Rory O’Malley might never have stepped foot on a stage if it hadn’t been for his… basement.
As a child, the Tony-nominated actor-singer struggled to fit in at school, and sought refuge in the subterranean rec room of his Cleveland, Ohio home. It was there he discovered the performing arts as a mode of self-expression, creating a “magical world” of his own filled with “musicals, Disney and Bette Midler.”
These days, O’Malley is a formidable presence on Broadway, spurring laughs from sold-out crowds in his current role as King George III in “Hamilton.” Still, the 35-year-old hasn’t forgotten about his basement days, and will soon return below stairs – metaphorically, at least. On Dec. 11 and 12, he’ll take the stage of New York’s Feinstein’s/54 Below for an all-new musical show he describes as a celebration of “the campiness that saved my life,” appropriately titled “Out of the Basement.”
Featuring musical direction by Grammy and Tony winner Stephen Oremus, “Out of the Basement” offers O’Malley’s signature wit in abundance, with songs from “Beauty and the Beast,” “Sister Act” and “Beaches.” If there’s a message, it’s “that you can be fabulous as a pudgy, pasty-white gay kid in the Midwest, and be anything that you want,” he told The Huffington Post.
O’Malley, who originated the role of Elder McKinley in 2011’s “The Book of Mormon,” hopes fans will also come away from “Out of the Basement” with an understanding of the vulnerability that lies beneath his showman’s veneer. Hence, he’ll nod to deep, personal challenges, like the circumstances that prompted him to quit drinking a decade ago, in tunes by Rufus Wainwright and David Bowie, among other artists. “For a moment, my life could’ve gone in a really different direction,” he said, “and once again, theater saved me. It’s kind of a miracle.”
O’Malley, who co-founded the marriage equality non-profit Broadway Impact in 2009, will donate proceeds from both of his shows to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which supports HIV/AIDS-related causes across the U.S. His “Hamilton” role, he said, has “given me a platform to have a voice,” which, in turn, reaffirms his interest in reaching out to LGBTQ kids who may be struggling to come to terms with their identities.
“I feel very strongly that there are kids out there making the same kinds of safe spaces and creative outlets that are carrying them through a lot as I did,” he told HuffPost. “I want to reach out to them since I have this platform, and say, ‘That’s where I was, too.’”
Before O’Malley makes his “Out of the Basement” debut, HuffPost asked him to share what it takes to embody King George III eight times a week in “Hamilton.” He responded with 13 behind-the-scenes snapshots that make us feel lucky to be alive at a time when musical theater is making history. (You can also follow more of O’Malley’s adventures on Instagram here).
Check out O’Malley’s action-filled “Hamilton” day below. For more information on “Out of the Basement,” head here.