Stories & Cast Interviews
John Fanelli Directs RAGTIME
Since attaining a degree in Theatre Arts from the University of California, San Diego, John Fanelli has dedicated 18 successful years directing, teaching and creating programs for young people in theatre arts. Under the tutelage and mentorship of internationally acclaimed Director Alex H. Urban, John helped to establish a network of theater programs for young people that spanned the coast of California and reached to Auckland, New Zealand.
Mr. Fanelli returned to the east coast and developed Westchester Broadway Theatre’s Young Artists of the WBT. He expanded his reach and scope of programming by taking over as Artistic Director for the Times Square Group based in NYC, where he developed and implemented educational theatre programs for the public schools of NYC.
In 2006, he opened Lighthouse Youth Theatre in Thornwood, an arts education program dedicated to young talent, giving them the tools necessary to succeed not only in the arts, but in life.. Through Standing Ovation Studios, he now brings professional arts education and production to youth and adults of Westchester County, Connecticut and New York City.
Drew McVety as Henry Samuel Etches
"I grew up in Port Huron, Michigan; an international border crossing marked by the spectacular Blue Water Bridge. Being the youngest of three boys, I studied violin as well as performed in my first play when I was just five years old.
My real desire to perform began in a community theater production of The Music Man, I got my first laugh and was hooked! My first time back on the stage since high school was in the Original Broadway cast of Titanic in 1997, I considered it my theater grad school.
When not on stage, I love raising my kids, and playing the violin in the subway.
On My Ipod you'll find Stravinsky, Ives and Prokofiev!
I am ecstatic to be playing my dream role, Henry S. Etches in Titanic. I love the Titanic and am so happy to be back. "
Henry Samuel Etches was the first class bedroom steward aboard the Titanic, played by actor Drew McVety. Etches' station aboard the Titanic was on the raft portside of B Deck and was responsible for 8 cabins, along with one on A Deck (A-36), that of Thomas Andrews. He managed to board Lifeboat #5 and survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Mr. McVety's credits include: Broadway Shows: Billy Elliot, Sunday in the Park with George (Roundabout), Spamalot (Shubert), Frozen (MCC Circle in the Square), Big River (Roundabout, Special Tony Award), The Heidi Chronicles (Original Cast).
Kay Walbye As Ida Strauss
When I was a schoolchild (in the days before DVD or DVR) she would occasionally keep me home from school if there was a movie on TV that she felt I simply had to see! My other great influence was my drama teacher in Junior and High school. She took me to NY city after my junior year. We saw a show every night. Needless to say, I was hooked on the theatre!
I did TITANIC in NY. I covered seven roles and went on in all of those parts many times. I subsequently played Ida Strauss for nine months on the national tour. The biggest challenge for me in this show is to simply keep my emotions under control. The story is so very emotional, and the action of most of the characters in the play and in real life was so heroic it is sometimes difficult not to get choked up.
Favorite shows: anything Sondheim, OKLAHOMA, MY FAIR LADY, and I have a soft spot for URINETOWN (it is so funny and good-hearted...and I was in the original cast!) My dream role is whatever I am doing at the time!
When I'm not onstage I am in my gardens. Or cooking the veggies that come out of the kitchen garden.
I have no Ipod. I do have a Kindle which has an awful lot of David Sedaris on it.
William Parry Navigates TITANIC and much more....
William Parry (L. as Captain Edward J. Smith)
I was born in Steubenville, Ohio, which is right across the Ohio River from my hometown - Follansbee, WVA. There was no hospital in Follansbee.
Mom was from Ohio, Dad had been born in England. His Father was killed in WWI in the Battle of Ypres when he was about 5. When he was 16, his widowed Mother remarried a Mr. Alfred Parry who was visiting relatives in Wales. A friend of hers suggested that they meet. He had a pretty good job in a steel mill in Follansbee. His wife had recently died and left him with three daughters to care for. After a fairly brief courtship - they got married. Then she packed up her daughter and son and sailed to America on the Queen Mary. The three of them got on a train out of New York City and headed to WVA, never having been in the United States. This was 1927.
As you might imagine, Follansbee, WVA was quite a change from London. Particularly for a 16 year old boy and his 18 year old sister.
My Dad didn’t get back to London until he was about 60, when he had a most welcomed reunion with his relatives.
I grew up in Canton, Ohio. Canton was a city of about 100,000 people. All the grade schools were ‘neighborhood’ schools, Which meant - everyone walked to school - walked home for lunch - then came back for the afternoon session. I thought everyone, everywhere did that. Didn’t really realize how lucky we had it.
I went to the same grade school where my Mom taught fourth grade. She, too, came home every day for lunch. I loved playing sports, playing with my friends outside everyday after school, singing in the church choirs, singing with my pals (over the years I would be in quite a number of folk singing groups), singing in high school choir.
When I went to college (Mount Union College, Alliance, OH), I had in mind that I was going to be a Methodist minister. As often happens, a number of factors came into play in the first few years of school. Not the least of which was the tremendous social and political turmoil in the country in ’68 and ’69.
I did not continue my pre-ministerial studies. I became an English major - looking for something else to connect with - something else to pursue that I had a passion for. I had always sung and had performed in shows in high school. Mt. Union was a small school (about 1200). I knew many people in the theater department and went to all the plays. One evening, I was watching a good friend of mine in Lion In Winter and I began looking at it through new eyes - finding myself interested in it a fresh way. I stayed up all night talking with my friend. The next day I went to the head of the Theater Dept. and told him I’d like to ‘try out’ for their Summer Theater program. I did. As I’ve said, it was a small school. I got great roles in that Summer Season. The next year, my senior year, I took every theater course I could manage and played leading roles in every show they did.
