Editor's note: The story corrects the name of the middle school that Payton Sherry attended and the year of one of her performances.
Payton Sherry has known since from the time she was a student at that musical theater is in her blood.
From a two-summer stint as part of the Peanuts gang at ’s Camp Snoopy, to leading roles as Gertrude McFuzzy in the Parkland High School production of “Seussical Jr.” her freshman year and Dolly Levi in this past spring’s production of “,” Sherry says her destiny is to perform.
She also was seen as Jolene Oakes in Parkland’s 2011 staging of “,” and received for her roles in “Scoundrels” and “Dolly.” The Freddy Awards, sponsored annually by The State Theatre, Easton, recognizes outstanding high school musical theater in the Lehigh Valley and Warren County, N.J.
Now, before heading off to Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., this fall to major in musical theater, the can be seen in “All Shook Up” at the Pines Dinner Theater in Allentown, where she fulfills the role of leading lady Natalie Haller.
The show, written by Joe DiPietro, is a modern day take on William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” and features two twists: first, it’s set to music, and second, the music -- 24 to 25 songs -- are all hits made famous by Elvis Presley.
“All Shook Up” is the story of a girl mechanic (Natalie) stuck in a sleepy ho-hum small town governed by stuffy, inflexible Mayor Matilda, who’s determined to keep immoral behavior from manifesting itself and taking over her village. Natalie yearns for a “Prince Charming”-type to whisk her away on a whirlwind adventure.
Enter Chad, a motorcycle-riding, hip-swiveling stud who roars into town and has all the female town folk swooning. When his bike breaks down, he calls on Natalie to fix it, and in the meantime, he wheedles his way into her life -- and heart. Let the adventure begin!
Sherry isn't the only homegrown actor in the cast. Others with local connections include:
-- Trevor James, who plays Dean, also a Parkland graduate.
-- Pat Moran, who plays Chad, Sherry's crush in the show, is from Bethlehem Township and graduated from .
-- Ryan Kelly, who plays Jim, graduated from in 2004 and from DeSales University in 2008.
-- Jackie Ostick, who plays Mayor Matilda, graduated from in 2008.
-- Gwen Swanson Vigorito, an ensemble member, lives in Forks Township.
-- Laura Erie, an ensemble member, is a senior at Emmaus High School and lives in Macungie.
-- Lauren Eitzenberger, who plays Miss Sandra, is from Fountain Hill.
-- Tommy Walters, an ensemble member, will be a senior at
While in middle School, Sherry participated in sports, was a cheerleader and performed in several musical theater productions. When she entered high school, she realized her passion was theater, so she gave up sports and cheerleading to devote her time to developing what would become her career goal.
“When I worked at Dorney Park, I started out as a costumed character in the Peanuts showcase. Once they found out I could sing, they had me audition, and I wound up taking over the part of “J.T.” and sang alongside the Peanuts gang,” Sherry said.
“After college, my ultimate goal is to perform on Broadway or in films but I’m keeping my mind open to other opportunities. With the state of the economy, it’s hard to get Equity [actor's guild] status, so until that time, I’ll look at working in theme parks or on cruise ships,” she said. "I was on a Disney cruise and it was phenomenal. It’s a great gig for someone directly out of college because you get to go places and see things you normally wouldn’t get to see, and, you don’t have to worry about paying rent; it’s all part of the job.”
As for training and encouragement, she thanks Parkland theater coach Frank Anonia, who, she said, was “very supportive, a great teacher and mentor.”
So what do her parents think of her career choice?
“At first they were wary because the field is so competitive, but once they saw me auditioning for college and being cast in professional shows, they became more excited.” At 18, she is among the youngest of the 12-character cast of “All Shook Up.”
“What I like about performing is that I’m able to share what I’m doing with everyone else, and everyone can draw a different story about what I’m trying to tell,” she said.
Sherry added: “My advice to anyone thinking about getting into musical theater is, if you feel in your heart it’s something you want to do, then you must do it. For me, I won’t be happy unless I’m performing. I’m just so glad to be doing this.”
The show also has drawn talent from outside the Lehigh Valley. Tatiana Lofton, who plays Lorraine, is from Newark, DEL., and attends Pace University. Dwan Hayes, who plays Sylvia, is a 2007 graduate of University of North Carolina.
Rounding out the cast are A.J. Whittenberger as Dennis, Josh Skurnik in the ensemble and Mark Fishback as Sheriff Earl.
“All Shook Up" runs through Aug. 18 at the Pines Dinner Theater, 448 N. 17th St., Allentown.
Show times: 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and Sundays. (Note: There are no matinee performance on July 25, July 27 and July 29.)
* 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Cost: Dinner and show admission is $48.20, adults; $46.20, ages 60 and older; $18.60, under 16.
Show-only admission is $25, adults; $10, ages 3-15.