Santa Claritan makes Off-Broadway debut

Santa Clarita raised actress Jacqueline Keeley stars in her first off-Broadway show "Good Morning New York" as three traffic reporters. Cassandra Vagher Creative LLC

Jacqueline Keeley always knew she wanted to be a New York actor.

Keeley, a former Valencia High School and College of the Canyons student, is a film, television and theatrical actress. On Jan. 11, she made her debut in an off-Broadway show, reprising her roles in the musical “Good Morning New York.”

“I love musical theater, and I was in a production of ‘Grease’ in Santa Clarita growing up. But in high school, I saw a production of ‘A Chorus Line,’ and I realized that this could be a career,” Keeley said. “It’s ironic because the show is about people struggling to find work, and most people would watch it and think that they shouldn’t go into the field. If you’re going to do musical theater, New York is the place to do it.”

“Good Morning New York” is a pop-rock musical that follows seven local morning news reporters as they work to build their careers and was largely influenced by creator Jacklyn Thrapp’s experience as an associate news producer. Keeley portrays three different traffic reporters — Amy Loo, Baby Boo, and Amy Blue — as part of the show’s running gag that traffic reporters all look the same and are frequently replaced due to pregnancy. 

Initially, the show premiered in 2018 off-off-Broadway, meaning in a theater with up to 99 seats. By comparison, off-Broadway shows between 100 to 499 seats and Broadways shows are anything more than that. “Good Morning New York” is playing at The Players Theater, which houses 199 seats. 

Thrapp discovered Keeley through a casting call and said she was taken in by the variety of her skills and her welcoming personality. 

“What we really liked about Jacqueline is that she’s a singer and she’s also a dancer, plus she’s also really personable so we knew she would be fun to work with,” Thrapp said. “Her acting is always on point and backstage she is always very professional with great ideas. When you’re casting an off-off-Broadway show you never can find someone who can act and sing and dance, and the audience loved her, so when we came back we definitely wanted to bring her along.”

During the 2018 run of the play the show didn’t have a dedicated choreographer, so Keeley also  choreographed her own dance number. For the current run of the show, Thrapp brought on a choreographer, which Keeley said allows her to fully dedicate herself to exploring the depths of her characters and fully fleshing out the nuances of their personalities.

In the current run of the show, Keeley has one song, “Staten Island Ferry,” which Thrapp calls a “fan favorite.” Jackson Bell, who played guitar for the off-off-Broadway run and serves as the co-writer and musical director for the current run, described “Staten Island Ferry” as a “quirky tune about falling in love, with the Staten Island Ferry as the Titanic but instead of brandy it’s PBR in paper bags.”

“Jacqueline is really nailing the harmonies that I’m having her do, and there’s a moment where I have her do an ‘aoooga’ to imitate the ship and she really sells it,” Bell said. “She’s one of those actresses that can blend really well into an ensemble but also take center stage and really shine. Not everyone knows how to turn that on and off.”

Keeley often returns to Santa Clarita to visit her parents, and though she says she enjoyed growing up in the city and misses the weather, she finds herself longing for the fast pace of New York. She added that being in New York helps her remember to live in the moment and that one of her favorite parts of being in “Good Morning New York” is walking through the city to get to the theater.

“There’s a saying about musical theater, ‘When the emotion becomes too great that you cannot express it by speaking you sing, and when it becomes so great that you cannot express it by singing you dance,” Keeley said. “I love how musical theater allows you to express a range of feelings and experiences that you can’t through just text or speaking. Getting to express these characters through such a universal medium as music as a job is just a real treat for me.”

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