Following a theater performance of “Hairspray,” Clayton Abbott checked his phone and saw he had missed a call.

Two weeks before, he had auditioned for “Jesus Christ Superstar” in hopes of landing a role in his first professional theater production.

The missed call was from the director letting Abbott know he had been cast as one of the apostles.

“Naturally, I was incredibly excited,” said Abbott, 24, a 2010 graduate of Seymour High School.

Abbott already has participated in six performances of the musical at Marian University Theatre in Indianapolis, and three more are scheduled — Friday through Sunday.

The rock musical/opera, featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, is a loose Gospel telling of the last week of Christ’s life from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion.

Abbott said the show quickly came together.

“We basically did everything in about four weeks, from costume fittings to vocal rehearsals,” he said. “We would have four-hour rehearsals every other day and long dance reviews on Saturday mornings that would last however long our choreographer thought was necessary. It’s extensive and happens extremely fast, but it’s all part of the fun.”

During the shows, Abbott said he stays busy.

“Since the 12 of us are considered the ensemble, we are very active throughout the entire performance, dancing and singing pretty much the entire time if we aren’t in a quick change,” he said.

The people have made it fun and a good learning experience, Abbott said.

“Being surrounded by other professionals is an amazing experience,” he said. “Knowing that everyone around you is confident in reading music and learning dance numbers and staying on task the entire time is definitely what I like most.”

Abbott began performing in musicals as an eighth-grader at Seymour Middle School and continued that through high school and at the University of Indianapolis.

In college, Abbott was involved with UIndy Theatre and UIndy Opera Group and participated in three productions.

After graduating from UIndy in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in music, Abbott began working for Celeb Photo Ops, a production company in Bloomington. He still works for that company in a part-time role.

His full-time job is serving as a corporate trainer for Tin Roof, a live music venue; and he lives in Indianapolis.

Abbott began rehearsals for “Hairspray” in February and said he had little time off between that show closing at Footlite Musicals, a community theater in Indianapolis, and beginning rehearsals for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” produced by BOBDIREX LLC of Indianapolis.

Abbott said, in a way, he has “Hairspray” to thank for getting him cast in “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“I auditioned for ‘Hairpspray’ because a friend asked me to. I showed up, and there were over 200 people there for auditions. That was intimidating, for sure,” he said. “Long story short, I was cast, and a member of the BOBDIREX group saw the show and approached me afterwards asking me to come to audition for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’”

Once “Jesus Christ Superstar” wraps up, Abbott said he has a few auditions lined up for holiday shows.

“Being in this production has introduced me to so many people that could really help me take my career to the next level,” he said. “Just like with most jobs nowadays, sadly, it’s more about who you know.”

Abbott said he thought he knew what he wanted to do for a career after he graduated from college. But after falling back in love with musical theater, he said, it has made him second-guess himself.

“Now that I have the ball rolling, it has become an addiction,” he said. “I’m constantly having to remind myself when I’m at rehearsal and performances that I am working and getting paid. It just doesn’t feel like a job. Almost too good to be true.”

Abbott said a lot of people have supported him through everything, and one person stands out.

“One of my biggest influences and role models just so happens to be my favorite teacher from high school, Mrs. Jan Hines,” he said. “Her vision and artistic ability is none like I’ve ever experienced. She taught me more than any theater or acting class ever might have, and I am forever grateful.”

For others who are considering following a musical theater path, Abbott offered some advice.

“Never give up,” he said. “I auditioned probably four times a year while in college for various productions around Indy just trying to get my start, and it becomes frustrating. Persistence is the key, and if you truly want something, don’t give up.”

Abbott file

Name: Clayton Abbott

Age: 24

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Indianapolis

Education: Seymour High School (2010); University of Indianapolis (bachelor’s degree in communication and minor in music, 2014)

Occupation: Corporate trainer for Tin Roof; also works part time for Celeb Photo Ops

Family: Parents, John and Leslie Abbott; sisters, Tiffany Abbott and Ariana Abbott

If you go

What: “Jesus Christ Superstar”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Marian University Theatre, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis

Who: Features Seymour native Clayton Abbott

Tickets: $25 (reservations can be made at bobdirex.com or by calling 317-280-0825)

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.