Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Cookie Lady and The Actor (He paints too!)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, September 20, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Bill Nolte, who plays Gino in our production of MAMBO ITALIANO, created a watercolor painting in his dressing room for his #1 fan, Jeanette. He, finally presented it to her in the WBT LOBBY after the matinee last week.  Here is Jeanette Murawski's accounting: 

"I'm not particularly lucky when it comes to money or love; but when it comes to the theatre...well, you meet the nicest people ever!!
I first met Bill Nolte in 1776.  The show, not the year!  Because the show was initially a limited run, I was reluctant to chat with the cast since I knew I'd wind up missing them when the show closed shortly thereafter.
Once word came down the show was extending, I couldn't wait to talk to this wonderful cast.  It was during the hiatus between theatres that I happened to run into Bill coming out of another show.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Hoping I wouldn't appear a stalker, I said, "I don't know who's following who, but I've seen 1776 several times and absolutely love it".  His beaming smile assured me I'd be having many more wonderful little chats once the show reopened.
When 1776 reopened in its new home, I became a regular visitor.  The show was thrilling every time. The more I saw it, the more I appreciated each individual's performance in this glorious ensemble cast.  And my appreciation usually takes the form of baked goods!  This cast deserved more than just my applause, they got cookies as well.  Lots.  Of.  Cookies.

But all good things must come to an end, and it was time to say goodbye, though not without a souvenir I'll always treasure.  There was a board with a painted clock face (working mechanism behind it) in the green room.  Bill had each cast member sign it with their names and the characters they portrayed.  He gave it to me on closing weekend.  Twenty-two years later, it's still up on my bedroom wall and is the first thing I see each morning.

Happily, another musical, Jane Eyre, soon followed for Bill.  More greetings, chats, and hugs - along with cookies. (They don't call me The Cookie Lady for nothing!). Bill was always sweetly appreciative of my support, and I was appreciative of his talents, as well as his tolerance of this enthusiastic (but harmless) theater buff!
Once Jane Eyre ended, Bill landed another terrific role as Franz Liebkind in The Producers.  He was the silliest, sweetest, nuttiest Nazi you could ever hope to fall in love with.  I again went multiple times.
After the Broadway run, Bill "took the show on the road" on the national tour.  I couldn't resist catching the show in Boston (a city I always wanted to visit).  Bill pulled out all the stops.  Not only did he help arrange for tickets and meet for dinner, but he even played tour guide during the day!  Talk about above and beyond the call of duty!  I, in turn, was so grateful I promised to send him a batch of cookies at each stop for the duration of the tour.  And I did!  Even when he signed on for a second year and they changed cities on a weekly basis!  I drove myself nuts, but a promise is a promise!

There were several other shows afterward.  Basically, I tried to get to anything within commuting distance of New York - from his fabulous one man show at Birdland to a few shows in nearby regional theaters, including twice at the Westchester Broadway.  (Tevye in Fiddler and Gino in Mambo Italiano.)


In the interim, Bill and I became Facebook friends and I saw samples of more talents of his - photography and painting.  I had just redecorated my kitchen/dining area and was looking for artwork to complete the decor.  I saw a photograph of a floral arrangement (Bill is an avid gardener) on his Facebook page and thought it would translate wonderfully into a watercolor painting.  So the next time we met, I asked if he would be willing to do a watercolor along those lines.  Happily, he accepted the "commission" and I gave him a sample of my wallpaper.

Now, Bill is a busy man and one of the most peripatetic people I've known, so I was content to wait until he had time to create my masterpiece.  It was a wait.  That large blank space on the wall taunted me for two years until one day during the run of Mambo Italiano (I already had tickets), Bill sent me a sketch of the planned watercolor.  I was delighted, but still figured I wouldn't see a final product for at least a few months down the road.

So, imagine my surprise when I showed up and Bill told me the painting was finished, but then said I'd have to wait till after the show for the "unveiling".  As much as I enjoyed the show, I was going a little crazy muttering to myself "I want to SEE my painting".  Exquisite torture!
Soooo worth it.  It's absolutely stunning, and I'm thrilled and proud to be an owner of an original Bill Nolte, who is quite an original himself!"

Monday, September 16, 2019

Joy is a Joy as Maria in MAMBO!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 I'm from the Bronx then Teaneck NJ. I’ve been performing professionally since the age of 8! Mom took me to auditions in NYC when I was a child.  From a young age, I never thought of anything else! I would sing all the roles in Gypsy, Mame, Hello Dolly, and Guys and Dolls in the living room to the records my parents had.   

