Meet 'Romy and Michelle' Swinger, Trina Mills

Some performers wait in the wings as understudies—some are ready to take on the entire show. Meet the 5th Avenue Theatre’s swinger for Romy and Michele
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Romy and Michele’s swinger, Trina Mills

In theater, it’s considered good luck to wish a performer to “break a leg.” But what if someone really does break a leg? At Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, that actor would turn to Trina Mills, a “swinger,” who—unlike an understudy who prepares to take over for a lead role—learns multiple roles for every show, including the big event of the season, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, the latest Broadway-bound 5th Avenue incubator show making its world premiere in Seattle. (The June 8 opening is so eagerly anticipated that—as with the Paramount’s 2018 production of Hamilton—you may have to buy a season ticket to be sure to get good seats.)

“Swinging is one of the hardest jobs in musical theater—you just better know what you’re doing in case someone gets hurt and you have to step in,” says Mills, who studied ballet at Kent’s British Dancing Academy at age 3, grew up to be a Sea Gal (“I use a lot of that thrashing, hair-flipping NFL dancing onstage”) and then became the 5th’s assistant choreographer and swinger extraordinaire. “For Romy, I’m covering Heather and Toby [roles played by Janeane Garofalo and Camryn Manheim in the 1997 film], and also half the female ensemble. You learn it, then they keep rewriting it until it goes to Broadway.” Her scariest experience was swinging nine roles in Rent. “One of my most terrifying moments ever—the night before opening, a girl ran up metal stairs and sprained her ankle,” recalls Mills. “I see her in pain—Oh, my God!—put on a scarf and hat, ask her a couple last-second questions and run out on stage. And that’s all I remember.” Her mind may have blanked out, but her body remembered the words and moves for “Christmas Bells,” “La Vie Boheme” and “Seasons of Love.” 

“Everyone in my generation is obsessed with Romy and Michele,” she says, and she’s pretty sure she’ll play somebody in it. “I’ve never swung a show and not gone on. It’s high stress. And fun!” 

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Times and prices vary. June 8-July 2, downtown 5th Avenue Theatre; 1308 Fifth Ave.; 5thavenue.org; 206.625.1900 

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