An Interview With...Cherie Gisondi

How did you get started in theater?
I was chosen to play Annie in the third grade and I''ve been hooked ever since.  The boy that played Daddy Warbucks is now starring in Our Sinatra on Broadway now!

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today?
My best friend's family was in the entertainment business.  All of them were involved in different aspects of theater and dance.  They had a big influence on me.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
After being chosen for Annie my Mom took me to see it with Allison Smith.  We had last row seats, but I didn't care.  This was in 1978.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
A little at Queens College.


What was your first audition?
My first real audition was for The Seven Year Itch  at Holy Child in Queens.  I got the lead, which was the Marilyn Monroe part.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater,  You were pre-cast, etc.
I just pick shows that enjoyed watching as a kid.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
As long as you are told before auditioning, I'm fine with it.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
I usually get the scantily clad roles or ensemble/dancer roles.

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Cherie Gisondi" type? 
I have no inhibitions on stage, I'll wear whatever they want to give me and do crazy things so they usually learn that about me and feel comfortable giving me those roles.


What is your approach to developing your character?
I know this might be bad, but I would study other actors who have played the role and then do my own take on the part.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Jeannie in Hair

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
Best: Hot Box Girl in Guys and Dolls  It was just an unbelievable experience. 
Worst: The hooker in California Suite

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
The biggest challenge was Jeanie in Hair  because I had to be a pregnant pot smoker.  I think the Director helped me work through it.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I really wanted Heddy LaRue in How to Succeed but I was picked to be a secretary.
Now that show was precast, but they made me audition for that part.  They picked a MUCH OLDER woman.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
As I get older I would still like to continue to play the offbeat characters.


How do you feel when you perform?
I 've feel like I'm on another planet.  I get such a high and I never get stage fright.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
I just love everything about theater.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
I just love it, and when I'm away from it, I miss it.


What is your favorite theater story?
During a production of West Side Story at CAP, Anita had one dance show and had to go home in someone else's car during the Gang opening.  She made it back.  During that same performance we all  laughed through the whole performance of  I Feel Pretty.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?  In Lil' Abner, I never came on for one of the dances that included square dancing!  I was chatting back stage and heard the music half way through.  I managed to dance my way back on stage.  My mother was wondering where I was from the audience.

What was your worst theater experience?
How to Succeed

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
The mic not working in HAIR and the fire alarms going off during the pot-smoking scene.  The paper actually review how poorly the mikes were working that performance.


Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
The Stage is like a family.  CAP really works you, but you feel fulfilled.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Yes, I have dreams of opening a children's theater one day.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
Lu Petronelli, Brian D'Amelia, Jennifer Alexander, Andrea Orlando, Mike Mandato, Nick Attansio, Steve Incammicia, Lauren Cardinale, Michael Buscemi, Donna Waller, Rob Jones, Joe Hoffman, Renee Moskowitz, Colleen Cannon and Adam Slawitsky.

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Brian D'amelia and Andrea Orlando

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
My favorite Broadway performer is Bebe Neuwirth. 
My favorite L.I. performer that I've seen since the Queens' days is Michael Buscemi.  (Even though he probably won't remember me if he reads this!)


How do you maintain your career and do theater?
I am a teacher so I perform everyday!  It sometimes get tiring during rehearsals but it's worth it.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
It just becomes one good time after another.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater? 
My family non-theater friends just don't get it.

How has performing enriched your life? 
I just approach life as if it was a show.  Everyday is a performance and you can have a great audience one day, and a horrible one the next.  But you keep going back for the thrill.


What brings you the greatest joy?
Going to a Broadway show and performing.

What really irks you?
When I see a Broadway show and get jealous because I'm not up there.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
Open a Children's theater

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Oh, that's a tough one, you look bad if you answer either one.  Can't I be both!?

What's your favorite word?

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
The party's through those gates!


Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of? 
I am on Hiatus for a while.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
I really want to be a prison girl in Chicago one day.  I'm easy.