Thursday, April 14, 2022

Pride and Prejudice performance set for April 30, May 1 in Keene Valley

It’s not every day that Keene Valley hosts Actors Equity Association (AEA) actors, but thanks to East Branch Friends of the Arts (EBFA), three members of the union for professional stage artists will take center stage at the Keene Valley Congregational Church on Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m and Sunday, May 1 at 3 p.m.
For Sam Balzac it is a return to his roots: he began his school days at Keene Central School (KCS) as a kindergartener and graduated from the high school in 2013.  In addition to the many school productions he performed in, as a child he also performed in several shows in the church where this program will be held.
This production is one that Balzac took a hand in creating with his mother, Kathleen Recchia, more than a decade ago–a musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice.” The second workshopped production was presented by the Book & Blanket Players youth theatre program last summer. The vocal tracks had been recorded for the students by Balzac and Hannah Eakin, a NYC-based actor who is also a member of AEA.

When other production team members heard the tracks, they were inspired to bring the two Equity actors to the area to perform the songs themselves. Recchia approached EBFA, the organization that has annually sponsored the youth theatre program for the past decade, with the prospect of producing a professional concert version of the musical.
East Branch Friends of the Arts was awarded a Restart NY mini-grant for the project. With that and some seed money from local producers, the team was able to afford to go through AEA and bring in Eakin and Balzac to play Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy and cap off the AEA-affiliated cast with Westport resident and Broadway veteran Alisa Endsley to play Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine.
Other cast members are veterans of the Adirondacks only year-round professional theatre company, Pendragon Theatre: Rachel Kemp (Jane Bennet), Donna Moschek (Charlotte Lucas), Lonnie Ford (Mr. Bennet) and Jessica Kemp (Miss Bingley).
Rose Chancler (of Piano by Nature) will be at the piano for this special concert event.
Spotlight on AEA Actors
Hannah Eakin just appeared in “The Pirates of Penzance” with the Manhattan-based New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Also a filmmaker and writer, Ms. Eakin’s work has earned recognition in film festivals and competitions throughout the country. Her full credits and list of accomplishments can be found at

“I’ve loved Pride and Prejudice since I was a very little girl, and I’m delighted to join this production,” Eakin said. “The show is infused with so much heart and spirit, and the music is a real treat to sing. I’m honored to step into Lizzie’s shoes, and I can’t wait for everyone to see what this passionate team has created.”
Alisa Endsley has worked with some of the biggest names on Broadway including composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, director Trevor Nunn and Tony award-wining actors Patti Lupone and George Hearn.
She has sung lead roles on London’s West End, and with the BBC Orchestra, recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios and been featured on PBS. Here in the U.S., as a teaching artist she shares her talents with vocalists and musical theatre students through master class workshops and one-on-one voice lessons (see
“Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is one of my all-time favorites, and what a joy to bring these beloved characters to life through Balzac and Recchia’s magical music and script adaption,” Endsley said. “This is an artist’s dream!”
Sam Balzac ( has appeared off-Broadway at the York Theatre and the Public Theatre, as well as at regional houses across the Northeast. As a composer/lyricist, he is a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, where musicals like ‘Avenue Q,’ ‘Next to Normal,’ and ‘A Chorus Line’ were developed.
“It’s been refreshing working on a Golden Age-minded musical for a contemporary audience,” Balzac said. “There’s great delight and playfulness in the style of Golden Age shows and while many male-driven musicals of the ’40s and ’50s suffer from cultural and societal flaws that make them tricky to present now, there’s a reason we still know and love the songs and revere the storytelling. Keeping to the style which lends itself well to Austen’s writing in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fills a void in contemporary musical theatre yearned for by fellow classic lovers and can be universally enjoyed by old and young.”
The producers report that all Actors Equity COVID-safety precautions will be taken for this production. Proof of vaccination is required to attend, and at the time of this writing, masking is also required.
Admission is free, but reservations are required and donations will be accepted.
Call 518-708-3606 for more information or to make a reservation.
JANE AUSTEN’S Pride & Prejudice: The Concert Version
Sat., April 30 at 7 p.m.; Sun., May 1 at 3 p.m. at the Keene Valley Congregational Church, Route 73, Keene Valley
This project is made possible with funds from the Restart NY Regrants 2021-22 Mini-Grant program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts.
Poster image at top provided by East Branch Friends of the Arts.

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