Austin Gagnier is a second-year Concurrent Education student whose overwhelming talent has garnered him the lead roles in the past two consecutive Brock Musical Theatre (BMT) productions.
Gagnier grew up in a small town outside of London, Ontario called Fingal. With a population of about 300, he was raised as a self-proclaimed “country kid”.
“As a kid, I was that stereotypical boy who did sports. I played baseball until I was 13 and never really pursued music. I ended up quitting sports because it got too competitive, I just lost interest. After that I started focusing on my singing and that’s the reason I’m here,” said Gagnier.
Gagnier hid his talent for singing and only shared his gift with his Nanna. While she babysat her grandchild at the age of three years old she discovered his natural vocal ability and the pair would sing movie soundtracks together.
“When I started getting serious about singing, I was 12. It was a big secret; the only person who knew I sang was my Nanna just because there were strong homophobic mentalities growing up in a small town.
The belief was that boys don’t sing – they play sports. It really put a damper on my spirit wanting to [sing]. So I never told anyone because I was afraid of what they would say,” said Gagnier.
Gagnier revealed his abilities to his peers at a grade nine talent show at his high school. After the performance, he was approached by the drama teacher whom he worked with for the next four years. He went on to play roles in several high school productions, most notably, Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Upon entering Brock in 2014, Gagnier auditioned for BMT’s production of Little Shop of Horrors and landed the lead role. Most recently, Gagnier was cast as Johnny, the lead role in BMT’s most successful production to date, Green Day: American Idiot. Gagnier received a lot of praise, as audiences were blown away by his vocal range, engaging acting, and stellar stage presence.
“I was definitely impressed by what I’ve witnessed of Austin’s performance abilities as he has the noticeable ability to become an engaging presence on stage. That’s not an ability that is easily constructed, but relies on a fair amount of natural intuition in an individual,” commented John McGowan, a graduate from Brock’s Dramatic Arts program as well as the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.
Audiences from both Little Shop of Horrors and American Idiot have commented on Gagnier’s range as an actor, as Seymour and Johnny are polar opposite characters.
“I slowly creep into my characters more and more each day in rehearsals. The more I experiment with what that character would do in that moment the more I realize that some things work and some don’t. It’s really trial and error,” said Gagnier.
“Austin is a triple threat. Not only can he sing and dance, but he can also play guitar while doing it. If he chooses to pursue it, I believe he can go far,” said Adam Caranfa, President of BMT.
Gagnier is simply thankful that Brock has a club like BMT that is able to provide him with the opportunity to participate in musical theatre.
“I’ve come to realize that it’s not the things that happen on stage but it’s the stuff we do backstage that no one can see: that’s the reason I perform, because that’s when the bonds get formed. It genuinely creates a family atmosphere and it opened a whole new door in terms of performing and meeting other people who are interested in theatre,” said Gagnier.
The fact that BMT is completely student run allows for the club to maintain a comfortable and social element because everyone is on the same level as a student: this is something Gagnier believes is unique to BMT in comparison to other university musical theatre productions.
Gagnier’s main goal is to be able to inspire people through his career and that’s why he is so passionate about education.
“Doing [musical theatre] brings so much life into my everyday routine. When I do it there is never a question of ‘do I want to do this again’ because I do any chance I get. I’m on a teeter totter about where I want to go but I have a few years to figure it out,” said Gagnier.
No matter where Gagnier decides to go, McGowan believes that, “in reference to a place like New York, his [natural talent would] definitely set him apart from the masses that go down there to pursue the art.”
Assistant Campus News Editor