Brooke Tallman-Birkett was last seen on the Orpheus Theatre stage in our production of Into The Woods as The Baker’s Wife. Her favorite Orpheus roles include Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show, Jeanie (HAIR), Gingy (Shrek The Musical), Enid Hoopes (Legally Blonde), and Jenny (Company). Outside of Orpheus, Brooke has appeared locally in The Laramie Project, and in Cooperstown V-day’s production of The Vagina Monologues for the last four years, making her directorial debut with the most recent production. She recently co-directed her first musical, Into The Woods JR, with Ben Burke for Orpheus’ Starstruck Players.
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Tom Pondolfino, a retired Navy Gunners Mate, made his stage début at the tender age of 41 in the 2004 production of H.M.S. Pinafore with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company in Rockville, Maryland. Since his return to his hometown of Oneonta in 2006, Tom has performed in over 14 Orpheus Theatre productions, including Shrek in Shrek The Musical, and several Oneonta Theatre Stage Players productions. When not on stage you may see him in safety orange and a hard hat working for the City of Oneonta.
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Shane Heidecker, a recent graduate of Nazareth College, is thrilled to be back on stage again with Orpheus. Previous credits include: Claude in Hair, Bobby in Company, Hanschen in Spring Awakening and many more.
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Michelle Gardner is an actress, singer, dancer, dance teacher, choreographer and director in Music Theatre. She has performed in more than 30 Music Theatre productions and choreographed over 35 Music Theatre productions for a variety of theatre companies in upstate New York, including Orpheus Theatre, Catskill Players, Catskill Theatre Works, Hartwick College, Oneonta High School, Cooperstown High School, State University College at Delhi and SUNY Oneonta. For the past 10 years, she has been a full-time Adjunct Professor teaching classes in the Dance Minor in the Department of Theatre at the State University College at Oneonta. In addition to her time on stage, she is also the choreographer for Gypsy!
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Mary-Jo Merk is thrilled to be performing Mazeppa after having performed the role of Rose in Orpheus Theatre’s 1992 production of Gypsy. MJ has “trod the boards” many times for Orpheus Theatre, performing in Oklahoma, Annie, Mame, Gigi, Funny Girl, Oliver, and Beauty and the Beast, to name a few. She has also directed over 10 shows for Orpheus Theatre and cannot decide which she prefers. MJ teaches Ballroom Dance at SUNY Oneonta. After a full career of teaching English, Speech and Theatre and directing the musicals at Cooperstown Central School, she finds teaching dance a great deal of fun. Ms. Merk is one of the founders of Glimmerglass Opera as well as a charter member of the talented and popular performing group, TOO MANY DIVAS.
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Micaelina Velardi is excited to be performing and working once again with Orpheus Theatre on their production of Gypsy! She appeared in and choreographed for SUNY Oneonta's production of Naga Mandala as The Story and the Song and designed and built the masks and puppets for the production. Other credits include Patience or Bunthorne's Bride as Lady Ella with the Earlville Opera House, Hair: The American Love-Rock Tribal Musical with Orpheus Theatre Co. and Carousel with SUNY Oneonta. She is currently earning her BFA in Theatre and Dance at SUNY Oneonta and has been choreographing and teaching dance since the age of 17.
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Naomi Wager is a fifth grader at the Cooperstown Elementary School and is thrilled to perform with Orpheus Theatre for a second time. Previous roles: Matilda/Oompa Loompa (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Young Cosette (Les Miserables), Children's Chorus (Little Prince, The Lion Unicorn and Me) with Washington National Opera, Youth Chorus/Supernumerary (Odyssey, Madame Butterfly, American Tragedy, little match girl passion) with Glimmerglass Festival.
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Riley Bowen is thirteen years old and attends Cooperstown Central School. Riley has been involved with Orpheus since 2011. She has done several main stage shows and workshops, and is a member of The Starstruck Players. Some of her favorite roles include Little Red Riding Hood (Into the Woods Jr.), Bun Foo (Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr.), one of the Three Little Pigs (Shrek: The Musical), and most recently as Sharpay Evans (High School Musical Jr.). Riley is ecstatic to be in another show with her sister, Molly; her brother, Andrew; her mom, Brooke; and now her dog, Artemis.
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