News Column

Matthew Alvin Brown homegrows versatile musical theater career

July 11, 2014

By Brandy McDonnell, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

July 11--Matthew Alvin Brown only recently acquired the word "Positoovity" -- and an entire song to go with it -- but it might just be the best way of describing the past year of his career.

The Oklahoma City actor/singer is more than halfway through a demanding run of no less than eight theatrical productions in a 12-month span. By the end of 2014, he will have performed in five Lyric Theatre shows even as he celebrates his 20th anniversary working with the venerable company.

"It's been crazy. But it's been such a good crazy," Brown said during a recent chat at Pie Junkie, just down the street from Lyric's Plaza District home. "This is what I want to do, like wake up every day and be so unbelievably grateful that you're doing what you love to do."

Through Saturday, the part-time rock star, 36, is singing, dancing and squawking mixed-up terms like "positoovity," "prehysterical" and "popsuckle" as the comical seagull Scuttle in Lyric's debut production of "The Little Mermaid." Rehearsals also started this week for Lyric's "Spamalot," which will open later this month and feature Brown as the cowardly Sir Robin.

"It's been a good year," he said. "That's why I came (back) to Oklahoma, so I could have a year like this. You know, I don't have to wait tables. I can do this."

Standout student

The Oklahoma native was still attending Putnam City West High School when he got his first paid acting gig with Lyric.

"They were auditioning for 'Peter Pan' in 1994, and I had been doing stuff at school in theater. And I just went out for this audition and I got one of the Lost Boys. I was almost 17 years old, and I was playing a Lost Boy. So, I was happy for the gig, but I was also like 'Hey, can I hang out with the cool guys? You know, we're the same age.' But nobody believed me, 'cause I looked so childlike," said Brown, who still has a boyish face that contrasts with his collection of rocker tattoos.

He attended the University of Central Oklahoma, where he got involved in a successful sketch comedy troupe called One-Hit Wonder, and show-biz opportunities prompted him to relocate to New York City for a year and then Los Angeles for a few more.

"I got really burned out on New York because I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do, and it was expensive and it was just not for me. It's a great place to visit ... but if things aren't going your way, it's really stressful. And I'm a pretty high-strung cat. So it wasn't for me," Brown said.

"I came back to Oklahoma from L.A. because my friend Nathan Siler -- who actually now lives in New York -- was wanting to start a band. And we worked really well together."

That band was called the Fellowship Students, one of the state's top alternative rock acts of the early 2000s. Not long after forming, he and his bandmates started playing in a local indie theater company's production of the relatively new rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," with Brown in the title role of the hard-luck East German transgender singer.

"We just got together some ridiculously talented musicians who for your first band was kind of a dream come true," he said. "It was that thing of kind of mixing high-concept pop that had kind of a theatrical element. So that sort of satisfied that thing, too. And then 'Hedwig' came along, and they were all game to do it because the music was so fantastic. So it sort of got me back into the swing of things."

Theatrical diversity

Except when he was living out of state, Brown said he always came back around to playing with Lyric over the years. When Siler's move to NYC put the Fellowship Students on hiatus, Brown turned more of his attention to his musical theater career. He has even branched out into directing with Lyric's 2013 staging of the Halloween classic "The Rocky Horror Show" and taken on teaching with Lyric's Rokademy Experiment, a student-driven rock musical class that performed his original rock opera "Theo and the Magic Road" in May.

As Scuttle in Lyric's "The Little Mermaid," he managed to steal the show Tuesday during the opening night performance, especially belting the chipper number "Positoovity," one of the many songs not included in the 1989 Disney animated movie.

"It's another one of those things like where you hear the kids, you see the kids, their faces light up. Just doing it for the kids is great," Brown said.

"I'm not rich. I'm not making a killing. But I'm making enough to survive and having a great time just being happy and grateful that I'm an artist in Oklahoma. That's pretty amazing."


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Source: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City)

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