Comte de Mirabeau once said, “None, but people of strong passion are capable of rising to greatness.” Melissa has a true passion for the arts and has spent a lifetime as a singer, dancer and actress. She is a true triple threat!
Melissa’s excitement for entertaining brought her back to the theater in her dream role as Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street. Her performance was critically acclaimed winning her the 2006 Encore Award for Best Actress in a Musical and earning her a review as “one hell of a tap dancer” – Lisa Gauthier of Nuvo. Fast forward to today: Melissa is set to perform in North Shore Music Theatre’s production of 42nd Street. Most recently, she has been seen performing as a featured artist with her original arrangement of the songs 42nd Street / On The Sunny Side Of The Street / Take The “A” Train. Melissa performed as the opening act for Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center’s 11th Annual Gala, A Celebration Of Women In The Arts, and again as part of Carnegie Hall’s Medal Of Excellence Gala honoring Adrienne Arsht. She has been seen as a featured vocalist in the Classic FM Pops Concert, performing with The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Other recent performances with The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra include Anything Goes In Concert, with Rachel York, Gary Beach, Judy Kaye and Max von Essen; Hairspray In Concert, with John Waters, Micky Dolenz and Beth Leavel; and ISO’s annual holiday production of Yuletide Celebration with Sandi Patty, Ben Crawford and Angela Brown. She performed as a proud member of the national company of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (with David Ogden Stiers) at Detroit’s Fox Theatre under the direction of Tony Award Winner Walter Bobbie and four-time Tony Award Nominated Choreographer Randy Skinner. She was thrilled to be a part of the ensemble, as well as the understudy for the role of Judy Haynes. She also entertained with Cirque du Soleil’s Banana Shpeel (a vaudeville inspired creation full of tap, hip hop and eccentric dancing, as well as singing and more). A highlight was a performance on America’s Got Talent, alongside Annaleigh Ashford and the very talented cast of performers! This production opened at The Chicago Theatre in November 2009 and enjoyed runs at The Beacon Theatre in New York and The Canon Theatre in Toronto. The production was directed by David Shiner and choreographed by Jared Grimes.
She was just three years old when her grandpa bought her first 45 record, Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” From that point on, Melissa was always singing, dancing and entertaining. Trained in tap, jazz and ballet since the age of 4, the stage became her world, as Melissa’s experience through dancing continued to grow. After many performances and competitions throughout the United States, presenting herself on stage became comfortable, and it was time for new challenges. Singing and acting suddenly felt right.
Melissa’s acting career began at the age of six in The Music Man. Thoroughly bitten by the theater bug, she continued to perform in many theatrical productions such as Shame, The Nutcracker, Annie, Carousel, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, Anything Goes, The Sound of Music and Becca, written by writer Wendy Kesselman and winner of the National Children’s Playwriting Symposium. Her return to the stage in 2005 found her in productions such as Thoroughly Modern Millie (Millie Dillmount), Always… Patsy Cline (Patsy Cline), Peter Pan (Tiger Lily), The Full Monty (Pam), The World Goes ‘Round (Woman 1 – Brenda Pressley), 1940s Radio Hour (Connie Miller), The Taffetas (Peggy Taffeta), A Year With Frog and Toad (Mouse, Young Frog, Squirrel, Lady Bird and Mole), The Producers (Ensemble) and Disney’s High School Musical (Ms. Tenny). Melissa also spent time bringing Patty Andrews to life, as part of The Andrews Sisters in various Sisters of Swing events, and she enjoyed many American Cabaret Theatre performances as a solo vocalist.
Her introduction to the recording studio came when she was discovered singing a solo in the World Premier Theater Production of Shame, a script based on The Scarlet Letter, in 1986. In the recording studio, she has created characters for productions of Music Theatre International / Broadway Jr.’s theatrical selections: Pirates of Penzance (Ruth), State Fair (Emily), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Violet Beauregarde and Mrs. Gloop), Once Upon A Mattress (Queen Aggravain), Into The Woods (The Witch), Godspell (“O Bless The Lord My Soul”), School House Rocks and Once On This Island. Her voice can be heard on jingles, voiceovers and musical arrangements for such companies as Warner Publishing; CP Belwin; Hal Leonard Productions; Shawnee Press; Word, Inc.; and Lorenz 2000. A frequent soloist for Plank Road Publishing, her voice has been intriguing subscribers of Music K-8 Magazine for years. Jingle credits include Indiana Lasik Center, Buddy L, Cub Cadet, Hershey’s Chocolate World, Bundle of Babies and Tugg-A-Bows Dolls, Meijer and Macy’s Department Stores and United Way. Melissa also recorded a vocal solo for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. One of her most exciting performances was singing the National Anthem for more than 16,000 people at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. Having trained vocally with Broadway’s own Deric Rosenblatt of VocalPower, the world renowned instructor Renee Grant-Williams, and New York’s top vocal technician, the late Marianne Challis, Melissa’s voice has already been heard nationwide, and many don’t even realize it.
Not only is Melissa a very seasoned performer, she is also a very talented choreographer. As choreographer for Plank Road Publishing, she creates online instructional movement videos for the company’s magazine, Music K-8! She is the lead Tap Instructor and Director for Dance Connection in Indianapolis and has offered personal master class opportunities, as well as master classes with Anthony Russo’s Tap the Map in-studio workshop. Melissa is a top award winning choreographer, and her students have been accepted to prestigious Tap and Musical Theatre programs across the country. Theatrical choreography credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for Indianapolis Civic Theatre; Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue and Footloose for Footlite Musicals; Pippin for Wayne Township Community Theatre; and The Wiz, Home For The Holidays, Let’s Get It On: The Music Of Motown, Disney’s High School Musical, Divas!!, Elton and Stevie: A Black and White Affair and Big Band Holidaze for American Cabaret Theatre.
Melissa’s thirst for knowledge and development of her craft as an artist and as an entertainer led her to the famed Music City, USA – Nashville, Tennessee. Melissa graduated Magna Cum Laude from Belmont University, obtaining her B.B.A. with an emphasis in Music Business. Taking advantage of programs offered by the music industry opened doors for Melissa. The knowledge that she gained through her music industry involvement created an appreciation for the art with a business understanding.
Melissa is grateful for life’s opportunities, and she enjoys giving back. It isn’t unlikely to find her performing at benefits for organizations like the Special Olympics or sharing her love of Tap with a dancer in Tap shoes for the first time. Melissa finds working with children especially rewarding. “There aren’t always enough opportunities for children to study the arts, yet there are so many benefits,” says Melissa. “Kids are like sponges; they absorb so much around them. While not every child will become a dancer, it is my goal to be a positive influence in each life I touch. If children leave my class with more self-confidence and a heightened level of happiness and self-pride, then I have succeeded.”
Though Melissa loves to sing and dance both as individual art forms, it is the theater where she belongs. “I love the theater! Not only do I get to do everything I love – sing, dance and act – I get to touch the lives of so many people with every performance. That personal exchange of emotion is a feeling like no other.”