When Tom Stuart isn’t closing deals, he’s writing musicals. We sat down with him to find out what it’s like to balance both careers and how one can often help the other.
BOND NEW YORK: Tell us a little bit about your life outside of real estate.
TOM STUART: I live in Brooklyn with a partner, a dog, and a pet parrot. I’m into food – I love to eat out, and recently started baking bread! I don’t see as much theatre as I would like, but my best friend and I go often. Also, I’m an advanced member of the BMI Musical Theatre Writers Workshop which I like to tell everyone is a big deal!
BNY: The BMI Musical Theatre Workshop is very impressive and has nurtured shows such as A Chorus Line and Book of Mormon. Speaking of impressive, is it true you were back up for Donny Osmond on Broadway?
TS: Not Broadway, but I was his understudy on the National Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was what is called an “onstage cover”, which means I was in the show as an ensemble member, but when Donny was out I would perform his role and someone else would do my part. I played for him for two weeks solid in Boston and also in Chicago and Detroit.
*cast of Joseph
BNY: How long have you been acting/writing?
TS: I started acting at age eight – My parents put me in a summer play program and I loved it. I wrote my first show about 10 years ago. It was a very fun 80s “Mix-Tape Musical” called KIDS IN AMERICA – It was performed at the Triad Theatre in NYC and produced regionally.
BNY: How does real estate compare to performing?
TS: It’s fast-paced, stressful, a good challenge, fun when you’re making money, different every day, you interact with lots of different people, and you are your own business.
BNY: How do you think real estate compares to preparing for a show?
TS: I think one reason real estate is a good fit for me is that I learned dedication, focus and perseverance as a performer and writer. Don’t be discouraged by no. If you work hard enough you can accomplish a lot. Then again, sometimes you just get lucky.
BNY: What can you take from your experiences acting and apply to this career?
TS: One of the greatest gifts of having a performer background is that it takes a lot to freak me out – rejection, disappointment, highs and lows are part of the deal. I’m better at taking things in stride as a salesperson than I was as an actor.
BNY: Do you ever draw from your experiences with clients? Has there ever been an experience that sent you home to start writing or anything you were able to draw from for a part?
TS: Absolutely. I wrote a musical called FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS – it’s basically a humorous musical revue about how hard it is to have it so good. I had plenty of material to work with!
BNY: We are heading into the fall theater season. What can you recommend?
TS: I loved this production of PIPPIN, and ONCE is one of my favorite things out there. I think Jason Robert Brown is bringing BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY to B’way next year – What?? I can’t wait.
BNY: The theater district has changed a lot over the years. What have you found has changed the most?
TS: I started renting in Hell’s Kitchen in 1991 and lived in that neighborhood on and off for years – Everyone I knew lived somewhere from 8th Avenue to 11th Avene in midtown, but I didn’t know anyone that lived east of 8th. The last rental I had there was on 43rd Street- beautiful with great views – but I’ve been living in my Brooklyn Co-op for the past few years.
BNY: Do you think the changes have been for better or worse?
TS: We used to complain that there wasn’t a single decent bar or restaurant anywhere west of 8th for years. That’s clearly changed, but now I miss how nice and quiet it was when the tourists were afraid to cross 8th Avenue.
BNY: It’s not usually considered a largely residential neighborhood. Is that changing?
TS: The true “theatre district” does have a lot more condos than it used to and also there are the old coops like the Whitby, etc. Those buildings have a lot of old Broadway Charm. I think it has become more acceptable as a residential neighborhood. It’s also the perfect place for a pied a terre if you love the theatre, dining and the park!
BNY: Say someone was coming in from out of town and wanted to experience theater and a night out in NYC. First scenario would be the typical Broadway show and dinner. What would you recommend they see and where should they eat?
TS: That’s easy – Classic B’way eve out would include drinks at Bar Centrale, Orchestra seats to Book of Mormon and dinner after the show at Joe Allen, surrounded by people you’re pretty sure are famous.
BNY: What if they wanted something a little more off the beaten path? What should they do and what neighborhood should they visit?
TS: If you’re going high-brow – Dinner at Lincoln and see anything at Lincoln Center. Two options for Downtown – Dinner at Hearth in the East Village and a play or a play or musical at the Public Theatre OR for a more casual time Japanese Ramen at Ippudo in the East Village and a show and drinks at Joe’s Pub – one of the best venues for an intimate performance.
BNY: Do you have a favorite neighborhood? What makes it your favorite?
TS: Right now it’s my neighborhood- Clinton Hill/Ft. Greene, Brooklyn because it suits my lifestyle. More relaxed than Manhattan but with enough action, restaurants, etc., for me.