Thursday, August 1, 2019

Take A Bow Sam

With all due respect to Fifth Avenue, the two most famous streets in New York City are Broadway and Wall Street.

Princeton lacrosse, of course, has been well-represented on Wall Street for decades. Now it's represented on Broadway as well.

Sam Gravitte, Class of 2017, recently made his Broadway debut in "Wicked," the long-running musical about the witches from the "Wizard of Oz."

Think about that. A little more than two years out of school and he's already on Broadway.

TigerBlog has spent a lot of his 30-plus years at Princeton marveling at where these people come from, to be able to balance the academics of Princeton with the way they excel athletically and beyond. Sam Gravitte is way up near the top of that list.

For starters, Sam is an incredible athlete. He was a major contributor all four years at Princeton on defense, playing with a longstick or a shortstick at various times.

He brought exceptional speed and fitness to the field. He was physical. He was tremendous in transition. He could even face off.

He scored three goals and had an assist, as well as 28 caused turnovers and 100 ground balls. He was the kind of player good teams need to have.

Combine that with a very accomplished academic career, and that alone would have been impressive enough.

Then throw in the other side of him.

Gravitte was a theater kid from the start, the son of theater parents. By the time he was in high school he was already taking on some of the most challenging roles there were, like Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."

At Princeton he performed at McCarter Theater, including as the male lead in "Once" his senior year. As a sophomore, he played in a 16-15 overtime win over Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and then raced back to Princeton in time for the curtain to go up in another show, "Spring Awakenings," at McCarter.

There's a jump from that to Broadway, obviously.

After graduation, Sam spent a year in the national touring company of "Wicked." Then, after leaving the tour in April, he was cast in the ensemble and as the understudy for Fiyero, the male lead, the Broadway version.

TB talked to Sam yesterday and asked him a bunch of questions for a feature story that you can see on or by clicking HERE. He wanted to know all different kinds of things, especially if there are similarities between playing lacrosse and being in a musical in terms of coaching, preparation, anything. It made for a fun conversation.

Meanwhile, when Princeton head men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon told TigerBlog that Sam would be performing as Fiyero for a few shows, TB didn't hesitate to say he was in.

TB has seen a ton of shows in his life and knows the songs from a lot of them, but he had never seen "Wicked" and knew only one song from it: "For Good." Plus, Sam would be in it.

TB, Madalon and Miss TigerBlog ’22 made their way into New York last Saturday for the matinee, in which Sam would be playing Fiyero. They were outside the Gershwin Theater about 50 minutes before curtain, along with several hundred others who were waiting to get in, when Sam came strolling down West 51st Street on his way in.

In one way it was a little like watching players walk down to Caldwell Field House before getting into their uniforms before a game. In another it was completely different, the lead of a Broadway show casually making his way to the stage door, as the crowd that was gathering had no idea who he was.

For the moment anyway.

It wouldn't be Princeton lacrosse, though, if the program didn't share this moment with one of their own. In addition to men's head coach Madalon and women's player MTB, Princeton lacrosse was well-represented in the theater Saturday.

There were three current players who had played with Sam - Jon Levine, Arman Medghalchi (and his parents) and Zack Struckman. Former women's player Erin McNulty was there.

In fact, it's been like this all summer, a flock of Princeton lacrosse to see "Wicked." It's what the lacrosse teams do.

Since TB had never seen "Wicked," he didn't know when Fiyero would be making his first appearance, or, for that matter, what the story even was, beyond some reference to the witches from Oz. Because of the costumes and makeup for the opening song, TB couldn't figure out if any of them were Sam.

It become clear a few minutes later that they weren't. Sam's first scene came when he arrives at a college in Oz as the lazy rich party guy, on the back of a cart, and begins to sing "Dancing Through Life."

From then through the end, including his dramatic duet with Elphaba, who is the Wicked Witch of the West, as they sing "As Long As You're Mine," Sam was incredible. His talent and presence are obvious, and he just looked so at home on the stage.

And when the show ended, it was time for the curtain calls. It was an enthusiastic crowd from the start, and as each group of performers came out, the ovation got a little louder.

As Fiyero, Sam came out second to last, just before the two main witches, who came out together. As Sam went to the center of the stage, the noise level amped up even higher.

It was well-deserved.

"It's pretty cool that I get to do this thing I love and then people stand up and clap for me at the end of my work day," he says. "That is not lost on me."

He said it in a very humble way. That's how he is.

He should also get used to it.

That's how talented he is.

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