The Waltons’ Judy Norton turns to theater and Cabaret

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don85BY DON GRIGWARE

Dramatic actress Judy Norton, best known as Mary Ellen Walton from the classic mega hit TV series The Waltons (1972-1981), also has a very accomplished background in musical theatre. She recently co-starred in the acclaimed production of Blood Brothers at the Whitefire, a co-production of Music Theatre of Los Angeles and Canary Productions, and is currently director of their production of Cabaret at the Met in Hollywood.

Judy Norton

Judy Norton

Since The Waltons she has displayed amazing versatility, branching out into both writing and directing as well as singing and acting. She spent 10 years living in Canada, where she was the co-artistic director for two theates. For eight years she was responsible for co-writing and directing over 40 original productions. She’s also been working in numerous television and film productions as an actor.

On stage she’s done many musical theatre roles such as Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Dolly in Hello Dolly, Maria in The Sound of Music and she’s performed in such nonmusical plays as Social Security, Move Over, Mrs. Markham and I Ought to Be in Pictures.

As a singer, she’s headlined her own concert style show, and performed for numerous benefits. For several years now she’s also been a guest writer and director for Texas Family Musicals. This company provides shows for theatres in Galveston, Texas and the Granbury Opera House. For this group she’s created the original musicals : Swinging With the Stars, Majesty of the Silver Screen, A Tribute to Patsy Cline, and Get Me John Denver.

When asked about her passion for the multi-award winning Broadway musical Cabaret,  Norton replies, “I love the characters. Being an actor, I’m always drawn to the characters and their journey. In Cabaret you have a wonderful array of people who are all brought together at a major political turning point in history. To have these small stories set against the bigger picture provides a wonderful artistic challenge.” And as far as working with Musical Theatre of LA and Canary Productions, she adds, “The best part about working on this production has been the cast and production team. It has  truly been a collaborative effort. The producers, Bonnie (Mcmahan) and Eduardo (Enrikez) have been fabulous to work with. We have been so fortunate to have an incredibly talented cast who brought so much to the show. And the behind the scenes team has been everything a director could wish for.  This has been a labor of love.”

 

On stage she's done many musical theatre roles such as Annie in Annie Get Your Gun, Dolly in Hello Dolly, Maria in The Sound of Music and she's performed in such nonmusical plays as Social Security, Move Over, Mrs. Markham and I Ought to Be in Pictures.

On stage Norton has done many musical theatre roles such as Annie in "Annie Get Your Gun", Dolly in "Hello, Dolly," Maria in "The Sound of Music," and she's performed in such non-musical plays as "Social Security," "Move Over, Mrs. Markham" and "I Ought to Be in Pictures."

Staging this show in a small theatre such as the Met was no small feat, but Norton welcomed the opportunity. “Set and transitions become the biggest challenge. There is no capacity to fly set pieces, or roll in large pieces, so the stage has to be very versatile. We wanted to keep and define the two different spaces – the Kit Kat Club and the apartments, and yet blur the lines between the two. I wanted to keep the action moving, and as seamlessly as possible, move from one scene to the next.”

She agrees that the show’s main themes are timeless and universal. “Man’s struggle for freedom and the feeling of being helpless against suppressive government elements are unfortunately as relevant today as in 1930 Berlin. The need to be able to express oneself, to have dreams but not be able to reach them, the small personal conflicts, I believe we can all relate to these issues”.

And how does she feel about the great musical score? “Kander and Ebb’s score is as fun, poignant and memorable as ever. These are songs you walk away humming. I have spent countless nights during rehearsals with one or another of the songs running through my head all night!”

As to her favorite stage role of all time, without much deliberation, she picks Annie in Annie Get Your Gun.  “I was such a tomboy growing up that I really related to being that character, and it has so many classic songs.”

Is there one role that she’s yearning to play?  “Desiree in A Little Night Music, Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd, Kate in Kiss Me Kate, Auntie Mame, Rose in Gypsy. These are some of the terrific roles out there for strong women; I’d like to do them all!”

Norton, a Glendale resident, has one son, Devin, now 13, who, she claims, “possesses a natural ability as actor and singer, but does not long for a career in show business”. Growing up in front of TV cameras, Norton loves sharing her vast experience and turns her attention to all young future actors and actresses.

“Make sure it is your idea and not your parents… and that you have a really strong sense of who you are. Being well grounded as a person, and being able to handle rejection and criticism without taking it personally, I believe, are crucial to survival in this industry.”

Also close to Norton’s heart is co-writing the book for a new musical Ataria with Raven Kane. Check out the website:www.atariathemusical.com or www.judynorton.com. Cabaret  is playing at the The Met Theatre on North Oxford in Hollywood through August 9.

Don Grigware is an Ovation-nominated actor and writer. He was theatre editor for NoHoLA for 6 years, theatre editor for Valley Scene Magazine for two years, contributed to LA Stage and to the Sun Community Newspapers for  two years as theatre reviewer. He currently resides – in cyberspace, that is @: www.grigwaretalkstheatre.com

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.