• Rochester native Jared David Michael Grant to perform in ‘Tootsie’ in Rochester
  • “Tootsie” runs September 20-25 at the Auditorium Theater, 885 E. Main St.

Rochester native Jared David Michael Grant made his theatrical debut in a high school production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Before the fateful moment when he went from understudy to star of the series, he dreamed of being a singer.

“I was a Michael Jackson geek,” he said. “He was the main person who inspired me to get into music.”

But after delivering his opening lines as Prince Dauntless and getting a positive reaction from the audience, “I was sold,” Grant said.

Now 32, he will perform on a much bigger stage in Rochester in a touring Broadway production of “Tootsie,” which runs Sept. 20-25 at the Auditorium Theater, 885 E. Main St., kicking off the Rochester Broadway Theater League 2022. -23 season.

In the musical – based on the 1982 Dustin Hoffman film of the same name – he plays Jeff Slater, a failed playwright and roommate of Michael Dorsey, a gifted but infuriating actor who transforms into an actress named Dorothy Michaels to land a role. .

“The little me inside is freaking out in the best way,” said Grant, a 2008 School of the Arts graduate.

He doesn’t even have a reason to be nervous, say people who have known him since he was a child, when in addition to honing his singing skills, he attended performing arts camps and learned to dance.

“He’s always had a knack for bringing scripts and lyrics to life,” said Teryle Watson, who taught music for years at SOTA, conducted its select and gospel choirs and conducted at least 30 student productions before taking his retired in 2006. “And he always breathed fresh air into everything he did.

But the moment she knew Grant was going to grab a career in acting and run with it was when he played Tevye in a SOTA production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the Tony-winning classic on a Jewish peasant determined to find good husbands for his strong-willed daughters during pre-revolutionary Russia.

“He has been Tevye,” Watson said. “There was no doubt about it. He was magical. His singing, his dancing and his acting. He was 100%.”

From ‘Our Town’ to ‘Tootsie’

After earning a bachelor’s degree in musical theater performance from Columbia College Chicago in 2012, Grant had roles in “Dream Girls,” “Our Town,” “Gypsy” and “The Wizard of Oz,” all staged at Chicago and surrounding areas. where he is now based.

But “Tootsie” took him all over the country. This is actually his second national tour with the show, and between August 2021 and last June he gave 252 performances as Jeff, played by Bill Murray in the film. “I think I have a different outlook, but the same attitude,” Grant said. “I’m a little more sarcastic with it. It’s Jared’s attitude sprinkled all over Jeff’s character.”

Last year’s “Tootsie” dates included a stop in Buffalo, and among those who traveled there to see it was former WHEC-TV (Channel 10) anchor Janet Lomax, a longtime friend of Grant and his family.

“He has such great stage presence and tone of voice, and his comedic timing on this show is excellent,” she said via email, adding that when they met afterwards, “I shed some ‘pride’ tears.”

Go home

More such reunions are likely when Grant returns to Rochester because his parents still live here, “and they bring everyone and their mom” to “Tootsie,” he said.

He also hopes to revisit some favorite haunts of his hometown during his brief stay.

“I’m a big art lover, so I’ll probably go to the Memorial Art Gallery,” he says. “And I definitely get a trash plate from Nick Tahou. I definitely missed that. I love going to my little food stops and hooking up. And Wegmans, of course. I’ll try to get the cast to Wegmans. I talk about it all the time. »

As for the future, “There are no boundaries for Jared and his talents,” said Lomax, now a reporter-in-residence at RIT’s Diversity and Inclusion Division. “I know we’ll be hitting the Thruway and heading east to New York soon to see him perform on Broadway.”

Journalist Marcia Greenwood covers general assignments. Send story tips to [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @MarciaGreenwood.