MTW alumni return to Wichita in ‘Jersey Boys’

“Music Theatre of Wichita certainly trained me well,” says Kaleigh Cronin, who is coming back to Wichita as part of the cast of the national tour of “Jersey Boys” this week.

“I play 17 different roles as one of only three women in the (male-dominant) show, so being used to mounting a new show in only seven days, five times a season, like I did for three summers in Wichita, makes you good at thinking on your feet,” Cronin says.

Cronin is a New Hampshire native who was in the MTW company in 2009, 2010 and 2011. According to official billing, she plays “Lorraine and others” in “Jersey Boys,” the 2006 best musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

“When people see that in the program, they look at me like I have four heads,” she says with a laugh.

Cronin is best remembered here as ambitious scriptwriter Betty in “Sunset Boulevard” and dim-bulb floozy Lily St. Regis in “Annie.” She left Wichita in August of 2011, moved to New York, auditioned for “Jersey Boys” right off the bat and got the job.

“I didn’t even have time to get an apartment. I was still staying on a friend’s couch,” she says. She went into rehearsals that October and went on the road a little more than a year ago.

“Lorraine is Frankie’s girlfriend, so that is the largest role I have. I show up as everything from a waitress to a nurse to a girl at the bar to an old lady in church,” she says. “Even though they don’t have names in the show and may be on stage for only a couple of minutes, I created back stories to flesh them out. I know who each of them is so I can keep them straight.”

Another MTW alumnus traveling with this tour is Wes Hart, an Oklahoma City native who spent three summers here in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Known for his dancing, he is remembered as brother Benjamin in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and easy-going Al, who guides his scatterbrained, tone-deaf wife through “A Chorus Line.”

For “Jersey Boys,” Hart plays mobster henchman Norm Waxman and a handful of other secondary characters, including one of the replacement singers after Nick Massi left, giving Hart a 15-minute mini-concert showcase as part of the group.

“The variety is a lot of fun,” Hart says. “Being in the MTW ensemble prepared me to do this. They welcomed my interpretations. Each role has its own perks, but the one I’m having the most fun with is a guy who gets shot in a car. He’s on stage only about a minute and a half. When you see it, you’ll understand why it’s so much fun.”

Before “Jersey Boys,” Hart was on Broadway as Action in “West Side Story” and off-Broadway in “Lucky Guy.” Only a few weeks after appearing in Wichita, he’ll leave the cast of “Jersey Boys” to return to New York.

“I want to be there for major auditions from February to May. I need to be there because I’m getting married in October and I can’t keep planning everything on Skype,” Hart says. “I’ll be looking into television, too, but stage is where my heart is.”

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