Chasing rainbows

Eight-year-old Wendi Motte, of Burbank, is gaining a resume credit, while Broadway veteran S. Marc Jordan, of Glendale, is singing a score he’s long appreciated in the 1947 classic “Finian’s Rainbow” at the Alex Theatre on Feb. 23.

The story is about Finian, who has left his beloved Ireland for the town of Rainbow Valley with his daughter Sharon. He is hoping to bury a stolen pot of gold with the hopes it will grow and multiply.

Wendi plays two parts in the musical, Honey Lou, who is a sharecropper’s child, and a messenger.

Playing Honey Lou has been great, Wendi said.

“Her part is really fun,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be an actress, and I’ve always wanted to sing.”

Increasing the number of children in the show has given the production more of a town feeling, producer Jill Townsend said.

Wendi adds a lot to the production, Townsend said.

“She’s adorable — a great little singer/actress,” she said.

All of Musical Theatre Guild’s productions are staged readings where actors carry their scripts on stage because they have only 15 hours of rehearsal, she said.

Having a script has made preparing for her role easier, Wendi said.

“It helps me along,” she said. “I really don’t know the words — just a little bit — so I can read it and practice.”

Wendi has done a national JCPenney commercial, a Disney commercial for the film “National Treasure” and a Christian film called “Losing Faith,” said her mother, Camilla Motte.

The more acting she does, the better prepared she is for future auditions, Camilla Motte said.

“When they have to perform a scene for a casting director, they are more comfortable,” she said. “They are ready to perform or act at any given time.”

Wendi is taking dancing and acting lessons, she said, working toward making herself a “triple threat.”

“I love to dance and love to do hip-hop,” she said. “I want to be able to do all three — singing, dancing and acting.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Jordan, a baritone, has been singing since he was 2. During the 1960s and ’70s he did about 10 shows on Broadway, but never “Finian’s Rainbow.”

“It has beautiful songs by Burton Lane and E. Y. Harburg, the darling of the day,” he said. “He wrote ‘Over the Rainbow’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

Jordan plays a corrupt senator who, he says, makes no effort to conceal his bigotry and takes black people’s land right from under them.

“I like playing bad guys, and this is a comical bad guy,” he said. “I don’t usually get a chance to play a bad guy.”

Jordan’s experience makes him right for the production, Townsend said.

“[Jordan] has great comic timing, and he’s a lovable villain on stage, so you love to hate him,” she said.

Jordan caught the acting bug early like Wendi, singing at weddings, birthday parties and bar mitzvahs for family and friends.

He started performing professionally in burlesque houses at the age of 14, introducing acts and singing a couple of songs for $7 a night, he said.

“If my mother knew it, she would have killed me,” he said. When he was 15, he sang at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York as part of a children’s chorus, he said. Since moving to California in 1980, he said he’s been doing live theater and voice-overs for commercials, CD-Rom games and cartoons, like the character Onslaught of “Transformers” fame.

“I’ve had a ball,” he said. “If I didn’t do this, I’ve always said, I’d have to work for a living.”


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