Passion for performing takes Colonie grad to off-Broadway
Cathryn Salamone tapped for lead in 'The Fantasticks'
NEW YORK Cathryn Salamone prefers baby-sitting to waitressing, but the way things are going she won’t have the time or the need to pursue anything other than her first love, performing.
A 2009 Colonie High grad who earlier this year earned her theater degree from Pace University, Salamone is on a fast track to success in the theater world. Less than half a year after graduating from college, she has landed the prestigious role of Luisa in the off-Broadway classic “The Fantasticks” at the Jerry Orbach Theater in Manhattan.
“I’m thrilled that I got this job, and it really has been a blessing,” said Salamone, whose predecessors in the role include Liza Minelli and Kristin Chenoweth. “Over the summer, I did some baby-sitting, and it’s actually fantastic money for actors. But I also found out I’m a terrible waitress, so I’m incredibly happy to be where I am. I’m contracted through February 2nd, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Since beginning her gig on Nov. 11, Salamone has been performing in eight shows a week and has earned her Actors Equity Card.
“I’ve done nothing like eight shows a week in the past,” she said, “but it’s been OK. I’m singing soprano, so that’s a little bit easier. A lot of actors who belt and have to use their chest have to watch how much they speak during the day. But I’m OK, and Equity does place a cot in every dressing room. I hadn’t been a member before this show, but I am enjoying my cot. That’s one of the best things about turning Equity.”
‘She has that spark’
Salamone began performing in middle school, but also spent much of her time playing the clarinet in the school band.
“My band instructor, Mr. [Lonsdale] Walker, was super influential because the band was so important in my life,” said Salamone, who also counts Carol Ann Weeks, Deanna Stickles-Bach, Michael
Mensching and Edward Meagher among her favorite teachers at Colonie. “It established my musical vocabulary, and that was an important skill to have going into college. But things changed when I realized I didn’t want to be a professional musician, and I just loved the fluidity of the theater and the joy it brought to me. But being a part of that band taught me a lot of discipline.”
Salamone spent her first college year at Hudson Valley Community College, which allowed her to perform in the Schenectady Civic Players’ production of “Little Women” during the fall of 2009. She played Jo, the lead, in that musical version, and quickly made an impression on director Duncan Morrison when she showed up to audition.
“When Cathryn got up and started singing, we were all like, ‘wow,’ ” said Morrison. “She has that spark that everyone notices instantly. The minute she sings or even smiles you see it, and virtually everyone who came into contact with her during the whole rehearsal process had the same reaction. This girl has it, quote, unquote.”
While she says she’s a musical theater performer first and foremost, Salamone also earned more rave reviews from area critics for her nonmusical, dramatic portrayal of Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” at Curtain Call in March of 2010.
“I know Cathryn wants to do musical theater, and she certainly is a triple threat if there ever was one,” said Carol Max, founding artistic director at Curtain Call. “But she was amazing in our show. Both professionally and personally, she’s a joy to be around and we’re all thrilled for her. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.”
Later that spring, after her Curtain Call gig was over, Salamone — who also dabbles in graphic design — returned to the Schenectady Civic Playhouse for another nonmusical performance in “You Can’t Take It With You.” In that show she was Alice Sycamore, granddaughter of Martin Vanderhof, played by John Noble.
“She sparkles on the stage, and her personality just goes beaming out across the footlights,” said Noble, one of the Capital Region’s most sought-after character actors. “She was a delight to work with, and she really does shine when she’s on stage.”
Noble wasn’t in “The Miracle Worker” with Salamone, but he did go to Curtain Call to watch.
“I saw her as Annie Sullivan and she was wonderful,” he said. “I haven’t even heard her sing yet, but she has this energy and this inner flow. She’s one of my favorites.”
“The Fantasticks” is the 1960 creation of Harvey Schmidt (music) and Tom Jones (lyrics), and is loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s “The Romancers” from 1894. Rostand is best known for his classic 1897 work, “Cyrano de Bergerac.” In Jones’ story, Luisa and Matt are two young teenagers who are tricked into falling in love with each other by their fathers. When they discover the deception, their relationship temporarily falls apart.
Often called the longest-running musical of all time, the original off-Broadway production ran for more than 17,000 performances over 42 years before finally closing in January of 2002. Orbach, honored by having the current theater producing the show named after him, was the original El Gallo (the narrator) and Rita Gardner was the first Luisa. A young Liza Minneli toured with the show in 1964, with a young Elliott Gould. It was revived in August of 2006 at the Orbach Theatre, part of the Snapple Theatre Center, and has continued ever since.
“Try to Remember” is the signature song from the show and is sung by El Gallo, Luisa and Matt. Salamone’s main solo as Luisa is “Much More.”
“The music is very famous, and so singable,” said Salamone. “The songs are catchy and wonderful, and it’s a family-friendly show with a very accessible message for everybody. The humor touches everyone, and it’s so pure and golden-hearted. I get tourists from all over the world meeting me after the show. If they come to New York, they have to see ‘The Fantasticks.’ ”