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ASU Business graduate has role in Broadway's 'Wicked'

September 8, 2022

Broadway neon lights 2017 Arizona State University graduate James D. Gish.

Born in Las Vegas, Nevada and moved to Bullhead City, Arizona at the age of 11, Gish graduated with honors from ASU’s Bullet Honors College and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from WP Carey School of Business.
Portrait of ASU Alumni James D. Gish
ASU Alumni James D. Gish is currently playing Fiero in “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theater in New York City.Photo courtesy of James D. Gish
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In his Broadway debut, he currently plays Fiero in “Wicked” eight times a week at the Gershwin Theater in New York City.

Gish credits her mother and childhood friends with encouraging her to pursue singing and performing.

“Culturally, Bullhead City is pretty sports-centric. So growing up, I always wanted to be an athlete. Gish said.

“A friend of mine heard me singing on the radio and forced me to audition for a choir when I was 15. Since then, I was pressured to audition for a school musical and immediately I fell in love. And.”

Gish’s love of music and performance led him beyond producing at his alma mater, Mojave High School. He has appeared as a guest artist on the Colorado River Concerts, an organization that brings live concerts and performances to Bullhead City and other Colorado River-area communities. He has appeared on the national tours of ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ and ‘Les Miserables’. He has performed with the Phoenix Theater Company in “Newsies,” “Jersey Boys,” “Westside Story,” “Daddy Long Legs,” and “My Way.” at the Hippodrome Theater for “Forever Plaid” and “The Toxic Avenger.” With Desert Stage Theater in “Shrek: The Musical.”

In 2017, Gish released an album titled ‘So In Love’ produced by DW Music at Warner Bros. Music and Oceanway Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. The album entered the iTunes Top 10 Classics chart. He promoted the album at his 2017 West Coast performance and his 2018 Las Vegas tour. In 2018 he performed at his concert at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on his barge Cleopatra’s.

How does Gish feel about appearing on Broadway?

“Broadway has been a dream of mine for over a decade. Words are insignificant to describe what that realization feels like in reality,” Gish said.

“I have this beautiful moment every night at the finale of Wicked, where I watch Elphaba (also known as the Wicked Witch of the West) walk off stage for a few minutes before taking the final exit. You get a perfect view of the stage, the cast, the audience, and the theater.It’s seldom not until the end that you’re left in tears.That being said, Broadway is also a big challenge.Here, the precision expected of a performer and a much higher level of consistency, and achieving that eight times a week is no easy feat: lots of sleep, water, and Mucinex!”

Gish took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about traveling from small town Arizona to the Big Apple. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: When did you attend ASU and Barrett Honors College?

answer: I joined the company in the fall of 2014 and graduated in the spring of 2017. I majored in business management. Coming from a small town, I didn’t really think I had what it takes to compete at a professional level, but I knew I had something to lean on. Luckily, I really enjoyed studying at WP Carey.

In my sophomore year, I started performing at a community theater in downtown Phoenix called the Phoenix Theater Company, which allowed me to learn the ropes of the world while attending school. At the same time, I started taking extra classes and summer courses at ASU so I could graduate a year early and get a job even sooner.

Q: How did ASU and Barrett decide?

A: many reasons. It was a beautiful campus, a respected institution, close to home, lucky enough to get a great scholarship, and close to the professional theater I wanted to work in while attending school.

I graduated in 2017 and had the opportunity to return to the Gammage Auditorium as Gerry Goffin for the February 2020 national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. A shelf in the living room of my parent s ‘ house. It was an unforgettable evening!

Q: What did you learn from the ASU and Barrett experience?

A: I learned a lot more than I could fit into this interview. I have studied under many really good professors. Their course was very helpful in understanding the business side of performance. For example, I have drafted many concert and tour contracts myself, and have helped other friends, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it without that knowledge.

Q: How would you describe your performance and singing style?

A: The official genre of my solo album “So In Love” is called Classical Crossover. Think of a Josh Groban-style song through a more modern lens. I’ve written a lot of my own music while touring with these shows and currently being on ‘Wicked’. I can feel my genre changing a bit, but admittedly, I still haven’t figured out exactly where it’s going. I look forward to releasing original music in the near future.

Q: What was the process for appearing on Broadway? Do I have to do a certain number of Off-Broadway or regional performances before being cast in a Broadway production? What is the competition?

A: Broadway has no official requirements. More experience certainly helps, as producers and creative teams are always looking for the safest choice. Auditions, working sessions with creatives, callbacks in front of a panel of producers and directors. It’s quite a process. The competition is fierce, as you can imagine, but I always had the edge in having a great manager, Niall Brenner.

Q: If you were to speak to an ASU Barrett student, what would you say?

A: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that what you get out of school is what you learn. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. You can attend classes, study for tests, get decent grades, and get a decent job, but you can spend time building personal relationships with professors, joining clubs, and making permanent Making connections is what guarantees good work, not just decent work.

Q: Do you have any advice for young people who want to be performers and might go to Broadway?

A: Take every opportunity to knock. Every exposure is paramount because everyone has to start somewhere. This business is much more about people than talent. I took on many difficult or inconvenient gigs that didn’t cost much because it gave me the opportunity to make important connections. Trust that the hard work will pay off later.