View older WBT Blog Archives

WBT Blog

Monday, October 19, 2015

Meet Inga Ballard as Queenie

Posted by: pia on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Inga (as Queenie)  with Michael James Leslie (as Joe)

I grew up in Sacramento, CA where my father was the Technical Director of the Eaglet Theatre which is now the Sacramento Theatre Co.  In the summer we saw shows at Music Circus.  Prior to that both of my parents worked for the Karamu Theatre in Cleveland, OH.  My mother was the Director of Children's Theatre and my father was the Technical Director and they both occasionally worked as actors.  I saw lots of shows as a kid. 

When my mother realized that I was serious about having an acting career, she told me go to college and audition for everything.  She's my mentor!

Show Boat is one of those shows that every actor knows something about.  I played Queenie in a production at Sacramento Music Circus in 2001.  I've seen the version with Ava Gardner as Julie.  That is the role Lena Horn was originally supposed to play.  I've also seen clips of the 1937 Paul Robeson, Irene Dunn and Hattie McDaniel version.

I Like working at WBT.  The staff is professional and the audiences are very enthusiastic.  Also we get to come home every night.

My favorite Musicals are: Hairspray, Ragtime, Chicago, and Gypsy.  My dream role would be anything written for a low alto!

When not on stage I like seeing more theatre, films and dance companies. I listen to  Lots of Brazillian Jazz and R & B.

Meet Karen Murphy a Parthy

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 19, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


I was born in White Plains and grew up in New Canaan, CT. I took tap/ballet at Miss Margaret' s School of Dance in White Plains. In High School I had spectacular teachers who encouraged many students to pursue the theatre, A classmate of mine (Michael Krass) just got a Tony Nomination for Costume Design! My parents went to the theatre and show albums/play bills were around the house. I also had a great voice teacher in New Canaan and I was influenced by women on TV such as Leslie UggamsPhyllis Diller. I was also a semi-finalist for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour.

To prepare for these intense roles, I am usually cast for at WBT, I look to literature, photographs, movies and people on the street. I knew when I was 3 that I could sing and knew I'd spend my life doing so. Comedy came easy, perhaps because I had 5 siblings to navigate. I've seen BOTH film versions of SHOW BOAT and read the book. I did SHOWBOAT at Goodspeed Opera House where it was the TOP in ticket sales of their 50 year history.

There are many things I enjoy about WBT. A great crew, Rainbow Coalition audiences, a chance to perform roles not available to me on Broadway and I get every Monday and Tuesday off! My favorite shows are Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, The King And ICompany, The Sound Of Music, and Carousel. My dream roles are Rose in Gypsy and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Anna in The King And I.

When I am not at work, I spend time with family and friends, take lessons, watch TCM, read the NY Times, and go to museums. I have everything I my IPod...classical to Beatles to pop.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sarah Hanlon as Julie "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man!"

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Sarah (as Julie Laverne) in Show Boat.

I grew up in East Bethany, New York, a small town between Buffalo and Rochester. It was a lovely place to grow up for someone who loves nature as much as I do.  My home is nestled in the woods a mile down the road from our closest neighbor.  We had a pond in our back yard where summer swimming frequently happened, in spite of the snapping turtles.   The town's location was also within an hour's drive to great theater in Buffalo and Rochester.  I really feel like I had the best of both worlds, between the big city and rural living.  I had a plethora of pets ranging from cats and dogs to horses, and a floppy eared  bunny named Gigi.  

Performing is something I always wanted to do.  I grew up in a family that loved theater and performing.  My Dad would sing Oklahoma while walking me to the bus stop in the morning.  I think my grandmother also influenced me greatly.  She was a beautiful ballerina. In her late teens, she ran away from home and joined the circus, becoming an elephant rider.  We still have pictures and pay stubs from her time with the Barnum and Bailey circus. I always imagined running away and joining the circus, just like her.  I'm sure my parents are grateful that this did not happen, and that there were plenty of performing opportunities within our small community to keep me occupied.   I also had an amazing mentor in school, Mrs. Nelli, my high school English & Theater teacher.  She exposed me to every facet of theater, set design, makeup, acting, singing, Shakespeare.  She helped me figure out who I am, and what I wanted to be.

