Stories & Cast Interviews

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bill Nolte as Nonno Gino Barbieri does the MAMBO!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

    I grew up in Genoa, Ohio (farmland /near Toledo) loving the arts, especially watercolor painting, which I enjoy to this day. I didn't really think about having a career in the theatre until I went away to college as an Art major and discovered then that I also could sing and maybe make a living at it.  Transferring from Bowling Green State University to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music  I majored in Opera and minored in Musical Theatre, luckily getting to do both there, and deciding to move to NYC after graduation in 1976. 

 My mentor at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music was our opera director Italo Tajo, who had a big influence on my early creative life.  He gave me my first major leading role and the confidence to aim high.  Also, Maurice Levine at the 92nd St. Y believed in me and kept me singing for a decade with his popular “Lyrics and Lyricists” series. 

 I did a reading of MAMBO a few years back but I barely remember the experience.  We do so many developmental readings that go by so quickly. you remember very little - only that I had a gay son in the piece.  It has grown tremendously since then into a rich musical comedy with so much potential. 

I've worked on many NEW shows: The Secret Garden, King David, A Christmas Carol at MSG, Amour, Jane Eyre, and Annie 2 (which never made it to Broadway after dying a sudden death at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC).  It later morphed into Annie Warbucks - without me in it.  Jekyll and Hyde was the first World Premiere of a new musical I did at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. My role, Simon Stride was continually "re-written" and I chose not to go on with that show.  Children of Eden was an American Premiere that I did after it flopped in London.  It was an incredible experience that yielded a gorgeous show that has had a life regionally. I also love working at The York Theatre and have done many New Works there, my favorite being The Road To Qatar by David Krane and Stephen Cole. 

I  Loved the movie, Mambo Italiano and I've done a few musicals that have originated as films;  La Cage Aux Folles, The Producers, Oliver.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I did my first Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof here at WBT, a role I have done many times since. I love it more every time I do it.  It’s great to be back for Mambo and the challenge of working on a New Work in such a short amount of time (10 days).  I think we handled it splendidly and am very proud of our show.  WBT is also a 20-minute commute, door to door for me to Inwood / NYC which also makes it appealing. 

Some of my favorite shows are Fiddler On The Roof, The Most Happy Fella, a show I hope I get to do again in my career.  I'd love to have another crack at Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha which I did at the Goodspeed Opera House, where I also did Fella and Sweeney Todd. Straight acting roles are appealing as are film and TV roles  I think I have a great Edna in Hairspray in me. Tick tock. 

I also do a lot of volunteering for NY Cares, as well as being a regular artist with Dale Hensley at the AHRC (Association for the Help of Retarded Children) on Broadway Program presenting musical theatre productions featuring mentally and physically challenged young adults who love to sing, be on stage and musical theatre. I'm proud to have been a part of A Christmas Carol (Fezzywig), Beauty And The Beast (Maurice) and The Lion King (Mufasa) with them.

When not on stage, I enjoy gardening, cooking and bird watching.  I love traveling and I’m off to Spain and Portugal with my husband of 36 years in October.  I spend my winters in Las Vegas, where I own a home, so I enjoy the desert and exploring National Parks.  We've driven cross country many times and always try to stop in a new Park each way.  Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce, Zion, Yosemite to name a few. The Hot Springs in Arkansas was last year's treat on the way back to NYC. The government was closed down during our drive out West and so were the parks, so we caught it coming back. New Orleans and the Badlands were also standouts.  

I listen to podcasts often, mostly NPR.  Books on tape are a favorite too.  Dean Koontz's Misery made a 10-hour drive to northwestern Ohio seem like an hour.  I’m thrilled to be back at WBT working on this NEW SHOW.

 

Friday, July 26, 2019

ABOUT MAMBO ITALIANO

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

In 2009 after the successful launch of the musical adaptation of the cult 80s film called “The Toxic Avenger”, Tom Polum and I were brainstorming about other possible underlying works which could be adapted to the stage. Tom suggested an independent Canadian film called “Mambo Italiano” which we both thought was really hilarious. We fell in love with the characters, especially the roles of the older generation played by Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino. Tom pursued the underlying rights from the authors of the screenplay, Emile Gaudreault and Steve Galluccio (which was based on Steve’s stage play of the same name), through their wonderful agent, Nathalie Goodwin.

Although the film is based in Canada, we went about finding a setting for the show in New Jersey which we knew had a heavy concentration of Italian Americans. We headed to Hammonton, which boasts more than 40% of its population being of Italian descent. We stopped in St. Joseph Church grabbed a church bulletin and headed out to visit some of their advertisers including family-owned Bagliani’s Market. One of the sons in the Bagliani Family’s 4th generation shared many amusing experiences of working in an Italian-American family-owned business. We also attended the “Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,” an annual celebration dominated by food and families. We eventually made our way to Vineland, New Jersey, which is home to the Landis Theatre. It had been beautifully restored and they were preparing for an upcoming concert by Sicilian-American Bernadette Lazzara, also known as the actress Bernadette Peters!

Lori DiMatteo-Fiocchi, a board member on the Landis Theatre Foundation, organized a gathering of Italian-American mothers for us to chat with to learn more about raising Italian American kids in a very American culture. They generously shared their love of their culture and the trials and tribulations of raising kids caught between two cultures.

Michael Coco, our friend and director of theatre operations for the Shubert Organization suggested it was time to bring on lyricist Omri Schein and composer James Olmstead, the team behind the award-winning musical “Gary Goldfard, Master Escapist,” which had been highly praised in The New York Times for its irreverent book and lyrics and catchy music. We knew they would be perfect for Mambo. Michael also introduced us to Broadway professional Steve Edlund who served as an invaluable dramaturge on our team.

It has been a wonderful journey so far and we are excited about what the future holds. All shows need to go through significant development before heading to Broadway and we are grateful to Westchester Broadway Theatre’s Bob Funking, Bill Stutler, and Lisa Tiso for their wonderful producing team, and the warm and supportive audiences for making this World Premiere possible. Thank you!

Jean Cheever (for the Creative Team)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Maria Bilbao as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Miami, Florida and was raised by my mom and my abuela. My father was around for the first eight or so years of my life, and we lost contact once he moved to the Dominican Republic. I am so proud to come from a Cuban family and to have this culture engrained so strongly in my being. I spent a few years living in St. Kitts with my mother who was pursuing her dream by going to University studying Veterinary Medicine. While she was finishing her time at school, I moved back to Miami to live with my abuela and start middle school. I knew I wanted to pursue theater, so I then went to a performing arts high school where my love just continued to grow for this craft. My family has always supported my decisions in life, and have always pushed me to pursue my dreams and to never stop trying. 

 

The first moment I knew I wanted to be an actor was when I saw Jekyll and Hyde at the ripe age of seven (I know, dark show for a seven-year-old). I absolutely loved it and from that moment on I told my mom that I just had to be on stage. My mom has been a pivotal influence on me as she has always loved musicals. I remember watching so many shows with her at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami and blasting Once on this Island in the car singing the entire soundtrack. My mom got me involved in a community theater organization called Miami Children’s Theater, where I was able to perform in over 25 shows throughout my high school career and meet so many mentors who have helped shape me into the person I am today. And I can’t forget my amazing theater abuela who always went out of her way to put me in private lessons and classes so I could have the best education. 

 

I first heard of On Your Feet when they were having auditions in Miami Florida for the first time. I was actually on the news waiting in line to audition when channel 7 was doing a special on the auditions taking place. I think I was 17 years old at the time. Then I went on to see the show twice on Broadway with my aunt. I fell in love with the show, and I think I did so much because it reminded me so much of home. It was so beautiful to see people like me on a Broadway stage and to see a story I can relate to on such a personal level. My favorite part of the show was always the song Wrapped during Gloria’s surgery dream, but now my favorite moment is Famous. I love this moment so much because it’s her first real moment of stillness and it is so raw and full of emotion. 
This is my first time working with WBT. I absolutely love the staff and have loved working with the amazing creative team that was on this beautiful show.  I am in love with my cast that has become like a family to me throughout this process. 

 
My favorite shows are currently Hadestown (I am obsessed), Phantom of the Opera, Pajama Game, Kinky Boots, and many more. I lose track, haha. My ultimate dream role is Elphaba in Wicked as well as Christine in Phantom of the Opera

 

I really enjoy practicing yoga, it’s a passion of mine that just makes me feel so good inside and out. I also love to paint, sing when no ones home, and I love a relaxing glass of wine at my favorite wine bar with one or two good friends of mine (or even just myself). After 8 shows a week, it’s so important to rest and take care of your body and mental health. 


Right now I have been playing Hadestown non-stop on my Spotify account. If not that, you will ALWAYS catch me listing to Stevie Wonder or some amazing hits from the ’60s on. I have an old soul for music. I also listen to early 2000’s music, Latin love songs, some Lizzo, Beyoncé, and so much more. I have a very eclectic taste in music. 

  

 

 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Sandy Rosenberg returns as Consuelo in On Your Feet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in Brooklyn NY. First generation American. My grandma lived with us.  Very old school. I am a proud product of the NYC Public school system and I attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.

Being the youngest of 3, you try to find your own place in the hierarchy. I could always make people laugh so getting that reaction probably sowed the seeds of a career in entertainment. 

I believe I've always wanted to perform…from singing ‘RED RED ROBIN’ on top of a piano in the Catskills at age 5 to imitating TV commercials, to school plays. At synagogue, around 6th grade, I did move into the role of Tevye from Yente in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when Tevye had too much homework.  I was also the Fiddler as I took 50 cent violin lessons every Tuesday.  We also did THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the temple but because it was an orthodox temple, they rewrote history and there were no nuns….and I, as the rabbi’s wife sang CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN….and Maria became Miriam…it could happen.

I first heard of On Your Feet as it was getting ready to open on Broadway. There were a lot of interviews with the Estefans. I Never did this show before.  I Love listening to the glorious music. It just makes you happy.  

This is probably my 6th show here at WBT.  I played Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act. I was Carlotta in PHANTOM twice, I performed in one of the Christmas shows, and played Flo Manero in Saturday Night Fever. I Love the people who work at WBT. It feels like a family after all these years.

I’ve been going to the theatre since I was 5…. there are too many favorite shows to mention or even think about.  SWEENEY TODD is one of my favorite shows…. along with CANDIDE, HAMILTON, MAME….) Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd is a dream role but I don’t think I have the energy for it anymore. 

When not on stage, I love to cook, travel, do photography…rest, and play with my dog.

 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Meet Lauren Cosio in ON YOUR FEET

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 10, 2019 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Lauren plays Rebecca Fajardo, Gloria's younger sister in On Your Feet. She makes her Westchester Broadway Theatre debut! 

I grew up in San Antonio, TX to a Mexican/Israeli family. My mom's family is from Mexico and my father was born in Israel but grew up in South America. The Latin culture was a big part of my upbringing. I grew up listening to a lot of Gloria Estefan

When I was in the 6th grade, I was accidentally placed in choir. For years before that, I was a pianist and had no idea I could even sing. Once I started I couldn’t stop! A few months later, I was cast in my first musical Bye, Bye, Birdie and the rest was history. I guess you could say I got the theater bug!

I first saw this show in 2015 when it opened on Broadway along with a few more times before it closed. I grew up listening to Gloria Estefan, so this show always had a special place in my heart. I love how inspiring this show is. You see the struggles Gloria went through and how she never gave up. I also love the community it creates. Whether you are a part of the Latin community or not, this show will have you dancing and up on your feet by the end! 

On Your Feet is definitely one of my favorite shows! My dream role will always be Christine in Phantom of the Opera. It was the first show I ever saw on Broadway and the reason I pursued this career! 

I grew up with all different styles of music and definitely have an appreciating for everything. My favorite, however, is definitely some 80’s pop/rock!  

I am a huge foodie, so when I’m not on stage, you can definitely find me trying all the new restaurants in NYC! 

 

 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Meet Byron St. Cyr as Jose Fajardo in ON YOUR FEET!

Posted by: Lauren Silverstein on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

I was born in New Orleans but began moving around the country at the age of four. Every time a work promotion came the family usually had to move. Between then and now I’ve lived in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Florida, and Arizona (twice). I think moving like we did actually made it easier for me to make the bold choice to move to New York City. 

I actually was planning on becoming a professional saxophone player. But there always seemed to be some level of expression missing. It wasn’t until I did a summer high school drama program at NYU that I realized that acting could be a profession and that I could bring together my love for music and movement along with it. I’ve had so many wonderful teachers along the way. My high school drama teacher, James Fountain, gave me the confidence to move out here. Dorothy Stone took me under her wing and was my vocal mentor through my NYU days. I’m forever thankful for her pushing me to have that classical foundation because “If you can sing Mozart you can sing anything.” And most recently Diane Laurenson who’s dance class reminded me what I loved about performing after I had spent a long stretch away from the stage. It’s taken a lot of amazing teachers and mentors to get me to this point. 

I learned about On Your Feet when it came to Broadway as I had a friend in the original cast. This is my first time doing the show but I grew up listening to Gloria Estefan’s music. I have two favorite moments in the show. First Mi Tierra because I mean the song is an all time favorite of mine. I used to listen to that album on repeat. My other favorite is “When Someone Walks into Your Life”. It’s a moment that is all heart. 

This is my first time at WBT. I have to say the group of people brought together to make this show a reality is the best. The cast and crew work so hard and still have fun. It makes the hard work go faster because everyone is giving their all. 

It’s soo hard to choose my favorite show honestly. I’m currently in love with Hadestown. The Pulitzer Prize winning play Fairview shook my world last year. Pippin. The leading player is one of my dreams. That and Valentin in Kiss of the Spider Woman. 

I love reading. Taking in art of all forms. Nothing feeds me more than seeing other work that inspires me. I also enjoy a good lazy afternoon with a little tv. It’s good to slow down once in a while and I’m not so good at it haha.

I listen to a wide variety of music. Been delving into a lot of the soul music I grew up listening to as I start piecing together another cabaret concert. And a lot of jazz... Ella, Sammy, Sarah Vaughan, the greats.  

 

 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Meet Jose Luaces as Emilio Estefan in ON YOUR FEET!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Miami, Florida. My sister and I are first generation Cuban American. Growing up in such a melting pot like Miami really gave me a love for diversity and sharing in others cultures. At home we speak Spanglish! Whatever word comes out fastest in either language is used. I started singing in church choir then got bitten by the theatre bug shortly after. If theatre didn’t come into my life I would probably be in marine science.

I can trace each individual experience that put me on the track I’m on today. I remember my friend in 6th grade who asked me to join him and audition for the school choir. Then I remember the other friend who made me accompany her for the high school musical auditions. It’s those simple moments that change the course of life. 

I love telling stories and if they have a joke even better. Feeling an audience’s energy is exhilarating. Each audience is different, making each performance different and unique and special for that exact moment in time. 

My high school drama teacher Mr. Jimmy Puig would always say “do your best and damn the rest”. That saying holds true in sooo many aspects of life. Fun fact the amazing Maria Bilbao who plays Gloria in the show also went to my high school in Miami, Coral Reef Senior High.

A friend of mine had done an early developmental reading of this show before it went to Broadway. I auditioned for the ensemble for the pre-broadway tryout but it didn’t work out. I had always had my eye on this story because it hits very close to home for me. Like the Estefan’s, my entire family also emigrated from Cuba.  You hear so many parallel stories about how different people came to this country but really every family has those stories even if it’s dating back generations. 

I had never done the show before but I remember seeing the excellent actor Josh Segarra play Emilio on Broadway and wanting to do that role when the time was right. My favorite moment in the show is where we are in an airport and you see Emilio watch himself in a flashback scene the day he left Cuba. The way this scene is staged by the wonderful Donna Drake is magic.

This is my first show here WBT of what I hope to be many more. I enjoy the thrust stage because it allows you to be closer to the audience and to tell these stories more intimately. 

Playing Emilio is definitely a dream role. Others include the M.C. In Cabaret and Hedwig in Hedwig and The Angry Inch. 

My favorite shows tend to be plays. The best play I ever saw was August Osage County on Broadway. I don’t sit thru anything for 3 and a half hours but I was on the edge of my seat the entire time with that play. I also happened the see the Barrow Group's Our Town directed by David Cromer that same week and that moved me immensely, to the point that I called my parents at 11:30 pm right after the show and told them I loved them. Theatre has so much power to move people. 

I tend to do yoga frequently it helps me feel centered. If I had a yard I would definitely have a garden, for now, house plants are my outlet for that. I really enjoy trying interesting foods. Love diving into other cultures cuisine and finding the most authentic version of that in NYC.

My music taste is weird and too eclectic. Usually while walking around Manhattan I’ll be listening to the Edith Piaf station on Pandora. It makes New York have a little of that Parisian magic. Other times it’s on Nat King Cole station. I also love to Kiki with some House Music, or my recent find, artist Dayme Arocena, she’s an Afro Cuban Jazz singer.

 

Meet Karmine Alers as Gloria Fajardo in ON YOUR FEET!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem at 116th Street and 3rd Avenue. I have two sisters and two brothers. I am the youngest of five.

I always loved watching old movies with my mom and dad. So when a movie about the life of Judy Garland came on, and they called her the little girl with the big voice... I thought to myself, I want to do that one day! I loved her way of performing. 

I did the show from Its second reading all the way to the Broadway run. I became a swing on Broadway. When the show closed and went out on tour,  I was in the singing ensemble understudying the roles of Gloria Fajardo and Consuelo. 

This is my first time here at WBT. I love the stage, cast, crew, and the patrons. All have been welcoming and sweet.

I have so many favorite shows. From Rent, Spring AwakeningDear Evan Hanson and so many more. I love them all for different reasons. I’d love to play Heidi Hanson in Dear Evan Hanson. She seems like just the right amount of broken.

When I'm not on stage, I enjoy swimming, boating with my boyfriend, watching old movies, and playing word games.

I have all sorts of stuff on my iPod. But my favorite station is Ella Fitzgerald on Pandora. It puts me in a great place. 

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Pre-Opening behind the scenes!

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

ON YOUR FEET! 5/30 - 8/4 ONSTAGE AT WBT!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

About On Your Feet

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


On Your Feet is based on the lives and music of the Grammy Award-winning husband and wife team, Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The score is built around the Cuban-fusion pop music they made famous. Alexander Dinelaris, whose credits include the Academy Award-winning screenplay for “Birdman,” wrote the book. Both Gloria and Emilio left Cuba at an early age and met years later in Miami. Seeking a woman’s voice to join his early group, the Miami Latin Boys, Emilio Estefan found not only a star but also his wife. They had emigrated from Cuba to Miami to escape communist rule but remained devoted to the country’s music and culture. Gloria, the singer-songwriter entrepreneur has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. The Estefans inarguably were the first Florida-based Latin artists to really cross over into the English-speaking market for international pop. They won 26 Grammy awards between them.

Before talent agent Bernie Yuman suggested joining forces with the Nederlander organization in 2012, they had turned down a couple of proposals to create a musical. As a condition of their agreeing to go ahead with the show, the Estefans retained creative control. “It’s the perfect time to do a Latino story,” Emilio Estefan said. “More than that, it’s a story about the American dream.” Working on the musical caused Gloria to relive some painful, intense moments. “I got so emotional, I looked to my husband for support. He was crying like a baby already and I go, ‘God, are we going to do this? How are we going to do this?’ The connections that music makes are amazing…To me, it’s worth all the risks you take putting your life out there… Everything in the show is real, but it is done very theatrically and beautifully.”

They couldn’t have predicted how the conflict over immigration would heat up as it has. “The timing could not be more important to have the message out there about the positive contributions of immigrants,” Gloria Estefan said. “It’s a love story not just between him and me, it’s a love story to music and a love story to both our nations, the ones where we were born, Cuba, and the United States, that opened its arms to us,” the 61-year-old singer told Reuters. “I think our story is very much about dreams,” Emilio says. “People who come from different countries with proud heritages. It was very hard for us to get airplay — they wanted us to change our names. We struggled and I think we inspired minorities everywhere — not just from Cuba.” Gloria adds, “Music is the core. It got us, both Emilio and I, through our most difficult moments and it continues to enrich our lives.” She and Emilio have been married for 40 years.

After a pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago during the summer of 2015, On Your Feet! opened on Broadway on November 5, 2015. The Estefans were the executive producers. The musical is set to Estefan’s chart-topping, worldwide smash hits with one new original song written by her and their daughter, Emily Estefan. The musical received seven Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, three Drama League Award nominations and a Tony Award nomination for Best Choreography.

President Obama honored Estefan and her husband, Emilio, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

*Including excerpts from a Reuters Interview with Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Meet Patrick Tombs as Crutchie in Newsies!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I grew up in Binghamton, NY. It’s a small city in the Southern Tier. It’s known for having the most depressing weather ever! It’s gray and raining much of the time. I have four siblings - I’m second to youngest. My parents were always really supportive of us - whether it was sports, music lessons, all that stuff. My parents are still incredibly supportive and I’ll always be grateful for them.

I wanted to be an actor since I was little. My parents gave me and my siblings an immense appreciation for the arts. We had a tradition around Christmas: We would all camp out in the living room and watch 'The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.’ It’s this INCREDIBLE piece of theatre, 8 hours long, directed by Trevor Nunn, performed by Roger Rees and the Royal Shakespeare Company. I know that I’m an actor because of that show.

Another pivotal moment in my life was my first musical, at 15, ’Titanic, the musical.’ There was this wonderful program at Binghamton University called ’The Summer Youth Musical Theater Program,’ and it was kind of the place to be if you were a theater kid. You spent several weeks training and rehearsing a show as if it was professional. The standards were high. The stage director, Jim Lortz, was the first person to teach me anything about acting. He’s one of the most amazing, loving, kind people you will ever meet. He’s become a friend and mentor over the years, and you can see his students all over Broadway and the world. 

I’m really lucky to have many people in my life that have been mentors and invested in me artistically, spiritually, emotionally, and even financially. I couldn’t possibly name them all, but I think of my dear friend Judy Berry, who was my voice teacher for years and guided me through several tragedies. More recently, I’m grateful to have my acting coach, Scott Robertson. He’s a real giant of a man, and I feel so free to grow and be weird with him.

I remember hearing about NEWSIES when it was running at Papermill Playhouse. I saw some of the promo videos and was really impressed! I knew I’d play Crutchie someday.

I have done the show once before. Last year I was Crutchie in the production at Axelrod Performing Arts Center on the Jersey Shore. I had such a good time!! The creative team was out of this world, and are some of my favorite people to work with. 

I am familiar with the movie. I didn’t grow up watching it like a lot of kids my age, but it was on the radar. I think it’s great to take a film and rework it for the stage! With shows like Once, The Band’s Visit, Newsies, and The Lion King being such hits, how could you not love it? 

Les Miz has been my favorite show for as long as I can remember! I’m really bad at picking favorites, so I probably won’t ever feel differently.

I’m so lucky - Crutchie was one of my dream roles, and so was Quasimodo in Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I was able to do both roles last year. Moving forward, I really want to be Marius in Les Miz, Tobias in Sweeney Todd, Boq in Wicked, Evan in Dear Evan Hansen, and Smike in Nicholas Nickleby (if they ever revive it). And those are just for the next decade or so! I have another list of roles I want to play when I’m older. What excites me, even more, is the possibility of creating new roles.  

I’m a big old coffee snob, so I’m always hunting for that amazing espresso place. I love to cook when I have time. I also enjoy listening to and playing music - I’ve played the cello since I was 7 years old. 

I’m all over the place musically. Right now I’m really into Mumford and Sons - their lyrics rip into my heart. I also love Coldplay, Queen, Bastille, Nothing But Thieves, Sister Hazel, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Ed Sheeran has some great songs too. 

Meet Alec Cohen as Davey in Newsies!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I grew up in New Jersey about 35 minutes away from New York City. My whole family is from Westchester though! I was always traveling into the city as a kid, one to escape the suburbs and two to get great training.

I think community drew me to become an actor. I always felt most comfortable with people in the arts. From an early age, conversation was easier and I always enjoyed the passion that creatives share. I decided pretty early on that I was going to be an actor and haven’t really stopped training since.

I believe I first found out about Newsies when I heard they were doing it at Papermill. I remember being a not so great dancer at 16 but skipping school to go to the open dancer call and getting cut first round. My mom took my headshot in the backyard. It was humbling!! I got my equity card with the show at Music theater Wichita in Kansas, the summer of 2017.  

I like really irreverent shows. Ones with irony and a lot of heart. I love the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It is not pretending to be anything it’s not and it’s such a celebration of individuality and weirdness. I love that simplicity. On the completely opposite end of the spectrum, I think Cabaret is expertly written and so impactful. It shocks me and touches me every time I see it.

When I’m not performing, I’m doing a lot. I teach dance for students auditioning to be in college programs for musical theater, I do a lot of yoga, see a lot of drag shows and try to get to as many comedy shows as I can. I love living in New York City and really try to take advantage of as much as possible.

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Meet Bruce Crilly as Nunzio/Roosevelt in Newsies!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in northern NJ in a family of 11 children. My oldest brother (now a priest) was a very talented young actor who had a fascination for old movies - particularly the silent film comedians. When I was VERY young, he would pull me into skits that mimicked classic old comedy routines. My first time on stage was as a River City kid in a production of The Music Man that he was per morning in.

My fist exposure to ‘Newsies’ was running the sound board for a production at Curtain Call Theater in Stamford, CT - but this will be my first time performing in a production of the show.

 I am familiar with the movie and like most, I consider the stage musical an improvement. Assuming all such cross-overs were handled as well, I am all for the movie to stage transition. 

 I love Sondheim and my favorite Sondheim musical is Sweeney Todd. I have played the Beadle but I have always wanted to play Sweeney - though I am not the right type for the role. Another role I played when I was much younger was Tevye in Fiddler. Would love to play him again now that I am the right age!

When not on stage I enjoy singing, cartoon illustration, sampling great craft beer and spending time with my wife, friends and family.

This is my first production at WBT, and I hope I get to do one again.

 

 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Meet Mary Beth Donahoe as Katherine Plumber in Newsies!

Posted by: Serena Samzeemoi on Monday, April 29, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  I grew up the oldest of five siblings in Lakewood, Ohio, right outside of Cleveland! I was so lucky in that the Lakewood City Schools have incredible arts programming, so I was able to do multiple stage shows each year, choreograph and perform on the dance line for the marching band, and participate in extracurricular bands and choirs. All those activities fueled my love for performing and provided me with an incredible fundamental education in the performing arts.

I grew up seeing shows at PlayhouseSquare, the largest performing arts center outside of NYC, so I was introduced to and fell in love with theatre at a young age. When I was in high school, I volunteered there as a STAR Reporter, attending all the touring productions that came through Cleveland and reviewing each show, which feels suddenly very appropriate character study for my role as Katherine!

This is my first time doing Newsies, but I took tap, jazz, and ballet classes growing up did 'King of New York' for a dance recital once! I also saw the musical on Broadway a few years back and Katherine has been a dream role since.

The movie is a classic. I love that the stage musical explores more of the relationships between individual characters, which I think helps to give more of a glimpse into how the strike affected not only the newsboys, but their families and communities, as well. 

 

I'm a big tapper, so I have quite an affinity for tap shows! Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes is the ultimate dream role someday.

When I'm not on stage, I love to sew (I've been sewing since I was 10 and have two machines with me in my New York apartment), read (I love libraries), and do yoga (taking care of my body, especially while I'm performing, has to be a top priority)! 

My current favorite band is Lake Street Dive. Their music is upbeat, funky, clever, and is so energizing for me while I'm riding the subway or running around NYC!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Stuart Marland as Pulitzer in Newsies.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, April 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Stuart Marland began his professional career in 1979 as one of Disneyland’s “All American College Singers.” This summer marks the 40th Anniversary of that life-changing experience where he performed with 14 singer/dancers, a stage band and a marching band - all auditioned from across the USA.  

Stuart's professional affiliation with Disney continued when he was asked to join the Disney mascot group, “The Kids of the Kingdom,” performing for another 3 years on the stages of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. 

Many years later, he would return to his Disney roots, playing ‘Lumiere’ in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway. His Disney affiliation came full circle in 2012 when Stuart was asked to participate in the developmental workshop production of “Disney’s Newsies” in New York City. That presentation was followed by the full original production at Paper Mill Playhouse, where he created the role of ‘Snyder.’ A Broadway transfer followed, where the show won Tony Awards for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics) and Best Choreography. 

Stuart also understudied and performed the role of ‘Joseph Pulitzer’ during both the entire two-and-a-half-year Broadway production and for a 2-month contract during the record-breaking First National Tour.

Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production marks Stuart’s 6th “Newsies," including Arts Center of Coastal Carolina (directed by this production’s director, Mark Martino and choreographed by Shea Sullivan) and Broadway at Music Circus-Sacramento, where he played Nunzio, Snyder and Jacobi.

In addition to performing, Stuart has been an active fund-raiser with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, and a guest teacher with “Broadway Classroom” in New York City, where he teaches acting, singing, comedy for the stage and theatrical history workshops to young performers from around the World. Those workshops often include specialized sessions focusing on  “Newsies” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

 

'79 Disneyland’s “All American College Singers            “Beauty and the Beast” Marquee on Bway

  

“Newsies” Fundraising for Bway Cares/Equity Fights Aids         Closing performance of “Newsies” on Broadway 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Meet Daniel Scott Walton as Jack in Newsies!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I Grew up in Upstate New York, Rochester area with my Mom, Dad, and brother, Michael. I went to school in Brockport, just outside of Rochester. I Have always been heavily involved in music and theatre, performing in many plays/musicals 

Theatre was always in my bones. Loved playing different characters, dancing and singing around the house like a lunatic. All of my teachers over the years have been great mentors to me, but I particularly owe my college voice teacher, Kerry Deal, a tremendous amount of gratitude. Over the course of my 4 years at school, she patiently helped me find the voice that I am very proud of today.  She helped me break down the walls that I never thought possible.  

Funny story. Newsies was the very first musical that I performed in as a 12-year-old. A local community theatre put on a kids version of the movie, and I played Davey. I completely fell in love with the musical, I think I sang the songs around the house for the next 2 years non-stop. I then got to be in the show again 2 years ago at Tuacahn Center of the Arts in St. George, Utah. I played Davey and understudied Jack Kelly. So. this is my third official time in the show and it still doesn't get old. I feel very fortunate that I have gotten the chance to play both Davey and Jack. 

I performed as Frank Schultz in Show Boat at WBT 3 years ago here at WBT, as well as two of the previous Christmas shows.  I love working here, the WBT family have been very great to me, we tease each other constantly and it always feels like home. 

I did know the movie. I performed a staged version of the movie over a decade ago and that is when I first saw the movie. I loved what they did when they finally made it into a full stage version. 

I have many favorite shows and dream roles, but a few that pop out are Miss Saigon, Come From Away, and recently Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

A few dream roles are Finch in How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and Mark in Rent.

I am the Finance Manager of a Broadway driving company which I very much enjoy doing when I am not acting. It fuels the finance side of my brain that I definitely got from my family. I also love playing card games/board games with friends, exercise, and catching up on my guilty pleasure tv shows. 

I listen to a wide variety of music, but a few friends recently labeled my taste in music as "Underwater music". Artists like Maggie Rogers, Sara Bareilles, Troye Sivan Khalid, and Yebba are some of my favorites. 

  

 In Showboat                       In  Cristmas Inn                                  In  The Christmas Voyager

 

 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Anita Welch is keepin ' out of mischief in Ain't Misbehavin'

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, February 11, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I’m a California girl born and raised.

I fell in love with theatre when I was a young girl. My father introduced me to musicals and he and I would rent musicals on tape from the public library. My all time favorite was the 1999 film version of Annie

As for singing- music always had a huge presence in my household growing up. I had Chronic Asthma as a child and spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. My parents put me in voice lessons to help me learn breath support and to strengthen my lungs. Anytime I was afraid my mother would ask me to sing a song. Music helped shape who I am. 

I learned about Ain’t Misbehavin' while I was  studying at AMDA. I worked in the school library and went through a stage where I would watch the 1978 recorded performance they had on copy over and over. 

Ain’t Misbehavin' also happened to be my first equity show. I had the pleasure of doing this show about nine years ago. And get this! I was along side my current co-star Tony Perry! I’m thankful to be doing this show again. This time directed by the creator Richard Maltby Jr! Also working with assistant director A. Curtis Farrow, and Music director Billy McDaniels.  DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON MY LOVE FOR THIS CAST! 

I love the show Dear Evan Hansen. When my friend Charley and I went to see it we were enthralled. But, I can’t really choose a favorite. I also love The Color Purple, Porgy and Bess, and of course Ain’t Misbehavin'. 

As for my dream role, I don’t think it exists yet. It is my dream to originate a role on Broadway. To play a character that touches the lives of those who see it; One that is three dimensional and dynamic. I’ve been fortunate enough to originate some wonderful women in new works. 

When not on stage, I spend time with my dog. I have a beautiful chocolate Labrador named Chance. He makes life fun and reminds me to smile and live in the moment.

My partner and I just made a playlist on Spotify for our game nights titled “The Everything”.  Lately pre-show, I’ve been listening to music that nourishes my soul like India Arie’s "Songversations."

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Richard Maltby Jr. Honored at WBT

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Richard Maltby Jr. (left) with A. Curtis Farrow.

The AUDELCO BOARD OF DIRECTORS SPECIAL PIONEER AWARD is presented to Richard Maltby, Jr.
Celebrating 40 Years of the Musical Ain't Misbehavin' and how your creation has touched humanity  through the music of Thomas Wright "Fats" Waller.

The award was presented by Curtis Farrow on February 1, 2019 at Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, NY.

The AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee, Inc.) is an organization that acknowledges and honors Black Theatre and its artists in New York City. Established and incorporated in 1973 by Vivian Robinson (1926-1996), to stimulate interest in and support of performing arts in black communities. Developing relationships with individuals, local groups, churches, and other organizations to introduce new audiences to non-profit performing arts. The annual Vivian Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition, “The VIV”Awards are the only formally established awards presented to the black theatre community. 

AUDELCO’s Young Audiences Series addresses the need for positive cultural experiences for children between the ages of 10-17.  This series provides entertainment and cultural experience for the youth in non-academic settings. The Black Theatre Archives: A collection of books, tapes, original scripts, costumes and set designs, photographs, playbills and extensive clippings on current theatre groups and activities. Their many Seminars, Lectures, and Forums address the general awareness about the contributions of Blacks in the cultural and socio-economic environment. They publish two publications; Intermission, (A newsletter to stimulate interest in the performing arts) and The Overture (a black theatre magazine to document exciting work done by Black theatre artists.)

Richard Maltby, Jr. Broadway: Conceived and directed two Tony Award Best Musicals: Ain't Misbehavin' (1978: also, Tony Award for Best Director); FOSSE (1999:). Director/lyricist: BABY (1983); Lyricist: BIG (1996). Co-lyricist: MISS SAIGON (1989); THE PIRATE QUEEN (2007). Director/co-lyricist: SONG & DANCE (1986); Director: RING OF FIRE (2006); THE STORY OF MY LIFE (2009). OFF-BROADWAY: Director/lyricist STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW (1977) and CLOSER THAN EVER, (1989). Director: JUST JIM DALE, Roundabout Theatre (2014), VAUDEVILLE, London (2015). REGIONAL: Lyricist, TAKE FLIGHT, Chocolate Factory (2010), McCarter Theatre (2012); book/lyrics, WATERFALL, (Pasadena, Seattle (2015). FILM: Screenplay, MISS POTTER, (2007). Contributes cryptic crossword puzzles to Harpers Magazine. Son of well-known orchestra leader; Five children: Nicholas, David, Jordan, Emily and Charlotte.    

Meet Amy Jo Phillips in Ain't Misbehavin'

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan, I was bi-racial before it was popular.

I attended the high school of Music & Art.  Though I auditioned as a pianist for both M & A and The High School for Performing Arts and chose M & A so that I could become a vocal major. I first started doing theatre at Ithaca College, specifically with Kuumba Repertory Theatre, where I performed as well as served as Musical Director for 3 years. 

My mentor was my late acting teacher Robert Elston. I first studied with him at HB studios (during summer breaks from college) and continued with him when he opened his own studio/theatre (American Renaissance Theatre). 

Aside from making my Broadway debut in Hal Prince's Show Boat, one of my fondest memories was the process of being cast as Bloody Mary in national tour of South Pacific (starring Robert Goulet) at the age of 27. I vividly remember not going to the Equity principal auditions because they were looking for someone between the ages 35-50. I finally went to an open understudy call for the role of Liat, thinking I might be able to understudy both Liat (not knowing she was a dancer) and Bloody Mary. I was requested to sing “Bali H'ai” by the casting director (Stuart Howard) and then asked where I had been and what made me finally come in. My response was "Little Shop of Horrors" (I was a vacation swing for the off-Broadway show at the time) and that I thought I could be an understudy. Stuart said that they already had a Bloody Mary understudy, but they were still looking for their Bloody Mary. I was given a callback to sing/read for the producers and director (the late Ron Fields). After singing and reading for the powers that be, I was asked how old I thought Bloody Mary was. All I can say, is that God gave me my answer, 32 with an explanation as to why. It must have been good enough, because by the time I got home from the callback, there was a message on my answering machine telling me that I had the job!

I saw the original Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway while I was still in school. I fell in love with it and saw that there was a place for me in theatre (specifically Armelia McQueen), if nothing else, I could do this show.  I’ve done the show with several companies. The last full production was in 2003 at Papermill Playhouse in NJ.

I did South Pacific here at WBT in 1997 as Bloody Mary. The staff is wonderful, they do wonderful productions, and it is close to home (NYC). 

Favorite shows? Ain't Misbehavin’, South Pacific, Little Shop Of Horrors, and new favorite, In The Heights. I have been blessed to do a lot of my dream roles, but one that I haven't done yet is Serena in Porgy & Bess.

When not on stage, I love going to see friends perform, theatre, cabaret etc... just being supportive. I love film, and currently taxes (I also do tax preparation/consulting) I listen to R&B, Jazz, Gospel, and theatre music… like many, I'm a Hamilton junkie!

 

 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

This Joint Is Jumpin' with The Music Of Fats Waller!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz, the musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' premiered in 1978 on Broadway as a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance, when black musicians played at Manhattan clubs frequented by members of high society.
Thomas “Fats” Waller rose to international fame during the Golden Age of the Cotton Club and that jumpin’ new beat, swing music. He was a legendary composer, singer and comedian, picking up the nickname “Fats” because of his girth, Waller was famous for his Harlem stride piano style — alternating bass notes with the left hand and melody with the right — which laid the groundwork for jazz piano.

Waller made is first recording in 1922 and was a prolific songwriter, composing many familiar songs such as “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” both with his most frequent lyricist Andy Razaf.
By 1926, he was so popular that while at an engagement in Chicago he was kidnapped to appear at Al Capone’s birthday party. He wrote for the early all-black Broadway shows Keep Shufflin' (1926), Load of Coal (1928), and Hot Chocolates (1929). Waller headlined several radio shows, most notably “Rhythm Club,” which featured Fats Waller and his Rhythm Sextet. Later he composed Early to Bed (1943), the first non-black Broadway show composed by an African American. Over the course of his lifetime, Waller published more than 400 original songs.

One day in the Dayton, Ohio Public Library, A teenaged boy by the name of Murray Horwitz, checked out Fats Waller's album Valentine Stomp. He realized Waller was the greatest jazz pianist who ever tried to make people laugh, and the greatest comedian who ever played jazz.
He partnered with lyricist and director Richard Maltby Jr., and helped to create Ain’t Misbehavin’. The show combines songs that Fats Waller composed, collaborated on, or recorded in his signature style. The reason for the success of the show, Murray Horwitz insists, "was overwhelmingly the excellence and universal appeal of Fats Waller.”

It was a process of putting Fats Waller's music, his wit and his gargantuan personality on the stage -- it was a kind of play-writing all the way through, using those five characters to represent Waller.” Said Richard Matlby Jr. “It's all about dealing with an unfair world. This is a world in which black artists had to use the back stairs rather than the lobby. They never complain about it, they deal with it with language.”

The original Broadway production of Ain’t Misbehavin’ opened on May 9, 1978 and ran for 1604 performances. It won that year’s Tony Award, Outer Critics’ Circle Award and Drama Desk Award, all for Best Musical. Nell Carter, Ken Page, Andre DeShields, Charlaine Woodard, and Armelia McQueen starred in the original production. Richard Maltby Jr. was the director, Arthur Faria, an expert on 1930s dance, choreographed the show and Luther Henderson, who adapted Waller's music for the revue, was the production's original pianist. 

Today, Ain’t Misbehavin’ retains its popularity as an energetic, musically rich show. Over sixty years after Fats Waller’s last performance, new audiences are meeting and falling in love with him again.

“Fats gives us a way to make sense of modern life. What is even more astonishing is that he makes us smile – and often laugh – as he does it,” said Murray Horowitz.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A CHRISTMAS CAROL The Musical returns for 2018 Holiday Season

Posted by: pia on Friday, December 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 A wonderful Holiday treat to delight all ages! This new musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens Classic features an original score as well as many of the traditional carols we love to sing! See Scrooge and Tiny Tim and all of the timeless characters we’ve all grown to know & love. And this version includes a surprising new twist! With a large cast, look for colorful production numbers and lots of dancing! An uplifting evening of holiday cheer!

Starring David Edwards as Mr. Scrooge!
  

 

Book by John Fanelli  And Original Music and Lyrics by George Puello

David Edwards will star as Ebenezer Scrooge. Emma Barishman, Sarah Colt, Joseph Cullinane, Courtney Lynn Curry, Jackson Fanelli, Rachel Gifford, Alex John Johnson, Alexandra Milbrath, Joey Sanzaro, Brandon Shockey, Edward Simon, Daniel Walstad, will star as the other memorable Dickens characters.

Guest starring is a local group of musically talented performers ages 10 – 17, who are trained in Voice, Dance, and Theater.

Directed by John Fanelli, Musical Direction by Julianne Merrill, Musical Staging by Joseph Cullinane, Lighting Design by Andrew Gmoser, Set Design & Technical Direction by Steve Loftus, Sound Design by Mark Zuckerman, Costume Design by Keith Nielsen, Victor Lukas Is the PSM, Props by Grumpy's Props.

DAVID EDWARDS (Scrooge) returns to the stage at the Westchester Broadway Theatre has appeared in 12 productions including as Albin in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, Don Quixote in MAN OF LA MANCHA, and as Scrooge in several versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  He also directed THE PRODUCERS and HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at WBT.  Broadway and National Tour credits include THE ROTHSCHILDS, THE PRODUCERS, and BY JEEVES.   He starred Off-Broadway in ROOM SERVICE, BITTERSUITE, and IONESCOPADE among others, and was the final “El Gallo” in the history-making original run of THE FANTASTICKS.  Regionally he has played everything from Moliere to Stoppard, Porter to Sondheim.  His film and TV appearances include BELLY, THE FANTASTICKS: TRY TO REMEMBER, and MESHUGGAH-NUNS.  David is also an award-winning theatre director and can be heard on many cast albums and a solo CD “David Edwards Giving Voice…” available on iTunes and Amazon.

JOHN J. FANELLI is thrilled to be returning to Westchester Broadway Theatre to direct A Christmas Carol. John holds a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of California, San Diego. Mr. Fanelli has had more than twenty successful years directing, teaching and creating programs for thousands of young people in theatre arts from California to New York. John is the Founder/Artistic Director of Lighthouse Youth Theatre and Standing Ovations Studios in Armonk NY.

 

 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Original Cast recording of PHANTOM!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 24, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Many of our cast members of the 1992 production are in this recording, singing the glorious Yeston score! Check it out!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Roger Preston Smith returns to WBT in PHANTOM.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   I  grew up in the country outside the small town of Loveland, Ohio about 45 minutes outside of Cincinnati.  I spent a lot of time on my own working the fields and garden and our roadside vegetable stand.  During those hours in the field, I would often get lost in daydreams singing and dancing.  I still don't understand where my desire came from but it was there as long as I can remember.  When I was six, I found a  brochure from the  PTA.  They were offering dance lessons for 50 cents.  I begged my parents to allow me to take tap and I guess the rest is history.  They never really understood what I was doing but they were always supportive.

I spent the first 20 years of my career as a dancer.  Originally I just wanted to be a concert dancer and was a member of several Ballet and Contemporary companies.  In my 30's I began doing Musical Theater and because I didn't look like a chorus boy, I was often given the small speaking parts and understudying principal roles.  This allowed me to extend my career long after most dancers have retired. Even though I still sometimes serve as the dance captain, I am primarily hired as an actor now.

I was aware of this version of  "Phantom" but had never seen it or even heard the score before.  I saw the Broadway version right after it opened and was somewhat unimpressed.  I felt that the show was more about the spectacle than actually telling a story.  In fact, I remember very little about it except the chandelier.  I have been pleasantly surprised with how beautiful and lush the music is in the Yeston version.  I also love the fact that you find out how the Phantom came to be.  It makes him a more real and sympathetic character.

This is my 11th production at WBT.  It's always great to be able to work and still live at home.  Plus you know the shows are going to be high quality.  After, so many shows, the people here have become like a family to me.  I'm always happy to come back.

I think my favorite show is Pippin.  It opened around the time that I arrived in NYC.  I had never seen anything like it.  The tickets booth had also just opened and I bought 1/2 price tickets 12 times to see Pippin.   "Dear Evan Hanson" and "Come From Away" are my favorite contemporary shows.  My dream roles would be Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" and Fagin in "Oliver".  I have understudied Hook several times but never got to go on.  Luckily I was able to perform Fagin for a week but would love to get the chance to do again for a longer period and really develop the character

I'm an avid Cyclist and also love going to the gym.  But my biggest passion is travel.  Luckily my career has taken me around the world and I have friends throughout.  I try to do at least one international trip for at least a month each year.  I want to travel while I'm still able to hike and climb and really enjoy myself

I enjoy Classical music, Musical Theater, and Jazz.

 As Jean-Claude (center) in PHANTOM.

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

James Van Treuren returns as Gerard Carriere in PHANTOM!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  I was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in the neighboring town of Hawthorne. My twin brother and I were always interested in the theater and although our parents knew nothing about show business at all they were always very supportive.

During high school and college we would travel to New York and I was able to see some of the great Broadway Musicals of the day including, "Fiddler on the Roof," "Hello Dolly" (starring Ethel Merman), “Promises, Promises”, and of course my first Sondheim musicals the original casts of "Company" and "Follies." Experiencing these amazing shows at a young age surely helped solidify my love of musical theatre. On a personal note, I actually saw my life’s partner Peter (40 years and counting) in that production of “Fiddler” on Broadway, even though we didn’t meet until years later.

In this production, I’m playing Gerard Carriere for the second time. I have a long history of  WBT’s productions of “Phantom” since I have been in all four productions dating back to 1992. Westchester Broadway has been like a second home to me. I’ve appeared in 14 productions starting with “Annie” in 1983 at An Evening Dinner Theatre. Some other WBT shows include, “Funny Girl”, “Jekyll and Hyde”, “South Pacific”, “Kiss Me Kate” and the list goes on. I’m extremely grateful for the years of work, and the friendships I have made here. 

Getting back to talking about this show, I hesitate to compare the two most popular versions of “Phantom” since they are so different from each other. I am much more familiar with the Yeston/Kopit version so I can say what makes this show so entertaining and exciting is its beautiful score and libretto that is so emotionally complex and compelling. My character is (hopefully) a great surprise for the audience, especially in Act II, which makes him very interesting to play. His storyline ultimately is as tragic and moving as the Phantom’s.   

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway and many Regional Theatres. I’ve played many of my “dream roles” including, Don Quixote, in “Man of La Mancha',  Emile de Becque in “South Pacific', Georges in “La Cage Aux Folles”, and Captain Hook in “Peter Pan”. In other words, I’ve been around for a while but I’m not ready to hang up the towel yet. I love to work and I’m so lucky to be able to do what I love.

When I’m not on the stage we love to travel. We just got back from a fabulous European cruise this past summer and we’re looking forward to a Caribbean cruise this December when we are on our hiatus from “Phantom”!

 
As Carriere with Matthew Billman as Erik.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Kilty returns as Alain Cholet in PHANTOM

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, September 28, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born in Charlotte, NC.  I was raised in North Carolina by Midwestern parents (Chicago).  So the rules that applied in my home didn’t always apply outside.  For instance, when responding to an adult in Southern culture, it is polite to reply with a Ma’am or a Sir.  When I would respond to my mother with a "yes, ma’am”, she would tell me not to take that “tone” with her.  Ah, cultural differences.

My mother is a huge fan of theatre.  I was raised listening to Leonard Stallman’s New Faces of 1952.  What do you mean you don’t know it?  Later on, Annie and A Chorus Line were thrown into the mix. My mother also put together Vaudeville Shows for the Church Fall Festival.  And we always had a piano player at the house when my parents threw big parties.  Clearly, there was no hope for me.

I took class with a Meisner teacher who taught out of the old Carnegie Hall Studios.  His name was Fred Kareman.  He made a lasting impression on me.

My father always joked when I started working professionally, “It’s about time that loud mouth made you some money!”  He was right.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew there was another version of Phantom Of The Opera, but I had never heard, seen or read it. Arguably. I think this one is the better version.  Much more story, connection, and humanity.

I've done several shows at WBT; Carousel, West Side Story, Funny Girl (twice), And The World Goes ‘Round, Happy Days, Christmas Inn, Mamma Mia, and Annie Get  Your Gun.  I love that I can work and live at home (that is the dream).  Also, after many years and many shows, WBT feels like a family to me.  They gave me one of my first jobs as a new Equity member and have always been kind enough to let me return.  

 Some of my favorite shows include The Most Happy Fella, Once on This Island, The Scottsboro Boys, Light in the Piazza, Fiddler on the Roof, Drowsy Chaperone.. just off the top of my head!

My dream role is Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Albin in La Cage aux Folles and I want another shot at Alfie Byrne in A Man of No Importance.

When not on stage, I spend my time trying to find a way on stage!  I listen to tons of musical theatre.  I love podcasts…“This American Life”, “The Moth”, “Ronna and Beverly”, and many more.

 As Alain Cholet with Sandy Rosenberg as La Carlotta.

 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Meet LA CARLOTTA, Sandy Rosenberg!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and am a product of the NYC Public School system.    I attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. My parents always loved going to Broadway shows and I inherited that love

 I believe I always wanted to perform…from singing ‘RED RED ROBIN’ on top of a piano in the Catskills at age 5 to imitating TV commercials, to school plays….At synagogue, around 6th grade, I moved into the role of Tevye from Yente in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when Tevye had too much homework.  I was also the Fiddler as I took 50 cent violin lessons every Tuesday at school. But I never got accepted into the grade school talent shows. Hmmmm.
I’ve been aware of PHANTOM since 1994 when I performed the role of Carlotta at La Mirada Civic Light Opera, the Southern California premiere of the show. I reprised the role right here at WBT in 2007.  I love this version. I feel the audience gets to know and understand the Phantom without all the spectacle. 
 This is my fifth show at WBT.  First was Carlotta in PHANTOM, next HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the Christmas show,  Flo Manero in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER last year and most recently Sister Mary Lazarus in SISTER ACT. Love the people who work at WBT. It feels like a family after all these years.

I’ve been going to the theatre since I was 5….too many favorite shows to mention or even think about.  Would love to play Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD....one of my favorite shows, along with CANDIDE, HAMILTON, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, the current production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND and of course PHANTOM 

When not on stage, I love to cook, travel, do photography…hang out with the husband and the dog.

    with Kilty Reidy (as Alain Cholet)

6 Questions for Kayleen Seidl

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Kayleen is the Beautiful Christine in PHANTOM! Here she tells us a few interesting tidbits!

Where are you from? Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing?
I was born in Iowa but grew up from the age of 7 in Joplin, Missouri. Just your typical smaller Midwest town upbringing. I was a busy kid always involved in a bunch of extracurricular activities: dance, piano, sports, church youth group. I also spent lots of time at our community theatre while my mom was rehearsing shows. I then began performing in my school productions from 6th grade on and that’s when theatre and music started to really be a big part of my life. 

What influenced you to become an Actor? 
I definitely wasn’t one of those kids that knew from age 3 that they were going to be a performer. I always loved singing though and really enjoyed music and theatre. As I mentioned, my mom does theatre so I was around it a lot, and I think it was definitely in my blood. I wore out many CDs in the car...Footloose and Wicked just to name a few. My family took a trip to NYC when I was in 7th grade. I had a total Mary Tyler Moore moment stepping out of the car into Times Square between the two jumbotrons. I think I was hooked from that moment. On that trip, I saw my first Broadway show, Wicked and sobbed through all of “For Good” as a 12-year-old. But when I went to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I loved singing and Spanish, so I decided I’d study those things and see what happened.

