FROM OXNARD TO BROADWAY: Tonight at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” opens. Headed for a projected October run on Broadway, it’s the fourth professional production of the 1973 musical currently on the boards. Others are running in Australia, Canada and London.
Michael Damian, star of the Los Angeles edition, is best known for his 12 years playing Danny Romalotti on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Damian’s several hit singles include a 1989 chart-topping revival of David Essex’s 1973 “Rock On.”
But old-timers in Ventura County know Damian as a member of the Weirz, a 10-strong musical family (bigger than the Cowsills and the singing members of the Partridge Family combined), who lived in Oxnard Shores for several years in the early ‘70s.
“We moved from Escondido when I was about 6 years old,” Damian, now 30, recalled recently. “We’d been kicked out of so many neighborhoods because of the loud music we were making, and my father just loved being near the ocean.”
Damian’s eldest brother, Larry Weir, started what he called the Ventura County Youth Experimental Theater, which produced three original musicals: “Island,” “The House on Crossroads Alley” and “Hobo’s Jungle.” All featured the Weir siblings, three boys and seven girls. Their mother, Maria Weir, taught music at Oxnard High School.
“We all started in music at a very young age,” Damian said, “and everybody started playing different instruments. But we didn’t have a family band, as such, until shortly before we moved back to the San Diego area in 1975. The Weirz’s first live performance was at Ventura College.”
The family moved once more, to Los Angeles, when Michael Weir became Michael Damian.
“We were writing letters to a bunch of people in the business and figured that, if it was signed by a member of my family, they wouldn’t take me seriously,” he said. “So I took my middle name, Damian, and Larry signed the letters. That brought a bunch of interested people to the Troubadour to see us, and one of them became my first real manager.’
That manager was Charles Laufer, publisher of several teen-oriented magazines, the best known of which is Tiger Beat. Not surprisingly, Damian was featured frequently in Laufer’s publications, and his first single, “She Did It,” was released on Laufer’s LEG label in 1981.
Appearing on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” to promote the single, Damian was spotted by Bill Bell, creator and chief writer of “The Young and the Restless.”
“My character was a starving singer who was working as a waiter--which was what I was doing at the time,” he recalled. “As my recording career developed, so did my role on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ When Michael Damian had a No. 1 single, so did Danny Romalotti.”
But with the endless possibilities, it’s not surprising that soap imitating life has been taken even further.
The series story line is now being written to include Michael--er, Danny--starring in a Broadway-bound show.
Two days ago, rehearsals for the fictional “Joseph” began on the soap, featuring the real show’s director and musical director. Scenes from the Los Angeles production are planned to be included in upcoming episodes of “The Young and the Restless.”
Damian said his memories of Ventura County are fond ones and that he’d “definitely like to get a place to live up in that direction.”
He points out that John McCook, star of the soap’s sister show--"The Bold and the Beautiful"--also grew up in Ventura.
But that’s another story.