Parade’s new leading man Aaron Robuck reflects on his theatrical beginnings in Chatswood

Starring in the upcoming Sydney run of the musical Parade is actor Aaron Robuck. Not only did he perform in his earlier years with the former Chatswood Musical Society (CMS), but he’s a cantorial soloist at the North Shore Temple Emanuel.

The 31-year-old has come a long way since he took to the stage as Baby John in a CMS production of West Side Story as a teenager. “I used to do both the Chatswood Musical Society and Willoughby Theatre Company shows when I was in high school,” he says. “And it’s a great opportunity to meet people who (have) similar interests.”

CMS is now known as the North Shore Theatre Company, and Aaron describes the performance groups as a pre-professional training ground, adding that it gave him a chance to work with actors 10 years older than him with more acting, singing and dancing experience. “I would see myself in them, in years upcoming.”

Now he is treading the boards as Leo Frank in the Tony-award winning musical Parade, a role he is reprising having performed the play in Melbourne last year.

The musical is set in 1913 and follows Leo, a Brooklyn-raised Jew living in Georgia who is put on trial for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, a factory worker under his employ. Already guilty in the eyes of everyone around him, a sensationalist publisher and a janitor’s false testimony seal Leo’s fate. His only defenders are a governor with a conscience and, eventually, his assimilated Southern wife who finds the strength and love to become his greatest champion.

Aaron says he ‘absolutely’ relates to his character Leo who is a Jewish man that moved from New York. The son of a rabbi, Aaron and his family lived in Cleveland, Ohio for around 12 years before moving back to Sydney in 2003.

He and Leo also share a love of maths. In fact, Aaron says when he finished high school, he spent a year doing actuarial studies and a combined degree with law. “I was good at maths and I actually do love maths. That’s something I share with Leo as well. He does the whole song where he’s adding up the totals of the day and I’m loving that.”

Despite his passion for numbers, Aaron felt he needed more in his life, and changed courses, choosing to study at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM). “I guess sometimes doing the opposite thing leads you to then go, ‘oh, actually, there’s a bigger hole I need to fill’,” he says of the move.

Since graduating from AIM, Aaron has worked as a writer, director, musical director, choreographer and producer. His performance credits include Bring It On: The Musical; The Original Grease; and Dear World.

He’s also been the cantorial soloist at the North Shore Temple Emanuel in Chatswood for the past five years. He explains that as a cantor, he works alongside the rabbi in leading the congregation in song.

Aaron brought his two worlds together, as actor and cantor, suggesting to Parade director that Leo have a reflective spiritual moment during a scene where he is in a cell. “And we decided to put in a little liturgical, which is like a religious musical phrase from a high holiday prayer into this acapella bit,” he explains. “So there’s a nice little reference to that which honestly I wouldn’t have been able to put in unless I had that experience.”

You can see Aaron in the Soundworks Production of Parade at the Seymour Centre from 9 May.

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