Meet Mrs. Wilkinson: A Chat with actor Joy Yandell

 In Season
Meet Actor Joy Yandell
Joy Yandell (Mrs. Wilkinson)

What’s your favorite thing about playing Mrs. Wilkinson?
Every night I am honored to share the stage with amazing young artists as their “Teacher.”  It feels like only yesterday I was like the children in our cast and doing my first professional show at Starlight Musical Theatre when I was 7.  I love Mrs. Wilkinson’s perfectly imperfect mothers’ heart, that she is a resilient businesswoman in the midst of a town in crisis, a broken marriage, and a lost dream.  As rough as she can be, Mrs. Wilkinson is the cheerleader and warrior for Billy and the other children to “shine” no matter the circumstances or pain of life.  It’s a message that hits close to home with me. We want the best for our kids.  I truly feel that these kids are each my own and they are also teaching me to be a better performer.

What do you find most challenging or exciting about working on this production? Is there anything you can tell us about the/your creative process?
For sure the most challenging portion of this process has been acquiring and fine-tuning the West Durham accent.  The speech patterns, vowel placement and rhythms of Billy Elliot are so important to the richness of this show. Vanessa Dinning, our Dialect Coach has been so much more than a blessing to all of us throughout rehearsals. She has helped us plant our feet in the language that carries this piece.   For me, I love to learn about the historical events of a show, then find and create all the reasons why my character would do what they do or say what they say and then to just let the words and music come out of me.  I want to tell the story with the most honesty I can provide.

What’s your favorite song/number or scene in Billy Elliot and why?
It’s actually a scene I am not in.  My favorite is the dream Ballet with young and grown-up Billy.  I cry every time I watch them. Their synchronization is incredible.  How amazing would it be to have a moment in time to see our childhood self again with grown-up eyes? What would we say to ourselves without any words?   Or for kids to see their full potential all grown up?  It’s just breathtaking.

Why should audiences come see Billy Elliot?
The music, dancing, and heart of this production will help you look your dreams,  the potential in others, and make you want to hug everyone who ever believed in you and helped you in life.  It’s a show about family and forgiveness and determination.  We are all in this together!

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