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Local actor still chasing his dream

By Bill Althaus bill.althaus@examiner.net

One of the most confusing aspects of how the COVID-19 pandemic has struck New York City happens nightly on Broadway.

The neon lights still glow bright. One dazzling marquee after another highlight productions like “To Kill and Mockingbird.” “West Side Story,” “Diana” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”

“The lights are bright,” 2019 Blue Springs High School graduate Sam Aubuchon said, “but there are no people, there are no plays – there’s really nothing. It’s jarring, really. There are no tourists, just New Yorkers. I can’t even describe how it looks. It just looks sad.”

Aubuchon, 20, once experienced those bright lights and felt what it was like to perform on Broadway.

From the dingy sidewalks of skid row to the bright lights of Broadway, the summer of 2018 is something he will never forget.

Aubuchon, a Blue Star Award winner, represented Starlight Theatre at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards, a.k.a. the Jimmy Awards, in 2018.

The weeklong theater experience culminated with a solo performance of “Grow for Me,” from “The Little Shop of Horrors.” Aubuchon played Seymour, the shy, skid row flower shop employee who discovered that the shop’s star attraction – an extraterrestrial plant named Audrey II – thrived on human blood.

“There I was, performing on the stage of the Minskoff Theatre,” Aubuchon said. “It was amazing. I mean, I can’t even put it into words.”

The Blue Star Awards are presented to the top high school performers in the metro area by Starlight Theatre, and Aubuchon won the top honor that punched his ticket to New York.

Now, he shares an East Harlem apartment with a longtime friend and hopes that one day he can return to the stage. He made the difficult decision of politely turning down the countless scholarship offers that came his way following back-to-back Blue Star awards and got a job in Eastern Jackson County.

“I did some theater work, saved my money and now, here I am, in New York,” he said. “I had planned to make the move earlier this year, but with COVID and the pandemic, I just kept putting it off.”

“Then, well, I knew I had to make the big decision and I did – and here I am in East Harlem, and it is amazing.”

“I love every aspect of it – from the Apollo Theater to all the great places to eat. The culture is amazing, it is the perfect place for me to get started.”

While all theaters and production companies are closed, Aubuchon finds himself in a unique position as he is performance coach for Music Career Mastermind, which is associated with the Melissa Mulligan Vocal Studio.

“I’m so busy, I can’t believe it. It’s wonderful,” said Aubuchon, who had just wrapped up a 12-hour day.

“We do career mapping for vocalists, songwriters, producers, musicians and musical theater students – which is something I know a thing or two about. I’m so busy, I’m doing something I love, I have a job, life is good.”

But he hopes it gets better once theater productions are resumed.

“This time next year, I would like to be a working musician/actor - hopefully on Broadway,” he said, with a touch of optimism in his voice. “I’m giving it my best shot. This is where I want to be and I hope 2021 is my year. I hope it’s everyone’s year. It has to be better than 2020.”

Sam Aubuchon, a 2019 graduate of Blue Springs High Schoo, has made the big move to the Big Apple, hoping that if theater productions open in 2021, he will be a part of the bright lights of Broadway. [Photo courtesy of Sam Aubuchon]