It’s been a whirlwind few months for Breia Kelley. She graduated from Elon last May and almost immediately landed a role in the national tour of Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale. She is looking forward to bringing the musical to her hometown of Durham next week and spoke to RDU on Stage about her tour journey thus far, her interactions with Palminteri, and coming home.
RDU on Stage: What is it going to be like bringing A Bronx Tale home?
Breia Kelley: I don’t think I have wrapped my head around it because, you see, I just graduated in May, I had a summer stock theater job in the summer, and then I booked this national tour. And it’s just so wild, because my family have been DPAC season ticket holders for like five years. So, I’m always at DPAC seeing the shows, and the fact that I will actually be on the stage, and my family and friends will be coming to see me, it’s like, it’s unreal. I still can’t fathom it, honestly, but I am so grateful. Honestly, it’s a dream come true. Seriously.
RDU on Stage: Do you remember the first DPAC show you saw?
Breia Kelley: I’m pretty positive that it was ‘Wicked’. Honestly, it’s one of my most favorite shows. Just being there and being in that theater, I was like, “Whoa, this is confirmation that this is what I want to do for like the rest of my life.” It is still so mind-blowing to me just because this is my hometown, Durham is my hometown. This is where I grew up. This is where I went to school, and this is where I would go to see shows, and now I’m about to be performing in the shows. It’s crazy.
RDU on Stage: Did you have the chance, coming into A Bronx Tale, to meet Chazz Palminteri?
Breia Kelley: So, I have, met him or interacted with him at least three times because he came to a rehearsal when we were rehearsing in Queens and then he came to our press day and he also came to our opening night. Honestly, he is one of the coolest people I have ever met in my life. He’s so laid back, and when he speaks, he always has something important to say. All you want to do is just listen to him. It was honestly mind-blowing that I was meeting the real Calogero (the main character of the show). This is his life. We are telling his story. It was crazy.
RDU on Stage: Did he have any notes or advice for you?
Breia Kelley: One the things that really stuck with me, he said, “Okay guys, so what’s going to happen is, once we start putting up the show, you know you’re gonna get a little nervous and you’re gonna, you know, start freaking out and getting in your head. Don’t. Just say the words and relax, period.” And so that has actually stuck with me throughout this whole process.
RDU on Stage: Do you feel like because it is based on someone’s life story, that the stakes are higher?
Breia Kelley: Honestly, for me, it’s easier because of the fact that this really happened that this is real life. It makes it more human. It’s easier to connect with because this is a story that is so universal to everyone because it has different elements of laughter and tears and love and fear. It has all of those elements that are true to everyone’s life. And I think throughout this whole process, I have truly been, as I tell this story, it has actually helped me and influenced my life as well in regards to the different choices that I make that will affect my future.
RDU on Stage: Were you familiar with A Bronx Tale movie before booking the role or had you seen the play?
Breia Kelley: I actually had not. I had not seen the movie. I knew of the play, because I had a couple of friends who were actually in the Broadway cast of it. I didn’t know a lot, but I saw the movie before or like during the rehearsal process, and I was like, “Why did I wait so long to see this great movie?” But I was so glad that I did. It’s an incredible movie.
RDU on Stage: Do people come to the show with preconceptions from the movie? What has the feedback like?
Breia Kelley: There’s not many, many differences from the movie to the musical because we had the creative team. The creative team was involved in the movie and the musical. Honestly, I would say from seeing the movie and being in the musical and getting more acquainted with everything, it’s very, very similar. There aren’t many, many changes.
RDU on Stage: It has been described as Jersey Boys meets West Side Story. How would describe the show?
Breia Kelley: First of all, they are completely correct because you have the sounds of ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘West Side Story’, like the doo-wop feel of the 60’s and the 50’s influence. I personally love the music because you have that doo-wop feel, but then you have some smooth jazz like Sinatra-style songs in the show. So, it’s a combination of all musical styles from that era. I think that for me, the whole musical combines all of those things and it tells this story in such a creative way that will touch every single person.
RDU on Stage: You haven’t been on the road that long, but so far, what’s the best part about being on the road with A Bronx Tale?
Breia Kelley: For me, my favorite part about the tour so far is going into these theaters and having to adjust our show, even though it’s the same show, but we have different venues that we have to go in and get like acclimated to the space around us. And I think that’s very, very cool, just being in these spaces every week or every couple of days or whatever.
RDU on Stage: What’s the hardest part?
Breia Kelley: I think my answer last question would also be the hardest part. I mean, it takes time because you have the aspects of tech and the sound and lights and all of the set pieces and we all as a cast, as a crew, we all have to get acclimated to the space. So, I also think that’s one of the hardest parts. But it’s still one of my favorite parts.
RDU on Stage: What are you most looking forward to coming home?
Breia Kelley: Oh my goodness. Well, I miss my family, so I’m very, very excited to see my family. I’m excited to go back to Elon because I’m going to go visit my alma mater, so I’m very excited about that. And just kind of seeing my friends back in Durham.
RDU on Stage: Are you going to get to sleep in your own bed?
Breia Kelley: I will be able to sleep in my own bed. I will be able to get some home cooked meals for my mother. I should’ve thought about that first.
RDU on Stage: So, what would you say now to that little girl sitting in the audience at DPAC watching Wicked? What would you say to her now?
Breia Kelley: I would say that honestly, “Girl, keep pursuing, keep pushing, keep doing what you love and find the passions and love that you want.”