Were you aware there was another "Phantom" musical out there prior to signing on? 
I knew this “other” version of Phantom existed and was somewhat familiar with a couple of Christine’s numbers, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge. Before this production, I hadn’t performed in either version. I don’t know Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera as intimately as I now know this version, but I’m partial to this one for sure. I think Yeston’s take on the character of the Phantom makes much more sense than the Webber version. The Phantom shouldn’t be sexy because he’s been isolated his whole life. He wouldn’t know how to be. It makes much more sense for him to be less experienced socially as Yeston depicts him. It’s much more realistic and makes you feel for him so much more. 

What are some of your favorite shows? What is your dream role?
Oh gosh. I’m the worst at picking favorites. Fill out your favorites surveys are my nightmare. Too many options to choose from. Some shows I’ve seen lately that I really love are Songs for a New World, Bright Star, Dear Evan Hansen, and A Play that’s Goes Wrong. The current revival of Once on This Island was also incredible. I also love the classic golden age shows like Guys and Dolls, Fiddler On The Roof (especially after my most recent experience with the Yiddish production), and everything Sondheim! 

Dream roles are always hard for me to choose because I always love a new experience and many roles tend to become favorites after I’ve really explored them. Some roles I would really love to play would be Glinda in Wicked, Marian in Music Man, Cinderella in Into the Woods, and Lily in Kiss Me Kate, Clara in Light in the Piazza, Julie in Carousel...the list goes on. There are just so many great roles out there! I had my first crack at a contemporary show recently (It Shoulda Been You) and loved it, so I’m excited to start sinking my teeth into some more contemporary roles as well! I’m sure there are more of my “favorites” out there waiting to be discovered! 

What do you enjoy doing when you're not on stage?
I love having game nights, whether it’s a night in with friends or my husband and I spending an evening at the board game bar, The Uncommons, down in the Lower East Side. Bananagrams is definitely one of my favorite go-to games, but there are just so many fun games ones out there!! 

 The biggest treat is when I have a chance to sneak home to my parents' lake house in Arkansas for some quality family time and R&R. It’s the perfect getaway! 

What music do you listen to?
Some days I’m in a Sara Bareilles mood. Some days call for Paramore. Rainy weather often leads me to Paolo Nutini or John Mayer, but honestly 9 times out of 10 it’s Y2K era country music. That’s what I grew up on, so that’s my happy place. 

 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Behind The Mask. Matthew Billman is The Phantom.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 13, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We asked Matthew Billman to give us a glimpse of the actor behind his mask... Here is what he shared with us!

To fully credit everyone who led me to where I am would fill a novel (this is probably true for the rest of the cast, as well), and claiming the record to be comprehensive would probably be a lie. I'll do the best I can to keep things short, but IN short - I'm the product of one heck of a village. 

I moved around a bit. I was born in San Diego, CA, and lived both there and in La Mesa until my 12th birthday. Then my family moved to Minnesota, where I spent Middle School and the first two years of High School, at which point we moved to Poway, a small city just north of San Diego. College was at Stanford University in Northern California, then I moved to NY!

My mother is a harpist and speech therapist, and my father is the director of medical safety for Rady Children's Hospital and a pediatric pathologist. I was raised with a dual passion for art and science, and have always been actively involved in both. My parents were and are the chief supporters and inspiration behind everything I do. 

I began singing at 4 years old as a boy soprano and joined the St. Paul's Cathedral Choristers just before 7 (they had to bend the rules to let me in - thanks Mr. Billups!) - St. Paul's got me involved in the San Diego Opera Children's Chorus, where I got to see what music on a large scale looked like (though honestly at that age I was more interested in the card games we played backstage, and the giant sword the executioner used in Turandot). 

When we moved to Minnesota, I joined the Minnesota Boychoir, which toured and collaborated with professional orchestras and choruses around the world. By the time we'd sung in the Lord of the Rings Symphony, I was completely hooked. Around this time I started doing the school musicals, and by the time I moved to Poway I had started singing solo; the musical population in Poway really supported me, and I started singing everywhere around the city - national anthems, graduation, competitions, fireworks displays. The public support there planted the seed that would ultimately lead me to do music in NYC.

At Stanford, I studied Human Biology (concentrating in Bioinformatics and Applied Stem Cell Science); outside of my studies, I joined the A Cappella group Fleet Street. Fleet Street focuses on writing and performing original a cappella music, usually comedic (but not always), as well as performing sketch comedy and producing short films to go with our twice-annual shows. The Fleet Street creative ethos massively transformed the way I saw art, music, and the obligations of creative individuals - I cannot overstate how much they informed who I am as an artist today. I joined the Stanford Ram's Head Theatrical Society, where I was lucky enough to play two awesome roles (Jean Valjean and Che - both under the direction of the incredible Sammi Cannold, who's now doing stuff on- and off-broadway). Sammi's family encouraged me to make the jump cross country to NYC, and... I did!

Besides all of the above who are inspirations, Edgar Billups and Martin Green at St. Paul's and Mark Johnson at the Minnesota Boychoir share the credit for solidifying my passion for singing. Without St. Paul's, I'd have never learned music in the first place, nor been exposed to the grandeur of classical and liturgical music; without the Minnesota Boychoir, I would have never experienced just how much modern classical music has to offer the world, nor the sense of community and purpose a single piece of music can engender in literally thousands of people in one moment.

Fleet Street absolutely was the principal influencer in the purely creative aspects of what I do. One of Fleet Street's music directors, who helmed the group in my Sophomore Year, summarized my credo best: 'Don't just consume resources and then die. MAKE something.'

Wendy Hillhouse was my voice teacher at Stanford, and she pushed me to look beyond my interest in Classical Crossover/Popera music and into some truly great modern composers. She pushed me into the world of competitive singing, which definitely helped convince me to give this whole 'professional singing' thing a shot! She's been the driving force at Stanford behind legitimizing and institutionalizing the (heretofore wholly student-led) musical theater scene, and I'm glad to have worked with someone so devoted to keeping music relevant in today's fast-paced, high-tech world. She's brilliant. 

After my Senior year at Stanford, Wendy convinced me to join OperaWorks in LA for their advanced summer program. OperaWorks teaches a hybrid of musical improvisation, classical technique, yoga, and acting. They instilled in me an appreciation for spontaneity in the creative process - in making art, there are no mistakes, just opportunities! Ever since I've incorporated some aspect of improv in what I do - it's amazing how much it can inform pretty much everything.

I was aware that there was another "Phantom" musical out there, yes - because I had accidentally auditioned for the one at Fireside Theatre thinking it was the ALW production! I sang 'Till I Hear You Sing' and everything!

I think both shows are great. I think the music in Yeston's show is much more varied, even more intricate in spots, and on the whole most of the Phantom's numbers (and most of Christine's) hold their own against ALW's, in some cases (here's looking at you, 'My Mother Bore Me') surpassing them. The Operetta format and style (as can be best seen in the opening number(s), the Count's song, the Phantom Fugue, and The Bistro) harken strongly back to older golden age theatre, even Gilbert and Sullivan, which can be refreshing, particularly to my parents' generation. Yet for that same reason, I worried early on that Yeston's Phantom might struggle more than ALW's show to connect with a younger audience. Thus far that's proven unfounded, and I've been surprised how many of my NYC friends already know about the show, and how many have said they even prefer it to other versions, ALW or otherwise!  

On the whole, I think the two shows compliment each other. Go see ALW if you want a more mystical, darker, supernatural Phantom; come to OUR Phantom if you really want to get to know the man behind the mask.

As a newcomer to WBT, I can say that the cast, crew, and production team are all amazing! Seriously, this set - and how quickly it's going up - is incredible. The tech team is KILLING the game. I'm blown away by how integrated all aspects of production are here. It's really amazing, and I appreciate so much the work the backstage crew put into the show every day.

My dream role? Short answer: there's no way I could narrow it down!  Long, incomplete answer: Notre Dame de Paris (the French-Canadian one, not the Disney one); Sunday in the Park With George; though cliché, Dear Evan Hansen (musically interesting AND a popular feel!) and Hamilton (just plain revolutionary); Eric Whitacre's Paradise Lost; The Great Comet, and more. 

I'd love to play ALW's Phantom as well! Also: Gringoire in Notre Dame; Robert Kincaid in Bridges; Pierre in The Great Comet; and if they ever do a Josh Groban Jukebox Musical, I'd like the lead in that. Someday I'll do Sweeney Todd :)

When not on stage, I run an independent production company, CONSTRUCT (@constructnyc), which specializes in producing original music and music videos for up-and-coming artists while eliminating the barrier to creative capital all new artists experience (making art is expensive). I write and perform music through that group, and function as chief technical officer (CTO).

I'm a programmer, and in my spare time (when I have it) I develop machine learning algorithms (popularly known as AI, though the term is misleading) that augment the creative process (currently I'm ideating a project timeline for a music video generating AI). 

I'm listening through Anaïs Mitchell's 'Hadestown' and I love it! Other artists on my phone at the moment: Snarky Puppy, Jacob Collier, Becca Stevens, Robert Glasper, BadBadNotGood, Josh Groban, Hiatus Kaiyote, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, Radiohead, Nightwish, and Dream Theater. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Maury Yeston On Phantom

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Maury Yeston's version of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera never made it to Broadway, and the legendary composer and musicologist couldn't be happier. For over a decade, the show, which he co-wrote with Arthur Kopit (the duo won two Tony Awards for Nine- Yeston has another two for his work on the Titanic musical), has become an international smash, playing regional theatres across the country and abroad, earning raves everywhere it goes. "They nickname it 'the biggest show never to play Broadway,'" Yeston said proudly,  "It's succeeded both critically and commercially all over the world. The public has taken this show to its heart and that's a far greater experience than being on Broadway." 

Phantom was originally poised to hit the Broadway stage in the late 1980s, but when Andrew Lloyd Webber went public with his intentions for a show of his own (we know how that turned out), financing fell through for Kopit and Yeston's version. While ALW's show became a hit on Broadway, the duo explored other avenues (Yeston went on to make Grand Hotel for Broadway) - that was until 1991 when the show played to raves at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston. That success led to additional productions, notably at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Chicago.

Westchester Broadway Theatre brought Phantom to its stage for the first time in July 1992. The show broke records and became WBT's longest-running show in its 33-year history. The show returned in 1996 and 2007 and found similar results. With that said, it's no wonder why the production is back at WBT now through Jan 27, 2019.

Maury Yeston on PHANTOM

 Phantom opens at WBT on September 13th. What do you think about The venue?

"It is one of the great jewels in the crown of American Theatre. They draw upon world-class talent from New York and locally. They draw brilliant directors and have a tradition of starting brilliant young people who can say they got their start at Westchester Broadway Theatre. They’re one of the first ones and one of the best in the world. And, I’ve traveled all over the world. They’re right up there with the top: Chicago, Boston, Houston, Silicon Valley…The Westchester community should be extremely honored to have them. I saw all three productions of Phantom [at WBT]. With the combination of their design, use of hydraulics, and use of space, there’s a fluidity and theatricality to it that’s really unparalleled. The cast is just extraordinary."  

Your show is labeled the "other" Phantom, but many critics seem to point out how much better it is than Andrew Lloyd Webber's version. What do you make of the success Phantom has had despite not being on Broadway?

"It's earned its right with audiences all over America. It used to be you'd do a show on Broadway, it gets the attention of the whole world, and maybe you win a Tony Award. [If you couldn't get the show on Broadway], you'd rent it out to regional theatre. Broadway was where you'd see cutting-edge new shows, and
regional theatre was where you'd see yet another Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma. There's been a massive shift. Now, very much what you see on Broadway is - 50-to-75 percent revival and regional theatre is where you see an exciting new show. My show Phantom travels around the country from [large to small venues.] The production of our Phantom had a way of uniting all theatres around the world for what was a massive hit. This is a unique show. Arthur and I worked very hard. We did it out of the love of the subject matter long before Andrew Lloyd Webber."

Have you seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's version on Broadway?

" I've never seen the show, and I'm sure he's never seen mine, but I have tremendous respect for him. The only thing I did the same way Cameron Mackintosh did was, I invested in logo design for the show and made it available. We're also very fortunate to have done an album. Anywhere the show is, people can buy the cast album. It has an all-world marketing effect without having to be on Broadway."

If the opportunity came along for your Phantom to be on Broadway would you consider it?

 "Never say never, but I have no interest in doing it at all. There's already a Phantom on Broadway, why would you want to see two? There's one Phantom on Broadway, but my Phantom's been everywhere - twice in Japan. It wouldn't make sense."

 

Friday, August 31, 2018

WBT IS PROUD TO PRESENT "PHANTOM"

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, August 31, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Phantom book by Arthur Kopit.  Music & lyrics by Maury Yeston

Based on the novel "Phantom of the Opera" by Gaston Leroux.  

Directed and Choreographed by Tom Polum  &  Music Direction by Bob Bray.

Arthur Kopit/ Maury Yeston's "Phantom" made its New York Premiere here at WBT in 1992. During our record-breaking nine-month run, over 120,000 people attended. Night after night, audiences rose to their feet for the stunning musical thriller. The original production was directed by William Pullinsi and starred Robert Cuccioli as the Phantom and Glory Crampton as Christine Daee. "Phantom" returned to our stage in 1996 and 2007 directed and choreographed by Tom Polum, who had been in the original production. William Stutler, Robert Funking, and the entire staff of WBT are very excited that this extraordinary piece, once again directed and choreographed by Tom Polum, will grace our stage.

"PHANTOM" was written by Arthur Kopit, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston who were the Tony Award-winning collaborators for the Broadway Musi­cal "Nine".  "Phantom" is not to be confused with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera", which is currently running on Broadway. Both shows are based on the same Gaston LeRoux novel, with the Webber extravaganza being more like an opera, compl­etely sung. The Yeston/Kop­it "Phantom" is more of a traditional Broadway Musical with dia­logue and songs throug­hout.

The show opened here at WBT on July 16th, 1992 to rave reviews. Jacques LeSourd critic from Gannett Suburban Newspapers stated... "There is also a gripping story, richly drawn characters, and music that can break your heart with its beauty... You'll find none of that in the Broadway 'Phantom­'... The rich orches­tra­tions bring to mind 'Sweeney Todd' and even the propuls­ive sounds of Philip Glass. This is a score in the grand man­ner".   Howard Kissel, the critic from the New York Daily News said: "The first Genuine Broadway Musical I've seen in years and the most genuinely exciting Broadway Musical I've seen in years"…"Capturing the genuine 'Phantom"…" De­spite all its ma­squer­ading, the real thing isn't on West 44th Street; it's playing here in Westchester".  He was referring to our wonderful production of "Phantom"!   

The story revolves around the central character of a man named Erik, (also known as the Phantom) who was born and raised in the cata­combs under the Paris Opera House. Through a series of circum­stances, he takes on as a pupil a young woman named Christ­ine, who has been a street singer. She has a natural talent and a beauti­ful voice, but she lacks the special training to perform in an Opera company. He agrees to take her on as a student with certain condit­ions, the main one being that she will never see his face. After a lot of hard work, she eventually auditions for the company and is not only accepted but is given the oppor­tunity to play a principal part in an Opera. Without realizing it, they fall in love with each other. The rela­tionship becomes obsessive and impossi­ble, leading to a stunning conclusion which can only be experi­enced by attending a perfor­mance here at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. 

The music and the drama of this piece are extraordinary and should not be missed! From our show that was seen by many members of The Alli­ance for Musical Theatre Producers, came scores of productio­ns around the country. After seeing our production of "PHANTOM", RCA Victor produced a CD recording of the show. including  WBT cast members, Glory Crampt­on who played Christine, Meg Bussert who played Carlotta, and most of our ensemble. For those of you who have already seen "PHANTOM" we will be adding a few surprises, and if you have only seen it once, it is definite­ly worth seeing a second time

 

The Cast Features: Matthew Billman (as Erik; The Phantom), Kayleen Seidl (Christine Daaé), James Van Treuren (Gérard Carrière), Larry Luck (Count Philippe de Chandon), Sandy Rosenberg (Carlotta), Kilty Reidy (Alaine Cholet), Stuart Marland (Inspector Ledoux) Ryan Alexander Jacobs (Joseph Buquet) and Roger Preston Smith (Jean Claude).

The multi-talented Ensemble: Christopher Brand, Julia Louise Hosack, Alec James, Caroline Kane, Melissa Maricich, Corey Joseph Masklee, Alison Rose Munn, Andrew Norlen, Monica Owen, Jose Plaza, Don Rey, and Kelsey Self.

 

Associate Choreographer is Erica Mansfield. Set Design by Steve Loftus, Lighting Design by Andrew Gmoser, Sound Design by Mark Zuckerman. The Costume Designer is Keith Nielsen, Wig/Hair Design by Gerard Kelly, the Production Stage Manager is Victor Lukas, and Properties are by Grumpy’s Props. Lisa Tiso is the Associate Producer.

 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Kayleen Seidl is Christine Daee in Phantom

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

    Originally from the good ol’ Midwest town of Joplin, Missouri, Kayleen attended St. Olaf College where she trained classically and earned a BM in Vocal Performance with Distinction as well as a BA in Spanish porque le encanta hablar español! 

After graduation and a summer season at the Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, NY, Kayleen moved directly to the Big Apple to pursue a career in musical theatre. Described as an actress with “natural charm,” she was acknowledged for her “transformative vocal performance” as Sarah Brown in the Guys and Dolls National Tour. 

Some of Kayleen’s other favorite credits include: It Shoulda Been You (Rebecca Steinberg), *Eddie and the Palaceades (Mary Doyle), Show Boat (Magnolia), Oklahoma! (Laurey), Les Misérables (Cosette), TOMMY (Mrs. Walker). She also enjoys traveling the world, playing board games with friends, being Auntie to her adorable niece and nephew, and living city life with her wonderful husband Brett! 

Kayleen is currently performing in Fidler Afn Dakh (Fiddler on the Roof) under the direction of Tony and Oscar-winning Joel Grey at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York City. This production is making history as it is the first time the work has been done in Yiddish in the US and the first time it has been performed in this language since its premiere 50 years ago in Israel. 

 Yeston & Kopit's Phantom opens 9/13/18! Kayleen stars as Christine Daee.

 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Matthew Billman is The Phantom

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, August 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Matthew will take the stage as The Phantom in Yeston & Kopit's Phantom starting September 13th, 2018.

  Matthew Billman has been acclaimed nationwide as a classical crossover artist, musical theatre performer, and popular entertainer. Matthew places his deep passion for musical eclecticism and the creative process at the forefront of his art – one past example is "Singed," a fully improvised three-act opera Matthew performed with the OperaWorks Advanced Artist Program in Los Angeles. 

Current projects include the Creator Collective Songwriting Project, in which emerging artists are paired to collaboratively write and produce new original music, and the associated upcoming YouTube series “81st Street Sessions.” Matthew is also the co-founder and onetime music director of improvisational a cappella group Voices in Flow, and currently leads workshops in the city teaching the group's unique improvisational music making techniques.

In the realm of contemporary musical theatre, Matthew took home the 2015 NATS National Championship title. Currently, he is portraying Phoebus in the Regional Premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in White Plains, NY. Recent roles of note include Che (Evita), Phantom (Phantom of the Opera), and Jean Valjean (Les Misérables).

In the summer of 2016, Matthew initiated an a cappella precursor to the Creator Collective in and around Brooklyn, NY; one recording from this project recurrently featured on the NPR Politics Podcast during the 2016 election cycle.

Matthew is a trained Bioinformatician and Data Scientist graduated from Stanford University ('15) with Honors and develops predictive investment algorithms in his spare time.
He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human biology and originally planned to go to medical school. “I’ve done science and music throughout my life,” said Billman. “I loved both, they’ve both kept me sane. Science is truly a fascinating thing for me.”

He said he majored in human biology partially because extracurricular music was easier to do than extracurricular science.

 “My dream is to be a sort of musical Neil DeGrasse Tyson,” said Billman, “using my platform as an artist to teach people concepts they wouldn’t normally see. I would love to incorporate some cool aspects of science into the broader scope of performing or do a show to advocate for causes like promising stem cell research, or mental health. If the bassist for Queen can be an astrophysicist, I can do science and musical theater.”

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Phantom Composer, Maury Yeston explains how it all began!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

"PHANTOM" was written by Arthur Kopit, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston who were the Tony Award-winning collaborators for the Broadway Musi­cal "Nine".  Here is an interview conducted by Tom Polum who will direct our production which opens at WBT on 9/123/18.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Meet Mychal Phillips as Erma in Anything Goes!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in the small town of Lexington, NC. I am the oldest of four kids, and we all eventually got involved in the arts in some way (my poor parents...). My youngest sister, Gracie, is now an NYC based actor as well.

My mom brought me to a youth theatre production of “Annie” and I was totally enthralled. I was painfully shy (something most people would never believe about me now). When I auditioned for my first show in the 3rd grade, I was so nervous I cried in the bathroom right before I went into the audition room. I was cast as a lost boy in Peter Pan and absolutely loved every minute of it. Performing was a blast, but I think what really hooked me was the feeling of camaraderie that developed amongst the cast. The relationship you have with your fellow castmates is so special because you have created this awesome thing together! To this day, that bond with castmates is one of my favorite things about being an actor. 

My aunt took me to see the Broadway revival of Anything Goes in 2011, and I immediately fell in love with the role of Erma. My aunt said, “that’s a role you need to play one day.” I auditioned for the National Tour of “Anything Goes” in the fall of 2014, and was over the moon to get the job. I toured for eight months. In 2016, I played Erma again in productions at Gateway Playhouse on Long Island and Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. So this is my fourth time playing the role! I have so much fun with this character.

I’ve never worked at WBT before, but I’ve wanted to for a long time! I’m so happy to be making my debut with this wonderful group of people.

I love old Broadway musicals the best! I don’t have a dream role, but I like anything that makes people laugh. The funny characters are the most fun!

When not on stage, I love to travel! I’ve been throughout the US and Europe as well as parts of Asia and Africa. It’s my other love!

My husband and I love listening to our record player at home- my favs are the classics- Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, the whole gang! Nothing relaxes me more at the end of a long day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Meet Bob Walton as Elisha Whitney in Anything Goes!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Marion, Indiana. The youngest of 5. My dad was a Pediatrician, Mom was a nurse. Marion happened to be a town with a very strong Music/Theatre community I took tap from an ex-Vaudevillian and I got to study a lot of music and theory as a kid. Two of my siblings are in the arts. Brother JIM, who has worked at WBT, and who I have written several musicals with. And sister Joan is a vintage dance Teacher/Choreographer who lives in California. 

Inspiration came from watching my older siblings do Theatre, Music, Dance  That pretty much solidified my desire to pursue it.  The tree of us attended the Cincinnati Conservatory Of Music (At separate times) And our talents and skills grew considerably there. 

 I have done the show twice! - both times when I was around 18. And as so happens in youth, I don't even remember my character being in the show!! I only paid attention to the tap dancers (and the girls!) Favorite part of the show? I greatly enjoy drinking the iced tea that is in the whiskey bottle in Scene 4. 

I worked here for the first time when I replaced my brother, Jim, IN BYE, BYE, BIRDIE IN 2005 at WBT. I love being able to be home and working - I live in Riverdale, and am an avid bike rider. so, I've taken this opportunity to be a bike commuter as much as possible. Rain permitting.
With Tina Johnson (Mrs. Harcourt)

My dream roles are in the past! I greatly enjoyed playing  Bobby in  CRAZY FOR YOU, Pseudolus in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. 


I'm a writer/arranger and enjoy working on music projects, Musical Directing and hanging out with my wife and kids. My wife (Laurie) is head of Performing Arts at the Riverdale Y and both of our kids are actors. Alex and Emily. (Look for Emily's first solo CD of her original songs on iTunes: LITTLE LONGINGS. And you can find a show my brother and I wrote; MID-LIFE! (The Crisis Musical) There as well! 

I mostly listen to Jazz: OSCAR PETERSON being on top of the list, as well as Big Bands, Classical, and Classic Rock/RnB. 

 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Meet The lovely Jackie Raye as Hope in Anything Goes!

Posted by: pia on Monday, August 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Athens, Georgia, right outside of Atlanta. My dad was a college football coach, so I moved around with his job when I was little. I lived in Athens the longest, so that’s home. 

My biggest inspiration came from a number of places. I believe my first theatrical experience was a community theatre production of Annie, but I was a huge fan of musical movies like Annie, Mary Poppins, and the Broadway Kids cassette tapes, so I always, always singing. I saw my sister in a dance recital when I was in the fourth grade, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I always credit my local community theatre from back home for my biggest inspiration as an actor and dancer. They really allowed us as kids to get disciplined in each genre of musical theatre. I’ve been very lucky in the mentor section in my theatre path. To growing up with Terra and Shane Hannon, to my college career with Harry Parker, and Penny Ayn Maas, I think about these amazing teachers all the time. 

 I knew a bunch of the songs growing up from Anything Goes, but it wasn’t until 2011 when the Anything Goes revival with Sutton Foster performed on the Tony Awards I saw a number from the show. I then saw the national tour in 2012, and I was in a production of Anything Goes in Dallas in 2016 where I played one of Reno’s angels. My favorite moment in the show is the number “Anything Goes.” Richard Stafford’s choreography is so fun to watch, and the ensemble kills it every time. 

 I’ve never worked here prior to this show, but my favorite thing working here is how professional and friendly everyone from the cast to the crew is. It’s a lovely environment to come to work in. And so close to the city!

 I love Stephen Sondheim, so many of his shows are my favorite, like Sunday in the Park with George, Company, A Little Night Music, and Gypsy. 

 When I’m not on stage I love practicing yoga, walking in Central Park, or eating lots of cookies.  In Music, I love a little bit of everything, but I definitely love slow rock, like John Mayer, to classics like Fleetwood Mac, to pop singers like Ariana Grande. I'm definitely a music person!

  With Zach Trimmer (as Billy)    

 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Meet Jon Peterson as Moonface Martin in ANYTHING GOES!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, August 2, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in London, UK. I went to the Royal Ballet for nine years of training and did lots of theatre, altogether ten West End shows, and also became part of the eighties pop video scene as a dancer, before coming here to be an assistant director and then thinking, ew no, I can't do THAT! - and going back to performing.



with Stacia Fernandez (as Reno Sweeney)

Watching those MGM musicals on TV when I was a small kid was my total inspiration. It's ALL I wanted. My most important mentor was choreographer Molly Molloy, who took me under her wing when I was 21, and doing a show for her in London at the Piccadilly Theatre, called "Y". Molly helped to bring out the best in me; not just as a dancer, but as a performer. Molly Molloy was a mentor to Arlene Phillips when she was an up-and-coming choreographer. Molly - and Arlene too -  revolutionized jazz dance in the seventies and eighties. One of the most inspiring and exciting women I've ever encountered in my life. No, THE most. She passed away two years ago. 

 I was in a show in London, at the Dominion Theatre, called "Wayne Sleep And His World Of Dance" - it was basically Wayne Sleep's Greatest Hits (Wayne was a big star of the Royal Ballet, was the original Mistofolees in CATS, the original lead in Song And Dance, was the Emcee in Gillian Lynn's revival of "Cabaret" - lots of stuff) Well, this guy just couldn't STAND me. I'm not entirely sure to this day why he even hired me. We all had solos in the show - I think there were seven of us backing him up - so it was a great vehicle, potentially, for us all; the "next generation", so-to-speak. Opening week, the reviews were put up outside the theatre etc, and there was a picture of me in this number, where I sang and danced a love song to a broom, and the caption was something like, "Jon Peterson, enchanting. A super talent", or some such nonsense. Wayne invited me to lunch at the theater, and once we'd met up, he walked me out to this thing plastered on the wall and said, "See this?" I said "Yes, I'm very lucky..." or something as diplomatic as I could. He then said, "Well, take it in kid, because your number's cut as from tonight!" Haha!! Then he walked away. NO LUNCH!. 

Then we did a benefit concert of the show for Princess Diana, and one of the older dancers in the cast - he was a true veteran of the theatre - wonderful guy - and Wayne was terrified of him - well, he and I were the two ladies in "Two Ladies" which opened the second act. I shared a dressing room with him and he daily regaled me with wonderful and usually filthy stories of his life in the theatre. During this concert for Princess Diana, we were having our cuppa tea and Cadburys dairy milk (with a shot of whiskey - it was the eighties!) as usual, chatting and laughing, but it seemed that the intermission was really dragging on. I had a moment of panic, rushed to the speaker and it was turned off! Wayne was already halfway through "Two Ladies" - alone! We RAN down the four flights of stairs to the stage, pulling on our dresses, pig-tail wigs and high heels, SCREECHING. I thought I was going to be fired, but Wayne was so terrified of the other guy that he never even mentioned it. It was only a couple of years ago that this wonderful man admitted to me that he turned off the speaker on purpose so that we'd miss the number and screw up the show for Wayne!! Ah, now, THAT - as far as I'm concerned - is what a true pro is.

Wayne got his own back though. After the show we all met Diana and she said to me, with a beautiful smile, as the cameras flashed all around us,  "Wayne told me that you're usually late for work and almost missed the show tonight..." and as I sort of laughed and started to tell her, she walked away...I learned a great lesson that night: Royalty, religion, politics...it's all theatre!!

I've always known of the show and even got into the London revival, as one of the dancers, with Elaine Paige starring as Reno - she was so lovely at my audition. I'd heard how TOUGH she could be. But sadly I couldn't actually do it as I'd already signed up for another show.

My favorite moment in our show? - Lord Evelyn Oakley's laugh! Kevin Pariseau is fantastic!!

Yes, I've done two other shows at WBT, "It Happened One Christmas Eve" and "Cabaret". I like the schedule. It allows you to do other things too if you have any energy left.

 Shows that I've done?...well, I adored CATS - I played Skimbleshanks and then Mistofolees and then Skimbleshanks again. Gillian Lynn was a genius and we're all going to miss her very much. I loved CABARET. I was the Emcee on the National Tour, and for a very short time, I even did it in New York. Subsequently got to play it about seven times since at various places, including this theatre. I played Paul in A Chorus Line a number of times, including the last UK National company. Loved that show, because it tells our story. I'm working on a show about Anthony Newley called "He Wrote Good Songs", which is currently pushing through. It won the Connecticut Critics' Circle Award for Best Solo Performance last year, so we are trying to develop it as we speak. Newley was quite a fascinating man and an amazing talent to portray. Hoping it comes to life here in NYC sometime. So I guess a dream role would be either ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT or STOP THE WORLD...

 When not on stage,  I photograph other actors' headshots, I teach yoga, and I eat chocolate. But only 70%.

 I listen to  Chopin, chanting monks, Artie Shaw and Basie.

   

 Singin’ In The Rain            Cabaret (as Emcee)         Cats (as Skimblesh) 

     

Irving Berlin In Person (as Irving Berlin)   He Wrote Good Songs (as Anthony Newley)


 Song Man Dance Man (Be A Clown) 

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

WBT's SISTERS On THE VIEW TV SHOW!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Check out Cast Members of SISTER ACT as they warm up the audience with their Amazing vocals on  THE VIEW!

 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Nun Pool Karaoke

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Join The SISTERS On This Funny Romp of a Car Ride!  SISTER ACT Now Onstage Through 7/1/18!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

See what our audience thinks of SISTER ACT!

Posted by: pia on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Lani Corson as Sister Mary Robert in SISTER ACT!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


I grew up in a small town in Maine. When I was 8 we moved to an even smaller town, to a farm, where I rode horses and picked blueberries. I remember having to drive 30 minutes to the nearest grocery store. In that same town, as the grocery store was what influenced me to become an Actor. There was this great community theatre that had a theatre camp every summer. My first summer we did The Wizard of Oz. I was, of course, a munchkin, among other things, and that was pretty much the beginning of the end. I did many other shows there throughout the years and the Artistic Director was a big supporter of mine and helped me prepare for my college auditions.

I was super excited when I first heard they were making Sister Act a musical! I've been wanting to do it for years - thanks WBT!! I've always loved the movie; I think some movies lend themselves to be made into a musical and this is no exception. This is actually a role I've been wanting to do for years!

One of my favorite shows is Les Miserables. It was the show that really solidified my love of musical theatre and I always wanted to play Eponine. I have understudied it once and I think I'm actually transitioning to where I would rather play Fantine. Another role I would love to do is the title role in Violet

When I'm not on stage in a theatre I am usually training, teaching or performing as an aerialist. I've been training in aerial and ground acrobatics for about 9 years and am one of the owners of the theatrical circus company, 2 Ring Circus (www.2ringcircus.com). 

I like listening to music, I'm on a Dresden Dolls kick right now!

 

As Sister Mary Robert w/Zuri Washington as Deloris.             Lani in 2 Ring Circus.

Meet Katelyn Lauria as Sister Mary Patrick in SISTER ACT!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born in New Jersey but grew up in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. I am the youngest of three and grew up in a loving Italian Catholic Family. My grandfather, Vito, aka Number 1 Fan, influenced me to become an Actor when he took me to see my first Broadway Show, CATS. I was 6 years old and was mesmerized ever since. I had trouble focusing as a child, but that all changed with CATS. I knew then what I wanted to do.

I've had numerous mentors in my career so far, but my newest mentor is Sandy Rosenberg. She is currently starring in Sister Act as Mary Lazarus. She has taught me the wonderful ways of comedy and I really look up to her as professional/ adopted stage mother. 

A funny anecdote I have was when, at a younger age, I was cast in Evita as the role of Eva Peron. During my first performance, I forgot the line "What's New Buenos Aires". I said "Whats New?" and forgot the title of the song completely. I will never forget the look on the conductors face when I missed that line.

I first heard about Sister Act when I saw the original cast perform Raise Your Voice on the Tony Awards. I have been lucky enough to have done this show once before, at the White Plains Performing Arts Center In NY. In my last production, I was the Mary Patrick Understudy, Hooker #1 and an Ensemble Nun. 

This is my first show at Westchester Broadway Theatre and I couldn't be happier to be here. I enjoy working with such professional colleagues! It is truly a blessing to work with such talented people. I've been learning a lot from each and every one of them. 

I grew up watching Sister Act with my sisters; we used to sing along with the VHS tapes!! When I think of stage musicals being made into films, and vice versa, I feel as though, if you have good material it will be a good production either way. It all comes back to what you're working with. I enjoy the movie as well as the musical, but I have a soft spot for the musical more!

My favorite shows are Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Annie Get Your Gun and Sunday In The Park With George. These musicals have broken barriers with their unique storytelling. My dream role is to be Mamma Rose in Gypsy. I will have to wait a couple of years to pursue that dream, but the day that I do....... Here She Is Boys, Here She Is World, IT'S ROSE!! Other dream roles would be Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd, as well as, Dot from Sunday in the Park with George. I dreamt of being Mary Patrick and I'm so glad that my dream has finally come true. 

When I'm not on stage I love to read Outlander! I love having relaxing days just binge-watching Netflix or taking a yoga or dance class. I also love spending time with my grandfather, Vito. We are best friends; we go bowling, out to dinner and to see movies together. We can also talk on the phone for hours!! He's my stress reliever! 

Currently, I have been listening to Raise Your Voice, from Sister Act. I have a little mix of everything from Beyonce to Irish Folk Music. I mainly listen to Broadway shows, but since I'm from Jersey I also have fist bump music.

Katelyn Lauria (r) as Mary Patrick. with Zuri Washington as Deloris (l)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Meet Danny Wilfred as EDDIE in SISTER ACT

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, April 27, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I'm originally from Virginia Beach, VA, and my parents are from Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. Virginia Beach is a wonderful place to go home to. I miss the beach... but maybe not all the tourists. Haha

My older brother went to The Governor' s School for the Arts in Norfolk, VA  and when I was 5 years old, I saw him in a production of 42nd Street. I pointed to the dancers tapping on those giant dimes and told my mom, "I want to do THAT!"  Years later, I too attended GSA, alma mater to talented performers such as Grant Gustin and Tony-nominated Adrienne Warren. Subsequently, I attended the University of Michigan, received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theater and have been working professionally ever since.

 My experience as a student at GSA truly prepared me to take on this career and I am so grateful for my training there, as well as at the University of Michigan.

I first listened to Sister Act in a performance class at Michigan. I guess they knew I was destined to play Officer Eddie Souther forever! This is my second time with this show after receiving my equity card doing it last year at Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island, directed by Evan Pappas. I love the show. It's a lot of fun and has so much heart. Seeing those ladies kill it out there on stage each night is truly inspiring.

I adore the  Sister Act movie. They are definitely two very different approaches to the same story but I really appreciate Mr. Menken's use of 70s style in the musical. I think setting the show in late 70s Pittsburgh raises the stakes as well. It was a tumultuous time for the city. Violence, crime, and race riots pulled the city apart at its seams. As a black male Police Officer under former Mayor and Police Commissioner  Frank Rizzo's authoritarian control would be a terrifying ordeal. Not only is Deloris's life on the line, but his as well. As an actor, that's the kind of background and depth you crave. 

One of my all-time favorite shows is Cabaret. I've done it 3 times, finally playing the Emcee last year at Highlands Playhouse in North Carolina. It is so tragically beautiful and relevant. Donkey in Shrek was a ton of fun, as was Seaweed in Hairspray! Of course, I'd love to play everyone in Hamilton... literally everyone. Haha

When not on stage, I love television! It's one of my favorite means of storytelling and I'm currently working on my own web series. Stay tuned!

Musically, I'm currently obsessed with Chloe and Halle, two teenage sisters, talented beyond their years! Their new album The Kids Are Alright is incredible. I'm also anxiously awaiting the release of Janelle Monáe's new album, Dirty Computer. She's a visionary.

 Danny as Eddie (r) with Zuri Washington as Deloris. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Meet Mary Jo McConnell as Mother Superior in SISTER ACT!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I am a native New Yorker. I attended grade school at Most Precious Blood School with the Josephite Sisters  & St. Vincent Ferrer High School with the Dominican Sisters. Summer camp was at Mary Mother Mazzarello in Paterson, NJ with the Salesian Sisters. I had the privilege to sing with The NYU Choral Arts Society at  Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, celebrated by Pope Paul VI.

I always sang in church and the Sisters asked me if I was "going to offer my voice for God". As a little girl, I knew every lyric of The Sound Of Music film score. My parents took me to see the original production of  Company as a teenager and  I became an instant Sondheim fan.   

I was active extracurricularly in the  NYU Washington Square Players while pursuing my BSN in Nursing.  After graduation, I did ten weeks of Summer Stock at the Surflight Theatre while studying my nursing boards and then went into The U.S. Army Nurse Corps. 

The theatre is one of the most important morale support activities, so, I was a frequent performer even while serving my country.  Judges would travel to all the base theatres around the world and award “Best Actor” trophies, so, I have my two “Army Tonys”!!!!  I started my professional acting career soon after leaving the military and earned an MFA from  American Conservatory Theatre In San Francisco.

I was in the Ensemble and understudied both Mother Superior and Mary Lazarus in the first National Tour of  Sister Act Directed by Jerry Zaks.

My dream role is Queen Margaret in Richard III.  I perform a section of one of her monologues in my short film TRUMPED which I co-wrote and produced.

When not on stage, I enjoy making films, cooking, and travel. 

Meet Sandy Rosenberg, Sister Mary Lazarus, in Sister Act!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and am a product of the NYC Public School system.  I  was the valedictorian of my 6 girl after school Hebrew School class which makes it all the more fun to be Sister Mary Lazarus.  I attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.

I believe I've always wanted to perform…from singing ‘RED RED ROBIN’ on top of a piano in the Catskills at age 5 to imitating TV commercials, to school plays. At synagogue, around 6th grade, I did move into the role of Tevye from Yente in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when Tevye had too much homework.  I was also the Fiddler as I took 50 cent violin lessons every Tuesday.  We also did THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the temple but because it was an orthodox temple, they rewrote history and there were no nuns….and I, as the rabbi’s wife sang CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN….and Maria became Miriam…it could happen.

I auditioned for the Broadway company of SISTER ACT a couple of times and played Mary Lazarus at Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pa.  This is my fourth show at WBT.  I was Carlotta in PHANTOM, performed in one of the Christmas shows, and played Flo Manero in Saturday Night Fever last year. I Love the people who work at WBT. It feels like a family after all these years.

I saw the movie of Sister Act when it first came out and probably in bits and pieces since.  If it’s a good adaptation I think it’s a great idea to bring Musical Theatre to the screen & vice versa.  This musical is a good adaptation of the original film.

I’ve been going to the theatre since I was 5….there are too many favorite shows to mention or even think about.  I Would love to play Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD. (one of my favorite shows….along with CANDIDE, HAMILTON, MAME…..)

 When not on stage, I love to cook, travel, do photography…hang out with the husband and the dog.

   Sandy (l) as Sr. Mary Lazarus with Zuri Washington (r) as Deloris

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Meet Zuri Washington as Deloris in Sister Act

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up a hop, skip, and a jump away in the Bronx. So I’m a Hometown Girl more or less. I have family who lives less than 10 min from the theatre though (Hey Bells!)!  My father is an English Teacher and my mother is a hairstylist so I grew up with a love of language and vanity. I love a good turn of phrase and when I get dolled up I make sure I am on point. 

I used to be one of those kids who “stage doored” shows on Broadway and I am a slightly embarrassed but altogether proud nerd who can’t believe how far I’ve come and can’t wait to see how far I go. ⭐️ 

I wanted to become an actor because I understood at a young age that the profession had the ability to change people and ideas as well as bring joy in a way that at the time of my youth was extremely different from how I was introduced to the arts. I come from a family of musicians (primarily jazz) and a couple of dancers but no one does what I do. 

I have a couple of mentors but right now my stage “mother” who has been so gracious to lead me and direct me on my career path in the last few years is none other than Tony Award winner Lillias White.  She has been so supportive and present and usually comes to support me when she can so I hope to see her up in Westchester over the course of this production.  She’ll be starting in her own show “Gotta Dance” at the Papermill Playhouse. Once she came to visit me and we got some Popeyes and brought it in as a snack for a showing of “The Jungle Book”. My kind of date night!

If you can believe it, I’ve done this “Sister Act” 4 times in total now!  This’ll be my 3rd time as Deloris. 

I first heard of this show back when it was on its way to London and I heard about Whoopi and her love of Patina Miller in the role and how it was coming to Broadway. I was curious of course because as a 90s baby, “Sister Act 2” is one of the greatest movies of all time so when I saw the show I wasn’t expecting much but I was actually blown away. 

Though I love the original movie, I’m more familiar with the sequel though because of Lauryn Hill and the Hip Hop influences that really elevated the musical moments for me— but I love nearly every movie that Whoopi has been in so I enjoy both.  😁 I’m not typically a fan of movies being made into musicals but some forays onto the stage have really hit the mark so I’m not opposed to the practice of movies on the stage— this one included!!

I’m playing one of my dream roles but other than “Sister Act” would be Sarah (Ragtime), Nabalungi (Book of Mormon), Eponine or Cosette, and Aida.  I get to show my comedy chops a lot and some of these shows have such meaty dramatic material that I would love to sink my teeth into.


I enjoy eating and reading when I’m not onstage. I’m a huge foodie and I’ve been a bookworm since the womb. 

I’m not an avid iPod enthusiast (though I love music) but when I get a moment to surround myself with speakers and curl up with a book, I’d have to say, Kendrick Lamar, the “Black Panther” Soundtrack, Anderson Paak, Frank OceanJames Blake, Anything Motown, Beatles, and most artists from the 60s/70s. I’m the soul of a flower child in the body of a millennial. 

       

 

Meet Ken Jennings as The Monsignor in Sister Act

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Jersey City, NJ.  First generation Irish.  Dad from Newry, County Down, Ireland (Northern Ireland, but my family wouldn’t recognize the border).  I got a Jesuit education in high school and college.  I was a Latin major.  But, I have lost my ability at the language because I don’t use it, of course.  I attended St. Peter’s College on a Dramatic Scholarship.  But, it was just an extracurricular activity.  There were no theatre courses or classes.  So, I became a Latin major because it was easy for me to pass because of the high school background.  Since it was easy, I could perform in the many plays various groups did at the college.

Dad was a great storyteller.  Mom was a librarian and often took me to the library with her.  I think I became an actor because of the great stories.

I've never done SISTER ACT.  The most colorful person I ever worked with was George C Scott.  I did two Broadway shows with him.  Both at Circle In The Square.  George directed ALL GOD’S CHILLUN’ GOT WINGS.  And directed and starred in PRESENT LAUGHTER.  Best director I ever worked with for comedy (PRESENT LAUGHTER - Noel Coward).  Funny enough, he was drunk most of the time.  Sometimes, wildly drunk.  But the audience would never know it.  He was so in control on stage.  He’d stumble around, stagger, backstage.  But once he hit the stage, he was in control and wonderful.

I like working at WBT.  I did  THE WIZARD OF OZ up here. I like the people up here very much.  And it is a really easy commute from Manhattan.  The hardest thing about the commute is finding a parking place when I drive home.

  I saw the movie.  But I don’t know that I saw the whole thing.  Sometimes, musicals can make very good films.  I'm watching INTO THE WOODS as I write this.

I would love to play Shylock again in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.  I have played it once.  Shakespeare is very challenging but very rewarding.

I play tournament chess every Wednesday at the Marshall Chess Club;  One of the most famous chess clubs in the world.  I love Chess and there's nothing like real tournament chess. 

 

 

 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Meet Michael John Hughes as Paul in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I'm from Wood-Ridge, NJ, only about 15-20 minutes outside the city.  So I grew up taking family trips into the city pretty frequently, seeing Broadway shows and going to dinners.  I was always so enamored and mesmerized by NYC and luckily was able to call it home when I moved in to attend Pace University for college.  At the age of 5, I told my mom I wanted to be in movies, which lead to me starting acting classes which then lead to a number of different dance and musical comedy classes.  I then attended a magnet school in my county where I studied theatre and further fueled my passion for the arts

 
Michael (Center, as Paul)

 

I saw the movie The Little Vampire with my mom at the age of 5 and immediately afterward told her I wanted to be an actor.  She signed me up for classes and I soon started taking dance and musical theatre classes as well.  No one else in my family has ever pursued a career in the arts, but thankfully I was able to major in theatre at my high school and I met a ton of amazing professionals who aided me in my pursuit of a BFA degree in musical theatre and beyond.

 

I don't remember first hearing about the show, but I always knew songs from it, especially "What I Did for Love".  I did the show for the first time before my senior year of college at the Weston Playhouse.  It was a life-changing experience.  I was having a lot of anxiety about graduating from school with a degree in musical theatre and leading the somewhat unstable life of an actor/dancer.  But this show reignites and reinforces all the reasons I began a life in the arts, to begin with.

 

I've never seen this movie, no, mostly since I've heard from others that it isn't very good.  I think it's great that musicals are brought to the big screen, as long as they're done terrifically (like Chicago and Hairspray).  Broadway shows are incredibly expensive, and I think it's amazing that these movies bring these powerhouse musicals to the general public.

 

My Favorite shows?  A Chorus Line! Seriously.  I love Hairspray, Spring Awakening, Dear Evan Hansen, West Side Story.  I wouldn't mind being in any of these, as well.

 

I love fitness classes and try to take lots of yoga, spin, and HIIT classes.  I love to watch movies, and television, especially in this cold weather.  But once it's warm, I love to be outside and go hiking and biking.  

 

I love my pop divas.  Lorde, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Sia, Carly Rae, Halsey, Miley Cyrus.  But I love most music that just makes me want to get up and dance!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Meet Sarah Bowden as CASSIE in A CHORUS LINE

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Sydney, Australia. I have been dancing since I could walk. I have 2 brothers, also in the business, and it’s really the only thing I’ve ever known and lived. I started professionally at age 16, in the musical Cats

I once saw West Side Story when I was about 13, and I saw the girl playing Anybodys, scale a fence and jump around that Stage with so much energy... I turned to my mum and said, "I want to be just like that girl!! " I haven’t looked back since. My hero and Inspiration is really Liza Minnelli. She is everything I adore about theatre. 

I saw a production of A Chorus Line in Australia in the 90’s... I loved it. I have done the show in German first, performing it in Austria in 2015. And once at the Hollywood Bowl in summer 2016. 

The movie was my first experience of A Chorus Line, and I adored it... but learning the original musical from Baayork Lee herself, well nothing compares to that! I'm all for musicals being made into to movies, get it out there and accessible to more people, as theatre tickets can get expensive. But I do get disappointed, when they don’t cast musical actors... we sing, dance and act, and that’s what makes it special... when one or more of those are lacking, it’s a shame for the piece, for the film. There really is nothing like live theatre... one chance to experience it, one chance to get it right. It’s so in the moment, I love that. 

My dream role would be Velma Kelly in Chicago, I’m working on it.  I would also love to play Charity in Sweet Charity!

When not on stage, I love to run, it helps free my mind. I also love to spend time with family and friends, just simple things but time with them... we sacrifice so much of that, doing what we do and traveling all of the time for work. 

What music is on my iPod? Ha ha ha .... musical theatre. 

    

 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Meet Brian Dillon as Larry in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

I was born and raised near Boston. I always say that to make it easy, but if someone says they know Massachusetts well, I tell them where I’m really from, which is Dracut. Then, when they don’t know where that is, I say it’s right next to Lowell, and they finally say “Ah okay!” Basically my whole family lives there, right down the street from the high school where I discovered my love for musical theater, amid other semi-dorky activities: being drum major in marching band, playing trumpet in orchestra and jazz band, show choir, National Honor Society, Leo Club, and actually the un-dorkiest of them, varsity baseball.      As LARRY (c) in our show.

My first inkling that I liked acting was when I joined my Jr. High production of Annie, Jr. because my friends were doing it. I got the part of Rooster. Senior year of high school I played Gaston in Beauty and the Beast (the six surrounding “silly girls” were taller than Gaston at the time) and I knew from the feeling I had on stage to the rumblings in town to “go see this kid” that I might want to pursue this for real. The director at the time, who would never fake-compliment anyone just to maintain affability, said to me, “You should think about this if you like it.” That was a really big deal to me.

I first heard of A Chorus Line in grade school when my best friend’s mother started playing the record when I was over for dinner one day; said friend rolled his eyes, but I secretly liked what I was hearing. Later, I saw the 2006 revival. At that time I’m not sure I understood the impact of the show, nor did I know how it would soon change my life. I toured with the show 3 months after college graduation under Baayork Lee’s direction as a swing (Wrong Arms Roy, understudy Mark, Al, and Mike). I then took over the part of Mike halfway through the tour.  I swung the show again at Riverside Theatre with Mitzi Hamilton as Tom Tucker and added Don to the understudy roles above. In this production at WBT, I’m Larry, Zach’s assistant. 

A CHORUS LINE DEJA VU:

        

As ALAN                                                    As TOM                 As WRONG ARMS ROY

    

         As DON                 As MIKE                As MARK

I love the way this show looks at WBT, that the thrust stage makes the stories so inclusive and the dancing incredibly close. After doing Mamma Mia here last season, I knew this story would lend itself well to this space. What’s great about being here at WBT is that so many loved ones can come see it, and we New Yorkers are so close to home.

 I’ve only watched the opening sequence from the A Chorus Line movie and that’s as far as I got. They are DANCING in it, my goodness. Someday I need to see the whole thing. I think Chicago is the epitome of movie-musicals. I think it’s perfect. I also appreciate what the Live airing musicals on NBC and FOX are doing today, bringing musical theatre to more households. Grease, though not my favorite show, was such a great Live production on TV. 

Some favorite musicals of mine are Ragtime, Wicked, Hairspray, The Drowsy Chaperone, Next to Normal, Waitress, and Come From Away was fantastic. I’ve always been such a chorus boy and swing in my career, but some dream roles for me are Princeton from Avenue Q, Boq in Wicked, Seymour in Little Shop, Tulsa in Gypsy, Pinocchio in Shrek, and Cassie in a chorus line ;-)

When I’m not on stage during this particular show, I spend at least a day recovering from the week with some stretching, yoga, gym time, baths, or massage. Sometimes I take a shift or two in the service industry making all the party guests happy with Hors d’oeuvres. Auditions are always on-going. But my favorite past time is morning coffee while watching the Great British Baking Show (which I hope comes back soon with a new season!)

The music on my phone is lots of Sara Bareilles, Brandi Carlile, Celine, Rufus Wainwright, Jason Mraz, musicals, all today’s main pop gals, and some older amazing Motown playlists.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ashley Klinger as Kristine in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

I grew up in a small town called Cuyahoga Falls Ohio. I am a fourth-generation dancer so I studied under my grandmother and later my aunts. 

Since dancing was in my blood it only made sense to become a dancer. I fell in love with musical theater after many visits to New York City to see Broadway shows. Naturally, my mentors are mostly family members. 

I fell in love with A Chorus Line in high school in its most recent revival. I was fortunate enough to play the role of Kristine while completing college on the national tour.  I have seen the movie but the movie that hit home the most was the documentary Every Little Step. It shows the process of the Broadway revival auditions and it hits home every time. I appreciate film adaptations of musicals as it is a great way for the general public to see shows.

