Michael Sebastian is happy to be home again.
He’s happy to be home in Sarasota after wrapping his last show in New Hampshire, and he’s happy to be home at The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, where he got his start as a music director 20 years ago on the 1991 set of “South Pacific.”
“It feels so good to be back,” Sebastian says.
More than 12 years have passed since he worked on a show at the Golden Apple, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he banters back and forth with the theater staff.
It’s as if he never left.
Strolling through the mostly empty theater on a Tuesday afternoon, Sebastian tosses one-liners back and forth with Kyle Turoff, the theater’s managing director.
The Golden Apple’s former resident music director, Sebastian now spends his time on the road traveling from theater to theater, orchestra pit to orchestra pit.
Although he loves his nomadic lifestyle and the variety of theater credits it affords him, he say there’s nothing quite like music-directing a show at the Golden Apple.
A cello major from the University of Michigan, in 1978 Sebastian moved to Sarasota to play for the Florida West Coast Symphony, where he served as its principal cellist for six years.
Tired of stringing Bach, Sebastian took a gig as a keyboardist with a top-40 cover band. At the time, it was 1985. Bob Seger and Huey Lewis dominated the radio.
“I loved it, but I still felt like I was exclusively doing one thing,” Sebastian says. “I still wanted to mix it up.”
After a three-year stint working as the music director on a cruise ship, he returned to Sarasota, landed “South Pacific” at the Golden Apple and was soon hired as the theater’s resident music director.
The job taught him how to work fast. The 40-year-old dinner theater has notoriously short rehearsal periods — one week to 10 days.
It taught him the delicate art of stroking an actor’s ego or, as Sebastian describes it, “getting inside an actor’s head and learning what makes ’em tick.”
It’s also where he met his husband and current manager, Mark Marvell, the theater’s former box office manager.
“We have a really long and wonderful history,” Sebastian says. “Both personally and professionally.”
He even digs the Golden Apple’s music pit, which, unlike most orchestra pits, is located above the stage instead of below it.
“It’s cool up here,” Sebastian says, tugging at the dusty black curtain that keeps his piano from being spotted by the audience. “You can misbehave and no one knows.”
His first show back is “Disenchanted,” a new musical about bitter fairy-tale princesses whom Sebastian describes as “quick, smart and bitchy.”
No, he’s not being judgmental.
The musical’s full title –– “Disenchanted: Bitches of the Kingdom” –– is curiously missing from the theater’s website.
“It has its raunchy moments,” says Sebastian, who’s looking forward to meeting the 10 females who will round out the cast.
The musical, which opens Oct. 11, hasn’t been cast yet.
In the meantime, Sebastian has begun the process of “internalizing” the score, a process he repeats with every musical, no matter how many times he’s seen other productions of the show.
“I always find something in the score that I’ve never seen before,” Sebastian says. “With the last show I did, the composer wrote ‘Congrats! You did it,’ at the end of the score. With this show, the composer wrote, ‘A tempo di insane.’ That’s a first.”
IF YOU GO
“Disenchanted” runs Oct. 11 to Oct. 23, at The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, 25 N. Pineapple Ave. For more information, call 366-5454 or visit thegoldenapple.com.
SEBASTIAN’S CELEB ENCOUNTERS
“Before each show, he put a single red rose on every woman’s chair in the orchestra.”
“She’s got drive like no other.”
“He’s pathologically shy.”
“He turned to the string section and said, ‘I should have hired a synth player instead.’ Ouch.”
Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”)
“She was so delightful, so talented and so humble.”
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