Stories & Cast Interviews

Monday, August 20, 2018

Matthew Billman is The Phantom

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, August 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Matthew will take the stage as The Phantom in Yeston & Kopit's Phantom starting September 13th, 2018.

  Matthew Billman has been acclaimed nationwide as a classical crossover artist, musical theatre performer, and popular entertainer. Matthew places his deep passion for musical eclecticism and the creative process at the forefront of his art – one past example is "Singed," a fully improvised three-act opera Matthew performed with the OperaWorks Advanced Artist Program in Los Angeles. 

Current projects include the Creator Collective Songwriting Project, in which emerging artists are paired to collaboratively write and produce new original music, and the associated upcoming YouTube series “81st Street Sessions.” Matthew is also the co-founder and onetime music director of improvisational a cappella group Voices in Flow, and currently leads workshops in the city teaching the group's unique improvisational music making techniques.

In the realm of contemporary musical theatre, Matthew took home the 2015 NATS National Championship title. Currently, he is portraying Phoebus in the Regional Premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in White Plains, NY. Recent roles of note include Che (Evita), Phantom (Phantom of the Opera), and Jean Valjean (Les Misérables).

In the summer of 2016, Matthew initiated an a cappella precursor to the Creator Collective in and around Brooklyn, NY; one recording from this project recurrently featured on the NPR Politics Podcast during the 2016 election cycle.

Matthew is a trained Bioinformatician and Data Scientist graduated from Stanford University ('15) with Honors and develops predictive investment algorithms in his spare time.
He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human biology and originally planned to go to medical school. “I’ve done science and music throughout my life,” said Billman. “I loved both, they’ve both kept me sane. Science is truly a fascinating thing for me.”

He said he majored in human biology partially because extracurricular music was easier to do than extracurricular science.

 “My dream is to be a sort of musical Neil DeGrasse Tyson,” said Billman, “using my platform as an artist to teach people concepts they wouldn’t normally see. I would love to incorporate some cool aspects of science into the broader scope of performing or do a show to advocate for causes like promising stem cell research, or mental health. If the bassist for Queen can be an astrophysicist, I can do science and musical theater.”


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Phantom Composer, Maury Yeston explains how it all began!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

"PHANTOM" was written by Arthur Kopit, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston who were the Tony Award-winning collaborators for the Broadway Musi­cal "Nine".  Here is an interview conducted by Tom Polum who will direct our production which opens at WBT on 9/123/18.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Meet Mychal Phillips as Erma in Anything Goes!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, August 9, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in the small town of Lexington, NC. I am the oldest of four kids, and we all eventually got involved in the arts in some way (my poor parents...). My youngest sister, Gracie, is now an NYC based actor as well.

My mom brought me to a youth theatre production of “Annie” and I was totally enthralled. I was painfully shy (something most people would never believe about me now). When I auditioned for my first show in the 3rd grade, I was so nervous I cried in the bathroom right before I went into the audition room. I was cast as a lost boy in Peter Pan and absolutely loved every minute of it. Performing was a blast, but I think what really hooked me was the feeling of camaraderie that developed amongst the cast. The relationship you have with your fellow castmates is so special because you have created this awesome thing together! To this day, that bond with castmates is one of my favorite things about being an actor. 

My aunt took me to see the Broadway revival of Anything Goes in 2011, and I immediately fell in love with the role of Erma. My aunt said, “that’s a role you need to play one day.” I auditioned for the National Tour of “Anything Goes” in the fall of 2014, and was over the moon to get the job. I toured for eight months. In 2016, I played Erma again in productions at Gateway Playhouse on Long Island and Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. So this is my fourth time playing the role! I have so much fun with this character.

I’ve never worked at WBT before, but I’ve wanted to for a long time! I’m so happy to be making my debut with this wonderful group of people.

I love old Broadway musicals the best! I don’t have a dream role, but I like anything that makes people laugh. The funny characters are the most fun!

When not on stage, I love to travel! I’ve been throughout the US and Europe as well as parts of Asia and Africa. It’s my other love!

My husband and I love listening to our record player at home- my favs are the classics- Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, the whole gang! Nothing relaxes me more at the end of a long day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Meet Bob Walton as Elisha Whitney in Anything Goes!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Marion, Indiana. The youngest of 5. My dad was a Pediatrician, Mom was a nurse. Marion happened to be a town with a very strong Music/Theatre community I took tap from an ex-Vaudevillian and I got to study a lot of music and theory as a kid. Two of my siblings are in the arts. Brother JIM, who has worked at WBT, and who I have written several musicals with. And sister Joan is a vintage dance Teacher/Choreographer who lives in California. 

Inspiration came from watching my older siblings do Theatre, Music, Dance  That pretty much solidified my desire to pursue it.  The tree of us attended the Cincinnati Conservatory Of Music (At separate times) And our talents and skills grew considerably there. 

 I have done the show twice! - both times when I was around 18. And as so happens in youth, I don't even remember my character being in the show!! I only paid attention to the tap dancers (and the girls!) Favorite part of the show? I greatly enjoy drinking the iced tea that is in the whiskey bottle in Scene 4. 

I worked here for the first time when I replaced my brother, Jim, IN BYE, BYE, BIRDIE IN 2005 at WBT. I love being able to be home and working - I live in Riverdale, and am an avid bike rider. so, I've taken this opportunity to be a bike commuter as much as possible. Rain permitting.
With Tina Johnson (Mrs. Harcourt)

My dream roles are in the past! I greatly enjoyed playing  Bobby in  CRAZY FOR YOU, Pseudolus in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. 

I'm a writer/arranger and enjoy working on music projects, Musical Directing and hanging out with my wife and kids. My wife (Laurie) is head of Performing Arts at the Riverdale Y and both of our kids are actors. Alex and Emily. (Look for Emily's first solo CD of her original songs on iTunes: LITTLE LONGINGS. And you can find a show my brother and I wrote; MID-LIFE! (The Crisis Musical) There as well! 

I mostly listen to Jazz: OSCAR PETERSON being on top of the list, as well as Big Bands, Classical, and Classic Rock/RnB.