Michael-Leon Wooley Biography
Michael-Leon Wooley is an American television, film and theatre actor and singer. Wooley lends his voice to Louis, the alligator, in Disney's upcoming animated feature film, The Princess and the Frog.
Wooley was born in Fairfax, Virginia to George and Winnie Wooley. He has a twin brother, Marcus-Leon, and a younger brother, George Jr.. He grew up in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.. Wooley began playing the piano at age five and initially wanted to be a classical concert pianist. However after participating in a high-school production of Oklahoma! he became interested in the theatre and the dramatic arts.
At age sixteen he was given the opportunity to study piano at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. but turned it down to instead focus on acting and singing. At age eighteen Wooley was awarded a full scholarship to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in New York City, one of 21 scholarships granted in a nationwide competition. He studied at AMDA for a year before embarking on his own to pursue an acting career.
Wooley auditioned 107 times before landing his first role in the national tour of Purlie, making three-hundred dollars a week. After the national tour of Purlie Wooley returned to New York and supported himself by playing in piano bars and occasionally singing in subway stations as well as working as a singing waiter on the Spirit of New York, a dinner cruise ship that circles Manhattan.
Career - Theatre
In 1992 Wooley made his Broadway debut as an understudy (Big Moe) in the Clarke Peters' musical, Five Guys Named Moe. After Five Guys Named Moe he embarked on national tours with The Pointer Sisters in Ain't Misbehavin' and The Wiz with Stephanie Mills.
Wooley returned to Broadway in 2000 as Olin Britt in the Broadway revival of The Music Man, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.
Wooley's most recent Broadway role was as the voice of the man-eating plant, Audrey II, in the 2003 revival of the musical Little Shop of Horrors at the Virginia Theatre (renamed the August Wilson Theatre in 2005). Though his role was behind-the-scenes, theater critics took notice. Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote Wooley had a "soulful bass voice" and Clive Barnes of the New York Post said that Wooley as the "doom-struck voice of Audrey II" rounded out "one of the best casts on Broadway"
Under the baton of Skitch Henderson, Wooley made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New York Pops as one of the "New Faces of 2004" along with other Broadway notables such as John Tartaglia and Stephanie D'Abruzzo. The event was hosted by famed New York Post gossip columnist Liz Smith.
Wooley is currently in production for Disney's upcoming animated movie, The Princess and the Frog. He will lend his voice to Louis, a high-strung jazz singing, trumpet playing alligator. The Princess and the Frog is scheduled to be released in late 2009. It will be composed by Randy Newman. Other cast members include: Oprah Winfrey, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Cody, Keith David, Jennifer Lewis, Jim Cummings, Bruno Campos, Peter Bartlett, John Goodman, Angela Bassett.
Wooley played Tiny Joe Dixon in the 2006 motion picture, Dreamgirls, and sang the solo 'Takin' The Long Way Home', the third song on the movie soundtrack.
Other film credits include minor roles in Ghost Town, Good Sharma and My Father's Will.
Wooley's voice has been behind many television advertising campaigns for companies such as (but not limited to): Reebok, General Motors, McDonald's, Dairy Queen, K-Mart and the Oxygen Network.
He has made numerous guest appearances on television series such as Cosby, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Knights of Prosperity, Now & Again, Rescue Me and The Rosie O'Donnell Show.
Jon-Marc McDonald, a close friend and sometimes-publicist for Wooley, confirmed on his website that Wooley performed We Have To Change at a fundraiser for Barack Obama in New York City. The song was specifically written for the fundraiser by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger