FTS Q&A: Merritt David Janes

You know him as Merritt David Janes – star of American stage musicals like The Wedding Singer, Sweeney Todd, and Shrek, The Musical.  You know him from his turns as Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, and Carl Hanratty in the national tour of Catch Me if You Can.  And currently, you can see him in the 25th Anniversary Tour of the Phantom of the Opera.  You know him as one of the singingest, actingest, all-around talents to hit the stage out of UMaine in quite a while.  We know him as DJ, and we’re psyched to have him come around for a quick Q&A.;

Fill The Steins: When did you graduate, if you don’t mind us asking?  What was your major?
Merritt David Janes: 2004 – Bachelor of Music Education

FTS: What dorm(s) did you live in? 
MDJ: Aroostook, baby.

FTS: How’d you get into acting?  What was your first post-college acting gig?

MDJ: I’ve been acting since high school. I went right to the Circle in the Square Theatre School after UMaine. When I graduated from there, I was able to book my first job as Robbie Hart on the first Broadway national tour of The Wedding Singer. That was the first of five tours that I have been a part of over the past six years. And as luck would have it, I [am now] on my sixth as part of the 25th Anniversary tour of the Phantom of the Opera which [opened] in Providence in November!

FTS: You’ve done almost all musical theatre, no?  Do you have any ideas to do a non-musical?
MDJ: I have mostly been involved with musical theatre but I’ve been in a few plays as well. My favorite was when I got to play the duke in the Two Gentleman of Verona. Don’t steal my lunch money when I tell you that Shakespeare is lots of fun.

FTS: You’ve played some really cool roles, from Sweeney Todd to Robbie Hart to Carl Hanratty – is there a favorite role, so far?
MDJ: My favorite role that I have ever played was Sweeney Todd. It was such a great role because that character literally goes through every possible state of mind over the course of the show. AND as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to give a performance at UMaine!

FTS: About Lord Farquaad and Lumiere from
Shrek, The Musical and Beauty & the Beast, respectively: is there anything notably different about playing for, let’s say, the younger set?
MDJ: Young people are so great to perform for because their imaginations are wide open. They don’t hesitate to step into another world with you. They also inspire me to give 100% on days when I’m feeling a bit tired because there is usually somebody out there who is having their very first theatre experience  and that really is a unique opportunity to be able to be a part of someone’s first adventure in the theatre.

FTS: Is there any role in particular you haven’t yet played, but would really like to?
MDJ: I would love to play Billy Flynn in Chicago and I would love to be in a production of Amadeus.

FTS: What’s the weirdest fan moment you’ve had?
MDJ: Sweeney Todd was in Austin, Texas for the week of Halloween which was a memorable experience in itself. But there was, in fact, a Sweeney super fan who was there the night after Halloween who was dressed to the murderous nines and staring at me intently without blinking throughout the course of the entire show. I think he might have actually killed people.

FTS: You’re obviously doing really well on stage – any further ambitions in music or in a TV/film career?
MDJ: I have always wanted to be in a GOOD movie. We will see if that’s in the cards at all. I have lots of friends who are good writers and I’m hoping that someday they might write something for me. I would also like to record some of the songs that I’ve written over the years. I have met some very talented musicians who could really make them sound good.

FTS: Favorite UMaine memory that you care to share?
MDJ: So many to choose from:
These are the first three that popped into my head
– I sang on three European concert tours with the University Singers and Maine Steiners.
– I got to meet and sing for Dr. Bernard Lowne (the Nobel peace prize winner)
– I spoke with John Glenn for a brief period when he visited.

I am bummed that I have only been able to make it to one alumni weekend, but I am happy to say that I would not have had any of my performing experiences if I hadn’t gone to UMaine. My time there prepared me in every way for this great adventure I am so fortunate to be a part of. My grateful thanks to all of the people I got to share the ride with. I will look forward to getting up there ASAP!

FTS: What’s the one thing you’d want to do if you were back at UMaine right now?
MDJ: Bert’s Special at Pats pizza   🙂

FTS: Nice.  Also my favorite.  But more about you. What are you filling your steins with these days?

MDJ: Chloroform and Fresca   🙂

Remind me to not mix up our drinks at the bar, then.  Many thanks to Merritt David Janes for the time – be sure to look out for his next great performance.



Photo credit: Press Photo/Adam Bird

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