Wright State University musical theatre alumni Cassi Mikat and Keaton Eckhoff have been on an eight-month adventure around Asia as part of the cast of “The Sound of Music.”
After opening in Singapore last October, the tour has taken Mikat and Eckhoff, who graduated together in 2016 from Wright State’s College of Liberal Arts, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Manila, the Philippines; and Mumbi, India.
Unlike most large tours, the “Sound of Music” tour has stopped in each city for multi-week runs, with performances taking place eight times a week.
The set is so large it is shipped overseas to each location, giving the cast and crew a six-week break between stops. During each break, Mikat and Eckhoff returned to the United States.
“It’s been a fun whirlwind,” Keaton said.
Mikat plays Sister Berthe and is the understudy for Mother Abbess, while Eckhoff is the swing of the ensemble and is responsible for six male tracks, or roles in the ensemble. He is also the production’s dance captain and is responsible for looking after the show from a dance and blocking perspective.
Eckhoff does not appear in every performance, so when he does, it is especially fun.
“I still get the adrenaline rush every time I go on because I’m thinking about what do next, where is the next blocking that I go to,” he said. “It stays fresh for me always.”
He said it is exciting when actors who are not in the original cast get to perform.
“You get to see people make new discoveries and new choices,” he said.
Both Mikat and Eckhoff say they have grown as performers and professionally during the tour.
“The Sound of Music” is Mikat’s first tour, and after more than 125 performances, it is the longest run she has performed in.
“It’s its own interesting challenge of trying to find new things in a character that you’ve been living in a pretty long time,” she said. “What I find to be really helpful is that every audience is different, and they are going to react to different things, so it feels live in a way that I didn’t expect. I always thought about a show that runs this long to be a daunting thing, but it’s actually easier to find freshness in it than I thought it would be.”
The long tour has also given Mikat a chance to fully embody the character of Sister Berthe. She has had the time to make decisions about her character and her performance while discovering new things along the way.
“That experience is something I’m going to be chasing from now on,” she said. “You’re able to think more about nuance and less about blocking and what happens when. The nuance has been really fun to find, and I hope I can find that level of nuance all the time.”
The tour helped Eckhoff to realize how much he can handle mentally.
He had to learn the entire show and participate in every rehearsal, which ran eight to 10 hours a day, with the director, assistant director and choreographer. He has enjoyed the chance to “work on the other side of the table” and hear the show’s creative team discuss how the show is put together.
“I worked hand-in-hand with them learning the blocking for every character,” he said. “I know this show so well, like the back of my hand now.”
After such a long time overseas, Eckhoff left the tour after the Mumbi run, while Mikat plans to leave after the production’s stop in Macao.
Eckhoff plans to return to New York City and perform, teach music classes to kids ages 2 to 4 and obtain his real estate license.
Mikat will also return to New York to perform and teach voice through a voice studio she cofounded called the Voice Collective.
Studying and touring together are not the only things Mikat and Eckhoff are in common. Both are from a family of performers.
Mikat’s mom and two younger sisters are opera singers and her dad is a church organist and an engineer.
“Music was just always part of our house, and it was always expected that we were making music,” she said. “And it wasn’t even a question of whether I was going to do something else. It was just a question of in what way am I going to pursue music.”
Mikat has worked professionally in theaters across the United States, including playing Sharon Graham in “Master Class” at the Human Race Theatre in Dayton and Florinda in “Into the Woods” at the Encore Musical Theatre in Michigan. As a cabaret artist, she has sung in various New York cabaret spaces, including Feinstein’s/54 Below, where her performance of “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd was featured in several “Best Of NYC Cabaret” lists.
She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting, with a concentration in musical theatre, from Wright State and a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theater Vocal Pedagogy from Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
Keaton’s parents met while working as performers at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. As a kid, he discovered he had a natural affinity for performing, and when he was 15, he decided he wanted to work as a performer on cruise ships and see the world.
After graduating from Wright State with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting, with a concentration in musical theatre, he got to do that on Norwegian Cruise Lines.
His theatre credits include starring as Guy in “Once” at the Laguna Playhouse in California and Buddy in a national tour of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.” He also performed as Gabe in “Next to Normal,” Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” and Kenickie in “Grease.”
He is also a guitar player and singer-songwriter who records and performs under the name Keaton Alexander. His music can be found on all streaming platforms.
Keaton and Mikat credit Wright State’s Theatre Program for helping them grow as artists. As two of 11 students in their musical theatre class, they spent a lot of time together writing music, producing shows in the Directing Lab and performing on the Playhouse Theatre stage and in ArtsGala.
Their favorite activity was performing in the Directing Lab, a student-run performance space in the Creative Arts Center.
“It was a community of creative people who had the space to create art just for other creatives,” Keaton said. “It really taught me a lot.”
As students, they produced and performed in numerous productions, including “Spamalot,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “Fugitive Songs,” and participated in musical revues and improv nights in the Directing Lab (D-Lab).
“That’s where I learned how to be a creator and not just a singer,” Mikat said. “It also taught me that if you don’t do it, it’s not going to happen. We had to have the drive to make something happen in the D-Lab, and it’s the skill that has helped me the most in life.”