Perseverance, Luck Propel Laguna Actor to ‘Neverland’

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Actor Noah Plomgren, here in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “Noises Off” in 2015, got his start on stages Laguna Beach. He’s touring with “Neverland,” opening next week at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa.
Actor Noah Plomgren, here in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “Noises Off” in 2015, got his start on stages Laguna Beach. He’s touring with “Neverland,” opening next week at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa.

Noah Plomgren bounced around a stage at age 5, playing a robot named Calcium in a children’s repertory group. “I did not understand the concept of the show, but loved the experience of being on stage. It was magical,” the Laguna Beach native recalled recently.

At age 9, he fully embraced his life’s calling. He took part in “Oops,” a musical consisting of a collection of fractured fairytales. Playing the Big Bad Wolf, he recalled getting flamed for blowing down houses, engaging in long diatribes and having the time of his life. “I can do that! This is amazing, something I love. That role cemented what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

With the support of family and equally enthusiastic teachers, he began plotting his future career through Laguna schools, with private instruction, college and a first job at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, N.Y. There, he took classes with Broadway actors he had admired while growing up, he said. He also took the role of Gabe in “Next to Normal.”

Now, Plomgren is back in Orange County as part of a company touring “Finding Neverland,” the musical based on the award winning film of the same title and the Alan Knee stage play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan.” Performances are at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from March 21 to April 2.

Not a household word among Peter Pan aficionados, Plomgren describes his character, Lord Cannan, as something of a buffoon who insinuates himself into the marriage between J.M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan,” and his wife Mary.

At age 26, Plomgren seems on his way as a career actor with a knack for singing and dancing. What’s more, he lists clowning, cartwheels and rollerskating along with basic French in his resume, skills that could come in handy on a stage somewhere.

Plomgren graduated in 2008 from Laguna Beach High School after starring in multiple stage productions under the tutelage of Mark Dressler. He stood out as Tony in “Westside Story,” Curly in “Oklahoma,” and most notably as the beast in “Beauty and the Beast.”

“He’s gonna be a star,” Dressler said. “Noah is one of the strongest actors I have taught in over 25 years. He was in plays for seven years, from sixth grade on it was obvious that the kid was special. Performing arts seem to be coursing through his veins,” Dressler said.

He also lauded Plomgren’s directorial potential, describing him as a leader who could take his peers through a production process without being “bossy.”

The latter quality also impressed Bree Burgess Rosen, who had hired him to direct the No Square Theatre productions “Just So” and “Xanadu.”

“Noah worked really hard; he’s the poster child for the K-12 performance programs,” she said. From middle-school age, Plomgren took master classes from area teachers including Donna Inglima, director of the Youth Theatre at the Laguna Playhouse.

Plomgren starred as Troy in the YT production of “High School Musical,” noted for being driven as an actor but also as someone who listened and took direction well.

Those qualities determine his current work style. Plomgren says that during productions, “I do research when it comes to specific characters, but rehearsals are more spontaneous,” a process he enjoys most of all.

Burgess Rosen calls Plomgren “an assertive learner” for always wanting to know more and a “deliberate performer” for ceaselessly working on his technique. “He is an extraordinary man; funny, loving, smart, a voracious reader, all qualities that make for a good actor, but then he was also a crapload of fun to work with,” she said.

Plomgren earned a bachelor of fine arts in acting and musical theatre in 2012 from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, where he took part in a conservatory program preparing him for a wide range of stagecraft. “It was all-acting, all-training, all the time; I did not quite get a liberal arts education,” he said, adding that anything not stage oriented just seemed like busywork at the time.

He continues to study the work of British actor Mark Rylance for his interpretive skills and imagination and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon for his stillness and control. “I have a habit of overdoing it sometime, so I admire his work,” he said.

How did he land several regional theater gigs and two national tours (“Neverland” and “Hair”) with acclaimed director Diane Paulus?

“I got a lot of doors opened because of the people I met that first summer at the Hangar and that experience,” he explained. “Also I showed up at every audition I could and people got to know my work. In short, I pounded the pavement and busted my butt, but I also got lucky.”

As to the future? “I hope to do cool, fulfilling work in theater, film and TV and live a comfortable life with that.”

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