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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Laura Benanti: Kinnelon, Broadway, The Playboy Club

Laura Benanti: Kinnelon, Broadway, The Playboy Club

Laura Benanti : from Kinnelon to Broadway to ‘The Playboy Club

By Mary Beth Grybowski

I am sitting here trying to recall, the first time I heard or read about Laura Benanti. I believe it was in the November 2009 issue of ‘New York Magazine’. But I just reread the article and it does not mention Laura growing up in Kinnelon at all. Hmmm. Now I am stumped.

Yes, Laura Benanti grew up here in town. Her mother Linda Wonneberger, a former actress and vocal coach, and step-father Salvatore Benanti, a psychotherapist, moved here when Laura was still young. Laura performed in many local productions as well as musicals at Kinnelon High School, including ‘Evita’, ‘Follies’ and ‘Into the Woods’.  At 16, she even played the title role in KHS’s production of ‘Hello Dolly’. There was a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come, when she won the Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Award for Outstanding Actress in a High School Production. Laura graduated from KHS in 1997. There is so much more to tell about Ms. Benati. If you’d like to learn more, check out Wikipedia entry.

I only moved to this town in 2006 and, as I noted, I never knew about this local talent until two years ago. Now, I have to say, Laura Benanti is one of my favorite Broadway actresses. The first time I saw Laura, was in the Broadway production, ‘In the Next Room’. That was my request for my birthday present back in October of 2009. When I showed my parents the picture from the ‘New York Magazine’, I informed them, “This actress grew up in Kinnelon.”

I did not expect them to reply, “Yes, Dear, we saw Laura Benanti in ‘Gypsy’. She won a Tony for that performance in 2008.

Last year, for my birthday present, I requested tickets for ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’. The tickets were for the week between Christmas and New Years. I got to see Laura perform on stage again, just before the show closed.

Last Monday night just before 10pm, I turned on my TV and set the station to NBC Channel 4. I had heard a quick news piece, during the week, that Laura Benanti was going to be on the new TV series ‘The Playboy Club’. I assumed that it was going to be a cameo appearance. Within the first minute of the show’s start, that Broadway voice entertained us with the song, ‘Chicago, That Toddlin’ Town’. Well I am glad to say, it appears that Laura is going to be the star of this new show.

If you have ever seen Laura Benanti perform, there is no doubt that there is beauty and talent. But for me, I find her beauty goes much deeper that what you see on the surface. Check out her contribution to the “It Gets Better” campaign. Laura talks to students about how she was bullied during her time in school. She also talks to parents and tells them to get involved.

This Kinnelon resident and fan wishes a former Kinnelon resident continued success,

Mary Beth Grybowski

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