Michael Campayno completed his senior internship for Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama in front of 18.5 million people.
The Central Catholic High School grad had never acted beyond a Pittsburgh stage -- although he has been on many of those -- when he made his television debut as Rolf in NBC's "The Sound of Music Live!" He was cast while still earning his degree, so he was allowed to use the experience as an internship.
He arrived on the New York scene via Megabus. Auditions began in August, and the tall dark Campayno, a favorite of Pittsburgh CLO and a regular in Point Park University and later CMU productions, made his first trip to the city without much hope of landing the role.
"The first time I was like, 'I'm not going to be Rolf. He's blond and on and on ...,' so I left on a Megabus right after the audition, and my manager called and said they wanted to see me [the next day]. So I got off the Megabus at some random midway stop and waited for the bus going back to New York. ... The next day I went in for Rob [Ashford, a Tony-winning director and Point Park alumnus]."
He thought things had gone well, but it was another month before the call to come back. That led to a half-dozen more callbacks that put him through his paces and found him in the company of Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald and fellow CMU alumnus Christian Borle.
"The auditions were four hours and we partnered with everybody. It was one of the hardest auditions but one of the most rewarding, too, because Rob worked really close with us and got to know who we really are. Of course it was such an intricate audition process, because it was a first for NBC, and they didn't know what it was going to be like."
After an intense few months that included the handing off of directors, from Mr. Ashford in rehearsals to in-studio director Beth McCarthy-Miller, the experience came to an abrupt end. There was a party after the one-off performance, and the participants went their separate ways.
But Mr. Campanyno's relationship with NBC goes on.
The show came and went with such success that NBC has already announced a second live musical, "Peter Pan." The network also has signed the singer-actor through pilot season, in a deal "like the old MGM actors," he said.
The youngest of six children growing up in Forest Hills and a Gene Kelly Award winner, Mr. Campayno has made the big career move to Manhattan. He is on hold as far as stage work, but he hasn't given up on his Broadway dreams.
The NBC contract won't prevent him from a return engagement to Pittsburgh, either. He's on board for all four shows when the New York act The Skivvies, Lauren Molina and Nick Cearley, comes to City Theatre
He admitted his first reaction to the invitation to perform in his underwear was, "What?"
"Then I YouTubed their stuff, and they are so innovative and so much fun. The way they collaborate really works; I love all the mashups. Their whole atmosphere is really interesting and innovative and something I needed to be a part of."
He says there has been no discussion of what he will wear yet, and when the shorts he wore as delivery boy Rolf are mentioned, he laughs. No matter what he wears, he wants his family to be there and see what he sees in The Skivvies.
"It's songs I grew up listening to and I always wanted to sing," he says, "and it's really theatrical and very fun."
Sharon Eberson: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1960. Twitter: SEberson_pg.