Stories & Cast Interviews
Joy is a Joy as Maria in MAMBO!
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!
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.
Bill Nolte as Nonno Gino Barbieri does the MAMBO!
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.
ABOUT MAMBO ITALIANO
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)