Elaine Weatherby of Hampton has a Dickens of a Future

12-year-old hopes to take her 'Natural Gift'
for singing to Juilliard

By Lily Robertson, features@seacoastonline.com

Hampton Union, Friday, December 5, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Elaine Weatherby, 12, of Hampton, is on stage with "A Christmas Carol" from Dec. 5-14 in Epping, NH.
[Courtesy photo]

Today she has stars in her eyes. Tomorrow she'll have a star on her dressing room door. But for now, the diminutive diva from Hampton is thrilled to share a dressing room with everyone else in the cast.

Elaine Weatherby spends her days like every other seventh-grader. She goes to Hampton Academy and listens attentively to her teachers. She does her homework. She does her chores. But unlike some other seventh-graders, when she's done with school, homework and chores, she rushes off to voice lessons. Weatherby loves both of her voice teachers and it's clearly a mutual admiration society.

One of Weatherby's voice coaches, Leslie Giammanco, has been teaching since 1980 and says, "I have taught thousands of people over the years, and finding someone with such a natural gift is a rare and amazing thing." Giammanco feels blessed to be able to guide Weatherby in developing such a beautiful talent. "She doesn't just sing. She draws the audience in and makes them part of her world."

In listing her stage accomplishments to date, one would think they were reading the resume of a Broadway veteran. "Oliver," "South Pacific," "Little Women," "Peter Pan," and currently, "A Christmas Carol" — starting Dec. 5 at the Leddy Center in Epping — are already on the list. Her favorite role thus far, hands down, was playing Wendy Darling in a recent Leddy Center production of "Peter Pan." "I worked really hard at the audition," says Weatherby. "I think I wanted it more than any other girl because I love watching Mary Martin in the Broadway show. I've seen it a hundred times!"

And it's not all fun and games. Weatherby does work hard. In "Peter Pan" she was terrified of the flying harness and still shudders when she recalls the time she accidentally landed on the dog, Nana. "My feet were right on the dog and everyone saw it! It was horrible!" But like a real trouper, she carried on, got back in the harness, and was ready to fly again in the next show.

It seems she also thought she had a little trouble with the dance number in "South Pacific." "I just can't dance!" she cried plaintively. The director of "A Christmas Carol," Elaine Gatchell, happened by just in time to look at the girl and denounce her insecurity with a good-natured, "Nonsense!"

Gov. John Lynch recently asked Weatherby to perform the national anthem. While she considered it quite the honor, it was less impressive to her than being able to sing for one of her heroes, Howard McGillin, star of "Phantom of the Opera." She met him after a performance backstage in New York and was floored when he not only asked to hear her sing, but praised her on-the-spot abilities. In telling the story, Weatherby had that starry-eyed, young girl, I'll-never-wash-the-hand-he-touched-ever-again look. Lynch should be glad this young lady has no political aspirations. She'd upstage him in seconds, steal all his votes, and charm him into believing he'd been meaning to retire for years now.

You won't find the Prima Donna element lurking behind Weatherby's sweet smile, either. One of the things she adores about musical theater is the second family bonding effect stage productions create. "We all share a dressing room and it's really fun. We're kind of squished in tight sometimes, but we help each other with our hair and makeup. I love it!" She's happiest in a production when the cast list comes out and she gets to perform with people she's worked with in the past. She knows the names of every actor and actress she's done a show with, every stage technician, director, stage manager, prop handler, and costume builder. To Weatherby, they all play an equally important role in putting the show together.

Weatherby's showmanship and grace have her name being whispered around the N.H. Theatre Awards committee in the Best Actress category. Contenders who have experienced her talent first-hand are bound to be intimidated.

Yet, with all her skill, talent, and congeniality, underneath it all she's still a sweet, hardworking student with every intention of keeping up her grades so she can get into college. And what college does she cross her fingers for? Juilliard, of course. You see, in spite of her early love for musical theatre, Weatherby hasn't quite made up her mind what she wants to be when she "grows up" and needs a school that gives her options. We'll all have to wait a few years to find out whether we'll be seeing her on Broadway, or at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. Whichever direction she takes, the other is sure to be green with envy.

Fresh off playing Wendy Darling in "Peter Pan," Elaine Weatherby is playing Martha Cratchit in "A Christmas Carol" at the Leddy Center in Epping, NH.
[Courtesy photo]