Hello y’all! How are you on this fine friday morning?
We have Aidan Wayne on From Top to Bottom Reviews to introduce the cast of their new release His Two Leading Men, plus there is an excerpt to hopefully help you decide to read it. (Spoiler: You really should. ;)).
This book immediately caught my eye when I first heard about it on social media because it features a polyam “V” and I loved the setting on Broadway! So I’m very happy to welcome Aidan Wayne today.
Broadway star Skye’s whole life is an act.
On the surface, he’s living the New York Dream – acclaimed by critics for his stunning debut, playing to packed audiences every night.
They don’t know the truth.
Battling crippling anxiety, every show is a struggle for Skye. Only one thing gives him the courage to step into the spotlight every performance – the steady, calming support of costumer Russell. But Skye can’t burden Russell with all his demons…
When wealthy patron Brent takes an interest in Skye, everything the actor knows is turned upside down. Charismatic and confident, Brent is everything Skye isn’t… and just what he needs. But how can he choose between gentle Russell and magnetic Brent? Russell means so much to him, but the chemistry between Skye and Brent is undeniable.
Or does he have to choose at all…?
Cover Artist: Aidan Wayne
Meet The Cast of His Two Leading Men
Skye Owens is twenty-three years old and has been an actor-singer-dancer triple threat since he was eleven, when his parents put him a drama camp to try to help combat his social anxiety. He loved learning everything, had an absolutely miserable end-of-camp audition experience, managed to land a solo in the showcase anyway, and threw up before he got onstage for the first number. Still, it got him hooked on performance, which was actually one of the ways he was able to manage his anxiety growing up, and it definitely helped him to interact with others. Anxiety still plays a big part in Skye’s life, but finding the right medication for him did a lot of good. Now his issues mostly pop up when he is faced with choices he isn’t expecting. Most people who know him understand that “why don’t you pick” is a cursed phrase to say to him. He’s making his Broadway debut in the new up-and-coming musical Child’s Play, which is doing incredibly well. Aside from his part in the play, Skye is also stealing the show for two particular people…
Russell Turner is a twenty-six year old model-turned-costumer. He mostly did the modeling after being talked into it by a friend, and decided early on that he was much happier behind the scenes. He’s allergic to anything with fur or feathers but desperately wanted a pet when he was younger, so his parents (after exchanging a lot of Looks) let him get a ball python. Charlotte is a fat, wiggly noodle, super tame, and travels by pillowcase whenever Russell moves house. He currently works in costuming and as a quick-changer in Child’s Play, a job that meshes well with his personality and patience. While Russell’s really liking the cast and crew family, there’s someone special he has eyes for.
Brent Cook is twenty seven, a born-and-bred New Yorker, and works as a high-end corporate lawyer in a very fancy office building. He and his sister were raised by nannies, personal chefs, tutors, and museum curators. Amazingly enough he’s not at all stuck up, even if he does sometimes take his money for granted. Mostly he uses it to collect art, watch live theatre, and travel to other places where he can collect art and watch live theatre. The new Broadway musical Child’s Play is a fun, well-done show he’s enjoying a lot, with plans to keep watching it as it runs. Though he might be more partial to certain characters (and performers) over others.
Quick changes, Skye decided as he scrambled offstage yet again, were the worst part of any show. It was the start of full-dress rehearsal week for the Broadway debut show Child’s Play, so he was figuring out how to get into and out of his costumes–and in time to scale the ladder to the height of center stage so he could descend from the ceiling. He’d botched it twice already, not making it in time for his cue, and he was a mess of nerves trying to get decked out in his light-up tuxedo while he paid attention to the music.
“Hey,” his quick-changer murmured as he affixed Skye’s mask. “You’ve got this.”
Right. Skye nodded and hurried over to the ladder.
After rehearsal was over and the cast was undressing and taking off makeup, Skye decided to track down the quick-changer. His calm amidst the storm had really helped, and Skye wanted to say thanks.
It had been chaotic and dark, but Skye didn’t have a problem remembering what he looked like. Taller than Skye, with dark brown skin and kind eyes.
He found him fixing costume pieces on their hangers, and seeing him in full light–he looked more like someone who should be modeling clothes, over making them. “Hi,” Skye said, trying to sound more confident and less shy. “Uh, I’m Skye. I don’t think we’ve been introduced?”
