An Interview with Abby Nichols, our Clara Johnson

Abby Nichols is portraying Clara Johnson in Four Seasons Theatre’s THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, running December 4-13 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Abby Nichols and I am a Madison native. My father, John Stevens, was the tuba professor at UW for 25+ years so I grew up in a very musical household, in this wonderful, artistically rich town. I moved to New York City after high school and attended Pace University where I earned a BFA in Musical Theatre. After that, I worked as an actor, traveling the country with two National tours and working a bit in regional theatre. In 2011, my husband and I moved back to Madison from NYC and I began teaching musical theatre voice and an early childhood music program called Music Together. I now teach full-time and perform when my schedule (which includes spending time with my 17 month-old son) allows.

What training, teachers, or experiences helped you to develop as a performer?

The training I received in college from the musical theatre and voice faculty was life changing. I learned how to create a character from the bottom up, how to maneuver through my voice in many styles of music, and how to act through song. More than anything, I learned how hard I needed to work. Musical theatre requires a huge amount of discipline and commitment. It is all about multi-tasking. Am I singing the right notes? Am I singing the right words? What does my character want right now? Am I in my light? Am I doing the right dance step? When do I make my next costume change? Can the audience see me? Whose cell phone is going off?!? All of those things can be going through your head simultaneously when you are in a musical, so the more work you do ahead of time, the less you have to think. Then you can just be in the moment.

What attracted you to THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

When THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA was on Broadway, I was a sophomore in college at Pace University in New York City. I had heard such wonderful things about it from my classmates, so I went by myself and bought a student rush ticket, which for that particular show was in the front row. I was completely entranced by the piece. The gorgeous, sweeping score was like nothing I had ever heard, the plot was very moving and uplifting, and the performances were magnificent. (And the 1950s costumes were to die for!) I left the theater inspired and excited to be a part of this business. I knew I had to play one of the roles at some point so I was thrilled when FST announced that it was part of their season. The role of Clara is both a vocal and acting challenge, and like no other role I’ve ever played, so of course I was drawn to it.

What inspires you?

My son and my students. My son inspires me because he keeps me grounded in reality. I don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much because I know, at the end of the day, he’s what really matters. My students inspire me because they help me remember why I fell in love with musicals in the first place—you get to sing and dance and wear pretty costumes and pretend to be someone else! I was telling one of my (10-year-old) students about THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and the character I was playing and she said, “It’s so cool! You’re always such a big part!” It made me realize how lucky I’ve been to have had the opportunities I’ve had in this business.


An interview with Amy L. Welk

Our next production in our Cabaret @ the Circle series features FST favorite Amy L. Welk, who has appears in FST productions such as Follies, Thoroughly Modern Millie, And the World Goes ‘Round, Guys and Dolls, and our Great American Songbook series. We spoke to Amy about her upcoming cabaret performance.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Amy Welk?

I have been the director of Bernie's Place Child Care Center ( for 20 years. I am originally from Illinois, though my family is from Baraboo.

What training, teachers, or experiences helped you to develop as a performer?

My parents’ love for music and theatre helped to shape who I would become early on. My first college director, E. Mike Dobbins, intrigued me with the theatre world when I was 17, and Stephen Sondheim sealed the deal after that!

What attracted you to doing a cabaret program for FST's Cabaret @ the Circle series?

I was really excited and terrified at the idea of a cabaret. I had been approached to do this before, and the idea was interesting, but then this offer came. I couldn't say no! Am I crazy?

What can we expect at your November 12 cabaret show?

Well, the striptease will be worth it! Actually, I have put together a really eclectic, yet fun program that I think is fun, moving, sarcastic, and entertaining. Swing, show tunes, standards, blues—it's all there.

Why should we come to see the cabaret?

Why should you come? You have to hear Patrick Beckman play. He is, by far, the best accompanist I have ever had the privilege to work with. He knows how to shape a song better than anyone I know, and he and I have worked together for years on getting it right. And, he does.

Can you share a story about your best moment on stage? (And a story about your worst moment, too?)

One of my best moments on stage was when I shared the stage with William Warfield in a regional production of Showboat. But, I would like to say that my most cherished show was And the World Goes ‘Round with FST. That show had all the right elements—cast, band, and material. It was a true joy! It was, except the night that I lost all of my lyrics in a song and left poor Carmen Fischer Risi (one of the other singers in the revue) with nothing to rebound from. Poor Carmen!

What inspires you?

What inspires me? Every day inspires me. I go to work and see what children wonder about. I listen to my teachers and hear what they are learning about each day that they spend with children. I hear parents asking and answering questions with each other. I sing with children and learn what is relevant to them. I listen to music, theatre, and daily events and hope! All of this is inspiration. Oh, and coffee helps, too!

Amy’s Cabaret @ the Circle performances are Thursday, November 12 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Campus Arts Box Office at the Memorial Union in person, online, or by phone at (608) 265-2787.


Meet Michael Herold, The Proprietor

Michael Herold (Proprietor) has been seen in many productions in Madison with the Madison Rep, CTM, and Forward Theater Company, of which he was a founding member. Michael was last seen in Four Seasons Theatre’s Great Dames Songbook and in Forward’s production of Sons of the Prophet.  He began his career with the Ohio Shakespeare Festival in 1979 and joined Actors’ Equity in 1991.


Meet Scott Haden, our Balladeer

Scott Haden (Balladeer) is thrilled to be joining Four Seasons Theatre for the first time! Scott has enjoyed acting for theatres across the country, including American Players Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Writers’ Theatre (Jeff Nomination), Children’s Theatre of Madison, Madison Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and Theatre at the Center. He is proud to serve as the Communications Director at Forward Theater Company in Madison.



Meet Greg Reed, our Charles Guiteau

Greg Reed (Charles Guiteau) is proud to be returning for his 9th production with Four Seasons Theatre. Recent favorite roles include Kodaly in She Loves Me (Four Seasons Theatre), Harold Hill in The Music Man (VACT) and Leo Frank in Parade (MTM). When not performing on stage, Greg can be found performing as a special education teacher. Assassins is one of his all-time favorite shows and he is honored to be performing it with such a talented group.

Charles Guiteau (1841-1882): Pursued various careers, from the law to evangelism, failing at all of them.  Published a volume of theology, The Truth, which was almost entirely plagiarized from another document.  Composed an unsolicited and barely coherent campaign speech for Republican presidential candiate James Garfield, which he felt was responsible for Garfield's election; expected as a reward to be appointed Ambassador to France.  Rebuffed, he shot Garfield twice in the back on July 2, 1881, as the President prepared to board a train at the Baltimore and Potomac railroad station.