Stories & Cast Interviews
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 Nicolas Tabio, 2017 Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship Recipient
This year's recipient, of the Bob Fitzsimmons Scholarship, is Nicolas Tabio, a senior at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, NY. It will be awarded to him on Stage at Westchester Broadway Theatre on Thursday, July 6, 2017.
Nicolas just graduated as valedictorian of his class and He's a member of the National Honor Society. He studied at Oxford University last summer to take the Politics and Economics course of the Oxford Tradition. His love for the dramatic arts led him to the stage and he starred in the Stepinac production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and had the lead role of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the production of All The Way, and directed the production of Amadeus. He co-founded Crusader Productions, an independent student-run theatre company, which put on Death of a Salesman on last summer. He is now directing its second production, This Is Our Youth. He a member of the baseball team and has been a member of the varsity hockey team for four years and was a captain this season. He will be attending Yale University next fall.
The Scholarship is given annually to a college-bound senior who has excelled in the theatre arts programs while attending Stepinac High School. The prestigious Arts Scholarship is named after Bob Fitzsimmons, a graduate of Stepinac High School, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March of 1992. He was the Public Relations Director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as a gifted actor, producer, writer and a director of shows at WBT and at numerous theatres throughout the County.
The scholarship was established in his name by the owners of Westchester Broadway Theatre, Bill Stutler and Bob Funking, the entire employee staff of WBT, and the many friends and relatives of Bob Fitzsimmons. Under the auspices of WBT, Allan Gruet, (former WBT Public Relations Director, who replaced Bobby Fitzsimmons) and George Puello spearheaded two fundraisers. The first & most successful fundraiser was held at WBT, the second was held at Stepinac High School. Mr. Puello was responsible for directing & producing the entertainment portion of the events, while Mr. Gruet handled the ticketing for the fundraisers & the continuing administration of the self-sustaining scholarship. Over the years, along with the assistance of producer Bob Funking, Allan has continued to manage the scholarship, making it possible to present the award consistently each year. In recent years, Frank Portanova, Vice Principal of Stepinac High School, has been extremely helpful and cooperative, making some financial donations to the fund to help ensure the life of the scholarship. He also is responsible for selecting the student winner for this highly competitive award. Since its inception, $25,000.00 in scholarships have been awarded. Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate, the Scholarship is no longer self-sustaining and monies need to be raised to ensure the continuation of this award. The annual scholarship in Bob's name is our collective way of keeping alive the memory of our dear friend, Bobby Fitzsimmons.
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.
Meet Sunny and Animal Director and Trainer, Bill Berloni!
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