From Buffalo to Broadway: Neil Haskell on landing a role in “Hamilton”

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK (WIVB) – You may have heard of Neil Haskell before, or there’s a chance you’ve caught him in prime-time. He made it to the finals of the hit TV series, “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Now he’s taking on a different role, on the Broadway stage. He now plays the character of Charles Lee, a rebellious, disrespectful army general in “Hamilton.”

Since age 5, it’s been all about the stage for Neil Haskell. He says it started as a love for gymnastics,then dance, and his dream took off.

“I started at David Demarie Dance Studio in Clarence, and then I also started doing ballet at the American Academy of ballet in Williamsville. When I was fifteen I went to Chautauqua Institute. I did that for three summers.”

His parent, Cynthia and Charlie say he just has that “it” factor. Cynthia said, “When he was fourteen, I think he decided, “I want to dance” and that was it.”

Charlie said, “He’s always had that sparkle, that little bounce in his step. He was the one that just shined in photographs and groups in just about every setting.”

At thirteen he started training with Maris Battaglia at David Demarie Dance Studio, who Haskell affectionately calls “Grandma.”

She said, “I remember the day he came in, first of all he was so cute, and all the girls were “gaga” over him. He just had a magnetism about him. He was very talented, clean technique but there was a magnetism about him when he danced.”

You might think it could be a challenge, a guy growing up doing ballet, but not for Haskell. Charlie Haskell said, “He wasn’t afraid of being a dancer. In high school, there is peer pressure and all that stuff, and it just didn’t bother him.”

His first big break came during a tryout for the hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Charlie Haskell said, “All the things you see on TV are true, all those crazy auditions and the millions of people standing in line and they liked his athletic ability, and that he could tumble and dance, he had that sparkle, that presence.”

Neil made it to the final night of the competition. Cynthia said, “Whenever he was on stage, that’s who you looked at. But I don’t know if that’s because i’m his mom.”

Then, the choreographer for a little known- up and coming show- “Hamilton” sees him dance. Neil said, “I joined the cast when it transferred to Broadway, and it’s just something you don’t even really think about on a day-to-day thing. But coming to work every day and seeing the audience full, and seeing you know how excited people are to see the show and everything. It’s crazy. I’ve never been a part of something like that.”

And that something got 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and 16 Tony nominations–the most in Broadway history.

 

For Neil, hitting the Broadway stage never gets old. He said, “every time you step out there, you’re like its pretty amazing, that the house is full every night and it’s awesome. It’s crazy. I’m in a Broadway show right now. It’s absolutely crazy. But my parents allowed me to do that.”

His parents say staying humble, and remembering his roots, is what makes him so successful today.  Charlie Haskell said, “He’s still the same Neil when he comes back to visit everybody just remembers him as Neil.”

 

Neil Haskell said, “I mean having my parents be as supportive as they are, it’s incredible. They push me and all my brothers and sisters to do everything we’ve really wanted to do, and I think everybody, all of my brothers and sisters have taken different paths, and different roads and we’re all just aiming towards a crazy goal out there, that seems unobtainable when you’re coming from a small town, but I mean, you can do it.”

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