Stories & Cast Interviews

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Bill Nolte as Nonno Gino Barbieri does the MAMBO!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

    I grew up in Genoa, Ohio (farmland /near Toledo) loving the arts, especially watercolor painting, which I enjoy to this day. I didn't really think about having a career in the theatre until I went away to college as an Art major and discovered then that I also could sing and maybe make a living at it.  Transferring from Bowling Green State University to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music  I majored in Opera and minored in Musical Theatre, luckily getting to do both there, and deciding to move to NYC after graduation in 1976. 

 My mentor at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music was our opera director Italo Tajo, who had a big influence on my early creative life.  He gave me my first major leading role and the confidence to aim high.  Also, Maurice Levine at the 92nd St. Y believed in me and kept me singing for a decade with his popular “Lyrics and Lyricists” series. 

 I did a reading of MAMBO a few years back but I barely remember the experience.  We do so many developmental readings that go by so quickly. you remember very little - only that I had a gay son in the piece.  It has grown tremendously since then into a rich musical comedy with so much potential. 

I've worked on many NEW shows: The Secret Garden, King David, A Christmas Carol at MSG, Amour, Jane Eyre, and Annie 2 (which never made it to Broadway after dying a sudden death at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC).  It later morphed into Annie Warbucks - without me in it.  Jekyll and Hyde was the first World Premiere of a new musical I did at the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas. My role, Simon Stride was continually "re-written" and I chose not to go on with that show.  Children of Eden was an American Premiere that I did after it flopped in London.  It was an incredible experience that yielded a gorgeous show that has had a life regionally. I also love working at The York Theatre and have done many New Works there, my favorite being The Road To Qatar by David Krane and Stephen Cole. 

I  Loved the movie, Mambo Italiano and I've done a few musicals that have originated as films;  La Cage Aux Folles, The Producers, Oliver.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I did my first Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof here at WBT, a role I have done many times since. I love it more every time I do it.  It’s great to be back for Mambo and the challenge of working on a New Work in such a short amount of time (10 days).  I think we handled it splendidly and am very proud of our show.  WBT is also a 20-minute commute, door to door for me to Inwood / NYC which also makes it appealing. 

Some of my favorite shows are Fiddler On The Roof, The Most Happy Fella, a show I hope I get to do again in my career.  I'd love to have another crack at Don Quixote in Man Of La Mancha which I did at the Goodspeed Opera House, where I also did Fella and Sweeney Todd. Straight acting roles are appealing as are film and TV roles  I think I have a great Edna in Hairspray in me. Tick tock. 

I also do a lot of volunteering for NY Cares, as well as being a regular artist with Dale Hensley at the AHRC (Association for the Help of Retarded Children) on Broadway Program presenting musical theatre productions featuring mentally and physically challenged young adults who love to sing, be on stage and musical theatre. I'm proud to have been a part of A Christmas Carol (Fezzywig), Beauty And The Beast (Maurice) and The Lion King (Mufasa) with them.

When not on stage, I enjoy gardening, cooking and bird watching.  I love traveling and I’m off to Spain and Portugal with my husband of 36 years in October.  I spend my winters in Las Vegas, where I own a home, so I enjoy the desert and exploring National Parks.  We've driven cross country many times and always try to stop in a new Park each way.  Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce, Zion, Yosemite to name a few. The Hot Springs in Arkansas was last year's treat on the way back to NYC. The government was closed down during our drive out West and so were the parks, so we caught it coming back. New Orleans and the Badlands were also standouts.  

I listen to podcasts often, mostly NPR.  Books on tape are a favorite too.  Dean Koontz's Misery made a 10-hour drive to northwestern Ohio seem like an hour.  I’m thrilled to be back at WBT working on this NEW SHOW.

 

Friday, July 26, 2019

ABOUT MAMBO ITALIANO

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

In 2009 after the successful launch of the musical adaptation of the cult 80s film called “The Toxic Avenger”, Tom Polum and I were brainstorming about other possible underlying works which could be adapted to the stage. Tom suggested an independent Canadian film called “Mambo Italiano” which we both thought was really hilarious. We fell in love with the characters, especially the roles of the older generation played by Ginette Reno and Paul Sorvino. Tom pursued the underlying rights from the authors of the screenplay, Emile Gaudreault and Steve Galluccio (which was based on Steve’s stage play of the same name), through their wonderful agent, Nathalie Goodwin.

Although the film is based in Canada, we went about finding a setting for the show in New Jersey which we knew had a heavy concentration of Italian Americans. We headed to Hammonton, which boasts more than 40% of its population being of Italian descent. We stopped in St. Joseph Church grabbed a church bulletin and headed out to visit some of their advertisers including family-owned Bagliani’s Market. One of the sons in the Bagliani Family’s 4th generation shared many amusing experiences of working in an Italian-American family-owned business. We also attended the “Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,” an annual celebration dominated by food and families. We eventually made our way to Vineland, New Jersey, which is home to the Landis Theatre. It had been beautifully restored and they were preparing for an upcoming concert by Sicilian-American Bernadette Lazzara, also known as the actress Bernadette Peters!

Lori DiMatteo-Fiocchi, a board member on the Landis Theatre Foundation, organized a gathering of Italian-American mothers for us to chat with to learn more about raising Italian American kids in a very American culture. They generously shared their love of their culture and the trials and tribulations of raising kids caught between two cultures.

