Daniel Assetta – From Sydney’s Theatres to Broadway’s Lights

In the heart of New York City, amidst the dazzling allure of Broadway, Australian actor Daniel Assetta is living a dream that once seemed unreachable. As he reflects on his journey from the suburban stages of Sydney to the bright lights of Broadway, Daniel shares a story of persistence, passion, and the magic of musical theatre. His current role in the hit musical &Juliet at The Stephen Sondheim Theatre marks a significant milestone—his Broadway debut.

Currently captivating audiences as ‘Henry’ and occasionally stepping in as the understudy for ‘William Shakespeare’ in the vibrant Broadway production of &Juliet, Daniel’s journey to this point has been marked by a series of notable achievements. His recent U.S. performances include a stint at the New York City Centre Encores! in ‘The Light in the Piazza’, portraying a key role in ‘West Side Story’ at The MUNY, and delighting audiences in his solo show ‘The Road from Oz’ at Broadway’s Supper Club, Feinstein’s/54 Below.

Before his move to New York, Daniel honed his craft on the Australian stage, where he played ‘Samuel Seabury’ and was an understudy for ‘King George III’ in the original Australian company of ‘Hamilton’. He also garnered rave reviews for his portrayal of ‘Tony’ in ‘West Side Story’, a role he reprised across Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, including performances at the iconic Sydney Opera House and Berlin Opera House. His diverse Australian theatre credits also include ‘Al Deluca’ in ‘A Chorus Line’, ‘Elder Young’ in ‘The Book of Mormon’, ‘The Rum Tum Tugger’ in the revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘CATS’, and several others in productions like ‘Wicked,’ ‘Funny Girl’, ‘The Gathering’, ‘Follies in Concert’, and ‘Curtains’. A recipient of the prestigious Rob Guest Endowment Award, Daniel’s accomplishments in Australia paved the way for his international career. Additionally, he showcased his creative versatility by co-writing and starring in ‘Siblingship’, alongside his sister Chiara, which won ‘Best Cabaret’ at the BroadwayWorld Australia Awards 2020, playing to sold-out audiences across major Australian cities.

 

 

“For a young boy from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, Broadway always seemed like a beautiful dream,” Daniel begins, his voice filled with excitement and nostalgia. “The idea of living in New York City was almost impossible. Yet, here I am, a year and a half later, living out that dream on one of the grandest stages in the world.” Daniel’s journey to Broadway was not just fueled by talent but by relentless determination. After a rigorous six-year process to secure a green card, he packed his life into suitcases and took a chance on the unknown.

Making his Broadway debut on January 30th, Daniel describes the experience as surreal and joyous, a full circle moment from his days of dancing to pop anthems in his living room. &Juliet offers a unique blend of Shakespeare’s narrative with a modern twist, featuring a soundtrack by Max Martin that includes hits like ‘Larger Than Life’ and ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’. For Daniel, these performances are more than just roles; they are the embodiment of his childhood dreams coming to life.

Making your Broadway debut is a significant milestone. How does performing in &Juliet compare to your previous experiences on stage, particularly your roles in major productions like Hamilton and West Side Story?

Performing on a Broadway stage is pretty surreal, I must say. Growing up as a young boy in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, the idea of living in New York City was always a dream, but almost felt impossible. After so many incredible years of working in the Australian theatre industry, and a six year process of petitioning for a green card, I took a chance on that dream and packed up my life and moved across the globe. It’s now been a year and a half in the city, and I can proudly say that I’m living out little Daniel’s Broadway dream, performing nightly at The Stephen Sondheim Theatre in & Juliet. I made my debut on January 30th this year, and its been such an incredible journey so far. It’s one of the most joyous show to be part of, with a score made up of the best of Max Martin’s catalog – literally the anthem of my childhood. It’s a very full circle moment to be performing these songs that I used to dance around the living room to for my family, but now on Broadway. Every musical brings about such a different experience, with each of them being so unique in their own ways. I’ve crawled around the junkyard as a Cat, rung doorbells as a Mormon, twirled around the Emerald City and been part of Hamilton’s revolution, but there is just something so incredibly special to be bringing this beautiful, witty and fun story to life through iconic Pop songs on Broadway – the epicentre of theatre in the world.

