When Alex Mentzel was just 11 years old, he came across an ad on Craigslist for a small role in a feature film. He auditioned, and was cast alongside Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear in Feast of Love.
Today, as a sophomore theatre arts and German major at the University of Oregon, Alex is just as determined, and even more successful. He just wrapped up his debut with the Eugene Opera as Tobias Ragg in Sweeney Todd. This fall, he also spent several weeks in Los Angeles, filming the final season of Glee.
These high profile gigs are neither the beginning nor the end of Alex’s performing arts career. As a young boy, he attended a cathedral choir school in Germany, and performed in his first show in second grade.
“My dad is a singer and my mom is an instrumentalist, so I grew up with music all around,” he said.
His father, Eric Mentzel, is an Associate Professor of Voice here at the U of O, and Alex’s longtime vocal coach. “My Dad and I get along really well,” he said. “I haven’t always studied weekly with my Dad, but I have been working on my voice regularly with him. He’s always been there to help me when I needed it.”
His father echoed this sentiment. “It’s been nice because we spend a lot of time together working on music, something that we both love.”
He insists that Alex’s pursuit of a musical career was never forced. Though he has coached Alex through many of his gigs and projects, “It would probably be more accurate to say that I was there to encourage him on a path that he was interested in following anyway,” he said.
This genuine interest is easy to spot. As Alex talked about his experience filming on the set of Glee, everything from spontaneous jam sessions with Darren Criss to 16-hour work days seemed exciting.
Alex described his time both on the show and in Eugene Opera’s Sweeney Todd as extremely valuable. “I learned a lot from both experiences, particularly the importance of learning material quickly and efficiently, which is expected in a professional setting,” he said. “It was an intense process (for both productions).”
According to Mark Beudert, general director of the Eugene Opera and director of Sweeney Todd, Alex handled the pressure with grace. “It’s a tremendous role, and Alex was great,” Beudert said. “He’s smart. There are a lot of people out there with talent. But talent and brains together aren’t as common as you might think.”
Alex’s father would agree. “(Alex’s) greatest strength is his constellation of strengths… I think that he has a very good chance of pursuing a career as an actor/singer/dancer in some combination, but it’s not a done deal. He could do a lot of things.”
For Alex, however, music is definitely part of the future. “I have a strong interest in film and television, but my roots are in stage work, so I’ll be up ‘on the boards’ whenever I get the chance.” he said. “I’d love to potentially teach.”
Alex’s options are wide open, but his motivation is clear.
“I didn’t start doing this because I wanted to be famous, or because I wanted to see my name up on some marquee on Broadway… I really like the craft,” Alex said.