Stories & Cast Interviews
Celeste Hudson as Grace Farrell in Annie
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 A 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!
Denise Simon, Author of “Parenting In The Spotlight” at WBT
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.
Meet John Charles Kelly as FDR in ANNIE!
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!
Meet Peyton Ella As ANNIE
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.