Daniel Downing has a 10-year plan to crack into the big time.
A few years on the Australian stage, then on to the West End, by the time he's 33 he'll be living in New York City performing a smash hit on Broadway.
His first big break came early in his career, having been cast as an understudy in one of the world's most popular musicals, Wicked, for a one-year run in Asia.
That gig ended last October and since then he's been on the other side of the dream, working hard to impress directors and creative teams.
For those who are hooked on the television musical drama Smash, Downing's life is a string of auditions and callbacks. Sometimes he's "in the mix" and sometimes not. But like the performers on Smash, he knows not to take rejection personally.
"Sometimes it doesn't matter how much talent you have, because everyone in this industry has phenomenal talent," says Downing. "Talent is a pre-requisite. A lot of the time it comes down to the way you look, the colour of your skin, your physique. Do you look the part and will you fit into the costumes?"
It's also a lot of luck - just being in the right place at the right time can advance a career enormously.
"My dream is the same as every male who has a career in musical theatre. We all want to become leading men in a West End or Broadway production. That's what I want to do," he says. "That's what I'm hoping for."
The former Figtree resident was a regular Schools Spectacular featured artist, attended Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts and then continued his education at NIDA where he gained a diploma in musical theatre.
"I was six when I saw The Sound of Music and when I got home I cried because I wasn't one of the kids up on stage," he says. "So my mother started me in dance and drama classes and in high school I did a lot of amateur theatre for the Arcadians. Musical theatre has always been a big part of my life."
Soon after leaving NIDA he landed the Wicked male vocal swing.
"It was a great position to be in for my first professional role," says Downing.
"I had to learn seven of the roles, but mainly I played the father and Dr Dillamond.
As a swing you never know how many times you'll be on stage with the cast, but for me it was at least once a week and in Singapore I played the father for five weeks straight and in Korea I played the same role for another five weeks. But I had to be prepared 100 per cent of the time."
Downing says it's not easy to win an audition and gives an example of auditioning recently for Les Miserables which attracted 500 people in Sydney alone trying out for the production. Even if you stand out and tick all the boxes for a role - it can be a long and drawn out process before you're offered a part.
"It's all out of your control, which makes it really hard," he says. "For every hundred auditions you do you probably only get one or two roles. There are just so many talented people vying for the same productions."
Downing was "on hold" for six months while waiting for the green light for Wicked.
"It was the first professional show I'd ever auditioned for and they told me that I was in the mix and that I needed to keep your options open," he says.
"Which is what I did. They then send your video of the audition off to the creative internationals and you have to wait. It's just how the industry works. It can be difficult, but you get used to it. A lot of people hold out for the bigger roles."
There's a chance Wicked will return soon to New Zealand and Australia.
"We're in the process of figuring out whether that's an option for me at the moment," he says. "So we'll see."
Downing now lives in Sydney, but visits Wollongong regularly to visit his parents. While he travels for work he sublets his room in a Chippendale townhouse which he shares with his two best friends.
"I let my room to people in the musical theatre industry," he says. "That's how it works.
"I do it because one day I might need a room in Brisbane or Melbourne for a few weeks and it helps paying the rent."
Downing is also a member of a corporate band called The Boys in the Band, which plays cruise ships around the South Pacific and corporate events around Australia.
He also teaches musical theatre cabaret workshops and dance classes in Wollongong and Sydney. This weekend at the Illawarra Music Festival he is conducting a two-day seminar on creating a storytelling cabaret.
"I've worked out a process taking songs from popular musical theatre shows and helping people find ways to relate to the characters," he says. "It's all about finding common ground."
As part of the festival, Downing performed at the Regent Theatre last night a one-man show called The Universal Individual.
"It took a year of my life, three countries and my first real job to realise that we are all the same - that life is just a row of dominoes, 100 links in a chain, a series of stages that only become individual because of the way we react to and deal with them," he says of the show.
Travelling for a year with the cast of Wicked was an experience and a challenge for Downing who says while Singapore was an easy city to live in, South Korea was a challenge.
"It's quite an incredible culture. They are kind-hearted and generous people but it was a bit of a culture shock."
Downing celebrated his 21st birthday in South Korea.
"I made a lot of really good friends," he says. Getting to practise my craft every day and travelling the world at the same time was an incredible experience."