Working His Magic—Onstage and Off

Parakeets aren’t meant to be cut in half. But that didn’t stop a young Michael C. Mitnick ’06 from trying

Parakeets aren’t meant to be cut in half. But that didn’t stop a young Michael C. Mitnick ’06 from trying to steal his older sister’s parakeet for a magic trick. “I thought there was no good reason why I couldn’t try to puncture it.”

So maybe he won’t make it as the next David Copperfield. But the next Andrew Lloyd Webber? That could happen.

Mitnick is, first and foremost, a writer of musicals. He began his musical career when he co-wrote the Freshman Musical, Get Some, during his first year at Harvard. That summer, he co-wrote As the Word Turns, a Hasty Pudding Theatrical’s production about a wicked Russian trying to steal the vowels from the English language. After his Hasty Pudding debut, doors suddenly opened for the young writer. He co-wrote his first off-Broadway musical, Snapshots, that premiered in August, 2004. The show starred the cast of Webber’s Bombay Nights.

From zero to hero? Where did he get his talent? “I sort of followed [my sister, Jenny] through everything. She joined chorus, I joined chorus; she did musicals, I did musicals; she took piano lessons, I took piano lessons.”

When she started writing music, he wasn’t far behind.

But Mitnick is unassuming. In a grey Polo sweater and round, black glasses, he sits quietly in the back of Au Bon Pain, unfazed by the bathroom door constantly opening into the back of his chair (it was the only available table). Even he couldn’t have predicted his successes, at Harvard and beyond. “Everything sort of led into the next and really the only thing I planned on doing was the Pudding.”

But the Pudding was just one of many an artistic venture. Mitnick’s film company, Blitzfilme, has won awards at both the Lehigh and Ivy League Film Festivals. “The whole idea is to make a film from the moment we get off for winter to break to when we get to go back. We arrive; think of the concept; shoot it; edit it; and premiere it all in two weeks.” He describes it as “guerrilla filmmaking.”

In his creative forays, Mitnick has crossed paths with many artistic giants. Once, Mitnick dropped by the Berklee School of Music to see composer Randy Newman. Newman was climbing into his limo when Mitnick awkwardly cornered him and said he had been a fan for years. “For years?” quipped Newman, “I’ve got pants older than you are.”

But Mitnick—musical writer and member of the Signet, Porcellian, and Lampoon—has had a lifetime of experiences, and it’s only a start.

“Mike is never looking over his shoulders at what he has done,” writes friend James M. Fisher ’06 in an e-mail, “but rather all that lies ahead. I doubt he’ll stop anytime soon.”

With or without pants, Mitnick will continue to work his magic. Whether or not it involves sleight of hand is up to him.