Providence native to take the stage in Trinity Rep’s ‘Oklahoma!’


So what does it feel like to be appearing on stage at a theater where you have been in the audience since you were a child? For 24-year-old Providence native Hannah Spacone, daughter of Carla and Andrew Spacone, landing a role in the ensemble of Trinity Repertory Company’s production of “Oklahoma!” is a dream come true.  

Spacone is particularly thrilled to be working with Sharon and Richard Jenkins, who are co-directing and choreographing the show. Fellow Wheeler alum Jon Cooper is also part of the ensemble. In addition, Spacone worked with company member Rebecca Gibel at Trinity’s YASI summer program. And Rachael Warren, who plays Laurey, is one of Spacone’s idols. 

“It feels like coming home,” says Spacone, who received a B.F.A. from the Hartt School of Music, Dance and Theatre at the University of Hartford in 2013. 

Spacone was bitten early by the musical theater bug. At gatherings of family and friends, she was famous for wrangling the other kids into putting on a show. Spacone was director, choreographer, producer and performer. 

“I always wanted to share the joy and bring music and dancing into other people’s lives,” she says.

As an 8 year old, she played Gretl in “The Sound of Music” at City Nights Dinner Theatre, in Pawtucket, and that began a string of community theater performances. According to her parents, Spacone never complained about lack of sleep, having to do her homework during rehearsals, or missing out on other activities.  

On the contrary, as she became more serious about singing and dancing, Spacone joined jUMP!, a local dance company whose artistic director, Mary Paula Hunter, recognized and nurtured Spacone’s talent. 

Spacone pursued theater and dance programs every summer, including at Trinity and Camp Broadway. She was beyond thrilled to play Hodel in a Barker Playhouse production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” her first starring role, and a character she identified with. As possibly the only Jew in the cast, she found the other actors’ attempts at a Yiddish accent endearing. 

There was not a dry eye in the house at Spacone’s rendition of “Far From the Home I Love.” But it was when she spent two summers at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, in Natick, Massachusetts, that she clearly saw her future and became determined to study theater in college.  

At Hartt, “Oklahoma!” was Spacone’s first show – she played a featured dancer – and she also appeared in “A Christmas Carol” with the Hartford Stage Company. 

Spacone, who lives in New York City, spends almost every moment in the pursuit of her dream, studying voice (with Doug Jabara, who will appear in Temple Beth-El’s Cabaret on Saturday, May 7), taking dance and exercise classes, and auditioning. 

Auditions are tough, she says. “The hardest thing is not to get discouraged. You wake up at 3 a.m., you wait in line from 5 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. with hundreds of girls who look exactly like you, and by 10 a.m. you are cut. Almost every audition is like that,” Spacone says. 

So how do you keep from giving up? Spacone says she treasures the advice her late teacher, Kevin Gray, offered: “Success is when opportunity meets preparedness,” he told her.

She adds, “Every audition can turn out to be your big break.” 

Like most aspiring actors, Spacone has had a series of interesting jobs to help pay the rent. Hostess, server, greeter at a gym hospitality desk, Zumba instructor, to name just a few.  But one of her steadiest gigs is playing Disney princesses with New York Princess Party.  

Spacone has always enjoyed working with young children, and the princesses entertain crowds of kids with sing-alongs and other activities. She has even performed in “A Night of Disney and Dining,” at Watch Hill’s Ocean House. 

And while Spacone regards this as a “survival” job, she also recognizes that “every experience you have helps you become a better actor. Every job and every experience makes you better at your craft. And you never know who you will meet!”

With her outgoing personality, Spacone has never had trouble making fast friends, her mother notes. 

“The circle of friends grows constantly. With every new show comes a new layer of friends, and they attend each other’s shows whenever they can,” she says. “Not to mention all of her extended Rhode Island family, who have attended every performance and will continue the practice this Mother’s Day at ‘Oklahoma!’.”  

Another very special guest at the Mother’s Day performance will be Vivian Levitt, Carla Spacone’s mother and Hannah’s grandmother. Carla Spacone explains, “Talent skips a generation” – she vividly recalls her mother and her late father, Mel Levitt, performing together.

Viv Levitt played Bloody Mary in a synagogue production of “South Pacific” when Carla was 5 years old. At a late-night cabaret following a performance of “42nd Street” at Ocean State Theatre, Spacone surprised her grandmother by singing “Bali-Ha’i” – a memory the whole family treasures. 

Spacone hopes to one day play Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific.” 

“It’s the most beautiful music in the world,” she says.

Another dream role: Bebe Benzenheimer in “A Chorus Line.” Despite her poise and confidence, Spacone feels a deep connection to the awkward little Jewish girl who did not feel beautiful unless she was dancing.

In addition to the Barker Playhouse, in Providence, and Ocean State Theatre, Spacone has acted on a number of other stages in the area, including at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the Stadium Theatre, in Woonsocket. 

“It’s amazing how many great theaters there are right in my own backyard that I have been blessed to work at,” she says. 

She also reflects on being able to follow her heart. 

“I am one of the luckiest people in the entire world [because] my parents support this life. It’s not steady work. They are both artistic and creative, always willing to see a show with me. And they have never once asked, ‘What’s your backup plan?’ ” Spacone says.

“OKLAHOMA” is at Trinity Repertory Company’s Chace Theater from May 5 through June 5.

MELANIE COON lives in Providence and has known Hannah Spacone for nearly 25 years.

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