Gabriella Pizzolo: From Broadway to White House

First lady Michelle Obama looks to actress Gabriella Pizzolo, third from left, as she speaks during the Broadway at the White House event for high school students involved in performing arts programs in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Seated from left are actors Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Morrison, Pizzolo, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Diane Paulus. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)First lady Michelle Obama looks to actress Gabriella Pizzolo, third from left, as she speaks during the Broadway at the White House event for high school students involved in performing arts programs in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Seated from left are actors Whoopi Goldberg, Matthew Morrison, Pizzolo, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Diane Paulus. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By Kate Bunster
Gazette Reporter

“Here to sing the song ‘Ring of Keys’ from Fun Home is Gabriella Pizzolo,” announced Lisa Kron, Tony Award-winning actress and playwright.

The crowd broke into applause as Pizzolo made her way to the stage, something she is no stranger to. But this performance would be different than her usual day and matinee performances at The Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City. This time, she was at the White House.

y. After her contract ended with “Matilda,” she returned to her hometown of Niskayuna, but left shortly after to return to Broadway to serve as the understudy for the characters Small Alison, John and Christian in “Fun Home.” She has since become part of the full-time cast as Small Alison.

Matthew Morrison, Gabriella Pizzolo,

Matthew Morrison, left, and Gabriella Pizzolo, look to first lady Michelle Obama during the Broadway at the White House event for high school students involved in performing arts programs. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

 ‘I was so honored to get

to be a part of it and be

around all those talented people.’

-Gabriella Pizzolo

Based on the 2006 graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, the musical “introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family — her mother, brothers and volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father — that connect with her in surprising new ways,” as stated on the play’s website.

This experience brought her the exciting opportunity to represent “Fun Home” at “Broadway at the White House,” which aired on TLC on Nov. 26. The event brought 40 high school students together from across the nation for master classes at the White House in theater arts. The classes ranged from everything from costume design to acting to music composition.

Other notable celebrity appearances were from Whoopi Goldberg, Gloria Estefan, Christian Borle and Cicely Tyson. In addition to Pizzolo’s rendition of “Ring of Keys” from “Fun Home” were performances from “School of Rock,” “Finding Neverland” and “An American in Paris.”

The seventh-grader immediately transformed into character upon stepping onstage. All eyes were on her — including those of Michelle Obama’s, who was in the front row.

“I was so honored to get to be a part of it and be around all those talented people,” said Pizzolo, who speaks with poise and impeccable articulation. You can tell over the phone that she’s a Broadway star, but still a kid at heart.

But even though she may act like a normal kid, her current schedule is anything but that.
Instead of getting on the bus in the morning and attending school at Van Antwerp Middle School, she now performs two shows a day, with show call times at 2 p.m. and then again at 7 p.m.

It’s clear that she hasn’t let the “glamorous” life of show business go to her head — Pizzolo still thinks about the life she temporarily left behind in Niskayuna — her father, Dave, and her sister, Gillian, who’s 8. (Mom Natalie is with her most of the time.)

“I miss everyone so much,” she said. “I will be back soon though!”

In between shows, she presumes the role of regular seventh-grader, playing card and board games with the other young castmates. Even though the whole “Fun Home” cast wasn’t there at the White House, they were all very proud of her. The cast is a close-knit group that is “so kind inside and out,” according to Pizzolo.

Full cast or not, the young actress delivered with her performance of “Ring of Keys,” receiving roaring applause from the audience. Aside from her performance, Pizzolo was thrilled to meet the first lady.

“She was so beautiful, kind and smart. She talked to everyone in the room,” she said.

“She was so beautiful, kind and smart. She talked to everyone in the room,” she said.
One of the things Obama said stuck with the young actress and she said she will carry with her whether she’s singing on Broadway or back at Van Antwerp Middle School:
“She said, ‘This house is our house and today we celebrate.’ I really liked that,” said Pizzolo.