By April Smyth
For those who know the 14-year-old Blairsville native, Adrian Matthew, the latest news of his viral video comes as no surprise. We all knew he was destined for Broadway. It was simply a matter of time. But at age 14? No one anticipated that it would become a reality so quickly, especially his mom, Irishmae.
Anyone who is active on Facebook has probably seen the amazing video of this young man singing an emotional rendition of She Used to Be Mine, written by Sara Bareilles, that has gone viral. Adrian Matthew attends the IUP Community Music School for voice lessons under the instruction of Kye-Won Choi. During a recent lesson, while Adrian was rehearsing the tune to improve his audition skills for BroadwayCon’s Star To Be Competition, Irishmae recorded it on video, as she usually does.
What happened next, some may say, was fate. On September 28, 2018, Irishmae shared Adrian’s performance on Facebook, saying “I always share his talent with the world and I will always proudly boast about that. But this … this song really hits home with me. Listening to and watching my own son sing a song like this? Well, you can see for yourself. I am beyond proud of you, Adrian Matthew. Mama loves you so much!”
At first, the video was only shared with Irishmae’s friends, but once it was made public, giving others the ability to share it, it spread through Facebook like wildfire. By October 2, the video caught the attention of actor Zach Braff (Scrubs, Alex Inc., Wish I Was Here), who tagged Sara Bareilles. Betsy Wolfe, an actress who plays Jenna in Waitress, also tagged Bareilles. She responded, “I have watched it 3,495 times. I will cry if I meet this little angel. Actually cry.”
“If this child wants to attend Stagedoor and can’t afford it, I’ll pay,” Zach Braff posted on Twitter. Stage Door Manor is an elite, highly competitive camp in New York that has produced many stars, including Braff. He was able to contact Kye-Won to connect with Adrian, and from there, everything exploded!
Braff invited Adrian to New York City to sing at The Michael Larsen Memorial. Larsen was Braff’s mentor and a teacher at Stage Door Manor, which is how the two met. Adrian humbly accepted the invitation, and he set out to NYC with his mom, Irishmae, and voice instructor, Kye-Won Choi. Adrian posted on his Facebook page about the event: “Can I just tell you that I was most nervous to sing at this event, more than any other time in my life … because I knew that Mr. Larsen meant a lot to Zach and all of the friends and family there, and I wanted to do it justice.”
While in NYC, Adrian, Irishmae, and Kye-Won were able to take in some sights and Adrian’s first Broadway Show, Once on This Island. Kye-Won’s friend, Justin Scribner, is the Stage Manager for the production, which allowed Adrian the unique opportunity to meet the cast after the show. Alex Newell (Asake) is someone that Adrian has admired since his days on Glee. Once Newell realized who Adrian was, he requested a selfie with him which he promptly posted to his Instagram!
What ensued was a dream come true for Adrian. After seeing the show Once on This Island, Kye-Won received an email from the Production Manager of Waitress inviting Adrian and his guests to the musical AND requesting young Adrian to meet Sara Bareilles in person on Broadway prior to the show. Adrian became very emotional when Kye-Won delivered the news.
As if this trip could get any better, Zach Braff invited Adrian to see Dear Evan Hansen, because he felt that “Adrian could relate to a story about a high school boy who benefited from a video going viral.”
After the show, the cast of Dear Evan Hansen received Adrian in the Green Room where they excitedly told him how they were all fans of his!
What followed on the evening of October 28 was incredible. He was greeted on Broadway by stars telling him what big fans they are! He did meet Sara Bareilles and sang her song while she accompanied him on the piano. In photos of the encounter on Facebook, Adrian simply posts, “Me meeting Her.” He later says, “… something that I will NEVER forget is a moment that happened before the show…,” which is followed by the video of the pair’s impromptu performance.
Bareilles had plenty to say herself about their meeting. She posted, “Tonight was a much-needed reminder of purity and light thanks to Adrian. He broke our hearts on a Facebook video and then in person. Special thanks to Zach Braff for helping facilitate this, and a forever thank you to Adrian (and mom and Miss K!) for shining their lights on us tonight. Grateful for the chance to connect.”
Adrian was elated and overwhelmed with everything that had transpired on his excursion to New York, but it wasn’t over by a long shot. During the intermission of Waitress, Adrian was informed that he would be singing after the show. On stage. On a Broadway Stage! His lifelong dream was coming true! “It’s every performer’s dream to get on a Broadway stage,” Adrian said.
After the show, Ben Thompson (Earl in Waitress) gave the audience the background story of a boy whose video has gone viral, saying “maybe you are one of the 4 million people who have seen it…” Then, he cues Adrian onto the stage: “without further ado, the future of Broadway, ladies and gentlemen, the 14-year-old from Blairsville, Pennsylvania, Adrian Matthew!”