Michael Coco, our friend and director of theatre operations for the Shubert Organization suggested it was time to bring on lyricist Omri Schein and composer James Olmstead, the team behind the award-winning musical “Gary Goldfard, Master Escapist,” which had been highly praised in The New York Times for its irreverent book and lyrics and catchy music. We knew they would be perfect for Mambo. Michael also introduced us to Broadway professional Steve Edlund who served as an invaluable dramaturge on our team.

It has been a wonderful journey so far and we are excited about what the future holds. All shows need to go through significant development before heading to Broadway and we are grateful to Westchester Broadway Theatre’s Bob Funking, Bill Stutler, and Lisa Tiso for their wonderful producing team, and the warm and supportive audiences for making this World Premiere possible. Thank you!

Jean Cheever (for the Creative Team)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Maria Bilbao as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Miami, Florida and was raised by my mom and my abuela. My father was around for the first eight or so years of my life, and we lost contact once he moved to the Dominican Republic. I am so proud to come from a Cuban family and to have this culture engrained so strongly in my being. I spent a few years living in St. Kitts with my mother who was pursuing her dream by going to University studying Veterinary Medicine. While she was finishing her time at school, I moved back to Miami to live with my abuela and start middle school. I knew I wanted to pursue theater, so I then went to a performing arts high school where my love just continued to grow for this craft. My family has always supported my decisions in life, and have always pushed me to pursue my dreams and to never stop trying. 

 

The first moment I knew I wanted to be an actor was when I saw Jekyll and Hyde at the ripe age of seven (I know, dark show for a seven-year-old). I absolutely loved it and from that moment on I told my mom that I just had to be on stage. My mom has been a pivotal influence on me as she has always loved musicals. I remember watching so many shows with her at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami and blasting Once on this Island in the car singing the entire soundtrack. My mom got me involved in a community theater organization called Miami Children’s Theater, where I was able to perform in over 25 shows throughout my high school career and meet so many mentors who have helped shape me into the person I am today. And I can’t forget my amazing theater abuela who always went out of her way to put me in private lessons and classes so I could have the best education. 

 

I first heard of On Your Feet when they were having auditions in Miami Florida for the first time. I was actually on the news waiting in line to audition when channel 7 was doing a special on the auditions taking place. I think I was 17 years old at the time. Then I went on to see the show twice on Broadway with my aunt. I fell in love with the show, and I think I did so much because it reminded me so much of home. It was so beautiful to see people like me on a Broadway stage and to see a story I can relate to on such a personal level. My favorite part of the show was always the song Wrapped during Gloria’s surgery dream, but now my favorite moment is Famous. I love this moment so much because it’s her first real moment of stillness and it is so raw and full of emotion. 
This is my first time working with WBT. I absolutely love the staff and have loved working with the amazing creative team that was on this beautiful show.  I am in love with my cast that has become like a family to me throughout this process. 

 
My favorite shows are currently Hadestown (I am obsessed), Phantom of the Opera, Pajama Game, Kinky Boots, and many more. I lose track, haha. My ultimate dream role is Elphaba in Wicked as well as Christine in Phantom of the Opera

 

I really enjoy practicing yoga, it’s a passion of mine that just makes me feel so good inside and out. I also love to paint, sing when no ones home, and I love a relaxing glass of wine at my favorite wine bar with one or two good friends of mine (or even just myself). After 8 shows a week, it’s so important to rest and take care of your body and mental health. 


Right now I have been playing Hadestown non-stop on my Spotify account. If not that, you will ALWAYS catch me listing to Stevie Wonder or some amazing hits from the ’60s on. I have an old soul for music. I also listen to early 2000’s music, Latin love songs, some Lizzo, Beyoncé, and so much more. I have a very eclectic taste in music. 

  

 

 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Sandy Rosenberg returns as Consuelo in On Your Feet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I grew up in Brooklyn NY. First generation American. My grandma lived with us.  Very old school. I am a proud product of the NYC Public school system and I attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY.

Being the youngest of 3, you try to find your own place in the hierarchy. I could always make people laugh so getting that reaction probably sowed the seeds of a career in entertainment. 

I believe I've always wanted to perform…from singing ‘RED RED ROBIN’ on top of a piano in the Catskills at age 5 to imitating TV commercials, to school plays. At synagogue, around 6th grade, I did move into the role of Tevye from Yente in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF when Tevye had too much homework.  I was also the Fiddler as I took 50 cent violin lessons every Tuesday.  We also did THE SOUND OF MUSIC at the temple but because it was an orthodox temple, they rewrote history and there were no nuns….and I, as the rabbi’s wife sang CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN….and Maria became Miriam…it could happen.

I first heard of On Your Feet as it was getting ready to open on Broadway. There were a lot of interviews with the Estefans. I Never did this show before.  I Love listening to the glorious music. It just makes you happy.  

This is probably my 6th show here at WBT.  I played Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act. I was Carlotta in PHANTOM twice, I performed in one of the Christmas shows, and played Flo Manero in Saturday Night Fever. I Love the people who work at WBT. It feels like a family after all these years.

I’ve been going to the theatre since I was 5…. there are too many favorite shows to mention or even think about.  SWEENEY TODD is one of my favorite shows…. along with CANDIDE, HAMILTON, MAME….) Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd is a dream role but I don’t think I have the energy for it anymore. 

When not on stage, I love to cook, travel, do photography…rest, and play with my dog.