Stories & Cast Interviews

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 (0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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