Kyle Morales is living his dream, even though it’s virtual.
The former Dobbs Ferry resident, and 2016 Ardsley High School graduate, will perform in the online musical “Sticks & Stones,” premiering tonight (Oct. 16) at 8 p.m. online at broadwayworld.com and broadwaycares.org. The show will be streamed for free through 8 p.m. on Oct. 20.
“I’ve worked my entire life to get on Broadway, and I finally made it,” the 21-year-old Baruch College senior said. “This is a professional credit, because it’s featured on professional websites playbill.com and broadwayworld.com, and because of the star-studded cast,” which includes Audra McDonald, Javier Muñoz, and George Salazar. Morales plays a villager in an ensemble of actors performing three songs
“Sticks & Stones” is a collaboration between Grammy and Emmy award-winning composer and conductor John McDaniel (“Grease,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Catch Me If You Can,” and TV’s “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”) and lyricist/librettist Scott Logsdon (“Les Misérables” and the upcoming film “Fabulously Fake: The Real Life of Kenneth J. Lane”).
According to the production’s press release, the musical “adapts the Biblical story of David and his triumph over Goliath to address the issue of teen bullying.” During the performance, which coincices with National Bullying Prevention Month, donations will be accepted for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Born This Way Foundation, the latter founded by Lady Gaga.
Morales, who now resides in Harlem, has been stagestruck since middle school. From eighth grade through his senior year in high school he performed with the Random Farms Kids Theatre in Elmsford. In eighth grade, he toured with “The New Kid,” a play about bullying. The next year, as a high school freshman, he signed with an agent.
Being a teenage actor was a struggle, according to Morales, because casting directors look for older performers who look young, but aren’t subject to restrictions in the number of hours they’re allowed to work.
Morales’ first “real job” was as a model on the box of a Nerf Blaster gun. From 2016 through 2017, he acted with Human Relations Media, a film company that produced DVDs about issues relevant to youth, such as the highs, lows, and in-betweens of puberty; how to end unhealthy relationships; why fad diets don’t work; and how a bystander can put a stop to bullying. Morales is passionate about the issue of bullying, which he experienced as a boy interested in musical theater. In 2017, he appeared in his first commercial, for inVentiv Health, as a patient in a doctor’s office.
At Baruch, Kyle took a different route, majoring in communications with a minor in digital communication and culture. He chose communications “because my parents did not want to invest in a musical theater degree. I have always loved journalism and communicating with people.”
College slowed Morales’ acting career. A hectic class and work schedule forced him to prioritize. He turned down auditions, went two years without performing, and lost his agent.
Then opportunity knocked when a friend sent him the casting notice for “Sticks & Stones.” When he saw the character breakdown, Kyle said, “I started freaking out because I fit the bill perfectly.” He submitted an audition tape — a 1-minute excerpt from a pop-rock song per the producers’ guideline — and landed a part, one of 90-plus actors cast from 34 states and 11 countries. He’s still in shock over his good fortune. “I can’t believe they thought I was worth working with,” he gushed.
Producing “Sticks & Stones” has had challenges due to social distancing requirements. The actors never met. They listened to the songs on their own, via Zoom, and then received the sheet music.
Morales, who can’t read music but learns by ear, hired a voice teacher for help. The teacher sang the songs, then sent him a recording. Morales spent 8 hours taping his performance (along with video) and forwarded it to the producers to be mixed with the other solos. None of the performers has heard the entire show or even the final cuts of their own numbers. The resulting mix will be a surprise — to them as well as the general public.
Although elated with “Sticks & Stones” and the prospect of building on his first Broadway credit, Morales isn’t putting all his eggs in one basket.
“If all goes according to plan, I will be getting my bachelor’s degree in the spring,” he said. “I am applying to master’s programs in the city, but I still plan on consistently auditioning for Broadway shows and other projects.”
Morales wants to earn a postgraduate degree in journalism or communications.
“A part of me will always wonder what my life would have looked like if I did end up going to school for musical theater,” he added, “but I am currently a student blogger for BroadwayWorld and I am in a new Broadway musical, so I am happy with where I am in life.”
As for the anti-bullying theme of “Sticks & Stones,” Morales has a message for all: “Choose to be kind. It’s never OK to be rude, or put people down. At the end of the day, we’re all human, battling our own demons, and there’s no reason to spread hate when you can choose to be kind.”