While Shonn Wiley is young and just starting his career, the stage singer and dancer is also quick to acknowledge he's "an old soul."
Wiley, one of the singers from the popular Under the Streetlamp group which burst on the touring scene two years ago, is fitting a quick New York musical casting opportunity, in between all of his Under the Streetlamp tour dates.
He's joining Christine Baranski, Kelli Barrett, Walter Bobbie, Jeremy Cohen, Dalton Harrod, Randy Skinner, and Karen Ziemba, along with New York City Ballet principal dancer Joaquin De Luz and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Irina Dvorovenko to star in Rodgers and Hart's classic "On Your Toes," the final Encores! presentation of the 2012-13 New York City Center season.
Wiley is managed by Charlie Blum, who is CEO and talent buyer for Star Plaza Theatre and Star Productions.
Blum has been busy helping Wiley prep for the run of "On Your Toes," which is being directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle and will play just seven performances from May 8 to 12 at New York City Center.
"On Your Toes" dates back to a 1936 debut on Broadway and is a mix of gangsters, vaudeville and classical ballet, and credited as the first musical to successfully integrate classical dance into the Broadway musical format. It tells the story of Junior, a vaudeville hoofer played by Wiley, who gets mixed up with a classical Russian Ballet troupe, and Vera, the troupe's fiery prima ballerina, played by Dvorovenko. When the ballet's leading dancer cannot go on, Junior steps in to save the day. But Vera's jealous boyfriend, played by De Luz, tries to have him killed during the performance, and he must literally dance for his life.
It's a perfect project for the talents of Wiley, who credits the late singer Johnnie Ray as his idol and inspiration. Ray, who died far too young at age 63 in 1990 of alcoholism and liver failure. Ray served as best man at friend Judy Garland's 1969 wedding to her fifth husband, London nightclub manager Mickey Dean. Though Ray had a quick one-year marriage in 1952 to Marilyn Morrison, daughter of Charlie Morrison, owner of the popular Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood, he always credited his true love to his long-time champion and companion Dorothy Kilgallen, the acerbic syndicated gossip columnist for The New York Daily Mirror and panelist on the popular CBS panel TV game show "What's My Line?" (Despite being squired by Ray, Kilgallen remained married to her Broadway producer husband Dick Kollmar until her mysterious death in 1965.)
Reader Laura Lease of Valparaiso wanted to remind readers about a favorite show she caught over the weekend.
"Hi Mr. Potempa: Forgive me if I missed your write-up. But if you haven't had the opportunity yet, you should go see, 'Legally Blonde,' as performed at Portage High School. It is far more than quality entertainment! I could not believe the caliber of the singing, dancing, and choreography. It seems impossible that the performers are only high school students! Tickets are only $10 and are available at the door. This coming weekend is the last opportunity to catch it. Best wishes and thank you for your columns. Sincerely, Laura Lease."