Growing up in Belfast, Grant Richards engaged with all the performing arts, as well as running cross-country and track. Those experiences, family and community support, natural talent, hard-work training and, yes, a little luck, have led to a literal fairytale ending that’s really just the beginning.

Since early last fall, Richards has been performing in the Broadway National Tour of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” The tour comes to Maine the first few days of February. Performances will be Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor; and Friday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, Feb. 3, at 12:30 and 6 p.m. at the Portland Civic Center.

Although he has been based in New York City for a year now, Richards finds time to come up to Belfast to see his family when he gets a week off. The last break was in early December; Richards said he would be “running up to Maine” to see his parents and sister before rejoining the tour, which was headed to Arizona for a holiday stint.

“I had sort of experienced this sort of tour life a little bit during school. I sang backup vocals for Josh Groban, so I’d had a taste of it then. But this is truly hotel to hotel,” he said.

The company never overnights on a plane or bus, but for the kind of one- and two-night sprints the Maine dates are part of, the cast and crew are in a different hotel most nights.

“I find that I have to ground myself, so I think my fuel is my family,” Richards said.

It has been a whirlwind of a year for Richards, who graduated in May from Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., with a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater and a minor in dance. By then, he had already been in New York City for months, thanks to the Tepper Semester, a performing arts honors program via Syracuse University's Department of Drama that offers advanced-level classes and a lot more.

“I was integrated into the theater scene in New York, had a lot of master classes and I was able to go to auditions and book an agent here in the city, going for things and seeing material — I’m very, very grateful for that opportunity,” he said.

Richards also is grateful for the way his upbringing introduced him to the performing arts from an early age, as well as the training he was able to get right in Waldo County.

“Right after I graduated, I did an Off-Broadway production called “Amerike — The Golden Land.” Even in that show, I was super-grateful for the roots that I had in Belfast,” he said.

His mother thought it was important he have some sort of musical dance training, Richards said, so as a youngster, he took African dance with Lisa Newcomb at the Belfast Dance Studio.

“It was the coolest introduction to the arts that I could possibly have as a young child. I’m very thankful,” he said.

From dancing, he went on to piano lessons with Martha Day and voice training with Mary Anne Driscoll. In middle and high school, he did theater, both in high school with John Cameron and with Cold Comfort Theater, led by Aynne Ames.

“There was a moment that I wanted to go into piano performance, and a moment I wanted to be a director … and a moment when I wanted to do strict vocal performance, so I went to Berklee College of Music with a summer program,” he said.

His piano playing took precedence again in high school because “my mom got very sick and she said my playing piano for her made her feel better,” he said. By then, he had begun to weigh all his performance options and look to the future.

“I had this moment of realization that all these forms of art I loved growing up — be it piano, music, singing, dancing or theater acting on stage — everything could be combined in a single element, which was musical theater,” he said.

He said he also realized that the arts go deeper than entertainment.

“They’re so vital in helping people emotionally; I think the arts are significant for society, in terms of human connection and vulnerability,” he said.

Which is not to say he was all singing and dancing, all the time, at Belfast Area High School. He said now that he reflects back, he thinks he helped break some clichéd thinking about “theater kids” … because he also was a student athlete.

“My dad was so supportive of the arts — he’s a hobby musician himself — and education, and he thought it was super-important to experience all things,” said Richards. “He came from a sports background, so putting me into sports was, I felt, very beneficial to me as a human being.”

Richards said he thinks his athletic experience helped him develop a sense of perseverance and teamwork, all of which have come into play as a professional musical theater performer.

“I credit a lot of that to Dale Nealey, who was my track coach. He made me team captain and instilled that drive, which I’m very grateful for, and a care for the physical — not only in dance, but in general life,” he said.

Because he acts, dances and sings — well enough to be understudying an operatic role in “Cinderella” — Richards said taking care of himself physically is a must for a job that includes eight performances a week. The actors don’t just show up at the theater for performances, he said.

“The majority of us in the cast have to work out every day to keep in shape. We have to have thorough warm-ups, physically and vocally. We have to eat right and drink a lot of water and get enough sleep and make sure that our bodies are ready,” he said.

And when they get injured, they have to be really careful about overuse, he added. The work is very physically demanding, which is why performers get breaks on a regular basis. Not that he spends them slacking off.

“A few months ago, I had a week off and I actually ran a 5K in New York City without running, whatsoever, for I don’t know how long. Because ‘Cinderella’ is so physically demanding and so cardio-based, I ran it without an issue,” he said. “I think people underestimate how fit dancers and performers and actors have to be to do our jobs!”

