Billy’s currently appearing in the revival of Miss Saigon on Broadway. "Miss Saigon has been very good to me. It’s a dream job," says Billy, who appeared in nine regional productions of the show before finding himself in the Broadway revival of the popular hit. He is not the only UArts alum involved in the production; the props were created by Tony Giruzzi BFA ’04 (Musical Theater), who has established a career as a professional prop designer. Billy is a member of the ensemble and also the understudy for The Engineer; one of the lead roles he has had the chance to perform twice during previews of the show in March.
Billy has enjoyed tremendous success as a performer. He appeared in the revival of The King and I at Lincoln Center, Here Lies Love at the Public Theater Off Broadway, and in more than a dozen regional and international productions; performed at the White House last October with Broadway Barkada, the Filipino cultural and philanthropic organization he co-founded; and received a 2016 Barrymore Award nomination for Best Lead in Musical Theater for See What I Wanna See, produced by 11th Hour Theatre, a new theater company co-founded by UArts alumna Megan O’Brien BFA '05 (Applied Theater Arts). Yet since his days as an undergraduate, Billy has been moving toward directing and choreographing as his primary work in the theater. "I am passionate about directing," he says. He has already directed/choreographed 15 productions, including two plays for B-Side—where he serves as Co-Artistic Director—a community of more than 200 artists dedicated to reinventing the theatrical tradition. "When I got to UArts, the message was 'choose your own adventure’ and I’ve been doing that ever since," he says.
A transfer student who had worked professionally throughout the theater scene in the Washington D.C. area where he grew up, Billy chose the University of the Arts because he believed it was where he would get the education needed to be successful. "It was the best decision I ever made," he says, "The skills I learned are invaluable. I developed relationships with people who are still my closest friends and colleagues in the theater. And there were always so many different opportunities to pursue." One of these opportunities was photography, which led to the start-up of his own studio, located in Brooklyn, where Billy lives with his husband. He specializes in headshots for actors—a great "day job."
Looking back, Billy would give his 20-year-old college self some advice, though. "All that time you spend comparing yourself to others is wasted. Follow your own unique artistic path. That’s when you will do your best work and be recognized for it." He has some advice for today’s students, too: "The first requirement of any artist is to be an agent of change. That’s our responsibility." And his final words of wisdom: "The best cheesesteak in Philly is Jim’s on South Street."