Alum spotlight: Brian Baez (BFA ’08)

collage of photos

Brian Baez, BFA in Theatre Performance, 2008

Brian in the casting office at Norwegian Cruise Lines

Of the eight recent productions of Broadway hits that Brian help cast for Norwegian Cruise Lines, the current smash hit Six was actually on board ship before it hit New York. After seeing the show in the West End, his team negotiated an agreement to produce the show. “We cast and opened it, but couldn’t announce the cast until the Broadway cast was announced.”

Brian in La Cage aux Folles at Richmond Triangle Players

Brian actually started at VCU as a music major in the vocal program. When David Leong and Patti d’Beck were casting The Civil War, they approached the music department looking for singers and he was cast. Afterwards, Leong approached Brian to “come to the dark side,” so he transferred to theatre his junior year. He also started working in local productions, “In that community is where I cut those teeth.”

Brain behind the scenes of La Cage aux Folles at RTP

He worked summers at Kings Dominion with Cathy Motley Fitch (currently teaching vocal lessons in the department), who was their musical director. She was casting a show for a cruise and just lost her lead singer. Within just a few days Brian found himself in Florida preparing for his first cruise. For three years, he toured with Royal Caribbean, performing in 37 countries. “It was an amazing opportunity to work and make really good money doing what I love to do. Some people turn their noses up at cruises and theme parks, but I paid off my loans, bought a car and saved money after every contract.”

Brian performing for Royal Caribbean

Life took a drastic turn, while he was back in Richmond for My Fair Lady at Virginia Rep. “I felt a lump in my neck under my jaw and it was diagnosed as Burkitts Lymphoma, so I had to start six months of chemo.” For the next four years, Brian remained in Richmond, working 9 – 5 jobs, while slowly getting back on stage.

Brian in Paris while touring with Royal Carribean

When his husband at the time, Jason Campbell (Theatre BFA/MFA), suffered a stroke while in a show at Swift Creek Mill, they moved to St. Petersburg, FL for Jason’s therapy.  A former colleague from Bush Gardens (yes, he worked there too) needed someone to help administrate casting, so Brian took the job. After proving himself especially resourceful in finding talent for a role, he was hired as a Theatrical Casting Specialist for Norwegian Creative Studios. He has been traveling the world auditioning actor/singer/dancers for their Broadway shows.

Brian in School of Rock

Thinking back to VCU, Brian recalls, “Gary Hopper saying, ‘Be your headshot’ is my own personal mantra. Represent yourself in the way you want to be perceived. I’ve learned not to get hopes up until the actors actually audition.”

Obviously, all cruises were canceled with COVID, so Brian used the six month furlough, “living my best mid-career retirement, salt water fishing and kayaking. Turning into a Floridian. I’m a musician and singer and I miss that, but feel like talent 27 – 40 age range are theatre tweens, so I’m looking forward to roles I may be able to play in 10 years.”

Brian has been back to work and traveling this Fall, AND it has just been announced that as of January 1st, Brian has been promoted to a new role— Manager of Theatrical Casting for Norwegian Creative Studios! Congrats, Brian!

Brian in Sydney on a casting gig for Norwegian Cruise Lines

Header image: Clockwise from bottom left: Brian performing for Royal Caribbean; Brian smiling; headshot circa 2015; Brian with cast of the Barksdale’s production of MAME including Angie Atkinson!; Brian in School of Rock

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the December 2021 Theatre Alumni newsletter