I love many shows for all sorts of reasons, but a big goal of mine is to originate a role on Broadway.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Meet David Elder as Zach in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I am from and grew up in Houston, TX. My father was a car body man and my mother a beautician. We lived check to check, they had 3 kids. I taught myself to tumble when I was 8 yrs old. My father also put a tennis racquet in my hand when I was 8. Until I was a Sophomore in High School, I believed that I was going to become a professional tennis player. My father was the best tennis player in TX his senior year of High School. We moved to the 'country' my sophomore year of HS and my new school did not have a tennis team. My dreams were dashed and I was taken down the hall to the Choir Room! I had previously sung every year in the choir since kindergarten and always enjoyed it and found singing came naturally to me! So, thus began the thought process of combining my self-taught tumbling with my singing talents. I basically vowed that I will try a career in the Arts until it doesn't work. I went to college for Voice Performance and haven't looked back since. My family was always supportive of my choices to follow this career path!!!

My first 'real' memory of performing was when my elementary class attended a morning performance of Oliver at Theater under the Stars (TUTS) downtown. I will never forget hearing the young man sing "Where is Love". I thought how could such a young inexperienced kid handle the pressure of being up there and sing that song SO beautifully!!! I truly believe my dream was born that day! The sensation that perhaps one day I could affect someone the way he had touched me. Self-observation was what I mainly used to detect what my natural talents and interests were. 

I first heard A Chorus Line when I was in High School, and we saw it on my school trip to NYC my senior year (1984). I have done the show one other time at Stages St Louis (6 years ago) and I played Zach that time as well. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play it again and I am having a blast! 

It's my first time working at WBT, but I love the thrust stage. I think it offers many fresh and new options you don't have in most proscenium houses. I would love to see them add some pre-show fab entertainment. Not sure what but it could be- perhaps a grand piano rolled on stage and someone plays throughout dinner, which would also allow for an actor to come out and sing a song here and there with an accompanist. Perhaps a comedian could do 45 minutes. Maybe a light show or dinner dancing on the stage. Sorry, thinking out loud!!! I love it there and I want to see them succeed!

I have seen the movie. It wasn't my favorite. Though I can always find good in most things.What do you think of stage musicals being made into films? I actually don't mind creative people turning stage musicals into film, but it's so risky. Rarely do they succeed to the level of the actual live experience. I thought Chicago, the movie, succeeded quite well.

I adore playing Don Lockwood in Singing...Rain, Bobby Childs in Crazy For You, and Bert in Mary Poppins!!! I also just played Bob Wallace in White Christmas for the first time and it could possibly be my new favorite! I have played Phil Davis, Bob's sidekick 7 times!!!! Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man! I would still like to play Billy Flynn in Chicago, however, I don't know if its a dream role. I am trying to focus on roles these days that don't rely so heavily on my dance abilities. 

I am an avid gardener. I have a home upstate in Roscoe, NY. 4 acres with a stream and a pond and lots of perennials!!!

I am currently collecting plans and arranging for a full renovation of my house. It is truly what I call my healing place!!! In Jackson Heights, Queens, where I live, our Coop is known to possess the most beautiful interior gardens as well as the front of building gardens. I currently serve on the Towers Garden Committee and simply love nurturing and making things look cared for and beautiful so that everyone can enjoy its splendor. 

I am very boring music wise. I need tunes that help lighten the stresses of living in the city. Mostly, standards like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble', Harry Connick Jr., Easy listening Jazz. Music that I can still talk over but love hearing in the background. Happy Hour stuff!!! Upstate I listen to country mostly.

       

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Meet Tim Fuchs.. A singular sensation as Al in A Chorus Line.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Ithaca NY. Technically the small town of Freeville between Ithaca and Cortland. I grew up on a farm with horses and many other animals. My family owned 20 acres of land which was a part of 80 acres of family land. My sister and I grew up riding horses, training dogs, hiking, camping, playing music, playing sports as both my parents are physical educators. I did everything and anything physically active; skateboarding, playing organized sports and eventually taking dance classes starting in high school. Which then led to my more formal training in musical theater. 

The Montessori school I attended for the first 15 years of my life did a musical every year. My mother was one of two women who directed and choreographed the musicals. So naturally, as soon as I could be in the musicals (which was 1st grade) I auditioned. I was in every musical subsequently until middle school when you could no longer be in the musicals. The rest is now history.
  

I don't know if there was any real "Aha!" moment when I knew that performing was going to be my main career. Quite frankly, I still question if performing is what I'm going to pursue for the rest of my life. There have definitely been people in my life who have influenced me a great deal; all of my teachers throughout high school and college. But I would say one of the main influences on my performing career isn't a single person or entity, but my collective experiences since I first started performing. I have been very fortunate to have worked every summer and every year since high school and I have worked with some amazing people, and I have learned so much from every single person. That is what has been so influential in my career so far. Always knowing that I have something to learn and somewhere to grow.

I have done A Chorus Line before. It was one of my first professional summer stock shows. I was twenty-one and it was awesome to be working, didn't have too many responsibilities. Plus it was amazing to get to dance the original choreography and to know that I was a part of this large legacy that is A Chorus Line.

Cut to now, doing same show, many years later, and playing a different part, the musical has such a different meaning in my life now than it did back then. The themes of questioning your life as a dancer, and what would you do if you couldn't dance anymore are much closer subjects to my heart than they were when I was twenty-one. This is a story that connects to every single time in your performing career. And I'm sure the next time I do it, there will be more things that I find out about myself and more ways in which I grow.

I have never seen the movie in full of A Chorus Line, only bits, and pieces. I have some reservations when people decide to make movie adaptations of musicals, and visa-versa. The only thing I will say because I could write for a long time about this subject is that if the true essence of the musical or film that is being adapted to the other medium stays honest and true to what the original creators envisioned, then adaptations work. If the goal is to adapt a specific story from one medium to another, you have to make sure that you're telling the same story. Too many times do we see adaptations from one medium to another fall short of expectations. It's not an easy thing to do. Again I haven't seen the movie, but I think it would be difficult to achieve and duplicate the same live-stage experience of A Chorus Line in a cinematic setting.

Some of my favorite shows are HAIR, Next To Normal, Hamilton, Legally Blonde, Wedding Singer, Sweeny Todd, really too many to say. I don't have a dream role per-say, I'd like to originate a role someday.

When I'm in between jobs, I am a photographer and a videographer shooting mostly dance photography and dance videos and that branches out to a lot of different categories.I write music with my writing partner and we're working on writing and producing a jazz album. Mostly jazz standard type music. Our overall goal is to write music and songs that can eventually be used in a film which we are also writing.

Speaking of music, I have a very eclectic library on my Spotify account. Anything from standard jazz, to pop-punk of the early 2000's (which is my jam!) Chet Baker, Tom Misch, Chick Corea, Seth McFarlane (yes from family Guy) Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, Radiohead....(the list goes on...) are my standard mix of artists that I listen to frequently.

I'm usually a very busy guy, but when I do get a day off, there's nothing better than staying in bed with a bag of Cape Cod Kettle Chips, french onion dip, a can of Arizona green tea, maybe some super sharp cheddar cheese and crackers, and watching the Office.

 
Tim as Al (In Green tkts shirt)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Joseph Cullinane is Greg in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in a town called Westwood, a suburb 20 minutes outside of Boston. I am 1 of 6 kids and now the proud uncle of 9 incredible nieces and nephews. My family loves to be surrounded by children. 

I saw a local production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and knew that I wanted to perform when everyone began dancing to “I have a golden ticket”. My sisters also took dance lessons and I used to look forward to watching their recital every year. 

My first experience with A Chorus Line was performing and choreographing a teen production while I was in high school. At the time I didn’t know any of the original choreography, and I can still remember a lot of the ridiculous dances I made up. 

This is my 5th show at WBT. The best part of working here is all the incredible friends I’ve made. I’m still very close with many cast members from my first show here, The Sound of Music. The backstage crew is fantastic and has truly made me feel so at home at WBT. The baked potato and penne ala vodka are also pretty stellar.

I have seen the film version of A Chorus Line once. I remember I faked being sick so I could stay home from school to watch it. I watched the female dance solo in the opening about 5 times in a row. I couldn’t get enough of her! While it’s a great film, I don’t think anything can quite compare to seeing A Chorus Line live in the theatre. Watching dancers do the opening combination is so thrilling. When they charge at you in the first phrase it can really take your breath away. To go through the entire show and then get to see the Finale is so moving for me still. 

I love MGM style musicals with lots of tap dancing. I’d love to play Phil Davis in White Christmas or Bobby Child in Crazy For You. I’ve also wanted to play Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors ever since I saw the movie with Rick Moranis. 

I love to read. I love all genres but mostly teen science fiction like the Hunger Games and Maze Runner. The Giver is my favorite book of all time. I also love to cook and subsequently…eat. When Connie says “dance around in my kitchen and enjoy getting fat,” Greg thinks she is crazy, but Joey completely agrees! 

I have 5 Kelly Clarkson albums and never get sick of them (especially her Christmas album regardless of it’s Christmas or not). JENNIFER HUDSON, Owl City and Maroon 5. When I want to dance…Katy Perry

 Joseph (center, in striped sweater)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Meet Logan Mortier as Bobby in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was always passionate about music. I started singing in the Indianapolis Children’s Choir since the age of nine and found my love for performing there. Through the children’s choir, I was able to be in the children’s chorus in the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat National Tour Cast when it came to Indianapolis as well as having the opportunity to be in the children’s chorus for Carmen at Clowes Memorial Hall. The choir also gave me the opportunity to go on tour in Italy and England. 

From there I went on to playing flute in my middle school band. My instrument took me all the way through high school and I still enjoy picking it up from time to time. It produced my love for music theory and composition and lead me to get my Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre when I went to college at Florida State University. 

I didn’t find my passion for theatre until I came to high school. I took the highest level theatre class and became involved in many of the plays and musicals. I always enjoy being busy but high school took it to a whole new level. I participated in all honors courses, concert and show choir, band, orchestra, the musicals and plays, and tried to make time for a little bit of tennis. 

My parents have always been proud of me and supported my decision to overwhelm myself in this manner. They were at every performance cheering me on and I don’t know where I’d be without their love and support. It also helped that I had a twin brother in all those classes with me. It’s certainly awesome to have a built-in best friend. When I decided I wanted to be a stage actor, it was more of a feeling than an event. Every time I hear a stage manager say, “places,” or I hear the first moment of the overture I get this rush of nerves and joy. How amazing is it that I get to play dress up and pretend to be someone else? I get to tell stories, make people laugh, make people cry, and educate others through the magic of live theatre. It’s that moment right before the show starts that always gets me and hopefully always does. 

I first heard of A Chorus Line when I was just graduating high school. There is a high school level theatre company that auditions students from the Indianapolis area to apart of their productions. I heard about it, auditioned, and took my first step to the line as Alan Deluca. I was 18 years old at the time. This production at WBT will be my fourth time performing in this show and I discover something new about it every time. I love that it tells our story. It is such a truthful, fun, and exciting piece of theatre. 

I am aware of the movie adaption of A Chorus Line. There are some movie musicals that have made a beautiful transition from the stage to the screen, I don’t believe that A Chorus Line was one of them. I love that musicals are making their way to something more mainstream. In my opinion, there are so many factors that go into a transition like this. Who are the actors? Who is the director? What has to change so that it works on screen? The stage and film are two very different mediums. I say keep making movies out of musicals as long as careful thought and preparation goes into casting and cinematography. 

My favorite shows... I’d have to say Sweeney Todd is probably my absolute favorite. I love the concept of a horror musical. Not only is it haunting but it’s beautifully composed. The thematic detail is gorgeous and the characters are so crazed and intriguing. That said I’d love to be apart of that production one day as any role really. Of course, A Chorus Line is one of my favorite shows as well. Other favorites include Lippa’s The Wild Party, Cabaret, The Color Purple, and Ragtime. I do love a little darkness and drama. I’m playing one of my dream roles now! I’ve wanted to be Bobby on the line since I found out what A Chorus Line was. My other dream roles include Anthony and maybe one day Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, Burrs in Lippa’s Wild Party, Emcee or Cliff in Cabaret, and Younger Brother or someday Tateh in Ragtime. 

When I’m not on stage, I love the aerial arts. In this past year, I’ve started taking silks and rope classes and it’s become a new passion. I love to cook, play video games, and arrange music. I’ve even begun composing a bit. 

As far as music I listen to... I have a variety. I’m a huge fan of folk music and pop music. My favorite musicians are Lucas Jack, Ryn Weaver, Pink, and Lady Gaga. I like music that really creates a deep reaction in me. Typically something that hypes me up or really calms me down. 

Meet Emily Kelly as Maggie in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pis Haas on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in Sacramento, CA. There wasn't a huge theatre scene, and no one in my family is involved in it. My mom did some shows in high school and I always loved her singing voice, but other than that I came out of nowhere and forced everyone to come along for the ride! And they did; I'm so lucky to have had such a large support system from day one. I grew up very close to my grandparents, Aunt, Uncle, and cousins on my mom's side, so having them, along with my parents and little sister, at every production made for an awesome fan base (even though my guy cousin brought a pillow to most so he could take a nap)! 


 I can't remember the very first show I saw like most people, but I was always begging my family to go see the tours that came through town, and then listening to the soundtracks on repeat for weeks after! I did a lot of community theatre and I think the show that made me decide I wanted to do this for a living was Les Mis (I know, cheesy right?). I played Eponine and was obsessed! I'd fall asleep thinking and singing through the track in my head. I couldn't wait to go to rehearsal, it was all I wanted to do. I realized I was happiest and felt the best about myself when at rehearsal. I noticed everyone else in the cast had something to complain about, but I loved every part of doing the show, even the really hard or boring parts of the process. Then a year later I played Mrs. Lovett in a student production of Sweeny Todd and created my own "bake shop" in my kitchen so I could practice "making pies" every day and my parents realized maybe we could start taking this seriously. haha!

 
This is my first time doing A Chorus Line and first time at WBT. I actually saw the original Broadway revival cast in previews in San Francisco and didn't realize until years later! But I loved it!! I was singing "One" and doing a kickline in the bathroom after the show despite the strange looks from several people.  Mara Davi's picture was on the wall of my dance studio because she went there for a bit and she quickly became one of my idols. I love working on the WBT stage! I think it's a challenging and rewarding show to do on a thrust stage like this one. In many ways, it's in an intimate and vulnerable show so I think it's awesome to immerse the audience in it by being so close and exposed on all sides. 

 

 I've actually never seen the movie of A Chorus Line. Although they can be difficult to get right sometimes, I'm all for musicals being made into films because it brings the content to more people! Then they can hear how much better it is on stage and want to come to live theatre even more! 

 

 I'm playing one right now and it's a dream! But Wicked has always been a dream show. I've seen it five times and it gets better every time!

 

 I'm a huge nerd. When not on stage, I need to keep up with all the fandoms: tv, books, movies, all of it! And quality time with friends and family is the best. 

 

Music: I listen to a whole lot of musicals, unsurprisingly! Also, pop divas Lady Gaga, Kesha, and Beyonce with some classic Jack Johnson, Beach Boys (my California is showing), Queen, and the Beatles mixed in. 

 

 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Meet Erica Mansfield as Cassie in A Chorus Line

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, January 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I was born overseas in France but was raised in Texas and moved to New York after high school.

   I was always performing in my bedroom by myself.  I always loved to sing and dance.  My neighbor Maddy across the street taught me to tap dance in her kitchen when I was six.  We kept it a secret and then invited parents to the big show. From then on I was put in dance lessons.  She also introduced me to movie musicals like Sweet Charity and My Fair Lady.  I fell in love with musicals then.  I got my feet wet acting in school shows and in youth summer programs such as HITS theatre and Broadway Theatre Project.  In the 8th grade, I got pulled from JR High to be in the high school musical 42nd Street.  I really looked up to the older kids.  They were very supportive and even came to my JR high to support me as the understudy for Nancy in Oliver.  I always knew I was gonna be in show business.  

My dance teacher Miss Susie would take a small group of us to NY in the summer to dance.  I’ll never forget my first time in NY.  The second I saw the city and felt the energy I thought, this is where I belong.   This is where I’m gonna live.  It’s exactly what I did.  My extremely supportive parents and my dance teacher all encouraged me to go for my dream to dance on Broadway so at 18 after a summer at Galveston Summer Musicals and a children’s theatre tour I moved to a women’s residence (like Thoroughly Modern Millie) on the upper west side with 2 meals a day in the basement and a bathroom down the hall and I just started showing up.  Westchester Broadway was one of the first places I showed up for ;). And here I am all of these years later revisiting this show at a theatre where my dream started to come to fruition.

  

My introduction to A Chorus Line was the movie.  It is totally different from the Broadway material but at the time it was out I didn’t even know what Broadway was.  I just knew I loved the music and dancing.  I LOVED Cassie and never in my wildest dreams would I think I would end up playing that part on stage.

I got my start at Westchester!  It was one of my first auditions in NY!  When I first moved to NY I ran into a friend from summer stock in a Duane Reade who told me to come with her to audition for Funny Girl there and we both ended up in the show.  The director at the time Tom Polum said if “I knew how young you were I wouldn’t have hired you!” Haha.  I ended up assisting that director and I did 4 shows at Westchester.  I did Funny Girl, Oklahoma, Grease and Hello Dolly.

What I love about the theatre is that it really is a family.  They provide the tremendous opportunity for young actors.  They are very loyal to the people who have worked there.  I think it’s a great place to get your card AND you get to sleep at home!

Making Movie Musicals from stage Musicals...I think it’s fantastic!  It’s part of the reason I’m in this business for sure.  I think the more job opportunities the better for us!  Also, it’s a great opportunity to reach a whole new audience.

Favorite showsOklahoma, A Light in the Piazza, The Last Five Years, Hamilton, Rent, Crazy for You, Thoroughly Modern Millie. 

Dream roles... I’m playing one of them! Others? I have a bazillion!  Haha.  Millie will always be the role that got away. My dreams evolve with my age but there are many roles I’m dying to do!

I have a history with Anne Reinking and fosse work and I would LOVE to do Roxy or VelmaLola or Gloria in Damn Yankees, Franca in Light in the Piazza, Reno in Anything Goes, Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot, Charity- Sweet Charity, Heidi in Dear Evan HansenUla in The Producers, Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone, Nancy in Oliver, Queenie  in The Wild Party, Mother in  Ragtime, Lena or Kathy in Singin in the Rain,. Maureen in Rent, Ilona in She Loves Me, Polly and Irene in Crazy For You, Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Lois in Kiss Me Kate, Georgia in Curtains,

I was in Mamma Mia for 5 years and covered Sophie. I would love to play Donna or Tanya and come full circle. I always wanted to do Peggy but now, eventually Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street

I have an amazing dog named Rylee.  She is a Pomsky and my off time is usually spent playing, walking and snuggling with her!  If I’m not doing that I try to enjoy time with my friends.  

I'm the worst at clearing out my phone.  So there is no room for much. Mostly music from shows I’ve done for my Broadway Masterclasses.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Five Questions For Bill Stutler

Posted by: pia haas on Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We asked Owner, Bill Stutler a few questions this Jolly Holly season! 

 1. How does a visit to WBT get people in the mood for the holidays?   :
 Fully decorated with garlands, lights and a tree that nearly touches the balcony, with packages of food and toys that customers can bring and place under the tree for the needy, which we distribute just before Christmas, and an entrance also decorated for the Holidays, can't help but get one in the Holiday Mood.  Of course, Christmas music adds to the feel once you enter the lobby.  Topped off with a menu of Christmas favorites and an uplifting production which will leave all feeling up and good about themselves, relatives and friends. 

 2. Why is it such a great place to go to during the holiday season? 
 With a wide variety of entertainment events, WBT has something for everyone and with a served meal featuring your choice from a variety of entrees included in the low ticket price, WBT is the best deal around and the place to be this holiday season!   Dinner, Show, Parking, proximity...all add up to an affordable night out!

 3. Is it a place for adults AND families?  
 The Christmas Voyager is specially chosen for Families! It is a heartwarming Musical with a timeless message!

4. What do you want the customer to come away with after having been to your theatre this Holiday season?  
Being Entertained & well fed!  With an appreciation of the magic of live theatre! 

5How many Holiday seasons have you celebrated at WBT?  
It is our 43th year! The County Executive has called the Westchester Broadway Theatre,  "The cultural mainstay of Westchester."

 

 

Jayson Elliott returns in The Christmas Voyager!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We caught up with WBT favorite, Jayson Elliott... 

I grew up In a small town in northern Indiana near Norte Dame.  130 people in my high school class. Fairly rural community. We had a day where kids could drive their tractors to school. Haha. It had a small high school, a movie theatre with 2 screens, basketball hoops in every driveway, and lemonade stands. 

I played a lot of sports when I was younger but then realized there were a lot more girls in a choir room than there were in a locker room. Haha.


I really fell in love with acting in High school. 
I fell in love with music first and the two kind of go hand in hand for me. Certainly,  high school theatre and music teachers played a huge part in my career choice.  They were really good about exposing us to as many forms of live performance as possible. They took us to see many different forms of art that really opened my eyes to other things. 

 

This is my 8th WBT show. The staff makes this theatre run and I love them for that!

Some of my favorite shows and roles are BUDDY (The Big Bopper), Wizard Of Oz (The Lion), The Full Monty (Dave), all these are very much my favorites

When not on stage, I'm playing music, watching and playing sports, and spending time with friends. 

I enjoy listening to music, mostly folk, rockabilly, country and classic rock. For being a musical theatre guy...I don't really listen to a ton of it. Haha

I like to Celebrate The Holidays with family and friends. Laying low and resting.  I enjoy Christmas Eve gift opening with the "adults". 

    
as Santa  in The Christmas Voyager

Zach Trimmer returns as The Christmas Voyager!

Posted by: Pisa Haas on Thursday, December 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)
"I grew up in San Mateo, CA, which is just a few miles south of San Francisco. I have 2 older sisters, and we always had pets-- anything from dogs and cats to frogs and iguanas. 
 
I was a pretty late bloomer, as I only attempted to sing for the first time at around age 15 or 16. But, once I did, I knew right away it was how I wanted to make a living.
 
This is my third show at WBT, and so far,  (Tony in West Side Story and  Lt. Cable in South Pacific) I have loved every minute. The process is fast and furious, but it is made possible and comfortable by the incredibly professional and supportive team.

It's always too hard to narrow down favorite shows because there are too many. I love different shows for different reasons, but I will say that a role I am dying to play is Bob Gaudio in "Jersey Boys."
 
I love spending time with friends, and I love snuggling with my dog. I also have a small obsession with Rubik's cubes. :-)
 
 as the Voyager ..
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Meet Sara Cline as Dolly in Annie Get Your Gun

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 10:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, KS, as part of a loving family which included my dad and mom, my older sister, Laura and younger brother, David. Kansas holds a very special place in my heart, and I am proud of my Midwestern roots. I lived there from the ages of 4 to 18, when I moved out to study Musical Theatre in college. My parents have always been so supportive of my love for singing and theatre, and I am grateful to have grown up in a household that encouraged us, kids, to follow our dreams, to work hard and to be kind. 

I started doing Musical Theatre when I was six years old, and I've been doing it ever since. My parents did a great job of exposing the kids to a lot of different types of music, including musicals, which encouraged my love of singing. I knew every word to the 10th Anniversary album of Les Miserables before I knew my states and capitals. After I did my first show as part of a summer program for kids, I auditioned for every show I could around the KC area. I ended up missing a lot of fourth grade because I was "working" around town. (Again, VERY supportive parents!) Of course, then, I didn't think of it as working at all! Eventually though, by the time I hit high school, I knew that I wanted theatre to be more than just a hobby; I dreamed of it being my career. My high school theatre teacher, Dan Schmidt, fostered my passion and helped me to fall in love with acting. Suddenly, I wasn't just a singer, I was a storyteller, and that was the most exciting gift anyone could give me. 

'Annie Get Your Gun' was the first musical I ever saw on Broadway, actually! I was lucky enough to see the revival with Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat back in 2001. It was my first trip to New York City as well. The show blew me away and further instilled my love of musical theatre. I will never forget it. Doing the show now as an adult makes me feel very lucky. Previously, at WBT I was in the Christmas Inn this past year. I am so honored to be back with all the kind, professional people who work here. From the audition room to the dressing room, this place is filled to the brim with people I love dearly, whom I hope to work with for years to come.

 I have never seen the movie, believe it or not! Generally, I'm a fan of art in whatever form it comes, so I always support musicals being made into movies if it will give someone who wouldn't have had the chance, exposure to musical theatre.  Hopefully, if they love it, it will inspire them to buy a ticket to see the show live the next time it plays near them! 

My favorite musical of all time is Les Miserables. To me, it is perfect. I also love Sweeney Todd (or really, anything written by Stephen Sondheim). My dream roles include "Fantine" in Les Miserables, "Elphaba" in Wicked and "Cathy" in The Last Five Years

When not on stage, I love to bake (I make a mean chocolate chip cookie!) but if I couldn't be an actor, I would be a make-up artist or some kind of beauty consultant, so I enjoy playing with cosmetic products a lot. You're likely to find me in the aisles of Sephora with eyeshadow swatches all over my arms. Also, when I'm not onstage, I make sure to enjoy the incredible friends I have in my life. Sometimes, there is nothing better than sitting around with my roommates, having a glass of red wine and watching Shark Tank.

I don't often listen to musicals for recreation; typically I'll listen to shows only if I'm studying for a role. So, my favorites are Singer/Songwriters from all decades. Jim Croce, John Mayer, Joni Mitchell, Sara Bareilles and Ed Sheeran are my all-time favorites! 

 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Meet Devon Perry, The Pistol Packin' Mama!

Posted by: PIa Haas on Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

     

Growing up in Central Ohio, I was putting on performances in the living room as soon as I could walk and talk.  I usually incorporated the services of my dolls and my little brother (thanks, man!), and was always clad in a pink tutu.  I watched almost every movie musical and could perform them all from memory. From the age of 6, I began training in ballet and planned to become a professional ballerina, training intensely for over 10 years, until an injury prevented me from going any further.  It was about that time that I turned to theatre, attending Interlochen Arts Camp in the summers.  I then received a B.F.A. in musical theatre from the University of Michigan, and, well... here I am!

 I watched the movie version of Annie Get Your Gun, with Betty Hutton, habitually as a child.  Betty Hutton has always been an inspiration of mine - a woman that was fearless in every performance she gave and really changed the image of what it meant to be a woman in her time.  I'm also a huge Judy Garland fan, and she was originally supposed to do the film version but was unable to complete it.  There are still some clips available of her performing some of the songs.  Even though I've never done this show before, I've known most of these songs for many years and they feel like home to me.

This is my fourth show at WBT, and I love it here!  It's such a beautiful community to be a part of.  Not only are the audiences engaged and supportive, but also the people behind the scenes are just extraordinary, from the box office to the stage crew and everywhere in between.  Though it may sound cliche, WBT really has a family atmosphere, which, when felt so strongly backstage and onstage, I know must translate to the audience and make them feel included as well.

Some of my favorite shows include South Pacific, The Wizard of Oz, Sunday in the Park with George, and Annie Get Your Gun!  Playing this role has always been a dream of mine.  It still feels rather surreal, every time I hit the stage.  Another dream role of mine is Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which I've had the pleasure of playing multiple times, including at WBT!

When I'm not onstage, I also work as a professional musician, which is such a blast! I teach lessons and classes to children, as well as professionals.  I also perform around town as a singer and pianist. I enjoy yoga and nature and kissing dogs.

What's on my Spotify these days... I've been listening to a lot of Vulfpeck, an incredible funk band of friends of mine from UofM.  I also will always enjoy Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates.

  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Director and ANNIE: Mary Jane Houdina

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (2)

  

I was born & raised in Tonawanda, NY. My dad was a plumber and my mom was a homemaker. She made all of my costumes. I went to Tonawanda High School and I choreographed the school musicals before coming to NYC.  
I studied Tap, jazz, ballet, acro, and baton with Miss Gloria Jean and then went to Miss Bev for jazz and tap.  When I decided I wanted to be a professional dancer, they both ganged up on me and said I needed to take ballet lessons. I went to Kaloff School of Ballet in Buffalo where I studied with Miss Helen. Her father had been with Ballets Russes. Danielian would come and teach a class. So I had very good training from the beginning!  I did a lot of performing in the Buffalo area. I'm just old enough to have worked in super clubs as a teen. I also danced for a woman who had been a vaudevillian in her younger years. The group was called Mrs. Dunn's Stars of Tomorrow! We were a bunch of teenagers from different dance schools in the Buffalo area, some singers, and there was a trio, 2 sisters, and their cousin. The girls played accordians, and he played a bass. We performed every 3rd Sunday of the month at the Veteran's Hospital in Buffalo, and at different functions in the Buffalo area. She would introduce me as Buffalo's own Eleanor Powell!  I loved that because she was my favorite dancer of all of the movie ladies!

My family was very supportive of my show biz aspirations,  although,  when I graduated High School, my father offered me a car if stayed home. and a wrist watch if I choose to leave!    

I was working on different projects with  Choreographer  Peter Gennaro and one day he  asked if I'd like to assist him on ANNIE, The Musical.  I did and was his assistant and Dance Captain and a swing performer in the Original production of ANNIE. I went on to assist on 4 other companies with Peter, and I have done directed/choreographed several versions of my own!

 ANNIE is a wonderful show, not just for kids, but adults too!

Some of my favorite shows are Follies, Showboat, The Pajama Game, Irma LaDouce, 42nd Street, and Sugar Babies. I enjoyed performing Aunt Sue in No, No Nanette, Gladys in The Pajama Game and Irma in Irma LaDouce. The one role I didn't get to do was Miss Adelaide in GUYS and DOLLS. She's a real doll of a character! 

When I'm not choreographing/directing. I teach dance.  I love working with children and adults!  Someone asked me the other day how many children's lives have you touched!?  When I thought about it, It was awesome to think of all the"orphans " I've worked with! also the children at the school where I teach, the master classes!    I'd like to think I left them with positive experiences, and given them helpful information to carry on in their careers!

When not working on a show, I play in a steel drum band!  I also like looking for Antiques and I collect depression glass.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Meet Ella & Bill Stanley

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Bill & Ella Stanley are a fab Father-Daughter team in ANNIE! Bill is our Musical Director and Ella plays the orphan, Kate!  We caught up with them between shows!

    
Bill at the Keyboard

Bill: I was raised in Logan, Utah. My parents always encouraged arts & music.  I studied classical piano in college, but I also enjoyed playing rock & Jazz on the side. So I was very attracted to musical theatre because of the wide variety of styles in the repertoire.

The Annie movie was very popular when I was a kid. In my school, it wasn't cool for boys to like Annie, so I don't think I saw the movie, although I remember many of the songs were played regularly on AM radio. I didn't encounter the show again until 1995 when I was hired as music director at the Surflight Theatre.

Ella: My Mom is a professional singer and actress, my Daddy is a piano player, and my stepdad Roger is a drummer.  Daddy plays piano for Shuffles Tap School, and so I started taking tap and musical theatre classes there when I was four.
I watched Annie before I auditioned, to refresh my memory of what happens in the show. The movie was good, but doing the show is more fun!

Bill: I haven't seen the movie recently - I generally make it a point not to, so we can come up with our own version, based on the script & score. I'm generally fine with musicals made into movies, but I find that the live theatre is much more engaging.

Ella:  My favorite part of the show is to do is “It’s A Hard Knock Life”, because of all the props. My favorite part to listen to is the song "I Don't Need Anything But You", because of the harmony that Annie & Daddy Warbucks sing together.

Bill:  I did many shows here at WBT in the late 90s, and then, after a 17-year hiatus, returned to do Wizard of Oz. I thought it would be a kick to do, particularly if my daughter was cast as a munchkin (which she was). It was such a thrill to bring Ella to work with me, and see her on stage! I did Godspell the following summer, and now I'm back again for Annie - and I hope to come back for next summers show, too!

Ella: Some of my favorite shows are:  School of Rock, Peter Pan, Matilda, Legally Blonde

Bill: Mine are West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, The Full Monty, On the Town

Bill: When not on stage, we love playing with Legos, reading (Harry Potter 5 currently), and slime making (slime making is the unanimous favorite of our cast of orphans, but it is not allowed backstage to protect the costumes).
Ella likes playing music - saxophone is her current favorite instrument.

Bill: On my iPod?  I have A lot of classical music, especially Beethoven and Stravinsky, but also Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles, Parliament, and James Brown.

Ella: The Allegretto from Beethoven's 7th Symphony.

 Ella as  Kate.

 

 

Meet Gabriella & Brian Uhl ... A Family Affair!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, August 7, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

A very talented Father- daughter duo work together here at WBT. Brian Uhl is the Trumpet player in the ANNIE Orchestra and Gabriella plays Kate in the show. What fun to share this experience! 

   

  

Brian Uhl (c) with his trumpet

Brian: I grew up on a pig and corn farm in Northwest Iowa. I was the youngest of 6 children. My high school band director, Mr. Perry, was a great trumpet player and he inspired me to pursue a career as a trumpet player. I remember knowing about “Annie” when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s. I actually had the opportunity to work with Charles Strouse, the composer, and play music from the show several years ago as a member of the West Point Band.

Gabriella: My first acting experience was at a summer theatre camp in my town, Cornwall, by Riverside Theatre Arts. I was in the youngest group, and we played the orphans in “Little Girls” while a high schooler played Miss Hannigan! The first role I got by audition was Molly in Annie, Jr. at Random Farms Kids’ Theater.

I started dancing at Dance Design School in Cornwall when I was 3 years old and in preschool. I still study there – ballet, tap, jazz, and this year I’m taking pre-pointe and modern, too. I started taking voice lessons with my older sister’s voice teacher, Ilene Reid, when I was 5.

Brian:  I’ve worked on several shows at the theatre, starting back in 1998. I love that, even 20 later, I still feel like part of a family here.

 Brian: My kids have the movie version of Annie with Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters. Movie musicals have been a big part of our family life – we started showing them to our kids when they were very young and they are still favorites to watch together. They are are a great way to expose more people, who might not get to see quality live performances, to the art form.

Gabriella:  My grandma got us the old version of the movie Annie, the one with Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett in it, so I’ve seen that. I got to be Molly in the show at Random Farms in 2015. I love doing the dance in “Never Fully Dressed.” When the adults joined us in rehearsal, I couldn’t believe how amazing the show was! I watched them and felt like I was watching a movie or something – I couldn’t believe I was part of that, too. The best part of being in this production has been making new friends, who I hope to have forever.

Brian: My favorite shows that I’ve played for are “Newsies” and “Hello Dolly.” We enjoyed the recent revival of “On the Town,” and “Wicked” was one of the most beautiful shows I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve seen a Broadway show that I haven’t liked! 

Gabriella: Some of My favorite shows are “Wicked,” “Newsies,” “Matilda,” and “Singin’ in the Rain” are my favorites.

Brian:  I’m an award-winning apple pie baker! I love to bake. I like traveling with my family and being active outside.

Gabriella: When not on stage, I like being with my friends, reading, going to dance class, vacation with my family, and playing with my brother and sister.

Brian: I don’t have any music on my phone, but right now in my car, I have classic rock (Boston, Journey, Steve Miller Band), and the soundtracks to “Hamilton,” “Newsies,” “Wicked,” “Matilda,” and “Something Rotten.” When my wife’s in the car, it’s all 80s, all the time and I don’t mind that!

 Gabriella (c)  as Kate in Annie

 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Meet Kaylin Hedges as ANNIE!!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Kaylin, who plays ANNIE in the Sunday Performances, is nine years old, one of the youngest members of the cast!!

    

Kaylin was born in San Antonio, Texas and since has been moving around due to her father being in the army. "We just recently moved to Valley cottage New York to be close to NYC to pursue Broadway."
As far as the family in the industry, no one has ever pursued the same dream, but her mom, Hailey, is a singer. Her younger sister Emalyn is also just beginning to follow in her big sister's footsteps performing in her first production in August along side Kaylin in Annie Warbucks the sequel to Annie.   

  Kaylin With Michael DeVries (Daddy Warbucks)

Kaylin started performing when she was really young, always singing and dancing, then the musical Matilda was performing in the Thanksgiving day parade and she was hooked. She auditioned for her first show at age 6 and portrayed a sheep in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The following year, she re-auditioned and landed a lead role in the show. 

She aspires to be like Sutton Foster, Kristen Chenoweth, and her mom. She has danced since she was 2 years old in classes. 

She first heard of Annie when, last summer, she auditioned for the national tour, got to the finals for the role of Molly, but did not receive the part. She also auditioned for the Flat Rock, NC production and had no luck till, finally, Westchester Broadway Theatre gave her the best opportunity!

Kaylin has never watched the show or the movie before being cast so it was all new to her and she has enjoyed more than anything finding her own Annie! "Being able to make this character come to life, within me, has been a true gift! I love every single moment!" 

Her favorite part of the show is, "Hard Knock Life, because, I get to dance and share the stage with the orphans and just have fun!"  Her 2nd favorite is, " I Don't Need Anything But You,  because, it's just pure joy both in the show and in real life to be with Michael/Daddy Warbucks and the happiness we share for that song is awesome!" 

At home, she dances and sings to Easy Street and her goal is to know it by the end of the run and, hopefully, when she's older, that she'll get to play the role of Lily St. Regis or Grace!! 

"Omg, I love Sunny!!!"  She doesn't have a pet and with all the moving, the family has never had a chance to get a pet, so it is amazing for her to come to the theatre and bond with Sunny! She loves it, "Working with the dog teaches you to really roll with it because sometimes she doesn't always do the same thing and you can't freak the show has to keep going and do your best always no matter what happens around you!" 

"My Favorite Shows?  Matilda, Wicked, Dear Evan Hanson, School Of Rock, Legally Blonde, Annie, of course :) and anything really on Broadway bahaha!!
When I'm not on stage, I mostly spend time with my family!  And prepare for what's next :) "

   
Kaylin & her sister with their dad before his last deployment May 2016

       
Kaylin as Gladys at  Cape Fear Regional's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. 

 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Aubrey Sinn on Easy Street.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

"I grew up in a few places around the Midwest/East Coast. I was homeschooled from 4th grade until I went to college. My mom told me senior year of high school I couldn't audition for another show until I finished my college applications!"

 Singing has been a part of her life since she was a child; her parents met singing in the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C. That meant Aubrey was singing along with her family’s beloved Christmas albums at home, and in church and school, long before she showed interest in acting.

"My parents met while singing, so part of it might be genetic. Then when I was a kid I saw a production of How to Eat Like a Child and I remember wanting desperately to be onstage, doing what they were doing." 

She studied acting at Grand Rapids Community College, and credits instructors Tom Kaechele and Mark Amenta for honing her skills. thirteen years ago, she moved to New York City to attend New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, graduating as a drama major. 

       

In 2012, Aubrey had a role in “Legally Blonde” here at  WBT (center). Then in 2013, she appeared as Maria in our production of “The Sound of Music.” (with Matthew Shepard as Captain von Trapp) 

“I love Rodgers and Hammerstein. I grew up listening to ‘Oklahoma,’ ‘The Sound of Music,’ all that old-school musical theater. ‘The Music Man,’ ‘My Fair Lady’ – that’s my jam. My mom always liked that stuff. It has a special place in my heart.”

This is my 4th show at WBT but even the second time it already felt like coming home. I love the staff here. I also love the wide variety of work I've gotten to do here: I've done contemporary musicals, very traditional musicals, I've understudied multiple roles in one show, and I've gotten to play the hero & the villain. This is what I love about being a performer!

 
As Lily St. Regis (left) performs "Easy Street" with Adam Roberts and Susann Fletcher.

"Annie was the first musical I ever auditioned for when I was 8 years old! I had never taken a dance class so I remember being very confused every time they said "ball-change" during the dance call. I was so sad when I didn't get cast - if only my young self could see me now!

I did watch the movie growing up! I think movie musicals can be a great way to introduce folks t the theater who don't have access to it or haven't been aware of it otherwise. To me, an important element of movie musicals is taking advantage of the medium - being faithful to the story, music, and spirit, but in a way that could only be done cinematically. What elevates the movie above being essentially a recording of a stage performance?

My dream role is to play Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd!

My husband & I live in Brooklyn with our two dogs - I love spending time with them around the neighborhood & Prospect Park or taking trips upstate to go rambling." 

 

Celeste Hudson as Grace Farrell in Annie

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

I was born in NYC at Lennox Hill Hospital (where Beyoncés baby was born!) and mostly grew up in the Capital Region, upstate New York. I was lucky to always be involved with theatre and dance, and come into the city often to see shows. 

My family was very supportive of the arts and my dad raised me and my sister on great music and movies- we watched all the old movie musical classics like On the Town and Singing in the Rain. I loved Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse for as long as I can remember. I grew up doing ballet and seeing theatre and fell in love with performing. Living the Capital Region there were wonderful community theatres and I performed in school shows. My mom (who used to work for Radio City Musical Hall) was an absolute rockstar in supporting all I wanted to do. My high school director Mr. Maguire (who was also an exceptional math teacher!) really inspired me in my love of being on stage telling stories. I had a magical voice teacher named Michael who made singing my favorite thing to do. My ballet teacher instilled discipline and a love to strive for grace and beauty. But when I brought a bunch of children I was teaching in a summer program to one of my high school shows, I knew I wanted to be a performer. The kids were so mesmerized, even by a little show in my school gym with folding chairs. They really believed in the magic and I knew that theatre was important to provide an entertaining escape, to teach and inspire and to suspend reality for a few hours. 

I remember watching the movies as a kid, (Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett especially made me giggle) but I've never been in the stage production before now! I have performed previously with WBT in Showboat. I had such a lovely experience with both cast and crew, and I knew I couldn't wait to work here again. The people here are so wonderful and it's a treat to be able to work at a professional theatre so close to NYC (and my bed!) 

I definitely think musicals being made into movies can be really successful, and can bring musical theatre to so many more people. I've really enjoyed a few adaptations, even if I notice and miss some changes from the stage show. Sweeney Todd and Phantom of the Opera are some faves where I've liked the movie adaptation, mostly because they are so visually exciting. 

Dream roles? Oh,  so many! Roles I've done that I'd love to reprise again and again: Queenie in The Wild Party and Aldonza in Man of La Mancha. I would love to play Florence in Chess, Sibella in Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder, Mother in Ragtime, Veronica in Heathers, Velma in Chicago, Dot in Sunday in the Park with George, Amneris in Aida, Sally Bowles in Cabaret, The Bakers Wife and Cinderella in Into the Woods. For a show currently running, a dream role is Natasha in Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, and what a dream it would be to originate Meg in Hercules when it comes to Broadway!

I love teaching! I work at an amazing dance studio in TriBeCa called Dance with Miss Rachel, and it's incredible to watch these adorable baby ballerinas grow in confidence and creativity. We even teach a few songs from Annie in our "Future Broadway Stars" class. When I'm not working, I love to travel and explore, both in the city and out. I also adore eating delicious food! Whether brunching with my girlfriends or going out to my favorite Thai and Mexican restaurants or cooking and cuddling up with my boyfriend Mat- I definitely have a weak spot for yummy cuisine! Other guilty pleasures are listening to jazz music in the shower, searching online for dream apartments I can't yet afford, and watching John Oliver and UFC with Mat!

 I love all kinds of music, especially unique female voices and writing like Kimbra, Marian Hill, and my all time favorite Kate Bush. Right now I've been humming a lot of Glass Animals and the theme song from Chewing Gum (so catchy!)

   

      Celeste as a baby ballerina (age 4!)                 Teaching a Broadway class at DWMR   

    

  As Julie LaVerne in Showboat                  As Queenie in The Wild Party at NYU! 

 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Denise Simon, Author of “Parenting In The Spotlight” at WBT

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

On Friday, August 4 before the show and during intermission, Denise will be signing books in the lobby and answering any questions you may have about your budding star.

When your child wants to become an actor, you may be thrilled and a little scared. The entertainment industry can be confusing and overwhelming. How do you know when to hire an agent and a manager or what kind of clothing should be worn to auditions? What about taxes, school, and helping your child cope with rejection? What's the best way to ensure that your child actor has a successful experience and doesn't end up in the tabloids? 
 
Denise Simon has spent 30 years as an Acting Coach, Personal Talent Manager, and Director, specializing in child actors. She's worked with some of the best and brightest young actors in television, film, commercials and on Broadway. In her new book, Parenting in the Spotlight: How to raise a child star without screwing them up, Denise shares not only the practical how-to information all parents need but more than 75 valuable life lessons for your child. You will 
 glean priceless tips on how to help your child thrive in the acting industry and reap life lessons that will ensure a successful adulthood.

 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Meet John Charles Kelly as FDR in ANNIE!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, July 10, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

John Charles Kelly is a remarkable Franklin D. Roosevelt in ANNIE! We caught up with him between shows. 

  

I'm an Oregano; from Mill City, Oregon – population 1500, when everybody's home.  My Dad was The Postmaster; My Mother wrote for The Paper, which came out once a week; My Sister's husband writes textbooks on Agricultural Economics with their youngest son; I worked at The Drugstore daily after attending The High School.

I began tap dancing at 5.  I remember being in a line of little cowboys, all in black cowboy outfits with black cowboy hats at the Oregon State Fair.

My education at U.of Oregon didn't do much; my Theatre BA got me a job at a tv station in Tucson!  But while there, I did two productions at the U. of Arizona, where Peter Marroney, the Head of  Drama at UofA, and Miss Irene Comer, Dance Director, became my mentors for GEORGE M! And HELLO, DOLLY! 

I saw the original production of ANNIE in '78 when I was touring with Mitzi Gaynor.  Then I auditioned for the First National Tour, which became MY first national tour (of Seven).  I remember meeting Mary Jane Houdina (our Director)  at the audition for the Broadway company which several members of the First National Tour attended at the Alvin Theatre. She, Bill Berloni (Dog Trainer) and I were much younger!  This is my 9th ANNIE/ANNIE WARBUCKS. I've played most of the male roles, including "Warbucks" at Surflight, five years ago, also with Mary Jane and Bill, directed again by my partner, Charles Abbott.

Usually, movies of Broadway plays are ruined by "improvements"; exceptions being 1776, with most of the original cast, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the show needs the Alps!,  MY FAIR LADY, which was beautiful, and WEST SIDE STORY, which preserved all the dancing. Oh, and THE MUSIC MAN and even OLIVER!

The first movie of ANNIE was an embarrassment.  The second movie, with Kathy Bates, was much better.  

I've been able to DO my dream role, "Buddy" in FOLLIES 4 times, all with Chuck and Mary Jane.  But I also loved doing "John Adams" in 1776, 3 times, "Georges" in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES twice, and just being in the touring company of THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA.

When not rehearsing, I'm seeing movies, taking pictures, and walking – I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain last year at 70; 400 miles in 4 weeks!  We have 2000 DVDs to watch, and many CDs, mostly classical and Broadway Original Casts and movie soundtracks.  (As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the opera NORMA on WQXR, directed by a friend of ours for Chicago Lyric Opera, and introduced by another producer friend!

 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet Nicolas Tabio, 2017 Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship Recipient

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

This year's recipient, of the Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship, is Nicolas Tabio, a senior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY.  It will be awarded to him on Stage at Westchester Broadway Theatre on Thursday, July 6, 2017. 

Nicolas just graduated as valedictorian of his class and He's a member of the National Honor Society. He studied at Oxford University last summer to take the Politics and Economics course of the Oxford Tradition.  His love for the dramatic arts led him to the stage and he starred in the Stepinac production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and had the lead role of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the production of All The Way, and directed the production of Amadeus. He co-founded Crusader Productions, an independent student-run theatre company, which put on Death of a Salesman on last summer. He is now directing its second production, This Is Our Youth.  He a member of the baseball team and has been a member of the varsity hockey team for four years and was a captain this season. He will be attending Yale University next fall.

The Scholarship is given annually to a college-bound senior who has excelled in the theatre arts programs while attending Stepinac High School. The prestigious Arts Scholarship is named after Bob Fitzsimmons, a graduate of Stepinac High School, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March of 1992. He was the Public Relations Director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as a gifted actor, producer, writer and a director of shows at WBT and at numerous theatres throughout the County.
The scholarship was established in his name by the owners of Westchester Broadway Theatre, Bill Stutler and Bob Funking, the entire employee staff of WBT, and the many friends and relatives of Bob Fitzsimmons. Under the auspices of WBT, Allan Gruet, (former WBT Public Relations Director, who replaced Bobby Fitzsimmons) and George Puello spearheaded two fundraisers. The first & most successful fundraiser was held at WBT, the second was held at Stepinac High School.  Mr. Puello was responsible for directing & producing the entertainment portion of the events, while Mr. Gruet handled the ticketing for the fundraisers & the continuing administration of the self-sustaining scholarship. Over the years, along with the assistance of producer Bob Funking, Allan has continued to manage the scholarship, making it possible to present the award consistently each year. In recent years, Frank Portanova, Vice Principal of Stepinac High School, has been extremely helpful and cooperative, making some financial donations to the fund to help ensure the life of the scholarship. He also is responsible for selecting the student winner for this highly competitive award. Since its inception, $25,000.00 in scholarships have been awarded. Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate, the Scholarship is no longer self-sustaining and monies need to be raised to ensure the continuation of this award. The annual scholarship in Bob's name is our collective way of keeping alive the memory of our dear friend, Bobby Fitzsimmons

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Meet Peyton Ella As ANNIE

Posted by: Elizabeth Jankovic on Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (2)

 Peyton Ella Plays the title role of "Annie" in our next mainstage show.

  

Peyton (Annie) with Sunny (as Sandy)

Peyton Ella, age 11, is a Westchester County native and thrilled to be making her WBT debut!  Peyton began on her path to performing at age 7, waiting in line at an open call for NBC's Sound of Music LIVE w/ Carrie Underwood.  Four callbacks later, she won the role of the littlest Von Trapp daughter, Gretl.  From there, Peyton went on to play the role of young Kim in the NY Philharmonic's concert version of Show Boat with Vanessa Williams, which also aired on PBS.  Last summer, Peyton was thrilled to be cast in the role of young Lee Bouvier in the Los Angeles production of Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theater with Betty Buckley and Rachel York.  Peyton's other TV credits include a musical performance with Stephen Colbert and Mathew Broderick on CBS's Late Show, and the pilot of "Weight: The Series", filmed in LA.  Her regional theater credits include the KOTA productions of A Little Princess (Lottie), School of Rock (Summer), Annie (Annie), & the Random Farms productions of Cinderella (Cinderella), Shrek (young Shrek), and Beauty and the Beast (Lefou).  Look for Peyton in an episode of the new, upcoming Netflix series "Gypsy". 

 Peyton with Susann Fletcher (Miss Hannigan) 

  

Peyton (center) with the Orphans perform "A Hard Knock Life."

Peyton enjoys singing for her favorite charity events, especially KOTA's "Lyrics for Life" which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

When she isn't performing, Peyton loves ice skating locally with friends at the Westchester Skating Academy. 

Show business seems to run in the family blood.  Peyton is proud to be following in the footsteps of her mother who played the roles of Kate and Annie in the original production of Annie on Broadway, and her little brother Elliot was recently traveling with the 1st National Tour of the Broadway musical Kinky Boots.  Her grandmother was a Radio City Music Hall Rockette. 

Peyton is the 4th child out of 5 children and wants to thank her sisters Alexis, Madison, & Taylor, and her brother Elliot for supporting her love of performing. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Meet Sunny and Animal Director and Trainer, Bill Berloni!

Posted by: pia on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Sunny plays Sandy in Annie

Sunny will be playing Sandy in WBT’s production of Annie. Sunny was adopted in the spring of 2012 for the revival of Annie on Broadway from the Houston TX Animal Control the day before she was to be put to sleep. She stayed with the show on Broadway until 2014 and has been out with the national tour ever since. Sunny is a Terrier Mix who is about 7 years old. Sunny loves toys that squeak and all children, especially red-headed little girls.

Like the other great Sandy dogs, Sunny was rescued and trained by Bill Berloni, who is known for his training of rescue animals for stage, film, and television. Sunny is the 23rd Sandy dog of Bill Berloni’s career. Under Bill’s training, the original dog that portrayed Sandy in the 1977 Original Broadway Production of Annie, became the “longest running dog on Broadway,” never missing a performance.

In addition to being a trainer, Bill is the Director of Animal Behavior at the Humane Society of New York and he is also the 2011 Tony Honoree for Excellence in Theatre. Bill Berloni is the only Animal trainer that has been honored with a Tony. He also received the 2017 Drama League’s Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award and the 2014 Outer Critics Circle Award for Special Achievement.

When talking about Annie, Bill said, “being part of a show that has become part of the national consciousness is something that I am very proud of.” Throughout his career, Bill feels like he has “taken these dogs, saved their lives, and given them a purpose.” 

Annie runs at the Westchester Broadway Theatre from June 29th-September 10th.

