When was the last time you heard a NEW 1980s rock opera? Maybe the 1980s? Well…fasten your seatbelts and come to see the second staging of Choices: A Rock Opera this weekend, November 11, 12 and 13 at New York’s Chappaqua Performing Arts Center (https://choicesarockopera.com/). The show stars MiG Ayesa who is no stranger to rock music on and off-Broadway. “Un-Block The Music” had the pleasure of talking with MiG this week.
MiG’s path to the stage was not a straightforward one. “The reason I got into music is because I had a bad stutter as a child,” he said. “Whenever I sang a song, I wouldn’t stutter. So, I fell in love with singing. I felt really cool about it, and it was a confidence builder for me. I also learned how to play piano so I could accompany myself. I got Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder books, learned how to play chords, and then eventually got into band in high school too.”
MiG, who grew up in Sydney, Australia, auditioned for Oliver in school and got the lead. “I enjoyed it and did productions every year after that.” He carried that love of theater into high school. “I was in an all-boys school, but when we did productions, we would team up with our sister school. I’d rather spend my time mixing with the girls than getting the life knocked out of me on the rugby field,” he joked. Theater was just something enjoyed and not planned as a career. “I always thought I wanted to be a pop star (or a pilot, hence the name MiG for the jets manufactured by Mikoyan Gurevich). “I literally had a garage band called Sohcahtoa, and we would rehearse in my drummer’s garage!” That wasn’t his only band. His love of rock music continued with Randy Badass and The Slickmaster 5 then Lovetown.
Like most parents, however, MiG’s mom wanted him to go to university. He did, and majored in Communications doing film production and editing. While in school, MiG worked at the local movie theater concession making minimum wage until a friend of his told him that he made $2000 in a weekend filming a soda commercial. “I thought, I should get an agent! I was very lucky. My friend from school’s aunt was one of Sydney’s top agents. She had seen me in my high school productions and took me on. I spent a year auditioning, but nothing happened.”
Finally, MiG landed his first commercial. It was for an anti-speeding campaign. And, at that point he hit is stride. His next audition was for a TV series pilot, and he booked it. The show was a feature length pilot with the theme of teenage espionage. “I went to Amsterdam, Spain and the UK. I was 19 years old, and thought ‘this is awesome…this is what I want to do!’” When he came back from Europe, however, MiG got a call from his agent telling him to go straight to a last call for a new musical, The Buddy Holly Story. They needed someone to sing in Spanish and to play Ritche Valens. So, MiG went, and sang the only Spanish song he knew…”La Bamba” and scored his first professional theater job in Sydney.
Opening night, producers from the London production were there and asked MiG to go to London for The Buddy Holly Story there. “I said, ‘sure!’ I was 20 years old. I thought this was normal! Next thing I knew I flew off to the West End for six months. The company even was invited to do a performance in front of the Queen, Prince Phillip, Princess Diana and the two young princes. It was insane!”
A year later, MiG went home to Australia. “People there thought that because I had done all of these things in London, I was this big theater guy. They had no idea I was making it up as I went along!” So…when Guy Pearce (LA Confidential) was leaving the Australian production of Grease to film a movie, MiG replaced him as Danny. Then his theater career just snowballed. MiG was in productions of West Side Story, Cinderella, Aladdin, Fame and “Un-Block The Music’s” favorite…Rent!
“But, I still had dreams of being a producer and songwriter. While I thought I might be too old to be a pop star, I hoped I could secure a publishing deal. When I got married, my wife, who was a dancer, wanted to move to London to work there. So we did. But as soon we got to London, our savings started plummeting quickly as Australian dollars were weak there. I had to get a job really quickly. Within six weeks of us landing in London, I started rehearsals for Rent playing Angel.”
Guitarist Brian May went to see Rent with the musical director of Queen’s We Will Rock You, the show based on the band’s songs. “After seven auditions, I was hired to understudy the youngest guy and the oldest guy in the show!” But, when, Tony Vincent (the original Galileo) left the show, MiG stepped up. At the time, the show was one of the biggest hits in London.
Theater was not a concerted choice, “but I was at the right place at the time. As an artist you have to keep yourself open to the universe of opportunity,” MiG said. Before “Un-Block The Music” talks about Choices, I have to indulge myself. Working for Billboard in the early 2000s, I was a huge fan of star searches like American Idol, so I was more than a little thrilled when Rockstar INXS debuted in 2005. If you don’t remember, the show was aimed at finding a new lead singer for the late Michael Hutchence of INXS. Though MiG was in We Will Rock you at the time, the powers that be let him audition for this television show. And, lo and behold, after a worldwide search, MiG made it into the top 15 and eventually finished at number 3. Of course, I have an opinion with regard to that…LOL…I could never forget MiG’s rendition of Live and Let Die.
“I was intrigued by the American Idol phenomenon, and INXS was the soundtrack of my youth,” MiG said. “Even though I was hesitant to leave We Will Rock You, when opportunity knocks, you have to go with it. And, the show turned out to be an incredible experience.”
Aside of his tremendous talent, MiG’s attitude about trying different things has led him in so many successful directions. He has been on Broadway with Rock of Ages as well as Burn The Floor. However, he also has done a lot beyond theater. Through Rob Affusso, drummer for the band Skid Row, MiG met Layla DaVias who is a producer and the lead female character in Choices. The two made an artistic connection, so Layla called MiG one day and said she thought that the lead role in Choices would be great for him. Layla wanted to introduce MiG to its creator John Krupa. The two got on very well and MiG was hired!
Choices: A Rock Opera tells the story of a lead singer from a 1980s rock band. Though he has had a lot of success on stage, the singer is void of any true emotion or real-life experience beyond the stage. When he meets an intriguing woman who introduces him to the world beyond what he’s ever known, he comes to the realization that he has a monumental choice to make. Should he leave the only life he has ever known to pursue a life with this woman?
“John’s material is really great in many ways. John (who plays MiG’s manager in Choices) not only has an incredible voice himself, but also has an amazing talent for creating songs that are challenging. One of the things I love best as an artist is the creative process. In most shows, I have been there as a replacement. Even in We Will Rock You. It is like color by numbers…you are replicating. Of course, eventually, I put my stamp on the character, but to do something like Choices from scratch is a gift. Where we are in the creative process now, it is where I love to live!”
MiG continued. “John has positive energy that is so contagious. He lifts everyone up and I am deep into the project.” As all theater creators know, getting a show to the stage takes a lot of people and an enormous amount of commitment. Choices: A Rock Opera had one staging of this show in April 2022, and with the next three performances the show continues to evolve. Unlike Broadway productions, when shows have previews and time to get into a comfortable space, Choices: A Rock Opera is going full speed ahead to the stage. While its path might seem to be a short one, it is really 30 years in the making, John told “Un-Block The Music. The last performance was “page to stage. The November performance is from amateur to pro. We have to walk up the stairs to get to Broadway!”
You can read more about Choices A Rock Opera here:
You can read a bit about the show’s choreographer and lead dancer, Holly Block here:
And…if you really love rock music in theater, you can go back to “Un-Block the Music’s” first days by reading this story about Rocktopia (Tony Vincent was in this show!) https://unblockthemusic.blog/2018/03/28/what-do-led-zeppelin-puccini-have-in-commonrocktopia/
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