Stories & Cast Interviews
Spotlight on Ballroom Extravaganza Dancers Anna Trukhan and Ilia Zakharav
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.
Meet Michael Amante, The People's Tenor
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
Meet Jonathan Stahl, the Director of Happy Days
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. Newville, PA 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.
Erin McCracken Plays PATSY CLINE
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.
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.