Bill Berloni and Sunny

 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meet Stacia Fernandez

Posted by: Matthew Orlander on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at 11:15:00 am Comments (0)

We Welcome Stacia Fernandez to the Cast of Mamma Mia as Tanya!

 

 Stacia

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia where I was the youngest of 4 girls. Being the youngest, I was always the loudest as I was trying to get people to hear me. I guess that's why I am an actor now!

I spent 5 years doing Mamma Mia on Broadway in the ensemble and playing both roles of Rosie and Tanya. So, you would think this was an easy transition for me. Joyful yes! Easy no! All new blocking and choreography make it necessary to erase some pretty old hard drives. That makes it quite a challenge, but a fun one!

I've worked up here at the WBT many times before, but it's been several years and I'm thrilled to be back. It's like coming home. 

As far as musical movies go, I surely do appreciate the idea. I think it promotes a love of the art form to a lot of people who never appreciated a good musical before. I look forward to seeing the prequel of Mamma Mia!  

I loved playing Grizabella in CATS up here, and playing Mrs. Anna in The King and I. I would play Mrs. Anna again in a minute. I would also love to revisit Diana in Next to Normal, one of my all-time favorite shows that I've done. Also, I can't wait to play Mrs. Lovett, the Witch in Into the Woods, and Mama Rose in Gypsy somewhere soon. In addition, I just did Night of the Iguana with James Earl Jones. Let me tell you, that was a dream come true!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Meet Kilty Reidy

Posted by: Elizabeth Jankovic on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 12:15:00 pm Comments (0)

Kilty Reidy plays Harry Bright in Mamma Mia!

 Harry and Donna (Michelle Dawson) in "Our Last Summer"

I was born in Charlotte, NC.  I was raised in North Carolina by Midwestern parents (Chicago).  So the rules that applied in my home didn’t always apply outside.  For instance, when responding to an adult in Southern culture, it is polite to reply with a Ma’am or a Sir.  When I would respond to my mother with a "yes, ma’am”, she would tell me not to take that “tone” with her.  Ah, cultural differences.

My mother is a huge fan of theatre.  I was raised listening to Leonard Stallman’s New Faces of 1952.  What do you mean you don’t know it?  Later on Annie and A Chorus Line were thrown into the mix.  My mother also put together Vaudeville Shows for the Church Fall Festival.  And we always had a piano player at the house when my parents threw big parties.  Clearly, there was no hope for me.

I took class with a Meisner teacher who taught out of the old Carnegie Hall Studios.  His name was Fred Kareman.  He made a lasting impression on me.

My father always joked when I started working professionally, “It’s about time that loud mouth made you some money!”  He was right.

I've done several shows at WBT; Carousel, West Side Story, Funny Girl (twice), And The World Goes ‘Round, Happy Days.  I love that I can work and live at home (that is the dream).  Also, after many years and many shows, WBT feels like a family to me.  They gave me one of my first jobs as a new Equity member and have always been kind enough to let me return.  

I first heard of Mamma Mia! the musical in about 2000 when the show was being mounted in New York.  This is my first time doing Mamma Mia!.  I have never seen the movie, though I do love Meryl Streep.  When stage musicals are made into films, as long as they are done well, I have no issues.  I believe they help cultivate a new audience for musical theatre.

Some of my favorite shows include The Most Happy Fella, Once on This Island, The Scottsboro Boys, Light in the Piazza, Fiddler on the Roof, Drowsy Chaperone.. just off the top of my head!

My dream role is Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and I want another shot at Alfie Byrne in A Man of No Importance.

I listen to tons of musical theatre.  I love podcasts…“This American Life”, “The Moth”, “Ronna and Beverly”, and many more.

Meet Michelle Dawson

Posted by: Matthew Orlander on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

   Michelle Dawson plays Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!

    

                             Michelle                   w/Jennifer Swiderski as Rosie & Elise Kinnon as Tanya

I grew up in a little town called Charlotte in Vermont (farm country). I showed horses around the east coast until I went to college. I have wonderful memories of that time in my life.  

I started doing plays and musicals in middle school and also with community theatre. I was hooked immediately into the world of musical theatre. I later went on to receive a BFA from Carnegie Mellon and would eventually make my way to NYC. 

I've had the fortune of being part of Mamma Mia in a number of instances, first starting in 2008. I toured on the Broadway National Tour as Tanya for a year, then continued on the road for another year and a half as Donna. In 2009, I represented the national tour performing Dancing Queen on the Tony Awards. I joined the Broadway Company in 2011, where I understudied the role of Donna and Rosie. Last summer, I was Donna at the Engeman Theater’s production of Mamma Mia, and here I am in 2017, lucky enough to be doing it again at the WBT!

I love working at the WBT and I believe this marks my 17th show. I started working here back in 1995 as Julie Jordon in Carousel. I am forever grateful for how much the WBT family has given me over the years.

My dream role is Donna in Mamma Mia as it has always been the “IT role” for me. Looking down the road, I think it would be fun to create a new role in a new musical.

When I'm not on stage, my 12-year-old son, my husband, house, and 2 dogs keep me busy! I've also started teaching voice privately and I absolutely love it!

Also, I like to listen to all types of music from musicals to today's top hits! 

Meet Nathan Cockroft

Posted by: Elizabeth Jankovic on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 10:45:00 am Comments (0)

Nathan Cockroft plays Sky (Sophie's boyfriend) in Mamma Mia!  

Sky and Sophie (Mariah MacFarlane)

Hey, I grew up in Greeley, CO in the foothills of the Rockies. My family owns a dairy farm, so I spent my time evenly between the farm and town as a child. I have a twin sister; growing up we were very musical, and we often passed our time singing and dancing. Naturally, growing up in Colorado, I spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountains and fostering a love of the outdoors. Nothing makes me happier than the aspens changing color in the fall!

As far as my career, I became an actor kind of by chance. I had a lot of varying interests growing up, and I stumbled upon theater in middle school, and started actively pursuing it in high school. I actually didn't start voice or dance training until I started college at Oklahoma City University. From there, I've kept fairly busy working regionally and on board Disney Cruise Lines in their stage productions! 

I first heard of Mamma Mia! during college, and was aware of the Broadway and touring productions when I moved to the city; however, I had never seen a production until I started here at WBT.

I have seen the movie, and I enjoyed its fun energy. I know that this show has inspired a sort of cult following with the popular ABBA score, and I'm excited whenever any show gets a film expansion to the franchise. I think it's so exciting when this art form can reach the masses in every way possible.

Some of my favorite shows are by Stephen Sondheim; I am a huge fan of his prolific shows, and would have to say that many hold dream roles of mine. It's never easy to hone in on just one dream role in the large spectrum of theater. My real dream is to help create a role from its inception and originate that role. There's a real freedom and sense of ownership in breathing life into an idea and giving it a physical form!

When I'm offstage, I'm a complete outdoors person; I love running, hiking, biking, being outside. My personal favorite is sitting under a tree with an iced coffee and a great book I can get lost in!

Some music I have currently been listening to is a blend of Marc Broussard, Ed Sheeran, and Christopher!

 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meet Jennifer Swiderski

Posted by: Aidan Healy on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Jennifer plays Rosie in Mamma Mia!

        

                        Jennifer                                     With Brent Bateman as Bill Austin

I grew up in the Washington DC area doing theater at a young age. I started dancing at 3 and that transitioned into being in my first professional stage production of Annie when I was 8 years old. I still remember my lines and some of the choreography.

I've always been drawn to storytelling. I started as a very young dancer which transitioned into professional stage productions by the time I was 8. I was hooked and lucky that the area where I grew up had many theaters and my parents were willing to drive me alllllllllll over the tri-state area. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So I first heard of MAMMA MIA when I moved to New York City after college and that huge famous marquee was above the Winter Garden. In 2010, I was invited to audition for the national tour of Mamma Mia and finally decided to see the show. I really didn't realize how much of the ABBA canon I actually knew! It was as like a rock concert and unlike anything I'd seen before. So joyful and fun. The audience was on its feet and electric. I couldn't wait to take this show all over the country.

After touring for 2 years, I was asked to join the Broadway company and of course, accepted, delighted to be performing alongside some of the actors I had seen at the Winter Garden just a couple of years prior. I continued with the show when it moved to The Broadhurst and remained with the Broadway Cast, performing in the show's historic closing in September of 2015. That was an incredible night I'll remember for the rest of my life.

And the show has remained with me!

A few month after it closed, I directed MAMMA MIA (along with DRIVING MISS DAISY in repertory) at the historic Weathervane Theater in NH. A few weeks later, I played Tanya in MAMMA MIA at Main State Music Theater directed by our own Mark Martino. To now step into Rosie is such a treat. I've grown to love all three of these women. They're real, they're loyal, and their independent. Roles like this, for women, aren't that common in musicals.

This is my first time at WBT and I love the people! The cast is fun and talented, and the crew is THE BEST: Kind, really excellent at their craft, and thoughtful. We're very lucky.

The movie, heck yeah I saw the movie MAMMA MIA. To be honest, it's not my favorite. I think this particular story, with its sense of FUN and silliness, lends itself to being told on stage more than the screen. The screen is so literal. There are some beautiful shots in the film and Meryl Streep can do no wrong. I just think we're more inclined to go along for this ride in a more intimate environment where the audience and the actors can have a relationship.

Some of my dream roles have been Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain, Rona in Spelling Bee, and all 3 of the dynamos in Mamma Mia! It doesn't get more fun than that! I also just premiered as Rosemary Clooney in a new musical called Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney musical. It's an incredible story. You guys should do it here! Your audiences would LOVE IT. Such great music...

In addition to performing, I love teaching acting and directing. Helping people be the best version of themselves and sharing stories with audiences is such a passion of mine.

Also, I just got married in September. (I met my husband on the national tour of Mamma Mia!) We are head over heels for our feisty 7-pound puppy named Betty White. She's a little dog with a big personality and we love taking her out and about in NYC .

Some music my husband and I listen to is a playlist for our wedding reception and it's my favorite thing. A little bit of everything- from Louis Armstrong to Prince, with some Beatles and James Brown for good measure.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meet Mariah MacFarlane

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Mariah plays Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia!

  

     Mariah                                                       With Michelle Dawson (as Donna)

I grew up in Duxbury, MA about 45 minutes south of Boston. My father was the theatre teacher at the high school so I actually literally grew up in the theatre with my afternoons being spent with my dad painting sets or sitting in at rehearsals. I have played piano since I was 5 years old and I learned to sing by singing along with the songs I was learning on the piano. I also played the oboe and was going to pursue classical performance in college. My first musical wasn't until I was at Emerson College where I got my BFA in Musical Theatre.

Obviously, my dad was a big factor in this dream. No matter what I wanted to do he supported me but when I decided to go into theatre he definitely helped me in whatever way he could. My vocal teacher in College Sabrina Learman will always be one of my biggest mentors. I had no vocal training when I got to college and a few of my teachers had doubts about my vocal abilities. She never once doubted me and is pretty solely responsible for the voice I have today.

I have seen many of my friends in productions of this show before and I always thought it is such a fun show to watch but it would be even more fun to be in. I had been seen for this role probably 20 different times before I finally got the job here so I am incredibly happy to finally have the opportunity to perform it. The music is so vibrant and the story is so truthfully simple it is such a joy to see the audience light up every night. 

 I actually really enjoyed the movie version of Mamma Mia, except for the singing of Pierce Brosnan, which brings me to what I think of movie musicals. I think there are some really wonderful examples of them such as Rent and Chicago where they are able to enhance the stage version. However, when they cast people who cannot even remotely sing and must be auto-tuned to death all the integrity of the songs and character are completely lost.

Some Of My Favorite shows are; Sunday in the Park With George, The Last Five Years, The Last Ship, South Pacific. Dream roles; Clara- Light in the Piazza, Dot - Sunday in the Park, Nellie - South Pacific.

 I am a professional dog walker so I am usually walking up to 20 dogs a week when I am not in the show. I am also a singer/songwriter who plays gigs at the Bitter End and Rockwood occasionally. Other than that, I love to run and bike and catch up on some Hulu with my boyfriend, Trent, when he isn't in his show. Coordinating two actors' schedules can prove difficult!

I am a folk/rock/country lover. In particular Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell. I also have a love for contemporary pop music and whenever I run I have a whole playlist of it.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Meet Elise Kinnon in MAMMA MIA!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Elise Kinnon plays Tanya in Mamma Mia and she is also the Associate Director/Choreographer of the show. We met up with her and here's what she had to say! 

  

I grew up in Brisbane, Australia! One of four kids we were all musically inclined. We grew up on a beautiful piece of land with gum trees and even koalas and kangaroos. 

My high school acting teaching, Narelle McCoy was instrumental in my career. Always encouraging and helping to nurture my growth as a young actor. Also the Conroy's! I won a scholarship to The Conroy Dance Centre after family friends encouraged my Mum to let me audition. We couldn't afford for me to do such a lavish extracurricular activity and that scholarship changed my life and my family's. We all ended up at the studio and my teachers (Rachelle, Nicole, Marcus, Marisa, and Jan) were all so supportive and challenged me to become my best. I think I was influenced to become an actor early on, watching a lot of old classics growing up (Singing in the Rain, Seven Brides etc.) and always adored the singing and dancing. I knew I wanted to end up on the stage and make my way to the Big Apple!   

I performed in Mamma Mia last summer at Theatre Aspen. I actually fell in love with the show! It is such a feel good show and the audience leaves smiling. It also celebrates all of these strong relationships between women. I have an absolute blast onstage with Michelle Dawson and Jen Swiderski. 

I do know the film, Mamma Mia! I think it's great that stage musicals are now being turned into films. Gets more Broadway to a wider audience.              
Some of my favorite shows? Oh wow, where to even begin?! I have a huge soft spot for 42nd Street, I've done the show 3 times including touring with the production all across Asia. It's such a sweet story of small town gal making it big and you can't beat those massive tap numbers. I'm kind of a sucker in general for the golden oldies, I adore White Christmas and Singing in the Rain. I would love to play Sherrie in Rock of Ages, all that 80's Rock gives me life! Would also love to do The Rocky Horror Show and The Wild Party. It's fun to constantly get to change eras and styles! 

When not on stage, I am an avid outdoors gal! Growing up in nature and then living in the concrete jungle it's tough sometimes to get into nature. Though I've been very fortunate with contracts often in Colorado so I get my hiking fix in. Last year I conquered my first 14,000 foot mountain called La Plata.  My husband (Justin) and I are also big into snowboarding, camping, playing with our sweet dog Bundy and seeing live music and theatre.

Lately, I've been obsessed with listening to music by Marian Hill and Hozier. Though my usual go to's are Ella Fitzgerald, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Duke Ellington, Ray Lamontagne, Lior and Tower of Power.

 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

About Mamma Mia

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

 

 

 

 

Mamma Mia! was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, based on the songs of ABBA, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, former members of the band. The title of the musical is taken from the group's 1975 chart-topper "Mamma Mia".

The musical was the idea of theatre producer Judy Craymer. After seeing the 1983 musical Chess, for which Andersson and Ulvaeus also wrote the music, and heard their song "The Winner Takes It All," she realized the theatrical potential of the group's pop songs. She had to find a way of unlocking that potential, with a story strong enough to carry them. “I knew from the outset that Mamma Mia! had to be much more than just an ABBA compilation or tribute show. The story had to be as infectious as the music and provide a strong feel-good factor.”

Craymer enlisted playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book. She found that many of the early ABBA songs were more innocent, naive and teenage-orientated, and later on, they became more mature and reflective. And, of course, it was women who sang them. So that suggested a story about two generations of women, namely a mother and a daughter.  “I wanted to write about a working single mother who had got her life together and the relationship she had with her daughter who she absolutely adored but fought with.”
Her challenge was that “whatever happens in the story, I always have to come back to the song… We didn’t want to have those awful clunky moments where people burst into song. To me, it was very important that I create believable characters and gave them all a true storyline, and I absolutely worked to get the story and the songs to work together.”  The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs drove the ensuing enchanting tale of love, friendship, and identity set in a Greek island paradise.

Mamma Mia! premiered in London’s West End in 1999. After successful USA West Coast runs, it opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre in 2001, and then at the Broadhurst Theatre in 2013. After 5,773 performances, Mamma Mia! ended its record-breaking 14-year Broadway run in 2015,  making it the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history.

As of 2017, the show continues in London's West End, where it is the eighth longest-running show in West End history. It has been performed in more than 40 countries and across five continents.

A film adaptation of Mamma Mia! was released in July 2008. Featuring much of the creative team from the original London production, it starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan.

Director/Choreographer Mark Martino, when asked why he thinks this show remains such a musical theatre favorite and why it elicits a cult response from its fans, said, "I think there are three reasons. The first is the ABBA music. Except for The Beatles, no one else has sold more records than ABBA. It is music we always love to revisit. I defy anyone not to know how "Dancing Queen" goes. Mothers pass it on to daughters and it comes around again and again so that it becomes family music. Actually, the entire musical writing is very clever; there are complex harmonies; they overdub themselves many times, and all the hooks are so singable and memorable. At the same time, there is an underlying current of Swedish melancholy that is moving.  Then, secondly, the story that is built around the music is so sweet, so charming, so unabashedly sentimental, so romantic! It is about love and loss, and all those things which tug at our heartstrings. Lastly, it radiates pure joy. When it opened on Broadway in 2001 right after 9/11, many people thought it wouldn't work, given the tragedy that had just happened. Yet somehow, it proved to be the perfect time precisely because it is so joyful that the audience's enjoyment is directly proportionate to what is on stage. There aren't that many shows where the cast gets to have as much fun as the audience, and this is one of them. That comes irresistibly across the footlights. The plot is really very simple: 'Who's my Dad?' But is has a sweetness and humor; it's accessible and moving, and when it opened, it also helped that you couldn't get a ticket for such a long time.”
"I'd like them to feel when they leave," he says of the Mamma Mia! audiences, "that they have spent a couple hours with people they would like to know better. And, of course, "I would love to have the audience think that they should be dancing, too!"

Friday, March 3, 2017

Meet Joanna Young in The Bikinis!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. My parents were both teachers and I have a younger brother. I started performing when I was 9 in a local production of ANNIE.  After that show,  I was smitten and did many other productions. After high school, I attend NYU as a musical theater major.

I can't really imagine any other career for myself. I feel the most alive when I'm on stage and performing. I've had a lot of amazing teachers along the way, most of them music teachers who taught me not only about technique but the value of hard work and how to express myself through this artistic medium.

My agents first told me about this show when I auditioned for a different production a couple years ago. I was cast and did the show at the Riverside Theater with both Karyn and Katy. I had a great time. I really love singing these classic songs with these women. The four-part harmony and arrangements are amazing and we have a lot of fun with the silly sketches.

My favorite show is probably A Chorus Line. I've done the show numerous times. I usually play Diana Morales, but I also got to play Val once, which was fun. I have a lot of dream roles and have been lucky enough to play some of them (Eponine in Les Miz and Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone). I'd love to play Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, but I'm probably too old for that now. I'd also love to play Dot in Sunday in the Park with George, Trina in Falsettos, and Betty Blake in The Will Rogers Follies.

I love doing new work and feel like my favorite role hasn't been written yet.

I have three sons who keep me very busy. I love to watch them play baseball and hear them practice their instruments. We love to play games together too (card & board games etc.). I'm an avid reader and I carry a book with me everywhere I go.

I have a huge assortment of music on my phone and computer. I love jazz, pop, theater. The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Sara Bareilles & John Mayer are some of my favorites. I've currently been reminded of my love of Blossom Dearie and I'm listening to a lot of her old albums.

  

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meet Jersey Girl, Karyn Quackenbush in The Bikinis!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

I grew up in West Milford, New Jersey. Back then it was considered a very rural town, but my parents always took me into see Broadway shows and also took me to Radio City Music Hall.

When I was just a toddler, my parents took me to see Mary Poppins, the movie. I freaked out. I wanted to sing like Julie Andrews. Every time I was in school, kindergarten, first 
grade, second grade, I would always get in trouble because I was constantly singing in class. Then one day my parents took me to see Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway, and that was it! I knew what I wanted to do for a living! 

As for the show The Bikinis, I think it's safe to say that Ray Roderick, my husband, wrote the show very loosely based on my summers at the Jersey shore. He loved the fact that every summer I went to the shore and had a different group of friends than I had when I was in school. When you were at the the shore, you could reinvent yourself. The friends you had at the shore didn't know that you were unpopular in school, or you were called a band nerd!!  My friends at the shore thought I was cool cause I could sing!  

I've been doing the BIKINIS since the year 2010! I believe this is my seventh production.

Some of my favorite shows are the shows from a while ago. Funny Girl, Annie Get Your Gun,  Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar. 

As far as the dream role, I have a feeling this will never happen, but I always wanted to play Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors

When I'm not doing a show, I am a personal assistant for a famous actress. I also am a certified dog groomer and a dog walker! I love all my other jobs!

The songs I love to listen to on my iPod etc. are from artists like Linda Ronstadt, John Denver, Peter Paul and Mary, and I love love love Janice Joplin!

   

Friday, February 17, 2017

Meet Anne Fraser Thomas in THE BIKINIS

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, February 17, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We met with Anne between shows... Here's what this amazing actor had to say!

I grew up in Southern California and moved out to NY about 8 years ago. I played piano since I was 5 so music has always been a passion of mine ;). My upbringing was pretty strict, mostly studying and practicing piano 2 hours a day.

I came into performing on stage late in high school, but had always loved music. My parents weren't too fond that I became a performer, but I loved becoming a different person on stage each time. 

I was asked my the arranger of the show, Joe Baker, to do this project! Joe and I had worked together on a number of projects. This is my first time doing the show. I had sung all the disco songs before through bands I had worked with, and knew some of the other songs before! What a great selection of music! 

I like any show that is funny and has heart.. Avenue Q is one of my favorite shows because of that! I would say I've played a majority of my dream roles. Aldonza in Man of La Mancha is my favorite part to play and I would love to play that role forever! I would love to play Lady of the Lake in Spamalot 

When I’m not on stage, I love watching shows on Netflix, working out at the gym, catching up with friends, and traveling!

I love listening to music by Lizz Wright! Also, I have a weird mix of Jazz, pop, Broadway, and random karaoke tracks that I listen to! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet Katy Blake in THE BIKINIS

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We caught up with Katy between shows.. Here's what this multi-talented actor had to say!

 

I Grew up in Danville, VA. I have two sisters and we all sang in the church choir in Danville. We were in the band and I sang in a band in High School. I can't remember the name of the band but we covered George Michael and Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I don't think we ever wrote our own song, tho:)

I was always dramatic as a child. In school plays and community theatre. I grew up with sisters and cousins and neighborhood kids and I would write plays, direct them, and star in them. I used to get upset when kids didn't show up to rehearsals.

I auditioned for the show when it was done at Riverside Theatre in Florida a few years ago. I wasn't cast originally, however, I got a call from Jim Hindman about a problem they were having with casting that production after rehearsals had started and he asked if I was available. I kind of was (had to shift some things around) but it was Florida in November and December so who was I to say No? I learned the role of Barbara in three days and had a ball! I assisted Jim in directing the show in Rochester, and I directed it in Westport, NY at the Depot Theatre a couple of summers ago!

I'm on the Hamilton bandwagon and think it's a fantastic show! I have gotten to play most of my dream roles - Eva in Evita, Christine in Phantom. My favorite role I have ever played (and I played it three times) was Percy in The Spitfire Grill.

When not on stage, I write!  I'm writing an original musical (Storming Heaven: the Musical) and we just had our first reading at Playwrights Horizons in January. I love to knit - especially backstage as I can still pay attention to what's going on and can make cute clothes for all my friends who are having babies!
I am happily married to a wonderful man, Barry Wilson, and I love to cook and he loves to eat so it's a match made in heaven! I love gardening and am very lucky that in our place in Harlem, we have a large patio and I have grown everything from tomatoes and eggplants to figs and flowers! 

Music I listen to?  Right now it's the music to the show I'm writing. Oh, and Lady Gaga. I Love her!

.

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Meet Ann-Ngaire Martin in Christmas Inn

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Pacific Palisades, Calif. I have 2 sisters and a brother. I am the youngest of 4. I come from a very close family. I Was studying to be a pianist but switched in high school to wanting to perform.

Both Junior High School and High School Music teachers were huge influences in me having the confidence to go into musical theatre.

I went to NYC at 18 with $250 in my pocket and a dream. I Lived in a girls boarding house for a week till I got a waitressing job, then enrolled in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for a 2-year program.
with Molly Culot in Christmas Inn

I have done 5 shows including Christmas Inn here at the WBT. I love the family feeling of working here. There are so few venues like this near NYC, if any.

My Favorite shows are...  Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, A Little Night Music. My Dream role at this point in my career would be Rose in Gypsy and Edie in Grey Gardens.

I enjoy celebrating the Holidays at home with my kids and a turkey dinner... and I am happy. Waffles on Christmas morning is a favorite tradition
 
When not on stage, I love playing the piano with no one around or watching an old movie with a glass of wine! I listen to A lot of classical music and every Joni Mitchell album she recorded. 

     
          In 42ND STREET                                  In GYPSY           In A CHRISTMAS CAROL

 

Nick Varricchio is back in Christmas Inn!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Cleveland rocks! #windians. #believeland. I come from a big Italian family where every Sunday was pasta Sunday at my grandma's house. I have two of the world's greatest brothers-- Domenic, a commodities broker in Kansas, and Vinnie, a nurse-in-training. My parents-- Marissa and Enrico, are the hardest working people I know; they inspire me.

I saw Jersey Boys on my very first trip to the Big Apple. After we left the theatre I turned to my mom and said, "I want to do that someday." Lucky me, my family has supported me every step of the way.

I have many mentors! My dear friend Brint, who directed me in a production of The Light in the Piazza and helped me to rediscover my artistry, and my Italian teacher and friend of 15+ years, Elvira.

I also consider the old MGM Hollywood stars to be my mentors-- TCM was always playing on the tv in my house.

I last performed in Happy Days at WBT as the Fonz. Not many people can say they've played the Fonz, so I wear that legacy of a brown leather jacket proudly!

I love coming back to WBT because the people here are truly a wonderfully kind, giving, and caring family.

I pine to play the role of Bobby in Company one day. I recently had the chance to work with the marvelous Pamela Myers, and the stories she shared were invaluable. I hope to ghostwrite her autobiography one day. 

To the tune of Karen Carpenter, "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!" I love being with my family for the holidays. We have a tradition where we all gather at a relative's house, and we sing the Hallelujah Chorus, carol to the cassette of Mitch Miller and the gang, and finish with Barbra Streisand's The Lord's Prayer. Eventually, the Elves arrive with pajamas for one and all!

I'm teaching myself the accordion! One day, if you should find yourself navigating the subways, be sure to look beyond the Mole people and straphangers, and you'll find me donning a beret and neckerchief whilst portraying my most Parisian self as I languidly warble the music of Edith Piaf!

Top 3 vinyl albums I play on my record player in the morning before CrossFit: Yvonne Elliman's "Love Me", Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's "Ella & Louis"

 As Fonzie in HAPPY DAYS

 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Meet Jayson Elliott in Christmas Inn

Posted by: pia on Friday, December 9, 2016 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (0)

I grew up In northern Indiana near Norte Dame.  130 people in my high school class. Fairly rural community. We had a day where kids could drive their tractors to school. Ha ha. 
I fell in love with music first and the two kind of go hand in hand for me. Certainly,  high school theatre and music teachers played a huge part in my career choice. 

This is my 7th WBT show. The staff make this theatre run and I love them for that!

Some of my favorite shows and roles are BUDDY (The Big Bopper), Wizard Of Oz (The Lion), The full Monty (Dave), all these are very much my favorites

When not on stage, I'm playing music, watching and playing sports, and spending time with friends.

I enjoy listening to music, mostly folk, rockabilly, country and classic rock. For being a musical theatre guy...I don't really listen to a ton of it. Ha ha

I like to Celebrate The Holidays with family and friends. Laying low and resting.  I enjoy Christmas Eve gift opening with the "adults". 

      
With Kilty Reidy in Christmas Inn.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Meet Sarah Cline as Linda Baker in Christmas Inn

Posted by: pia on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 5:00:00 pm Comments (0)

             

I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, KS, as part of a loving family which included my dad and mom, my older sister, Laura and younger brother, David. Kansas holds a very special place in my heart, and I am proud of my Midwestern roots. I lived there from the ages of 4 to 18, when I moved out to study Musical Theatre in college. My parents have always been so supportive of my love for singing and theatre, and I am grateful to have grown up in a household that encouraged us kids to follow our dreams, to work hard and to be kind.    
My Headshot at age 9.

I started doing Musical Theatre when I was six years old, and I've been doing it ever since. My parents did a great job of exposing the kids to a lot of different types of music, including musicals, which encouraged my love of singing. I knew every word to the 10th Anniversary album of Les Miserables before I knew my states and capitols. After I did my first show as part of a summer program for kids, I auditioned for every show I could around the KC area. I ended up missing a lot of fourth grade because I was "working" around town. (Again, VERY supportive parents!) Of course, then, I didn't think of it as working at all! Eventually though, by the time I hit high school, I knew that I wanted theatre to be more than just a hobby; I dreamed of it being my career. My high school theatre teacher, Dan Schmidt, fostered my passion and helped me to fall in love with acting. Suddenly, I wasn't just a singer, I was a storyteller, and that was the most exciting gift anyone could give me.

This is my first show at WBT and I couldn't be happier. Everyone is so incredibly kind and professional; I feel very lucky to be working here.

 My favorite musical of all time is Les Miserables. To me, it is perfect. I also love Sweeney Todd (or really, anything written by Stephen Sondheim). My dream roles include "Fantine" in Les Miserables, "Elphaba" in Wicked and "Cathy" in The Last Five Years

  I am so excited to go home to KS to spend Christmas with my family for the first time since 2012! I've been working on cruise ships for the last couple of years, so I can't wait to reacquaint myself with our family traditions. My favorites include our annual Christmas Cookie Decorating Competition and the Christmas Eve dinner that my stepmom cooks up, complete with crab legs!  
With Nick Varricchio in Christmas Inn.

When not on stage,  I love to bake (I make a mean chocolate chip cookie!) but if I couldn't be an actor, I would be a make-up artist or some kind of beauty consultant, so I enjoy playing with cosmetic products a lot. You're likely to find me in the aisles of Sephora with eyeshadow swatches all over my arms. Also, when I'm not onstage, I make sure to enjoy the incredible friends I have in my life. Sometimes, there is nothing better than sitting around with my roommates, having a glass of red wine and watching Shark Tank.

I don't often listen to musicals for recreation; typically I'll listen to shows only if I'm studying for a role. So, my favorites are Singer/Songwriters from all decades. Jim Croce, John Mayer, Sara Bareilles and Ed Sheeran are my all-time favorites! 

   

At 10, with Dad in a community theatre production of The Music Man.

Meet Kilty Reidy as Bill Brewer in Christmas Inn

Posted by: pia on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   

I was born in Charlotte NC.  I was raised in North Carolina by Midwestern parents (Chicago).  So the rules that applied in my home didn’t always apply outside.  For instance, when responding to an adult in Southern culture, it is polite to reply with a Ma’am or a Sir.  When I would respond to my mother with a "yes, ma’am”, she would tell my not to take that “tone” with her. Ah, cultural differences.

My mother is a huge fan of theatre  I was raised listening to Leonard Stallman’s New Faces of 1952. What do you mean you don’t know it? Later on Annie and A Chorus Line were thrown into the mix. My mother also put together Vaudeville Shows for the Church Fall Festival.  And we always had a piano player at the house when my parents threw big parties.  Clearly, there was no hope for me.

 I took class with a Meisner teacher  who taught out of the old Carnegie Hall Studios. His name was Fred Kareman.  He made a lasting impression on me. 

 My father always joked when I started working professionally, “It’s about time that loud mouth made you some money!” He was right.

I've done several shows at WBT;  Carousel, West Side Story, Funny Girl (twice), And The World Goes Round, Happy Days.  Well, I love that I can work and live at home (that is the dream). Also, after many years and many shows, WBT feels like a family to me.  They gave me one of my first jobs as a new Equity member and have always been kind enough to let me return.  

 Some of my favorite shows? The Most Happy Fella, Once on This Island, The Scottsboro Boys, Light in the Piazza, Fiddler on the Roof, Drowsy Chaperone..just off the top of my head!

 My dream role?  Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, and I want another shot at Alfie Byrne in A Man of No Importance. 

I Celebrate The Holidays with my family. As a kid, it was a party at the Girdich’s house, followed by midnight mass. We open family gifts on Christmas Eve, that is our special time. 

What's on my Ipod? Tons of musical theatre.  I Love podcasts…This American Life, The Moth, Ronna and Beverly, and many more.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Meet the City Girl at heart, Gianna Yanelli as Annette in Saturday Night Fever

Posted by: Diana Villa on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (0)

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I like to call it the Little New York City because it has all that Manhattan offers, just less people. I grew up immersed in the city life and can happily say I'm a city girl at heart.! 

I grew up listening to Barbra Streisand and would dance around the living room putting on shows for my family. I knew I had the bug from the beginning. However, at a young age, I just wanted to be the next Britney Spears. Ha! When that dream faded, I fell in love with acting. 

 

In high school, I realized I wanted to do it as a profession when I met a man named Tony Braithwaite. His belief in my talent gave me the confidence to pursue this career. I first heard of SNF when I was performing at Theater Aspen. The artistic director was the original Stephanie on Broadway. When I got this role, I texted her immediately! It was a very cool feeling to have a connection with an original cast member. I got to pick her brain a bit. I heard of the movie way before the musical. It was one of the most innovative films of its time. It changed the cinematic game. Also, my dad would always play the Bee Gee's and he LOVES John Travolta. I mean, who doesn't?

  

I have so many favorite shows, but my ultimate is Funny Girl and Fanny Brice happens to be my dream role. Barbra Streisand is one of the reasons I decided to pursue theater. She taught my comedy and the importance of living a song, not just hitting the notes. When I'm not on stage I have two other jobs and am happy to say I love them both. I am a makeup artist and fitness trainer. Both are very fulfilling for me because they satisfy the creative part of my brain. Not only this, but I am changing people's lives while doing what I love.

If I'm not working, I love...SHOPPING. Right now I'm obsessed with home décor. I just moved into a new apartment and am daydreaming about my bedroom. I love drawing different floor plans and browsing for cute decorations. I have a variety of different tunes on my iPhone. It depends on what mood I am in that day. Lately, it has been a lot  of Walk the Moon and Nirvana. Right now as I type this, though, I am listening to Christmas Music! Love some good ol' Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. 

 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Meet Alexandra Matteo as Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, October 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   

I grew up in Overland Park, KS. My dad Captained oil tankers growing up so it was just me, my brother and my mom a lot of the time.  I was put in dance class because I could carpool and it got my energy and me out of the house for several hours a day. I immediately fell in love with it. I grew up always having Musicals' soundtracks play in the house and my parents were incredibly supportive of me going into the Arts. 

Like 3 days after I came home from the hospital, my parents had tickets for Les Miserables. My mom says we listened to the cast album on repeat for the first week of my life. When I started dancing it became clear this wasn't just a hobby for me. 

I transferred high schools to BVHS which was known for its theatre program. It was there that I met my mentor, Mr. Schmidt. He got me interested in acting and trusted me with some of the most challenging roles I've done. He gave me the confidence to pursue this as a career and not just a hobby. 

This is my first time at WBT and I am loving it. Everyone is so accommodating and it's clear we are all working towards the same end goal. 

I heard of the movie Saturday Night Fever  from my mother. When it first came out, she would sneak friends into the drive-in to see it. It was her favorite movie. I have had a few friends do different versions of the musical over the years, but this is my first time working on the project. 

I think movies made into stage musicals are an incredible opportunity to add a new layer to an already loved story. I think the key to making it successful is diving deeper into new layers of the characters. I had a teacher say that when words are no longer strong enough you must sing, and when that's not enough you must dance. That's why musicals like A Chorus Line are so successful - it keeps upping the stakes. Musicals from movies offer a great jumping off point as often the dialogue is strong and gives freedom to explore the inner workings of each character. 

It sounds corny, but my dream role is Belle in Beauty and the Beast. It was my first Broadway musical and the theater I made my Broadway debut in - So for sentimental reasons, that. However, I think my DREAM role has yet to be created because it will be something that's been written for me. 

I love to read and go to book club with my girls. Food is a HUGE part of my life. My boyfriend is a chef and we spend the vast majority of our days off eating our way through NYC. I also enjoy running and playing with my adorable mini Aussie puppy. 

I love jazz and listen to a lot of Gregory Porter. And Brian Lego (in the cast of SNF) sends me playlists because I'm not very hip in that department.

 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Meet Sandy Rosenberg as Flo Manero

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Sandy Rosenberg graces our stage once again! As Flo Manero, In Saturday Night Fever, she gives a terrific performance. Read on for an amusing interview with this versatile and accomplished actress.

 

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY…yes, the same borough as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER….In fact, my brother recently reminded me that our dad took Hustle lessons at the same club that Odyssey 2001 is based on.  How’s that for full circle?  I went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn which boasts some illustrious alums….Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Chuck Schumer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Judge Judy, and Carole King, among others.  Must have been something in the water.  I am also a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College right here in Westchester…Bronxville to be exact.

I always liked to perform…When I was little I would imitate TV commercials with my great aunt and my first memory of performing was sitting on top of a piano in the Catskills at maybe the age of 5 singing WHEN THE RED RED ROBIN GOES BOB BOB BOBBING ALONG.  For some strange reason I also got the chance to play some of the great male leading roles as a youngster - Tevye in the FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (at synagogue in 6th grade), Captain von Trapp in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (day camp) - But I wish there was a recording of the JEWISH version of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (at the same synagogue as FIDDLER) where, as the Rabbi’s wife, previously known as Mother Abbess (ya couldn’t have nuns in an orthodox temple, of course) got to sing ‘How do you solve a problem like , Miriam?’…I’m not kidding.

I always loved old movies and of course movie musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Growing up in Brooklyn I also got to go to Broadway shows as soon as I was old enough to enjoy them...which my mother figured out  was probably the moment I emerged from the womb on April Fools’ Day.  Nothing’s changed.

I was aware of the musical SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER during my 5 1/2 years performing on Broadway in MAMMA MIA!.  I hadn’t seen it, as is often the case with Broadway schedules making seeing other shows near impossible.  This is my first experience with SNF but I’m well versed in the juke-box musical. (see above) I, of course, saw the movie of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER when it came out.  If I hadn’t, I would have had my Brooklyn card revoked…How could I be from Brooklyn and not see SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER???? ( I got a chance to work with John Travolta when I moved to LA shortly afterward and got to be a student in Mr. Kotter’s classroom.) This is, though, my third show at Westchester Broadway Theatre.  My First show was PHANTOM about 8 years ago, where I played the role of the opera diva, Carlotta.  A few years later I was in the Christmas show, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  I love working at WBT.  It’s like coming home…

I’ve grown up with the Broadway musical.  It feeds me. So, I’m a pretty good audience member and love most shows.  As I've gotten older, though, my dream roles have changed….for OBVIOUS reasons….so now, my dream roles would be, Mrs. Lovett (SWEENEY TODD), Mama Rose (GYPSY), Dolly Levi (HELLO DOLLY) and whatever other ‘women of a certain age’ role someone will hire me for!

When I’m not on the stage I enjoy hanging with my husband, cooking, photography and playing with our recently adopted rescue dog, Georgie…What kind is she??? It depends on who you ask…some sort of terrier mix, but I’ll just say she’s our 100% love mutt.

I don’t listen to music on my phone or iPod or anything like that….when I lived in LA, the radio was on in my car all the time but I don’t drive much anymore, so I haven’t a clue about the latest music.  I’m ‘old school’…I still have a stereo and an extensive Original Broadway Cast recording collection… Ya can’t take that with you while you jog….Then again I don’t jog either.

Meet Ray DeMattis as Frank Manero

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Ray Plays the disillusioned Italian-American father in Saturday Night Fever. Read on for a fascinating look into this seasoned actor's rise in show business.

 

 I grew up in Hamden/New Haven, CT. I was the youngest of 3 sons from an Italian family of tailors and spent a lot of time in the tailoring shop.

In 1951, we were the first on our block to own that brand new phenomenon called a television set. I was instantly hooked and loved watching the great vaudevillians. I saw: Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar, Ed Wynn et al. I was lucky to have extraordinary teachers and mentors who saw something in me way before I did.  I was nurtured by the music and drama teachers of my high school. Alice Hahn, a faculty member and one of the first women graduates of The Yale Drama School, mentored me and enabled me to study with Constance Welch, the head of the acting department at Yale. At the Catholic University of America, the head of the drama department, Father Gilbert Hartke, gave me the opportunity to direct all of my class shows, tour the US, performing with The National Players and perform throughout Central America and Mexico for the US State Dept.

When I moved to NY, I was lucky enough to study with Mike Nichols, Austin Pendleton, F. Murray Abraham, Horton Foote, Frances Sternhagen, among others, and work with such extraordinary performers as Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel, Len Cariou and Jerry Orbach.

I made my Broadway debut in the original Grease which, because it was the only Broadway showcase for young talent, launched a lot of careers, including Richard Gere, Barry Bostwick and Patrick Swayze. I shared a dressing room with a 19-year-old John Travolta. When they were casting the movie Saturday Night Fever, he arranged for me to audition for the role of his priest brother, however, they didn’t think I was “priestly” enough, and I wasn’t.  But John told us wonderful stories about the making of the movie that I treasure to this day. When the first stage version was less than successful on Broadway, it was rewritten by Sean Cercone & David Abbinanti.  They asked me to read for Frank Sr. at the first public presentation of their re-write. Richard Stafford was there and asked me to be in his production at the North Shore Music Theatre and again here at WBT.

This is my first time performing here and I love the way that Victor and the entire stage crew, with hard work, organization, and humor make every performance happen. 

The movie of Saturday Night Fever is, and I think always will be, the definitive representation of the disco era exemplified by the extraordinary Bee Gees score.  It is also a wonderful depiction of Italian-American life in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, at the time.  So, of course, I know the movie well and a lot of actors in it!

I think the success of turning a movie musical into a stage production mostly depends on the ability of the creative team to accommodate the boundless possibilities of the screen to the limitations of the stage.  I toured with Beauty And The Beast, and I think a perfect stage translation. But the most successful adaptation to date has to be Julie Taymor’s Lion King.  Not only is it a paragon of stagecraft and puppetry, it is also an extraordinary celebration of African culture.

The first Broadway musical I saw, when I was a chunky Italian kid, was Fiorello. Seeing that was a revelation.  I realized that there was a part for me in the musical theatre. Years later, I was elated to get to do the role with the New Jersey Choral Society.

I’ve had the good fortune to continue working non-stop for 54 years. I’ve done everything from touring the country performing Shakespeare, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (performing for and meeting 4 presidents along the way). I’ve been so blessed to have done all kinds of roles in all kinds of media and venues. My only unfulfilled wish is to play Friar Lawrence in Romeo And Juliet or his equivalent Doc, in West Side Story.

My favorite hobby is photography. I have studied graphic arts my whole life, and I’ve had some success showing and selling my work. Also, I ain’t bad in the kitchen (my Italian mother would have it no other way)!
I love coaching and teaching young actors and passing on some of the hard learned knowledge I’ve acquired in those 54 years.  Also, I was asked and was delighted to be the founding/Artistic Director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Raynor Rubel as Gus in Saturday Night Fever

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

I am a New Jersey native, born and raised in NJ.  I grew up in Pine Brook and Newark. I graduated from Montville Township High School.  I presently attend Montclair State University.  I train in Ballet mostly but I also study tap, jazz, musical theatre, street hip-hop, fosse, acting, singing, and partnering.

There were 2 influences that inspired me to become an actor.  One is the movie "The Last Samurai" with Tom Cruise.  I admired Tom's work ethic and how he gets into character.  The other is my sister Nicolette Rubel.  She was taking dancing lessons and when we went  to register her, they told us that they were having a boys combo class that year being taught by Jim Raposa from the broadway show Cats.  I joined the class at age 9.  From there I took acting, singing, jazz and ballet. I eventually took intensive classes at New Jersey Ballet. (I have performed in 6 seasons of NJ Ballet Company's The Nutcracker in soloist roles.)

After awhile at a young age, I found what I wanted to do with my life.  There are others that have inspired me through the years.  Bruce Lee is one of them for his work ethic, artistry in film, his philosophies, his projects, and his presence.  I also admire old time dancers like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and the Nicholas Brothers.

I heard about the casting call for Saturday Night Fever through Actor's Equity.  I have never done the show but always loved the movie.  This is my debut at WBT.  I really enjoy working with the cast and crew.  It is a great environment, very relaxed.  They really push you as an artist.

 Yes, I know the movie.  I think it is a great idea to make it into a musical because people of that generation and all generations can relive the movie and rehear the music of The Bee Gees.

Some of my favorite shows are Finding Neverland, West Side Story, American in Paris, and Singing in the Rain.  My dream role would be whatever job that can hire me because in different shows you can play different roles and express yourself in different characters.  I would love to play Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys.

I enjoy training in ballet, tap, partnering, fosse, and street hip-hop.  I go to the gym, stretch, and do flexibility exercises.  I keep a very strict training schedule so I can improve myself.  I love to go to the movies, restaurants, the beach, and taking ballet classes. I also teach Dance, Drama, and martial Arts to Children with special needs for Pathways For Exceptional Children, a nationally funded non-profit organization.  

I have many things on my Ipod.  I listen to Elvis Presley,  Earth, Wind and Fire, Hans Zimmer, Gershwin, Chuck Berry, Newsboys, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, and Miles Davis 




Raynor Rubel as Gus (Left,  withChristopher Hlinka)
 
 
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Meet Chris Collins- Pisano as Bobby

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Chris Collins-Pisano Plays Bobby in Our Production of Saturday Night Fever.. .. Check out his Interview!

With Audrey Tesserot as Pauline.

 I grew up in Westwood, MA, about thirty minutes south of Boston. My dad's from there, and my mom (she's 100% Italian) actually grew up in Jersey around the time of this show, so I've been able to get a lot of nice insight from her! I'm the oldest kid in a family of five, I went to a classic New England prep school, and spent college in Cincinnati at CCM studying Musical Theatre. I graduated this past April, and now I'm here!

I grew up watching a ton of movies and cartoons, so I guess that kind of stuff got me started. I started in music before I moved to theater, playing violin in orchestras and taking lessons. Actors, especially Robin Williams, had a really big influence on my childhood and start in performing. 

I've never done the show before, nor have I worked here at WBT before this production! I actually hadn't even seen the movie until I auditioned for this show...I've really enjoyed working here and on this show, though! It's a really cool space, and the whole production staff and cast are wonderful. 

I really like the movie! I think that there's a bit of a balance to be looked for with films being made into musicals; some films lend themselves to that transformation, but some don't. Films with an iconic soundtrack (like this one) can work well, but sometimes it's also nice to separate from that and create an original sound for the show (like in hairspray, dirty rotten scoundrels, the producers, etc.).  

I'm a huge Sondheim fan, so all of his shows are among my favorites. My all-time favorite is Sunday in the Park with George, and I'd love to play George some day. I'm also a big ole fan of Little Shop of Horrors (Seymour's another dream role), as well as other comedies that I've mentioned before, like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, or The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

I'm a huge movie buff so I go to the movies a lot, but I also like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. I'm not into health food, I AM into champagne.

Right now I've been starting to really get into David Bowie and Meat Loaf, actually. I'm a big old timer when it comes to music, so stuff like Springsteen or The Rolling Stones are usually on my playlist. Nothing calms me down like some Sinatra or old big band music though. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Meet Jacob Tischler as Tony Manero.

Posted by: pia on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (6)

Jacob Tischler plays Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. We caught up with him between rehearsals.

I grew up in the circus. Circus Smirkus is America’s only traveling youth circus, featuring kids ages 10-18 in a completely professional tented spectacle. “In the ring”, as it were, I was featured as a clown, juggler, and novice acrobat. To this day, I cherish the respect and unity of this idiosyncratic and loving community and hope to bring a little Smirkus mentality to every job I undertake. 

Traditionally speaking, I grew up in St. George, Vermont, which is a far cry from the grit of 1970s Brooklyn. There are many more cows, barns, and fields, but the same number of Bernie Sanders. The foundation of my arts education comes from the fantastic public school teachers at Champlain Valley High School, who continue to inspire me well into my professional career: My acting teacher, Robin Fawcett, is still willing to give me notes on new plays I’ve written. My chorus teacher, Carl Recchia, played piano for a musical I wrote in college and is featured on my new album, The January Project (on Spotify!).

And of course, my family: Marc, Sarah, and my brother Ethan (only 13 months younger than me!). Together, we enjoyed the many oddities of taking care of llamas, chickens, horses, ducks, turkeys, rats, mice, fish, dogs, and one very stinky cat. I miss my old address but am happy to call Westchester Broadway Theatre home for the next several months.

There’s nothing unique about my story. At an early age, I recognized that socializing was difficult for me. So I turned to a place where I could express myself without needing to apologize. Young people are smarter than we’d like them to be; 6th grade Jacob knew that navigating a birthday party was a lot more difficult than singing in harmony in a group of like-minded people.

 The first time I really “acted” was as Harold Hill in my 8th grade production of The Music Man. I remember acquiring a sense of spontaneity rather than simply planning and executing my youthful version of reality. I thank that particular director, Charlotte Munson, for introducing me to theater-vocab like “objectives”, “goals”, and “obstacles”.

Circus Smirkus provided abundant opportunities for growth, improvisation, and honing my personal style. For seven weeks every summer, I immersed myself in a performance-based education, playing to sold out houses of 800 people twice a day, 5 times a week. Troy Wunderle, a cast member and the artistic director of the show, was my primary mentor here. He truly captured the essence of “The Show Must Go On.” This is a man who has never missed a show in his life, despite performing while temporarily blind in one eye, with a broken neck, or with two broken ribs. Some call that reckless. I say it’s inspired.

I first heard of the musical Saturday Night Fever when I auditioned for it on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Prior to that, I was unaware of most musicals, having just sunk into the madness of one’s first year as a resident of New York City.

 I have never worked at WBT, but I was lucky enough to attend WBT’s production of Cats back in 2002. Not intending to date our esteemed director, Richard Stafford, but he set this particular show, and I can only call myself fortunate that our paths should cross 14 years later.

I vaguely knew of the movie prior to auditioning for the show and watched it in preparation. What I encountered was a vibrant collage of 1970s society, but I didn’t truly understand the impact it had on its original audience. My mom was part of this audience and related her experience of seeing racial diversity, feminist themes, and the pure awesomeness of dance in a mainstream format for the first time.

I have difficulty thinking of any movie that’s had the same influence on my own generation. Ask my cast-mate, Chris Collins-Pisano. He’s a movie buff.

I haven’t done the show before or worked at WBT. Tony Manero, however, is my first lead role as a member of Actor’s Equity, a huge milestone for my career.

I have a handful of shows that I will always love: Sweeney Todd first and foremost, followed by Ragtime, The Scottsboro Boys, Little Shop of Horrors, and a relatively unknown but heartfelt new work, Dani Girl, by Chris Dimond and Michael Kooman. Check them out if you know what’s good for you.

Also, Forever Plaid, a certified silly musical. To me, it’s magnificently delightful, and I’d love to find my way back into those close harmonies someday.

When I’m not onstage, I’m either writing or fly-fishing. Unfortunately, I live in New York City, where opportunities to drop a line in the water are a little scarce. This means I do a lot more writing these days. A couple big projects are looming on the horizon that I can’t talk about. What I can talk  about is the pleasure I had of working with several Broadway/TV actors on mini-musicals, including Sandy and Inexperienced Love, both of which can be found on YouTube!

Everything you’ll ever need is on my iPod. They are as follows: Alabama Shakes, Jeff Buckley, The Decemberists, Martin Sexton, Anais Mitchell’s “Hadestown”, Jacob and Ethan Tischler’s “The January Project”, available for purchase on iTunes.  

Podcasts: these are the best things. Do you know what these are? They’re the best.  Radiolab, Reply All, Stuff You Should Know, The Tobolowsky Files, The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor,  NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

12 JOHNNY CASH FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

Think you know Johnny Cash? Think again! Here’s 12 things you probably never knew about “The Man in Black”…

1. Johnny Cash started his first band whilst serving in the US Air Force, they were known as “The Landsberg Barbarians”.

2. He originally auditioned for Sun Records with gospel songs but was turned down. He later returned with rockabilly music which won him a record contract.

3. Cash has been inducted into the Country Music, Rock & Roll and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

4. He was born J.R. Cash but had to change his name when he enlisted in the US Air Force as initials were not permitted as a first name.

5. Music runs in his family, his brother Tommy Cash also became a successful country artist, and his children Rosanne and John have music careers of their own.

