From Singapore to the States: My Love Affair with Theatre

Musical Theatre performer Greg Sim recounts how he moved to the US in search of a career in the theatre industry and how he has found new dreams and surprises along the way.

By Greg Sim | 16 Aug 2023

Greg started his love affair with theatre at a young age, but only pursued it more than a decade later in life.

“I remember being in Primary School and listening to the cast recordings of West End shows that my dad brought back from his work trips to London. But I never saw myself doing it. I romanticised being an actor or being a pop star but never really considered musicals.” The first time he stepped into a musical theatre class was at the age of 17, after graduating from Secondary School.

After completing his National Service, Greg applied to a number of musical theatre programs with campuses located near New York City to be able to access the Broadway industry.

Learning the ropes

In his first year in America, Greg experienced his first audition at a cattle call where he says “it will hopefully be the most embarrassing audition I ever gave”. These big-scale auditions occur in theatres with representatives from anywhere up to one hundred different companies scouting for performers for the summer season. “I realised after my first audition season that you have to approach the audition as a time to perform and enjoy it, rather than to prove yourself and try to get a job – because you’re most likely not going to get it anyways.”

Despite his first audition not going the way he wanted, Greg later saw himself dancing in an original piece under the direction of So You Think You Can Dance choreographer, Spencer Liff at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

“A professor recommended me to audition for a showcase program that he was connected to. I later realised how important connections are, especially in this industry. And to have perseverance and discipline to keep working hard and continually auditioning despite you not seeing rewards of the blood, sweat and tears immediately.”

New, unfathomable opportunities

“I spent my second summer here working at a beautiful theatre in New Hope, Pennsylvania where I experienced my first show contract. Going to work six days a week to do a show was so much fun!”

Greg’s professional debut saw him at Bucks County Playhouse, a summer theatre with a rich history, having hosted some of the America’s most recognisable performers such as Robert Redford and Liza Minelli.

Unfortunately, when the following semester was ending and audition season was starting up, America was reacting to the first rumblings of COVID-19. “Things started shutting down quickly. I remember hearing about Broadway cancelling shows and before I knew it, I was back home in Singapore.”

Looking for avenues to continue his training and working his ‘theatrical muscle’, Greg auditioned for Wild Rice’s Young & Wild program, a year-long comprehensive acting programme led by Wild Rice’s Associate Artistic Director, award-winning theatre-maker Edith Podesta.

“I learned so much from Edith. It was honestly better acting training than any of the classes I took in college. And getting to do that while back home and being with the family was a beautiful time.”

Greg later auditioned for Wild Rice’s annual pantomime musical and scored a role as Hiroto the crane. “I was so bummed at the reality of having to leave America, and losing the momentum I was building. But eventually, I found myself in incredible situations learning so much and growing as an artist and an individual in ways I never imagined.”

Finding a place in the industry

After 2 years back home in Singapore, Greg moved back to America and picked up from where he left off.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to have been part of a couple of new musicals in development. It’s always exciting for a theatre performer to get to develop a show alongside the creatives in the room. It is an extremely different process from just putting a production from the canon on its feet.”

Greg has also been flexing his management skills after earning his Diploma in Events Management from Republic Polytechnic pre-National Service. “I started assisting Casting Directors, Company Managers, and Producers during the long winter breaks from school. When I returned post-Covid, I got a job working for the producer of Hamilton and I was lucky enough to join just as they were getting ready to start Sweeney Todd. Getting to work on that show and see it from rehearsal to opening night on Broadway was incredible!”

“Working on the other side of the table has actually helped me be a better performer too.” Greg was just Assistant Choreographer to Broadway veteran JoAnn Hunter on the new musical SuperYou, which has already garnered a huge social media following despite a fully produced run.” 

He is excited for more opportunities to come and the possibility of working on more original shows back home as well. “I would love to be based in New York solely based on the vibrancy of the theatre scene here but be able to spend a few months of the year in the industry back home too.” 

At the end of the day, he says he’s learnt to not live life in expectation of this picture-perfect dream but to “put one foot in front of the other” and “keep your eyes and ears open to opportunities you never even knew existed”. “For now, I am just taking it one day at a time and being grateful for what I have.”

About Greg

Greg is an actor, dancer, musical theatre performer and arts administrator based in New York City. Since graduating from Rider University with a BFA in Musicaal Theatre and a BA in Arts Management, he has performed in productions such as Mamma Mia!, The Little Mermaid and Chicago.

Connect with him here.

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