Everyone who’s familiar with Buffalo theatre knows that the best time of year is the first couple weeks of September. That’s when Buffalo theatergoers and performers alike gather together in one big celebration, known as Curtain Up. Each theatre in the area has a different show open on September 14th, and then afterwards there is a cocktail party in the downtown theatre district. As part of the Curtain Up celebration, I’ll be doing an interview series known as “Faces of Curtain Up,” where I’ll focus on a different performer from a different Curtain Up show.
My first interview is with Buffalo favorite Amy Jakiel, who is no stranger to Curtain Up. This is her third straight appearance in Musicalfare’s Curtain Up show. Prior to her appearance this year as Marian Paroo in The Music Man, Jakiel appeared in Oliver! as Nancy and also in Shout! The Mod Musical as “Yellow Girl.” I met with Amy to discuss this year’s role and her career as a performer/director extraordinaire.
So Amy, when did you start acting?
Well, I started at a pretty young age. My first stage appearance was at St. Joe’s [a local high school known for their excellent performing arts program] in Carousel. I was 7. My first professional show must have been Sound of Music at Artpark.
And what about the work is most fulfilling for you?
I guess I really just like to be someone else. I couldn’t ever do the same show for years like some people, I’m constantly moving and playing and exploring, finding new characters. I love that I can unleash my crazy personality without being judged (laughs) No, really, I find a lot of challenges in doing different roles, finding all the ways I can bring myself to them.
You’re an actress by hobby, not by trade. What do you do, and do you find theatre connecting with your “day job”?
I work at People Inc., basically managing a day service for adults with developmental disabilities. I help them to develop job skills and independence skills. I did get my degree in Special Education with a concentration in music, so I guess theatre helped when I was working with the kids, being able to communicate with them. I also teach at the theatre school at the [Lockport Palace Theatre] so obviously it pays off there. Ultimately, though, I’m always complimented when people tell me, you know, “you get along with every age group.” I guess that has something to do with being open to different things and dynamics when you’re forming a character.
This is kind of a random question, but, at least to me, it’s always been like “Oh my God it’s Amy Jakiel, she’s so famous!” Are you ever recognized, since you work so frequently in the Buffalo scene?
Oh man, I don’t know. I think it’s always as the character, it’s never like “You’re Amy Jakiel, aren’t you.” Like one time I was out somewhere and the guy next to me leans over and goes, “Uh…you were just in that puppet thing, right?” And I was like “Avenue Q? Yeah!” And he turns to his wife and is like, “See, honey, I told you! She’s Kate Monster!” Or when I go to see Shakespeare in Delaware Park, and I’ll be in the bathroom line at the top of the hill, and somebody will come up and be like “Omigod it’s Elle Woods!” That kind of thing.
Jakiel just appeared as Elle Woods in the WNY premiere of Legally Blonde: the Musical at the Lockport Palace Theatre. She also appeared as Kate Monster/Lucy The Slut in Avenue Q, also at Musicalfare.
Because Buffalo theatre is so small, what’s it like working with people like Kacz [John Kaczorowski, who is appearing as Harold Hill and was also Emmett in Legally Blonde] twice in a row?
Well, it’ll actually be three times, since I’m doing RENT at Musicalfare, where Kacz is playing Mark. But it’s definitely a unique experience. Because I’ve been doing it so long, and since Kelly and Laura and my dad do shows also, I’m friends with a ton of people in the theatre scene anyway. Like I’ve known Kacz forever. But it definitely helps onstage chemistry, and I’m kissing Kacz a lot more in this show than Blonde. It’s funny, because this show is the show where he runs around like a chicken with his head cut off, and I get to sing a little, listen to him sing a little, and if he does okay I’ll slap a kiss on him (laughs). It definitely helps to feel comfortable with your love interest in real life. Although it’s funny, when I was in high school I was doing Children of Eden at Joe’s and my first stage kiss was with my boyfriend at the time, and we went to kiss and something stupid happened, like we both went the same way, and I was like “that’s not what we do! We do this all the time, what the heck?” (laughs). Yeah, I was like sixteen. Although occasionally knowing everyone is a little risky. Like when I was in Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, and playing opposite my sister Kelly’s fiancé Steve. Everyone was like “That must be so weird, isn’t it weird?” That’s when I’m like, “no, it’s a stage kiss, we’re just doing our job, we walk offstage and we’ve forgotten it happened.”