6. He was taught guitar by his mother as well as a childhood friend and began playing and writing songs when he was just 12 years old.

 
Sky Seals as Johnny Cash in our Production!

 

10 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT JERRY LEE LEWIS .

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Goodness Gracious! We bet you never knew some of these facts about Million Dollar Quartet artist Jerry Lee Lewis…

1. Jerry Lee Lewis began playing the piano at just 7 years old. His parents mortgaged their farm to be able to buy him his very own piano to practice on.
2. Jerry Lee Lewis is almost entirely self-taught.
3. As a young performer, he sometimes played the piano with his feet!
4. The original Sun records cut off one of Jerry Lee Lewis’ most famous tracks, “Great Balls of Fire” appears in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

5. Jerry Lee Lewis was the 7th person to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

6. In his ranch in Memphis, he has a swimming pool shaped like a piano.

7. He has a dozen gold records in both Rock and Country music genres.

8. In 1989, a movie was created chronicling his life entitled “Great Balls of Fire” starring Dennis Quaid as Jerry.

9. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

10. He is the last surviving member of the Million Dollar Quartet.

   
Dominique Scott as Jerry Lee Lewis in our production!

12 REMARKABLE FACTS ABOUT ELVIS PRESLEY

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Elvis Presley
You may well know that Elvis Presley was nicknamed “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, or that he released numerous hits including “Hound Dog”, “Heartbreak Hotel” and “All Shook Up”. Today we’re taking a look at some less famous facts about The King which we bet you never knew!

1. Elvis was 6 feet tall and wore a size 11 shoe.

2. His first public performance was at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy show, where he sang dressed as a cowboy at just 10 years old.

3. Elvis got his first guitar at age 11.

4. At High School, Elvis’ music teacher told him he had “no aptitude for singing”, he failed the subject and never learned to read music, playing everything by ear.

5. Elvis had 18 number 1’s and 38 top 10 hits in the USA.

6. Elvis was a black belt in Karate and was promoted to an honorary 8th degree black belt in 1974.

7. He recorded 15 songs with the word “blue” in the title.

8. Elvis’ favourite sandwich was peanut butter, banana, bacon and honey.

9. Elvis wasn’t just a musician, he also made 31 movies in his career including “Love Me Tender” and “Viva Las Vegas”.

Ari McKay Wilford as Elvis Presley in our production.

10 INCREDIBLE FACTS ABOUT CARL PERKINS

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


Carl Perkins, was nicknamed the “King of Rockabilly”. We’re taking a look at some interesting facts about the man behind “Blue Suede Shoes"

1. When he was young, his father created a makeshift guitar for him from a cigar box and a broomstick until he could afford to buy his own second-hand, dented and scratched guitar for just a few dollars.

2. His best known song is “Blue Suede Shoes”, released in 1956 reaching number 1 in the US Country chart, number 2 in the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in the British charts. The song was inspired by seeing a man getting angry at his date for scuffing up his shoes whilst dancing.

3. The Beatles were heavily influenced by Carl Perkins’ work, Paul McCartney was even quoted saying “if there were no Carl Perkins, there would be no Beatles.”

4. Carl Perkins has been inducted into many Halls of Fame including:

-The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

-The Rockabilly Hall of Fame

-The Memphis Music Hall of Fame

-Recipient of the Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

5. As a child, Perkins worked in the cotton fields in Tennessee with his brother, earning 50 cents a day.

6. Perkins was a member of the Lake County Fourth Grade Marching Band.

7. In his early career, he played the local circuit in a band with his brothers.

8. Carl Perkins auditioned for Sun Records in 1954, impressing Sam Phillips and signing to the label.

9. He often played shows alongside Elvis Presley.

10. On the day that Carl Perkins recorded rockabilly classic “Matchbox”, Elvis Presley visited Sun Records as well as Jerry lee Lewis and Johnny Cash where they all had an iconic jam session. They were later dubbed the Million Dollar Quartet.

 
 John Michael Presney as Carl Perkins in Our Production.

 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Meet John Michael Presney As Carl Perkins!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, July 29, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in a little town called Rochester, IL - right outside of the capitol, Springfield. Lots of corn. 1 stoplight.

My family were all involved in local theatre so I was always around it and participating in it. And I loved it. A lot of the people I looked up to the most came from that community, but all I really wanted to do was play my guitar in a rock and roll band. I had planned on going to school for music production and engineering, but when I sat down with admissions for that department, I was really disheartened. Instead of talking about the future of the business or where it could go, they only talked about how dead it was. I know (now firsthand) that it was, and still is, a scary time for musicians and producers, but I didn’t want to be part of a department that seemed to be talking about what WAS as opposed to what could be. So, I asked the guy on the spot if I could go talk to the theatre department an that was that! I had a really good two years at that school but then transferred to a conservatory in Chicago - Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. I wanted to be in an important arts city. It’s funny though - because now, a lot of the theatre jobs I do are because I play a bunch of instruments. I guess it all comes full circle.

I was going to school in Chicago when the show premiered there. Truth is, I never saw it. I heard great things obviously, but always worried that it might not be, you know…“authentic.” I love this music and wasn’t sure I wanted to see it turned into a broadway-style show. But right after I graduated, I got a call from my agent asking if I wanted to audition for the upcoming national tour. I went and saw the show that night and was just blown away. It was everything I had hoped it would be but thought it wouldn’t. It was gritty and full of love for these figures and songs. And the playing was great. Nobody was faking it with their instruments. I left the theatre knowing I HAD to be a part of the show.

At that time, they they had cast almost the entire tour and rehearsals started in less than a month - but they were still looking for the covers for Carl and Jerry Lee. I went in for Carl and got it! I toured with the show for nearly two years covering the role of Carl Perkins and also functioning as an assistant stage manager and instrument manager. This show changed my life!

As a lover of Americana and roots music, it’s just incredible. Look, this music - in part because its so iconic - sometimes gets remembered a certain way. I think people forget or don’t even realize that at the time, this stuff was greasy, vibrant, dangerous and revolutionary. Rock and roll was brand new. You know, if you listen to the original recordings, they still sound edgy and full of life all these years later. Try saying that about most records made even 10 years ago. It’s hard! These songs are still totally relevant and It’s an amazing privilege to honor these guys and the music they made by showing that every night. By bringing a context and history to these songs that sometimes gets forgotten about. Especially playing Carl, who is a massive luminary to guitar players, but too often gets left out of the conversation outside of, say, roots and rockabilly circles.

Here’s something cool. When we were touring through Memphis, his son Stan (who’s also a noted rockabilly musician), came out and played an encore with the show. A few of us were talking to him after soundcheck and he was saying how happy it made him to see his Dad represented on stage. And while I certainly don't want to speak for him, he seemed really happy to see his Dad get some recognition in that regard and with the way that he was presented. To me, that’s what this whole show is about: shining a light on these guys. Maybe showing folks a little more about who they really were beyond the songs and the images and how they really made this music. The absolute best is when young people see the show and then realize that, you know, maybe Elvis is pretty cool. Maybe he’s not just the image they have in their head. Same with any of the guys. And then they hopefully go home and dive into the music and see that without it, none of the rock and roll we hear today would have happened… or at least happened the same way. They see the rock and roll connection with Carl and The Beatles or they listen to the words Johnny wrote and see how he fits in right alongside people like Dylan. Man, there’s just so much there. I could go on all day.

I try to pour myself into whatever I’m doing at the time. I just always hope to get the opportunity to do something new and authentic and that speaks to an issue - and in this case, the preservation of our musical history is an issue! Music and theatre and film or wherever you want to look at - it’s all story telling. That’s what’s important to me. And if it’s a musical - well, it’s got to have great music obviously!

When I’m not on stage as an actor, I’m probably on stage playing my own music! I write and record my own songs and am currently working on a new album. You can find more about my music at www.johnmichaelpresney.com !

Besides that? I also love to travel. My girlfriend and I actually recently returned from Argentina where we went down to Patagonia and hiked on a glacier! It was incredible! I honestly think that if more people could experience nature like that; that pure and free from pollution - there wouldn’t even be a debate about trying to save the planet. We’d just do it!

What's on my Ipod ... Right now? Here’s a few! Freddy & Francine, Ryan Adams, The Replacements, Big Star, The Band, Etta James, Bruce Springsteen.

     

                                                                                   At SUN Studios for a recording session

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Sky Seals "Walks the Line" as Johnny Cash

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (2)

We caught up with Sky Seals after the triumphant opening of Million Dollar Quartet on Friday Night.... Read on...

I'm a proud Colorado native! But I've also lived in New Mexico, California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and SOUTH DAKOTA (yep, I'm one of the few). My parents were theater artists, my father a successful writer ("The Powwow Highway", which was turned into a major film in 1987, which I was in!). I lived in SD from 4th grade through high school, and that's where I discovered music and theater. 

I started playing piano in 3rd grade, and guitar in college, thanks to the support of both of my parents. But my genesis as a performer comes down to one moment.

One day, I decided to sing a song in class, and I started to get nervous. Andy Bradley started singing along with me, and helped me finish the song ("It's Log, it's Log, it's big, it's heavy, it's wood!") with gusto! We became best friends, and he helped me discover my voice, and my confidence to let it out. We took over the choir and theater departments of our middle school, and then our high school, and eventually were school-famous on TV every day doing our hilarious take on the morning announcements. Andy is, sadly, no longer with us, but I owe my career and passion to his friendship and inspiration.

I'm the Freshman of the show! I had heard of the show on Broadway, but couldn't afford to see it. I'd auditioned a handful (and a half) of times before getting the chance to join this cast. 

I was intimidated, not only to join an incredible cast who had the benefit of doing the show together before, but also to carry the mantle of the man, Johnny Cash. He's such an icon and is rightfully beloved by so many, so I knew I had to work extra hard to get it right. My voice is, typically, in the tenor range, but I was excited to explore my lower range more fully, for the first time since studying as an operatic baritone in college. 

When studying Johnny Cash, the first thing you notice is how calm, smooth, in-control he always is, whether at the mic or speaking candidly. His straight-forward, yet mythical and timeless lyrics come through him very plainly, so you focus on them, rather than the man. He as a deeply religious man, but he knew the temptations of the world quite well, so there's an inner tension within him that keeps him constantly Walking the Line. 

I'm obsessed with Hamilton, of course, and I'd love to play many of those roles, but I think that now is the time when the diversity of the cast is more important than another white guy getting another great role. So, I continue to pursue Sweeney Todd, Javert, Che Guevara, Judas, and Hamlet. 

When I'm not on stage I'm either studying art, history, science or politics or playing music! I write plays, kids musicals and silly songs when I can. I also try to find ways to be healthier and happier by surrounding myself with friends, family, and nature. 

My iPod is constantly shuffling between Hamilton, Kendrick Lamar, Jason Isbell, Phish, Bob Dylan, Run the Jewels, Prince, Michael Jackson, Mozart, Radiohead, and Louis C.K.  To name a small sampling. I listen to everything.

 

 

Meet Ari Mckay Wilford as The King!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Ari McKay Wilford  as Elvis Presley ... He becomes a legend well!

I'm from a small town in Maine near the coast. Spent a lot of time at the beach as a kid.

It was something I fell into. I started playing the violin around 4 years old and continued playing for quite a few years until I (at around 11) didn't think it was cool anymore. I switched to drums and played those for a while. My father was in a band when I was growing up and is in another band now so I've always been around music. My parents own a dance studio as well and I believe my first foray into acting was a production of Peter Pan one of my Mom's students was involved with. But clearly growing up with a musician and a dance teacher influenced me towards performing.

I was actually working for a producer selling tickets to show's at new world stages back in 2010/11 and Million Dollar Quartet was one of those shows. I never saw it but I remember thinking "what a great idea for a musical". I just recently did the show at gateway playhouse; it was a blast and I'm excited to be doing it again.

It's something I honestly never saw myself doing. I mean I grew up with this music. There is an intimate familiarity with me, but to be portraying one of them, and for it to be Elvis no less was not something I imagined. My approach is not and never was to do an imitation or impersonation which would be an easy trap to fall into. I watched a lot of early Elvis videos and his early movies. I worked on his voice and his movement. I watched for little ticks and idiosyncrasies and I took note of all of it and then I threw it away. All of those things stay with me and things I'm consistently aware of and they make their way into my performance, but they come out without me having to think about them. My base is more imagining, "ok, if I was 21 and turning into the biggest celebrity the world had ever seen, how would I act" knowing the things I do about Elvis, his insecurities, anxieties, relationship with his mother, with the colonel. I take all of that into account in an effort to try and do a legend justice.

I grew up with shows like Rent and Spring Awakening. I'm a big fan of Next To Normal. I gravitate towards shows I could do. Once is one of my favorite shows and I had dream roles in that and then I got to play them all on Broadway :)

I'm an avid traveler, I take a few trips to other countries a year. I traveled all over Asia most recently. I use credit cards points in a very specific way to travel a lot for free or very cheap and follow a lot of travel blogs to help me do so.

I have an eclectic mix of music, but currently, Glen Hansard, Gabe Dixon, Nickel Creek, Dave Matthews, Ed Sheeran, Sara Bareilles, Kansas, I go on binges with certain artists depending on my mood.

ari

Monday, July 25, 2016

Meet Jason Loughlin as Sam Phillips

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, July 25, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I'm from Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I have been very proud of until recently. With the passing of HB-2, our state has turned into a place of fear and divisiveness, something that I hold to be atrocious for any age, but certainly in our present time. There are still good people there, arguably most, but the legislature and executive branch have been infested with bigots and fear-mongers, so, it's time for a change.

 Aside from that, I spent summers playing sports and swimming, hanging with friends and general buffoonery as a kid. I have family still in Charlotte and I go back to visit often. 
 I grew up with it. My dad is an actor and director, so, I have memories of being a 5-yr old watching rehearsals in our basement. I first performed professionally when I was 9 in A Christmas Carol, and I sort of never let that love leave my conscience.

I first got involved with MDQ last year, with Hunter Foster also at the helm. I don't normally do musicals (good thing I have the one part in the show that doesn't sing) but the role sounded fun, so I jumped on board. Hunter is such an insightful director, who guides us well and also allows us to explore and build the intricate relationships you see on stage. It's been a blast!

Portraying these character, or at least Sam Phillips, for me, is enlightening on so many levels. I had never heard of him, so, as I was digging into his life I was fascinated by his choices and achievements, as well as his mistakes. No one is perfect and finding those subtleties in characters, for me, is one of the most intriguing things about this art form.

What are my favorite show/dream roles? Well, there are a lot of roles I haven't done, so, I dream to do most of them. I have had much fun doing Shakespeare, two high spots being Malcolm in Macbeth Mand Berowne in Love's Labours Lost. Sam Phillips is definitely one of my favorite to date.

When I am not onstage I am playing some sort of sport, be it tennis, football, basketball, baseball, you name it. I also enjoy building things, being a carpenter. 

What's on my Ipod? Lots. current things I listen to are Nathaniel Raiteliffe and The Nightsweats, The Lone Bellow, The Monophonics, Gary Clark, Jr., Sam Cooke, and Hamilton.

 
Jason (front Left) with The cast of Million Dollar Quartet

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Great Balls Of Fire! Meet Dominique Scott!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (2)


I grew up in that good 305 MIAMI FLORIDA!! WOOT WOOT! Miami is a wonderfully diverse city - I grew up surrounded by a melting pot of people with different cultures, ideas... It was great to be exposed to so much at such a young age. I also went to a performing arts high school where everyone was very loving and accepting. It was the perfect environment for a young artist to grow and discover himself in.

Oh, I definitely didn't choose this. No one in their right mind would. Like the old saying goes: "it chose me." My mom took me to children's theater shows when I was a kid and I loved it. I was a hyperactive kid who was so passionate about performing. I was really ambitious too. I worked so hard and trained so much throughout my childhood. I learned everything I could - singing, dancing, acting, juggling, circus, tech - just everything I could get my hand on. I loved every minute of it, too. As far as mentors go - I've had so many great teachers who have influenced and inspired me in so many ways. There are too many to list, but I can assure you that I would not be the performer I am today without them.

My manager got me an audition for Million Dollar Quartet in 2010. It was one of my first auditions out of college. Since then - between appointments, callbacks, work sessions - I've probably been in for the show over 20 times. It never worked out for one reason or another until this past May when Hunter Foster and Michael Baker cast me in their Gateway production. The role is a once in a lifetime bucket-list type role - so, of course, it's met every expectation I had on how amazing I thought it would be to do.

I've had a pretty long history with Jerry Lee. Great Balls of Fire was the first piece of sheet music I bought from the music store when I started learning piano. Of course, I was 11 years old, and a terrible piano player, but I remember wanting to play rock and roll. Jerry Lee was my first introduction to that. I've seen many clips of Jerry Lee and have learned quite a bit of his music over the years for these auditions. There are also a couple biographies out there that are pretty helpful - Wikipedia and Google are great resources as well of course. However, the most important thing has been capturing the energy or the essence of who the guy is - more so than any type of direct impersonation.

Favorite shows: Miss Saigon, Ghost, Rock of Ages, MDQ, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Jesus Christ Superstar, Toxic Avenger. I've played leads in half of those shows, so of course now I'd love to do the other half! Haha.

I'm never NOT doing something in the entertainment world. In addition to my acting career, I have a whole other separate music career. I'm involved in 3 different band/music projects. I run a music studio and produce my own music as well as other people's. I really do have a workaholic situation going on. I get it from my Dad. But I do feel fortunate to be able to do what I love all the time. To check out everything I do and stay up to date with all things DOM - definitely visit my very awesome website.... Domscott.com

On my Ipod you'll find; Dirty Loops, Marianas Trench, Jonny Lang, Gallant, Brayton Bowman, Jason Loughlin, and any projects I'm working on.

  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Christmas in July Gift Certificate Special- June 24 thru July 31!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 20, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Christmas in July
Buy one Gift Certificate for 2, at the regular price, and get a second gift certificate for two at 50% off!  

westchester broadway theatre gift certificates

Gift Certificates can be used for all of WBT’s Main Stage productions ANDmost of our Special Shows which all include a complete dinner and show. Recipients may choose from any of the Shows in our lineup.


BUY CERTIFICATE FOR TWO ($168)
for a complete dinner & any performance* including Saturday
GET ANOTHER AT HALF PRICE ($84)
A $336 Value for Only $252


BUY CERTIFICATE FOR TWO
($128)
for a complete dinner & a Wednesday or Thursday matinee*
GET ANOTHER AT HALF PRICE ($64)
A $256 Value for Only $192

*not good for Gold Star Performances.   2nd certificate must be of equal value.
Purchases must be made at the same time and at the same location. Discount applies to gift certificates for two only.
Discount may not be applied to previous or future purchases. Cannot be used with any other coupons or discounts.
Gift certificates purchased during July 2016 sale will be good thru January 31, 2018

Purchase at the WBT Box Office, By Phone (914) 592-2222 or Online

 

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Preview of the Stars Behind Ballroom Extravaganza

Posted by: pia on Monday, June 6, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Coming to Westchester Broadway Theatre soon is Ballroom Extravaganza with their show "We Are The Champions". Here's a preview of the all-star cast!

 

New to the cast are Italy’s champions Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari who were second only to the Germans at the World Classical Showdance competition held in Berlin. They are elegant,  exciting and original in their presentations and enthrall audiences wherever they perform. Their home in Italy is Rome.

 

In recent performances Austin Joson and Nino Dzneladze “brought down the house” They are the world’s 21-and under Latin champions and swept all five of their dances for the world title held in Paris. There are few dancers over age 21 who can defeat them. They have appeared on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars” and PBS’s American Ballroom Challenge. 

                          

 Diego Blanco and Ana Pardon without question are one of the most exciting couples in the world of Argentine Tango today. They are known for their innovative, captivating and joyful style and to watch them dance with their energetic elegance, superb technique and keen sense of musicality is to witness the rich history of the Argentine Tango. As performers, choreographers and teachers they have danced in tango festivals throughout Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and the Americas.

 Returning to the cast is the sensational young Latin team of Tagir Mansurov and Alexandra Kondrashova following European and Asian success where they were Grand  finalists in the United Kingdom, Dutch and Asian Opens. In their first event in the U.S. they won the Disney Cup in Orlando, leading up to the U.S. Open where they took the bronze medal. Returning to Europe, they captured the Rising Star Open in Paris.

 

Making their debut in the cast are stars from Russia Ilia Zakharav with Anna Trukhan, the 2015 United States Showdance champions. Before coming to the U.S. Zakharav, who competed in Europe in all the European title events taught standard and Latin dancing at the Belarusian State University in Minsk. With the elegant Trukhan they are guest entertainers and teachers for Holland America, Princess Cruises and Celebrity  Cruise Companies. They also are regulars at Casino Resorts World in Manila.

 

 Rounding out the cast are Ricardo Sopin with Iraida Volodina, the world’s Rising Star American Rhythm champions and also World Mambo finalists. In 2015 they, too, won at the American Star Ball and Constitution State Challenge. The couple appeared on ABC-TV’s “Dancing With the Stars” in awareness to the devastation from the earthquake that hit Haiti and injured Sopin’s family. Ricardo and Iraida are co-owners of the Arthur Murray Studio in Greenwich, CT.


Ballroom Extravaganza is at 8 o'clock on June 7

 

 

Spotlight on Ballroom Extravaganza Dancers Anna Trukhan and Ilia Zakharav

Posted by: pia on Monday, June 6, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


Anna Trukhan and her partner Ilia Zakharav are certain to be a popular dance couple of the Westchester Broadway Theatre audience when they appear in the Ballroom  Dancesport show “We Are the Champions” on Tuesday evening, June 7, 2016.

    In less than three years dancing together, Trukhan and Zakharav have heard nothing but resounding applause during their highly entertaining  presentations. They are currently the United States National Standard Showdance champions.  “Our victory in the United States is something we’re especially proud of,” says Trukhan who, along with her partner, are originally from Ukraine.

    “We’ve done a lot of shows lately and many aboard ships”, she points out.  “We’ve been regular performers and dance instructors for Holland,  America,  Princess Cruises and Celebrity Companies, and one of our first appearances together was at Casino Resort World in Manila, and needless to say many cities in Europe and the entire United States.”

    Ana and Ilia continually work at changing their well-rehearsed routines. “We keep in mind the type of audiences we’ll be dancing for,” she explains. At the WBT “Kooza”, a standard show dance will be new for them. It includes Foxtrot, Tango and Quickstep foot work. A Viennese Waltz called “Thousand Years” and a dramatic International Tango titled “Kalinka Malinka” should appeal to the crowd.

    Six world renown couples comprise the show with each couple a champion in a different type dance. There are 30 show dance presentations that will be seen Including  contemporary Argentine Tango stars Diego Blanco and Ana Padron.

Showtime is 8 p.m. For reservations and further information contact the box office at (914) 592-2222. Tickets can be ordered online at www.broadwaytheatre.com.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Meet our Owner, Bill Stutler!

Posted by: Jake White on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (3)

Meet our Owner, Bill Stutler!

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Meet our Box Office Manager!

Posted by: Sofia Nastri on Monday, May 23, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Take a deeper look at our Box Office Staff!

 

Come into the kitchen and meet the Head Chef!

Posted by: pia on Monday, May 23, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Learn more about the kitchen as we sit down with our Head Chef here at WBT

Buy Buy! Meet Heidi Giarlo our Group Sales Manager

Posted by: Sofia Nastri on Monday, May 23, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Heidi Giarlo, Group Sales Manager here at WBT

Friday, May 20, 2016

Meet Michael Amante, The People's Tenor

Posted by: Fionn Connolly on Friday, May 20, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

        Affectionately known as, “the People’s Tenor” Michael Amante continues to be celebrated by audiences and critics alike around the world. As a performing artist and actor he has distinguished himself with his versatility and an outstanding range of talents.  Since his title role in a production of Oliver at age 6, he has been delighting audiences from all walks of life. Today, Michael routinely sings a repertoire that includes Broadway, Jazz, Rock, Gospel and American Standards as well as the soaring notes of High Opera. Included in Michael’s many wide-ranging credits is an Emmy nomination for his self-titled PBS television special.  In Addition, he has appeared on many national television programs including ABC’s “The View”, Emeril Live, MSNBC’s coverage of the Columbus Day Parade, Live with Regis Philbin, The Song Writers Hall Of Fame, and a number of made for TV movies for the LifeTime Network.  He has also been heard on several national television commercials including Heineken and Panasonic.  In 2002, Michael achieved another milestone when he was listed as the number one classical artist of the year in Billboard Magazine’s year- end review.

Michael has been crowned the “Prince of the High C’s” for his remarkable ability to sustain with ease, one of the most desired notes of a tenor’s voice, however his range includes the high E and F with a strength and consistency seldom heard elsewhere. Michael has a long history of singing popular Rock and Gospel music, coupled with extensive Italian Bel-Canto training by some of classical music’s most celebrated singers.  Michael’s artistry drew it’s highest praise from none other than “the King of High C’s”, Luciano Pavarotti, the most prolific tenor of all time. Pavarotti immediately recognized his unique talent after Michael performed a soaring tribute and was quick to commend him for his vocal prowess.  Another high-class commentator, who has endorsed Michael, was opera legend Franco Correlli, with whom Michael trained. Lavish in his praise, Correlli is noted as saying that Michael has one of the finest voices he had ever heard.

Michael’s stage appearances include leading roles in West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, Lil Abner, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and La Bohéme as well as Cavaleria Rusticana.  More recently he portrayed the lead role in the musical “Chess” for which he received outstanding reviews.  His live concerts with some of the nation’s best symphonies include music from The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Italian classics and songs from treasured American composers.  He has showcased his talents in front of a myriad of A-list celebrities, four US Presidents and Pope John Paul II.  On a larger scale he has appeared in front of capacity crowds of over 80,000 at Giant’s Stadium as well as numerous sports venues including Madison Square Garden, CitiField, Camden Yards, Foxboro Stadium and Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.  His sold-out venues consist of Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Heinz Hall and the nation’s top performing arts centers, renowned casinos and luxury resorts including Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and The Hard Rock.

Michael is a true patriot and the son of a decorated World War II Army Air Corps veteran and pilot who flew nearly 100 combat missions.  One of his most personal projects is a patriotic recording titled “Amante Salutes America” where all profit from sales is donated to the nation's disabled veterans. It was from his father and mother that Michael would acquire his love of classical composers as well as a strong sense of pride in his American heritage.  Michael also worked as a Tenured Crisis Intervention Counselor for severely emotionally challenged children in Central New York .  As well, he was a Senior Graphic Designer for Ernst & Young LLP in Manhattan. Michael Amante is the father of three and is married to inspirational author/speaker and award winning journalist, Ann Marie Ganness.

MIchael Amante performing songs from Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and Turandot

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meet Schyler Conaway, Ralph Malph

Posted by: Fionn on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My childhood looked pretty similar to that of Richie Cunningham growing up in Southern Delaware. With both parents working in education, school was a top priority in the household during the week, while the weekends were reserved for being outside fighting dragons and transforming my humble bike into a speed MACHINE! 

The decision to become an actor came unexpectedly. While chasing after a middle school crush, I found myself enrolled into a theatre Summer camp, singing and dancing. As the camp came to a close, the theatre sponsoring the program asked me to be a part of their upcoming production of GREASE. 

I suppose the snowball just began to build from there! As for mentors, that's hard to pinpoint, but I really think that we find mentors with every role and with every project; we learn from one another. So, my mentors are everyone I've had the pleasure to share the stage with. In this profession, I believe that none of us are masters; we are always learning and always growing. 

I was unfamiliar with the musical version of HAPPY DAYS prior to this experience, but I did grow up watching episodes of the television series with my parents on TV!  

In regards to playing such an iconic character, I think to keep from losing my mind and becoming overtly nerve wracked, I have to really release the energy of playing these "iconic roles." Don Most created and lived in this role for 10 years, so it's a daunting task to attempt to mimic that. I think we all are able to take the foundation laid to us by the original actors in these roles and then color and shape them as ourselves in these roles. 

That being said, it's been exciting to REINVENT this character that so many people have come to know and love. 

This is my WBT debut and what an awesome one it is!! There are so many positive things about working here thus far. First and foremost, we get to really challenge ourselves as artists and as creators. From the first rehearsal to the first performance, we had 10 days. 10 days to learn a full Broadway-style musical and perform it at that caliber! That's pretty remarkable. You find out what you're capable of, as a performer, and you surrounded by a company of people all on that same journey! It's exhilarating! 

There are so many "favorite shows" but some that have really stuck with me over the last few years were Spring Awakening, Les Miserables, Next to Normal, Wicked and most recently, Hamilton.  As for dream roles ... I've been so fortunate enough to have played both Melchior (Spring Awakening) and Marius (Les Miserables) and they were both a dream come true!! 

Other than acting, I really love to be outside!! If the weather is nice and I have the time, I think the most perfect day would be to go on a long hike and just take in the beauty that is THIS EARTH. We are surrounded by so much beauty, and it's important to really take that in. I also love to read. 

I'm currently jamming out to the tunes of Troye Sivan, Matt Corby, Jess Glynne and Sia. Obviously, the cast recording of HAMILTON goes without saying. 

 

Ralph, second from the left

Ralph, front and center, with the Dial Tones

Meet Arnold, Peter Marinos!

Posted by: Fionn Connolly on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan. My Dad owned and operated a Bar & grill and quite honestly in his apron with his welcoming smile he looked exactly like me in costume as Arnold!

As a kid anything musical or theatrical that was on TV was watched by my Brother, Sister, Mom and Yia Yia ( grandmother). Dad was usually at work. In fact though I was the youngest I was allowed to stay up later than my siblings if there was anything artistic being broadcast. Any guest that might stop by our house for a visit was treated to me performing something, at 3 years old my favorite was lip-syncing "Hernando’s Hideaway” from the Pajama Game which I performed in my Yia Yia’s bib apron so that I might do an elaborate Flamenco dance. Every school choir and theatrical production I was aware of I auditioned for and was accepted into. In high school, after a grueling audition process, I became a member and soloist with the Youth for Understanding Chorale. Our concert tour performed in the most historic, reverential, and acclaimed Opera Houses, Cathedrals and Concert Halls one summer throughout South America and the following summer in Europe.

 

Peter performing Hernando's Hideaway for his family at age 3!

 

At age 5 or 6  my Mother took me to  THE KING AND I at the local High School and I was certain I had to be a part of that world where make-believe was presented live as reality. "Dreams are just rehearsals for experiences yet to come”, is my mantra and has influenced my optimism within the theatre community since my childhood.

Jonathan Stahl, and Leisa Mather told me about the show they were going to do at WBT and how I’d be a good fit for the role of Arnold. I knew of the HAPPY DAYS TV series and had seen a couple of episodes but was never an avid TV viewer.

 Arnold is probably the one character in our production, and as written in the musical, that is not really all that similar to either of the Diner owners in the TV show, so I do not feel an obligation to attempt to recreate an iconic character.

 WBT has cast me in several productions in the last 40 years. In 1976 while performing in BELLS ARE RINGING I auditioned for Bob Fosse’s CHICAGO and after working with our Musical Director for my call-backs I was cast as Mary Sunshine, making my Broadway debut singing soprano, while dressed as a woman!! Both of my Parents died while I was in a WBT production, so I do equate WBT with some of the most powerful events I’ve experienced on this planet. AND the commute ain’t so bad either.

THE KING AND I is still my favorite musical and I had the opportunity to play the King here at WBT in their extremely lavish, gorgeous production in 1999. I’m not sure much can top being the King but I have been doing readings of a play based on Hitler’s rise in which I play his mentor. The playwright is reworking the script, and if it is ever produced I’ll have the chance to fulfill that dream. The play is entitled MARCH the character is Dietrich Eckart. 

When I'm not on stage, I enjoy doing anything with my husband John Haracopos but especially drinking Rose in the South of France.

I mostly enjoy life being accompanied by the sounds of my own imagination.

Peter Marinos, Far Left

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Pinky's Back! Meet Pinky, Maria Logan

Posted by: Jake White on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:02:00 am Comments (0)

We talk with Maria Logan about herself and her role in Happy Days!
I grew up in Nashville, TN with my parents and my three sisters. We were always a very musical family, and each day was a discovery and celebration of a new artist and genre of music. My sisters and I would put on countless shows and spend our summers writing songs and creating plays. I definitely caught the music theatre bug from my family. Lucky me!

The two biggest influences for me as a child were "Singin’ in the Rain" and The Dick Van Dyke Show. We weren’t allowed to watch much television, but movies and TV shows like these were such a treat for us! Actors like Danny Kaye and Dick Van Dyke absolutely lit me up, and I knew that if I could make people feel the way they made me feel watching those films, then in the words of Danny Kaye himself from my favorite movie The Court Jester, “Life couldn’t possibly better be!”

In full honesty, I didn’t know the show was a musical until I saw the breakdown come out for this production! However, I was definitely always a fan of the TV show. Who doesn’t love the Fonz? 

What I love about my role as Pinky Tuscadero is that she was only in a handful of episodes of the show, yet she has such a big presence in the musical. The way that Pinky affected Fonzie in the TV show I think appealed to the writers of the musical because it creates a great plot line for our “episode”. Roz Kelly has been an amazing and gorgeous woman to study and learn from during this process.

I love working at WBT. There is a definite sense of family backstage, and I always find a new family of friends in the cast onstage. Getting to stay at my home in NYC is also a huge plus!

Some of my favorite shows are "The Pajama Game", "In the Heights", and "Ragtime". My dream role is Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors".

I love doing exercise and yoga. I also enjoy writing and recording music.

I have such an eclectic mix of music on my phone, but here’s a taste: Hamilton Soundtrack (often on repeat),  Brandy, Jess Glynne, Pentatonix, Nickel Creek, Bruce Hornsby, Lauryn Hill, Paul Simon, and Beyonce 

 
as Pinky


as Miss Lark

Meet Joanie Cunningham, Mia Weinberger!

Posted by: Jake White on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:01:00 am Comments (0)

 We got a chance to talk to Mia Weinberger about her past and what it's like to play Joanie in our production of Happy Days!

 I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, right outside of Chicago. When my older brother, Ian, and I were growing up, our parents took us to see a lot of musicals, and we would often listen to musicals in the car and around the house, so my brother and I naturally got into musical theater at a young age. 

I started off as a dancer first. My parents put me in dance class when I was three years old. My brother was an actor as a kid, and I always looked up to him in every way, so I think he is largely responsible for me getting into acting. 

I wasn't familiar with the musical at all before auditioning for it! I also hadn't seen the TV series, but I've recently been watching it a ton to learn more about Joanie and the whole Happy Days gang!

Since I wasn't familiar with this TV series, I tried to imagine what it would be like to play a character from one of my favorite TV shows. If, say, Friends was a musical, it would be very important to me that the actors stayed true to the essences of those characters. Happy Days ran for eleven seasons, and when you watch a series for that long, the characters start to feel like your own group of friends. So I hope to honor the people who feel connected to Joanie and the world of Happy Days in my performance. Side note - is anyone developing a Friends musical? If so, please tell them I'd like to be involved. 

I haven't worked at WBT before, but my brother music directed Titanic here. This is the first time in our careers that we've worked at the same theater!

Hamilton is my favorite show as of late! My dream roles include Elle in Legally Blonde and Sally Brown in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. And any of the roles in that Friends musical I just dreamt up. 

I love doing improv and writing sketch comedy.  I also recently started learning how to code! And I love to read and run (but not at the same time!).  

I have lots and lots of Hamilton songs on my phone right now. I also listen to a lot of Sara Bareilles

Getting to know Chachi, Michael D'Amico!

Posted by: Jake White on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We talk to Michael D'Amico, who plays Chachi Arcola in our production of Happy Days...

I grew up in Manalapan, NJ - about 10 miles from the shore. My parents are New Yorkers, so city culture, as well as the beach, were a huge part of my upbringing. I went into the city often to visit family and friends, and I spent lots of time at the beach all times of the year! It was a really cool mesh!

I always sang, but growing up, I played soccer for about 8 years, so I was always very focused on that. However, my freshman year of high school, my best friend and I decided to take theatre together as our arts elective. At that point, I wanted to direct films, and having been exposed to the stage, I decided to take a NYFA summer intensive for directing. It turns out that the other students in the program needed actors for their pieces, so I volunteered, and I caught the bug! 

Growing up I used to watch Nick-at-night with my mom almost every day after she came home from work. Happy Days was on all the time, as was Laverne and Shirley and I Love Lucy. I first heard of the musical a little while back while doing some research for Doo-Wop type Musical Theater songs. 

It's an incredible gift to be able to portray such iconic characters. Not only is there a major amount of resources available as far as research, but it's rare that you get to play somebody who was a part of your childhood culture. There's certainly pressure when it comes to this, but it's a fun privilege to be able to honor what the essence of the character is, while still bringing yourself to it. 

This is my first WBT show, but I really enjoy that the whole crew and cast are supportive- it's like a family. The product that WBT brings is more than just quality entertainment, it's an all around experience.

I have several shows I'd love to work on, but I've always dreamed of playing Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys. I'd also really love to play Boq in Wicked. My favorite musical of all time is West Side Story.

I enjoy traveling, reading, and in the winter, snowboarding. 

I own quite a bit of music and have rather electric taste. I really love 90's R&B soul- there's a fair amount of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Anita Baker, and Celine Dion. I also love pop! Maroon 5, Lianne La Havas, Sia, and Panic! at the Disco are my favorites at the moment. 

 

as Chachi

Monday, May 9, 2016

Aaay! Meet the Fonz, Nick Varricchio!

Posted by: Jake White on Monday, May 9, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Meet Nick Varricchio, who plays Arthur Fonzarelli in our production of Happy Days. He gave us a little insight on who he is and what he's like.

 I grew up in Mentor, Ohio just outside of Cleveland. My parents are the hardest working people I know, and I am the middle child of two brothers-- Domenic Angelo and Vincent Peter. Every Sunday night was "Pasta Sunday" at my grandma's house in Wickliffe, Ohio-- a neighboring town full of proud Italian families. We would pack all of our aunts and uncles and cousins around folding chairs and tables and enjoy pounds of spaghetti and meatballs and homemade sauce. My mom and me would always watch old Hollywood classic movies and swoon over the greats like Gene Kelly, Monty Clift, and Liz Taylor. My dad would take my brothers and me to Pymatuning in PA for a week of camping each summer and more often than not we served as secondary coast guards in our little pontoon on Conneaut Lake.

 My brothers and I had such wild imaginations growing up. After rounding up our neighborhood gang and tiring ourselves of kickball and capture the flag, we'd pretend that we were movie-making machines. I soon began to live my life as if I were actually in a movie. Directors like Peter Bogdanovich and Roman Polanski and actors like Cary Grant and Lucille Ball helped shape my perspective of how to view the world around me. I am terribly fond of Dean Martin's 'cool' and influenced by the words of writers Ayn Rand and Elizabeth Gilbert. My mentors are more often than not people whom I've met only once or aspire to work with like Marilyn Maye, Mindy Cohn, and Bill Irwin. I would like to give credit to a dear friend, Brint Learned-- the artistic director of Rabbit Run Theatre. He directed me one summer in a production of "The Light in the Piazza," and the whole experience is a major reason why I'm still acting today. He allowed me to rediscover my creativity.

 I first heard of "Happy Days The Musical" when I auditioned for this production. I was unaware of its history. I knew the TV show well, as I grew up watching Nick at Nite. Richie and Fonzie were like good friends alongside Laverne and Shirley, Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Tyler Moore.

 The thought of playing such an iconic character was at first daunting and a little bit like sailing into uncharted territory. Nevertheless, I vowed to be up for the challenge. I made Fonzie my best friend all throughout rehearsals and wore his classic leather jacket religiously! Now if I could only get my hands on the one in the Smithsonian...

 My favorite shows and dream roles include (first and foremost) Bobby in "Company", Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and to one day have my own variety show called "A Nightcap with Nick Varricchio and Friends!"

 Off the clock I enjoy doing CrossFit, writing short stories, listening to old records, making meatballs, learning languages, studying physics, reading...you get the idea.

  Currently what's on my iPod: Karen Carpenter, Pentatonix, Donna Summer, the BeeGees "Saturday Night Fever," ...the beat goes on.

 

            as Fonzie  

 

 as Fonzie, with his gang.

Meet Richie Cunningham, Herb Porter.

Posted by: Sofia Nastri on Monday, May 9, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Meet Herb Porter, the guy behind our production of Happy Days' Richie Cunningham. 

I grew up in Columbus, Ohio with my mom, dad, sister and brother.  I played sports most my life (football, wrestling, track and field) with the occasional spring musical thrown in here or there.  I come from a family of businessmen, lawyers and number crunchers.  So deciding to take a career in the arts was definitely off the beaten trail.  Though I didn't follow in the family footsteps, my family has been behind me every step of the way. 

I attended Denison Univ.  in Ohio where I studied Biology.  During my time at DU, I was fortunate to participate in what was essentially an extra-curricular musical theatre class.  We'd rehearse twice a week all semester and then perform a show.  I had zero plans on becoming an actor, I performed for fun.  It wasn't until I booked my first role outside of college, playing Jean Valjean, that I looked at acting as a potential path.  So after numerous talks with friends and family I decided to put medical school on hold and try acting for a bit.  Jumping into this world blindly was a very scary thought.  DU was small and there were no theatre alumni or possible connections.  I had to learn everything on my own and I mean everything, I didn't even know what equity was until my first equity gig.  I was fortunate though to find mentors along the way who would help guide me in the right direction.  My two first equity directors, Marc Robin and Ed Flesch, helped mold me into a better and more professional actor.  While my vocal coach, Dr. Bryan Wade, has been an unbelievable resource and friend.  Bryan answers all my questions about the business, how to audition properly, and how to be a successful actor.  

I honestly had no idea there was a Happy Days musical until the WBT casting notice.  I sat there and though to myself, "hey, that would be a good show for me...I look kind of like Richie...just bigger."  So when I got the call to play this iconic role I knew it was something I couldn't pass up.  Having grown up watching all the classic shows like Happy Days, Gilligan's Island, etc I was overwhelmed that I would get the chance to play typical high schooler Richie Cunningham.  Richie is know around the world.  He is a T.V icon who will influence viewers for years to come.  His actor, Ron Howard, has continued to make unbelievable films and documentaries as a director.  There's a lot of pressure to not only honor the character and to capture the essence Richie, but to also give Ron Howard the respect he deserves for creating this role.As Richie with the Dial Tones

 My favorite show, hands-down, is Les Miserables...I know, opposite side of the spectrum from Happy Days.  I've done Les Mis 5 times, 2 times as ensemble and 3 times as Valjean.  The show is filled with hope and love and holds a deep place in my entire families hearts.  My dream role would be to play Elder Price, Book of Mormon...as soon as I learn how to tap.

When I'm not on stage you can usually find me in the kitchen baking.  I work at Schmackary's bakery, baking and selling cookies all day.  I love baking because of how precise it is, it's a science.I always had a big hole in my heart for confections and candies, don't let me in a candy store or it will be be bad.  To offset all that baking though when I'm not in the kitchen I'm at the gym or doing some form of exercise.  Getting the endorphins going and working up a nice sweat makes me feel alive.  Any other spare time is spent practicing music or playing video games.

My current favorite artist is Imagine Dragons, they fill my iphone

 

As Richie 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Meet Mrs. Cunningham, Lori Hammel

Posted by: Jake White on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Lori Hammel plays Mrs. Cunningham in our production of Happy Days. 

 I grew up in North Dakota. I started competing in talent shows when I was 12 and I was in a country-western band by the time I was 15. It was a great place to grow up. We lived in New Salem (population 1,000) during some of those years – a small town where people all knew each other. I wanted to be in every group I could join. 

 I always liked entertaining other people. When I was in first grade, I put on my snowsuit when it was hot outside and made my mom laugh. Then I walked down the block and knocked on the door of our neighbors so they would see it and laugh too. I continued performing - my mom would have me sing in the living room for relatives. I did the school plays and had a fabulous junior high teacher, Mrs. Beckman, who let me act and write and be myself. She was so encouraging and I really felt seen and heard, and she gave me hope that I could do it all.  We moved back to the big town of Bismarck, North Dakota late in my high school years and they had a lovely new theater. Again, I dove in and did the shows. It felt like home to me. Eventually, I wanted to legitimize my passion for acting by going to college to learn more about it. 

 Being in this show has been a great experience. I loved watching Happy Days as a kid, so I can say that it is the greatest show and so much fun. The values and the true heart felt relationships made me want to be a part of that family.

 It has been a blast to play these wonderful TV characters. I was always such a TV junkie and still am. I loved playing Mrs. Brady from The Brady Bunch because she handles having so many kids with such grace and wisdom and she is the perfect wife who still has ideas of her own.  Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy is so fabulous to play because she is the voice of reason - always trying to help Lucy be wise to the trouble she is getting into – yet in spite of it all, Ethel goes along with her best friend and usually gets in trouble too. Mrs. Cunningham is the voice of reason and such a loving soul – she is someone I would love to be able to get comfort and advice from. 

I am totally into “Last Tango in Halifax” – a British TV show that has multi-generational families dealing with life’s problems and challenges. It is ultimately about loving people for who they are, no matter what they are going through. It has the fabulous stage actor Derek Jacobi and the ever graceful Anne Reid – two characters in their 70’s who find love again.  It’s a current TV family.  My dream role is to play a beloved series regular on a hit TV show.  Maybe that’s why I like playing them so much on stage! Speaking of television shows, be sure to watch for me on the upcoming season two of "Difficult People" on Hulu!  

I love getting together with my friends and talking about life and art and creating. I love to write, and I co-authored a guidebook for young actors called “Minding the Edge – Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor”.  Another actor friend and I are writing a new web series, so I like to keep busy! 

I like fun 1970’s music that makes me feel good! 

  
as Carol Brady                       as Ethel Mertz        


as Ethel Mertz

Meet Potsie, Michael Linden

Posted by: Jake White on Friday, May 6, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We got the chance to ask Michael Linden some questions, who plays Potsie in our production of Happy Days...

 I grew up on Long Island, New York. I have a twin brother and an older brother who do not partake in the performing arts at all. My mom is the health office administrator for a high school on Long Island. I come from a supportive family and it was a privilege being in the shadow of the greatest city in the world as a young person.

 I always loved to sing; I grew up listening to Mariah Carey, Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston (my mom has a video of me singing her cover of "I'm Every Woman" at age four somewhere. That is, until I find it and burn it). I started doing the middle school musicals, but it was my freshman year of high school when I realized what a powerful community theater can create, and I was hooked ever since. 

 I loved Happy Days growing up; I watched it on Nick at Nite whenever it was on and was actually drawn to Potsie because he sang. Who knew?!

 As for being able to play Potsie; what an honor! Despite the fact that they are held so near and dear to the viewing public, I find it important to remind myself that people haven't seen them in THIS situation before, and Jonathan (our director) has stressed that he does not want impersonations, and that we have to approach things from an honest place.

 I was fortunate enough to do "Can Can" at WBT in 2012 with a wonderful cast. I love working here because everyone who works at the theater is so fantastic and kind. It's also very special to be able to perform in a show while still living in the city. I'm happy to be back!

 I love "Little Shop", and Seymour is a dream role that I've been fortunate enough to play twice, but a few more times couldn't hurt, right? I also love quirky shows with unexpected protagonists, such as "Bat Boy The Musical" and I recently fell in love with "Dear Evan Hansen" at Second Stage.

When I'm not on stage, I'm cooking..and eating. I love to cook and try new restaurants. I am always thinking about food, or watching the Food Network.

As far as music is concerned, I have few musicals, but in my leisure time I'm a singer/songwriter fanatic; James Morrison, Billy Joel, Adele, Sara Bareilles, Johnnyswim,  and of course the Beatles and Motown. If they are sangin', I'm listenin'.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Meet Mr. Cunningham, Peter Davenport

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Peter Davenport Plays Mr. Cunningham In our production of Happy Days. We caught him between rehearsals...

I grew up in the late 60s, 70’s and early 80’s in Flint, MI at the height of the US auto industry. I was the youngest by seven years of 4 children, so I grew up like an only child but with the benefits of older siblings. My best friend was our brindle boxer named Tiger who died at age 15 when I was in high school. My parents were one of the first couples to divorce in our neighborhood and both remarried. I used to go to the florist near my elementary school after classes and they would let me dig through the garbage to pick flowers out to make corsages for my mother and our housekeeper. I was the youngest company apprentice to the Flint Ballet Company at age 13, and was in far better shape than all the other boys on the football team freshman year of high school because of ballet.

My mother always told bedtime stories in character accents. She was a story time reader on Bozo the Clown a few times and did children’s reading time at the Flint Public Library, so she was a big influence. She and my father also were host to a neighborhood Shakespeare Club that did readings of Shakespeare’s plays every six weeks. They even used one of my donut frisbees as a crown for a king in one play, and I got to stay up to listen to them read. I also grew up attending the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario from age 6, which I still attend with my mother and my own sons today. My mother was also on the board of the short-lived Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT and we were the host house for visiting theatre artists at Whiting Auditorium in Flint. The biggest impressions made upon me as a child were Geoffrey Holder, who was like some exotic gentle giant, Colleen Dewhurst, and Christopher Plummer. And, of course, all the great slapstick comics like Carol Burnett and variety shows. I wrote a letter to the producers of Bewitched when I was 10 telling them that I was a straight A student and that I would be a very good addition to their show. It was never sent.

I grew up watching Happy Days, and Laverne and Shirley, and All In the Family and all the family shows of the 70’s and earlier, including Leave It To Beaver and The Munsters. When I got my script and score, I had to take a picture of the score and text it to a friend of mine who happened to have orchestrated the music and was the original music director, John McDaniel. He responded with thumbs up and hearts.

Playing Mr. Cunningham is funny because, for me, it’s like playing my own father. And being from the Midwest, I grew up visiting Cassville, WI where my grandfather was from, and Madison, where my grandfather and my sister went to University, and of course Milwaukee! I have such fond memories of the show and the nostalgic feeling it instilled in me that getting to play Howard Cunningham is nothing but a pleasure to me. It's like wearing an old favorite worn-in baseball glove.

The first show I did at WBT - "Phil McKinnley’s Christmas Spectacular", directed by Tony Stevens - was one of the best experiences of my career and made a wonderful and positive impression on me as a young actor. I also made some of my longest lasting friendships in the business were from that time at WBT. The best thing about working here is being treated well and feeling so welcome to the theatre from both the theatre staff and the service staff. If you ask most performers, we all  have worked in food service at one time or another, so working in a dinner theater is a funny, strange and wonderful moment of convergence and familiarity, unique from any other theatre job. The second best thing is, of course, its proximity to NYC, which makes commuting to work very easy, and returning to everyday city life undisturbed.

I really love all the classic musicals. They are so concise and economic with story and song lyrics, and they all, for the most part, make you feel good. I’ve been blessed to have been in several of those and played lead roles like Captain Georg von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" (and actually got a support phone call on the road from Julie Andrews herself!), Fred Graham in "Kiss Me Kate" (for which I was honored with a Best Actor IRNE nomination in 2009), the villainous Doctor Carrasco in "Man of La Mancha" with Judy McClane, Tom Hewitt, and a high schooler Laura Benanti. Roles in musicals that I’d still love to sink my chops into are Bobby from "Company", Guido from "NINE", Emile De Becque in "South Pacific", and Dan in "Next To Normal", to name a few.

I’m a full time stay at home papa with 8-year-old and 6-month-old sons, so I basically perform nonstop in my life (much to their embarrassment!)  "Papa, please don’t sing or dance" is a common refrain I hear on the street. In my spare time, I also write and have several screenplays in the works - I took my short film "A Family Dinner" to Cannes Short Film Corner in 2012 - as well as a new musical about the coal wars at the turn of the 19th century in West Virginia with my co-creator Katy Blake called "Storming Heaven",  for which we are planning a 29-hour reading in the fall! I love to listen to all kinds of music, especially punk, techno, D&B, and Trap when I need a beat to move to while working out and running, and Classical, jazz, and Brazilian when I’m chilling, relaxing at the beach or gardening. I do enjoy a Peterita (a top shelf margarita named after meand sleep. Sleep is something I enjoy immensely right now in my life, though it's one thing I don’t seem to get nearly enough of! 

I used to say that I would never be one of those dads with a wallet full of pictures of his kids, but then this thing called a mobile phone with a camera was born, so now I am one of those dads with a phone full of more kid pictures than would ever fit in a wallet! I usually don’t tune out the world unless I’m exercising or running, which is when I use my iTunes and Spotify to motivate me with their own in-house mixes to get my jam jumping. Lately, I’ve been listening to Beyonce’s visual album, Rhianna’s new album, Bob Moses, The 1975, Lana Del Rey, Bebel Gilberto, and anything French pop.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meet Jonathan Stahl, the Director of Happy Days

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Jonathan Stahl is a WBT regular having performed, directed, choreographed and even assistant stage managed shows.  He has performed in The Full Monty, Gypsy, Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Singin' In The Rain, Phantom, George M and several Holiday shows to name a few. He has choreographed The Wizard of Oz, and Phantom. And he has proudly directed and choreographed Nine starring Bob Cuccioli (and some amazing women), The Sound of Music, Legally Blonde, The Christmas Inn, and It Happened One Christmas Eve.  