When I was in my early teens, my mother took me to see Show Boat for my birthday.  Show Boat had always been her favorite musical and she wanted to share her love for it with me.  I was so happy that my mom didn't bring my brother or sister along. It was just time for the two of us to share this together.  I fell madly in love with the show and made my Mom buy me the cast recording on our way out. I still have that tape, and will always cherish it.  I distinctly remember being captivated by the character of Julie.  Though, at that age, I did not completely understand her love and sacrifice, I remember being affected on an emotional level that has stayed with me throughout my life.  And, yes I've seen all the film versions.

As far as Stage Musicals being made into movie/tv musicals? I think it is great to bring the theater to the big and small screen.  It gives people who wouldn't normally want to or have the means to see a Broadway show the chance to see something magical.  What saddens me is that amazing stage performers are often overlooked during the casting process to favor a Hollywood name instead.  Part of what makes these shows so magical are the performers who live and breath these parts every day; who grew up with these stories, characters, and songs.  We should be creating the best performance possible and not be so focused on the marketing.

I haven't done any shows at WBT but so far this has been an amazing experience. And I hope they have me back again someday soon.

Obviously Show Boat, this show and role have been on my bucket list since I saw the tour.  I'm so fortunate to be able to finally take this on, and in such an amazing setting with a spectacular cast and crew.  I also love West Side Story, Man of La Mancha, Next to Normal, Hair, Oliver, and Sweeney Todd.  

When not on stage, I love anything that allows me to express myself creatively.  I really love baking and I spend way too much time watching Food Network and Youtube cooking shows, looking for new recipes.  I'm a fitness buff and enjoy weight training, yoga, and jogging.  I also volunteer whenever I can.  There's a local church that runs a soup kitchen that I'm proud and grateful to be a volunteer at.  I love traveling. I have been to every continent on this planet, and my next goal is to visit Ireland and Iceland.  

On my iPod? Right now I'm really into Elle King, but my all time favorite group is QueenFreddie Mercury is a golden god. Growing up, I took great amusement in torturing my brother with repeat listenings of Bicycle, by Queen. 


Monday, October 12, 2015

Meet Michael James Leslie ... He Keeps on Rollin' Along!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 12, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Michael James Leslie plays Joe in Show Boat..  He sings the musical's most famous song, "Ol' Man River". Joe is a sort of one-man, singing "Greek chorus", who comments in song by comparing what is going on in the story to "Ol' Man River", who "just keeps rollin' along".


Michael with Inga Ballard (as Queenie)

I am from Brielle, New Jersey on the Jersey Shore.  I went to Brielle Grammar School, Manasquan High School, graduated Rutgers College and Cornell Law School.  I was raised with a single mother with 7 siblings.  She believed very strongly in education and hence there are 2 lawyers, 1 doctor, a psychiatric nurse, and an architect in the family.  

My mother loved the theater and frequently took me to concerts, stage plays, and night club acts such as The Supremes, Lena Horne etc.  My first show that I saw was the Pearl Bailey/Cab Calloway "Hello Dolly" and I was hooked.

 I have known about this musical since childhood.  I was also aware of Paul Robeson because there were similarities in our lives.  We both went to Rutgers, were members of the Rutgers Glee Club, we both went to law schools but opted for show business instead.  Our birthdays are 5 days apart.  I have seen both movies but prefer the 1936 version with Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniels, Helen Morgan, and Alan Jones.

 Stage Musicals made into films? In most cases, they have not been very good because Hollywood opts for "names" rather than true musical talent.

WBT is an interesting theater with some challenges, not the least of which is the stage.   The thing I care most about when doing a show is being respected which has to be earned as well as given. 

Some favorite show are The Drowsy Chaperone, Something Rotten, The Book of Mormon, Company, Dreamgirls, A Little Night Music, Ragtime.  Dream role: Sweeney in Sweeney Todd.

 When you're not on stage, I enjoy Listening to music, working on my voice (a continual process), watching old black and white movies.

 I love all music as long as it is good.  So I listen to everything from Opera to jazz, to R&B, to country, to gospel and spiritual music.