Some artists leave their hometown the first chance they get and never look back.
Betsy Wolfe is not one of them.
The Broadway star is returning to Visalia for what has become a sweet tradition: raising money for a worthy cause. She will perform Saturday, Aug. 13, in a benefit for the Visalia Education Foundation at the L.J. Williams Theatre.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back, and this time to the L.J., which I haven’t been back to in years,” she says in a phone interview from New York. “I did ‘Annie’ there when I was 11 years old. It brings back a lot of memories.”
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The song list is (mostly) a secret, but she will reveal a couple of details: She’s bringing Andrew Resnick, music director for her acclaimed starring role in the off-Broadway revival of “The Last Five Years,” whom she calls a “brilliant pianist,” to add some polish to the concert.
And, she admits slyly: “I will be singing some ‘Frozen’ in Visalia. How could you not?”
I’ve covered Wolfe for more than 10 years as her career has ascended, and one thing hasn’t changed: Each time I talk with her or get to see her in performance, she has an ever more impressive project coming up. (The list is long: a regional production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and the world premiere of “Tales of the City,” both in San Francisco; “110 in the Shade,” Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway” and the revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” all on Broadway; a concert tour with Darren Criss; and starring roles with the Metropolitan Opera.)
I will be singing some ‘Frozen’ in Visalia. How could you not?
In official terms, that next project is a role in the much anticipated Broadway revival of “Falsettos,” which begins previews Sept. 29. She plays Cordelia, one of the lesbian lovers, in William Finn and James Lapine’s moving tale of love and HIV in early 1980s New York.
In unofficial terms, however, the title on everyone’s minds is “Frozen.”
Wolfe’s name has been bandied about a lot in the news, thanks to the New York Post and BroadwayWorld.com, as having nabbed the coveted role of Elsa in the Disney developmental lab production of the stage musical of “Frozen” this previous spring. It is tentatively planned to open next summer in Denver in a pre-Broadway tryout. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (of “Avenue Q” and “Book of Mormon” fame) are writing the music and lyrics. Wolfe first collaborated with the couple when starring in their show “Up Here,” which had its world premiere last year at the La Jolla Playhouse.
When talking about “Frozen,” Wolfe says the show is in its very early stages and she feels “special to be a part of such an amazing project so early on.”
Wolfe will be playing to an appreciative and excited hometown base of fans when she comes to Visalia, where she will get to spend time with family and friends. (One thing is certain: She’ll be making a trek to Colima Mexican Restaurant and Seafood, where “they know me as the salsa girl.”)
The impetus for this particular fundraiser came from Susan Mathews, Wolfe’s junior high school drama teacher and a dear family friend. Mathews told Wolfe that if she ever had time in her schedule, she’d love the Broadway star to help raise money for a cause near and dear to her: the Visalia Education Foundation.
Wolfe couldn’t pass that up.
“I can attribute so much of my success to my teachers and the theatrical community in Visalia,” she says. “It’s so important to me to be able to come back and say thank you.”
An Evening with Besty Wolfe
- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13
- L.J. Williams Theatre, 1001 W. Main St., Visalia
- www.visaliaedfoundation.org, 559-730-7518