Stories & Cast Interviews

Thursday, September 24, 2015

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, 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.