I grew up in south central PA in the valley between the north and south mountains.  NewvillePA to be exact. I lived in the country and had a very enjoyable upbringing that did not have a lot of urban culture. I went to public school and did high school theatre productions. I played in the band, sang in the choir… I did not start dancing till much later and eventually went away to college for musical theatre — somewhat against all odds

I was somewhat influenced by Sunday afternoon movie musicals and movies by Shirley Temple. I had a very supportive teacher in middle school who did one small community review who gave me encouragement.  In high school, I was mesmerized by the movie ALL THAT JAZZ.  I did not see much live theatre, but did go to local regional theatre when the opportunity arose. My own work has been greatly influenced by working with Richard Stafford as his associate the last few years.

When not working on a show, I am continuing my education…either as a performer (dance classes, acting classes and the like), or as a student of life. I recently got  his undergraduate degree after a 25 year hiatus and thoroughly enjoyed the education I received in doing so.  I like traveling, going to the gym and museums.  "Ironically, I have to remind myself I need to go see shows from time to time. I always love the theatre."

Being a WBT veteran, (approaching 20 shows!) I am very used to the quick rehearsal process... but being used to it does not make it easier.   It is always a challenge to budget time wisely and make the best use of the actors time/energy. However, the fast pace can also be invigorating.

I am very HAPPY and have been counting the DAYS that I am getting to work on this musical.  This show presents a unique opportunity to look anew at a 1970s sitcom about growing up in the 1950s.  The differences, as well as the similarities, in the two eras, have made working on this show incredibly interesting and informative.  

Having grown up watching Happy Days, the TV show and having lived in Milwaukee for a few years, I feel a connection to the piece and to these characters.  As I re-watched some of the old episodes from an "adult" perspective, I was taken by the talent of the cast and the often ground-breaking social commentary of the plots.   They truly made an impact on society in the 1970s.  This musical stands as a  reminder of how Richie and the gang influenced us back then. But Happy Days, the musical, is more, in that it also serves to remind us of the timeless values the TV show stood for, values which give it the same impact today: loyalty to family and friends, along with fighting for just causes, not to mention  the gratification we all get from a happy ending.  Asking my cast of talented actors to seek the essence of these iconic characters, and yet find their own truths as actors creating a role, was a welcome challenge. For all of us, the opportunity to bring this special piece of theatre to appreciative audiences makes these days HAPPY DAYS, indeed.  

Westchester Broadway offers a unique experience.  They have a wonderful chef and I enjoy the food very much when I get the opportunity to eat there.  Combine this with top notch productions at a less than Broadway price, I think your readers should make it a priority to experience this great evening of entertainment.

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Little Barber, David Cantor

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

David Cantor (l) as the Barber in "The Golden Helmet of Mambrino"

I grew up in Pleasantville about 20 minutes north of Elmsford. My father was a musicologist, composer and performer, my mother an English teacher and then a librarian. Both performed locally. When I was about six years old, they even ran their own Gilbert & Sullivan touring company for a couple of years.

My last two years of high school were spent at Woodlands HS in Hartsdale. My theatre teacher there, Tony Howarth, became a great friend and mentor to me for many years.

I Used to listen frequently to the London cast recording of Man Of La Mancha,  which included all the dialogue. I Have loved the show for years but have never done it before. I Have seen three versions: Alan Jones as Quixote, Ed Ames as Quixote and the 3rd B'way revival with David Wasson as the Padre!

I Never saw the movie, but I listened ONCE to the record. That was plenty. (and by the way, the Jim Nabors recording of the show is pretty terrible too!). Some movie musicals capture the show well, but it's such a different medium that the compromises always bother people like me who care about the theatrical version.

This is my 11th show at WBT (or perhaps 10th? I can't remember) An on-going Equity theatre, commutable for NYC based actors, with producers who care about the show and about the actors--what's not to like?!

I love most shows from the Golden Age of musicals, many operettas as well, newer shows by such writers as Flaherty & Ahrens, Mark Shaiman, Alan Menken. My Dream role is the next one that pays!

When not on stage, I enjoy spending time with My wife Karen, daughter Rachel and son Adam, and  watching Jeopardy, old movies and cooking shows.

What's on my Iphone?  Pictures of my kids, of course!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Meet Don Quioxote, Paul Schoeffler

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

  

I grew up in Canada. I was born in Montreal and at a very young age,  we moved to Toronto until the age of thirteen, when my dad, who was German, moved us all to England.

I attended a tutorial school in London to learn the English curriculum and managed to get into a public school called Pangbourne, which had been primarily a training school to send kids into the military or merchant marine.

After 5 years there, I moved to Brussels, Belgium where my family had by then moved.  I attended the University of Brussels to learn French. I also worked a lot with Belgian truck drivers which was an experience. My list of French epithets is long.

At 19,  I moved to California to attend school at UC Berkeley and then Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, before making my way to NYC in the mid 80's

I was in crisis about what to do with my life at 19, when I discovered acting at the 2-year college I was attending in California. I was behind the curve and worked extremely hard to hone my skills

I can't remember the first time I saw or heard Man Of La Mancha. I have seen the movie and they made a bit of a hash of it. I have done the role twice before. The first time I was a little overwhelmed but now not so much. Although I have a healthy respect for it's demands. It is definitely exhausting...but exhilarating!

This is my first time at WBT and I am having a terrific time. Every one has been extremely nice and hard working. And I live 15 minutes away so the commute is a perk!!

The reason I chose to go into music theatre was the experience of hearing the original musical 'Sweeney Todd'. It changed my life. Oddly, many of my peers had the same experience. I would love to have another try at that role. I did it when I was young and had no clue about what I was doing.

I love doing new work and working with new composers and writers. Originating something new...like Rock of Ages ...is definitely a fun experience.

When I am not on stage, I am very much a family guy. I have two kids who take up a lot of time and energy. I Love my wife. I teach privately and at times at institutions like NYU.

I am a work out nut. I love tennis and sports in general. I read a lot and am very much up on what is happening in the world.

I am working on a media training business with a partner in Los Angeles. I also do voice over work quite frequently and very recently did a one-hour National Geographic special.

I don't live on my hand -held device so can't say I have anything particularly outrageous to share. Love music. Got lots of pics of family and friends.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ian Knauer, The Knight Of The Mirrors sheds light!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

Ian Knauer as Dr. Carasco and as The Knight Of The Mirrors

I am from Toledo, Ohio - my mother is British and my father was American.  It seems there was always music in the house.  We were either listening to it or we were making it.  I sang from an early age as did my sister, brother and mother and we all played piano (some better than others!).  We all sang at church and then I started being asked to play parts in the musicals at church - which I loved.  Then when I was about 11 my church choir teacher suggested I audition for The Sound of Music at the Westgate Dinner Theatre - which was a professional Equity theatre right around the corner from my house.  I auditioned and out of around 500 kids,  I got the part of Kurt.  We played the show for about nine months - I loved it and felt so at home on the stage.  I think that is where my love for theatre really started.  

I also was lucky that my parents had season tickets to the theatre in town that had all of the national tours.  So I saw about five different Equity national tours a year starting when I was about five - it was amazing!

I think I saw the tour of Man of La Mancha when it came through Toledo but I have never done it.  I am excited to be doing it now and to really learn all about it and see it's affect on audiences.  I've never seen the movie but I do love movie musicals starting with all of the great ones from the '30's, '40's, and '50's.  Movie musicals now are very important because they can sometimes reach audiences that don't normally come to the theatre.  And I appreciate how the good ones always find a way to use the medium of film to tell a little bit more or a different angle to the musical.  I don't always like it better but I can appreciate what they do!

I have done Oklahoma!, And the World Goes 'Round, and Christmas Survival Guide at Westchester - a long time ago it seems.  I am looking forward to coming back and seeing what it is like now.  I remember it being like a family - backstage and in the house.  And the quality of the performers and shows is always very high.

My favorite shows are She Loves Me and On the Twentieth Century.  I've been fortunate to have done many shows that I've loved over the years and I'm looking forward to doing many more.  I'd love to play Scar one day and I'd really love to play Billy Flynn again - I loved playing that role!

When I'm not onstage I love spending time with friends and family - hopefully supporting whatever they are doing at the time.  Traveling is a big passion and I am thankful to be able to travel so much - with my work and for pleasure.  The last five years I spent living and working in London and traveling from there.  And before that I traveled and performed all over the world - and there is still so much to see and do!!

Meet The Good Padre ...Alan M-L Wager

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, March 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I'm from Orange County California, third generation Los Angeles native.  My Mother's family from Culver City, right outside the gate of MGM.

I Have always been a fan of music and started singing at 15, this led to choirs in High School and civic theatre.   

This is my fourth production of Man Of La Mancha as the Padre.  I DO know the movie but don't think highly of it, as it was cast with non-singers in singing roles.   Musicals into films is great...as long as it's done well.

Favorite shows include Show Boat and Sweeney Todd, both of which I've done multiple times.  Wish someone would do Me & My Girl again...would love to repeat that one as well.

I am the co-founder of 22Q Entertainment, an Emmy nominated and award winning production company.  Our most recent production was a new play called Would You Still Love Me If...? starring Kathleen Turner at New World Stages.

Currently, on my Iphone/Pod is a bunch of musical recordings...some of which I'm on (including the new Disney Hunchback recording) and text messages from people I don't quite remember! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Meet Gary Marachek as Sancho!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, March 14, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Jeffersonville, Indiana and graduated from Indiana University. I never realized as a child that I had a gift for singing but my relatives were always asking me to sing something at family gatherings and reunions. I thought every kid could sing. 

My high school drama teacher was probably the biggest influence & encouraged me to be in the school musicals. I worked with and learned comedy from the golden era of the greats: Bob Hope, Martha Raye, & Bob Newhart.

I first heard of Man of La Mancha in high school when my high school teacher came over to my house and played the soundtrack.This production will be the fifth time I've played the role of Sancho. I don't generally like movie musicals due to the total lack of audience participation and reaction which, after a song, leaves the viewer in a kind of a slump. It's very anticlimactic. However, "The Sound of Music" and "Cabaret" stand out as two of my all-time favorite movie musicals followed closely by "Chicago."

I'm not sure but I think La Mancha will be my sixth or seventh appearance here at WBT. I first appeared here on this stage in 1994 as the role of Del in City Of Angels. I was last seen here on this stage in Phantom. I played the role of Cholet, the owner of the Opera. What I enjoy most about working here at WBT is the high caliber of actors the theater is able to obtain and the consistent top-notch production values. 

As far as dream roles is concerned, I have already played my dream role eight times: John Adams in 1776. But it's always a joy to play villains too. They're better written and they're a lot more fun.

When I'm not on stage these days most of my time is spent planning my wedding with my fiancé which will take place one week after La Mancha closes. Yes! I'm getting married May 7th. It's going to be huge! The event of the year.  In fact, Steve Calleran, the house manager at here at WBT is going to be in the wedding party. He has been a friend of the family for decades.

 

Meet Antonia! Sarah Hanlon!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, March 14, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

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.

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.

My last appearance here at WBT was in Show Boat and the role of Julie has been on my bucket list since I saw the tour when I was a teen.  I also love West Side Story, Next to Normal, Hair, Oliver, and Sweeney Todd ,  Man Of La Mancha.  

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 You tube 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, January 18, 2016

Erin McCracken Plays PATSY CLINE

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, January 18, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

  er

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. No, I did not grow up on a farm, but I do come from a very big family and we spent all the big holiday on my uncle's farm in the mountains of Oklahoma. I spent a lot of time in church where I sang in the choir and was very involved in the youth groups. Both of my brothers, Caden and Logan, were very athletic (and still are!) but I had not one athletic bone in my body. So I stuck with singing and acting.  Thankfully my parents were and are very supportive of my love for musical theater. Being from Oklahoma, my brothers and I were born and bred on country music. We grew up listening to all the great country artists, including Miss Patsy Cline, and of course, all of the great Okie singers like Garth Brooks & Reba McEntire.

My mother was a singer and played the piano so I was singing and singing loud from the start! She has a love for musical theatre that rubbed right off on me. My pastor in Oklahoma says he was completely astonished when he visited our home one day and I got right up on the coffee table and belted out 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' when I was around 5 years old. I loved being on stage and performing when I was younger but what really sealed the deal for me was my first trip to New York City. I was in the 6th grade and we went to NYC to see our Okie friend, Kristin Chenoweth, in the Broadway show 'Steel Pier'. I was mesmerized by the spectacle of it all. I had seen many musicals but nothing like that. It was that same trip that we saw 'Candide' at the Gershwin Theatre and that just put me over the top. Being a musical theatre actor was what I was going to do. 

I always loved singing but my high school drama teacher, Rosemary Baker, was influential in the sense that she really helped to love acting and creating characters. Being from Oklahoma, I knew I had to study with Florence Birdwell at Oklahoma City University for voice training. She taught me how to really sing. Not only technically but emotionally. Her training prepared me to be a professional in the musical theatre world.  

My very first audition and call back in NYC were for this show, Always...Patsy Cline!  I was too young at the time but after that audition process, I knew it would be on my dream role list. Last year that dream came true. I had the opportunity to play Patsy Cline at Ocean State Theatre under the direction of Amiee Turner, who is also directing this production!  

At first, I was very nervous about portraying Patsy Cline. When you play an icon you automatically have this overwhelming feeling of making sure everything is perfect and spot on. But there is only one Patsy Cline so I just create her to the best of my ability. I read up on her life, studied videos and had a lot of help from coaches to perfect my Patsy sound. 

Dream roles would be Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady' and Rose in 'Gypsy', although I have a few years to go before I can tackle that character. My "guilty pleasure dream role" would be Elle in 'Legally Blonde', maybe some day!

This will be my third show at WBT. My first was A SLEEPY HOLLOW CHRISTMAS CAROL and then I played Tracy Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY.   One of the things I love about WBT, a regional theatre, is that you can get Broadway quality theatre so close to to New York City...and dinner is included! 

 I live in New York City, so I enjoy exploring the city and finding new and fun places to eat! I love nothing more than spending a night out in the city with good food and good friends. I love going to movies and seeing live theatre as much as I can. But, more than anything I enjoy figuring out how I can get back on stage.
 
My IPod holds Everything! Pop, music theatre, country, jazz, indie... You name it!  I love Christmas music and listen to it year around!  Beyonce, Adele, Carrie Underwood & Kelly Clarkson are constantly on repeat (I have a thing for strong female singers)!

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lee Harrington Joins The Cast Of Show Boat

Posted by: Pia on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

Lee Harrington  joins the cast as Magnolia Hawks in SHOW BOAT!

Show Boat as it returns for a second run at Westchester Broadway Theatre from Dec 30th  to January 31st , 2016.

LEE HARRINGTON  (Magnolia) Thrilled to be a part of this wonderful company! Off Broadway: Into the Woods (Roundabout Theatre Company), JELLYBEAN- original solo show (Fringe Festival). Regional: My Fair Lady (Sharon Playhouse), Company (Pittsburgh Public), Merrily We Roll Along (Cincinnati Playhouse) Marvelous Wonderettes (Stoneham Theatre), Man of La Mancha (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey), and Dead Man's Cell Phone (CMU).  Training:  Carnegie Mellon.

Our production stars Sarah Hanlon as Julie Laverne, Lee Harrington as Magnolia Hawks, John Preator as Gaylord Ravenal, Jamie Ross as Cap’n Andy, Karen Murphy as Parthy Hawks, Amanda Pulcini as Ellie May Shipley, Michael James Leslie as Joe, Daniel Scott Walton as Frank Schultz, and Inga Ballard as Queenie.

Featuring the talents of; Malcom Armwood, Eric Briarley, Erin Chupinsky, Micharel Dauer, Jonathan Freeland, Alia Hodge, Justin R.G. Holcomb, Celeste Hudson, Paul-Jordan Jansen, Leisa Mather,  Zoie Morris, Gabriella Perez, Kristyn Pope, Adam Richardson, Roger Preston Smith and Karen Webb.

 Set and Costume Design is by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, Lighting Design is by Andrew Gmoser, Sound Design is by Jonathan Hatton and Mark Zuckerman, Hair/wig design by Gerard KellySteve Loftus is the Technical Director, The Production Stage Manager is Victor Lukas, Properties are by Grumpy Props. Lisa Tiso is the Associate Producer.

Show Boat, the first great serious Broadway musical, combined the talents of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The story, which spans almost fifty years, follows the lives, loves, and losses of a troupe of riverboat performers aboard the Cotton Blossom floating theater on the mighty Mississippi.  Its timeless score contains some of the most beautiful and emotionally charged songs ever written for a musical, including "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Make Believe." “Ol’ Man River”, is the show's most memorable anthem about how the mighty Mississippi River, that unstoppable force of nature, is completely indifferent to human suffering.

Show Boat departed from typical musical comedy material, based on a best-selling novel by Edna Ferber, it's a melodrama with musical numbers that actually reveal character and further the plot. 

The musical illuminates the racial and social changes that were shaping the country in 1890-1927. It features a multiracial cast and a plot that deals, among other things, with the plight of an interracial couple for whom it's illegal to perform together in certain Southern states. 

 The show opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927. The critics were immediately enthusiastic, and the show was a great success, running a year and a half, for a total of 572 performances. It has been revived numerous times--most successfully by Hal Prince in 1994. Two Film versions were produced by MGM including the 1936 film with a Screenplay by Oscar Hammerstein II Starring Irene Dunne and the 1951 Technicolor film version with Ava Gardner and Howard Keel

 We are thrilled to bring this classic hit musical to the WBT stage! Richard Stafford, a WBT favorite, will Direct and Choreograph the show. The Musical Director is Ryan Wise.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Meet Neil Berg!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

We caught up with TIM & SCROOGE Composer, Neil Berg. We asked him about his collaboration with Nick Meglin and more. Read on for some insights into the persona of this MULTI-Talented man!

 

In the late 90’s,  I was presenting my  musical “Witches Tail” at the Irvington Town Hall Theater.  Then theater manager, Pamela Rapp mentioned one of the editors at Mad Magazine, Nick Meglin had just written a musical and was looking for a composer.  Shortly thereafter, I received a libretto for a new musical entitled “Tim”.

When I read the piece it was very long but had very talented ideas. The story of a young man who wants to forge my own life resonated with me. My parents wanted me to go to law school or go into real estate. My parents were beyond disappointed that I wanted to write musicals.

I recall that during the reading,  there was one particular lyric that stood out.  It was concise, beautiful, and smart and had a flair for moving the story forward.  I wrote the melody instantaneously.  It was presented and sung by my wife, Rita Harvey (Fiddler On The Roof, Phantom of the Opera).  Nick immediately loved it.  The song “Nothing More” is one of the pivotal songs in the musical and is sung by Tim’s fiancé, Allison.

In middle school, I performed in musicals such as “Oklahoma, “Half a Six Pence”, “Camelot” and was the comic lead in “Up The Down Staircase”.  I had always had a passion for baseball.  In high school, musicals conflicted with baseball and I was forced to choose. I chose baseball and went on to Binghamton University, known for its baseball program. 

At Binghamton, I continued to play in piano bars, rock bands,  and talent shows.  In my junior year, I was asked to write a musical “Ghost Story” which was produced by the University.   I was then sought out by the professional theatre in Binghamton, The Cider Mill Playhouse, to write musicals.  Good bye baseball, good bye,  law school, hello Broadway!

I was accepted into the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop and was trained to write musicals by Skip Kennon and the legendary composer, lyricist, educator and musicologist, Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic, Phantom, etc.).

Nick and I also wrote the musical version of the hit movie “Grumpy Old Men” which premiered at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

When not performing, I am an avid baseball fan,  I love classic rock music, love food and enjoy being a father and a husband.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Meet The unscrupulous, Mr. Hastings, Daniel Marcus

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 
Daniel Marcus (l) with Spencer Plachy(as Peter Cratchit) and Justin Scott Brown(as Tim).

I grew up in Menlo Park in California which is next to Palo Alto where Stanford University is. My upbringing? My dad was an attorney in San Francisco and being the youngest of 5 in the baby boom era, mom had her hands full with us.  I have a sister who's married with grown children and has lived on Kibbutz Eilon up on the Lebanese border for 38 years. My oldest brother, Greil Marcus,  is a very well known author,  he's a hugely esteemed guy. One brother is no more but was my hero and cheering squad for my becoming an actor through high-school. He was in all the plays and musicals in high school and majored in theatre and then decided to become a lawyer. Bill Marcus. And the other brother Steve is retired and lives near Santa Rosa in California. 

What Influenced me to pursue Acting?  "Patience" by Gilbert and Sullivan. I was 7 when my parents took me to see an amateur production and that did it. I spent the next 7 years coming home after school and listening to one of the operas by them twice through. This loosened up when Bill (see mentor brother above) suggested we watch something called the Tonys (only the 2nd year of their national telecast). In the midst of the scenes from plays (they did real scenes then like 10 minutes long) "1776" did "Momma Look Sharp" (this is 1969) and the electricity of what was a clear reference to Vietnam when shows like the Smothers Brothers were being censored made me want to find out more about this Broadway thing.

I was (along with Kevin Ligon) in the 1997-8 Broadway revival and if you'd told the 13-year-old me that the next time congress convened on Broadway I'd be one of them I wouldn't have believed you.   

Another coincidence ala "1776". Regarding Gilbert and Sullivan-fate put me in Joe Papp's "Pirates of Penzance" (where Kevin Kline became a star) when it moved to Broadway. My first NY job.

Directors who have made a difference in my life? That would be David Cromer, Charles Nelson Reilly, John Rando (I was the original Officer Barrel in "Urinetown") and Hal Prince. Other big directors have been Trevor Nunn, Des McAnuff, Joe Mantello. Lots of biggies. 

Great Teachers: Larry Moss, Austin Pendleton, Richard Edelman. Did I mention Larry Moss?

I am the "Tim and Scrooge" dinosaur. Nick Corley and I had done many shows together as actors; ALWAYS teamed as a pair and he called and asked me to do this when it part of a  NY festival but I was unable. However, the next time around for a reading, I was and I've been Hastings for the last 9 years of the life of this show.  From the only other full production in Queens in 2006, through readings, demos and even concerts. George Lee Andrews joined the "Tim and Scrooge" rep company a few years later than I and we are the actors who've been involved the longest. However, I have him beat a mile. 

"Company" is my favorite show with number two (which varies) always a distant second. I don't mean the 'revisals' of the show-I mean the original; Hal Prince's production which I saw 5 times. 

My Dream role: in a musical: Tony in "Most Happy Fella". In Gilbert and Sullivan: Jack Point in "Yeoman of the Guard". In a play? I'm not sure I'll say but it's one of the great roles in American theatre and in 2 years I'll be the same age as the character. Terrifying. 

When not on stage, I enjoy reading. Playing with my kitties. Enduring the abuse of my 16-year-old son (part of the job). Playing the piano most of all,  I'm kind of a whizbang, somewhat concert level guy, who started studying at 5 and I've never stopped playing. My favorite composer? Here's a hint: Gershwin is my son's middle name. 

What's on my Ipod?  "HAMILTON". What else?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Meet Jacob Marley, Kevin Ligon

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 
Kevin Ligon (r) as Marley with George Lee Andrews as Scrooge.

I grew up in Dallas, TX. I performed in school plays and musicals, and sang at church from a very early age.  I always wanted to perform. Movies inspired me because we didn't have that many opportunities to go to the theatre. I would lip-synch records of old musicals for my family. Always performing.

 I have not done this show before. The first I heard of it was when Nick Corley, our director called and asked me if I would do it. The minute he said I would performing alongside George Lee Andrews I said yes. George is a friend and a hero.

 Playing Nicely-Nicely in the national tour of Guys And Dolls was a dream come true. Also, working with Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman on The Producers and Young Frankenstein was a wonderful time in my life. I'm about to play Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd for the third time and I love that role. But my greatest experience in the theatre has to be the Broadway revival of 1776. 


When I'm not doing a show I am an avid movie fan. You can find me at the Film Forum once or twice a week.

I'm usually doing a show during the holidays,  so I always have to get together with family later. Some of my most favorite Christmas memories have been on the road where the cast has to improvise and come up with some sort of celebration.

On my Ipod? Ella, Barbra, Tony, Aretha, Stevie, Sweet Baby James and tons of Broadway.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Meet Mr Scrooge.. George Lee Andrews

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have Two older brothers. I went through 12 years of Catholic Schools. High School - chorus, plays and musicals.  all normal and fun. I had a great time doing theatre in high school!

When I left high school a cousin hooked me up with Milwaukee’s only little  professional theatre for a job in the chorus of “Song Of Norway". The rest is 55 years of my history. Once I was doing it, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else and I was blessed not to have to do anything else.

Directors who kept me working through all those years were my mentors . Especially Harold Prince in the New York years.  And the various amazing talented actors and theatre artists whom I worked with over the years - all my mentors.

I was contacted by Neil Berg about doing TIM & SCROOGE as a reading/workshop a few years ago.  So I did that reading of it and three others. Enjoying it immensely each time. 

I have  loved almost every show I’ve done over these years since 1960, and before.  I would have to name “Phantom Of The Opera and “A Little Night Music” because they were so important in my career. But I have loved all the shows in my resume’.  That’s what makes it worthwhile, and keeps the work fresh.

My dream role?   Scrooge in “Tim and Scrooge”  (since I’m dreaming about it now!)

When not on stage, I enjoy  listening to music.  Reading.  Being with my wife, my children and my grandchildren.  Hanging out at our lake house loving nature, but also taking advantage of all New York City has to offer!

 I like celebrating the Holidays with my family, in any way we can manage to be together. Exchanging gifts and having fun...  all the usual holiday traditions.

My iPod has 17,500 songs of the 36,000 songs in my iTunes.  I love so many different kinds of music.  Right now I’m listening to film music of Ennio Morricone.

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 (2)

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.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Meet Daniel Scott Walton as Frank Schultz in Show Boat

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   
                                                  Daniel (as Frank) with Amanda Pulcini (as Ellie)

I grew up in upstate New York, in the Rochester area.  I have been doing theatre my entire life among a family of sports fanatics.  

I have been doing theatre my entire life.  I don't remember specifically how it started although when I was very young, I used to run around the house singing opera as loud and for as long as I could.  This gave my parents the idea to put me into dance, theatre, and singing lessons.  

I learned a great deal about Show Boat in college in my History of musical theatre class.  This musical was a turning point in American History of the theatre.  I am very excited to be performing in what is considered the first integrated musical in American Theatre.  

Stage Musicals being made into movie/tv musicals?  I personally love performing in live theatre.  I think there is truly nothing else like it and I think it is very important for people to see live theatre.  With that being said,  I do love when stage musicals are made into tv/movies because it provides another outlet for the world to see the musicals and everything they can offer.

I have never worked at WBT before! I am a very excited newcomer and very excited to be making my WBT with this classic show!

Some favorite shows include Once, The Light in the Piazza, White Christmas, The Book of Mormon, and I have to include the new musical Waitress, with music by Sara Bareilles which was truly unbelievable and completely moving.  I would have to say my dream role at the moment would have to be J. Pierrepont Finch in How to Succeed....

When you're not on stage, I enjoy playing every type of game that you could possibly think of! Card games, board games, party games...you name it...I probably love it.  I am also a professional bingo player. 

I very often put anything written by Sara Bareilles on repeat on my phone whenever I need music, lol. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Meet Amanda Pulcini, the delightful Ellie in SHOW BOAT

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

   
Amanda (as Ellie May Chipley) with Daniel Scott Walton in Show Boat.

I was watching movies and going to see shows at a young age. I was always fully enamored with the actors. And I also loved watching my older sister tell stories.  She is quick and witty and I remember always thinking, I want to make people laugh like my sister. Why I was young, my mom used to give me voice lessons in the car and I would sing to Celine Dion for hours.  (I am nobody's Celine Dion but it was fun to pretend when I was little!!) Richard Stafford has been a huge mentor in my professional career.  He is always so loving and expects much from you.  I loved a director that pushes me and challenges me.

We had so many film versions of musicals,  my mom and I were always watching classic movies.  Singin' in the Rain was my favorite! Musicals we're really introduced through Disney movies and then very quickly, I was begging my parents to take me to see "Phantom of the Opera". And my dad and I flew to Toronto and to see  it and I was forever in love.  

I think stage musicals being made into movie/tv musicals is such a wonderful idea.  The more we can tell share these stories,  the more the art will grow and blossom. 

I started here sat WBT as a non performing swing  on Nine with Robert Cuccioli, then worked on Legally Blonde, and the last show I did was Fiddler on the Roof. I love the family that is formed between the cast and crew. The friends I have made in these shows, are still friends who I get together with often.  I can only hope for the same camaraderie in Show Boat

Favorite shows? Oh please, I am so fickle. I have a new favorite show/role every other day. However, I love doing shows that make you question your view on life. I am really attracted to scripts that aren't afraid to challenge the status quo. And I feel very passionately about bringing life to new and developing works.
 

 When not on stage, I'm eating. If I could eat and do yoga all day, I would be thrilled. Throw in a little football and bourbon and I am set.!

I like so many different styles of music from classical to pop.  Guilty pleasure is the 80s music. It was just a ridiculously awesome time for feelings and for hair!
 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meet Bonnie Fraser, our sweet Magnolia!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


                                        Bonnie & Alyssa Emily Marvin (as Kim)

I grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts in a little town called Marblehead. My twin brother and I started acting when we were pretty young- I never looked back but he became an attorney.  Ask me which one of us is more of a ham though- you'd swear he's the actor.

My mother is an actress in Boston so I grew up observing this crazy career. The idea of getting a 9-5 job never even crossed my mind. I think it helped watching my mother make a living doing regional theater because I went into this business understanding how difficult it can be. There are so many outrageously talented performers out there working regionally or off-Broadway. You can be a wonderful success and never once step onto the Broadway stage. Being an actress in New York is tough. Knowing that everyone has a different path and success can be measured in so many different ways has definitely helped me keep up my morale in this business. 

I grew up watching so many of the golden age movie musicals, but somehow Showboat never made into my rotating collection. Now watching the story unfold every day in rehearsal, I can't believe it's taken me this long! Yes, the music is beautiful but the story itself is so extraordinary. 

Stage Musicals being made into movie/tv musicals? I think it's great. I especially love when casting takes a risk and incorporates an actor from the theater world into the movie. And it's an awesome way to have musicals reach a broader audience. Maybe someone who's never been to the theater will see the movie version of Into The Woods and suddenly be inclined to buy a ticket at their local theater. 

 I have a lot of favorite shows. I don't think I'll ever get sick of watching My Fair Lady- it's perfect. I also love Stephen Sondheim and Sweeney Todd is probably my ultimate favorite show of his. As far as roles go- I'd like to play Clara in Light In The Piazza some day.

When not on stage,  My husband and I have the sweetest pit bull mutt who I'm obsessed with- so anything with her. I also love to bake (cookies are my specialty) and I LOVE horror movies- the scarier the better. 

I deleted all the music off my phone to make room for the insane amount of pictures I take on a daily basis. I listen to spotify a lot- I like Vampire Weekend, Ryan Adams, and The Spring Standards- their lead singer Heather Robb is working on a new EP which I'm excited about.

John Preator is the Irrisistable Gaylord Ravenal Aboard the Show Boat!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  

John Preator with Katie Grgecic (as young Kim) In Show Boat

I was born and raised in Provo, UT. I am the second youngest of 6 kids. Being from Utah, we were a very outdoorsy family.  We did a lot of camping, fishing, skiing, hiking etc.  I've always had a passion for music.  I started taking piano lessons when I was 7.  In addition to concerts and competitions growing up, I've played for auditions, in the pit for shows, and just love playing for friends and family to sing around the piano at home.  I have a major sweet tooth, so I also learned how to bake cakes and cookies at a young age so that I'd always have them around to snack on. I also love to travel. Growing up, we didn't vacation much further than places we could drive to in Utah.  Occasionally we'd get out to Yellowstone National Park, and a few times even as far as Disneyland or the Oregon Coast.  In more recent years, I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to see a lot more of the world.

The story goes that when I was  3 years old, my Mother was doing costumes for a production of H.M.S. Pinafore that my older brother and sister were in.  She would take me to rehearsal with her and claims that by opening night, I could sing most of the score by heart.  I'm guessing there's a little exaggeration there for the sake of a good story, but I  do remember being very entranced by the show.  (And what more catchy songs to latch on to than those in a Gilbert & Sullivan score?)  I got my first shot at being onstage myself when I was in the 5th grade.  My elementary school decided to produce their first ever full-scale musical.  They chose Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" and I was very excited to be cast as the prince. I mostly remember having to wear my first pair of tights, and that Cinderella was about 4 inches taller than I was.  From then on, I pretty much knew I wanted to be on the stage as much as possible.  I also couldn't get enough of all the old Hollywood movie musicals, and have always loved Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. When I first started to sing, I wanted to sound just like Howard Keel and Harve Presnell.  I've watched My Fair Lady more times than I could ever count.  I got to play Henry Higgins in High School which was a big moment for me.  I can still recite the whole show from start to finish.  

I remember very well the first time I ever saw the 1951 MGM version of Show Boat.  I must've been 5 or 6.  My parents had rented it from the video store.  My sister and I had been giggling and clowning around as the opening scenes were playing, as we liked to do.  By the time William Warfield began to sing "Old Man River", my dad yelled at us to be quiet because that song was the whole reason they'd rented the movie and he wanted to hear it!  I've seen it many more times in the years that followed. It has always been a favorite, which is why it's so thrilling to be part of now.  

Stage Musicals being made into movie/tv musicals? Obviously I'm in favor of it, being such a fan of the classics movie musicals myself, as I've mentioned.  It provides a way, especially for children at home, to have exposure to these beautiful pieces of art that they might not get to see otherwise.  I think that's so important in order to keep musicals alive.  Although, I do think it is very difficult to do.  The stage and the screen are such different mediums, and I think some shows have transferred far better than others, but I'll leave it at that...

This will be my first show at WBT!  I've wanted to work here for quite some time, and I'm very happy to finally have the chance.  So far it's been a wonderful experience, and I'm looking forward to a great ride. 

My favorite show has always been My Fair Lady.  There's just something about the combination of Shaw's incredible script combined with that lush Lerner and Lowe score that I can't get enough of.  The first show I ever saw on Broadway at 17 years old was Miss Saigon. It was life changing, and I'd love to be a part of it someday.  Another is Phantom of the Opera.  I think Webber's score is just glorious.  Playing the Phantom one day would be a dream-come-true for sure.  I was able to do a small community production of She Loves Me once in college.  It's a darling show that doesn't get done enough, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I'm glad that it's being produced at Roundabout this season.  And Show Boat!  Playing Ravenal is definitely a role off the dream list.  

I love movies.  I'm a complete movie fanatic.  I could watch movies all day, and sometimes do.  I'm fascinated by stories, by the human condition. It's why I'm an actor!  I also enjoy being outdoors.  I love fishing and take any opportunity I can to do it.  This year for my birthday I took a trip to Alaska with two of my brothers to do some salmon fishing which was just incredible.  It was one of the best trips I've ever taken.  I just love to be with family and friends.  I'm pretty content to do anything as long as they're around.  

My Ipod? Oh, it's a giant mess. I have very eclectic taste in music, so you'll find everything from top 40 to broadway, R&B to 80's-90's rock and even some opera. Oddly enough, being from Utah, I'm not much of a country fan, however.  And I'm not a fan at all of heavy metal or techno.  I have to have a melody and words to sing along to.  I'm the annoying guy at the gym who's singing along with whatever I'm listening to.  If you hear a guy singing Mambo Italiano while doing bench presses, that's probably me.  

 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Meet Sebastian Goldberg

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Sebastian plays Lew Ayers and other character roles in Backwards! Read about this funny, versatile actor!

 Sebastian (l) with Ryan Steer.

I  grew up in Lexington, MA. My mom is a dancer/dance teacher, so I was pretty much dancing from the time I could walk! I performed in her annual recital every year, and got into musical theater when I was in 8th grade. I was lucky to have a great theater program in the next town over and spent all of my summers doing shows there and getting great real world training in this industry.

Growing up in my dancing household was definitely a major part in my career path; I think I realized when I was about 12 or 13 that performing was more than just a hobby to me and that I couldn't imagine living my life and being happy without being on stage.

I heard of  this show when I saw the auditions posted! Of course I grew up watching the classic Fred, Ginger, Gene Kelly movies, so I was drawn to this production just out of a love for the material we'd be recreating.

I did Mary Poppins here last summer, and I love working at WBT. It's great being so close to the city, and the schedule really accommodates making great connections with your castmates.

I really love classic dance production shows; 42nd Street, Crazy For You, Singin' in the Rain are a few favorites that I've been lucky enough to perform. I really just love to dance and sing so as long as I'm doing that I'm happy :)

When I'm not on stage I like to catch up on sleep...I like to exercise a lot, cook, spend time outdoors, spend as much time as possible with my friends. 

On my Ipod? I listen to a little bit of everything but lately it's been a lot of Years & Years, dumblonde, and always Mariah Carey :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Darien Crago as Ginger Rogers

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

    

I'm from Columbus, Ohio (O-H ... )  (My dad trained us to say that from a young age...the proper response is I-O!!!) 

I started dance at a young age -- ballet at age 3, tap at 6 years-old. *(Please see embarrassing pictures) It immediately clicked with me -- I just loved it.  My appreciation for the classics also started young -- thankfully my mom introduced us to the iconic song-and-dance films when we were little.  I loved Singin' in the Rain and 42nd Street (where Ginger Rogers makes a cameo as Anytime Annie ...complete with a monocle!)  I did my first musical when I was 10, playing little-orphan-Annie, as most out-going curly-haired girls do!  Thus began many years of living room musicals with my patient cousins and siblings until I decided to try and pursue it as a career and study musical theatre in college -- I went to Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and have lived in NYC ever since graduation about four years ago!

I was certainly enchanted by some of the young actors and dancers in the old movies I would watch.  I can remember watching Shirley Temple sing and dance and thinking "Oh, I want to do that!"  Same thing with Ann Margaret, Lucille Ball, Ruby Keeler, Gwen Verdon, and of course, Ginger Rogers.  I was inspired by something from each of their performances -- whether it was the dancing, the costumes, the funny line or joke they told -- they just made performing seem so magical.  Once I got a taste of that on my own -- I was hooked.  

I'm also extremely appreciative for the many great teachers I've had in my life.  Starting with all my dance teachers -- who always expressed that movement was about telling a story first and foremost--everything should have a purpose and mean something to you.  This single lesson is vital for dancers -- that's what sets you apart as an actor, and why Ginger was so captivating onstage and on film.   

Getting the chance to portray this beloved and celebrated woman is one of my greatest honors! It's both intimidating and inspiring.  I would say slightly intimidating only because I want to do my very best paying homage to these iconic movie moments we've recreated within our musical.  But, also that's what is so inspiring -- here I am GETTING the chance to recreate the same dance sequences that motivated and encouraged me to pursue my dance and acting career.  This is a dream!  Jeremy Benton, our director,  did an incredible job of creating choreography that fit this style effortlessly, while still keeping the movements similar enough to the exact Fred-and-Ginger choreography.  True fans will not be disappointed and are in for a real treat!  

I've also learned so much about Ginger's life and early career.  I didn't think I could have admired her more, but after delving in and getting a better sense of the strong, confident, passionate woman she was -- I was wrong! In fact, often when rehearsals seemed overwhelming during our quick ten day process, I would remind myself: "How would Ginger handle this?" And the answer would be with poise, professionalism, and probably humor. So, that's what I tried to do! She is role model both in her demeanor and success, and it's and honor to pretend I'm her for a few hours each day.   

This is my first show at WBT! (Although I was a guest a few years back -- I saw Jeremy Benton in White Christmas!) But, this is my first time on the stage! I've really enjoyed the community so far -- one thing that is fun as a performer is to see and hear audience reactions, I think.  And with Westchester's intimate theater, you can really feel connected to the audience.  I enjoy being able to see faces and speak directly to people as we sing and dance -- it makes it feel a little more special!

I've been very lucky that I've gotten a chance to play some of my dream roles already!! Some favorites: Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street, Judy Haynes in White Christmas, Logainne in The 25th Annual...Spelling Bee, and Beth March in Little Women.  But, I also love Fosse's work and one role I hope to play someday is Charity in Sweet Charity! I'm also dying to play Kathy in Singin' in the Rain and Louise in Gypsy

I'm a sucker for crafts...specifically paper related ones.  I love making stationery...and will gladly be pen pals with fellow snail mail lovers! I also really enjoy being outside (as long as I have my SPF 1,000 and a large hat) playing Frisbee, riding bikes, reading, playing Bananagrams -- you name it! 

Music I listen to? You probably guessed it.. lots of 50's-60's classics.  I love listening to my "Chordettes" Pandora station when I have things to get done around my apartment! I've also been listening to Fun Home non stop -- I can't get enough.  I also have a slight obsession with Disney's Pocahontas that started in 1995...so, of course "Colors of The Wind" is on there. 

     

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meet Erika Amato as Lela Rogers in Backwards In High Heels.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (2)

Erika Amato plays Leila Rogers, Ginger's mother in our production of Backwards In High Heels. Pictured here with Darien Crago (as Ginger.) Read about how this Jersey girl got her start!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in Mountainside, NJ and went to the all-girls Kent Place School, in Summit. I was an only child with   an  extremely active imagination, constantly acting out the adventures of Robin Hood in my backyard or singing impromptu improvised operas in my bedroom. (My parents were extremely understanding.)  I acted and sang all throughout my primary and secondary school years, and then attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, where I was a Drama major (general        honors and honors in Drama). After graduation, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue TV and film. While there, I met my husband, Jeff Stacy, with whom I formed a successful indie rock band called Velvet Chain. I lived there for 17 years (doing TV, film and theatre work in addition to the "rock star" stuff) until we moved back East a few years ago so I could better pursue a career in musical theatre.

I've always wanted to be an actor and a singer. I started singing at 3 years old, and played my first lead at age 8. (I was the "Little Peasant" in the play THE LITTLE PEASANT at a summer drama camp that year.) When we filled out our little "What do you want to be when you grow up?" questionnaires in primary school, my answer was, "An actress or a veterinarian." (My allergies put the kibosh on any plans to be a vet!) As for mentors, my first mentor was certainly the drama teacher at Kent Place, Bob Pridham, who still teaches there. He's truly an excellent educator who doesn't treat school plays like anything less than "real" productions. He always encourages all his students to do real, truthful work - not just "hamming it up." Professionally, I'd say my mentor is the wonderful Betty Buckley, who I had the pleasure of meeting and performing with at the Hollywood Bowl back in 2006 and have taken master classes from (and become friends with) since. She is a genius at communicating with an audience (besides that marvelous voice), and I aspire to achieve some of that same effect on people.

I'd heard of the show a couple of years back, having seen a casting notice for it, but really didn't know anything about it until I got the audition appointment for this production. I think it's a great piece, and Lela Rogers is a very interesting, multi-faceted character to play.

One of my favorite shows in Stephen Sondheim's INTO THE WOODS, which I just got to do this past spring up at Ocean State Theatre in RI. I played the Witch, which also happens to be one of my dream roles. I've been very fortunate to have already played quite a few of my dream roles, but a couple of the ones that I haven't had a chance to do yet are Mama Rose in GYPSY and Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD.

When not on stage, If it's the summer, I adore going to the beach - or just being near the water. I love to read, and of course I enjoy spending time with my husband and our fabulous dog, Buddy.

Right now, I'm listening to a lot of 80s New Wave/punk (the Smiths, Violent Femmes, the Police, Tears for Fears, U2, the Cure, etc.), as well as more current stuff like Radiohead and the Killers. And of course, the Beatles. Nobody beats the Beatles.

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Learn Your Lessons Well" with Greta Kleckner

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Greta is a force to be reckoned with in GODSPELL.. energetic and versatile in her many portrayals... see what makes her tick: 

     

I grew up in Annapolis, MD raised by a single mom. We lived in a cute and quiet neighborhood with two crazy SPCA reject dogs, and we both did community theatre for fun all throughout my childhood.

My mom was the one who got me into theatre, spending time backstage as she did various community theatre shows, and eventually us doing those shows together as I grew up. I never planned on doing musical theatre as my career, I was on track to be a professional classical violinist. Theatre was just something we got to do together that was fun. Boy, how things change!

I first heard of Godspell as a very young child, when I fell in love with the movie (or really, I fell in love with a young Victor Garber. What a hunk!). I haven't done the show before, but I grew up singing the songs, doing the silly dances, painting my face, and going to see any production of it in a 50-mile radius.It's a dream show for me, and I can't believe I get to be a part of it now!

I LOVE the movie. I think movie musicals, though they have to go through a lot of changes to transcend entertainment mediums which sometimes loses the magic, expose the masses to something they may not otherwise be able to experience, which I fully support.

Favorite shows: Godspell (Duh!), Batboy, Peter and the Starcatcher, Mame, too many to count! Dream roles: Gooch in Mame (check!), Penny in Hairspray... and really any opportunity to make art is a dream!

When I'm not on stage, I really love entertaining. I know that sounds silly, but I love bringing people together, making new friends, playing games, etc. In general, community is really important to me, so spending time with people and connecting others into a network of support and love is something I am passionate about. Also baking. And coffee.

My music taste is a mix between hipster indie folk and top 40. Last song played was "Work Bitch" by Britney Spears. No shame. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sarah Smithton DAY BY DAY!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

 Sarah Smithton sings the classic, DAY BY DAY in GODSPELL.. Here is what she shared with us!

      

I grew up in San Francisco, CA!  Born and raised in the Mission District. As far back as I can remember, the arts were always a part of my life. I was seeing theatre/opera/ballet as early as 5 years old. San Francisco is such a great place to have a rich, cultural upbringing with all of its museums and theatres. 

It was the summer that I was 8 years old. I had nothing going on the week of the Fourth of July, and so my parents signed me up for a week-long musical theatre camp run by Academy DeTurk in San Rafael, CA. I got bit by the theatre bug and never looked back.

I did Godspell in middle school (photo above right) and have been listening to the recording for years, but it's my mom who has the best connection to the show. When she was in college, one of the members of the original Broadway cast borrowed her leotard, and then never gave it back because they were off in NYC performing the show on Broadway. True story. Who was the person? My lips are sealed!  

I have seen the movie...Victor Garber's afro is insane! On musical films: Chicago is still one of my favorites. Rob Marshall did such a good job at capturing how it feels when a character magically breaks into song. If the musical in question lends itself nicely to a film adaptation, I say go ahead.

Into the Woods is probably my favourite musical, with many many runners up like Oliver, Spelling Bee, Assassins - to name a few. Peter Pan is on my list to play, and in my wildest dreams? Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. After I saw Tim Minchin do it, my life was changed.

When I'm not onstage I'm hardly ever on the ground! You'll find me at various aerial arts studios in the city, or practicing Antigravity Yoga - something I got certified in this year and am head over heals in love with.

I listen to everything from Scissor Sisters to Jamie Cullum; from Ludacris to the Civil Wars. There's a good amount of jazz and singer/songwriter tunes, but I try not to stay in one genre. Also nearly every cast recording ever. And a ton of mashups - I love mashups. 

 

Meet Karley Willocks Turn Back, Oh Man!

Posted by: pia Haas on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   

I grew up in Annapolis, MD. I have a super musical family - my dad plays guitar and my mom was always singing and tap dancing. My brother went on to become a jazz guitarist. We are very close and love to make music when we are together. 

I started dance classes at 3 - a bumblebee in my first dance recital! I did my first musical at 8 and never stopped! My theatrical mentor growing up was an amazing woman named Bobbi Smith -- she passed away when I was in high school which was really traumatic for me.  However, that's when my next mentor came into my life named Bobby Smith (we call him Bobby Smith Boy).  Can't make this stuff up!

I always remember hearing of Godspell, but I've never been in it and actually never even seen it before. I've never seen the movie either... Obviously, I love the way films can make musical theatre more popular - and reach a wider audience. But I can be a tough critic on musical films... lots of changes are often made to songs/lyrics/dialogue/plot and I guess INo Turning Back  tend to be a purist and don't like things being changed.  A couple of musical films out there are great, but often times I think they are poorly done and wish they'd be left alone.

A Chorus Line has a very dear place in my heart, I've done it 6 times always as Maggie. So not only does the story itself speak to me, as it does most artists...and humans.. but I also treasure the way it has continuously been there for me professionally.

I also love Into the Woods, Les Miserables, Batboy and Rent.   My Dream roles: Eponine in Les Mis, Roxie Hart in Chicago, Cinderella in Into the Woods

When not on stage, I love being outside - hiking, bike riding, beach... all things nature. I also love hula hooping.  Reading. Painting. Playing ukulele. Going to concerts. I listen to  Lots of Dave Matthews... and Indie Rock, yoga music, my brother Dave Willocks -- and classics like The Beatles, Bob Marley, Earth Wind & Fire and Paul Simon

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meet Josh Kenney! 'The Light Of The World!"

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Josh Kenney appears in GODSPELL on our stage.. We caught up with him and asked some prying questions... Ha!

  

I grew up in MA. I am the eldest of 3 and the only boy. Started on the Cape/ Nantucket then on to Boston then my family moved to Mansfield, MA which is located next Foxboro, MA where the New England Patriots play (GO PATS!!!) I grew up moving a lot. As a child my parents would take me every Saturday to MASS College of Art for art classes. I always loved drawing cartoons and inventing characters. In HS I was in AP Studio Art as well as track and field in HS. Varsity Division 3 state Champs Indoor and Outdoor for my Junior and Senior year. Performing for me was never even on the spectrum of possibility until my senior year. Growing up no one in my family was ever artistically inclined. 

Which leads me to Emily Hayes, a fellow senior, who begged me to be a part of a youth production of ‘Annie' she was stage managing for a local youth theater. I reluctantly said yes. I auditioned and got the part of Rooster.I HAD NO CLUE I COULD SING OR ACT OR ANYTHING OF THE SORT. I was bitten by the acting bug and fell in love with performing. It took a while for me to really trust in myself and my talent to decide to make it a career. Now flash forward to me at 25  when I got the courage to go back to school. I attended AMDA’s 2 year program and graduated in 2013. So here I am now an Equity actor thanks to Emily Hayes who is now the ASM on 'Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.’

I first heard of the musical ‘Godspell’ when I was 19/20? I had no knowledge of the American Musical Theater catalogue however some songs were familiar. A local community theater production was auditioning and I auditioned. I was cast in the role of Jesus. Unfortunately my car broke down and I couldn’t find a way to get to rehearsals so I had to drop out. Its sort of been the show that got away. :) I am thrilled to get to do the show and sing this awesome score. 

This will be my first show at WBT. I am totally thrilled to join the team. I have heard so many wonderful things. Emilio Ramos who was in the last show, West Side Story with WBT. He and I graduated together and performed together in the same graduating showcases. He’s raved about the theater. :)

I have never seen the movie of ‘Godspell.’ I think it depends on the piece and whether the material will be served well on such a large scale. I loved Into the Woods, and Chicago, and Dreamgirls

My favorite shows right now are FUN HOME, Something Rotten, Matilda and The King and I. Overall I would say Into the Woods and playing Rapunzel’s Prince would be a dream role. I would love the chance to play Elder McKinley in The Book Of Mormon, George in She Loves Me and when I’m older Jean Valjean in Les Miserables

When I am not on stage I am in the gym or seeing movie or painting. I paint on the side as a means to not have to wait tables so much. You can see a few of them right on my website http://www.joshkenney.com/#!artwork/c6fI originally went to UMASS Dartmouth for fine arts and painting. I also happen to be a major foodie I love all kinds of food and I am constantly scouring EATER NY for new places to go and eat. 

I listen to: Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, DJ Zedd, Gaga, Macklemore, Katy Perry, Madonna, Kylie Minogue… and even Taylor Swift. As well as Bette Midler, and tons and tons of cast albums. I also will at times use songs to pick a play list and rock out to 90’s Jock Jams. 

 

Monday, July 13, 2015

By My Side with Devon Perry!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, July 13, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Devon Perry appears in Godspell.. but you may remember her performances as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz  and as Dolly in It Happened One Christmas Eve. We caught up with her between rehearsals!                                                    
"Performing By My Side" with Gilbert Sanchez (Jesus)

Growing up in Central Ohio, I was putting on performances in the living room as soon as I could walk and talk.  I usually incorporated the services of my dolls and my little brother (thanks, man!) and was always clad in a pink tutu.  I watched almost every movie musical and had them all memorized by the end of elementary school. From the age of 6, I began training in ballet and planned to become a professional ballerina, training intensely for over 10 years, until an injury prevented me from going any further.  It was about that time that I turned to theatre, attending Interlochen Arts Camp in the summers.  I then received a B.F.A. in musical theatre from the University of Michigan, and, well... here I am!

