Many Media Theatre patrons have no idea who they are actually seeing on our stage, even though they may quickly glance at an actor’s bio in the playbill. And then there are those actors who create an indelible impression when seen in a musical, but who leave Media and the surrounding region after the show ends its run…what happens to those talented singers and actors?
Interestingly, as passers-by on State Street drive past the Media Theatre marquee or walk underneath it on foot, the thought rarely occurs that—aside from recognizable names like Wanda Sykes, Ann Crumb, and Justin Guarini—actors you find regularly in television, film, and the Broadway stage are entertaining thousands of people annually in the heart of Delaware County.
For instance, take a look at the cast of the recently released Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah musical comedy Joyful Noise. Right there on the big screen, and soon to be seen on millions of DVD players around the world sharing the scenes with two of iconic female talents is none other than Andy Karl in the role of Caleb. Karl is very familiar with The Media Theatre and the Media Borough ever since he portrayed the leading 'dual' role of "Jekyll and Hyde" in Frank Wildhorn’s musical version of that split personality tale in 2002—right here on State Street.
Audiences reacted to Karl’s brilliant portrayal of Jekyll/Hyde by giving him standing ovations at each and every performance during curtain call. Prior to arriving in Media, he had already created quite a resume including playing the lead role in Broadway’s Saturday Night Fever musical. Following his memorable run here in 2002, Karl went on to appear in Legally Blonde on The Great White Way as the UPS Guy (this musical was filmed by MTV and rerun so many times in the mid-2000’s that teenage girls across the nation made the average musical a smash success in New York City). He has also appeared in Wicked, and Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five musical. Currently, he is on Broadway yet again in the immensely popular Jersey Boys. Now that’s the kind of talent you may not realize is on The Media Theatre stage.
And so is Phillip Boykin. In Show Boat three seasons ago, Boykin did more than bring the house down with his portrayal of Joe and his interpretation of the classic show tune "Ol’ Man River"—He actually shook the rafters with his booming, powerful baritone. Recently, this past January, Boykin graced the entire full page of The New York Times entertainment section as he appeared in the current Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess. The New York Times raved about his interpretation of the role of Crown, in which he shares the stage with four-time Tony winning Broadway icon Audra McDonald.
See what I’m getting at? You pass The Media Theatre dozens of times a year and don’t realize what is happening inside on the stage. Jesse Cline, artistic director for the theatre, certainly has quite a knack for casting. These actors are members of the Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. These are not people who perform as a "hobby," although there is nothing wrong with that, it’s a choice, just like the choice made to pursue a professional career and make a name for yourself doing what you love to do.
Others who have done well before, after, or during appearing on Media’s only professional music theatre stage are:
Ian Kahn, who delighted audiences four years ago as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (also directed by Cline). He went on to Broadway in Enron: The Musical and to living rooms across the country in the ABC hit Castle.
Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Now there’s a name for you. Cast by Cline when he was only 22 in a production of Hello Dolly as Barnaby, and seen by over 8,000 people here in Media, this young man went on to several Emmy nominations and two SAG Award wins for his work in the mega-popular ABC situation comedy Modern Family. He plays Mitchell Pritchett. (I remember, when working with this young man years ago Jesse Cline stating quite matter-of-factly, "This guy is a talent to watch. He is going to be big." Sure enough, with Modern Family winning every award imaginable and being seen by millions of people weekly, those were words to carve into stone. And he was our Barnaby…just a kid then.)
This is just an example of the actors who have walked in and out of The Media Theatre for weeks at a time as they rehearsed and performed here. They have, most likely, shopped and dined at Media’s businesses and restaurants while in town and you may have seen them out there in the borough somewhere, casually strolling along the sidewalk or passing you in their car. Just as you pass by The Media Theatre every day and don’t have any idea who that actor is on the stage inside.
So the next time you see our marquee and notice a show title that intrigues you, the next big Broadway star, film icon, or award-winning television personality could be headed to a stage near you. It’s all in Media. Your home town.
For upcoming performances, visit mediatheatre.org.