Stories & Cast Interviews
Meet Devon Perry, The Pistol Packin' Mama!
Growing up in Central Ohio, I was putting on performances in the living room as soon as I could walk and talk. I usually incorporated the services of my dolls and my little brother (thanks, man!), and was always clad in a pink tutu. I watched almost every movie musical and could perform them all from memory. From the age of 6, I began training in ballet and planned to become a professional ballerina, training intensely for over 10 years, until an injury prevented me from going any further. It was about that time that I turned to theatre, attending Interlochen Arts Camp in the summers. I then received a B.F.A. in musical theatre from the University of Michigan, and, well... here I am!
I watched the movie version of Annie Get Your Gun, with Betty Hutton, habitually as a child. Betty Hutton has always been an inspiration of mine - a woman that was fearless in every performance she gave and really changed the image of what it meant to be a woman in her time. I'm also a huge Judy Garland fan, and she was originally supposed to do the film version but was unable to complete it. There are still some clips available of her performing some of the songs. Even though I've never done this show before, I've known most of these songs for many years and they feel like home to me.
This is my fourth show at WBT, and I love it here! It's such a beautiful community to be a part of. Not only are the audiences engaged and supportive, but also the people behind the scenes are just extraordinary, from the box office to the stage crew and everywhere in between. Though it may sound cliche, WBT really has a family atmosphere, which, when felt so strongly backstage and onstage, I know must translate to the audience and make them feel included as well.
Some of my favorite shows include South Pacific, The Wizard of Oz, Sunday in the Park with George, and Annie Get Your Gun! Playing this role has always been a dream of mine. It still feels rather surreal, every time I hit the stage. Another dream role of mine is Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which I've had the pleasure of playing multiple times, including at WBT!
When I'm not onstage, I also work as a professional musician, which is such a blast! I teach lessons and classes to children, as well as professionals. I also perform around town as a singer and pianist. I enjoy yoga and nature and kissing dogs.
What's on my Spotify these days... I've been listening to a lot of Vulfpeck, an incredible funk band of friends of mine from UofM. I also will always enjoy Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and Hall & Oates.
The Director and ANNIE: Mary Jane Houdina
I was born & raised in Tonawanda, NY. My dad was a plumber and my mom was a homemaker. She made all of my costumes. I went to Tonawanda High School and I choreographed the school musicals before coming to NYC.
I studied Tap, jazz, ballet, acro, and baton with Miss Gloria Jean and then went to Miss Bev for jazz and tap. When I decided I wanted to be a professional dancer, they both ganged up on me and said I needed to take ballet lessons. I went to Kaloff School of Ballet in Buffalo where I studied with Miss Helen. Her father had been with Ballets Russes. Danielian would come and teach a class. So I had very good training from the beginning! I did a lot of performing in the Buffalo area. I'm just old enough to have worked in super clubs as a teen. I also danced for a woman who had been a vaudevillian in her younger years. The group was called Mrs. Dunn's Stars of Tomorrow! We were a bunch of teenagers from different dance schools in the Buffalo area, some singers, and there was a trio, 2 sisters, and their cousin. The girls played accordians, and he played a bass. We performed every 3rd Sunday of the month at the Veteran's Hospital in Buffalo, and at different functions in the Buffalo area. She would introduce me as Buffalo's own Eleanor Powell! I loved that because she was my favorite dancer of all of the movie ladies!
My family was very supportive of my show biz aspirations, although, when I graduated High School, my father offered me a car if stayed home. and a wrist watch if I choose to leave!
I was working on different projects with Choreographer Peter Gennaro and one day he asked if I'd like to assist him on ANNIE, The Musical. I did and was his assistant and Dance Captain and a swing performer in the Original production of ANNIE. I went on to assist on 4 other companies with Peter, and I have done directed/choreographed several versions of my own!
ANNIE is a wonderful show, not just for kids, but adults too!
Some of my favorite shows are Follies, Showboat, The Pajama Game, Irma LaDouce, 42nd Street, and Sugar Babies. I enjoyed performing Aunt Sue in No, No Nanette, Gladys in The Pajama Game and Irma in Irma LaDouce. The one role I didn't get to do was Miss Adelaide in GUYS and DOLLS. She's a real doll of a character!
When I'm not choreographing/directing. I teach dance. I love working with children and adults! Someone asked me the other day how many children's lives have you touched!? When I thought about it, It was awesome to think of all the"orphans " I've worked with! also the children at the school where I teach, the master classes! I'd like to think I left them with positive experiences, and given them helpful information to carry on in their careers!
When not working on a show, I play in a steel drum band! I also like looking for Antiques and I collect depression glass.
Meet Ella & Bill Stanley
Bill & Ella Stanley are a fab Father-Daughter team in ANNIE! Bill is our Musical Director and Ella plays the orphan, Kate! We caught up with them between shows!
Bill at the Keyboard
Bill: I was raised in Logan, Utah. My parents always encouraged arts & music. I studied classical piano in college, but I also enjoyed playing rock & Jazz on the side. So I was very attracted to musical theatre because of the wide variety of styles in the repertoire.