 My mother introduced me to Godspell as a child, through the song "Day By Day," which is still one of her favorites.  This is my first time performing in this show, which is very exciting!

This is my third show at WBT, and I love it here!  It's such a beautiful community to be a part of.  Not only are the audiences engaged and supportive, but also the people behind the scenes are just extraordinary, from the box office to the stage crew and everywhere in between.  Though it may sound cliche, WBT really has a family atmosphere, which, when felt so strongly backstage and onstage, I know must translate to the audience and make them feel included as well.

I will admit... I'd never seen Godspell, the film, until I got cast in this production.  I knew all the music, but I'd just never watched it.  In general, I'm a huge fan of the Golden Age musicals that were made into films, all the Rodgers and Hammerstein as well as anything with Gene Kelly or Ginger Rogers.  My favorites are South Pacific and White Christmas.

Some of my favorite shows are South Pacific, Merrily We Roll Along, The Wizard of Oz, and The Light in the Piazza.  Many thanks to WBT for giving me the chance to play one of my dream roles last summer as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

When I'm not onstage, I also work as a professional pianist, which is such a blast!  I also enjoy yoga and nature and kissing dogs.

There's all sorts of stuff on my iTunes.  I love just about everything from jazz to folk to electronic music.  Lately, I've been really into Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, as well as a South African band called Beatenberg - highly recommended!

  
As Dorothy                     As Dolly (with Xander Chauncey)


Monday, June 29, 2015

Meet Xander Chauncey as JUDAS

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Xander Chauncey is currently playing Judas in our Production of Godspell. Audiences enjoyed his performances in our productions of It Happened One Christmas Eve, Titanic, and as the title role in Jekyll & Hyde.

I grew up an Army brat, so we moved every couple of years. It was quite an adventure, but pretty hard to ever feel settled. I think learning to fit in at every new school was my first acting lesson.

Why be an actor? Ever want to be someone else? Sure. Everyone does sometimes. To me, acting is like tourism for the soul.

Honestly, I've never seen Godspell on stage! I'd heard some of the iconic music, of course, but wasn't familiar with the songs that Judas sang before being invited to audition. After hearing "On the Willows," though, I was hooked. The music is gorgeous and the concept of the show is so exciting! I believe the Westchester audiences are in for a treat.

I watched the movie recently, for research. I enjoyed it! The beauty (and downfall) of film is, that it's a snapshot of the time that it was made. The film that I watched is the exact film that audiences watched in the movie theaters over 40 years ago. It was made to speak to future generations, too, but it was created with the language and energy of that time. For this reason, film will eventually feel dated. Live performance, though, communicates directly to the audience at a given performance and ONLY to that audience. There is an intimacy on the stage that can't be found anywhere else.

I'm a sucker for tragic beauty! Give me Les Mis, Ragtime, Titanic and Phantom any day. I've been lucky enough to play a couple of my dream roles here at WBT! 

It's like a family here at the WBT. We not only work together, we've developed strong, lasting friendships. The audience would never believe the shenanigans we get up to backstage!

I've always been big outdoors guy.  When not on stage,  I can usually be found (or not found) backpacking somewhere remote and spending the night under the stars in my hammock. 

I enjoy listening to music, lately, it's been Phosphorescent Blues by Punch Brothers. Oh, and Clash of Clans!

                

As Barrett w/Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone in Titanic              As Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll & Hyde         

  

As Buddy w/ Devon Perry (Dolly) in It Happened One Christmas Eve

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PREPARE YE for Gilbert D. Sanchez!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (3)

 Gilbert D.Sanchez Plays Jesus in our production of GODSPELL.  Read on for some insight into this versatile actor!

 was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I lived until 2 1/2 years ago. My childhood was full of reading and singing which gave me a wild imagination. I went to Catholic School for 13 years, so Jesus and I go way back.  

As a child, I loved singing. My parents would sit me by the choir at Church so that I could belt my little curly head off. People would often tell my parents that they would purposefully sit by us to hear me sing at church. That was my first audience; I’m sure I loved it. When I was a  little older, the movie Selena came out and changed my life. I would often perform Selena karaoke at parties. From there, I starred in middle school musicals and that’s when I caught the bug.

I have two great mentors from high school and college; Esperanza Plath (high school drama teacher) and Kathleen Clawson (college voice teacher). These women were my other mothers who not only taught me the ins-and-outs of performing and singing, but also so much about who I was as a person.   Also, my amazing college professor/mentor/friend Dr. Brian Herrera, who always has the most enlightening advice on the theatre and has guided me in my time here in New York.

Nana Visitor (Broadway’s Chicago and the Star Trek; Deep Space Nine) spoke at my school, and she gave advice that I live by. She said, “There are times in your life where you will hit a huge brick wall that blocks your path. At that moment, you have to ask yourself how bad do you want to climb over that wall and keep going?” 

 Also, Judy Garland said: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of somebody else.”  

When I was in 8th Grade, the high school I was going to go to was doing a production of Godspell and had extended after a sold out weekend. It was getting a lot of buzz in the middle school circuit, and so I wanted to go see it. My dad drove me to the theatre to watch it, and I remember the lobby was really busy and I got nervous being in this high school theatre by myself so I left and didn’t get to see the production. After that, I was always so intrigued by the show.  I finally got to do the show in 2010 playing Jesus and fell in love with the eclectic and ensemble feel of the show. Also, the music is so good.  

I saw the movie Godspell once. I remember thinking it was really weird. The scene that stands out is Jesus singing “All for the Best” while reclining on a lounge chair on top of a building…hmm.  I have mixed feelings about movie musicals. I think that some movie musicals can be done really well when they are reimagined for the film; i.e. Chicago. But some musicals, like Rent (no offense) is such a beautiful show on stage, but didn’t translate as well to film. I did love Into the Woods however. As Modern Family says, “Meryl could play Batman.”

I think the best musical ever made is West Side Story. Great story, amazing story-telling dance, and classic musical theatre. Other favorites: Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, A New Brain, …Spelling Bee, and Lippa’s Wild Party. 

 Dream Roles; Burrs in Wild Party, Any role in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Audra McDonald’s son in any musical she touches. 

When not on stage, my day job is at this amazing restaurant called Barbuto, in the West Village, where I love working. I work with my greatest friends, sell amazing food I care about and work for the best people. It’s a gem.  Besides that, I see tons of shows on and off Broadway. I enjoy beach and park days. And of course, enjoy a good Netflix binge watch.  I listen to Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Audra McDonald’s Go Back Home, Bridges of Madison County and Ed Sheeran.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meet Adam Soniak, a cool Jet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Adam Soniak  (c) plays Riff, leader of the JETS, in our production of West Side Story.  

I grew up in Allentown, PA... Same hometown as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street! Being only 90 minutes from New York, I would visit the city as often as possible. I was always a huge theatre fan and being able to see Broadway shows often and early on, definitely fueled my professional aspirations.

I was in a community production of Les Miserables when I was in at 15, directed by William Sanders at the Allentown Civic Theatre. I remember very clearly that it was this experience that pushed me over the edge into knowing that this was what I wanted to do with my life. the Civic was sort of my home theatre, and I did many shows with them, but that was definitely the one that set me on this path.

I first saw the film version of West Side Story while I was in high school. At the time, I wasn't much of a dancer and so I didn't really think it was a show I was right for. 7 years and countless ballet classes later, I had the opportunity to join the international touring company of the show and played a 7-week engagement in London's West End. I think it is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and I am thrilled to be doing it again!

My first experience with the show was seeing the movie. I think with this show though it is so important to have a visceral connection with the audience. They have to understand the hatred and rivalry between the gangs and feel the tension in the room when they go head to head. They need to feel the instant head-over-heels passion that Tony and Maria experience and understand how it turns their lives upside down. Don't get me wrong, I fully support movie musicals and think it's extremely important to bring musicals to a mainstream audience, however, the connection that makes live theatre so special just isn't there in the same way.

I love all the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein shows. I think they're some of the most music-to-story integrated pieces to this day. Some more recent favorites of mine include The Light in the Piazza, Bridges of Madison County, and of course everything Stephen Sondheim has ever touched. My dream role would have to be either Gabey in On The Town or Elder Price in Book of Mormon. Totally opposite ends of the spectrum but both amazing characters with an incredible journey.

I love to cook, explore New York and soak up everything it has to offer and spend time with family and friends. I'm also currently studying to become a certified fitness instructor.

On my iPod? Anything I can dance (or strut down the street) to.

 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 18, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita (left) with Carly Evans (right) as Maria in West Side Story

I was born in San Francisco but moved to Arizona with my mother when I was 3 after my parents divorced. I pretty much grew up there and moved back to San Francisco for college.  My mother put me in kiddie dance classes at  young age. Probably to give me something to do and a social outlet since it was just the two of us. I was born with dislocated hips so I was pretty flexible which made me a natural, I guess! 

I loved movies and was glued to the television 24/7 as a kid. When I started dancing, I fell in love with movie musicals-- it was the best of both worlds. As I got older, I was much more into independent films and smaller character driven movies. I was accepted to NYU out of high school but couldn't afford tuition, so I ended up going to San Francisco State to study French and minored in English Literature- quite a departure. After college I realized I still had the bug so I packed up and moved to NYC.

West Side Story was actually my second professional job ever: I performed it as part of a bus and truck tour in 1998. I knew the movie well as a kid and always dreamed of playing roles like Anita- triple threat roles where you could dance, act, and sing. This is the first show I've done here at The Westchester Broadway Theatre, and my first time playing the role. The staff is so fun! We have a great time hanging out and really enjoy each other's company. Being close to the city but not close enough forces us to stay out here and entertain each other. We drive into Tarrytown sometimes for lunch on two-show days, which is great. The Hudson River Valley is gorgeous and the drive up is beautiful.  It feels like an escape from the big city.

I had seen the West Side movie a million times, and think it's the best of its kind. There are plenty of great movie musicals and some not so great. Les Mis and Chicago were stunning, but sometimes it doesn't work quite as well. Musical theatre is such a unique genre that the smallest thing can throw it off.

Growing up as a dancer, I thought Fosse was king! I love all the roles Chita, Gwen Verdon, Liza and Ann Reinking played.  They were strong, brassy women who could do it all. As I get older, however, I am transitioning more into straight plays, film, and TV. I think it's so great that theatre actors are able to have such diverse careers; there used to be such a stigma about theatre actors not being able to translate to film and television. That's definitely not the case anymore. More and more, film and screen stars are also coming back to Broadway. There's definitely a difference in mediums, but if you understand it, I think you can excel at both.

When I'm not performing, I love seeing friends and exploring the city. There are so many amazing sights, exhibits, restaurants, and beautiful places to explore. I love to spend a whole day walking and sightseeing and eating my way around town with no thought of the business of obligations. It's like being on vacation. But given the choice, I would definitely be on vacation; I love traveling abroad.

My phone/iPod is pretty random. I grew up in the 80's, so I love cheesy, old-school tunes sometimes- anything nostalgic that reminds me of my youth. I love old-school hip hop. In college, I was definitely more alternative and loved all the Lalapalooza bands of the 90's. I definitely keep up with what's going on now and love to check out new bands, but I'd say it definitely depends on my mood... Whether I want to lift my energy or skulk around and get lost in a mood... Actors!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mike Boland As Doc in West Side Story.

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Mike Boland (pictured with Zach Trimmer) plays Doc and Officer Krupke in West Side Story

                  

I grew up in Fairfield, CT, as one of six kids to an Irish Catholic family. Every house in my neighborhood had at least as many kids as we did. So it was a great place to be young. I remember we used to climb trees and have forts and where the neighbors’ garages were close to each other, we would jump from rooftop to rooftop. We’d get into trouble and have rock fights and then all be friends again. It was a lot different growing up then. We’d leave the house in the morning and our parents would expect us back for dinner. I remember hitchhiking to school when I was in first grade. It was a different time. Just writing that makes me feel old.

I was always a class clown and that’s where a lot of actors start. I think I was shy and that’s how I compensated. And I always had a loud voice, which makes theater such a comfort zone for me. I’ve played lots of huge theaters when on tour. And I don’t have any trouble reaching the back row. I had a decent part in the sixth grade production of Julius Caesar in grammar school. I had been working with the speech therapist all year because like a lot of kids, I had sort of a lisp. And my S’s were pretty messy. And when I got the role in Julius Caesar, I had a speech to close out Act 1, and there were S’s all over the place. I nailed it. It was a proud day. But I didn’t really have any interest in the discipline of acting. I preferred to just make my friends laugh and do daring, stupid, usually dangerous things to get a rise out of people.

When I was 30 I decided to give acting a try and I auditioned for a community theater play and got a good part. I immediately knew I’d found my home. And two years later, I made my professional debut at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. In that show, “She Stoops to Conquer,” I was impressed by the comedic genius of an actor named Christopher Evan Welch. He was fearless and tireless and was always in total command of the audience. He was my first stage hero.  The director of “She Stoops” was Doug Hughes, who would win a Tony Award years later as the director of “Doubt” on Broadway. I worked for Doug three more times at Long Wharf, and in 2012, I made my Broadway debut in “An Enemy of the People” and Doug Hughes was my director. He has always been a sort of theater angel for me.  Another “mentor” for me has been Richard Thomas, who played the lead in the Broadway National Tour of “Twelve Angry Men.”  Richard played Juror 8 and I played Juror 1. Compared to a lot of the cast, my resume was pretty thin. But Richard always treated me as an equal, and when I had a stagecraft question, he would quietly give me wonderful advice. Julian Gamble, who played Juror 3, was another member of that cast who left an indelible impression on me. Those two were so specific in their stage business. I watched them very closely. And stole everything I could from them.  I performed with Richard Thomas again in “Enemy of the People” on Broadway. The theater world seems to get smaller the longer you do it.  My first acting teacher, George DiCenzo, basically summed everything up for me in about five minutes. He was a wise man who made things simple. Genius is a word thrown around lightly. I don’t think George was a genius. But he had a genius for bringing the best actor out of each of us in his class. 

Like most people of my generation, I had always been “aware” of West Side Story. But I never saw it on stage, and I never even saw the movie, until the night before I was to audition for the Broadway National Tour in 2010. I watched maybe the first hour of the film to get a feel for it. And the next day I auditioned and was offered the part of Officer Krupke on the spot.  I don’t think I really understood the brilliance of the show until we were finished with rehearsal and we began performing for a live audience 8 times a week. After the show, audience members would be waiting at the stage door, weeping. And that music took your breath away while you waited in the wings. We performed that show almost 700 times over two years. We played in virtually every major city in the United States. We also played in Canada and we opened the brand new Theater Orb in downtown Tokyo on our final trip of the tour.  The second year of the tour, I played Lt. Schrank.  Most of that cast has since performed on Broadway. And two of our cast members are stars of their own TV shows. Kyle Harris, who was our first year Tony, is now the lead in the new TV show “Stitchers.” And Grant Gustin, our first year Baby John, is now a major star, playing the superhero lead on TV’s “The Flash.”  When we were in Tokyo in the summer of 2012, as we were all getting ready to say our goodbyes to West Side Story, I got word that I had been cast in my first Broadway show. That’s a memory I will never forget. The entire cast knew I was up for the part, and we all celebrated when I got the news. You really get close to people when your tour with them for two years. 

The most interesting thing I think I’ve ever done onstage is “The Orphans’ Home Cycle,” which was a three-part, nine hour show. Actually, it was sort of a theater mini-series. It was both very experimental in the packaging and in the staging. But also very traditional in the storytelling. The piece was written by the great Horton Foote, and we performed it just months after he died in 2009, first at Hartford Stage, and then transferred to Off-Broadway in November 2009 to May 2010. We won the Drama Desk, NY Critics’ Circle, Outer Critics’ Circle and Lortel Awards. And we made a memory that I will always carry with me. Truly life-changing theater.  One of my bucket list roles had always been Mitch in “Streetcar Named Desire.” But I think I’m too old for it now. So I will have to find a new one. Arthur Miller wrote a lot of great characters for actors of my type. And one of my favorite plays – “August Osage County” (the play, not the movie) has lots of good roles for me. I just have to convince someone else of that.  The second time I did “Twelve Angry Men,” in 2013 at the Engeman Theater, I got to play the amazing role of Juror 3. That was like a dream and I would do that again in a heartbeat. 

When I’m not on stage, I’m a bit of a sports nut. Love the Yankees and UConn basketball. I also am a writer. I’ve also been developing an original web series, writing screenplays and considering taking a crack at a novel. 

My IPod has a lots of classic rock from my era, like Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, Van Morrison, stuff like that. But I have more Tom Waits than anything else on there. It’s the kind of music that connects you with your spirit, I think. It makes me want to create something when I hear his music. I hear Tom Waits is also a big West Side Story fan, and when we were out on tour in San Jose, CA, near where he lives, I tried to get an invite to him to see our show. But I didn’t have any luck. My newest addition to my Ipod is Elle King, who pretty much kicks ass.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Xavier Reyes as Chino

Posted by: pia on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Xavier Reyes Plays Chino in our production of West Side Story!

I am a native islander! I grew up in  Guaynabo, Puerto Rico and moved to NY 4 years ago to pursue my college education. My family is very close together and we always spend time with one another. My family is my EVERYTHING and I am quite lucky to have them. I love and miss home every day, Puerto Rico. I wish I was there but the craft calls.

I decided to pursue acting in trying to find myself, so I would say that I influenced myself to become an actor. The theater was the only place that allowed me to escape reality and become other people. The fact that I can change people and the world each day keeps me moving forward. The first time I was onstage was 1999 and It was thanks to my father when he made me attend “some rehearsal” to be in a musical. I clearly remember moments of me sneaking around the audience and watching the show and wishing I could be the lead and have lines. I would always stay in the wings no matter what. It just felt so magical! In terms of mentors I owe everything to people like Jacqueline Duprey, Cynthia Henderson, Paula Cole, Mary Corsaro, Roy Lighner, Michael Kaplan, Norm Johnson and others!

The first time I heard of the show was in a middle school history class. Then I studied it  in college and dreamt of one day being Anita. I clearly remember asking my dance teacher at the moment, Roy Lightner, if I could do the combination in heels! This is my first time doing this show and I’m quite lucky to be part of this story concerning my people!   

I think that live musicals made into films do not do justice to the kind of magic experienced on stage at a live performance. 

Some of my favorite shows are Next To Normal, RENT, In the Heights, Kinky Boots, and La Cage Aux Folles.  I have a lot of dream roles which include Tituba in The Crucible, Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, Belize in Angels in America, all the drag roles in theatre, all the Stephen Adly Guirgis roles, Sonny in In The Heights, Zaza and Jacob in La Cage Aux Folles and…I’ll stop here because honestly I want to do any role that's fulfilling and changes people. 

When I'm not onstage I love watching indie films, reading, auditioning, eating, drinking wine, being outside, observing, and dreaming. 

 Some of the things on my phone are my to do list, Dating Apps, tons of selfies, and Spotify. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Brandon Contreras as Bernardo

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 4, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Brandon Contreras (c) plays Bernardo in our Production of West Side Story!                                                                                                                                                            

 

I'm a native New Yorker! I was born and raised for a bit on the upper west side!  My parents relocated to Jackson, NJ in my teenage years.  So, I consider NJ a big part or my home/upbringing as well! I'm a New Yorker and a Jersey Boy

My sister Influenced me to pursue theater. My aunt taught us how to sing when we were young from Disney movies. And my sister started doing theater first. I always sang in choir and did some shows, but it wasn't until I saw my sister in the role of Tuptim in The King and I, that I realized I wanted to tell stories and share them with an audience.

West Side Story is actually my Dad's favorite musical/movie, so, I was introduced to it at a very young age. Also, the fact that Puerto Ricans had a substantial role in the musical and film, was significant.   It was a big eye opener for me on learning about who I was.  It shed light on the history of what my grandparents came here to do and how they assimilated. I have never done the show before and I'm so grateful that I am finally performing one of my dream roles.

I think stage musicals made into films are fantastic, even if they're changed a bit for the screen (as long as the same message is clear). Through these movie musicals, we are able to introduce such a rich culture to people who, otherwise, may not have the means or the opportunity to experience. Music and the arts change lives and if we're able to capture that on film and distribute it around the world, then how exciting is that?!

Some of my favorite shows include, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Fun Home, The Light in the Piazza, In the Heights, and the upcoming Hamilton.

My dream role would definitely have to be Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza. It's always been a dream of mine. Especially after seeing it with Aaron Lazar! That role and its arc are a dream come true.

When not on stage, I love hanging out with my family. They're the greatest. I love cooking and trying new foods. I Love to read and get crafty. I'm trying to find new hobbies, such as rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulder and learning beginner violin!

Some apps that I can't live without are Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, and Spotify (because I don't carry music on my iPhone) I love to listen to all music really, from Gavin DeGraw to JLo, Mumford and Sons to Justin Timberlake. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

I Just Met a Girl Named Maria! ( aka Carly Evans)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, May 1, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Carly Evans is our Lovely Maria in West Side Story.. read on.... 

   

I grew up in Hershey, PA. Sweetest place on Earth! I was actually really into sports growing up. Although I loved theatre and knew I wanted to pursue it as a career I spent most of my time playing lacrosse, soccer and field hockey. I started really concentrating on theatre in high school by doing my school shows and taking voice lessons. 

My mom took me to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway when I was 7. I was hooked. (I was, and still am 100% team Phantom.) Though that was what sparked my interest, I was always a performer. Right out of the womb I always craved the spotlight. I would sing and dance all the time, even when I was put in time out (my mother loved that...).

I remember seeing The movie of West Side Story first and then I actually played Maria my Junior year of High school. That was when I really fell in love with the show and the role. I had the chance to play it again right out of college at Ogunquit Playhouse. That was an incredible experience for me. I learned a lot which I really believe helped me land the role here at Westchester Broadway Theatre. I absolutely love this cast and crew. I've never had so much fun with a group of people!

I think (if done well) musicals made into films are fantastic. They give people who may not necessarily be theatre buffs a chance to experience something new. And it's definitely cheaper than going to see a Broadway show! 

Oh goodness... I could go on forever about my favorite shows. And dream roles actually... BUT if I'm forced to name a few, some dream roles would be Christine in Phantom of the Opera, Clara in Light in the Piazza and I would LOVE ago play every female role in A Little Night Music. As I grow older, my goal is to hit them all. 

When I'm not on stage.... I like to eat. That's it. Food always. And the occasional beer. 

Music wise I'm a fan of pretty much everything. It depends on my mood. My go to artists though are James Taylor and Ed Sheeran. And of course I'm that theatre nerd that will listen to Broadway show tunes on a regular basis. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Meet Ed Romanoff

Posted by: Pia on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (3)

Ed Romanoff plays the dual role of Lt. Shrank and Mr. Gladhand in our production of West Side Story. Read on to learn more about this terrific character actor!

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I was born and raised in Portland, Maine. Both parents were in Barbershop Quartets. My mom was in the first female quartet in Northern New England called the “Kitchen Kanaries”. I have two older brothers and sisters and my dad taught us all to play the ukulele by the time we were 6 years old. My brothers and I are self-taught on guitar. They’ve been in the folk group “Schooner Fare since the early 70s (outergreenmusic.com).

My folks were supportive throughout our youth. In my ‘tweens and teens, I played with my dad at Lion’s Club and Elk’s Club functions, as well as others back home. I was always a big fan of Jack Lemmon and Danny Kaye.
As for anecdotes, I walked into a television studio as a Cub Scout to be on the local Saturday morning Three Stooges/cartoon cavalcade called “The Captain & The Kids”. I was mesmerized by all of the lights, scenery, and cameras and that was when the bug hit me. At 17, I heard about “community theatre”, and the rest is history.

I remember seeing the movie of West Side Story at the drive-in during the late 60s. I thought it was cool, so to speak. This is my fourth production as Shrank/Gladhand, and I’m the only ‘repeat offender’ from the first WBT/Barry McNabb production here in 1998.

The WBT backstage staff and producers couldn’t be more professional or nicer to work for. I’ve worked all over the country and WBT is in the top 5 for me.

I’m a fan of Stage Musicals being made into films as long as the producers and screenwriters don't try and “change it up” for a broader audience. I could count on one hand the number of Broadway musicals that have successfully transferred to film, in my opinion. Some have improved the story with the expansion of scenic elements. Some, not so much.

Favorite shows? That answer may not coincide. Favorites so far have been Fiddler On The Roof, The Most Happy Fella, Hairspray, Ragtime, The Full Monty, Man of La Mancha, The Producers, all shows I’ve played principal roles on Broadway or in Regional Theatre.

As for my wish list, Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, Fredrik (again) in A Little Night Music, and Henry in The Lion In Winter. Henry is a non-singing role in a non-musical play, but just a wonderful role.

I’ve spent the last 5 years re-launching my wife’s company Just Off Broadway, Inc. in the upper Hudson Valley, as the Production Manager. We produced 30 mainstage musicals, plays, and events in a 99-seat restored train station in Newburgh, NY, which we called the Theatre At West Shore Station. We've just moved our operations to the newly-purchased Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center in Chester, NY, where she is the Associate Producer and Artistic Director of the national award-winning Performing Arts Academy. We also operate the Romanutti Agency, providing casting services for print, television, and film.

On my Ipod? I just downloaded the cast recording of Kinky Boots to learn one of the songs for the National Tour auditions. And I've got a lot of old fogey songs from the 70s. I can't seem to shake the folk era or acts like James Taylor and Jim Croce.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Meet Sir Lancelot .. Jeremiah James

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

   
Jeremiah James as Sir Lancelot DuLac, and with Jennifer Hope Wills as Guenevere.

I grew up in update NY in the COUNTRY!!!. Wayne County. Macedon NY.  A tiny little town in the sticks. Played little league and was in the martial arts for 7 years!  Then my family moved to LA when I was 12 years old. We moved to the south bay area. I then discovered my love for theater and switched schools to a Music Academy which was 2 hours from home. I took a big yellow school bus to and from every day. Met the bus at 6am and didn’t get back to the bus stop until 830 pm. 

My older sister tricked me into doing a show. She called me a chicken and that was it!  She needed guys for a production of Anything Goes, and I was in the middle of a double day football practice. So, I went in after the second practice, still in my football pants and sang Happy Birthday! They were desperate, so they put me in the show. I was hooked!

I have been a fan of Robert Goulet for years and as a tenor/baritone, many of these songs are standard learning.  I always wanted to play Lancelot  and had friends worked up here at WBT and loved it. So, I called my agent for an audition. I'm honored to be apart of the cast! Just great people.

I know the film of CAMELOT. But I especially love the 1982 version filmed on stage. Richard Harris can’t be beat!

The Fantasticks is my all time favorite show next to SHOW BOAT  I Always dreamed about playing the Phantom in Phantom ( Andrew Lloyd Weber). I've seen it 5 times since I was young. I Love it every time.

When not on stage, I rebuild classic cars. First one  I did was a 1967 Chevy Impala…then a 68 Beetle.  Even though I love classics and muscle cars, I drive a SMART car… And when you are 6' 2" and weigh 200 pounds, people think it is hilarious that you drive such a tiny car.

On my Ipod? Everything.... So much! I am a Huge MUSE fan.  I love that band…. It was the best live show I have ever seen as well! 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Meet Sir Lionel, Billy Hepfinger!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, March 2, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Billy Hepfinger as Sir Lionel,  is a Dashingly handsome and Powerful Knight in our Production of CAMELOT....  Read on to hear what's up with this very cool guy!

 Billy Hepfinger (1st on left )With Jordan Wolfe as Mordred, Dan Fenaughty as Sir Dinadan and Michael Glavan as Sir Sagramore.

I grew up in the Pittsburgh area, where I played baseball, read voraciously, and sang constantly. It was a pretty standard suburban middle-class childhood, with two things in my favor: my parents supported me in anything I pursued, and I was lucky enough to go to a big public school where the arts programs had as much support as athletics. 

As a kid, I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live; I used to annoy my family with impressions of various Mike Myers and Will Ferrell characters. I got more and more serious about acting as I got older, but that was definitely the kernel of it. 

I've never done Camelot before, but I have seen it twice: once when I was interning at the Pittsburgh CLO in college, when the national tour starring Michael York came through, and again when a student group at Princeton put it on a year or two later. And this is my first time working with WBT, but I couldn't be happier to be doing such a timeless show at such a storied theater! 

The film adaptation of Camelot is one I haven't come across, but when they're done right, movie musicals are really spectacular. There are plenty of great musicals that have been faithfully adapted, like Oklahoma!, The Music Man, and (more recently) Into the Woods and Les Miserables, but my favorites are The Sound of Music and West Side Story. Those two I really love because they totally embrace their movie-ness and do things that you could never do onstage, like Julie Andrews coming up over the hill singing, or the stunning cinematography of the Rumble.

A lot of my favorite shows are Stephen Sondheim shows; I've been a devotee of his since college, and I've been lucky enough to perform in Assassins, Side by Side by Sondheim, and Company (twice!). I also think The Music Man is just about flawless - an opinion not everyone shares, as I've found, but I stick to my guns. As for my dream role, I'll say Georg in She Loves Me, because my girlfriend always says she wants to see me in it someday.

When I've got some free time, I like to read or play video games, usually (and my castmates will attest that you'll usually find me doing one or the other backstage). I also like to write, draw, play guitar, and watch movies, and I'm trying to cook more, too. 

My music tastes are pretty eclectic, but I like everything from Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles to Radiohead, Vampire Weekend, and Kanye West. I've got some show tunes on there, too, in case the mood strikes. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Meet Magical Merlin, Martin VanTreuren!

Posted by: PIA on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Martin VanTreuren is featured as Merlin and King Pellinore in our production of CAMELOT. We caught up with him between performances:

        

Martin as Merlin (w Emily Brockway as Nimue)             Martin as King Pellinore (w Clark Carmichael as Arthur)

I grew up in Hawthorne N.J.  I fell in love with the theatre while I was in High School where we did many plays and musicals.  Saw my first Broadway show (Promises, Promises) at that time and I was hooked.  I then went on to study Theatre at Montclair State University and received a BA in Theatre.  I moved to NYC right after College and got my first acting jobs in Summer Stock at The Thomaston Opera House in Ct. and Theatre by the Sea in R.I.

 I think having the experience in High School to act in plays and realize I could make people laugh. My mentors were my drama teachers Marie Patella and Elizabeth Anne Poole.  They were instrumental in helping me realize my love for the theatre and they took us to many shows in NYC. 

 My first leading role was in Charlie's Aunt  in my Junior year.  I innocently did things on stage that made my fellow actors laugh and I learned that if I could keep a straight face the audience loved it. 

 I first saw the movie of Camelot  when it was released in 1967.   Many years later I did the National Tour of Camelot starring Richard Harris who was Arthur in the movie.  Over a period of two years my twin brother James replaced me in the show, then I replaced him and then he replaced me again.  The last time I was the Merlyn understudy and had to go in the role while my brother went on in my part.  One of the few times we have appeared on the same stage and no one knew.

I have never worked at WBT before, but my brother has done 14 shows here.  I have enjoyed being an audience member here several times and now I am, finally, enjoying being on the stage. 

I love the film of Camelot but my earliest influences were the movies of CAROUSEL, OKLAHOMA, KING AND I and WEST SIDE STORY.  

 Right now, I really want to play Vanya in Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike by Christopher Durang.

When not on stage, I love going to the theatre ( Busman's Holiday), and movies.  Hooked on  Downton Abbey and House of Cards. I also enjoy listening to the old classic jazz singers like, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Dinah Washington and Tony Bennett.

 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

About Camelot

Posted by: Pia Haas on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

One day during lunch at the Manhattan’s Lamb’s Club, Frederick Loewe walked up to Alan Jay Lerner’s table. “You write good lyrics,” he said, “Would you like to do a musical with me?” Lerner replied: “Yes, I happen to have two weeks off.” The rest is musical theatre history. Their collaborations yielded an impressive collection of musicals: Brigadoon (1947), Paint Your Wagon (1951), My Fair Lady (1956, film 1964), the film Gigi (1958), and Camelot (1960). The score and lyrics for Camelot are among the most successful to emerge from American musical theatre.

In 1959, Alan Jay Lerner and Moss Hart began to adapt T. H. White's The Once and Future King as their next project. Frederick Loewe agreed to write music, with the understanding that if things went badly, it would be his last score.  Lerner and Loewe were already enjoying great success with their musical My Fair Lady. The producers were able to secure a strong cast, including Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Roddy McDowall, as well as Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. John Cullum also made his Broadway debut as Sir Dinadan.

Camelot opened on Broadway on December 3, 1960. At that point, ticket sales were not impressive and it was projected that it would close before My Fair Lady.  However, the production had its big break when Ed Sullivan invited Lerner and Loewe to be on his television program for an hour slot. Lerner and Loewe used that opportunity to feature all the best songs and scenes from Camelot.
Lerner recounts: “The following morning, for the first time there was a line halfway down the block.  And when the curtain came down, the reaction and the applause were overwhelming. The people came up the aisles raving. Camelot was finally a hit.”

Not only did the show run for over a year, but its original cast album was one of the top selling  albums of the year. Camelot won four Tony Awards in 1961 for Actor, Musical Director, Scenic Designer and Costume Designer.

Camelot was a favorite musical of the Kennedy Administration. Jacqueline Kennedy coined the term Camelot to refer to their time in the Executive Mansion. A week after his death she told a reporter that her slain husband had loved listening to a record from the popular Broadway musical about King Arthur’s court.  She said his favourite lines from it were: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Our production, featuring an Intimate and fresh concept is filled with surprises. With many impressive acting and directing credits, both on Broadway and with national tours, our Director/Choreographer, Richard Sabellico, described his longtime interest in revising successful Broadway shows. "There are many well-written musicals trapped in an era or suffering from an overburdened book," he said. "My main interest is to keep the integrity and intentions of the script while making the show palatable, enjoyable and current for a modern audience."

This is exactly what Mr. Sabellico has done with 'Camelot'. He received permission from Alan Jay Lerner’s family to reshape the show. “We have kept all the beloved songs and focused more on the love story of Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot," says Sabellico. "What we eliminated was all the pomp and circumstance, which really was auxiliary to the story. There is great depth to this production," Sabellico said. “Camelot’ really is a true love triangle, with characters who are each good and noble people who struggle with their feelings. I want the audience to sympathize with these very human characters and to think about them long after the show is over.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lady Guenevere

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

 Jennifer Hope Wills is The Lovely Queen Guenevere in Camelot 

 I was born in Baltimore, MD to proud parents William and Sue Wills. I spent the first two years of my life in and out of rehearsal halls, dressing rooms and even a closet or two due to the fact that my parents were active participants in Baltimore Actors' Theatre (BAT). I made my stage debut before my first birthday with a 102-degree temperature as the baby prince in Rumplestiltskin...what a trouper! Before my second birthday, my parents dropped the bomb when it was discovered that a baby brother was on the way. Lots of things were about to change. Not only would I no longer be the only child, but also my parents decided that they had to leave Baltimore. With two children, there was no way that they could support a family on theatrical wages and if one of them would have to leave the theatre...then both of them would have to leave. They decided to move down to the family resort town of Ocean City, MD where there were absolutely no theatrical outlets. That's what they thought anyway…

An old movie theatre down on Worcester Street right off the boardwalk went up for rent and the crazy mind of my father went to work. A children's theatre in Ocean City...what an idea! There was no theatre in town, the theatre was right off the boardwalk and after all, this was a family resort. The idea couldn't fail! My parents sold everything and my father left his lucrative job at the Sheraton Hotel and Parker Playhouse (Parker Productions, Inc.) opened its doors. And the outcome? Well, the idea failed miserably and we lost everything. Did that stop the Wills? No indeed. "Where there's a Wills, there's a way!" Somehow we managed to keep the theatre going and after several moves (Jolly Roger Amusement Park, The Sheraton Hotel and finally the Carousel Hotel) and many years of struggle, Parker Productions became a moneymaking operation and the sole source of income for the Wills Family. For seventeen of the twenty years that Parker Productions was under operation I performed alongside my mother, father, brother Dan and sister Rebecca. Even my grandmother Dolores got into the act. It was truly a most unique childhood and one that would mold my love for theatre and music and would make it difficult for me to choose any other direction.

I attended Salisbury State University and began my college career as a History Education Major.  Gradually I began taking more music classes than history classes, began taking voice lessons, had joined the college choir and the college theatre club (Sophanes). By the middle of her sophomore year I officially became a music major. I appeared in the college theatre productions of Grapes of Wrath (Elizabeth Sandry), West Side Story (Maria...yes complete with dark skin and hair) and The Secret Garden (Lily). I also won first place in several state and regional NATS Vocal Competitions. I graduated suma cum laude with a BA in Music Education.

I attended  graduate school at prestigious Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. This was my first real move from home. During mytwo years at IU I performed in many of the main stage and chamber productions. I quickly graduated with honors with a MM in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy and a concentration in Theatre. It wasn't long before I came full circle with my decision to return to the world of theatre and found myself with two suitcases on a bus to NYC. I was cast in productions from my first two auditions in New York and by the end of that year I had obtained equity status and had been cast in leading roles up and down the east coast.

My mom and dad are my biggest role models, mentors and influences.  I was also a huge fan of Julie Andrews and Rebecca Luker and dreamed of being just like them :)  Well again, I grew up in the theatre so I really always new about “Camelot” and have always loved it! I saw the show one of those last Richard Harris tours when it came through Baltimore. I’ve always been just hooked on all the stories, books and poetry about King Arthur and it has always been a dream for me to play Guenevere. I have done the show twice before. 11 years ago as Lady Anne/Guenevere Understudy at Paper Mill Playhouse (understudying a WBT favorite Glory Crampton) and then the next summer as Nimue at Sacramento Music Circus. I thought this one had passed me by but I got in by the skin of my teeth :)

 I did indeed see the movie when I was younger and I actually owned the two VHS tape set. I actually think that turning musicals into movies is great! Especially now as it is bringing a less popular form of entertainment to the masses who might not otherwise be exposed. I also loved the intimacy that you can get on film that you can’t always achieve in the theatre especially if you are sitting any further back than the first couple of rows.

 I’m a classics kind of girl and my all time favorites are My Fair Lady, Carousel, The Music Man, She Loves Me and Most Happy Fella. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed in that I have gotten to play almost every ingenue dream role I ever had (with Guenevere being the last). I still would love a crack at Rosabella in Most Happy Fella and I’m waiting until I age into Sally in Follies. I have also never really done anything totally brand new and that would be a great dream come true.

 When not on stage, first and foremost I'm mom to my 6 year old son Vincent. I also love just being outdoors: hanging at the beach, hiking, camping, etc. and traveling anywhere and everywhere.

         family2

 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meet Clark Carmichael!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Clark Carmichael
plays King Arthur in our production of Camelot.. Read a bit about his journey to the stage..
...
 
  I grew up in Kansas City and southwest Iowa.  My parents were divorced and I went to school mainly in Kansas City and spent summers in Corning, Iowa.  I moved   around a bit because my mother was married several times.  I played baseball and tennis in high school and caught the acting bug doing a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  My dad was and airline pilot/farmer ...so I traveled a bit when I was a kid (Africa, New Zealand, Alaska).  I Met my future wife at Northwestern, where I was a theatre major and varsity sabre fencer. I Worked briefly as a bartender, doorman and Starbucks barista in Chicago before going back to grad school at University Of Missouri- Kansas City for acting and directing.  After graduate school, I moved to the NY area (Montclair, NJ) where I now live with my wife and two children.
 
 I caught the bug in high school and no one could talk me out of it.  The family dynamics of my childhood pointed me to the arts.  My high school drama teacher, Tom Scahill, encouraged me as well as Ruth Ann Clurman, the speech and debate coach.  Dale Rose, my graduate acting teacher, taught me to act.
 
I knew of Camelot growing up but did not dig deeply into it until Richard Sabellico (our director) cast me in the role in 2008 at Pennsylvania Center Stage.  It was a very special show for me.  
 
I have never seen the movie.  But I  like musicals on film.  I really liked the recent Into the Woods.
 
I hate to narrow down my dream roles,  but I would love to play Cyrano De Bergerac, Macbeth and Bluntschli (The Chocolate Cream soldier).  I've also always wanted to do the shows She Loves Me and Next to Normal.
 
I'm an avid runner.  I've done a couple of marathons.  I also love to travel, mountain bike, hike and ski with my family.
 
My Ipod has on it: Queen, Prince, James Brown, Barenaked Ladies, Steely Dan, Allman Brothers, The Beatles, Bill Withers, Billy Joel, Boston,Bruce Hornsby, Chet Baker, The Chieftans, Ragtime, Spamalot, The Last 5 Years and lots of other show tunes, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Indigo Girls, Jack Johnson, Nat King Cole, Tom Petty, Van Morrison,  Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Kurt Elling...and lots more.
 
 
 
Monday, December 22, 2014

Sigmund Says

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Nick Gaswirth plays Sigmund in It Happened One Christmas Eve. (With Jeanette Minson as Charlotte.)

 
I Grew up in Los Angeles. I Played lots of baseball and did lots of shows! The performing arts teachers at my high school were the ones who really pushed me to perform, and who taught me the basics of everything I've been doing for the last 15 years!
Original musicals are a bit tougher, but so much more rewarding, as you get the chance to create characters nobody's seen, and work on music that's often being tailored to your voice and style.
I own a web design business on the side, so once I'm comfortably in the run of a show, I like to work on code I'm developing during breaks--especially intermission.
On my Ipod you'll find Billy Joel, Mumford & Sons, The Beatles.
I enjoy being surrounded by family and friends during the Holidays. I spend Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house. I love Bagels and lox and hot chocolate on Christmas morning!
 

Double Dollies!!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, December 22, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (2)
Hannah Jane Moore (l) and Julia White (r) play Young Dolly, alternately, in our production of It Happened One Christmas Eve.  As fate would have it, Julia and Hannah were cast in 2 shows together this fall and became pals! We asked them to fill us in a bit about their Inspirations and their Holiday traditions...
Hannah: I am 12 years old and I attend South Orangetown Middle School.   I was born in Englewood, NJ but we moved to Rockland County (Tappan, NY) when I was 4.  I am an only child and really wish I had a sister!  I absolutely LOVE animals and have a golden retriever, "Dallas" and two cats,  "Dexter" and "Catchfool".   
 
Julia: I’ve lived in Westchester my whole life and I’m in 7th grade.
 
Hannah: My mom is my mentor when it comes to performing!  She runs a children's theater "Stage Left Children's Theater" in Rockland County so I literally GREW up at the theater!  I was onstage for the first time when I was only 6 months old in a production of "Cinderella"!  I haven't stopped performing since!  I absolutely LOVE being at the theater!  
 
Julia: All of my teachers and directors at Random Farms Kids Theater have inspired me to follow my dreams of performing. My role model is my voice teacher Dani.
 
Hannah: Working on an original Musical is really cool because unlike "known" musicals, the characters are not well known.  It's been really fun to make "Young Dolly" my own instead of watching videos of other actors playing the role!  I really love this story.  I like how all the classic songs fit right into the story.
 
Julia: It is challenging working on an original Musical, in the sense that not everyone is already familiar with the story. But it is also nice in many ways because you can really create your own character
 
Hannah: When I am not onstage I am usually at the dance studio! I dance every day of the week except Friday!  I LOVE to dance and have been dancing since I was 3!  I am finally on pointe this year and it is SO much fun but it hurts your toes!  I also love shopping and seeing my friends.  
 
Julia: When I am not onstage I love doing all other types of art, like drawing, painting, and I especially love drawing sketches of outfits or different clothing designs, in addition to hanging out with my friends!
 
Hannah: On my Ipod you'll find: Frozen, Teen Beach Movie, Ariana Grande and Sunday in the Park with George (I just finished this show!) .
 
Julia: I love all different types of music, but broadway music is closest to my heart. I also like upbeat pop and singers like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift and some alternative style bands as well.
 
Hannah: My favorite holiday tradition is Christmas Eve!  We go to my mom's friend Francesca's house and she makes the BEST chorizo & yellow rice! We have been going there since before I was born!   I still bring my pajamas and change into them so I am ready for bed when we get home!
 
Julia: My favorite holiday tradition is decorating my christmas tree every year! It is super fun and we have lots of pretty ornaments!
 
Hannah: This is my favorite time of year.  I love the Christmas tree, the music, the food and the fact that my family is all together. It is such a happy time.  I even like the snow!!!
 
Julia: What makes the holiday season special to me is Christmas and everything about it. I love christmas lights, trees, stockings, presents, etc. I love how the holiday season brings everyone together and reminds people about what really is important!
 
Saturday, December 20, 2014

Devon is an Enchanting Dolly

Posted by: Pia Haas on Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Devon Perry plays Dolly in our musical production of "It Happened One Christmas Eve." We asked her about the show and her Holiday traditions.

I was raised outside Columbus, Ohio by my unstoppable mother and our many cats. Throughout my childhood, I was training to be a professional ballerina, taking class every day, until an injury ended the dream of mine. Thankfully, my mom suggested going to Interlochen Arts Camp for the summer for musical theatre, and my life was changed forever. I then went to the University of Michigan and received a BFA in Musical Theatre (go blue!).

I've been singing since I could talk, dancing since I could walk. Performing has always been in my nature. My dolls were always helpful in putting on a show in the living room. I grew up watching movie musicals - two of my favorites being The Wizard of Oz and White Christmas. I love the classics! Judy Garland, Vera Ellen, Rosemary Clooney, Julie Andrews - incredible women.

I enjoy working on original material. It provides for extra collaboration and originality. It's refreshing!

When I'm not onstage I enjoy doing yoga, playing piano, and volunteering with animal rescue organizations.

On my iPod... Hmm lately I've been revisiting my main man Billy Joel. I love jazz, rock, folk, you name it and I'll take a listen.

My favorite holiday traditions are decorating the tree with my family and making Christmas cookies with recipes passed down through my family. And then eating the cookies, of course!

 Devon (as Dolly) with Xander Chauncey (as Buddy)

Doing this show is making this holiday season extra special for me. The story of Dolly and Buddy is dear to my heart. Attached is a (blurry) picture of my grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day. My grandfather was in the navy in WWII and came home on leave for the 4th of July to marry my beautiful grandmother. She went around collecting sugar rations from all the neighbors in order to make their wedding cake, and they got married in the front yard of the family home. Knowing their story has made my work on the role of Dolly very personal. Fortunately, my grandfather returned home after the war and had 3 wonderful children, one of whom is my mother. My performance in this show is dedicated to my grandparents.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Five Questions For Bill Stutler

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

We asked Owner, Bill Stutler a few questions  this Jolly Holly season! 

 1. How does a visit to WBT get people in the mood for the holidays?   :
 Fully decorated with garlands, lights and a tree that neary touches the balcony, with packages of food and toys that customers can bring and place under the tree for the needy, which we distribute just before Christmas, and an entrance also decorated for the Holidays, can't help but get one in the Holiday Mood.  Of course, Christmas music adds to the feel once you enter the lobby.  Topped off with a menu of Christmas favorites and an uplifting production which will leave  all feeling up and good about  themselves , relatives and friends. 

 2. Why is it such a great place to go to during the holiday season? 
 With a wide variety of entertainment events, WBT has something for everyone and with a served meal featuring your choice from a variety of entrees included in the low ticket price, WBT is the best deal around and the place to be this holiday season!   Dinner, Show, Parking, proximity...all add up to an affordable night out !

 3. Is it a place for adults AND families?  
 It Happened One Christmas Eve  is especially chosen for Families! It is a heartwarming Musical with a timeless message!

4. What do you want customer to come away with  after having been to your theatre this Holiday season?  
Being Entertained & well fed!  With an appreciation of the magic of live theatre! 

5. How many Holiday seasons have you celebrated at WBT?  
It is our 40th year! The County Executive has called the Westchester Broadway Theatre,  "The cultural mainstay of Westchester."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Holiday Special features local Children.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Olivia Lombardi and Jeremy Lanuti will be featured in our upcoming children's Holiday Show on Dec 13th  & 20th.

Olivia, who lives in Westchester County,  is a sixth grader.  She's been performing since she was five years old. Her favorite subject in Middle school is Social Studies. She has a pet chameleon named Charlie.
This is her third show here at WBT. Her favorite role so far has been as a member of Fagin's gang in Oliver
When not performing she enjoys arts & crafts, baking and cooking.  Her favorite holiday family tradition is shopping with her sister Sophia and her mom for  a new ornament each year to hang on their tree. 


Jeremy is a sixth grader from Orange County, who's been performing since age six. His favorite subject in school is Math.  He has a pet dog named Chewey.
This is his third show on this stage as well. He  performed with Olivia as part of Fagin's gang in OliverHis favorite role thus far has been "the little boy" in Ragtime here at WBT.
When not performing he enjoys swimming and playing with his friends. 
His favorite family Christmas tradition is playing with his cousins with all the newly unwrapped  toys from under the tree! He is hoping for a ukelele for Christmas this year.

Another Night Before Christmas is a show especially for the kids!!    'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house... everyone was scrambling to get the Ice Queen to the North Pole before she melts! What?! Two siblings call on Santa Claus to save the day when chaos erupts on the night before Christmas. Join us for a funny and lively one hour family musical filled with lovable elves and holiday magic! 

The show was written by Bob Fitzsimmons, music by Steven Silverstein and Barbara Campbell. (all Westchesterites) 
Directed by John Egan, (of Dobbs Ferry), Carol Arrucci is the Musical Director (of Ossining), Choreographed by Tom Coppola (of New Rochelle).
 
The Cast  features; Ryan Taylor (as an Elf), Jay Howard (as Santa) and  Irene Howard (as The Ice Queen) all of New Fairfield Connecticut.  Olivia Lombardi (as Mary) of Rye, Jeremy Lanuti of Chester (as Matt), Anthony Malchar  of (as an Elf), Ariana Fox of Yorktown (as an Elf) , Kristen Barr of Ossining (as an Elf) , David Cronin of Jamaica Queens (as Everett).
 

Booths Bearing Gifts

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

    

As The Holidays quickly approach, The malls are full of last minute shoppers looking for that unique gift. A good bet are the kiosks and booths which line the malls…with interesting, unusual choices and equally interesting people manning them!.

Westchester Broadway Theatre, not to be outdone, has booths in 4 nearby malls  with very loyal  and very dramatic employees there at their posts right up to Christmas Eve!  Visit Danbury Fair, Poughkeepsie Galleria, Jefferson Valley Mall and The Palisades Center.

Gift certificates for two are available to the WBT. This is One-Stop Shopping! How Many Do You Need? They’re good for one year and the recipients choose the show.

Our Upcoming Season Includes Tony Award winning shows such as: Camelot, West Side Story, Showboat & much more!  Ask the employees at the booth…perhaps they’ll sing you a preview!

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Younger Than Springtime!" Meet Alison T. Chi

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 13, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)
Alison T. Chi Plays Liat in our production of South Pacific.
 
I was born in Taipei and grew up in Hsinchu, Taiwan. I have a brother who is two years older than me. Both my parents are college professors and so was my Grandfather. I was brought up very academically that way I guess - school always came first. That being said, my parents still exposed me to different art forms. I studied dance, the piano and clarinet, taekwando and drawing and was often brought to the theatre to see shows.
 
I began my dance training at the age of three. Performing was never something foreign to me. I stopped dancing when I was 10 because my parents wanted me to focus on school work, and later I became a genetics major in college. One day as I was sitting in the lab staring at the fruit flies (or drosophila, to be scientifically correct) through the microscope, I asked myself whether that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The answer was no. So I went back to dancing and eventually started acting too.
There are several teachers/mentors who have influenced me as a performer: Tracie Stanfield, Alan Langdon, Don Boros, and Tom Kremer.
A friend of mine told me about South Pacific when I was in college and how much he liked it. It eventually became one of my favorite shows too. This is my first time doing it.
 
This is my first show at WBT! :)
 
I think musical movies are great but making one can be tricky. It's a very different setup and one really needs to know what his game plan is. South Pacific is actually one of my favorite shows. I also love Oklahoma!, Sunday In The Park With George, She Loves Me, The Pajama Game, and A Chorus Line. Every role is a dream role for me.
 
When not on stage, I love traveling. Camping has recently become my new hobby. I also enjoy cooking, baking, sewing, and knitting.
 
What's on my Ipod? Show tunes and cello music!
 
 
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bloody Mary (Joanne Javien) Is The Girl We Love!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Joanne Javien Plays Bloody Mary in our Production of South Pacific. Before heading out to Bali Ha'i, she shared some thoughts with us!

"I grew up in Southern California, in a town called Cerritos, about 10 minutes from Disneyland.  My family has a love and an appreciation for music.  I was a very active, young girl.  I wanted my Mother to get me a piano, so I was in piano lessons, dance lessons and singing lessons.  My parents saw the love of singing and music that I had and they support me...they still do to this day.  I'm very lucky.

bloodyJoanne as Bloody Mary with Bill E. Dietrich as Luther Billis.
I love singing! When I was little I sang along with Whitney Houston's albums.  I looked up to Lea Salonga, with her role as Kim in "Miss Saigon."  Seeing a Filipino-American on stage gave me the confidence that I can do it too!!