The quick-changer chuckled, a low, throaty sound, and held out a hand. “Russell,” he said. “And I know who you are. Hard to miss the Power Prince.”
Right. Skye was still in full makeup. He, at least, was easy to recognize. He ruefully rubbed the back of his neck. Skye tried his best to get to know the stage crew, but between them and the cast there were a lot of people to keep track of. Once the show was up and running for a few weeks he’d definitely be better at it, but people sort of stayed in their little boxes during rehearsals. They didn’t meld properly into one complete unit the show actually started. But Russell he wasn’t going to forget. “I just wanted to say thanks.”
“For, you know, encouraging me back there. I really needed it. And it helped a lot.”
Russell smiled at him. “Happy to help.”
“Yeah, uh–” It didn’t feel like enough, just saying thanks. And he didn’t know the guy yet–but it’d be a good idea to get to know him. Especially considering he’d be the one helping Skye strip down and then dress back up twice a show. “Are you busy, now that rehearsal is done for the day?”
Russell shook his head. “Just need to finish prepping this all for tomorrow. Shouldn’t take me long. Why?”
“You want to grab a bite to eat together?”
“Want to meet by the back door when you’re ready? I have to take all this off anyway.”
Russell chuckled again. “I might be done before you are, but sure, yeah. Meet you then.”
Skye grinned. “Great.”
He left to go peel off his costume, unpin his wig, and take off all the stage makeup. In the end, he just wiped off as much as he could manage. He was pretty sure all Broadway actors had perpetually lined eyes at this point. Well, it wasn’t like he minded that much–it did make his eyes pop.
When he was dressed in real-people clothes again, he grabbed up his bag and left for the backstage door. A few people were still milling around, but Russell was standing a little off to one side. Not checking his phone or anything, just watching what was going on around him.
Skye went up to him. “Hey,” he said. “Thanks for waiting. Looks like you were right; you were done before I was.”
Russell blinked at him and then laughed. “So that’s what you look like when you’re out of makeup. I’ve been wondering.”
Russell shrugged. “I mean, I’ve seen everyone’s playbill headshots, but by the time I get to most of you, you’re all in makeup, if not costumed.”
“I thought you were one of the costumers.”
“Yeah, but that mostly means I’m sewing or repairing or washing. I just get put on the quick-changes once we get into dress shows. I’ve got fast fingers.”
Skye laughed. “Okay, good to know. And, I mean, I appreciated them. You’re going to be the one working with me?” Hopefully he didn’t sound to eager.
“Yup. For the changes on that side of the stage that need an extra pair of hands, I’m your guy.”
Skye smiled. “Nice to hear.”
“So where we headed?”
“Oh, uh,” Skye might not’ve thought that far. “What are you in the mood for?”
“You pick. You were the one who did the inviting, after all.” Russell grinned at him.
Skye tried not to panic. He wasn’t so great at choosing things. “Um.” There was that burger joint a block away that he and the others frequented a lot, that might be a good place. But maybe that was too fast-foody? There was a sushi bar pretty close by too, but Russell might not like that. Maybe–
“Actually,” Russell said after what was probably too long a pause on Skye’s part, “I could really do with a burger. That sound good to you?”
Crisis averted. Second time that day Russell had done that. “Yeah.” Skye smiled. “That sounds great.
“So how’d you end up on Broadway?” Russell asked, after they’d ordered and were waiting on their food. “You guys always have some stories to tell.”
“Mine’s pretty boring,” Skye said honestly. “I’ve got family in the area, which let me spend a lot of time auditioning around here. Child’s Play is my Broadway debut.”
Russell shook his head. “Gotta be more to it than that. How long did you spend auditioning? How did the audition go?”
“Oh, uh,” Skye laughed. “A few years. I mean, that’s how long I’ve been attending auditions. The audition for Child’s Play, well, they asked me to act as princely as possible. And my cousin has the most snooty, pampered, ‘I’ll grace you with my presence’ cat on the planet. So I just channeled her. The cat. Not my cousin.”
Russell smiled at him. “I figured.”
Skye’s cheeks went hot. He coughed. “Right, well, it worked out. I owe them both a lot. My family in general has been really supportive. They’re how I got where I am so far.”
“Shh, please don’t jinx it! We can talk about it once the show actually opens. Maybe.” The horror stories of shows that got all the way through rehearsals only to close before opening day still circulated. It was a very real fear. Child’s Play was new, and there was a chance it wouldn’t do well. Even once it opened, if it didn’t go over well with the critics… “Anyway, I’m not counting on anything. I can’t.”
