Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Person of Interest: Tyler Hanes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Person of Interest: Tyler Hanes

Article excerpt

Tyler Hanes is drawn to musical theater for the stories. Now, the 20-year-old is writing his story.

The rising junior at Kent State University had met Broadway star Idina Menzel nine other times, but he added a chapter when she invited him on stage for a duet during the encore of her concert at Heinz Hall last month. Mr. Hanes joined Ms. Menzel for "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked," the show that earned her a Tony Award.

"Having me sing 'Defying Gravity' with her was a huge honor," said Mr. Hanes, a Struthers, Ohio, native. "It was literally a tearful moment. I came off stage, and I didn't even realize what happened."

At the Pittsburgh performance, Ms. Menzel introduced Mr. Hanes, saying that she has known him since he was 5 years old.

"He came backstage to meet me, and I gave him a tour. And then he sang for me, 'One Short Day' from 'Wicked' right on the stage," she said. Ms. Menzel was a few years off about when they had met, but she recalled that he just started singing without a prompt.

Mr. Hanes was introduced to Ms. Menzel when his aunt, Cheryl Joyce, sent a letter to the singer/actress describing her nephew as a "huge 'Wizard of Oz' buff," who loves seeing theater and sang "One Short Day" in the Macy's Day Parade. Mr. Hanes didn't know about the letter, which he read for the first time recently, and it stayed a secret until after a "Wicked" show in New York.

Mr. Hanes, who was 10 at the time, wanted to go to the stage door to meet his favorite character -- "the wicked witch, the green one." He did meet "the green one," but he met her backstage, where Ms. Menzel was waiting for him and his family.

These days, Mr. Hanes studies musical theater, hoping to soon move beyond community theater performances to either a lead in a show at Kent State or performing at a regional level. Mr. Hanes evidently made an impression last month at Heinz Hall, where Ms. Menzel's fans surrounded him when he walked out the stage door.

"I wasn't the main event," he said, laughing.

Although Ms. Menzel never knows in advance that Mr. Hanes will be in the audience, she does recognize the cookies that he always brings -- her favorite is the peanut butter and chocolate treat, the "buckeye. …

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