A local 13-year-old is giving her regards to Broadway — on stage.
Bothell’s Keaton Whittaker, the young actress who got her start in professional theater at Seattle’s The 5th Avenue in its 2006 production of “White Christmas,” is currently in rehearsals for the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” with previews beginning Nov. 24 at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York City and starring Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Opening night is Dec. 13.
Whittaker was originally cast in “White Christmas” after being “scouted” by 5th Avenue staff during a karaoke contest at the Crossroads Mall in Bellevue. After playing the role of Susan Waverly in both the Seattle production of “White Christmas” and The 5th Avenue production’s tour to Sacramento, Calif., Whittaker went on to play Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at Intiman, young Jane in Civic Light Opera’s “Jane Eyre” and a host of other roles in shows at The 5th, including “Whistle Down the Wind,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Shrek The Musical.”
Her performance as Young Fiona in “Shrek” initially impressed the producers and they had plans to take her along to the Broadway run.
But as her mother Nancy relates, “The girl who played Young Fiona also had to be able to go on for young Shrek, and by the time we came to the production, she’d grown to where that wasn’t possible.”
Fortunately for Keaton, the casting director for “Shrek” recommended her for the “Night Music” audition, and another year and a half of growth and experience in Seattle turned out to be a great preparation for her Broadway debut as Fredrika in the Sondheim classic.
Keaton’s experience working at The 5th and other Seattle theaters makes working at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre surprisingly comfortable.
“It doesn’t feel a lot different at all,” she says, though she’s still adjusting to working with not just the cast but the stars. “Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones are actresses I’ve watched my whole life. I can’t believe I’m on the same stage with two people I admire so much.”
As an 11-year-old starring in “Mockingbird,” Keaton told the Reporter that she gets “emotionally and mentally drained” after shows, adding, “It feels nice when I’ve done one show … If I’ve done one, then I can do the rest. I love it.”
Keaton credits her Seattle experience for not only helping her develop her acting and singing skills, but for teaching her focus, discipline and how to respect her fellow cast members and director.
“It’s also taught me that every opportunity you get to audition, you go for it. If you don’t get it, there’s always another show opening somewhere,” she says.
When Keaton started training at Studio East in Kirkland at age 6, Nancy could tell that her daughter caught the acting bug, she told the Reporter in 2007. Keaton’s first performance was in “Honk!” at age 8.
“It really wasn’t that long when I could tell she was just really happy when she was in that arena,” Nancy said. “The rest of her life just followed suit. But when she was in anything performance-wise, she was complete.”