Palana to Debut with Goodspeed’s ‘Gypsy’ Cast
When she’s not attending sixth grade at Baldwin Middle School, Bianca Belle Palana is rehearsing for her professional musical theatre debut with Broadway stars. The 11-year-old Guilford resident is a cast member of Gypsy, running April 28 through June 18 at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.
As an ensemble member, as well as an understudy for “Baby June,” Bianca will tread Goodspeed’s legendary boards with seasoned pros, including Talia Suskauer (“Louise”), direct from her run as Elphaba in Broadway’s Wicked; and Judy McLane (“Momma Rose”), whose long list of stage credits include over 4,000 performances in Mamma Mia!
“I’m very excited for opening night because this will be my first show and my first time doing this, so that’s definitely a memory to make,” says Bianca.
Although she’s still quite young, Bianca has already completed 10 years of technical training with Dance Unlimited, an elite performing dance company in Hamden.
“I started with the ‘baby classes,’ and I’ve been training ever since then and worked my way up to the competition classes,” says Bianca.
A Dance Unlimited competition team dancer since the age of 5, Bianca now holds over 20 regional and national competitive dance titles. Competitive dance also opened the door to Bianca’s love of musical theatre.
“In dance, I love to act out my personality while dancing,” says Bianca, whose favorite styles of dance toggle between musical theatre and lyric. “I think it’s because I really like to act everything out and show emotion through the story, so I can really have a nice, storytelling piece.”
Her years of dance experience also gave Bianca the confidence to audition for Gypsy.
“My mom was looking through Facebook, and she saw the ad for the audition, and she talked to me about it, and I said, ‘I think this is something I want to do.’ And we just went on from there,” says Bianca.
About two months ago, Bianca and her mom, Nicole Palana, headed out from Guilford to Bianca’s Goodspeed audition.
“They asked me to be ready with two songs. Me and my mom rehearsed that, and then I performed one of the songs for them,” Bianca describes. “Then, they had the group of kids who were auditioning that day come into the room, and we learned a little piece of choreography for the newsboy section.”
Bianca was selected to appear not only with the newsboy section but as an understudy for the role of Baby June. She’s thrilled to have her first experience with a stage-acting role.
“I try to keep up with it. It’s not too hard, because I work with the person who I’m understudying, so I can watch her do the movements and all of that stuff. And she’s very kind, so we get along, and that’s nice.”
Bianca is one of the youngest in the cast, which includes several members in the youth ensemble. Right now, she’s in rehearsal for the Goodspeed production. It’s a busy time, but not too different from her years of practice as a competitive dancer, she says.
“I think it’s definitely new, and it’s a big change, but it’s not too hard jumping into it.”
She’s excited to be sharing the stage with Gypsy’s amazing cast of Broadway and musical theater professionals and has even picked up a few tips from working in the production with them.
“I think the best thing I’ve learned from them is to stay in character, even if something goes wrong like the drink falls over. Just play it off, and keep going with the script.”
As for her plans to join in future musical theatre performance opportunities, Bianca is keeping an open mind.
“I think this is something I would definitely want to do in the future, so if I like how everything works with this show, I think I would do it in the future. I’m using this to see if I would really like to do something like this.”