Thursday, May 19, 2011

Visalia's Betsy Wolfe stars in 'Tales of the City' on San Francisco stage

6:50 PM, May. 18, 2011  | 
Written by

Visalia’s Besty Wolfe will get a chance to shine in the spotlight when the musical “Tales of the City” makes its world debut at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.

A 2000 graduate of Golden West High School, Wolfe will star as Mary Ann Singleton, a Midwestern transplant who moves to 1970s San Francisco, where she meets an eccentric assortment of characters and finds romance. The musical is based on Armistead Maupin’s best-selling books. (“Tales” famously first appeared in 1976 as a serialized novel in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

“Tales” is now playing in previews and officially opens May 31. It is scheduled to run through July 10.

The musical features a score and lyrics by Jake Shears of The Scissor Sisters, a book by Jeff Whitty (a Tony Award-winner for “Avenue Q") and is directed by Jason Moore (“Shrek the Musical” and “Avenue Q”).

Choices wasn’t able to connect up with Wolfe to talk about the show — ACT public relations representatives said she wasn’t availble for interviews because of rehearsal schedules — but did talk to Wolfe about “Tales” back in January when she was in town preparing for a fundraiser concert.

For the last several years, Wolfe and the creative team behind “Tales” have been developing the show in theater workshops, she said.

“I’m just thrilled it’s going to finally get a full production,” Wolfe said back in January. “And to have the show debut in San Francisco is just going to be magical.”

During the grueling early “Tales” audtion process two years ago, Whitty said Wolfe was “electrifying” and left the creative team with an “A ha!” moment.

“She’s not only a wonderful actress, funny and intelligent, but can break your heart too. And as we always say, Betsy ‘sings her face off’ — her rangy, expressive voice is to die for,” Whitty said. “Her Mary Ann Singleton is, for me, definitive.”

In addition to Wolfe, the cast will include Tony Award-winner Judy Kaye as Maupin’s iconic pot-smoking landlady Anna Madrigal, Mary Birdsong as Mona Ramsay and Tony Award-nominee Manoel Felciano (“Sweeney Todd”) as Norman.

Fans of PBS might remember the 1993 television adaptation of “Tales,” which starred Olympia Dukakis as Madrigal and Laura Linney as Mary Ann.

The big question with “Tales” is if the show is a hit in San Francisco will it move to Broadway? Shows frequently open outside of New York City to work out tweaks in plot and music before moving to New York. “Wicked,” for example, had a 2003 pre-Broadway run in San Francisco.

Does Wolfe think “Tales of the City” will make it to Broadway?

“I would think with all the talent behind the show, it will,” said Wolfe back in January. “But right now I’m just focusing on the show in San Francisco and where it goes from there we’ll see.”

Wolfe is familiar with Broadway, of course. She has appeared in the Tony Award-nominated musicals “Everyday Rapture” and “110 in the Shade” with Tony Award-winner Audra McDonald, who grew up in Fresno.

At least one of her biggest fans from Visalia will make the trek to San Francisco to see Wolfe in “Tales.” Longtime Golden West drama teacher Mike Wilson is excited to see his former student in the production.

“I have had dozens of great performers come through our program over the past 30 years, but Betsy is the best,” Wilson said. “Her work ethic was so amazing and her talent was unsurpassed.”

Aside from her Broadway performances, Wolfe appeared in the national touring company of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” performed with symphonies in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Detroit and Baltimore, sung at Carnegie Hall and was the lead soloist singer for the New York City Ballet.

1 comment:

  1. Poor Visalia...this is the only local "talent" they can ever write about.