Carolee Carmello, Kevin McGuire to join Entertainment Hall of Fame

For musical theater performers Kevin McGuire and Carolee Carmello, things came relatively easy. Lack
Albany native Carolee Carmella plays Donna in "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway.
Albany native Carolee Carmella plays Donna in "Mamma Mia!" on Broadway.

For musical theater performers Kevin McGuire and Carolee Carmello, things came relatively easy. Lack of work never was a problem.

“I knew right away what I wanted to do, and it was unbelievable but I always had work,” said McGuire, a Hoosick Falls native who performed in “Les Miserables” on Broadway and played the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera” in Toronto.

“After high school, I went to London, started my career, and I worked my way up the ranks. I got some training, some very good training, but I was also always working.”

While McGuire knew he was born to perform, that wasn’t the case with Carmello, an Albany High graduate who graduated from the University at Albany with a business degree.

“I always thought performing was going to be a temporary thing,” said Carmello, who has twice been nominated for Tonys in a Broadway career that began in 1989. “I still have moments when I think, ‘maybe I should go to law school.’ Who knows, I’m almost 50 so maybe I’ll get this out of my system.”

Carmello, currently in Seattle, and McGuire, now working out of New York City and Columbus, Ohio, are being inducted into the Capital Region Entertainment Hall of Fame, and will be honored at Proctors’ 2011 Season Opening Gala at 6 on Saturday night. Other 2011 inductees will be Kathe Sheehan and her husband, Jack, owners of The Costumer. Jack Sheehan died in 2006, and Carmello, in the middle of a production of “Saving Aimee” at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theater, will not be in attendance.

“It’s thrilling and it’s humbling, and of course it’s an amazing honor,” said Carmello from Seattle last week. “I wish I could be there for the induction ceremony, but I just couldn’t make it happen. It’s so disappointing, but I’m so honored to be included in that list.”

The Hall of Fame plaques of Carmello and McGuire will be put up in the Proctors Arcade along with those of actors Kirk Douglas, Maureen O’Sullivan and Maureen Stapleton and director John Sayles, to name a few.

“When I look at the names of the other people that have been inducted, I’m like, ‘wow,’ ” said McGuire. “It’s exciting, and it’s an honor to be up there alongside Carolee. She’s great.”

McGuire, 53, started singing in the boys choir at the Hoosick Falls Immaculate Conception Church under the guidance of Prudence Tatro. He was never tempted, he says, to sing in a rock ’n’ roll band.

Born too late

“I was born too late because I guess I’m sort of a crooner from the 1930s,” he said. “I never learned to scream so I didn’t sing rock ’n’ roll. It’s funny, because as I get older and my voice gets more developed, I think I could do the rock ’n’ roll stuff. But I’ll always be more of a crooner. I was born in the wrong era.”

After graduating from the Hoosac School in Hoosick, he trained in London for a year and then came back to the U.S. and got a gig at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. For two years he traveled with John Houseman’s The Acting Company, while also studying at the Juilliard School and the Circle-in-the-Square Theatre in New York City. In March of 1987, when “Les Miserables” opened on Broadway, he was part of the cast. After performing in a variety of roles, he finally got the chance to play the lead character, Jean Valjean.

“I had very little time to prepare, so I was terrified,” he said. “I didn’t know the night before that I was going on. I did not have a blocking rehearsal. I had not actually stood up and done it, so it was scary. But, at the end, the audience stood up and applauded. I got through it on pure adrenaline, Hoosick Falls chutzpah.”

In 1983, Carmello graduated from UAlbany and was trying to decide between furthering her education in law school or by pursuing an MBA. She ended up doing neither.

“The people who inspired me were my Latin teacher in high school [Judy Greenwood) and my business adviser at Albany [John Levato]” she remembered. “They were passionate about what they were doing. But I never intended to go into the theater. The summer that I graduated, I got a job at the Lake George Dinner Theatre, and I thought it’d be a good diversion for me; a nice way to spend the summer and check out the scenery while I figured out what was next.

“Well, I met all these actors and directors from New York, and they all said, ‘you should move to New York and give it a shot.’ I was only 22, and I knew if I never did it I would regret it. It was a huge leap of faith, but I just thought I’d go down there, find out how hard it was, get it out of my system and then go to law school. But it didn’t work out that way. I can remember thinking to myself, ‘well if I don’t get a job in January or whatever, I’ll go home.’ But every time I would get sucked in by another job.”

On Broadway

Carmello did indeed find plenty of work, and by 1989 she was on Broadway in a small role in “City of Angels.” She also landed roles in a revival of “1776” as Abigail Adams and in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” as Marguerite St. Just. Then, in December of 1998, she earned her first Tony Award nomination for her performance as Lucille in “Parade.” She also appeared in “Kiss Me Kate” and “Urinetown,” and in 2004 became Donna Sheridan in the ongoing production of “Mamma Mia!” In 2006 she earned her second Tony nomination as Gabrielle in “Lestat.”

“People have been asking me a lot lately about my career, and I think the pivotal role for me was in ‘Parade,’ ” she said. “It was my first Tony nomination, and it was a role that I created.”

Before she landed her gig with the Lake George Dinner Theatre, Carmello had performed at the Schenectady Light Opera Company and at the Thruway House on Washington Avenue in Albany, where Mimi Scott selected her to play Maria in “The Sound of Music.”

“It was my first paying job as an actor, and I can remember getting so excited about the 20 dollars a week I was getting,” Carmello said of working for Scott, the woman who also created the Park Playhouse in Albany’s Washington Park. “But, really, all I was doing was singing for fun. I really hadn’t done that much. I never even knew this path toward becoming an actor even existed. When I started working in Lake George and joined the Actors Equity Union, that’s when I realized that doing something like performing could even be a possibility.”

In 2010, she originated the role of Alice Beineke in “The Addams Family,” with Nathan Lane (Gomez) and Bebe Neuwirth (Morticia). In March, she left that role to concentrate on her next project, “Saving Aimee.”

“It’s a brand new musical based on the life of a female evangelist from the 1920s and ’30s,” she said. “She was incredibly famous back then, and quite a pioneer. Whenever you’re with a project like this and you go out of town, you’re always hoping you can take it to Broadway. We’re hoping that will happen with this one but you never know. After 26 years, you’d think I could predict it, but you can’t. If I could I’d be a very rich women.”

Carmello, who has also done some television work and was in 13 episodes of “Remember WENN” back in 1997, is married to actor Gregg Edelman. They have two children and live in Leonia, N.J.

New endeavor

McGuire, meanwhile, is also working on a new play, a musical based on “Treasure Island,” that he hopes will put him back on Broadway. Until that time, he is working in Columbus, Ohio, serving as artistic director of a brand new theater company.

“I’m starting over from scratch again, but maybe I’m very good at it,” said McGuire, who after leaving his “Phantom” role in Toronto in 1999 began The Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge and worked there until 2009. “The new place is called Short North Stage, and it’s an old burlesque house that we’re renovating, just like we did at Hubbard Hall.”

He hasn’t signed a contract yet, but he expects to return to the Albany area in November to play the lead role in “Man of LaMancha” at Capital Repertory Theatre.

The Sheehans bought The Costumer in 1974, the business having begun in 1917 by Anna White. Both former teachers and high school drama directors, they developed their business based on their experience producing high school plays. During the past show season, The Costumer provided more than 30,000 costumes for more than 1,000 productions at the scholastic, collegiate, civic and professional level.

Categories: Life and Arts

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