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“Xanadu” actress Ariana Shore contemplated cantorial school

By Alex Gerber

Actress Ariana Shore is performing the part of Melpomene in the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) production of the musical comedy Xanadu, now on stage at CRT’s Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. Roller skating is prominent throughout the production and the play also features songs by Electric Light Orchestra.

Directed by CRT’s artistic director, Vincent J. Cardinal, and choreographed by Cassie Abate, Xanadu tells the story of a muse named Clio who travels to 1980’s Venice Beach, Calif. disguised as a mortal to inspire chalk artist and beach boy Sonny Malone. Clio faces the jealousy of her two sisters, Melpomene and Calliope, the wrath of her father Zeus, and the struggles of fitting in as a mortal as she and Danny fight for their dream to open a roller disco with awesome mirror balls.

This isn’t Shore’s first foray on CRT’s stage. She has performed in several CRT productions over the past three years — including “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum!” and “GYPSY.” Shore enjoyed the roles so much that, when artistic director Vince Cardinal asked her to be in the play, she accepted immediately.

“I didn’t even have to think about it,” she told the Ledger. “It’s on my list of Top 5 shows I’ve ever done,” said Shore, 32.

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Steve Hayes (Calliope/Aphrodite) and Ariana Shore (Melpomene/Medusa) play evil women in Xanadu. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

Shore praised “Xanadu” for its hysterical script, fabulous music and great cast. She described the two leads, Amandina Altomare (as Clio/Kira) and Luke Hamilton (as Sonny Malone), as “crazy talented,” adding that, “I don’t envy [Altomare] wearing the roller skates the whole time, though.”

Shore explained that she had attended plenty of birthday parties at roller rinks in the past, but does not see herself as a professional skater quite yet.

“I got lucky,” she said. “They told me I was one of the only parts where I didn’t have to do much skating.”

While Shore also had roles in television shows like “Rescue Me” and “Gossip Girl,” she prefers her spotlight to be on stage.

“It’s where my heart is. It’s so incredibly different [from television]; it’s like night and day,” she said. “I love live experiences,” said Shore. She explained that in plays, every show is different, depending on how the cast performs. She continued, “It’s a joint experience between the actor and audience. But with TV, there’s no audience, so you don’t get to share that experience with anyone.”

Shore realized her affinity for theater when she began performing. From then, her future became clear.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Shore said. “It’s in me.”

She then continued her theater study, eventually earning her Bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Miami. Her family was supportive of her in chasing her dream.

“My parents are amazing. They said that work is hard, so you need to be happy with what you’re doing,” she said. Shore has indeed met this goal, describing her work with Xanadu as “super fun.”

Shore has her Jewish faith to thank for showing her a way to reach that goal.

“Judaism pretty much started everything,” she explained. Growing up, she and her sister, Alex, put on variety shows for their family on Shabbat. These shows led Shore to participate in the theater program at her synagogue and elementary school, Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. “They were very good about letting us put on shows,” said Shore. “It was obvious to me that I had the talent.”

In those days, however, Shore was focused on a different career path. “At one point of my life, I wanted to be a cantor,” said Shore, who was very close with her cantor, Nathan Lam. In fact, Lam gave her singing lessons once a week in his office and some time later officiated at her wedding.

Shore also took a trip to Israel with Lam and about 15 others from her synagogue.

“I feel so connected to Judaism,” she told the Ledger. “It’s been helpful in times where I’m — not lost, necessarily — but it feels like there’s always a home I can go to.”

Though Shore is content with her career in theater, the actress may choose to become more involved in Judaism. Lam recommended cantorial school, to which she said, “It’s still on my mind.”

Alex Gerber lives in West Hartford. A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut with a degree in Communications, he serves as an intern journalist at the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre presents “Xanadu,” book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, now through July 19 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. For tickets and other information, visit crt.uconn.edu or call (860) 486-2113.

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