Stories & Cast Interviews

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Meet the City Girl at heart, Gianna Yanelli as Annette in Saturday Night Fever

Posted by: Diana Villa on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 at 3:00:00 pm Comments (0)

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I like to call it the Little New York City because it has all that Manhattan offers, just less people. I grew up immersed in the city life and can happily say I'm a city girl at heart.! 

I grew up listening to Barbra Streisand and would dance around the living room putting on shows for my family. I knew I had the bug from the beginning. However, at a young age, I just wanted to be the next Britney Spears. Ha! When that dream faded, I fell in love with acting. 

 

In high school, I realized I wanted to do it as a profession when I met a man named Tony Braithwaite. His belief in my talent gave me the confidence to pursue this career. I first heard of SNF when I was performing at Theater Aspen. The artistic director was the original Stephanie on Broadway. When I got this role, I texted her immediately! It was a very cool feeling to have a connection with an original cast member. I got to pick her brain a bit. I heard of the movie way before the musical. It was one of the most innovative films of its time. It changed the cinematic game. Also, my dad would always play the Bee Gee's and he LOVES John Travolta. I mean, who doesn't?

  

I have so many favorite shows, but my ultimate is Funny Girl and Fanny Brice happens to be my dream role. Barbra Streisand is one of the reasons I decided to pursue theater. She taught my comedy and the importance of living a song, not just hitting the notes. When I'm not on stage I have two other jobs and am happy to say I love them both. I am a makeup artist and fitness trainer. Both are very fulfilling for me because they satisfy the creative part of my brain. Not only this, but I am changing people's lives while doing what I love.

If I'm not working, I love...SHOPPING. Right now I'm obsessed with home décor. I just moved into a new apartment and am daydreaming about my bedroom. I love drawing different floor plans and browsing for cute decorations. I have a variety of different tunes on my iPhone. It depends on what mood I am in that day. Lately, it has been a lot  of Walk the Moon and Nirvana. Right now as I type this, though, I am listening to Christmas Music! Love some good ol' Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra. 

 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Meet Alexandra Matteo as Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever.

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, October 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

   

I grew up in Overland Park, KS. My dad Captained oil tankers growing up so it was just me, my brother and my mom a lot of the time.  I was put in dance class because I could carpool and it got my energy and me out of the house for several hours a day. I immediately fell in love with it. I grew up always having Musicals' soundtracks play in the house and my parents were incredibly supportive of me going into the Arts. 

Like 3 days after I came home from the hospital, my parents had tickets for Les Miserables. My mom says we listened to the cast album on repeat for the first week of my life. When I started dancing it became clear this wasn't just a hobby for me. 

I transferred high schools to BVHS which was known for its theatre program. It was there that I met my mentor, Mr. Schmidt. He got me interested in acting and trusted me with some of the most challenging roles I've done. He gave me the confidence to pursue this as a career and not just a hobby. 

This is my first time at WBT and I am loving it. Everyone is so accommodating and it's clear we are all working towards the same end goal. 

I heard of the movie Saturday Night Fever  from my mother. When it first came out, she would sneak friends into the drive-in to see it. It was her favorite movie. I have had a few friends do different versions of the musical over the years, but this is my first time working on the project. 

I think movies made into stage musicals are an incredible opportunity to add a new layer to an already loved story. I think the key to making it successful is diving deeper into new layers of the characters. I had a teacher say that when words are no longer strong enough you must sing, and when that's not enough you must dance. That's why musicals like A Chorus Line are so successful - it keeps upping the stakes. Musicals from movies offer a great jumping off point as often the dialogue is strong and gives freedom to explore the inner workings of each character. 

It sounds corny, but my dream role is Belle in Beauty and the Beast. It was my first Broadway musical and the theater I made my Broadway debut in - So for sentimental reasons, that. However, I think my DREAM role has yet to be created because it will be something that's been written for me. 

I love to read and go to book club with my girls. Food is a HUGE part of my life. My boyfriend is a chef and we spend the vast majority of our days off eating our way through NYC. I also enjoy running and playing with my adorable mini Aussie puppy. 

I love jazz and listen to a lot of Gregory Porter. And Brian Lego (in the cast of SNF) sends me playlists because I'm not very hip in that department.

 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Meet Sandy Rosenberg as Flo Manero

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 1:00:00 pm Comments (0)

Sandy Rosenberg graces our stage once again! As Flo Manero, In Saturday Night Fever, she gives a terrific performance. Read on for an amusing interview with this versatile and accomplished actress.

 

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY…yes, the same borough as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER….In fact, my brother recently reminded me that our dad took Hustle lessons at the same club that Odyssey 2001 is based on.  How’s that for full circle?  I went to James Madison High School in Brooklyn which boasts some illustrious alums….Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Chuck Schumer, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Judge Judy, and Carole King, among others.  Must have been something in the water.  I am also a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College right here in Westchester…Bronxville to be exact.

I always liked to perform…When I was little I would imitate TV commercials with my great aunt and my first memory of performing was sitting on top of a piano in the Catskills at maybe the age of 5 singing WHEN THE RED RED ROBIN GOES BOB BOB BOBBING ALONG.  For some strange reason I also got the chance to play some of the great male leading roles as a youngster - Tevye in the FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (at synagogue in 6th grade), Captain von Trapp in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (day camp) - But I wish there was a recording of the JEWISH version of THE SOUND OF MUSIC (at the same synagogue as FIDDLER) where, as the Rabbi’s wife, previously known as Mother Abbess (ya couldn’t have nuns in an orthodox temple, of course) got to sing ‘How do you solve a problem like , Miriam?’…I’m not kidding.

