Stories & Cast Interviews

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 (0)

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!

 

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!