I was hooked.
After graduating - I joined three Mt. Union graduates in Marblehead, MA, and we started a theater in a small Unitarian Church. Stayed in that idyllic seaside town for almost two years. Probably two of the best years of my life. Friends I made in those years remain some of my dearest and closest.
I played Captain Smith on the National Tour of Titanic, about 12 years ago. I had seen the show in NY when it was in previews - before they had found the ending to the piece. It was clear, even without the poignant closing they would discover, that it had depth, great resonance and a deep humanity - as well as a perfectly sumptuous score. Some of the most stirring choral singing (and arrangements) I’ve ever heard in a musical.
One of the many elements that resonated for me, was the notion of my Grandmother and her two children, sailing to America in 1927 aboard the Queen Mary (15 years after the Titanic). Certainly not people of means, she was leaving everything she knew behind her to head off to what she hoped would be a better life for her and her two children. Into the unknown. Armed with hopes and dreams.
That notion rings through very strongly for me in Titanic. I think it’s one of the lasting images the show leaves you with. And why it can be so affecting.
Having the chance to tell that story every day for the better part of two years on the Tour was a real joy.
Some of my favorite shows: Well... there are a lot. Off the top of my head, of shows I’ve been in: Sunday in the Park with George. Loved that cast, the whole workshop process of it, watching it come together, watching them piece the story together, watching preview audiences begin to connect to it more deeply as the pieces of the show took shape. That glorious story - glorious score - and a perfect cast. What a gift, to be part of that...
Camelot with Richard Burton (later, Richard Harris). 1980 - The 20 year Anniversary National Tour. Richard Burton had been an true favorite for a long time. I played Sir Dinidan and understudied him. (I have a lot of Welsh blood in me - on my Mother’s side.) The privilege of watching him do the show every day for a year, is something I will always be grateful for.
And listening to Christine Ebersole sing “Before I Gaze At You Again” 8 times a week was... well... let me just say that I cannot imaging anyone, anywhere singing it with greater clarity, insight, and depth, with a voice that was pure and true. As she held the final note, the violin (viola?) did an ascending line. Every performance, her voice and the string became one - melding, spinning together. Real moments of artistry. And I got to hear it eight times a week. And I got a lifelong friend from this show - Richard Muenz.
Time and Again. At the Globe Theater in San Diego. Wonderful musical, with great potential. Written by a long-time friend, Skip Kennon. All told, worked on it for about 10 years...
Dispatches. By Elizabeth Swados - from a book by Michael Herr based on his articles on Vietnam for Esquire Magazine. At the Public Theater, about 1977. Workshopped this (rock) musical for some time with a terrific cast. A lot of personal investment in that show - for all of us, I think...
Leaf People. By Dennis Reardon - directed by Tom O’Horgan. At the Booth Theater in 1975. Produced by Joe Papp and the Public Theater. A flawed play about Indians living in the Amazon River Jungle and the effects that the encroachment of civilization were having on them. Sounds a little dry. Was anything but. Probably the most difficult physical work I’ve ever done preparing for a play - and, in the end, the most rewarding. And I loved Tom O’Horgan. Did 7 shows with him.
Pure Confidence. Play by Carlyle Brown at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Directed by Kent Gash. Wonderful play with a terrific cast. Great material to dig your teeth into. And I got to do it with the woman I’ve been with for over 20 years - Maureen Silliman. Now there’s a treat...
... and some of the many memorable shows I’ve seen: Trojan Women. At La Mama, directed by Andre Serban. About 1976. An exquisite production with a cast that had worked together for months and months and months developing this piece. The only way that kind of theater can happen. There were archetypal images in it that have stayed with me to this day. Archetypal in a Jungian definition: an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious. I had read about that, but never experienced it. Until I saw that production of Trojan Women. The kind of moments that reach in and pluck the sympathetic stings that connect us all as humans. Hey - not bad for an evening in the theater.
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Final performance of the original production on Broadway. There were moments of real and powerful theatrical magic in that performance. I’ll always remember it.
A Little Night Music. Original production on Broadway. Oh, my, God. What a cast!!! And the first Sondheim show I saw. When my Mother came to town a week after I’d seen it - I couldn’t wait to take her. Perfectly glorious - so witty, so enchanting, so engaging, so utterly delightful.
The Cherry Orchard. Lincoln Center Production, dir. by Andre Serban, with Meryl Streep and Raul Julia - AND - The Bridge Project Production, dir. by Sam Mendes at BAM. The first of them so completely memorable with its remarkable cast, its surprising humor, and deft direction.
The second, dir. by Sam Mendes, was one of those perfect evenings in the theater. For my taste, every element in it kept adding to the evening. At intermission, I turned to Maureen and said, “I want this to never end...” And I meant it... It was that exquisite.
And speaking of exquisite. For my taste, the original production of Light in the Piazza was the most exquiste piece of musical theater I’ve ever seen. Everything on the stage was... well... perfect. Nothing overshadowed, or overpowered, rather, everything contributed beautifully (perfectly?) to the sum of the piece: the lighting, the costumes, the sets, the direction, the music, the orchestrations, the performances - all were of a finely tuned, finely honed piece - all were fitted together perfectly.
Now, that might seem like it wouldn’t be too tough to do - if you have a bunch of talented people in the room putting something together. But, those perfect collaborations are like catching lightening in a bottle..