Recent graduate Eric Peters lands first gig in ‘Motown’ national tour


Source: Justin Barbin

Peters stars in the Northwestern University production of “HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” Peters will return to Chicago on Oct. 3 with the “Motown” national tour.

Jane Recker, Assistant A&E Editor

While it might take most aspiring young actors several years and grueling side jobs to get their big break in professional theater, all it took for Eric Peters was a daring move to New York City and a summer-long wait.

“It feels crazy to be talking about this,” Peters said. “This isn’t how it usually works. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Just three months after graduating, Peters (Communication ’17) was cast in the ensemble of the national tour of “Motown: The Musical,” a jukebox show that follows the lives of the artists signed by record producer Berry Gordy at the iconic music label, Motown Records.

Peters said the entire casting process was a whirlwind experience. As soon as his agent booked him an audition, he prepared a piece from the musical — the song “My Girl” by The Temptations — and performed a dance call. Just a week later, he was signing the dotted line.

Since then, the rehearsal process has been just as intense as the audition, Peters said. Rehearsals usually run for eight hours, six days a week, and instead of unwinding when he returns home, Peters said he runs through his dance numbers every night.

“The Northwestern process prepared me well for this,” he said. “At Northwestern, when we learned a song, it needed to be perfect by the next rehearsal. It’s the same concept here, just one notch up.”

Peters’ professors in the theater department said they were sure his hardworking attitude and talent would take him far. As a math double major, Peters was very analytical in terms of parsing text and noticing details about the characters he portrayed, said Kelli Nichol McHugh, Peters’ vocal coach at NU.

“He had this great work ethic,” she said. “He also has this great pop tenor voice where he can sing crazy high. We worked really hard on his pop-rock sound during his time at Northwestern, so … (I’m not surprised) that his first professional tour is Motown.”

The national tour of ‘Motown’ begins Sept. 29 and will run through May. Peters will return to Chicago when the production plays at the Cadillac Palace Theatre starting Oct. 3.

Peters has also always known how to collaborate as part of an ensemble, said Communication sophomore Connor Carlin, a member of Peters’ former a cappella group.

“Eric always had such a great energy and made Asterik a vibrant experience for me,” Carlin said. “He really helped create what our group identity is now.”

Peters was a member of various student groups as an undergraduate, including the annual Waa-Mu Show, which he co-chaired in 2017.

Peters’ former acting teacher David Catlin added that Peters has always put the success of the group before himself.

“In whatever he’s working on, he understands that he’s in service to the bigger aspect of the story and that it’s not a vehicle for him,” he said.

Peters said he has managed to bring the same level of understanding to his personal interpretation of “Motown,” as the production’s themes of solidarity and family are very timely given the current tense political climate.

“Motown music was, for many white people, the first music that they listened to by black artists, and it became this very unifying thing, especially during the civil rights movement,” Peters said.

Though Peters is already making big leaps in his career, he said he still feels he has a lot to learn as an up-and-coming actor.

“In acting classes people try to get you to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances,” he said. “Acting is all about taking away artificial stuff and just being a human. It’s something I will continue to work on.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jreck96