Melissa Tong's Big Break Story
My name is Melissa Tong.
I was born in Binghamton, NY, and moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 14.
I’m a violinist on the new production “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.”
When did you find out? I found out I would be playing the show the 2nd week of December, which also happened to be right before I was leaving for Peru for nearly a month of mostly solo travel. I didn’t sleep much that week with all of the excitement. :)
How did you react? I received confirmation about ATP via email while I was at dinner with a good friend. I am adamantly against being on the phone at meals, but I knew this could be coming through so I made an exception to check toward the end of the meal...I immediately burst into uncontrollable tears. He just hugged me and let me cry.
Who did you share the good news with? I was afraid it wouldn’t be real, so I didn’t tell anybody except for my parents. I believe I started off by saying “Unfortunately...” and they thought I had bad news, then continued with “I won’t be able to travel for a little while...because I’ll be playing my first Broadway show.” And then my Mom was just bursting with questions.
Anything in particular that prepared you for playing ATP? As cliche as this sounds, I kind of feel like my whole life has prepared me for this project. I grew up doing musical theater, so love of the art form was cultivated very early on. Over the last few years, I’ve had several opportunities to sub on a few different shows, some with very, very little preparation and lead time. The stress of that and the high standards we tend to have for subs forced me to step up to the work and prove to myself that I was capable of meeting and hopefully exceeding expectations. After some of those experiences, I knew I could handle anything that would be thrown at me. Spoiler alert: this production requires choreo. My sister is a dancer in Chicago, so I forced her to give me a dance lesson the week before our first rehearsal when I was there for a gig.
Most unexpected part of the process: I’m surprised by the sense of calm that has come over me with my first job. The last time I had a regular, predictable paycheck was when I worked at Starbucks 16 years ago, which was, shall we say, a little bit different. There has been a small part of me that has woken up every single day thinking there was a possibility that all of a sudden I would have no more work and I would end up homeless, and there’s a certain level of fear that has always driven me. It will probably never disappear entirely, but the phrase “I have a job” has all of a sudden given me a new sense of security I didn’t know was possible in this business.
Favorite thing about being a Musician of Broadway: The community! The hours we work are kind of crazy, and it would be so easy to get depressed about losing social connection to the rest of the world. It makes it so much better to be surrounded by good people, and to be working with good friends. We’re all on this crazy ride together and I’m constantly amazed by just how many stellar people (who also happen to be some of the world’s best musicians!) we have in the NYC music world, and the Broadway Community in particular.
How do you feel about playing your first Broadway show? I am THRILLED to be a part of this production! I feel like I’ve been gifted my dream job ~ the entire team, from the producers to the director to the whole creative staff, the cast, the crew, our wonderful MD Kenny Seymour, the AMAZING band, everybody involved in ATP is a sweetheart and it’s felt like family from day one. The energy among everyone is infectious, and I had to keep myself from skipping to the theater for the first two weeks we were there. I hope everyone comes to see “Ain’t Too Proud. and please stop by and say hi when you do!
Melissa is a Musician of Broadway and you can read more about her on her website here.