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The singer/actress waited months to audition for the Broadway Rose role

by: CHRIS RYAN/BROADWAY ROSE THEATRE COMPANY - WARY AT FIRST - In 'The Music Man,' Chrissy Kelly-Pettit plays Marian Paroo, who has a tough exterior but is vulnerabale, while Joe Theissen plays Professor Harold Hill.Most people take a trip to Disneyland or Disney World, and all they leave with are fond memories.

Chrissy Kelly-Pettit, who plays Marian the librarian in the upcoming Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s “The Music Man,” left with a lot more than memories after working at Disney World during college: She met her husband there and also picked up job skills that proved useful later.

Kelly-Pettit grew up on the East Coast and likely would have remained there if she hadn’t met a man from Oregon. Born in Connecticut, she moved with her family to Idaho before returning at age 6 to settle permanently in Saratoga Springs, which is in Upstate New York.

“I saw ‘The Sound of Music’ when I was 7,” Kelly-Pettit said. “That was my first musical, and I wanted to be Liesl. That’s what got me excited about musical theater.

“I appeared in my first show at 8 or 9 and have known since I was 11 that I wanted theater to be my profession. My mom wanted to audition for the local theater’s production of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and I went along. Honestly, I seem to remember being the one who wanted to audition, so we each say we tagged along with each other, but either way, from then on I was in every show with parts for kids

“I remember my very first show being at a summer camp that was doing ‘Hurricane Smith,’ and I wanted to be Cobra Woman. But I had to leave camp a week early because my family was going on vacation to Hershey Park, so I was put in the chorus.”

Kelly-Pettit took voice lessons in high school and in her senior year participated in an internship at the New York State Theatre Institute, which is an Equity theater.

“I loaded up on credits my junior year so all I had left going into my senior year was PE and government,” she said. “At NYSTI, my PE credit was covered with everything from yoga to circus skills, and our education supervisor taught about government, including how to write our representatives for support for the arts. They offered internships in various areas, and I was stage manager for a production of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales,’ studied marketing, lighting and arts education, and also preformed in a musical production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ It was a great opportunity to be with other kids passionate about theater and to work with seasoned professionals.”

Next Kelly-Pettit was off to State University New York at New Paltz, “which was not necessarily a school focused on musical theater,” she said. “But I was given a great foundation in acting technique and supplemented that work with voice and dance lessons.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and even spent one semester abroad at Middlesex University of London and another one as an intern at Disney World, where she met another intern, Jake Pettit. She also picked up some credits at Disney University, which offers courses for college credit.

Kelly-Pettit graduated before Jake and moved to Eugene where he finished his degree at the University of Oregon before they moved to the Portland area in 2005.

Before she started working in the theater full time, she had various jobs, including manning the front desk at a dental office, serving as the flight coordinator for a private jet company, and working in sales and administration for a high-tech company. While those jobs sound very different, Kelly-Pettit said that they actually were similar in many ways and that her theater and Disney World training served her well in the real world.

Kelly-Pettit started getting theater jobs in Portland several years ago, and “The Music Man” marks her ninth show with Broadway Rose. She considers her first Broadway Rose show, “Sisters of Swing,” as her first big professional role on stage.

But other theater companies also have embraced her, and Kelly-Pettit has been nominated for several awards for her roles with Bag & Baggage, Stumptown Stages, Stage One Productions, Lakewood Theatre and others.

She also is a featured vocalist on several recordings, including the original cast recording of “Ripper,” produced by Broadway Rose/Nelson Productions, and “Recognition,” produced by Stage One Productions.

“Now I’m busy year-round,” Kelly-Pettit said. “I love singing more than I love anything else in the world. I am very comfortable in both musical and non-musical theater, but a role like Marian is where I feel most at home.

“Marian has a tough exterior but is vulnerable. The show has classically gorgeous soprano songs that you don’t usually find in most newer contemporary pieces. The songs are just beautifully written.”

When Kelly-Pettit learned late last summer that Broadway Rose would be producing “The Music Man,” she set her sights on the role of Marian. “I had to wait a long time to audition, and I only wanted this role,” she said, adding, “Broadway Rose is like a family, and I’m so happy to be working here again.”

And even though Kelly-Pettit has been performing in Portland for years now, she said she only knew four people in the cast going into rehearsals. “Everyone else is brand new to me,” she said. “Broadway Rose has done a great job of bringing in new faces with this cast. There are over 40 voices on stage, and the sound in amazing.”

Kelly-Pettit’s family comes to Portland about once a year to see her in a show, and her parents and grandmother are definitely coming to see “The Music Man.”

“My mom does musicals in Upstate New York, and when she knew I was playing Marian, she had her plane ticket,” Kelly-Pettit said. “They will be here for a weekend, and she will see every performance while she’s here.

“I’m blessed that theater is what I get to do. It is the best job anyone can possibly have. It’s creative, and you get to meet a new group of friends every six weeks.”

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