In 1998, Tom Schmid abruptly abandoned a promising legal career for the New York stage, relying on his rich baritone voice and youthful good looks to launch his theatrical pursuits.
The gamble paid off with a series of off-Broadway roles, followed by a two-year run in the hit Broadway musical "Annie Get Your Gun."
In his spare time, the 1981 Brainerd High School graduate even appeared in some of America's favorite New York-based television soaps, including "One Life to Live."
The biggest dividend arrived late last year when he successfully auditioned -- against 600 other aspirants -- for the lead in the suburban Westchester Broadway Theatre production of "Jekyll and Hyde."
Ironically, the famous musical was written a decade earlier by songwriter-producer Frank Wildhorn. He's the husband of Broadway diva Linda Eder, another Brainerd alum and Schmid's one-time high school choir mate.
As Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Schmid attracted a slew of positive reviews from New York area theater critics, who trumpeted his acting and singing skills.
"There is no mistaking Schmid's true ability as an actor -- Tony-worthy performances," wrote one, while another said Schmid "has the ringing vocal instrument to fully exploit ... the stunning Wildhorn numbers."
But forget the laurels, Schmid is shifting gears again. Next month, he will move to Los Angeles in hot pursuit of a motion picture and television acting career.
"It's always been part of the plan to make it to Hollywood," the one-time West Publishing Co. lawyer said in an interview this week.
"I've found that I can work at the level I'm at for the rest of my career, but the chance of making it to the next level is not as promising without television or film recognition."
Star power, in other words, is how Broadway careers are assured.
"The whole point is to be able to be marketable enough to sell tickets," Schmid said. "I hope to build name ID by appearing in television and motion pictures and get back to Broadway in a bigger way."
So at the end of December Schmid will vacate the 228-square-foot, $1,000-a-month West Side apartment he's occupied since arriving in New York eight years ago as a corporate attorney.
He plans to spend Christmas with family in the Brainerd area before driving on to Los Angeles --- "U-Haul in tow" -- in time for the casting surge that occurs before the television industry's annual pilot season, he said.
Schmid will be in Los Angeles next week to meet with several prospective agents, find an apartment and join the Screen Actors Guild. He's already a member of the major theatrical and television unions, he said.
"I will be looking for roles in movie pilots and television series," he said, "and I am guardedly optimistic" because he brings both acting and singing skills to the task.
There's just one more thing to do before he departs New York, Schmid said. The Bravo television network is taping an interview with him in mid-December -- about his experience with Eder in the high school choir.
The network is preparing a biographical special on the Broadway star, he said.
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