SALT LAKE CITY — Tade Biesinger has always had a knack for rhythm and movement.
The 18-year-old senior at Bountiful High School has danced in competitions throughout the country as Billy Elliot on Broadway and London’s West End and will soon perform in Pioneer Theatre Company’s “Newsies,” but it all started with a simple children’s song.
“When he was 12 months old, one of the songs he liked was ‘The Wheels on the Bus.’ I remember when my wife and I would sing that to him and he couldn’t talk, but when it came time to go ‘swish, swish, swish’ or something, he’d go ‘dah, dah, dah,’” said Clint Biesinger, Tade Biesinger’s dad. “He just always had a sense of rhythm.”
That natural rhythm led to neighborhood gym classes by the time Biesinger was 5 or 6, formal dance classes by 7, winning national dance competitions by 9 and being cast in the title role of “Billy Elliot the Musical” — the Tony Award-winning musical with music by Elton John — by 11.
“Honestly, ever since I was young, I would sing and dance,” said Biesinger, who plays Specs and is part of the ensemble of PTC’s “Newsies,” which runs Dec. 1-20. “I just wanted to entertain wherever I went, so I think it’s always kind of been in me.”
Biesinger said he was scouted for the role in “Billy Elliot” on Broadway while performing in a dance competition in New York City. The musical’s dancing director saw him perform, invited him to audition and before he knew it, the role was his.
“Before I even auditioned for ‘Billy,’ I didn’t even know what Broadway was,” he said. “I was really kind of out of the loop with everything, so to be pushed out into that world at such a young age was kind of scary but it was also a huge blessing in the sense that I was able to work with some really talented people and still continue to work with a lot of people who are really big examples to me.”
“Kind of crazy,” Biesinger said with a laugh about his whirlwind experience.
When he returned to Utah, he continued his dance training at Dance Impressions dance studio and at the University of Utah. “Ever since I came back, I knew it would be important to get good training if this is something that I really wanted to pursue,” he said.
His focus has been on his dance training, but when he heard PTC would mount a production of “Newsies,” he knew he needed to dust off his musical theater shoes.
“When ‘Billy Elliot’ was finishing on Broadway, ‘Newsies’ was just announced that it was going to be coming to the Broadway stage. Ever since I was that age, I thought it would be so cool to be a newsie,” said Biesinger, who is a member of the Actors' Equity Association. “When I heard it was coming to Pioneer Theatre, I couldn’t just not audition.”
When Karen Azenberg, PTC artistic director and director of “Newsies,” saw Biesinger audition, she didn’t know his background at first but noticed there was something special.
“He started to dance and there was this beautiful technique and line and flexibility, and I’m like, ‘He looks like he’s 12. What’s the story here?’” she said.
After looking at his resume, she connected the dots.
“Of course it then all made total sense, but you practically had to pull (the fact he was on Broadway) out of him because he doesn’t wear it like a badge,” Azenberg said. “It’s just part of who he is, which is of course another reason why he’s so lovely is that he just takes it all in stride as part of the work he’s doing to train as a dancer and a performer.”
Rehearsals for “Newsies” add to Biesinger’s already busy schedule. He wakes up early to attend early morning seminary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attends classes at Bountiful High School half the day, then it’s off to rehearsal for seven to nine hours a day. When he’s not in the middle of preparing for a production, his regular dance training lasts four to five hours a day.
“I just think he is an example to pre-professional and professional actors on the value of training and discipline,” Azenberg said. “He has no ego whatsoever. I’m not saying he’s a pushover, it’s just he listens and works hard, hard, hard and is kind to his fellowman.”
Clint Biesinger said although his son has a great deal of natural talent, his training schedule is an example of Tade’s hardworking, detail-oriented lifestyle, which does come at a cost. Sometimes Tade will miss family activities or social activities with his friends, but Clint Biesinger said it’s a tradeoff Tade chooses to make to pursue his passion.
One thing that Tade hasn't been willing to miss, though, are his church services. When he first moved to New York with his mom and sister when he was cast on Broadway, he was unable to attend church because of his busy rehearsal and performance schedule.
"That was kind of a big deal for me. Not being able to go, I noticed a huge difference in my life and finally my mom and me just contacted the directors," he said. “I ended up being able to go and after I came back they said, ‘Keep that kid in church because we do notice that difference.’'
Additonally, Tade Biesinger still makes time for family. As the oldest of seven children, Clint Biesinger said he and his wife can always count on Tade.
“He’ll come home and I know he’s tired because he’s been up early and worked all day, but he never complains (about helping around the house),” Clint Biesinger said. “He still dives right in and helps. As his dad, I think that’s awesome because those are the things that are pretty good markers for who he is as a person.”
After he graduates from high school, Tade Biesinger plans to serve a mission for the LDS Church, pursue dance training at a university — he’s in the midst of applying and auditioning for programs now — and continue performing. But for now, he’s just excited to perform locally for family and friends, many of whom were unable to see him perform in New York and London.
“For me to have the opportunity to dance and sing locally on a big stage like Pioneer Theatre and to get to have my family and friends get to come see what I love to do is really, really cool,” he said. “I’m excited to be performing again and I feel really lucky to get to do it here in my hometown.”
If you go ...
What: Pioneer Theatre Company's "Newsies"
When: Dec. 1-20, times vary
Where: Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East
How much: $42-$64