The Annie movie was very popular when I was a kid. In my school, it wasn't cool for boys to like Annie, so I don't think I saw the movie, although I remember many of the songs were played regularly on AM radio. I didn't encounter the show again until 1995 when I was hired as music director at the Surflight Theatre.
Ella: My Mom is a professional singer and actress, my Daddy is a piano player, and my stepdad Roger is a drummer. Daddy plays piano for Shuffles Tap School, and so I started taking tap and musical theatre classes there when I was four.
I watched Annie before I auditioned, to refresh my memory of what happens in the show. The movie was good, but doing the show is more fun!
Bill: I haven't seen the movie recently - I generally make it a point not to, so we can come up with our own version, based on the script & score. I'm generally fine with musicals made into movies, but I find that the live theatre is much more engaging.
Ella: My favorite part of the show is to do is “It’s A Hard Knock Life”, because of all the props. My favorite part to listen to is the song "I Don't Need Anything But You", because of the harmony that Annie & Daddy Warbucks sing together.
Bill: I did many shows here at WBT in the late 90s, and then, after a 17-year hiatus, returned to do Wizard of Oz. I thought it would be a kick to do, particularly if my daughter was cast as a munchkin (which she was). It was such a thrill to bring Ella to work with me, and see her on stage! I did Godspell the following summer, and now I'm back again for Annie - and I hope to come back for next summers show, too!
Ella: Some of my favorite shows are: School of Rock, Peter Pan, Matilda, Legally Blonde.
Bill: Mine are West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, The Full Monty, On the Town
Bill: When not on stage, we love playing with Legos, reading (Harry Potter 5 currently), and slime making (slime making is the unanimous favorite of our cast of orphans, but it is not allowed backstage to protect the costumes).
Ella likes playing music - saxophone is her current favorite instrument.
Bill: On my iPod? I have A lot of classical music, especially Beethoven and Stravinsky, but also Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beatles, Parliament, and James Brown.
Ella: The Allegretto from Beethoven's 7th Symphony.
Ella as Kate.
Meet Gabriella & Brian Uhl ... A Family Affair!
A very talented Father- daughter duo work together here at WBT. Brian Uhl is the Trumpet player in the ANNIE Orchestra and Gabriella plays Kate in the show. What fun to share this experience!
Brian Uhl (c) with his trumpet
Brian: I grew up on a pig and corn farm in Northwest Iowa. I was the youngest of 6 children. My high school band director, Mr. Perry, was a great trumpet player and he inspired me to pursue a career as a trumpet player. I remember knowing about “Annie” when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s. I actually had the opportunity to work with Charles Strouse, the composer, and play music from the show several years ago as a member of the West Point Band.
Gabriella: My first acting experience was at a summer theatre camp in my town, Cornwall, by Riverside Theatre Arts. I was in the youngest group, and we played the orphans in “Little Girls” while a high schooler played Miss Hannigan! The first role I got by audition was Molly in Annie, Jr. at Random Farms Kids’ Theater.
I started dancing at Dance Design School in Cornwall when I was 3 years old and in preschool. I still study there – ballet, tap, jazz, and this year I’m taking pre-pointe and modern, too. I started taking voice lessons with my older sister’s voice teacher, Ilene Reid, when I was 5.
Brian: I’ve worked on several shows at the theatre, starting back in 1998. I love that, even 20 later, I still feel like part of a family here.
Brian: My kids have the movie version of Annie with Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters. Movie musicals have been a big part of our family life – we started showing them to our kids when they were very young and they are still favorites to watch together. They are are a great way to expose more people, who might not get to see quality live performances, to the art form.
Gabriella: My grandma got us the old version of the movie Annie, the one with Bernadette Peters and Carol Burnett in it, so I’ve seen that. I got to be Molly in the show at Random Farms in 2015. I love doing the dance in “Never Fully Dressed.” When the adults joined us in rehearsal, I couldn’t believe how amazing the show was! I watched them and felt like I was watching a movie or something – I couldn’t believe I was part of that, too. The best part of being in this production has been making new friends, who I hope to have forever.
Brian: My favorite shows that I’ve played for are “Newsies” and “Hello Dolly.” We enjoyed the recent revival of “On the Town,” and “Wicked” was one of the most beautiful shows I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve seen a Broadway show that I haven’t liked!
Gabriella: Some of My favorite shows are “Wicked,” “Newsies,” “Matilda,” and “Singin’ in the Rain” are my favorites.
Brian: I’m an award-winning apple pie baker! I love to bake. I like traveling with my family and being active outside.
Gabriella: When not on stage, I like being with my friends, reading, going to dance class, vacation with my family, and playing with my brother and sister.
Brian: I don’t have any music on my phone, but right now in my car, I have classic rock (Boston, Journey, Steve Miller Band), and the soundtracks to “Hamilton,” “Newsies,” “Wicked,” “Matilda,” and “Something Rotten.” When my wife’s in the car, it’s all 80s, all the time and I don’t mind that!
Gabriella (c) as Kate in Annie