For an amateur actress and musical theater performer, Miriam Necastro treats her hobby like a professional job.
Before she tried out for Area Community Theatre of Sharpsville’s “My Fair Lady,” she rehearsed for six months – for the audition.
“I would practice the accent, all three of the accents, once a day for months, just for my own benefit,” said Necastro, of Brookfield, who is playing Marian Paroo in “The Music Man” for ACTS March 16-25.
“I was so nervous and putting so much pressure on myself that I was making myself sick,” Necastro said.
Tina Greig, who plays Necastro’s mother in “The Music Man” and is her voice teacher, told Necastro to get away from her preparation for a few days, and pick it up again the day before the audition. She got the lead as Eliza Doolittle.
The 25-year-old Necastro has become a central performer in ACTS productions and a member of the group’s board. Not bad for someone who figured she would never perform again after she got out of college.
Necastro, an English Language Arts teacher at Brookfield Middle School, fell in love with theater as a kid when her parents took her to shows in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. At age 8, she saw “The Lion King” in Toronto.
“I just remember them coming down the aisles with all the animal costumes and the music,” she said. “I had seen (the film version of) ‘The Lion King’ backwards, forwards — I knew it by heart. To see it on stage, I’m like, ‘Wow. This is magic.’ That’s when I kind of first thought, ‘OK, maybe I would like to be on stage.’”
She joined the former Brookfield Storytelling Guild, performing a monologue from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in a competition.
“Memorizing the monologue and putting my movements and stuff and my own flair into it, and I remember one judge saying, ‘Oh, you have a lot of spunk.’ I’m like, ‘OK, sure.’ I’m a sixth-grader. ‘That’s awesome.’”
She took Robert Kozar’s theater class at Brookfield High School.
“We would watch clips of the Tony Awards, and we watched ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Phantom (of the Opera)’ and ‘Dreamgirls,’” Necastro said. “Working different themes from ‘Plaza Suite’ and ‘(A) Streetcar Named Desire’ and being in his room with all of his theater posters and, as you can see, that influence definitely carried over.”
Brookfield didn’t stage plays, but Kozar would have the students act out scenes at the old high school auditorium.
At Slippery Rock University, Necastro majored in education but minored in theater, performing regularly with the SRU Musical Theater Society and serving on its board.
“Graduating from Slippery Rock was kind of hard in the sense that I honestly thought I was never going to perform again, after three years of performing every semester,” she said.
But, she did perform again, starting with an audition for a Stephen Sondheim revue ACTS put on in 2014. Among those at the audition were Don Struck, who is directing “The Music Man”; ACTS co-founder Susan Piccirilli; and Anita Perman, who has performed with ACTS and produced shows.
“I stopped and they all kind of just looked at me and they’re like, ‘Where did you come from?’” Necastro said. “I remember them being very surprised that someone they didn’t know just kind of walked off the street.”
That led to Necastro joining the Shenango Valley Chorale, roles with ACTS, Black Sheep Players, Valley Lyric Opera and the former Winner Cultural Center for the Arts, and studying voice and dance.
As an ACTS board member, she has many concerns outside of whether she can earn a role in the next show: she gets a say in picking the shows — balancing what the public wants to see, what the Pierce Opera House in Sharpsville can hold, and whether organizers believe they can attract the talent to produce a show, she said.
“It’s interesting in the sense of the numbers game; budgeting for everything with the show, like, costumes, orchestra, set production,” Necastro said.
Her position on the board does not give her an in to being cast in a production, she said.
“I have to slave over an audition just like everybody else,” Necastro said.
“Honestly, when we picked ‘Music Man,’ I never thought that I would be Marian Paroo,” she said. “I thought it was going to be one of our other sopranos, like Roxanne Chapman, for example. I didn’t vote on ‘Music Man’ because I wanted to be the lead. I thought, ‘Music Man,’ ‘OK, it has kids, it has a good number of ensemble music (pieces) and everyone knows ‘The Music Man.’ It’s a slice of Americana; it will sell tickets.’”
In preparing for “The Music Man,” Necastro studied how Barbara Cook, Shirley Jones and Kristin Chenoweth played Marian, but kept in mind that she wanted to present her own interpretation. The role shows how she has grown as a performer.
“In ‘My White Knight,’ the big ‘I want’ song for my character, I hit a high A flat, which two years ago, during ‘My Fair Lady,’ I wouldn’t have dreamed of,” Necastro said. “The high G (in My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night”) was so hard to hit. Now, a high G is easy. Now, high A flat is easy.”
No one is more surprised by Necastro’s progression than the lady herself.
“Sometimes, I still think of myself as the teenager who loves theater and no one gets it,” she said.