In &Juliet, Daniel not only plays the diligent actor Henry but also steps into the shoes of the iconic William Shakespeare as an understudy. “The night I first performed as Shakespeare, the energy was electric,” he recalls. The role is demanding, requiring him to toggle between being a rockstar and exploring a complex relationship with his wife, Anne Hathaway, portrayed by Betsy Wolfe. “It’s thrilling and challenging, especially when you’re popping in and out of the play, staying warm and ready to belt out high notes or dance intensely towards the show’s climax.”

In &Juliet, you play Henry and also understudy William Shakespeare. What unique challenges and rewards come with portraying these characters, especially given the contemporary twist in the musical?

Each night, I play one of Shakespeare’s players, Henry. He’s a very diligent and hard-working actor with a ‘yes, and?’ attitude, loves being involved in everything and gets assigned to play a snooty French bathroom attendant in the play. But every now and then I get the opportunity to bring William Shakespeare to life, which is truly an honour. The night of my Shakespeare debut was so electric! I will always remember the overwhelming feeling of the first time I rose up from beneath the stage singing The Backstreet Boys, blinded by a spotlight, with hundreds of people screaming from the audience. I got home that night and it all emotionally hit me, I sobbed in disbelief that I had played a principal on Broadway. WILD! Shakespeare would have to be my favourite role that I’ve had the chance to play in my career. You get the chance to live out rockstar dreams but then also explore a complex, competitive and playful relationship with his wife, Anne Hathaway, played currently by the wonderful, Betsy Wolfe. I’ve been such a fan of Betsy from afar for so many years, so I can’t tell you how special its been to be beside her on stage. The challenging thing about Shakespeare is that he pops in and out of the play a lot, so it’s keeping that momentum going throughout, and staying warm and active to belt out a high C’s but also to dance the end of the show too. With it comes many rewards, as it really does allow you to be really silly in finding an egotistical quality in Shakespeare, but also lets you go on a journey to fight for his beautiful relationship too.

 

The transition from the Australian stage to Broadway was filled with surprises. Daniel found the audition process in New York far more complex and competitive than back home. “Last year alone, I had over 50 auditions,” he shares, emphasizing the steep learning curve and frequent rejections that shaped his resilience. His debut in the city with “The Light in the Piazza” highlighted subtle yet significant differences in theatre culture, from call times to terminology.

Transitioning from the Australian stage to Broadway is a big leap. What have been some of the most surprising aspects of working in New York’s theatre scene?

Before getting to work in the NYC theatre scene, there was a lot of auditioning, which is a completely different experience over here. The process is definitely a lot more complex because of how many artists there are in this city and many ways that people can be seen for a job. But then there’s also so many auditions happening all at once here too, whether it be for Broadway, Off-Broadway, workshops, readings, tours, regional and international productions. Even the way an audition room is run is different, so there was a lot of re-learning the art of auditioning. It’s truly a skill in itself. Last year alone I had over 50 auditions, which is more than I’ve had in my entire career back home. This obviously equated to a lot more rejections too, so it was definitely quite the learning experience.

My NYC debut came in May 2023, with the New York City Centre’s Encores! production of The Light in The Piazza. Such an incredible way to begin the new chapter over here, with a reimagining of this beautiful show. It was also the first time I realized little things that operate slightly different from back home in Australia. They have a 30min call to arrive at the theatre, where you are straight into dressing rooms to get into microphones and costumes for the show, as opposed to the hour call time and the full company vocal and physical warm up we usually have in Australia. They have a ‘Places call’ 5mins before the show’s start time, which the stage manager pages over the internal speakers. In Australia, it’s called the “Beginners call”. It’s only a slight word difference but one that definitely threw me for a second. Americans also say “Break a leg” as opposed to the “Chookas” (a term that comes from the old tradition of being able to afford a “chook”/chicken if there was a full house that night) to wish someone luck before the show. There is often a bunch of Australian lingo and slang I use for things that happen on and off stage here, that makes everyone laugh daily. It’s quite funny being the only Aussie in a company.

