When The Star last checked in with Hartung, he was getting ready to play the part of a Lost Boy in Peter Pan Live, which aired in 2014. Hartung began his training at the Monona Academy of Dance at age 3 and became involved with Sun Prairie Civic Theatre in second grade.
By the time he graduated Sun Prairie High School in 2010, he had been in musicals, led the marching band as drum major and sung in the choir.
Hartung went to school in Michigan for theater and went on to live in New York. He said he has been doing a lot of work both in New York and in the region, “really digging into the industry here.”
He didn’t know anyone involved in the revival of “Hello, Dolly!” and auditioned in an open call. Within two weeks of his audition, Hartung said he got the call that he was in with the company.
“It was a whirlwind for sure,” he said.
Hartung said he has been an understudy before in regional theater productions, but it’s a different ballgame in a long-running show like “Hello, Dolly!” As an understudy on Broadway, it was a matter of waiting for the day he would play the role on the main stage.
During rehearsals, Hartung juggles the roles of a chorus member and understudy. He said the understudies rehearse when they get a chance, but also have a lot of preparation work on their shoulders.
By June 14 when he went on as Barnaby Tucker for the first time, Hartung said he pretty much knew what he was doing – which was lucky for someone who found out after the matinée show that he would be going on with the role for the evening show.
He said the company was a huge support in helping him portray the role on the main stage.
“The company is so supportive and loving and helpful,” he said.
Working with the company, which collectively has years upon years of show experience, Hartung said he knew he had to step up to the plate during rehearsals. He leaned on the training he has received in Sun Prairie through the Monona Academy of Dance and Sun Prairie Civic Theater as well as at the University of Michigan, which he said he was lucky to have.
“I had all the tools to success in this rehearsal, but I’ve learned so much from just watching everybody who’s around me,” he said.
Perhaps the best-known member of the company is actress Bette Midler. Midler, also famous as a singer, songwriter, comedian and film producer, stars in the lead role as Dolly. Hartung said it’s easy to forget how much of an icon Midler is while working with her.
“She was very, very involved in the work and she really wants to be the best that she can be, and she works really hard, just like everybody in the room,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from her as well as the rest of the company by working with them.”
“Doing a role on Broadway is absolutely one of the biggest things I’ve done,” he said.
Hartung said this season’s Broadway shows portray a wide range of messages, including some that tackle heavier issues. But “Hello, Dolly!” is important in a different way, he said.
“People can come to the theater every night and really enjoy themselves – and remember to smile and remember that there are good people in the world and love in the world,” Hartung said. “Seeing people’s faces every night in the audience…it’s incredible, seeing how they’ve enjoyed themselves. It really is meaningful.”
It also is a different beast than past shows, he learned. “Hello, Dolly!” runs eight shows a week, and will continue to run for the foreseeable future, he said.
“I’ve really had to learn how to take care of my body, take care of my mind, have a life outside of that, while still bringing everything I can to the theater every night,” he said. “It’s definitely been a lifestyle change.”
Hartung said he hopes to continue creating a career in New York and build on the momentum he’s started to create with these shows.
“I would hope to continue to be able to create a career in New York and continue a reputation as somebody that is a reliable go-to for theater, as well as I would love the opportunity to be able to experience new places through my work,” he said.
And looking back, he said the training he received in Sun Prairie, as well as the support from his family, remain important to him.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the people that helped raise me,” he said. “The Sun Prairie community was such an asset for me to begin my training in the arts, and it really is the foundation of my technique and my skills and professionalism.”