How did you get started in theater?
I saw some friends in a local production of
Oklahoma! and thought that maybe I could
do it and be as good as they were.
Turns out, I was better! LOL
What hooked you? Was it your first school
play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway
Show?  What inspired you to be where you are
I had always dreamed of performing in some capacity, but as a kid I was very shy.  I think I got hooked slowly. For the first few years I only got ensemble parts and, when I finally got cast in principle parts, I discovered talent I never knew I had.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
The first one I remember seeing was "Godspell"in grammar school. My sixth grade math teacher was playing the lead. Talk about surreal!  My first role was Goldilocks (even though I'm a brunette) in kindergarten.
Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
Yes, I studied musical theatre and acting with the late Professor Edward M. Greenberg at Queens College. In his day, he had worked with the best of the best.  What he taught me was invaluable.

What was your first audition?
It was a long time ago, but I think I auditioned for Broadhollow sometime in the early 1980's for "Godspell". I was only about 17, and got a callback, but I didn't have a car and couldn't go!
How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
All of the above are taken into consideration.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
Honestly, I'm not a fan of it. If I'm pre-cast, it's flattering, but I feel like they couldn't find anyone else to do it, so they settled for me.  I just auditioned for a part that was pre-cast, and had I known, I wouldn't have wasted my time and gas.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
I've played mostly supporting comic relief roles, which I always prefer. I'm not an ingenue, but I am an alto, so those parts usually suit me best. Lately I've been offered the bitchy/snobby roles; I'm not too thrilled about it, but if the characters aren't too similar, I accept them.

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 "Lu Petronelli" type?
If the director already knows me, yes, usually the sexy vamp or similar. But I'd love to play a Miss Hannigan type. I wouldn't mind looking like an unmade bed onstage!

What is your approach to developing your character?
It depends on how deep it is. Most musical theatre characters aren't too complex, they usually just scratch the surface.  Just reading the script is
usually enough for me to become that person, but a good director is a plus.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
That's a tough one. I've enjoyed most of the characters I've done. Electra in "Gypsy" was a small role, but you wouldn't believe how FUN she was to
play, not to mention having to practically be an electrician to maintain and work her light-up costume! Barbara Kirby really outdid herself with that costume design!  Irene in "Crazy for You" is another favorite role.
What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
I think I did Bonnie in "Anything Goes" pretty good justice.  My worst role was Vivian, the "Turkey Lurkey" girl in "Promises, Promises". They had me wear a hideous costume that was red and yellow and resembled feathers. The Actor's Nightmare!

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
Definitely Olive Madison in "The Odd Couple", Female Version. It's a great Neil Simon comedy, but the amount of dialog was just overwhelming! We ran lines EVERY NIGHT before the show, during its entire run. We had a tight cast, but we were all very aware of how important the cues and dialog were. It was a lot of work, but I think I did a good job.
What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I could probably improve on ALL the roles I've played!

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
Outspoken, funny, ballsy women!

How do you feel when you perform?
I feel like I belong. The rest of the world goes away. I feel grateful to God that he gave me some talent.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
That I'm still able to do it after 20 years and, as time passes, I will hopefully get the opportunity to try roles in different age brackets.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
I ask that very question every opening night!! I do it because, for me, theatre is like a drug. I'm addicted. It's also a great source of therapy for me.  No matter what turmoil is going on in my life, if I'm doing a show, I can escape for awhile and do something for myself that I enjoy while continuing to hone my craft.

What is your favorite theater story?
During a run of "Babes In Arms" my fellow actress' body mic went out. She had to sing into my boobs offstage, because my mic was still working, and was clipped to my bra!

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable,
crack up on stage?
Yes, yes, yes! I made my first entrance of the show in "The Odd Couple" 3 pages too early! Well, you've never seen a cast look at me with such hatred in their eyes! They had to immediately skip forward, and they handled it so superbly, I was just so proud that they were there for me! We laugh about it now, of course.

What was your worst theater experience?
Having to miss a performance of a show that I was in the ensemble of due to a sudden nosebleed. And no one noticed I was gone!

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Someone stepped on the back of my long skirt and it dropped to my ankles.  I've since murdered that person.

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Because they are not too far to drive to and I enjoy going back and meeting new people and working with friends I've made over the years.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
Definitely. I see new talent all the time. It's amazing how much talent the kids in college have, and it's inspiring.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with? Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
There are SO many, but I admire Gary Tifeld's talent a great deal. He puts his whole self into his work.  Susan Agin is an incredible triple-threat.  I
recently played opposite Roy Gardner in "Crazy for You", and I thought we had natural chemistry. I've also felt very safe with Kevin Franznick. He is
brilliant. Each actor is unique, not necessarily the best, just different.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
I adore Nathan Lane. He is the epitome of American Musical Theatre!
I don't have one fave L.I. performer, I have many.

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
It's not easy, especially during tech week. I only do an average of about 2 shows a year, so it works out fine.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
This is my serious hobby. It requires a lot of work and long hours in order to get to performance level. A good production is a great reward.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Absolutely, 100%. My dad is a singer, and both my parents understand it completely.

How has performing enriched your life?
It has given me more confidence, and I've learned so much from other people. There's always room for improvement.

What brings you the greatest joy?
Making my mother laugh. Curtain calls (I have no idea why)  Standing ovations are pretty cool, too!

What really irks you?
People in the business who insist on being a Diva. There's no need for it, and it alienates others. We're all just human beings reaching for the same goals. I like to think of doing a show as being part of a team.  None of us can do an ensemble show alone.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Do lots more theatre, because I'd quit my job!

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Yes. I can always pay for good looks.

What's your favorite word?

When you reach the pearly gates what do you want St. Peter to say?
"Congratulations, we would like you to join our stellar cast"!

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
Not at this moment, but if anyone is looking for a vivacious alto who has great stage presence, email me!

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Rosie Alvarez in "Bye, Bye, Birdie". I'm in the right age bracket, so hopefully, someday...
An Interview With...Lu Petronelli