Like many other metropolitan cities, Seattle thrives with productions of performing arts. Many Broadway shows are “test runs” here before they hit the Big Apple while many more are performed and then long forgotten. Countless actors travel across the states in touring shows, but only a few consider Seattle their home. Here is a short list of some of the area’s best local talent.
Don Darryl Rivera
As a Cornish College of the Arts graduate, Rivera is one busy actor. This last year Rivera performed in Teatro ZinZanni’s “Zirkus Fantazmo,” (the company’s first family-friendly production), “Disney’s Aladdin” at the 5th Avenue in July, and most recently in a Seattle Children’s Theatre production of “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” In fact, that show was so successful that he is currently on tour performing the show at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre.
As a Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Award recipient for “Person to Watch” in 2009, Rivera is probably best known by Seattle’s youngest theatre-goers. Rivera has performed for many SCT’s productions, including “The Brementon Musicians,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “I Was a Rat.” Adults may remember him from the story of Don Quioxte in “The Man of La Mancha” at the Taproot Theatre Company or his work with Seattle’s Shakespeare Company. In fact, Rivera’s next gig is “The Servant of Two Masters” in Washington, D.C. this coming May. Hopefully we’ll get him back in the Northwest where he belongs.
Brandon O’Neill has found steady work at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and with good reason: he’s incredibly versatile. Last year alone he performed in four productions. The Spokane native started the year with the role of big time gambler Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls” – a role he was given much kudos for on the local circuit. In a completely different role, he played Kassim, one of Aladdin’s best friends and one of the narrators in “Disney’s Aladdin.” Then he did double duty in Kathie Lee Gifford’s “Saving Aimee” as Mac McPherson, Aimee’s first husband and then later as the slimy radio engineer, Kenneth Ormiston. He finished out the year opposite of Jennifer Paz as Prince Christopher in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.”
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Amazingly, Jennifer Paz never worked professionally as an actress when she auditioned for a Canadian production of the musical “Miss Saigon.” She went from being cast in the chorus to lead role of Kim. Paz has traveled all over the country, and yet can be found quite often in the Northwest where she makes her home. Ms. Paz has an incredibly clear and beautiful voice that is perfectly tailored for the stage. In the summer of 2011, Paz played Mary Magdalene in Village Theatre’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” in both Issaquah and Everett and then had the starring role of “Cinderella” in 5th Avenue Theatre’s version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit last Christmas.
Impressively, Charles Leggett is the recipient and three-time nominee for Outstanding Actor with Theatre Puget Sound Gregory Awards for 2011 and a multi-year recipient of other local awards. Greatly known for his work with the Seattle Shakespeare Company, he had a change of pace last spring with this role of Lennie in “Of Mice and Men” at Seattle Repertory Theatre. He can be currently be seen in Village Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” in Issaquah until February 26 where the production will move up north to its’ Everett location March 2 to 25. He is playing the coveted role of Oscar Madison, the messy roommate of ultra-tidy Felix Ungar.
Faith Russell is a powerhouse of a performer. She juggles her stage time between three theatre companies: Village Theatre’s Kidstage, Studio East and Taproot Theatre. When she’s not on the stage, she’s in front of it directing or choreographing children’s theatre. Her last serious role was that of Dr. Deidre Watson, a feisty, strong-willed surgeon in Taproot’s “Brownie Points” last summer. This is the same woman who played half of a two-headed sea slug for a production of “The Little Mermaid.” In between she’s played the narrator for “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” and was featured in “The Man of La Mancha” and C. S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” at Taproot.
Jeffrey Totey is a freelance writer living in Seattle. He has a love for the arts and is a student of pop culture. He covers stories about the performing arts, theater, museums, cultural events, movies and more in the greater Seattle area. His work can be found at Examiner.com.