His particular “track” in the show is ensemble, which is heavy on both singing and dancing — anyone who knows any version of “Cinderella” knows that dancing is integral to the story. But the 2013 Tony-winning Broadway production, choreographed by Josh Rhodes, was distinguished by its athletic dancing, much of which remains on tour. Richards said he really thinks the ensemble does the majority of the work, about 80 percent of the show’s stage time.

“We have some huge dance numbers; there’s the huge ball number, which is 15 minutes of partnering. The ensemble men do a lot of dancing, a lot of athletic movement and 10 quick costume changes,” he said.

The principal track Richards understudies is a real contrast; the role of Lord Pinkleton is heavy on the acting and operatic singing. Everyone in the ensemble has one or two understudy parts and has to be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. Every couple of weeks, there is a full company understudy rehearsal. In late December, Richards finally went on as Pinkleton, subbing for the “very talented and prominent opera singer” he’d gotten to know well on tour.

“It was incredible,” he said of the role debut at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre.

Richards was initially asked to join the “Cinderella” tour on short notice. Spring is the season for casting new shows and finding replacements in ones already running, so the Tepper Semester put Richards on the spot for auditions. He had gotten an agent and signed with an agency “and was going in for so many things, the New York scene was sort of eating me up a little bit,” he said. And he got a few offers.

“I was chosen for ‘Cinderella’ in the spring. They were looking for an immediate replacement, someone to jump in right then, and I was, like, I’m still in school and I also have some offers for the summer,” he said.

The summer offer he took turned out to be an auspicious career starter, The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene's revival of “Amerike — The Golden Land.” Staged at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the 12-member/40-plus song production was an official Off-Broadway show that was extended into a seven-week run. Richards can be seen doing some Cossack dance moves in the YouTube trailer.

“It was amazing, got some great reviews by the Times, and in the process, I went back in for ‘Cinderella,’ because there were two roles they were still looking for. I got an offer right at the very end of this opera contract. I came to Maine for a week to see my family and I came back and started ‘Cinderella,’” he said.

So less than a year since graduating, Richards has both an Off-Broadway and a Broadway National Tour contract under his belt. “Grateful” is a word he uses a lot when he talks about how he got where he is now — a glance at the tour’s schedule is required to establish that, day by day — from what led him to life as a professional musical theater performer.

“I’m super-grateful for the roots that I had in Belfast. Not only with my family, supporting the arts, but also with people like Aynne Ames, who instilled a love of and strictness in theater, in me. And also at the high school, I had a lot of musical training, so I’m very lucky; John Cameron was a large impetus in my music. And then, the Belfast Dance Studio,” he said.

He also has praise for the training he received at Nazareth, which has a competitive, “more conservatory-based,” program with a lot of training and opportunities. He also worked at various theaters throughout the Northeast during the summers … including Belfast’s Cold Comfort.

“I even did something for Aynne last summer; I recorded choreography for a show she was doing,” Richards said. “I’m always wanting to repay her and Belfast for the great arts education. Belfast is such a beautiful, artsy town, and accepting. I’m grateful to have grown up there.”

The Broadway National Tour is set to run into July, and there is talk of taking it around the country again, or maybe overseas. As a working actor, Richards knows not to look that far ahead. Another spring of auditions is coming, and he has a whole career ahead of him. But he said he really enjoys being a part of “Cinderella,” as the road has begun to transform the large company into a temporary family.

“You never really know when the work is … when you get to this point, everyone is very talented, so the only way I have found that I book work is if I let my personality through,” he said. “As long as I’m a kind, good human being, I’m confident that I will find work.”

He’s not being altruistic; he knows life in the theater can be “incredibly competitive and nasty, and people can be dramatic.” It is a hard life, he said, and he thinks people want to work with people who are not only good at what they do, but also are good at being good to each other. And that is good for the show, on all levels.

“To really affect an audience, you need to have a genuine connection to the actors around you. And the team around you, too — the stage manager who’s calling the lights and props and everything, down to the stagehand who’s running and the dresser who is putting on your costume for you in a 30-second quick-change. You know, it all adds up,” he said.

The other part of the equation, of course, is the audience. Richards said that all his preparation and performance energy is directed at doing his work, his art, his job for the audience’s benefit — and that’s what drives him.

“If someone is changed from the moment they come into the theater to the end, or they release some emotion they need to or they take something from the show or had an expression they needed to see within themselves, then my job is done! I feel fulfilled, as a performer,” he said.

For tickets to the Maine, and other, performances of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” visit the venues’ websites or Richards’ website is