I heard about "South Pacific" at a young age, I actually played Ngana when I was about 9 years old at a local college's production.  This year, I've done "South Pacific" at Paper Mill Playhouse and Music Theatre Witchita, marking Westchester Broadway Theatre my third production of the show this year!!!!

Yes, I watched the movie years ago.  I wish they made more movie musicals, especially the contemporary ones, just like they did back in the day.  It would expand theatre into the mainstream...look at Chicago, Les Miserables...we need more of that out there in the world.

My favorite shows are Here Lies Love, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. One of my dream roles is to be Estrella in Here Lies Love, Lady of the Lake in Spamalot and Sharon in Masterclass.
 
I'm watching Netflix!!! I get obsessed with a TV series and cannot stop watching it.  I also love to work out and to eat!!!
 
On my Ipod? Here Lies Love, Whitney Houston, Bruno Mars, Adele, Avenue Q, and Sara Bareilles!!"
 
Monday, October 6, 2014

Meet Zach Trimmer, The Sexy Lieutenant!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, October 6, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)
Zach Trimmer (Lt. Joe Cable)  with Alison T. Chi (Liat) in South Pacific.
 
  "I grew up in San Mateo, CA, which is just a few miles south of San Francisco. I have 2 older sisters, and we always had pets-- anything from dogs and cats to frogs and iguanas. 
 
I was a pretty late bloomer, as I only attempted to sing for the first time at around age 15 or 16. But, once I did, I knew right away it was how I wanted to make a living.

Even though I wasn't terribly familiar with the show, I had obviously heard of "South Pacific." Once we got into rehearsals, I was surprised how many songs I recognized. 
 
 Once I was cast in the show, I watched the movie, so I know it now! I think any crossover from film to musical (or vice versa) is great because it exposes different audiences to various forms of performing arts. If it puts butts in the seats, I'm all for it! 
 
This is my first show at WBT, and so far, I have loved every minute. The process is fast and furious, but it is made possible and comfortable by the incredibly professional and supportive team.

It's always too hard to narrow down favorite shows, because there are too many. I love different shows for different reasons, but I will say that a role I am dying to play is Bob Gaudio in "Jersey Boys."
 
I love spending time with friends, and I love snuggling with my dog. I also have a small obsession with Rubik's cubes. :-)

It may be surprising, but I have almost NO musical theatre on my iPod. I have mostly pop/rock and r&b, i.e; Marc Broussard and Robin Thicke.

 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Meet "The Cockeyed Optimist", Haley Swindal

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

We asked Haley Swindal who plays Nellie Forbush in our production to tell us a bit about what got her to the SOUTH PACIFIC! 

 "Like Nellie, I left home pretty young. As she says, "I wanted to see the world and meet different kinds of people." I grew up in Tampa Florida, a very southern town. I left home at fifteen to go to Culver Military and Culver Girls Academy in Indiana, where I met people from all over the world. Then, I went onto college back in the South at UNC-Chapel Hill. I have a wonderful, supportive family who put up with me singing and dancing nonstop around the house from an early age. My family loves music, but I am the only one in my entire family to become a professional artist. They are all in the sports industry though, which is entertainment in itself!!! In college I majored in both theatre and history, so this show has always been on my "wish list." It is also special to me because my grandfather Fred Swindal fought in the Pacific as a Marine and earned a Bronze star.

Gosh! So many people influenced me to become an actor! My teachers along the way, John Huls, Kathi Grau, Richard Coven, Julie Fishell. I remember a specific moment in college when my professor, Julie Fishell, was pushing me to overcome my fear and go further in a particularly moment in a play she was directing me in. I went to the place I needed to go, I was playing a mother defending my son, and it she pushed me to a "breakthrough moment" where something clicked for me. From then onward I vowed that, although I knew I could sing, I wanted to be first and foremost an actor. I am still learning and growing. I don't think I'll ever stop. As my high school teacher Kathi Grau said, "be a sponge." Absorb and learn everything. I have been blessed to work with some amazing talent since I graduated: Stacey WarrenTed Neeley in JCS, Robert Cuccioli, and, currently, getting to fall in love with George Dvorsky every night!!!!

Haley as Nellie Forbush with George Dvorsky (Emile)

I have never done the show before, but I have always wanted to! This is my third show at WBT. Westchester broadway theatre is an incredibly special place for me. I got my equity card here with "Nine", with a cast of women who remain some of my nearest and dearest friends. I also appeared in "Home for the Holidays" a few Christmases ago. I love working here. It feels like home every time I get to! It's such a supportive, wonderful environment that Bill, Bob, Lisa, Victor, and everyone here create... I feel so excited and grateful to come to work every day!!!

I grew up watching the movie, and all the great movie musicals of the Hollywood Golden age of musical theatre. I love movie musicals!! Today, I am so glad they are making a comeback as it is pulling people into it who might not have had exposure to musical theatre. For example, "Into the Woods". Sondheim. Brilliant. But many, many people in this country have never heard of it. With this Meryl Streep version coming out, that will change. It's bringing it to a larger audience, which I believe will ultimately help the theatre community thrive even more.

Nellie always has been a dream role! So I'm living it! But other than this one? Gosh. Well, I think "Gypsy" is the perfect musical. I would love to play Mamma Rose one day, for sure. I'll have to wait a few years, though. In the meantime, I would loveeeee to play Eva Peron in "Evita"  Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes." Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl". Lilli/Kate in "Kiss Me Kate."

I love to travel!!! Whenever I have been on tour I take the time to explore whatever city I am in, as every city has something special about it. In the break we have on this show in December, I will go to visit my boyfriend's family where he is from in Scotland, so I am excited about that! Last year he and I dressed up in Santa suits and did a Santa run on the beach in Scotland with about three hundred other Scottish people and it was a blast!!! So really, traveling, history, or anything outdoors-hiking, swimming, skiing, random adentures, and exploring!!!

What's on my Ipod?  Literally every genre of music I think. I go through phases. Right now I've been listening to a lot of Doris Day, Dinah Shore, and Rosemary Clooney backstage before the show with Joanne, my brilliant and lovely dressing roommate who plays Bloody Mary. Right now, I'm obsessed with Frank Sinatra and Brandi Carlile, who couldn't be more different but both are fantastic story tellers!!!! "

                        

       Aspiring Nellie Forbush                                 My amazing acting teacher Julie Fishell and 
                                                                             musical genius Mark Hartman, UNC alums as well!                                                  

     

  My grandfather Fred Swindal       Machu Picchu, May 2014                                          In the Ensemble of NINE

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Meet the "Enchanting" George Dvorsky..

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 11:30:00 am Comments (1)
  I grew up outside of Pittsburgh PA in a little town called Irwin.  I was the youngest of five.  My family loved the arts.  My Dad sang in a barber shop quartet in the army but I'm the only one who left home to pursue this business we call show!
 When I was in ninth grade I broke my arm playing football.  I needed something to take up my time so I joined the chorus.  I found out that I could sing and then they asked me to do the musicals.  THE REST IS HISTORY!!!

My parents bought all of the movie soundtracks and it seems that they were mostly Rodgers and Hammerstein ones. When I was in High School we went to see South Pacific at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.  I'll never forget it. It starred Anita Gillette and Stephen Arlen. I was lucky enough to meet and work with them both years later. I did the concert version of the show in November and was thrilled when I was offered this role at WBT.  It's good to be back. I did two shows in the old theatre, An Evening Dinner Theatre but this is my first time in the NEW space.
George Dvorsky as Emile de Becque in South Pacific 

I know the film very well and I always thought it bizarre that they used the different color washes in some of the scenes.  I, of course, had seen it on TV as a child and I thought something was wrong with the TV when the whole screen went Blue, then Yellow, Then Red...  But I LOVED the film.   And since my favorite movie is THE SOUND OF MUSIC and I love OKLAHOMA! and CAROUSEL, I think the movie musicals are wonderful. Especially the R&H ones.
 
 For years my favorite show was CAROUSEL. That score is one of the best ever written, but, when I was in the ensemble of the Pittsburgh CLO right out of college the season included CAROUSEL and a gem of a show, SHE LOVES ME.  I had never heard of it but have done it four times since and I feel like the role of George Novak was written for me.  I feel the same way about Capt Von Trapp in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. 
 
When not on stage, I enjoy taking care of Nine year old rescue, Zeke.  He's a Pomeranian who thinks he's a bulldog.
 
On my Ipod? Just added this week is CHEEK TO CHEEK the new Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga project. It's pretty wonderful as is Barbra Streisand's PARTNERS.  But people are always surprised to see complete libraries of Olivia Newton-John and Linda Ronstadt.  I have everything they've ever recorded!

 

ABOUT SOUTH PACIFIC

Posted by: PIA HAAS on Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 8:00:00 am Comments (0)

James Michener, a lieutenant, was stationed at Espiritu Santo in the South Pacific during World War two. When he returned, he published Tales of the South Pacific, based on his wartime experiences and observations. The novel won Michener the 1948 Pulitzer Prize.

 Tales of the South Pacific was made up of eighteen stories. Director, Joshua Logan decided to try to buy the rights to adapt one of the stories, for the stage. That story of the doomed romance between an American officer and a young Tonkinese woman, eventually inspired the story of Lieutenant Joe Cable and Liat in South Pacific. But first, Logan needed to find someone to write a play based on the story—his interest was only in directing it. Logan mentioned his idea to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. When they read Tales of the South Pacific, they decided to buy the rights to all eighteen stories. They believed that they could write a musical based on Michener's work that would be financially successful and, at the same time, would send a strong progressive message on racism.

When Rodgers and Hammerstein collaborated, Hammerstein almost always wrote the words first, and then Rodgers set them to music. Hammerstein found himself stuck when he started to write the book for Tales from the South Pacific. He just couldn’t write the military characters. He had never been to war, and he didn’t know how the characters would talk or behave. Joshua Logan had served in the US Army during the war, so Hammerstein asked him to help make sure he got the military details right. Logan and Hammerstein ended up writing the entire script as a joint effort. 

It is said that Hammerstein shared the words to “Bali Ha’i” over a working lunch, and Richard Rodgers immediately sketched out the tune right there at the table. Other songs were not so easy, “Younger Than Springtime,” the love song that Lieutenant Cable sings to Liat, was only written after Joshua Logan had insisted that the first two attempts at songs for that spot were not good enough.

South Pacific opened on Broadway on April 7, 1949. The production featured Mary Martin as Ensign Nellie Forbush, opera star Enzio Pinza, as Emile de Becque and Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary. The reviews were raves, the show was a smash hit and it ran for 1,925 performances, finally closing in 1954. It won 9 Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize. The 2008 Broadway revival was a critical success, ran for 996 performances and won seven Tonys, including Best Musical Revival.

It was adapted into a 1958 movie.  Mary Martin did not play Nellie Forbush in the movie because Enzio Pinza had already died and the producers considered it to be a hopeless task to find anybody who could match her in the movie. Mitzi Gaynor was eventually cast in the role. Rosano Brazzi was cast as Emile, a role that was first offered to such established stars as Charles Boyer, Vittorio DeSica and Fernando Lamas. This would be the first Rodgers and Hammerstein film of a stage show to contain every song from the stage. Rodgers and Hammerstein were pressured to delete the song You've Got to be Carefully Taught, but the team would not budge. The song was a bold composition about prejudice but Rodgers and Hammerstein had no problem bringing social issues into their musicals. The film was considered a big success and became a top money-maker of 1958.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ken Jennings Is A Wiz Of A WIZ!

Posted by: pia on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 9:00:00 am Comments (2)

Ken Jennings, plays the title character, The Wizard Of Oz, in our Production

      I grew up in Jersey City, NJ.  1st generation Irish.  My dad was from Newry. County Down, Ireland (Northern Ireland actually - but my family wouldn't be inclined to recognize the border).  Jesuit high school.  Jesuit College.  Both in Jersey City.  Only child.  Fine and happy childhood, thanks be to God.

Always acted.  Just liked to do it.  Other kids might be playing ball.  Myself and my 2 friends, Billy and Johnny, were always making up our own scripts and acting them out.  We'd even give weekly awards for best story, actor, and director.  Went to the high school I went to (St Peter's Prep) because they did more plays and shows then the other kids (and my parents were happy to send me there - a very good Jesuit high school).  Went to college (St Peter's College) on a dramatic scholarship, even though the school had no theatre department.  It was just an extracurricular activity.

My agent submitted me for WIZARD and I got an audition and got the job.  Never did the show before.  Never worked at WBT before.  Really, really like working here.  Because the quality of the production is very high.  But, much more importantly to me, everyone has been so generous and welcoming to my 11 year old son, Brendan.  I had him with me for the first 2 weeks of August and, with the show schedule, I would never have seen him if everyone hadn't welcomed him so warmly.  He was allowed to stay backstage.  Allowed to see the show.  Given hot fudge sundaes.  Everyone has been very welcoming to both him and me.

The movie is great.  Brendan and I watched it a lot when he was younger.  We haven't watched it in a while.  But he'll be 12 in a month.  So his tastes are running to other things now.  But he saw our show 3 times in the 2 weeks that he was with me and he'll probably see it again. There are some wonderful film musicals.  

I've done many shows that I've really enjoyed.  I like playing the Wizard and doing WIZARD OF OZ because it's such a bright and positive show and I've done a lot of dark things, especially on Broadway (SWEENEY TODD, SIDESHOW, URINETOWN, GRAND HOTEL, ALL GOD'S CHILLUN' GOT WINGS - have also done comedies on Broadway, but, generally, have done some heavy and dark things).  As far as my dream role, I'd love to play Shylock again in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.  I've played it once.  But one could return to the great Shakespearean roles again and again.  They are a deep and thrilling ocean.  I've done a number of Shakespearean comedies.  But doing Iago in OTHELLO and Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE were the most challenging and thrilling experiences I've had as an actor.  Most people would think I'm too old for Iago (he claims that he's 28 - but it's he who is doing the claiming and he might be the most brazen liar in the entire dramatic canon).  But I'm a good age for Shylock and I'd love to do it again.

When I'm not acting, I guess my delights would be my son, Brendan, and spending time with him.  He was born 2 weeks before my 55th birthday.  My only child.  Being his dad has been a challenging and joyous experience, truly a treasure.  Then chess, poetry, writing.  I try to remember to devote time to prayer and try to be aware of the aspects of being that will transcend this temporal existence - try to remember that "love is patient and kind" - am not always successful.

Don't have an Ipod.  Probably wouldn't have a computer, but a friend of mine gave me one a while back.  I found it was great for e-mail and online chess.  But I'm 66 now, be 67 in October.  I didn't grow up with these technologies.  I'm sure Brendan is much more adept at computer skills than I am.

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jayson Elliott "Puts 'Em Up" as The LION

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Jayson Elliott plays The Cowardly Lion in our production of The Wizard Of Oz.

     I grew up in the Midwest (Indiana) which makes playing someone from Kansas pretty easy. Haha. I played a lot of sports when I was younger but then realized there were a lot more girls in a choir room than there were in a locker room. Haha.

My high school theatre and music teachers were big influences. They took us to see many different forms of art that really opened my eyes to other things.

The Wizard of Oz was always one of my favorites! This is the second time I've been fortunate enough to play the lion. I just hope I'm doing justice to one of the most iconic characters of Americana! This is my fourth show at WBT. It's all about the staff. Casts come and go, but stage management, the crew, The Producer, Lisa, The Owners, Bill & Bob, front of house, everyone, each class acts!  And when you throw our Director, Richard Stafford, into the mix, that doesn't hurt either!

It's rough to recreate such a timeless masterpiece. But I think Richard Stafford (Director) and Jonathan Stahl (Choreographer) have done a wonderful job of paying homage to one of the most recognizable films of all time!

My favorite show is The Full Monty. It was also the first show that I did here at WBT and when I got my AEA card. Also, being a musician, I enjoy the "guitar" musicals. I've been doing a lot of The Buddy Holly Story lately playing the Big Bopper (over 400 times!)

When not on stage, I enjoy golf, music, and planning my wedding to the beautiful and WBT favorite actress, Karen Webb!

What's on my Ipod? Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, Zac Brown, Sturgill Simpson, and of course,  Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens. 

 

 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tim Dolan Has The Brains!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:15:00 pm Comments (1)

A Chat with Tim Dolan... Our scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ!

 I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. I have the best parents a kid could ask for! I am the youngest of three boys. Almost everyone in my family is involved in the family business: Dolan Optical. I opted to move to New York when I was 18 years old to pursue Musical Theatre and thus far it's worked out nicely! 
 
In second grade I took a field trip over to the High School across the street to see a student matinee of The Sound of Music. From that moment on I was utterly enthralled. It was a very exciting moment to then perform on that stage when I reached high school! My love of musical theatre was always nurtured by my Grandma Pendy as well. Every month I would drive to her house to go out to an Italian dinner and then take in whatever musical was playing at the theater near her house. Some of my fondest theatre memories are those moments spent with her on those outings. 

My first large-scale exposure to The Wizard of Oz was through my Grandma Dolan in 1995. She had heard at her local hair salon that a big national tour of The Wizard of Oz was coming to Detroit's Fox Theater. She drove downtown and purchased two tickets in the tenth row of the Orchestra section of seating. I had never seen anything so technically wonderful in all my life! The show starred a young Jessica Grove, Eartha Kitt and Mickey Rooney and was unbelievable! In college one of my dance instructors was actually the Scarecrow in that production so it was special to train with him. And to top it all off: Bill Berloni, who trained Nigel and Snickers for our production, worked on that production too! I had a wonderful conversation with him about that in rehearsals for this production of The Wizard of Oz! It was a very "full-circle" moment for me.
 
I actually played the Scarecrow in a production about seven years ago so those somersaults are a little harder these days!! I had forgotten how much an endurance challenge it is to flop around the stage for two and a half hours each night as the Scarecrow but I wouldn't trade it for anything! It's a blast! 
 
I was previously in Singin' In The Rain at WBT three years ago. I really like the fact that you can still live at home while performing at the theatre each week. I also love that they get truly wonderful talent to perform alongside from NYC. Each production at WBT is unique and wonderful and a pleasure to be a part of! 
 
I know the movie very well! It is one of my favorites! I think that it's hard to recreate the same magic on film as onstage. I believe that you have to honor the essence of a show in either medium but have to have very different "takes" or ideas to make each medium successful. You will never be able to recreate the exact magic of The Wizard of Oz film with all of those iconic performances. What I try to do each night is bring my own ideas of what Scarecrow is while still honoring Ray Bolger's original performance. 
 
My favorite shows: Little Shop of Horrors, Rent, Parade and Into The Woods. My dream role when I moved to NYC was playing Abraham in Altar Boyz and I was lucky to do that on the national tour and in the off-Broadway production in 2009. It was truly a dream come true! 
 
When I'm not onstage I divide my time between teaching and running my own business. I teach for Rosie O'Donnell's Theater Kids and Dreammakers Performing Arts in the Bronx. Both schools are near and dear to my heart and I love working and teaching the future generations of musical theater performers. My business is called Broadway Up Close Walking Tours. We offer walking tours of the Broadway theatre district exploring the ghost stories, anecdotes and legends that have made Broadway such a destination for millions over the past 100 years. I started it four years ago and have now grown from a staff of one (myself!) to a staff of 12 tour guides! We are currently the third highest rated walking tour in NYC out of 500 on TripAdvisor.com and I couldn't be happier with its success! You can visit www.BroadwayUpClose.com for more details and to book a tour! 
 
I don't have an iPod...does that make me old?! I don't actually listen to that much music outside of performing. I should work on that! 

 

Chris Kind Is A Hearty TinMan!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 12:00:00 pm Comments (1)

Chris Kind plays The Tinman in our production Of The Wizard Of Oz..

      

I grew up in Mankato MN.  I did my first show there, A Christmas Carol, at age 12 during which I met my wife.  Both of our parents met each other during shows as well, so I was surrounded by theatre people from the start.  

 

My dad and his four brothers are all theatre folk.  There was no escaping it.  Holidays are always entertaining and loud.

 

I've been lucky enough to play the Tinman three times now.  This is my first theatrical hat trick!  This is my first show at WBT but I hope to come back an annoying amount of times!

 

I love the evolution from the books to the movie and then to the stage.  The little pieces that have been added by everyone who touched it have resulted in a phenomenal show.

 

Some of My favorite shows are; Evil Dead the Musical, Urinetown, Litte Shop Of Horrors.  I have a dark sense of humor.  I got to play Ash in Evil Dead and it's the most fun I've ever had in my life.

 

 

When I'm not on stage I design theatrical posters (performingpixel.com) and have my own line of miniatures for a strategy game.  Nerd alert!

 

My DROID is full of Tenacious D, The Electric 6, The Eagles of Death Metal and The Protomen. The last is a group that does rock operas about the video game character Mega Man.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meet Devon Perry (Dorothy)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (3)

Devon Perry, who plays our Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz.... answers some of our questions....     

 I am from Pickerington, Ohio - a suburb of Columbus. I was singing as soon as I could talk, dancing as soon as I could walk. I used to give my own performances in my living room, dressed in my favorite pink tutu.

 I actually was training to become a ballerina throughout my childhood. I did theatre as well, but my main passion was ballet. After a serious injury that left me unable to dance anymore, my mom suggested I go to Interlochen Arts Camp for musical theatre and my life changed forever. I had found a new passion.

I've known  The Wizard of Oz since a very young age - I've always been in love with the film. I love the Golden Age movie musicals. The first time I was in the show, I was 11 and I was a munchkin. Several years later, I played Dorothy. This is one of my favorite shows, and I am so honored to be doing it again at Westchester Broadway Theatre.

My favorite show isSouth Pacific - someday I'd really love to play Nellie. I think the score is extraordinary.

When I'm not onstage, I enjoy making music - I've played piano for 15 years. I also love yoga and nature and playing with Nigel and Snickers (our Totos).

There's quite a wide range of stuff on my iPod. I love music, and I'm exploring new stuff constantly. Lately, I've been into Laura Mvula - check her out!

Devon Perry (as Dorothy) with Nigel (as Toto.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meet Nicole Tori (The Wicked Witch!)

Posted by: PIa Haas on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

We asked Nicole Tori, who plays Miss Gulch and The Wicked Witch of the West, to give us some insights into what drives her as an actress/singer.. She is pictured below with her flying Monkeys!

 I grew up in suffolk County Long Island and am the daughter of two extremely hard working parents. My childhood left little to be desired with extended family less than a mile away, the ocean ten minutes away and the city only one hour away. Life consisted of Sunday family dinners, church gatherings, youth group, and lots and lots of singing. At nine years old my mother's parents came to live with us. Grandpa and mom sang harmonies innately and grandpa played piano and guitar by ear. My aunt was an untrained opera singer and my cousin, her daughter, was my very first voice teacher. As a child I spent weekends cleaning my room while listening to Barbra Streisand. I frequently sang pop music at church and at twelve years old began studying classical voice. When I wasn't doing homework or singing, you could find me shopping at the mall, swimming in the ocean or playing hide and seek at family picnics.

I never really set out to become an actor until later in life. My passion was always singing but I was always too embarrassed to perform in front of people. I never really liked the lime light. I did, however, love watching the Lawrence Welk Show, the Osmonds, the Muppets and the Patridge family, as well as movie musicals. After many years of studying classical voice and pursuing an opera career, I decided to try my hand at musical theatre and fell in love with the experience. Sondheim certainly played a big part in this falling as his works are very operatic in style but after performing other works by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Schwartz and Menken, I knew theatre was for me. Four years ago I was offered a small role with a regional company which allowed me to join Actors Equity. I've not looked back since.

"The Wizard of Oz" is one of those movie musicals I spoke of earlier. As a child, I watched it all the time. I would practice the munchkins' voices, making sure each was distinguishable from one the next. I, of course, would practice speaking like Margaret Hamilton's portrayal of Ms. Gulch and the Wicked Witch. Oddly enough, I never was interested in Dorothy, just her song "Over the Rainbow." I guess I was more fascinated with sound and inflection rather than a good or bad character. Somehow, I just knew I wasn't Dorothy, but the Wicked Witch and Ms. Gulch's musical motifs resonated with me. I have a strong musical connection to both villains, which is odd because neither sings in this production. Now, that I've been given the opportunity to play this iconic role, I feel called to go beyond her theme music. I must go into her head and heart. I actually do believe she has a heart, just not a very nice one. She's broken and bitter. Making these connections allows me to explore her motives and her desires for the infamous ruby slippers.

This is my first experience working for WBT and it has been incredible. The family atmosphere and sincerity I've received from producers, directors, stage managers, crew and actors has been awesome.
I love movie musicals. The medium is a great tool to introduce people to the art form. It was one of the initial opportunities I had to get to know and love the classics. That's not to say though that movies should be the primary way for people to experience the form. There's really nothing in the world like seeing and hearing live theatre. Each performance takes on its own life, its own rhythm and if you're fortunate enough to see the same show several times, you can walk away having learned and experienced something or someone in a new way. It's human and flawed and that's what makes it magical.

I'm a huge Stephen Sondheim fan and I adore classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals but I really appreciate contemporary musicals as well and since I'm not a dancer, I really love the dance numbers of a show. My very first Broadway show was "42nd Street". The clicks and tricks just blew me away. So you can imagine how I feel when I get to watch my cast mates dance the Jitterbug. As for dream roles, I'd love to play Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd" some day as well as Nettie Fowler in "Carousel," Gooch in "Mame,", and Carlotta in "The Phantom of the Opera."

I really love exploring. One of my favorite things to do is to drive or walk around without a destination in mind. I just love finding new places and meeting new people. Even though NYC is a huge part of my life, I thrive in the country. A little farm cottage with nearby antique stores, trails, and water sports would do me just fine.

On my Ipod? I have no idea. I actually sit in silence a lot and I still adore old fashioned radio. There's nothing like not knowing what's coming on the radio next. It's kind of like the time when people would call your house phone and you didn't know who it was. The element of surprise. I guess that's why theatre is so magical. It helps our instant gratification, always in the know society just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chris Guzman awarded Bob Fitzsimmons Memorial Scholarship

Posted by: pia haas on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

  The  Bob Fitzsimmons Memorial Scholarship is given annually to a college-bound senior who has excelled in the theatre arts programs while attending Stepinac High School. The prestigious Arts Scholarship is named after Bob Fitzsimmons, a graduate of Stepinac High School, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March of 1992. He was the Public Relations Director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as a gifted actor, producer, writer and a director of shows at WBT and at numerous theatres throughout the County. 

This year's recipient, of the Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship is Christopher Guzman, a 2014 graduate of Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. 

His love for the theater began at the tender age of 7 when he attended theater summer camp at the Westchester Music Conservatory and later at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.  However, it was at Stepinac where he blossomed as an actor and realized he wanted to pursue acting as a career. 

Christopher Guzman's name has become synonymous with Stepinac theatre since his freshman year. He started off his tenure in the program by playing Rudolfo in Miller's A View From the Bridge. (Talk about commitment - He even dyed his hair blonde!) He then went on to portray Monsieur Darque in Beauty and the Beast. In his sophomore year, he earned his first Metropolitan Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor as Raoul in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Chris continued his theatrical journey by playing Scrooge in Stepinac's first ever fall musical - Alan Menken's A Christmas Carol and then followed that with his second Metropolitan Award - this time for Best Actor in a leading role as Che in Evita. His senior year marked a foray into classical drama as Dr. Stockman in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People and his final show as a member of the Stepinac Drama Club was Mary Poppins. His portrayal of George Banks earned him a Metropolitan Award nomination as well. This summer, Chris, now an alumnus, joined the Stepinac Alumni theatre and portrayed Young Ben in Follies

His dedication has not only been reflected on stage but in the classroom, where he also excelled graduating at the top 5% of his class with a GPA of 95.2, which earned him numerous merit awards including the prestigious Order of the Crusaders  medal for his dedication and to the school.  Chris will enter NYU's Tisch School of Arts in the fall. 

Chris most definitely continues in the Bob Fitzsimmons' tradition of theatre.His prodigious talent is matched by his huge heart and generosity of spirit.  So, we are pleased to present the Bob Fitzsimmons' Memorial Scholarship to Christopher Guzman.

          

  A view From The Bridge                                     Evita                                      Phantom Of The Opera

 

 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Show Must Go On-- for 40 Years!

Posted by: pia on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Forty years ago, on July 9th, 1974, Bob Funking and Bill Stutler brought dinner theater to an office park in Elmsford, NY.

  When they opened, the theatre was then known as "An Evening Dinner Theatre", and Kiss Me, Kate was their first production. At the time, there were 94 professional dinner theaters in the U.S. Although this number has since decreased drastically, according to Bill Stutler.

“An Evening Dinner Theatre” was renamed “Westchester Broadway Theatre” when it moved locations down the street to a specially designed new venue in 1991. The reason for the move was the need for a bigger facility and added state-of-the-art technologies. 

The Westchester Broadway Theatre is still a huge success, keeping audiences entertained for 40 years now.

Both Funking and Stutler claim that they designed the theater to be as comfortable as possible. “The way we looked at it was that people are going to be here for five hours, from dinner through the end of the show,” Funking says, “So every seat faces the stage and the seating is comfortable.”

The theatre's location is also very important to its success: Being close to New York City has a positive impact on the Westchester Broadway Theatre, since the theatre can audition and rehearse in Manhattan and draw performers from Actor's Equity and Musicians from the NY Musician's union.

In the early years, the schedule alternated between musicals and comedies, but soon, the producers decided to switch to doing only musicals which were more popular.

When it is suggested that two guys who have been at it for 40 years would know exactly what Westchester audiences want, the guys in question laugh out loud. “We like to think that we know what they want, but, we are always surprised! There is no sure way to gauge the popularity of a production beforehand!”

The biggest surprise was the production of Phantom by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit, “it was a smash hit and ran at WBT for nine months in our second year at the new theatre!”

“The runs used to be longer by design”, Funking says, “When we closed the old theater in 1991, the last show there, Me and My Girl, ran for 26 weeks, half a year. The show before that, Anything Goes, for 22 weeks. The show before that, Camelot, for 20 weeks and 42nd Street, 23 weeks.” he says.

The runs today average between 6 and 14 weeks. They repeat favorite shows about every 10 years.

Westchester Broadway Theatre has been a starting ground for dozens of stars who went on to Broadway, TV and films, including: John Lloyd Young (Original Jersey Boys and the new movie); Will Swenson (Hair, Les Miserables); Carolee Carmello (Mamma Mia!); Scott Bakula (NCIS New Orleans, Quantum Leap  ); Randy Graff (City of Angels); Estelle Harris (Seinfeld); Bob Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde, Spiderman); Faith Prince (Guys & Dolls) and Suzyn Waldman, now a radio voice for the New York Yankees.

Directors and choreographers of note also got early work in Elmsford. Bill Stutler reminds us that “Rob Marshall directed here before going on to direct the Oscar-winning Chicago, and his sister, Kathleen Marshall, performed here and assisted Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie) when he directed A Chorus Line here.” Susan Stroman choreographed Gypsy and Sugar Babies here before racking up Tonys for The Producers, Contact, Show Boat, Crazy for You and Oklahoma!

Over the years, many memorable moments have happened at the the theatre, especially during performance. Funking had a story to share:

“During a performance of Christmas Inn, an actress sat down on a sheet-covered chair and also, inadvertently, sat on the house cat, Charlie. She jumped up and the cat let out a piercing shriek,” Funking says with a laugh. “But the funny part was that the cat got down and was completely indignant. He got down and gave her a look and then paraded off slowly. And people asked us how we trained the cat to do that, because he didn’t run off. He slowly strode off. He never went on the stage again.”

Other mishaps involving animals have occurred during WBT productions: During intermission of a performance of Annie, the dog in the role of Sandy went outside and was sprayed by a skunk! Funking and Stutler recall having to inform the audience that unfortunately, Sandy would not be appearing in the show's second act.

When asked what advice could they give to people who aspire to enter the theater business, Funking replied:

“Stay Out! But I’ll tell you why; when we started there were 99 Equity dinner theaters in the US. Now there are probably 6. So it is incredibly difficult.”

Stutler said, “The biggest reason why they failed was because they were built by people and not managed well by them. The one thing that, I’m convinced, is why we are still here, is the way the architect built the theatre. She designed tables with no legs under them, she said the lighting should not be overhead and that every seat should be facing the stage, so no head would block you. In the space that we utilize here, we could fit in a hundred more seats, but, if we did that, we would be out of business.” By utilizing the space in the best way possible, the Westchester Broadway Theatre has been a huge success for forty years.

“Look at how many restaurants are failing in the US, and then you add theatre, which is its own high interest business, and an expensive business, because it’s all people.  The fact that we have lasted this long is remarkable even to us.” Funking adds. 

Bill and Bob agree that the Westchester Broadway Theatre has changed their lives,

"Changed our lives? It has dominated our lives!" says Bill, "It has taught us how to operate without having other people tell us what to do. The decisions are made here by Bob and I, which changes your life a lot.”

Bob added: “There is also a freedom to it...I think what Bill is saying is that the change in our lives is that it put us in charge of our lives. “

Monday, June 2, 2014

Meet the Banks Children! (Jane Shearin and Gabriel Reis)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 We spoke to Jane Shearin and Gabriel Reis, who alternate with Michelle Moughan and Brandon Singel, as Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins at Westchester Broadway Theatre. We asked them to share a little bit about their off-stage lives:

 

Jane: I go to school at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, CT, where I’m finishing up 6th grade. I would say my favorite subject would be math. . . I just love math. I am involved in the arts at my school, I’m in chorus and an extra chorus program called concert choir. I also participate in my school musical each year.  Aside from that, I play the guitar and keyboard.

Gabriel:   I am a fifth grader in Tenafly, NJ.  My favorite subjects are math and science - and of course gym!  I play the French Horn in my school's orchestra and also sing in the chorus.  I make sure to keep up with my school work so that I can continue doing the things that I love.  My teachers are awesome and very supportive.  Sometimes I do my homework in the car ride to the theatre.  I have been performing since I was eight. 

Jane: I am 11 years old and I’m the youngest in my family. I have an older sister who’s 17 and is going to go to college next year at Cornell, and a 20 year old brother who will be a junior at NYU. My brother did musicals from 7th-12th grade but stopped when going off to college. When I’m with my family I like to have family meals, and play games like badminton and tetherball in our backyard. We’re all very busy so it’s really special to have some family time. I have a very sweet 12 year old Dalmatian named Allie who I love very much. In our backyard we have a barn where we have two horses named Phoenix and Dillon. We also have a chicken coop with 13 chickens and we'll be getting 6 more soon. We have a stand in our front yard where we sell their eggs. 

Gabriel: I am an only child.  I like having family BBQs in my back yard.  We have a pool and big area for playing whiffle ball and basketball.  I also like going fishing with my dad and ice skating with my mom.   I really want a dog but my parents both work and we are not home enough to take care of a pet.  However, I do have a betta fish - requires very little care.  I have had it for a year already.

Jane: I had seen the movie version of Mary Poppins prior to being in the show, and I had also seen Saving Mr. Banks, but I had never read the book or seen the musical. I've fallen in love with the musical though! 

Gabriel: I saw Mary Poppins on Broadway and wanted to audition for it, but it closed.  I am so happy to be playing the role of Michael Banks at WBT!  Some of my other favorite shows are Beauty and the Beast and Lion King.  

Jane: When I’m not performing, I’m usually reading, singing, dancing, or playing soccer. I’m on a travel soccer team and sometimes I practice in my front yard. I take jazz and tap classes, so I do dance a lot, and singing is just something that I can’t stop doing. My first show was when I was 6 and I was a poodle/Dalmatian in 101 Dalmatians. I've continued performing ever since then and I love what I’m doing. 

Gabriel: When I'm not performing, I like to play a lot of sports, including hockey and tennis.  I also play on the fall and spring travel soccer team and the summer travel baseball team.  

Jane: The music on my iPod is 100% show tunes from many musicals. I’d say Frozen is my favorite movie. Currently, my favorite musicals are Wicked, Newsies, Matilda, and Legally Blonde.

Gabriel: My iPod is filled with theatrical songs and oldies from the 70s and 80s, as well as songs from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, et al.  My favorite song right now is Can't Hold Us. One of my favorite movies is Despicable Me 2.    

JaneMy dream role?  One word. . . . Elphaba. I LOVE Idina Menzel and Wicked is my favorite musical. I love the way Elphaba’s an outsider who makes two friendships that change her life and show that she’s really a great, green person. Other than that I would say Elsa from Frozen because both she and Elphaba aren't afraid to be themselves. . . and they’re both portrayed by Idina.

My best friend and I have this dream that we’re going to be in Wicked together and continue our friendship on the stage. If I don’t make it to Broadway, I’d like to be in a TV series or movie but really. . . Broadway is where I want to be. 

Gabriel: A role that I'd really like to play in the future is Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. 

Meet The Banks Children! (Brandon Singel and Michelle Moughan)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 We interviewed the talented Children Brandon Singel and Michelle Moughan who portray Michael and Jane Banks (alternating with Gabriel Reis and Jane Shearin) in Mary Poppins at WBT. We asked them to share something about their offstage lives: 

 

Brandon: I go to LMK  school in Harrison.  My favorite subject is Science.  I am in the 6th grade.  I am in the Glee Club in my school.

Michelle: I go to school at a K - 8 school in Upstate NY, and my favorite subject is probably...math. I actually learned how to recite a little over fifty digits of the number pi ! I am also involved in the arts at my school. I play the violin and I am in the chorus. We just recently had our annual spring concert and art show, which I sang and played my instrument in.

Brandon: My family is very fun and enthusiastic.  I do not have any brothers or sisters.  

Michelle: I have two younger brothers, Mikey,10 and Max, 9 yrs.old. Mikey plays the trumpet, is a really good chess player, and is into sports like my dad. Max started taking an interest in theatre (my mom is a total theatre buff) and is the comedian of the family.  I like to go to the local pool in the summer with my brothers and to my uncle's house in Vermont where we go fishing. Of course, we all love to go to the theatre and whenever we're in New York City, we go to our favorite place to eat: Shake Shack!

Brandon: I have only seen Mary Poppins, the movie, but that was when I was in pre-school.

Michelle: I actually saw Mary Poppins on Broadway right before it closed, and I loved the show! When I saw that WBT was doing it, I just had to audition!

Brandon: Whenever I have free time, either before or after a show, I try to finish up any homework or school work that I have.

Michelle: My teachers are great and give me the work that I need if I'm going to be absent, or if I have to leave early for a performance. I make sure I plan out when I can fit in my school work so I know I have enough time to get it all done. I keep my grades up and I am a member of the National Junior Honor Society, School is important.

Brandon: When I'm not performing, I like to make YouTube videos with my friend Ethan.  I also like to play Minecraft with my other friends from school.  I have been performing since the 3rd grade - I was a Newsboy in Gypsy at ACT in Yonkers.

Michelle: I have been doing ballet since I was very little, but I first became interested in theatre when I was nine years old. My music teacher suggested I audition for a local musical and I was cast in a role. I have been loving performing ever since!  I especially like to dance, and I do Tap, Ballet, Theatre Dance, and Hip Hop!  Whenever I am not performing, I am involved in different clubs at school, like Mathletes, and Poetry Club and I am on the Debate team. I have participated in many spelling bees, and advanced to the New York State Scripps Spelling Bee Finals  2 years in a row. I also enjoy knitting and crocheting.

Brandon: I have 3 things in mind of what I want to be when I grow up:  a film maker, a science teacher or a video game designer.

Michelle: In the future, I want to keep acting and performing. I also have an ambition to maybe be a fashion designer when I grow up. I have a book full of designs for cool new outfits I thought of.

Brandon: I used to have a cat named Romeo, but he died in December of 2012.  If I could have any pet, I'd probably get a dog because they're playful and they are great to bond with.

Michelle: I don't have a pet, but my dream pet is definitely a Pug! I love their little wrinkly faces, they're just too cute! If I ever had a dog, that would be my first choice.

Michelle: My iPod is full of show tunes from many musicals, and one of my favorite singers is Sutton Foster!

Brandon: We have a whole-house sound system, so I don't have or need an iPod for music.  

Michelle: One of my all-time favorite movies is "Paul Blart, Mall Cop". Every time I see it, it never gets old. My favorite shows on Broadway right now are Matilda, Newsies and Violet  the Musical. There are so many good musicals, I can't choose my favorite one!

Brandon: If I could play any role, I would want to play the Artful Dodger in OLIVER, because on the inside he's a dark, mysterious guy, part of a pick-pocketing group, but on the outside he's just a fun person to be around!

Michelle: My dream role was actually Jane Banks ever since I saw it on Broadway. I hoped that there would be auditions for the role, but then I found out it was closing. I hoped that there would be another theatre doing "Mary Poppins" so I could audition for Jane, and sure enough, here it was! When I'm older, I think the role Eliza Doolittle would be really fun. I just love classic shows like My Fair Lady! I have to admit, one of my other favorite roles is actually Mary Poppins! That's definitely another one I would love to play!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mrs. Banks (Leisa Mathers) tells all!

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I was what my parents fondly termed the 'oops' baby. My 2 sisters and brother are substantially older than me (the eldest being 14 years older) so despite having siblings I sort of grew up like an only child. 

The city of Melbourne is situated around a very large bay and while the urban areas do spread inland a good portion of it is around the coastal bayside areas. So not long after I was born my parents achieved a life long dream of living by the sea. So, for me, I was lucky enough to grow up only a 10 minute bike ride from the beach. Consequently my love for surf, sun and sand has never  left me.

Growing up, my Father was the Art Director of a large advertising agency. From even before I can remember I was doing print ads and commercials and continued to do so through my teens. My parents saw it as a great way to build a college fund.

When I was growing up, every Sunday each member of the family was allowed to play some music of their choice. And because of the large age gaps in my family the music ranged from Mozart to Nat King Cole to Pink Floyd to Abba. So, I've got it all on my iPod. Cosi Fan Tutte, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Sting, Green Day, Pink and Pharrell Williams, to mention just a few.

  Leisa Mather (R) as Mrs. Banks with Jan Neuberger & Brandon Singel.

 Also, being a painfully shy child at around the age of 12 my parents enrolled me in a youth theater program at a large drama school. I took to it like the proverbial duck to water and loved discovering that I could mask my shyness by creating wonderful characters. 

Once I was in High School, I did all the school musicals and developed a close relationship with my music teacher Mrs. Batour. I will always remember after doing a production of The Boyfriend in which I played Maisie, she came up to me and said "Have you ever thought about performing as a career? Because I think you've got what it takes."

The first time I heard of Mary Poppins is from the wonderful Disney film version starring Julie Andrews. I thought she was perfect instead of merely practically perfect.I am very familiar with the movie. The musical takes more of the path of the books which are a little darker in context. 

I think theater is still finding its' way with turning movies into musicals. I think sometimes they are incredible and then other times not. The ones that aren't so successful tend to get carried away with the visuals and the music and forget about the story. I think what makes theater great is the journey the story of a show takes us on. So it needs to take precedence and be strong.

Some of my favorite shows are Ragtime, Anything Goes, On The Twentieth Century, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sweeney Todd. Two of my dream roles would be Mama Rose in Gypsy and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.  

I consider myself to be very fortunate having done 4 previous shows at WBT. Beauty and The Beast, Legally Blonde, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Sound of MusicWhat I love most about working at WBT is that it has become like family. It always welcomes me with open arms every time I come back. Everyone, from crew, to office, to management. I always have a wonderful time.

  As Miss Finley w/ Peter Marinos in Miracle On 34th Sreet

 

 

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meet Jan Neuberger As The Deliciously Evil Miss Andrew

Posted by: pia on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)
I grew up in New Jersey, about 20 minutes West of the George Washington Bridge. It was a nice suburban bedroom community--in my day, no doors locked and we were outside playing practically from dawn to dusk. I was lucky I got an excellent public school education from great schools. I started dance classes at 4 years old in the basement of a local ex-ballerina. My parents divorced & My father lived in NYC, so  I spent lots of time there from a young age. I also started studying there at 16 with a theatre workshop for students. I moved there at 18 to spend 2 years as a Dance Major at NYU, lived there for the next 25 years! 
 
Playing the role of a villain is great fun. Several years ago I played the Wicked Witch of the West at St. Louis MUNY. I also flew in that role too, of course! Miss Andrew is a distant cousin, more refined and not green, but a family member. It is a delight sharing the stage with our Janes and Michaels and of course the 'practically perfect' Lauren Blackman.
 
Acting is Bred in the Bone i think. In my first dance recital I helped myself to an extra curtain call. With the brief exception of a period at around age 9 where I wanted to be what was then called an airline stewardess, I never wanted to do anything else with my life. (From my advanced vantage point today, I can imagine having taken several different paths--ah, hindsight.) I was very, very lucky to have been cast in the first revival of GYPSY at age 21. And was lucky to have had the extraordinary Angela Lansbury as the template for every positive characteristic a real star and a true professional should be--a genuine, classy lady who never let the audience see the sweat behind turning in that performance as Rose 8 times a week. I understudied Dainty June and went on the first time near the end of the preview period in L.A.; Angela had Corinne, her dresser, bring flowers from the dressing room before the show began. Then she made a beeline for me after the curtain call to say, "You've done us a great service tonight. Thank you." I'll never forget it. 
 
  Jan as Miss Andrew  with  Michelle Moughan &  Brandon Singel (Jane & Michael Banks)
 
 
 Of course I loved the movie as a kid. I saw the Broadway production early in its run. Ruth Gotschall, who played Miss Andrew beautifully, remains a standout from that evening, but I remember thinking, Oh my, that's much too much vocal exercise for the likes of me! 
 
SHOWBOAT remains a warm memory--my first at An Evening, starring Ed Herlihy! I played Ellie opposite Bill Nabel as Frank--later introduced Bill to my sister Susan and he's been my brother in law for ...well, for a long time--and father to my beloved niece and nephew. I also got engaged to my first husband during that run! I remember it being a lovely production with magnificent voices top to bottom, and I so fondly and respectfully remember Alyce Webb, who played Queenie. She was so loving-- I had then only the faintest inkling what she must have faced in the way of racial barriers during her lifetime. Another person I'll never forget.
After that I replaced the lead (the Judy Garland role) in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, directed by Richard Casper who left us too soon. I Did a Christmas show one year, too, and the last production I did was a GEORGE M! with Frank Root that was running in 1986. And then I guess I got busy elsewhere--this is my first show at the "new" theatre!   
 
I don't have a strong opinion, although in a perfect world there would be more Musicals made from Original ideas. From Mary Poppins the movie, I most fondly remember Ed Wynn and "I Love to Laugh".
 
I Still love SHOWBOAT. I love the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, especially CAROUSEL. In recent years (mainly because I don't live in NY anymore and spent 4 years getting my degree at Trinity College in Hartford), I've seen very little. Actually, I saw KINKY BOOTS back in January and had an unexpectedly wonderful time. My dream roles these days are all in plays...I'm a little weary of musicals, truth be told. 
 
When I'm not on stage I love writing (got my degree in English/Creative Writing), reading, working outdoors in the backyard and beautiful gardens my husband Bob Carter created at our home in Newtown, spending time with family & friends (especially my 3 best friends who all go back to my earliest days in NY), my 2 cats, etc. 
 
 
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About Joe Dellger who plays Mr. Banks!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I'm a Midwestern boy. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. I was the fourth of eight kids! Six boys and two girls. Not the worst place in the line but probably not the best either. I'm a "Cheese Head" and my home town is known for producing huge amounts of cheese! It still does. It's the home of Sargento, Sartori, Borden, and a lot of other cheese companies as well. It was the cheese "capital" of Wisconsin, and when I grew up, some said the country. We had a self-congratulatory parade every summer called "The Cheese Derby Day Parade".

My family wasn't in the cheese business. They were plumbers, and continue to be four generations later. Crime there was non-existent and we never had to lock our doors at night. In fact, I never saw keys to our house. I don't think they existed. Everyone but one sister and I are still back there. I always liked singing, and got that love from my mother, who sang with a dance band just before WWII and for a while after it started. Her piano player went into the air force but 50 years later, after my father passed, called her up and they started a late-life romance that ended when he passed as well.

I sang around the neighborhood and sometimes mothers of my friends would ask me to sing songs for them on their porches or in their driveways and I would! I got into the school musical when I was a freshman in high school and all the subsequent years at Plymouth High. I was also in the Mixed Chorus and Swing Choir in those years. I used to sneak into the auditorium during study halls and sit on the stage in the dark and dream about performing. By then, I knew I wanted to be either in music of theater. As it turned out, theater was how it went. My high school music and English teachers were very influential to me. The two of them handled all the musicals. After I spent a summer in the Kids From Wisconsin, an elite musical troop of singers and musicians that were similar to Up With People and did very red, white and blue shows. My acting teacher at the University of Washington was also very influential.

I never saw the Broadway production of Mary Poppins, but I had seen the movie a long time ago. I was surprised to open the script when I got it and saw how large a role George Banks is. About 10 years ago, I did Footloose at the WBT and had a lot of fun. I played the Rev. Shaw. which was another good role where the character changes a lot through the course of the show, just like George.

What I like about WBT is that they do longer runs than most regional theaters anymore. For actors, getting those work weeks is so important to qualifying for insurance. Bill (Stutler) and Bob (Funking) are also really nice guys and I give them and Lisa so much credit for keeping the theater going through the ups an downs of our roller coaster economy.   

 I'm not sure if I have any dream roles, oddly enough.  I used to want to do Romeo but that was a long time ago, and I obviously won't be doing that!  
 
When I'm not acting - and even when I am - I enjoy oil painting and woodworking.   I like a pretty wide variety of music.  I probably listen to Jazz, Swing the most but I like classic rock and roll, Irish music, Sting, Don Henley, and  Meditation music.  

 
Joe Dellger as Mr. Banks, with The Banks Family.

Monday, May 19, 2014

About Karen Murphy who plays Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 19, 2014 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 Uggams, Phyllis 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 also have a cousin who is a nun and she's a great influence for this role. 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 have toured with the 2nd National Tour  of Mary Poppins which closed last June 2nd in Anchorage.

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, I get every Monday and Tuesday off and I love working with Lisa Tiso!  My favorite shows are Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, The King And I, Company, The Sound Of Music, and Carousel. My dream roles are Rose in Gypsy and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

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.

My Ipod has a wide mix. Mostly Aretha Franklin,The Beatles, classic R and B, Neil Sedaka, Whitney Houston, and Barbra Streisand.

 Karen Murphy (as Mrs. Brill) in Mary Poppins. With Joe Dellger.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Leo Ash Evens "Steps In Time" as Bert!

Posted by: pia haas on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 2:00:00 pm Comments (0)

 I Grew up in Pittsburgh, PA.  Loved it there.  Great city for the arts.  My grandparents always took us to the theatre as a young kid, and I quickly knew it was what I want to do as a career.  My parents love the arts as well and have always been supportive of my profession.  I ended up attending Carnegie Mellon University for musical theatre which was only a half hour from home!  So once I graduated, I was hungry to exit Pittsburgh and head to the big apple!

I grew up watching the movie ANNIE all the time with my cousins. Carol Burnett was a huge influence.  Her comedy chops amazed me.  So I was always a big fan.  My mom bought me the entire Carol Burnett Show DVD set so I have every episode.  I really want to meet her.   Two other huge mentors are my parents.  I look up to their values and balance that they live their lives with.  Very inspiring.  I'm fortunate to have them. 
 
I certainly LOVED the movie as a kid, and wanted to be Dick Van Dyke badly.  He was effortless in his choices and had great charm.  I've always loved watching the song and dance man.  Loved him in BYE BYE BIRDIE as well.   So certainly when the show became a Broadway musical years ago, it was on my list of roles to play.  I'm thrilled to be doing it!  First time!

I love that so many musicals are being turned into films.  Musical Theatre is popular.  Very mainstream again.  Its exciting to be active in the business during such an embracing time of the arts. 
I've had the joy of playing the Emcee in CABARET  twice.  Certainly once of my favorties to date. Love  WEST SIDE STORY.  I've played Riff multiple times and have a lot of Jerome Robbins in my past.  Future roles I'd love to play...Leo Frank in PARADE, Frank 'n Furter in ROCKY HORROR, Bobby in CRAZY FOR YOU, and George in ALL MY SONS.  (to name a few ;)
 
I love to coach.  I am the Assistant Director of MTCA: Music Theatre College Auditions.   Its a team that preps high school students who are auditioning for BFA and BA undergraduate and graduate musical theatre and acting programs.  I am also one of the monologue coaches on the team.  Its very fulfilling to work with students during such a competitive time in their lives.  The coaching makes me a stronger actor, and the acting makes me a stronger coach. 
On my Ipod? Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Rait, Ben Folds, Pop/Dance mix that I create! ;)