Many national stars first performed on YLT’s stage
The YLT archives has many treasures including the program for the theater group’s first full-length production ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan.’
The York Little Theatre is one of the community organizations that grew from the Great Depression.
As a sidebar to a news package on YLT in the York Sunday News says, the theater group has produced many stars who have gone on to bigger stages.
In keeping with this blog’s series of local folks who have done great things elsewhere,
we include a story on former YLT stars Bobby Spencer and Michael Patrick Walker:
Bert Smith, YLT director from the 1950s to the 1980s, works at the group’s stand at the York Fair. The year Smith became director, 1953, the theater moved to Elmood Theater in Spring Garden Township, it’s current home.
“A lot of people who have come through our doors have gone on to have big careers in the business,” YLT Managing Director Julie Aiken said.
Bobby Spencer and Michael Patrick Walker are two famous faces that have passed through YLT’s doors.
Spencer, a 1987 Central York High School grad, saw a production of “Grease” at the YLT more than 20 years ago.
“I wanted to do something beyond high school theater,” he said. “I wanted to get involved with the YLT, and my first performance there was in the ensemble of ‘The Pirates of Penzance.'”
Spencer said that YLT was a fun experience for him and that he was able to work with “a great group of people.”
Spencer went on to pursue his music and acting career, landing the role of Nick Massi in the “slam dunk” production of “Jersey Boys” in 2004. The Broadway show about the rise of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons won the 2006 Tony Award for best musical.
“It’s been really amazing,” Spencer said. “We’re hoping ‘Jersey Boys’ is the next ‘Les Mis’ or ‘Rent.'”
Michael Patrick Walker said he got involved with YLT in the late 1980s as well. He said he auditioned for the chorus in “Oliver” during his sophomore year of high school and stayed involved through his senior year.
“I played keyboard and piano for ‘Little Shop of Horrors,'” he said. He graduated in 1989 from Susquehannock High School and went on to become a music composer and director.
In 2001, he began working with composer Gary Adler on the music and lyrics for the show “Altar Boyz,” which follows a Christian boy band backstage at one of their concerts. The musical opened off-Broadway in 2005 and has toured nationally and internationally. It just celebrated 1,000 performances.
“We wanted to do something nontraditional,” Walker said. He said the all-original score sounds like a real boy band.
Walker was exposed to all areas of theater at YLT, from acting to set design to costumes.
“YLT was the first time I worked with people from all different ages in all different fields,” he said. He added that YLT’s schedule offered a variety of shows that were “newer and more challenging.”
“It was important for me to have the experience on stage as an actor,” he said. “It helps me put myself in the actor’s shoes as a music composer.”