Lower Merion's Gideon Glick is poised for the Broadway big-time

Luke Smith, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Gideon Glick, Sas Goldberg and John Behlmann.

NEW YORK - The coffee mug in the corner of the dressing room says: "I don't just show up. I make an entrance."

Not that Gideon Glick needs to anymore. Once one of the more extravagant personalities to come out of Lower Merion High School, the now-28-year-old actor played everything from a court jester to somebody's mom when in the safety of suburbia, but he graduated to Broadway's Booth Theater for a breakout role in Significant Other — a play about a chronically single gay man who has to say goodbye to his best female friends as they get married. 

The run ended last Sunday after 79 Broadway performances. But it made a mark, getting his broad smile into Vanity Fair, among other positive notices. The disappointment of the short run goes with the territory that Glick has known since age 11, when he made his stage debut in The Three Musketeers at Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre.

"The people who came [to Significant Other] loved it," he said. "But we saw how many people were in the house every day, so it's not a surprise. ... Being a professional actor at such a young age, I got used to rejection early."

Next up for Glick is one last scene to shoot for the forthcoming Sandra Bullock film Ocean's 8, which has called him back after wrapping — clearly wanting more of him in a small role as an over-entitled tech guy working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "I've had really wonderful successes and really crummy lows," he says, "and I never expect that to go away."

But Significant Other may well have a postscript when the 2017 Tony Award nominations are announced Tuesday. Though there's formidable competition from heavyweight plays such as Oslo, Glick carried Significant Other — a Joshua Harmon play that some critics felt needed a bit of carrying — in an acting showcase that gave his character, Jordan Berman, three successive monologues that chart his meltdown into suicidal ideation. It's Tony bait, in other words.

Another boost: Though only 28, he has a good body of work behind him, maybe not as visible as his Broadway debut — in 2006, in the original cast of Spring Awakening — but plenty to establish him among a young generation of talent that the theater community is keen to keep from defecting to Hollywood. 

Immensely likable on and off stage, Glick talks freely about his personal life — his Philadelphia boyfriend will move in with him in New York in June — and gives himself over to any theater assignment without the artifice of any particular school of acting. In high school, at the point where most actors are learning the basics, Glick had gone professional — agent and all. "He would be in rehearsals for some movie or show and then come back and struggle with the rest of us in math class," recalls his classmate Allie Conn Kanter. 

"He didn't have a formal acting coach. He was 'discovered' " said Sarah Gallagher, an acting coach who worked with him at Lower Merion High. "He was allowed to progress in the way he was meant to. He was such an honest person and couldn't be spoiled. A very thoughtful performer. He always listened. He was always respectful."

"I've maintained my own 'ness' — my 'Gideon-ness' — whatever I'm bringing to the table," Glick says. "But I kind of think you're never not in school."

Even as a preteen, Glick knew who he was — both as an actor and as a gay guy — and appeared to be unstoppable. His now-split college-professor parents — Mom is in communications, Dad in dentistry — didn't try to deter him, as though they could. He seemed to be willing to try anything. During a student production of Crazy for You, he played Mother — yes, in drag — to the delight of his colleagues, though he had to bail before opening when a professional engagement suddenly materialized.

"Comedic? Guaranteed. And never condescending," said John Grace, faculty producer of the Lower Merion Players.

But more. Glick and his theater friend Ani Fiordimondo were known to run out in the rain, dance around, and come back in soaking wet. When she died of a medical condition in 2005 before graduating from Lower Merion, he was back for the funeral -- and he had been away a lot. At 17, he was cast in the role of Ernst in Spring Awakening, first Off-Broadway in 2006 and then later that year when it transferred to Broadway.  With music by Duncan Sheik, the show was both a hit and a generational touchstone among youth-oriented musicals. Glick barely realized it at the time: "You're in the eye of the hurricane. You don't see much from the outside."

Even with Spring Awakening setting him on his way, Glick earned an art history degree from New York University, and not as a backup to the vagaries of the acting profession. "It gave me a context for history and life, using really powerful images to explore the dawn of humankind," he said. "I'm one who believes you should be the fullest possible person, and then your work will be better. My college experience helped me with that."

It's hard to know what would have helped him in the supremely troubled Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which began previews in November 2010 but was endlessly cursed with aerial injuries, rewrites, and firings. Glick had been cast as a member of the "Geek Chorus" that reflected on the story of Spider-Man — but got written out of the show before it finally opened in June 2011. 

"We were the laughingstock, with parodies in the New Yorker, Saturday Night Live," he recalled. "Sometimes, audiences would yell at us." Director Julie Taymor, whom he wanted to work with, was fired, so he wasn't sorry when he was written out.

Since then, Glick has played a succession of gay characters that clearly point to his being typecast. What bothers him is that gay characters are considered to be a type. "People think that being gay is one thing, that you're playing the same roles over and over again," he says. "To me, that's baffling and deeply upsetting. That's like saying if you only play straight people, you're doing the same thing."

His lovelorn character in Significant Other was considered in some circles a bit retro, the stereotypical gay best friend. And though the Jordan Berman character is chronologically older than Glick, Berman definitely seemed younger in the emotional-maturity department.

"That's an interesting thing to say," Glick said in a rare moment of reserve.

"It's a compliment," I offered. He resisted it.

His main worry, after first encountering the role Off-Broadway in 2015, was that his life had become so happy  he would no longer connect with the character's tragedy. Though Glick hasn't lacked for romance in his life, finding a partner in Perry Dubin has made a huge difference. Glick was looking after his mother's new puppy in Philadelphia and was at the gym when Dubin spotted him. They had known each other in high school.

Since they've reconnected, his inner life has changed radically. "When I'm not occupied, my brain plays tricks on me. I can overthink things. My brain can attack itself. I was really happy when I was going to school, doing a play [Off-Broadway] and shooting a TV show in Atlanta. [He played Ty McKay in Devious Maids.]  It was the most sane that I had felt ...

"... before I met my boyfriend."