Wootton High School and Bowie State University alumni Myles Frost, who just earned a Tony nomination for his role as Michael Jackson in “MJ,” talks with WTOP.
Broadway is blown away by an alumni of Wootton High School and Bowie State University. Myles Frost earned a Tony nomination this week for his role as Michael Jackson in “MJ.”
He called into WTOP — his hometown radio station — to share his journey to stage stardom.
“Y’all know that ride is only a three-and-a-half-hour train ride — y’all can make that on a Saturday, baby,” Frost told WTOP.
“Come see me! Come up to New York. We’re at the Neil Simon Theatre in Manhattan and just dance and have fun and revel and learn about Michael and his history … and enjoy some music and some dancing by Yours Truly.”
Born at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, Frost was raised by his grandma in Southeast D.C. and attended elementary school nearby in Fort Washington, Maryland.
“I had to grow up really fast,” Frost said. “I didn’t have the best relationship with my father or stepfather, so I put myself in the mentality that I want to protect and provide for my mother, my sister and my grandmother. That’s been my driving force through everything.”
His earliest memories involve dancing to the “King of Pop” on a Potomac River cruise.
“Michael has always been a part of that journey of me finding myself as an artist and a musician,” Frost said. “I remember when I was 5 dancing on the Spirit of Washington [cruise]. I saw an open dance floor and I said, ‘Why not?’ … Next thing I look up and there’s people surrounding me, throwing money. That’s my earliest memory dancing.”
He began researching the history of dancers who influenced Jackson.
“I was like Michael is cool, but where did Michael learn it from?” Frost said. “I started to look into James Brown, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire, Bob Fosse, the Nicholas Brothers and I discovered this whole world of things beyond my time.”
He discovered theater during high school in Rockville, Maryland.
“Wootton High School was an inserting experience,” Frost said. “It was a culture shock because I was so used to being around people that looked like me, then to be put in a position where that just wasn’t the case — where I was a minority — it took a lot of adjusting. There were a lot of things that I didn’t know; theater being one of them.”
His freshman year, he found himself in the chorus room playing the piano.
“That was my comfort spot,” Frost said. “I was playing the piano, probably Alicia Keys or Stevie [Wonder]. This teacher walks in and says, ‘I hope there’s a voice behind that beautiful piano playing. … We need more people for this musical we’re doing. … The show is called ‘Hairspray.’ I want you to go home, watch the movie [and] come back tomorrow.’”
His mom showed him the movie and he loved the character of Seaweed J. Stubbs.
“I went back the next day and said, ‘I don’t know how this process works, I don’t know what I got to do, but I want to be him,’” Frost said. “Seaweed embodied the type of performer I wanted to be. … I ended up becoming the first freshman and the first Black freshman to get the lead role in a musical. … That was my first time singing and dancing on stage.”
After missing his sophomore year of theater due to bad grades, he came roaring back.
“My junior year, I said, ‘I’m really going to buckle down,’ and I ended up getting a 3.5 [G.P.A.],” Frost said. “My mom said, ‘Alright, I’ll let you go back to doing your extra-curriculars.’ I ended up doing another musical, ‘Legally Blonde,’ playing Warner, Elle’s ex-boyfriend. … It was an interesting role because it was outside of my comfort zone.”
His junior year he also performed “Billie Jean” at the school talent show.
“My mom recorded every performance,” Frost said. “I can see her with the flash on with giant iPads. … Little did I know, that video would be the reason I’m here today.”
His senior year he played Lord Pinkleton in “Cinderella” and got his first indie movie role.
“It was called ‘All In,’ I played a 15-year-old kid with autism,” Frost said. “It was the first time I had to do research. … I met a kid named Titus; he has autism and Down’s Syndrome. We’re the same age. I met him, his mother and little brother at IHOP. That was one of the most humbling conversations of my entire life, learning what he’s had to go through.”
After high school, he put theater aside to pursue a career in music. He attended Belmont University in Nashville for two years to major in audio engineering.
“I majored in audio engineering because I’m an artist, I write music, I produce, I play piano and drums,” Frost said. “My goal at that particular time was I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be an actor and artist. Broadway wasn’t even close to on my radar. … I wanted to be able to contribute my technical expertise to say, ‘Can you turn the reverb down?’”
He transferred to Bowie State University in Maryland for his final two years.
“I switched my major to music technology,” Frost said. “I had already done two movies, ‘All In’ and ‘Big 50: The Delrhonda Hood Story’ on BET. … That was a fun role because it was a Prince-inspired role. Around my senior year, I decided to take an acting class. … I did this four-week intensive with a guy, Lelund Thompson. He became my acting coach.”
