Stories & Cast Interviews

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meet Xander Chauncey as JUDAS

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 29, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Xander Chauncey is currently playing Judas in our Production of Godspell. Audiences enjoyed his performances in our productions of It Happened One Christmas Eve, Titanic, and as the title role in Jekyll & Hyde.

I grew up an Army brat, so we moved every couple of years. It was quite an adventure, but pretty hard to ever feel settled. I think learning to fit in at every new school was my first acting lesson.

Why be an actor? Ever want to be someone else? Sure. Everyone does sometimes. To me, acting is like tourism for the soul.

Honestly, I've never seen Godspell on stage! I'd heard some of the iconic music, of course, but wasn't familiar with the songs that Judas sang before being invited to audition. After hearing "On the Willows," though, I was hooked. The music is gorgeous and the concept of the show is so exciting! I believe the Westchester audiences are in for a treat.

I watched the movie recently, for research. I enjoyed it! The beauty (and downfall) of film is, that it's a snapshot of the time that it was made. The film that I watched is the exact film that audiences watched in the movie theaters over 40 years ago. It was made to speak to future generations, too, but it was created with the language and energy of that time. For this reason, film will eventually feel dated. Live performance, though, communicates directly to the audience at a given performance and ONLY to that audience. There is an intimacy on the stage that can't be found anywhere else.

I'm a sucker for tragic beauty! Give me Les Mis, Ragtime, Titanic and Phantom any day. I've been lucky enough to play a couple of my dream roles here at WBT! 

It's like a family here at the WBT. We not only work together, we've developed strong, lasting friendships. The audience would never believe the shenanigans we get up to backstage!

I've always been big outdoors guy.  When not on stage,  I can usually be found (or not found) backpacking somewhere remote and spending the night under the stars in my hammock. 

I enjoy listening to music, lately, it's been Phosphorescent Blues by Punch Brothers. Oh, and Clash of Clans!


As Barrett w/Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone in Titanic              As Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll & Hyde         


As Buddy w/ Devon Perry (Dolly) in It Happened One Christmas Eve


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PREPARE YE for Gilbert D. Sanchez!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (3)

 Gilbert D.Sanchez Plays Jesus in our production of GODSPELL.  Read on for some insight into this versatile actor!

 was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I lived until 2 1/2 years ago. My childhood was full of reading and singing which gave me a wild imagination. I went to Catholic School for 13 years, so Jesus and I go way back.  

As a child, I loved singing. My parents would sit me by the choir at Church so that I could belt my little curly head off. People would often tell my parents that they would purposefully sit by us to hear me sing at church. That was my first audience; I’m sure I loved it. When I was a  little older, the movie Selena came out and changed my life. I would often perform Selena karaoke at parties. From there, I starred in middle school musicals and that’s when I caught the bug.

I have two great mentors from high school and college; Esperanza Plath (high school drama teacher) and Kathleen Clawson (college voice teacher). These women were my other mothers who not only taught me the ins-and-outs of performing and singing, but also so much about who I was as a person.   Also, my amazing college professor/mentor/friend Dr. Brian Herrera, who always has the most enlightening advice on the theatre and has guided me in my time here in New York.

Nana Visitor (Broadway’s Chicago and the Star Trek; Deep Space Nine) spoke at my school, and she gave advice that I live by. She said, “There are times in your life where you will hit a huge brick wall that blocks your path. At that moment, you have to ask yourself how bad do you want to climb over that wall and keep going?” 

 Also, Judy Garland said: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of somebody else.”  

When I was in 8th Grade, the high school I was going to go to was doing a production of Godspell and had extended after a sold out weekend. It was getting a lot of buzz in the middle school circuit, and so I wanted to go see it. My dad drove me to the theatre to watch it, and I remember the lobby was really busy and I got nervous being in this high school theatre by myself so I left and didn’t get to see the production. After that, I was always so intrigued by the show.  I finally got to do the show in 2010 playing Jesus and fell in love with the eclectic and ensemble feel of the show. Also, the music is so good.  

I saw the movie Godspell once. I remember thinking it was really weird. The scene that stands out is Jesus singing “All for the Best” while reclining on a lounge chair on top of a building…hmm.  I have mixed feelings about movie musicals. I think that some movie musicals can be done really well when they are reimagined for the film; i.e. Chicago. But some musicals, like Rent (no offense) is such a beautiful show on stage, but didn’t translate as well to film. I did love Into the Woods however. As Modern Family says, “Meryl could play Batman.”

I think the best musical ever made is West Side Story. Great story, amazing story-telling dance, and classic musical theatre. Other favorites: Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, A New Brain, …Spelling Bee, and Lippa’s Wild Party. 

 Dream Roles; Burrs in Wild Party, Any role in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Audra McDonald’s son in any musical she touches. 

