From Centennial High to the Broadway stage

It’s a rare treat to find two Centennial High School alums, both triple threats (actors, singers and dancers,) appearing practically next door to each other on Broadway. Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, a 2002 graduate, is a knockout in “The Cher Show,” now in previews at the Neil Simon Theater on 52nd Street. Adam Dannheisser, class of 1988, proves his immense talent in the much-talked-about “Beetlejuice,” soon to be a few steps away at the Winter Garden on “The Great White Way.”

And behind those two gtaduates who made it to the New York stages and beyond, is another “triple threat,” Myron “Mo” Dutterer, teacher, coach and mentor to those mentioned above and at least a dozen more.

“Adam was in every main stage show, variety show, ‘Fat Night Follies,’ or anything else that happened at Centennial High while he was there,” said Dutterer, after a “Beetlejuice” preview at DC’s National Theater. “Such a quick, witty, and creative mind has always been his method of operation. He always demonstrated a sense of humor, especially when he cavorted with his Centennial classmate Michael Magee, who, like Adam, went onto a professional career in theater and performed in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in London.”

Dutterer follows the success of his protégés all over the globe and attempts to see his former students in as many performances as possible. He hopes to catch Fitzgerald on his next visit to Manhattan – he caught all her previous shows on and off-Broadway.

“More than anything, I appreciate the support…it’s like having family in the house for every show,” said Dannheisser after his “Beetlejuice” performance. “It’s always a thrill to know that Mo and Barbara (Dutterer) are in the audience. He was instrumental in guiding me and instilling confidence. There are people in your life who say, ‘you are going in the absolute right direction,’ and that was always Mo.”

Dannheisser earned his MFA degree from the prestigious Tisch School at NYU. He has racked up a Broadway resume that includes roles in Shakespeare’s finest plays, heavy dramas, rock musicals and old-fashioned favorites like “Fiddler on the Roof.” A major coup for Dannheisser was his casting for multiple roles in “The Coast of Utopia” trilogy at Lincoln Center in 2006. And those of us who saw Adam in the national tour of “Contact,” recall his comical antics and fancy footwork throughout the musical.

This diversity of parts played a factor in choosing him to play Charles, the haunted husband in the musical “Beetlejuice,” based on Tim Burton’s wildly funny film. Critics have noted Danheisser’s performance “exceptional” and “hilarious,” and while this is not a review, let’s just say this musical will speak to all ages, but especially to those who grew up in the ‘90s watching the super heroes and comic strip characters that came to life on the big and little screens.

When asked if he’s having fun with this bizarre character he plays in the musical, Dannheisser answered without hesitation.

“Absolutely. I think this show in unique…unlike anything out there. And there is a real audience for it…those who are older and loved the movie and younger peeps who will identify with the contemporary themes and irreverent story telling.”

Dannheisser admits he feels very fortunate to be able to bounce back and forth between comedy and drama.

“They feed me in very different but equally satisfying ways.” He says this show is “a blast,” his words, “a true joy to play every night with some of the best folks I’ve ever worked with. And people are already coming back to see it again…even through it just opened.”

Backstage, Dannheisser appears humbled by his success. As he points out the sets and props to guests, he smiles at the children. “I love seeing kids at the show and encouraging them to continue in theater,” he said, mentioning he has a family of his own – his wife, also an actor and dancer, and two sons.

On a personal note he added, “Once it gets to Broadway, I’ll get to go home every night. It’s been awhile since I left New York, so I do a lot of FaceTiming with my wife and boys,” he said, noting the missing out of soccer practices and the usual dad stuff.”

It’s a big deal that Howard County-trained Fitzgerald (who studied at the Royale Ballet under Donna Pidel’s tutelage) is a featured performer in the Broadway bio-musical, “The Cher Show.” As a new mom, the ballerina-turned-show dancer is grateful to be living close to the theater where she can check up on her darling little daughter. Like Dannheisser, she is also appreciative of Mo Dutterer’s support over the years.

“There is nobody else who would come to every performance, on and off-Broadway, as Mo Dutterer has done over the years,” said Fitzgerald in a phone conversation from her apartment. “I can’t wait to show him my special routines in the show.”

A versatile performer, Fitzgerald was accepted to the Boston Conservatory of Music but left early to pursue her true love: show business. Her first professional gig was the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” followed by a national tour of “Fosse” and the Frank Sinatra-inspired musical “Come Fly Away.”

She danced in “Gigi,” which premiered at the Kennedy Center, then made its Broadway debut in 2014, and was chosen as Misty Copeland’s understudy in ”An American in Paris.” In “The Cher Show,” Fitzgerald sparkles on stage, especially in the second act where she is featured in a role created especially for her talents. Could there be Tony Awards buzz?

Ashley Blair Fitzgerald is a company member in the “The Cher Show” at the Neil Simon Theater now in previews and slated to make its official opening on Dec. 3. Phone 212-757-8646 or go to The Cher Show – Broadway

Beetlejuice closes this Sunday, Nov. 18, at the National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC through Sunday, Nov. 18. For ticket information, go to thenationaldc.org. For information on the upcoming engagement at The Winter Garden Theater in Manhattan, call the box office at 212-239-6200.

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