A week later on May 21, 2021, Thompson called Frost with a golden opportunity.
“He calls and says, ‘Myles you were on my mind this morning. … I woke up and I said, ‘Why is Myles on my mind?’ I looked up Myles Frost on YouTube and the first thing that came up was Myles Frost doing ‘Billie Jean.’ … There’s an opportunity that might be available if you want to do it.”
Thompson told him about an audition for understudies in a UK production of ‘Michael Jackson: The Musical,” so Frost quickly filmed his audition at a Rockville studio.
“In my mind, being an understudy would be really cool, I just don’t want to be that,” Frost said. “I want to go super strong and make sure that my audition is so good that they are reconsidering who will [play the lead]. … I was in the studio from 8 in the morning to 6:30, I didn’t even eat that day. I was watching ‘Motown 25’ over and over again.”
The casting agents were impressed and asked him to sing follow-up singing videos.
“I sent videos of me singing a few songs they sent, ‘Stranger in Moscow,’ ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us,’ interesting song selections on their part because it shows three different aspects,” Frost said. “You get the grit of ‘They Don’t Care About Us,’ you get this more mellow, vocally filling ‘Stranger in Moscow’ … and ‘Don’t Stop,’ which is all falsetto.”
They were impressed again and invited him to an in-person audition in New York City, starting with a workshop with choreographer Michael Balderrama to learn the dance steps.
“By the 45-minute mark, I began to have an allergic reaction,” Frost said. “I think it was to the dust in the room. … My throat closes, my skin breaks out in hives from head to toe, the hives alert the eczema. … I went and got Zyrtec and Benadryl and went back to the hotel. … My mom [told my manager], ‘I’m going to meet you on the New Jersey Turnpike with Myles’ EpiPen.’”
Knocked out by two Benadryls, he woke up the next day at 12:30 p.m. for a 2 p.m. audition.
“I didn’t get to practice at all what I learned the previous day,” Frost said. “I said a prayer, I went over to the audition, I walked into the room, there was a whole panel of people. … I said, ‘You know what? It’s time. It’s out of my hands at this point.’ … I turn around, I put my hat on, … I do the routine, I didn’t miss a beat, I didn’t miss a step and I give all that to God.”
He was back home in Maryland when I finally learned he got the role.
“For a good five minutes I was over the moon,” Frost said. “I ran into my sister’s room and said, ‘Morgan! I got it!’ Then it felt like a switch flipped because I realized everything that went with it both negative and positive. I just had a moment with self to really think about is this something I’m really ready for? Accept it? I came to a place of understanding with that and I was ready.”
After a pandemic delay, “MJ: The Musical” finally launched on Broadway in February.
“It’s ultimately set two days before the ‘Dangerous’ tour,” Frost said. “We do go through his life, we have three different Michaels: young Jackson Five ‘I Want You Back’ Michael, then we have ‘Off the Wall’ going into ‘Thriller’ Michael, then we have me, who is ”Dangerous’ Michael in 1992. We follow his life through the lens of an MTV crew who comes to the rehearsal.”
Throughout the show, we get a glimpse into the megastar’s creativity.
“We learn bout his creative process, we learn about his relationship with his father, we learn about the things that he’s gone through in his childhood to bring him to the point to where he is now and how he developed the work ethic he has and why he’s so hellbent on perfection,” Frost said. “Being perfect is a common theme throughout the show. … We see him in a human light.”
Of course, it’s also a jukebox musical with all of your favorite songs.
“‘They Don’t Care About Us,’ ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,’ ‘Beat It,’ ‘I’ll Be There,’ ‘I Want You Back,’ ‘Billie Jean,’ ‘Thriller,’ ‘Bad,’ ‘2 Bad’ for the geeks out there, for the big fans, ‘Stranger in Moscow,’ ‘Tabloid Junkie,’ ‘Price of Fame’ … ‘Blame it on the Boogie,’ ‘Dancing Machine,’” Frost said. “It’s honestly a hell of a time and the energy is amazing.”
Now, Frost is a Tony nominee, making good on his promise to make grandma proud.
“My grandmother will be 89 in May and she’s been able to see the show twice,” Frost said. “It’s such a blessing because I’ve always rushed to get my big break, not for myself but because my grandmother is my biggest fan. I wanted her to see me embark into my career with all the lights, all the cameras. … For her to be alive to see it … it means a lot to me.”