GCU student to tour with 'Mrs. Doubtfire' on Broadway

GCU senior Pili Fronda practices drumming as he prepares to hit Broadway in August.

Photos by Mathew McGraw

Grand Canyon University music major Pili Fronda knew he wanted to perform on Broadway from the moment he saw "Wicked" on tour with his sixth-grade elementary choir.

The senior, pursuing a bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis in percussion performance, is about to fulfill his dream this fall, joining the U.S. tour of "Mrs. Doubtfire" on Broadway as a drummer.

Initially, the tour was set to take place in 2020 but was shut down because of financial reasons brought on by the pandemic. Producers announced the tour would return in January.

It will hit 29 cities, starting in Manhattan in August and ending in California in August 2024.

Fronda has been preparing for the tour since March, when he received the casting call, to ready himself for fall rehearsals.

But landing a spot on the tour didn’t happen overnight.

After his freshman year in high school, Fronda said he became very serious about his musical career and began to reach out to colleges and connect with professionals in the industry. At the time, he was already playing in community theatre.

“The unfortunate thing is with the way that New York was running, there was very little chance for people such as myself coming from a place like Hawaii to have the chance to do something like this,” he said.

With the help of a mentorship program through Musicians United for Social Equity (MUSE), Fronda connected with Zane Mark, who at the time happened to be the dance arranger for the "Mrs. Doubtfire" tour.

Through that connection, Fronda was able to network with more industry professionals when he performed in a smaller show in New York last October. It wasn’t long before he got in touch with the music supervisor for the tour.

Fronda has performed in shows at GCU's Ethington Theatre and has done community theatre.

Joining the tour posed a great quandary for Fronda. Because of the pandemic, his senior year of high school was far from normal. Now, his senior year of college is about to take quite a turn. Ultimately, Fronda decided this was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.

“I'm just as nervous doing a show for Ethington as I am preparing for this. In the same breath, the amount of time that I've put in to prep for shows at Ethington or that show in New York, or even the productions that I was doing when I was in high school, is the same amount of prep work and mentality that I'm doing for this tour,” he said.

With his biggest dream finally coming true, Fronda’s goal is to remain focused and work hard to prepare.

“It's super exciting to be able to do something like this. At the same time, I have to treat it as if this is something I've been working for since sixth grade. It just becomes in the same breath — kind of put your head down and work, then you'll get to enjoy the other part of it later,” he said.

Fronda will be accompanied by a guitarist touring with "Hairspray," a music director who toured with the "Jesus Christ Superstar" show and an associate music director who recently toured with the "Donna Summer" show.

“All these people already have credits and accolades to their name and are understood for working incredibly well within the context of these kinds of things. The joy to be able to work with them is the thing that is pushing me, because I already understand the caliber at which they're working out, and purely just trying to keep that standard,” said Fronda.

“I also understand that I have a very loud instrument, and a bulk of the energy. The part that I'm playing isn't hidden, and so just understanding what my role is, there isn't really a chance for me to get lazy. It's like getting all the way up to where you want to be — you're not going to take a break at the top of it, you're going to keep pushing to see how far you can take it,” he added.

Fronda is extremely grateful to GCU and the College of Arts and Media for presenting him with this opportunity, which he says is constantly setting up students for success.

Fronda spends the summer preparing for the upcoming nationwide tour of Mrs. Doubtfire.

“GCU has done a really great job encouraging excellence, as far as the music program that Dr. Craig Detweiler and Dr. Paul Koch are building, and not even just what we’re learning in the classroom, but also what's going on in the real world,” he said. “For GCU to be giving the opportunities to students to slowly make a career for themselves but also pushing them to be uncomfortable, is something that I've very much appreciated.”

"Mrs. Doubtfire" will come to Centennial Hall in Tucson, Arizona, for six days in June 2024.

GCU News staff writer Scianna Garcia can be reached at [email protected].

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