Thursday, Oct 28, 2021
For many, these roles mark touring debuts
by Rachel Stengel '14, '20
As theaters across the U.S. began to open their doors to patrons again this fall, a number of Rider alumni joined the cast of North American Broadway tours.
Kelliann DeCarlo '13 is a swing for Grizabella and Jellylorum in the tour of Cats. Also in Cats, John Anker Bow '03 plays the roles of Peter, Bustopher Jones and Asapragus, and is an understudy for Victor and Old Deuteronomy. Gabrielle Beckford '17 is an ensemble member and understudy for Angie Dickinson in the tour of The Prom. Elizabeth Ritacco '15 is a swing in the tour of Anastasia. Kelly Prendergast '18 is a swing in the tour of Waitress. Rosie Webber '16 is an ensemble member and Fruma-Sarah in the tour of Fiddler on the Roof. Colby Dezelick '16 is an ensemble member in the tour of Frozen. Elise Shangold '20 is an ensemble member, who also plays Zach's mom, Lynette and is an understudy for Paula in the tour of An Officer and a Gentleman.
For DeCarlo, Beckford, Ritacco, Prendergast, Dezelick and Shangold, their roles mark their national touring debut. Webber made her national touring debut in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Dezelick previously had roles on Broadway in Miss Saigon as an ensemble member and understudy for the lead role of Chris and in Anastasia as an ensemble member and understudy to Dmitry. Bow has three previous national tours under his belt, playing the roles of George in Kinky Boots, Henry Ford in Ragtime and Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol.
For DeCarlo, stepping on stage for the first time in two years was overwhelmingly emotional. On Sept. 19, she made her debut as Grizabella in the Cats tour in Rochester, a role she previously played in a 2017 regional production of the musical. In this role, DeCarlo sings the show's iconic song "Memory."
"The first time on stage in a role as a swing is very chaotic because you're filling a space and it's the first time in makeup and costume," she says. "It brought me such peace to hear the audience's applause. I came off stage and automatically started crying because I hadn't done that in two years. There was such adrenaline in that moment."
Just as COVID swept the U.S. in March of 2020, Beckford was playing the role of Fedna in Gloria: A Life, new play about the life of writer and political activist Gloria Steinem. The show began in 2019 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., before moving to the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., from January through March of 2020.
"The last time I performed on stage was literally right before COVID hit," she says. "Acting is what I love to do, and I feel it is my purpose to use my gift to affect lives in an impactful way. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do what I love and bless others in the process as well."
Touring requires flexibility and stamina for performers. Each tour has at least 20 city stops with some having shows in more than 60 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. Each tour performs about eight shows a week per city, many staying multiple weeks in one location. A suitcase full of activewear is essential, says DeCarlo, who is currently in Spokane, Wash., the seventh stop of the more than 40 on the Cats tour.
"During the pandemic, I really wanted a job where I traveled," she says. "I was really looking for a cruise ship role or a tour. I haven't seen a lot of the country. The other week some of my cast and I were hiking in Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas. That's something I never would have done otherwise."
Mostly, Beckford is looking forward to being with audiences again when The Prom tour kicks off on Nov. 2 in Cleveland.
"I feel honored and grateful to be able to embark on this journey," she says. "I always say that actors are the 'doctors of the soul,' and I am empowered even more now to bring this new life to audiences across the country."