I always loved old movies and of course movie musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Growing up in Brooklyn I also got to go to Broadway shows as soon as I was old enough to enjoy them...which my mother figured out  was probably the moment I emerged from the womb on April Fools’ Day.  Nothing’s changed.

I was aware of the musical SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER during my 5 1/2 years performing on Broadway in MAMMA MIA!.  I hadn’t seen it, as is often the case with Broadway schedules making seeing other shows near impossible.  This is my first experience with SNF but I’m well versed in the juke-box musical. (see above) I, of course, saw the movie of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER when it came out.  If I hadn’t, I would have had my Brooklyn card revoked…How could I be from Brooklyn and not see SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER???? ( I got a chance to work with John Travolta when I moved to LA shortly afterward and got to be a student in Mr. Kotter’s classroom.) This is, though, my third show at Westchester Broadway Theatre.  My First show was PHANTOM about 8 years ago, where I played the role of the opera diva, Carlotta.  A few years later I was in the Christmas show, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  I love working at WBT.  It’s like coming home…

I’ve grown up with the Broadway musical.  It feeds me. So, I’m a pretty good audience member and love most shows.  As I've gotten older, though, my dream roles have changed….for OBVIOUS reasons….so now, my dream roles would be, Mrs. Lovett (SWEENEY TODD), Mama Rose (GYPSY), Dolly Levi (HELLO DOLLY) and whatever other ‘women of a certain age’ role someone will hire me for!

When I’m not on the stage I enjoy hanging with my husband, cooking, photography and playing with our recently adopted rescue dog, Georgie…What kind is she??? It depends on who you ask…some sort of terrier mix, but I’ll just say she’s our 100% love mutt.

I don’t listen to music on my phone or iPod or anything like that….when I lived in LA, the radio was on in my car all the time but I don’t drive much anymore, so I haven’t a clue about the latest music.  I’m ‘old school’…I still have a stereo and an extensive Original Broadway Cast recording collection… Ya can’t take that with you while you jog….Then again I don’t jog either.

Meet Ray DeMattis as Frank Manero

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Ray Plays the disillusioned Italian-American father in Saturday Night Fever. Read on for a fascinating look into this seasoned actor's rise in show business.

 

 I grew up in Hamden/New Haven, CT. I was the youngest of 3 sons from an Italian family of tailors and spent a lot of time in the tailoring shop.

In 1951, we were the first on our block to own that brand new phenomenon called a television set. I was instantly hooked and loved watching the great vaudevillians. I saw: Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar, Ed Wynn et al. I was lucky to have extraordinary teachers and mentors who saw something in me way before I did.  I was nurtured by the music and drama teachers of my high school. Alice Hahn, a faculty member and one of the first women graduates of The Yale Drama School, mentored me and enabled me to study with Constance Welch, the head of the acting department at Yale. At the Catholic University of America, the head of the drama department, Father Gilbert Hartke, gave me the opportunity to direct all of my class shows, tour the US, performing with The National Players and perform throughout Central America and Mexico for the US State Dept.

When I moved to NY, I was lucky enough to study with Mike Nichols, Austin Pendleton, F. Murray Abraham, Horton Foote, Frances Sternhagen, among others, and work with such extraordinary performers as Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel, Len Cariou and Jerry Orbach.

I made my Broadway debut in the original Grease which, because it was the only Broadway showcase for young talent, launched a lot of careers, including Richard Gere, Barry Bostwick and Patrick Swayze. I shared a dressing room with a 19-year-old John Travolta. When they were casting the movie Saturday Night Fever, he arranged for me to audition for the role of his priest brother, however, they didn’t think I was “priestly” enough, and I wasn’t.  But John told us wonderful stories about the making of the movie that I treasure to this day. When the first stage version was less than successful on Broadway, it was rewritten by Sean Cercone & David Abbinanti.  They asked me to read for Frank Sr. at the first public presentation of their re-write. Richard Stafford was there and asked me to be in his production at the North Shore Music Theatre and again here at WBT.

This is my first time performing here and I love the way that Victor and the entire stage crew, with hard work, organization, and humor make every performance happen. 

The movie of Saturday Night Fever is, and I think always will be, the definitive representation of the disco era exemplified by the extraordinary Bee Gees score.  It is also a wonderful depiction of Italian-American life in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, at the time.  So, of course, I know the movie well and a lot of actors in it!

I think the success of turning a movie musical into a stage production mostly depends on the ability of the creative team to accommodate the boundless possibilities of the screen to the limitations of the stage.  I toured with Beauty And The Beast, and I think a perfect stage translation. But the most successful adaptation to date has to be Julie Taymor’s Lion King.  Not only is it a paragon of stagecraft and puppetry, it is also an extraordinary celebration of African culture.

The first Broadway musical I saw, when I was a chunky Italian kid, was Fiorello. Seeing that was a revelation.  I realized that there was a part for me in the musical theatre. Years later, I was elated to get to do the role with the New Jersey Choral Society.

I’ve had the good fortune to continue working non-stop for 54 years. I’ve done everything from touring the country performing Shakespeare, to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (performing for and meeting 4 presidents along the way). I’ve been so blessed to have done all kinds of roles in all kinds of media and venues. My only unfulfilled wish is to play Friar Lawrence in Romeo And Juliet or his equivalent Doc, in West Side Story.

My favorite hobby is photography. I have studied graphic arts my whole life, and I’ve had some success showing and selling my work. Also, I ain’t bad in the kitchen (my Italian mother would have it no other way)!
I love coaching and teaching young actors and passing on some of the hard learned knowledge I’ve acquired in those 54 years.  Also, I was asked and was delighted to be the founding/Artistic Director of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped.