Chelsea Friedlander has spent her young life making her mark. The Long Valley resident and product of the West Morris Regional school system is poised to make her professional debut in the Women's Theater Co.'s upcoming production of the "Fantasticks" opening Sept. 14 at the Parsippany Playhouse.
The show marks the next step in Friedlander's journey, which started at a very early age.
"My grandfather likes to say, before I was walking I was dancing, and before I was speaking, I was singing," Friedlander said.
Friedlander was exposed to the arts at an early age when her mother took her to a Young Performer's Workshop (YPW) at Centenary College in Hackettstown.
"I remember vividly the production of Oliver! and I was hooked. I saw all the children my age up on stage and I knew I wanted to perform. It was as simple as that. It was my calling," Friedlander said. "My performing career really began at YPW."
Friedlander began performing with the YPW and the Performers Theatre Workshop in Livingston on top of performing in musicals and plays at Long Valley Middle School. By the time she was in high school, Friedlander devoted herself to choir and was selected for New Jersey Region Choirs and New Jersey All State Choirs and selected for ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) National Choir.
During her four years at West Morris Central, Friedlander was always a featured soloist in Dr. Vincent Rufino's annual andHandel’s Messiah concert, singing the lead soprano solos as well as participating in two of Central's musicals.
"At the 2006 WMC Graduation, I broke tradition and was asked by retired principal Dr. Michael Reily to sing an aria called Laurie’s Song from The Tender Land composed by Aaron Copland," Friedlander said. "The experiences growing up have only made me a stronger performer and prepared me for the rigorous training I would encounter at the Cleveland Institute of Music."
Growing up in a house full of music and learning to love opera gave Friedlander a foundation and vocal technique that lead her straight to opera and eventually to graduate school. The same graduate school her mother attended.
"Ever since I was young I always wanted to be an alum of Manhattan School of Music because I have always looked up to my mother in so many ways. New York City is a fabulous place to study opera and Manhattan School of Music has an extremely prestigious Opera program. You never know what the future holds and in music it is always important to keep honing your craft," Friedlander said. "My graduate degree came with many positive advantages including working with famed teacher, Maitland Peters, and having a plethora of operatic performing opportunities during my two years there."
As with many things in life, Friedlander's hard work paid off in tandem with a little bit of luck.
"I was so fortune to have worked with Musical Director, Warren Helms, on a previous engagement in New York City. Warren believed Luisa (the role in The Fantasticks) would be perfect for me and I auditioned in June," Friedlander said. "I am so honored for the opportunity director, Barbara Krakowski, has given me. This has been a dream role of mine to perform."
For her part, Friedlander could not say enough positive things about her experience in the Fantasticks.
"I must say there is something truly magical about this show. The music is beautiful, the story is touching, and there is something for everyone," Friedlander said. "The Parsippany Playhouse is extremely intimate and reminds me of the original theatre on Sullvan Street in The Village. The intimate setting of the theater makes the audience feel like they are a part of something special."
Friedlander is quick to credit her parents with the support she has needed to get this far at a such a young age.
"I have an incredibly loving and supportive family. My parents let me reach for the moon and then some," Friedlander said. "They back me up 100 percent. I am truly blessed to have their support".
As for life after the Fantasticks? Friedlander has her sites firmly set on New York City.
"My long-term career goals are to have a thriving opera career and see my name in lights whether it be on Broadway or at The Metropolitan Opera," Friedlander said. "This is my passion."