When Bernadette Hisey Talks, We Listen!

Versatile Actress Bernadette Hisey Channels Channing, Merman, Neuwirth and McKechnie in ‘Forbidden Broadway’ at Western Reserve Playhouse

If you are a theatre-goer in Northeast Ohio, then chances are you have seen actress Bernadette Hisey before. Her impressive list of past character assignments include Kate/Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me, Kate (Fine Arts Association), Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret (Blank Canvas Theatre), Vi Moore in Footloose (Porthouse Theatre), Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! (Carnation City Players), and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (Salem Community Theatre).

Now she gets to add a few more leading lady roles to her resume in Forbidden Broadway, Greatest Hits Vol. 1. Western Reserve Playhouse is presenting the satirical musical revue now through August 12. The show is written by Gerard Alessandrini and directed by Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski, with musical direction by John Ebner and choreography by Samantha Woodill. WRP is located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. For tickets and more information, visit the company website at westernreserveplayhouse.org.

Bernadette Hisey as Carol Channing playing Dolly Levi
in a scene from “Forbidden Broadway” at Western Reserve Playhouse

LandOfCleve: Describe yourself in 25 words or less. 

Bernadette: I am a retired music teacher (as of 2015) with a new goal of performing on as many stages as possible. I’ve been in over 50 shows on 26 stages in 5 counties.
LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up? 
Bernadette: I was born at the old Bay View hospital and grew up in Avon Lake.
LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work? 
Bernadette: We downsized to a condo in Westlake after becoming empty nesters, and I am enjoying retirement. We also have a home on Middle Bass Island which is very therapeutic for me.
LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections? 
Bernadette: Most of my connections had to do with my teaching career, theatre work, and Middle Bass Island. I taught in Lorain, Bay Village, and 22 years in Lakewood. We’ve had our home on the island for 30 years.
Bernadette playing the title role in “Hello, Dolly!” for Carnation City Players
LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you to work in the theatre? 
Bernadette: My family is very musical. I took ballet, tap, jazz, baton, piano, and voice lessons growing up. Having two degrees in music and working in church music positions and schools has given me a career of working with people in the arts. Theatre was always my “side” thing to do. Now it is my main thing to do!
LandOfCleve: What roles are you playing in Forbidden Broadway and how are you approaching each character?
Bernadette: Hmmmm. With guidance from our director Dawn Sniadak-Yamokoski, each character I portray is unique. Bebe Neuwirth is burlesque. Carol Channing is big. The Chanteuse is sexy. Ethel Merman is loud! Lady of the Lake is a diva. Rentensemble is angsty. Les Miz ensemble is angry. Fiddler on the Roof ensemble is tired but hopeful. Donna McKechnie is pretty much the most straight forward of all the characters I play.
LandOfCleve: How are the director, cast and crew at Western Reserve Playhouse collaborating to bring the show to life? 
Bernadette: Dawn is loaded with ideas, but is also willing to hear suggestions from the cast and crew. It’s a real collaborative effort.
LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come to see the show?
Bernadette: The audience can expect to laugh! And — starting this weekend — get a glass of wine!
Bernadette (right) with Rock Passalacqua in CAMEO’s “The King and I”

LandOfCleve: What are your other dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?

Bernadette: There are roles I would do again if I could (Mrs. Anna, Dolly, Mrs. Lovett). There are so many new shows (by new, I mean not of the golden era which I am most familiar with), that there are roles I’m sure I’d like, but don’t even know about. I’m doing my research!

LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?

Bernadette: If you don’t get cast in something you thought you were perfect for, it means there’s something else waiting for you that is a better fit. Keep auditioning. The right director will find the right role for you.

Bernadette as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” at Salem Community Theatre
LandOfCleve: Anything else you would like to add or promote? 
Bernadette: Cleveland has a plethora of theatres with phenomenal actors. I don’t think any other city in the country can measure up to it. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but, I believe Cleveland is second to New York in the number of theatre seats. And that’s not even counting all of the community theatres.) If you live in Northeast Ohio, there’s a show near you. Check out Cleveland Stage Alliance with a listing of everything going on in your local community theatre.

Also, support the arts! Theatre, dance, visual art, choral music, instrumental music. And raise your kids to support it as well!!! (Okay. Retired music teacher off of her soapbox now.)

Bernadette (right) with Noah Hrbek in “Cabaret” at Blank Canvas Theatre