                                                                                             Joy Hermalyn as MARIA

I had a fantastic singing teacher in addition to my supportive wonderful parents.

I have been lucky enough to do several new musicals in my career. On Broadway, you have 6-8 weeks to hone, change, create, invent a role and a full person in rehearsal before people pay to see you! I had never imagined doing that in 8 days here at WBT where time is of the essence - I am pretty proud of memorizing this beautiful score and highly complicated script in such a short time, and equally proud of our entire company for the teamwork to bring this story to life. By the way, that includes the entire backstage world particularly my dressers, wig department, props, and stage management - without whom there would be no Joy on stage ready & able to do her work!
Speaking for myself again, the collaboration between the writers, composer, lyricist, director and I was thrilling - to have the opportunity to question, clarify and help give birth to a heartfelt, funny show is so gratifying.  I have to admit it took me a full 2 weeks to begin to ‘have fun.’

After I got the role of Maria, I watched the movie. I have no opinion really about films made into stage musicals, as long as a story is told and people who pay to see them are moved, entertained or given food for thought. 

I sure hope to come back to the WBT stage! It’s a wonderful family here, the audiences are so appreciative, and the show has high production values. Plus, I love the easy commute from NJ! 

I have so many favorite shows! From The Sound of Music, Hamilton, Sweeney Todd to Ain’t Misbehavin’ and millions in between. 

My dream roles include Rose in Gypsy, Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly, and the title character in Mame.  I have only played Mama Rose of that list, so Dolly and Mame are in my future, I hope! Other dream roles I have played were Annie Oakley (Annie Get Your Gun) and Mrs. Lovett (Sweeney Todd)- though I would be blessed to perform any of those roles again! Adding to my ‘want’ list would be Joanne in Company, Sally in Call Me Madam, Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables, Frau Schneider in Cabaret (unless someone doesn’t mind an older Sally!) 

When not on stage, I practice yoga, I love gardening, I adore cooking. In times between gigs, my husband eats very well!

I love almost all music - sounds so corny to say! In my heart, I am a classic rock and roll soul-folk girl, so lots of Springsteen, Aretha, Tina Turner, Who, Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Elton, etc. As a total Francophile, I listen to lots of Piaf,  Brel, Gauty. My opera singer brain listens to anything Verdi, Puccini and particularly love Renata Tebaldi (I named my daughter after her!), Leontyne Price and Marilyn Horne. And last but not least, I have playlists named ‘Sondheim, Bernstein, R&H’, ‘Broadway songs to learn’, ‘Broadway songs for my students’ and ‘Ethel, Ella, Angela, Judy & Carol.’

Meet Alexandra Amadeo Frost in MAMBO ITALIANO!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I grew up in Coral Springs, Florida. A cute suburb outside of Fort Lauderdale...with my mom, dad, and two younger brothers. My parents were very big on my siblings and I being involved in the arts. So from a very young age, I was exposed to theatre and music. Along with theatre, I was also a competitive figure skater, which is where I think I get a lot of my discipline and drive. I had a super fun childhood and I can’t thank my parents enough for that.

My grandmother was the one who saw that I had a flare for the dramatic. She told my mother to put me in voice lesson at age 7 and the rest is history. My cousin is a professional actor and he definitely inspired me to pursue a career in musical theatre. Growing up and seeing him in plays and musicals had a huge influence on my brothers and I. It’s a family affair, both my younger brothers and I are all pursuing careers professionally in theatre. It’s a really wonderful feeling knowing that you are fully supported by your family and getting to experience it with them as well.

I first heard about the show when my agent sent me in to audition in New York City. Immediately I knew I wanted to be a part of this process. Getting to create a character and relationships is truly incredible and artistically fulfilling. This cast and creative team was such a joy to work with. It was a lot of hard work and focus, especially with the fast rehearsal process... but everyone was so on board and ready to work that the process was really enjoyable.

     I had heard about the movie but did not see it until I started rehearsals. I think it’s hysterical and heartfelt. I’m so glad that this has been made into a musical.

It’s my first time working here and I am having a blast! I love how close the theatre is to NYC. Also getting to work on a thrust stage is always a fun challenge.

My dream roles are Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde, Ella in Cinderella, and Fantine in Les Miserables.

I love going to spin class and Pilates. I'm also a big fan of binging episodes of the Great British Baking Show and eating lots of Half Baked Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I've been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell lately.... my go-to music is Sara Bareilles, Maggie Rogers, and Dave Mathews Band.

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.