole new layer to the process. So far I’ve already gone on twelve times in the role. It’s important to just know that track forwards and backwards because once you step out there as an understudy many more factors come into play. Lights, sets, costumes, other actors! Luckily they do a pretty good job preparing us for all of that chaos, but it is still quite a lot to process when you’re stepping into it on an inconsistent basis. Overall though I love doing this show. It is an incredibly important story to tell right now and I get to do it with an amazing group of people.
As an understudy, are you allowed to interpret the role differently from the principal perfomer you’re going on for?
We have a resident director who run understudy rehearsals. They treat it like a totally new process helping us to create the characters. I think they try to keep all of the roles similar just for continuity sake, but they have really allowed me to bring myself to the role rather than just copying what someone else does.
And congratulations are in order to the entire company on being nominated for “Best Revival of a Musical.” Any word about performing at the Tonys yet?
It looks like we are going to be performing on the Tonys but it isn’t confirmed what we are doing yet. We’ve heard that it should be amazing though!
Besides the show, you’re also a vlogger on YouTube. What was the motivation behind starting your own vlog?
I started vlogging this past summer as a way to capture my life and remind me of the things I’m grateful for. I loved making movies and videos as a kid and it was something that I didn’t get a chance to do as much as an adult. I came across vlogging on YouTube and thought that would be a great way to give me a chance to make a little movie everyday. Once I started and picked up some steam I really got into it. For me the vlogs are like photo albums. I go back and watch them if I want to relive a day or a moment. When people started watching them I realized that I could provide a lot of value to aspiring artists in the performing arts. I love showing people all the work that goes into being a professional actor and what the day to day experience is like. It’s also been very therapeutic for me to just be able to talk to the camera all the time, whether it goes in the vlog or not. Allowing myself that outlet helps keep me grounded and grateful which is very important to me.
On average, how many hours do you spend per day working on your videos? [content, writing, filming, editing, etc.]
Each vlog takes around an hour to edit. That’s the main work I do on the vlog. During the day I just film whatever I’m doing. I try to document my life versus create something to put on the vlog. So I film all the time but I don’t really consider that work. The editing is the big component where the vlog really takes shape. So about an hour a day on that and then just odds and ends of social media work to promote it and share the content.
In your vlogs, you discuss things like “tracks,” “fight call,” and “put in” rehearsals. Could you please explain what those terms means?
Yes! A track is one person’s particular part in a show. So if they do the opening number stage left and then the closing number stage right, that would be their track. It’s just a way to navigate and write down everything that everyone does. Fight call is a set time when the actors get together with the fight captain to step through any violent or dangerous moments in the show. We have a torture scene in our show, so 15 minutes before half hour everyone involved in that meets up and slowly steps through all the choreography to ensure that everyone is safe. A put in is a rehearsal for understudies and swings, where they get to practice the entire ‘track’ they cover with full lights, sets, costumes and other actors. I cover Chris, so at my put in I got to do the entire show with all the other actors and see all the tech elements in real time.
Why should everyone check out your vlog?
People should watch my vlog if they want a full in-depth behind the scenes look at the life of a working actor in NYC. A lot of people only see the tip of the iceberg (the photos, videos and sometimes shows) but so much work goes on beyond the finished product people see. My vlog gives aspiring performers a metric to demystify every piece that goes into being a Broadway actor. I also think I have a great positive outlook on life and can bring a smile to people’s face :).
With your crazy schedule how do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have a great job and I’m incredibly passionate about my side hustle with the vlog and YouTube videos. So honestly I don’t worry too much about the balance. I enjoy working for the most part and if I get to a point when I need to take a break I will. But the constant going gets me excited.
Not only is your job physically demanding but it also consists of you being mentally prepared. How do you get through a performance if you’re feeling tired, stressed or down?
Well staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy are part of my job. I try to take really good care of my body with exercise and what I eat. I take time to meditate and alleviate stress for myself. I prioritize sleep. But if a bad day does roll around I do my best to leave all of that at the door when I walk into the theatre. It’s nearly impossible to do our work with any other baggage so you just have to learn to let it go.
Are you working on any new projects that you can talk about?
I have lots of projects in the works right now. I’d love to talk about more of them when they are a little further along, but at this moment my main priorities are Miss Saigon and the vlog.