Friends call him “MJ,” but out Broadway performer Michaeljon Slinger actually bears his grandfathers’ names as a combo, along with his surname.
In last year’s Broadway Bares/Equity Fights AIDS calendar, Slinger stripped down to just a red velvet ribbon tied in a bow, displaying the chiseled physique he’s earned since beginning his dance training at age five in Queensland, Australia.
Slinger, in Houston to perform in Monty Python’s Spamalot at Theatre Under the Stars, compares Queensland to Fort Lauderdale. “It’s rather warm and humid, a big tourist destination,” he explains. “I grew up five minutes from the beach.”
On a family trip to England, Slinger saw his cousins dance and decided he wanted to give it a try. “I asked my mother if I could take dance lessons, although I honestly didn’t know what it entailed,” he says. “She asked me what style of dance, and I said, ‘I don’t know. Rock ’n’ roll?’”
Slinger squeezed in dance lessons one day a week, along with Boy Scouts, taekwondo, and other schoolboy activities. However, at age ten, the other activities gave way to dancing as he found a studio that focused on tough dance competitions.
“Dance is where my heart and soul will always be,” says Slinger, allowing that he took private voice lessons and “dabbled with drama” in high school, but relies mainly on “instinct” when it comes to acting. “I wanted to do musical theater in New York, which was an unrealistic goal for a kid in Queensland, but my pipe dreams somehow made it become reality,” says Slinger.
At seventeen, he moved to New York City to go to American Ballet Theater. “I didn’t grow up being gay in Australia,” he says. “I didn’t come out until I was eighteen, my freshman year in college.”
The next year, Slinger switched to The Julliard School, where he studied dance until leaving during his senior year to accept the position of dance captain in the revival of West Side Story that originated in Washington DC in 2008 and bowed on Broadway in 2009. In addition, as the show’s “swing,” Slinger understudied the roles of all fifteen characters who comprise th
e rival Jets and Sharks gangs. “I ended up going on a lot,” he says.
That show, for which In the Heights creator Lin-Manuel Miranda translated Spanish lyrics and dialogue into the libretto, was
nominated for the Tony Award for best revival of a Broadway musical. It also won the 2009 Grammy Award for best cast album.
The understudy who later ascended to the role of Tony introduced Slinger to a college friend who would become Slinger’s husband. “It turned out we lived across the street from each other, which was very random,” he explains. “That made it easy to date, and we clicked, and it progressed to moving in together. He proposed, oddly enough, in Sydney, Australia, in January of 2012.”
On October 22, 2012, the couple was married in Charleston, South Carolina. “Fifty people attended. It was a day all about love,”
says Slinger, explaining that his husband, who hails from Charleston, had been a performer for many years but is now studying to become a wine sommelier. They aspire to a future together in Charleston in which wine “will be an aspect,” says Slinger.
Meanwhile, Slinger completed eighteen months with West Side Story before becoming dance captain and swing in Billy Elliot, first on the national tour, then for four months on Broadway, where he also understudied Older Billy, who performs a triumphant “Swan Lake” ballet with Younger Billy in Act II.
Next, Slinger worked with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe and Night Court’s John Larroquet
te in 2011’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was nominated for the Tony Award for best revival of a musical, as was Slinger’s next project, Evita, opposite out actor Ricky Martin.
From his home in New York, Slinger told OutSmart, “I’m really excited to come down to Houston. Spamalot should be really fun. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen Monty Python and everyone I’ve ever spoken to had an amazing time doing it. My very best friend was in the national tour and said, ‘You’re going to love it.’”
The outrageous musical comedy, with music and lyrics by Eric Idle and John Du Prez and book by Idle, features a chorus line of dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, flying cows, killer rabbits, a legless knight, and several show-stopping musical numbers. Among its hit songs are “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” “Find Your Grail,” and “The Song that Goes Like This.”
What: Monty Python’s Spamalot
When: May 14–26
Where: Hobby Center, 800 Bagby Street
Tickets: tuts.com or 713/558-8887.
Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.