The day after David Raimo graduated from Oklahoma City University in 2007, he flew to Nashville to begin rehearsals for a six-month gig as a lead singer on a cruise ship. He has spent much of his life on the road ever since. When the cruise ended, he was cast as Fred Casely (and Billy Flynn understudy) in a national tour of Chicago. Currently playing Sky in the national tour of Mamma Mia!, he has also been on the road with Cats and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
For a young actor just starting out, touring is a tremendous opportunity and, with luck, the prelude to a career on Broadway. Life on the road can be grueling, but for Raimo the experience has been exciting and invaluable. In the past three years he has graduated from bus-and-trucks to "the crème de la crème of tours." He acquired an agent, and received his Equity card when he was cast in Mamma Mia! By the time the tour ends in mid-July, he'll have enough money to pay off his student loans.
"When I look back on my first tour, I realize it was insane," he says. "It was seven months of one-nighters. You'd get to a city, put your stuff down in the hotel room in the afternoon, and go right over to the theatre. Then you'd wake up at 7 AM and ride a bus for six hours to get to the next place. I don't know how I did it. But I was so happy to be in a show. And I'm so grateful that I had the experience, because I can really appreciate having a week to sit down and unpack my suitcase."
|photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia|
Technology makes certain aspects of touring easier now than it was years ago. Bills are paid electronically, and friendships are maintained via the internet. But Raimo's life is so peripatetic that he doesn't have his own place, and hesitates when asked where he's based. "My stuff is in a shed in Duluth, Minnesota," he says, referring to his hometown. "I find a place to stay when I'm auditioning in New York or Los Angeles. I haven't had to stay anywhere very long, because I've always landed another job. Mamma Mia! has a lengthy engagement in Toronto, and it's the longest I'll have stayed in one place in three years. But I'm not complaining. I've been to every state except Alaska and Hawaii. It's an honor and a thrill to be able to do what I love to do and get to see so many amazing places." In addition to tours, Raimo has done some leading roles in regional theatres. Last summer he drove 30 hours from Duluth to Los Angeles to audition for an ensemble role in the all-star Guys and Dolls concert at the Hollywood Bowl. At the time he was non-Equity, so he waited ten hours until every Equity member was seen before he could take his turn. "I think I was the last person in the door, and the first person they hired," he says. "I didn't have an agent, and the casting director sent me to a couple of agencies and told them, 'You need to sign this kid.'" He left Los Angeles with an agent. Raimo is hoping to have another job lined up when the Mamma Mia! tour ends. "If I don't, I'll probably go to New York to hit the grind," he says. "I'm willing to do another tour, but I really would like to get into a Broadway show — and find a place to go home to that I can call my own."