When not on stage, my day job is at this amazing restaurant called Barbuto, in the West Village, where I love working. I work with my greatest friends, sell amazing food I care about and work for the best people. It’s a gem.  Besides that, I see tons of shows on and off Broadway. I enjoy beach and park days. And of course, enjoy a good Netflix binge watch.  I listen to Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Audra McDonald’s Go Back Home, Bridges of Madison County and Ed Sheeran.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meet Adam Soniak, a cool Jet!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Adam Soniak  (c) plays Riff, leader of the JETS, in our production of West Side Story.  

I grew up in Allentown, PA... Same hometown as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street! Being only 90 minutes from New York, I would visit the city as often as possible. I was always a huge theatre fan and being able to see Broadway shows often and early on, definitely fueled my professional aspirations.

I was in a community production of Les Miserables when I was in at 15, directed by William Sanders at the Allentown Civic Theatre. I remember very clearly that it was this experience that pushed me over the edge into knowing that this was what I wanted to do with my life. the Civic was sort of my home theatre, and I did many shows with them, but that was definitely the one that set me on this path.

I first saw the film version of West Side Story while I was in high school. At the time, I wasn't much of a dancer and so I didn't really think it was a show I was right for. 7 years and countless ballet classes later, I had the opportunity to join the international touring company of the show and played a 7-week engagement in London's West End. I think it is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and I am thrilled to be doing it again!

My first experience with the show was seeing the movie. I think with this show though it is so important to have a visceral connection with the audience. They have to understand the hatred and rivalry between the gangs and feel the tension in the room when they go head to head. They need to feel the instant head-over-heels passion that Tony and Maria experience and understand how it turns their lives upside down. Don't get me wrong, I fully support movie musicals and think it's extremely important to bring musicals to a mainstream audience, however, the connection that makes live theatre so special just isn't there in the same way.

I love all the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein shows. I think they're some of the most music-to-story integrated pieces to this day. Some more recent favorites of mine include The Light in the Piazza, Bridges of Madison County, and of course everything Stephen Sondheim has ever touched. My dream role would have to be either Gabey in On The Town or Elder Price in Book of Mormon. Totally opposite ends of the spectrum but both amazing characters with an incredible journey.

I love to cook, explore New York and soak up everything it has to offer and spend time with family and friends. I'm also currently studying to become a certified fitness instructor.

On my iPod? Anything I can dance (or strut down the street) to.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 18, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Allison Thomas Lee as Anita (left) with Carly Evans (right) as Maria in West Side Story

I was born in San Francisco but moved to Arizona with my mother when I was 3 after my parents divorced. I pretty much grew up there and moved back to San Francisco for college.  My mother put me in kiddie dance classes at  young age. Probably to give me something to do and a social outlet since it was just the two of us. I was born with dislocated hips so I was pretty flexible which made me a natural, I guess! 

I loved movies and was glued to the television 24/7 as a kid. When I started dancing, I fell in love with movie musicals-- it was the best of both worlds. As I got older, I was much more into independent films and smaller character driven movies. I was accepted to NYU out of high school but couldn't afford tuition, so I ended up going to San Francisco State to study French and minored in English Literature- quite a departure. After college I realized I still had the bug so I packed up and moved to NYC.

West Side Story was actually my second professional job ever: I performed it as part of a bus and truck tour in 1998. I knew the movie well as a kid and always dreamed of playing roles like Anita- triple threat roles where you could dance, act, and sing. This is the first show I've done here at The Westchester Broadway Theatre, and my first time playing the role. The staff is so fun! We have a great time hanging out and really enjoy each other's company. Being close to the city but not close enough forces us to stay out here and entertain each other. We drive into Tarrytown sometimes for lunch on two-show days, which is great. The Hudson River Valley is gorgeous and the drive up is beautiful.  It feels like an escape from the big city.

I had seen the West Side movie a million times, and think it's the best of its kind. There are plenty of great movie musicals and some not so great. Les Mis and Chicago were stunning, but sometimes it doesn't work quite as well. Musical theatre is such a unique genre that the smallest thing can throw it off.

Growing up as a dancer, I thought Fosse was king! I love all the roles Chita, Gwen Verdon, Liza and Ann Reinking played.  They were strong, brassy women who could do it all. As I get older, however, I am transitioning more into straight plays, film, and TV. I think it's so great that theatre actors are able to have such diverse careers; there used to be such a stigma about theatre actors not being able to translate to film and television. That's definitely not the case anymore. More and more, film and screen stars are also coming back to Broadway. There's definitely a difference in mediums, but if you understand it, I think you can excel at both.

When I'm not performing, I love seeing friends and exploring the city. There are so many amazing sights, exhibits, restaurants, and beautiful places to explore. I love to spend a whole day walking and sightseeing and eating my way around town with no thought of the business of obligations. It's like being on vacation. But given the choice, I would definitely be on vacation; I love traveling abroad.

My phone/iPod is pretty random. I grew up in the 80's, so I love cheesy, old-school tunes sometimes- anything nostalgic that reminds me of my youth. I love old-school hip hop. In college, I was definitely more alternative and loved all the Lalapalooza bands of the 90's. I definitely keep up with what's going on now and love to check out new bands, but I'd say it definitely depends on my mood... Whether I want to lift my energy or skulk around and get lost in a mood... Actors!