Little did Mike Flanagan know, when he first squeaked out a tune on the saxophone at Peter Noyes Elementary School, that the instrument would be his passport to a career in music.

Little did Mike Flanagan know, when he first squeaked out a tune on the saxophone at Peter Noyes Elementary School, that the instrument would be his passport to a career in music.

That career has taken the 29 year-old Sudbury native and 1997 Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School graduate all over the world as a member of orchestras and musical groups.

On April 25-27 Flanagan will play at The Wang Center in Boston for five shows of the Broadway musical "Hairspray." Winner of eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, "Hairspray" inspired a major motion picture.

"Boston will be quite a thrill," said Flanagan. "A lot of family and friends will be coming to the show. I can’t wait."

Parents Linda and Jim Flanagan, who live in Sudbury, will be at the show. A week earlier, when "Hairspray" plays in Washington, D.C., Flanagan will stay with his brother Tom who lives in the nation’s capital.

Flanagan plays baritone sax, tenor sax, clarinet and flute in the touring orchestra. He has been with the tour since July 2005 and has traveled to cities, large and small, in the continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada as well as Japan.

"It was when the tour left for Tokyo that I realized, ‘Wow, this is my life, and it’s all worked out so far,’" said Flanagan of life as a professional touring musician. "You’re on this huge 747 at JFK (airport in New York) and you think, ‘I’m getting paid today.’"

In July the "Hairspray" touring company will perform in China.

"I love this job, and this is a great company," said Flanagan.

Flanagan has come a long way from his early lessons on the alto saxophone with Robert Mealey who still teaches in the Sudbury Public Schools.

"I can remember struggling. It’s a hard thing to learn to do," said Flanagan who was in the fourth grade when he decided to take lessons on the reed instrument. "I was not totally hooked because I thought it was so hard, but I stuck with it and it became easier. Mr. Mealey is a great teacher and a cool guy"

Flanagan’s friend Dave Terrell was also a sax player and the two developed a musical friendship as well, participating in the Curtis Middle School jazz band and auditioning for elite district-level orchestras.

Flanagan remembers a moment during a 6th grade talent show when he and Terrell played a duet of "Take the A Train," a simple melody and counter-melody, when he realized he was making music.

"All of a sudden you can start to hear the music and you get out of the drudgery of operating an instrument," said Flanagan. "It becomes so natural. The music becomes part of a language you are fluent in."

In high school Flanagan took lessons from Andrew Bender who still teaches locally.

"By high school I was really excited to ply with other players in the Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble. We played in tune and sounded really good," said Flanagan. "I have great memories of playing at Jordan Hall and the hatch shell, and at L-S coffeehouses as well."

Flanagan is a 2001graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY where he studied with saxophonist and composer Mark Vinci.

In a phone interview from the "Hairspray" tour in Buffalo, Flanagan laughed that it was his third time playing a show there and that he has now seen Niagara Falls in every season.

Flanagan said "Hairspray" is the only music he has repeated so many times - that night would be his 635th performance - and he is loving every minute of the tour.

"Hairspray is a great show. It moves people, the music is great, and the story gets to the heart of a lot of people’s experience in America," said Flanagan. "That really appeals to me, doing a great show every night."

Flanagan gets to improvise, "play some 50s-style hawking and squawking tenor sax," and has some featured parts and solos in the show.

"The show, musically is simple, but it gets right to the heart of the time they are trying to portray, 1962," said Flanagan.

Flanagan also enjoys life on the road whether it’s performing in the orchestra pit wearing a dress shirt, shorts and flip-flops after spending a day on the beach in Atlantic City or handing out Red Sox baseballs as gifts after a show in Japan.

Flanagan alternates playing two of his favorite instruments at performances, a 1938 Selmer sax and a 1950s Mark 6 tenor sax, also a Selmer.

"Wind players have incredibly expensive tools," said Flanagan. "My monthly instrument insurance bill is more than my monthly cell phone bill."

Although he is used to playing in an orchestra for as many as 5,000 people at a performance of "Hairspray," Flanagan said that playing in a four-piece chamber ensemble for 50 people is just as important an experience for a musician.

"You realize you have to communicate something and you have to play your best," said Flanagan. "That’s your time to shine."

Flanagan spent two years as a musician on the Queen Mary 2 which took him to many exotic ports, and he plays with several R&B and jazz bands in Massachusetts and New York when he is not touring. He also plays and records with Jupiter Circle, a chamber group.

"I really love the traveling and I like playing big shows," said Flanagan. "What a great life."

Tickets for "Hairspray," for matinee and evening performances April 25 - 27, priced $32 to $72, are available at the Citi Performing Arts Center Box Office, online at www.citicenter.org or by calling 866-348-9738.