Let me tell you, when Adrian walked across the stage with hand-over-mouth in utter excitement and disbelief, he did not disappoint his fans. His performance was nothing short of spectacular! It was absolutely incredible; a true goosebump moment if ever I have felt one. He received a standing ovation from the audience for his first-ever performance on Broadway! Adrian reports, with a large grin, “It felt really good!” Adrian was warmly embraced by the cast of the musical, including Al Roker (Ol’ Joe in Waitress), as he wiped away what were undoubtedly tears of joy.
Adrian, when asked if he was nervous, admitted “I was really nervous. I can’t stop shaking before every performance I do. But then I start singing and get lost in the music.”
Just when Adrian thought his Broadway premiere was over, he was asked by the cast to “join the line.” He didn’t know what that meant but agreed. It turned out that he was going to sign autographs outside the stage door, where fans of the show line up to catch a glimpse of the stars as they are heading home. He couldn’t believe that “they wanted my autograph! It was so much fun!”
After a whirlwind weekend in New York City, Adrian and Irishmae went back to their hotel to get some much-needed rest before they left for home. They were awakened early in the morning on October 30 by Kye-Won, who was pounding on their hotel room door.
Al Roker had summoned Adrian for an appearance on The Today Show, and they had to be ready in half an hour! Irishmae did negotiate an extra 15 minutes, and before they knew it, they were on the set with Al Roker himself, where Adrian described the whole New York experience as “very surreal.” He goes on to sing an acapella version of “For Good,” from the hit musical Wicked, before calling his NYC trip a wrap.
When I asked Adrian about his appearance on the show, he said he was very grateful to Mr. Roker and for the experience, but reported, “TV is out of my realm.”
Irishmae noted that everyone in New York was so welcoming. She described Zach Braff as “down to earth.” She said the characters he portrays are fitting for his personality. He is the same in person as he is on TV. Braff provided Adrian with some excellent advice before the two parted ways. “Stay humble, stay kind, and stay yourself.” Irishmae is grateful for how instrumental he was in providing Adrian the opportunity to visit NYC. She believes that she could not ask for a better mentor for her son than Braff.
Adrian has loved music and singing “forever.” Irishmae recalls, “He could sing before he could talk. He used to be called ‘happy feet’ in daycare because of him singing and dancing all the time.”
Locally, Adrian Matthew has performed in Oliver, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Shrek at BHS. He also appeared in Sweeny Todd at Stage Right in Greensburg, PA, which was Adrian’s favorite because “the music was different than what I’ve done before. I also played a creepy character.”
Oliver was his first musical performance. “I didn’t want to try out, but in Chorus, our Music Director, Mr. Lyons, asked me to. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it, but I auditioned for a small part,” he recalls.
Adrian was cast in Oliver, as Oliver. No small part there! The way Adrian glided across the stage in that musical was so natural and effortless, we all knew he was destined for greatness. Nothing about his performance was forced. He clearly has a true God-given talent. When I asked Adrian when he realized he had this gift, he told me he “put it aside” for a while, but “it’s sunk in now.”
Adrian says he is not letting any of the recent attention go to his head. “I am still me. I want to finish high school and go to college.” He reports, “The community helps keep me grounded. So does my mom. I like getting back to my daily routine.”
He was welcomed back to school after his New York City adventure by his friends, who were very excited for him. He said no one is treating him any differently. Adrian resumed his activities in cheering and marching band upon his return home, and recently participated in a cheering competition where his squad took first place!
Adrian plans to audition for the school musical again next year and encourages everyone to “follow your dreams. Even though you are from a small town, you can accomplish great things!”
Irishmae describes her son as “a small-town kid who has everyday problems and struggles just like anyone else in high school. He has been picked on. What makes him who he is, a self-proclaimed nerd and goofball, is that he stays true to himself. If he didn’t, none of this would have happened for him. Adrian is living proof that if you just go after what you want, it could happen.”
Blairsville, as a community, could not be more proud of this gifted young man. Many of us watched Adrian grow up and have been humbled to witness him discover his many talents. “This whole experience has been very uplifting for the town. Blairsville needed something positive like this,” stated Irishmae. We all look forward to seeing what’s next for Adrian and to find out #whatishappening.
Adrian wasn’t a part of social media before this month, but because of the outpouring of support, he now has a Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter so that others can stay informed about his budding career.
To hear Adrian’s angelic voice for yourself and to view his videos and photos from his journey to Broadway and beyond, Facebook: Adrian Matthew, Instagram: @adrianmatthewsings and Twitter: AdrianMattSings. While he does not have a YouTube channel yet, it is rumored to be “in the works.” You can also visit and like Yinzer Magazine on Facebook to stay tuned for updates on Adrian’s voyage to fame!