“Do you do something else then?”
“Oh yeah, of course. Don’t we all?”
“What do you do?”
“I work at a dance studio. I teach. Or tutor, really. I have privates.”
“Oh yeah? Bet they all were excited when their teacher went bigtime.”
Skye ducked his head. “Maybe a little, yeah.” He’d gotten some very nice pay increases, and several new students. Some people had suggested that he stop teaching now that he was ‘bigtime’ but he was of the opinion that it was even more of a reason to stay on in the teaching circuit. Having a name, being able to help his students improve… that all helped success for everyone involved. “It was nice to have them all behind me.”
“I like the sound of that.”
Russell shrugged. “How much appreciation you have for your people. That’s a good show of character.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t be living my dream without any of them.”
“Like I said,” Russell smiled. “I like that.”
“Here you are, boys,” their waitress said, placing their plates down. Russell had ordered an old-fashioned burger with fries, so Skye had just gotten the same thing. But with extra lettuce. Easy.
“Thanks,” they both chorused.
Skye took a bite of his burger, chewed, swallowed, then asked, “What about you?”
“How’d you get into show business?”
Russell grinned. “I’m really good at picking up heavy stuff and putting it down.”
“I’m kidding. For backstage work like this, it’s usually knowing someone who knows someone. I had a friend who went into fashion design, and I was always helping out with her runway shows.” Russell rubbed the back of his neck. “At first she wanted me to model, since I’m ‘built the right way’” he made finger quotes in the air, which made Skye giggle, “but I was way more comfortable out of the spotlight. Got really good at helping the models change, touch-up, that sort of thing. Kept my ear to the ground and applied to work Phantom a while back, and I’ve been on the Broadway circuit radar ever since. For actual shows I’m usually put on quick-changes because they’re my specialty. I’m hoping to stick with Child’s Play for a while. We’ve got a really good crew.”
“I think so too, from what I’ve met of it.” Skye picked up a fry. “You’re pretty cool so far.”
Russell grinned at him. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
In between working out, teaching, rehearsal, and daily life and errands, the rest of the week passed quickly. Skye spent more time with his fellow cast members than he ever had before, because even when they weren’t actually at the theatre, they were meeting together outside of it to talk or eat or go out. They were a good group, and he was really enjoying knowing them all.
He spent more time with Russell too, both with a group and privately. Russell made good on being Skye’s quick-changer, and his calm amid the chaos was exactly what Skye needed to keep him making his marks.
And then it was opening night.
“I’m going to pass out,” Skye whispered as they were told that opening night was a full house. A sold out show was big for a debut. Really big. And the first week’s reviews meant a lot to the show’s future success.
Michael clapped him on the back. “Can’t pass out now, man! We’ve got a show to do.”
Right. Which meant makeup and warm-up and wigs and costumes and Skye swallowed because this was it. This was Real.
The dressing rooms were always full of laughter and noise and teases, but there was a nervous energy thrumming through everyone as they all got ready. Opening night. Opening night. Opening night.
It was with shaking fingers that Skye finished powdering his face and stared back at his reflection.
“Ready for warm-up?”
“Russell!” Skye twisted in his chair. “What are you doing here?”
“Wanted to say hi to everyone before the real chaos of getting ready started. Costumes are all set up, so I just figured I’d take a minute before I head back to the wig room.” Russell set a hand on Skye’s shoulder. “Break a leg out there.”
Just like that, Skye felt a little calmer.
The show was a whirlwind of song and dance and energy, and then Victoria, the music box ballerina, was kidnapped by the Bad ol’ Bear and it was time for Skye’s character, Eddie, to turn into the Power Prince as Action Ben and Betty started on his song.
Skye frantically dashed backstage and, with the help of Russell, got his Eddie costume off and his sparkly, light-up Power Prince costume on, feverishly listening to the music and trying not to think about having to scale that ladder in time.
“Relax,” Russell murmured in his ear. “You got this.”
Skye let out a breath and made his way over to the ladder.
Aidan Wayne has been publishing LGBTQ+ fiction since 2016. While they usually stick with contemporary romance (both adult and YA), some soft sci-fi/fantasy has been known to sneak in as well. They primarily write character-driven stories with happy endings, because, dammit, queer people deserve happy endings too.