While growing up in suburban New England, Michael Cerveris had a hand in the arts early on. His father was a university professor of music and his mother was a modern dancer, and they encouraged their children to play instruments. Cerveris quickly mastered the violin and cello, but rock & roll took hold when he picked up a guitar at age ten. In between formal lessons and various moves around New England, Cerveris found music and performing to be the most permanent thing in his life. His latter high-school years were spent in Huntingon, WV, but attending Yale finally gave Cerveris the stability he was searching for.
He studied voice with Blake Stern while attending college, and after graduation Cerveris left for New York City in hopes of making his life in theater and voice a reality. Things weren't exactly golden in the beginning. Like most performers, time spent waiting tables and window dressing at various department stores kept Cerveris busy between auditions. In 1986, Cerveris landed the role as rocker Ian Ware in the television drama Fame. This stint allowed Cerveris to hone his vocal style while also giving him the chance to play guitar. Guest roles on Quantum Leap, The Equalizer, and 21 Jump Street soon followed.
As Cerveris approached the '90s, he was busier than ever. In 1992, he originated the role of Tommy in the famous Who rock opera at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. This was a pivotal role for Cerveris, for Pete Townshend took notice of his incredible acting skills and asked Cerveris to join him for special appearances on his solo Psychoderelict tour. That same year, Cerveris earned a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Tommy, but won the coveted Theatre World Award. The show's cast recording earned a Grammy for Best Original Cast Album as well. Several years later, Cerveris took Tommy to Germany, where it would go on to have 1,403 performances. After the final curtain call in 1997, Cerveris was back in New York in the Broadway premiere of Titanic. Cerveris loved Broadway and future roles were quick to follow; he was the main character in the campy Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 1998 and 1999.
Aside from his work in theater, Cerveris has toured with ex-Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould and appeared in the Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt dark comedy The Mexican. He and his band Retriever have been making music since 1999; Hinterlands appeared in 2001. ~ MacKenzie Wilson