What I love most about the scene here is how much of a community Broadway is. You are surrounded by so many other people who have chosen to live and breathe theatre here. NYC is a challenging city and so those who fight to pursue a career here have an undeniable passion and drive for what we do. There is something really special about the energy and atmosphere it creates too. Walking out of stage door in Times Square, signing Playbills, seeing audiences come out of the other theatres and then catching up with other actors post-show on the subway home. Paired with the many events within the community that celebrate the theatre and work of everyone in it – award nights, concerts, and fundraising events. It all just creates a hustling, magical environment, and one that I’m very grateful to be a small part of.

Preparing for a Broadway role involves intense physical, vocal, and mental preparation, especially for a show as dynamic as &Juliet. “Some roles require cardiovascular endurance, others a strong vocal presence,” Daniel explains. Joining as a replacement added pressure, but with the support of a dedicated creative team and personal discipline, he mastered the complexities of his characters.

 

 

You have a notable background in musical theatre, having performed at prestigious venues like the Sydney Opera House. How do you prepare for a role that involves not only acting but also singing and dancing on such a dynamic stage as Broadway?

Preparation for performing in a show is always very different depending on what the show is asking you to do. Some of mine in the past have been largely physical, and so cardiovascular endurance and stamina is incredibly important, as well as staying fit and strong enough to perform lifts or choreography in a show. Others have been huge vocal workouts, with a demanding nightly sing. So ensuring that placement is correct and refining things with a voice teacher is then necessary.

&Juliet has all of the elements in play and as someone who joined the company as a replacement, I’m grateful for our resident creative team who helped me get everything together quite quickly in a fast rehearsal process. Unlike being part of a rehearsal process at the forming of a company, I had a couple of weeks in a studio away from the rest of the cast to learn, and then tech and perform both roles, Henry and Shakespeare. It was definitely challenging at times, but I created cheat sheets, took lots of notes backstage trailing the cast from the wings, watched the show numerous times from the front, rehearsed all of my vocal work with my voice coach, Mike Ruckles and revised choreography and lines every night to feel comfortable and ready for my first shows. Preparation was definitely the key to being able to confidently enjoy what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming learning process.

&Juliet weaves modern pop anthems seamlessly into Shakespeare’s narrative, creating an engaging and emotionally resonant experience. “The show knows exactly what it is—funny, heartwarming, and incredibly entertaining,” says Daniel. His favorite numbers, “Larger Than Life” and “Everybody,” resonate deeply, reminding him of his formative years and his journey from dreaming to living his dream.

&Juliet features a vibrant selection of pop anthems. How do you feel these modern songs influence the storytelling in the show, and what is your favourite number to perform?

The &Juliet team have done such a brilliant job at weaving this new story together with these pop songs we all know so well. Each song feels as though they were written for the show, chosen and placed so cleverly. Paired with such a witty script by David West Read, one of the writer’s of Schitts Creeek, it truly enhances the show’s success. & Juliet just knows exactly what it’s doing, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but also has so much heart too, leaving audiences beaming from ear to ear. Now, I have 2 favourite songs in the show, because just choosing one would be impossible. Larger Than Life, the opening number, is just such a dynamic and fun way to begin each night whether led by Shakespeare or dancing as Henry. I’m also obsessed with the arrangement and orchestration too. Another favourite would have to be ‘Everybody’. Yes, I’m aware I’ve chosen two Backstreet Boys songs, but like I said earlier, these were the songs I grew up with, so to be dancing and singing to these epic songs, honestly brings more joy that I can possibly explain.

Daniel Assetta’s story is one of remarkable achievement and artistic passion. As he continues to captivate audiences on Broadway, his journey from the Western Suburbs of Sydney to the pinnacle of theatrical performance serves as an inspiring testament to the power of dreams and the enduring appeal of musical theatre.

Photo Credit: Alexa Jae Photography

One thought on “Daniel Assetta – From Sydney’s Theatres to Broadway’s Lights

  • This is an amazing story of a young boy in Sydney who accomplished his dreams from working and thinking performing and choreographing from the age of five years old to the present day. Nothing else was in his mind but to be on Stage and especially on Broadway. His continual hard work in training in vocal and dance has him where he is today.
    Apart from the above , he has always been the most caring, polite, friendly and helpful young person to his fellow students, teachers and coaches which makes him unique.
    I am proud to say I have watched this journey from his young age to the present day and proud is not a word great enough for the feelings I have for him and his family. Chookas Daniel.

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