Some days Celia Hottenstein has a chance to portray a novice nun, and other days she portrays a saloon girl named Bella Rose in “Desperate Measures,” a musical comedy playing Off-Broadway in the heart of New York City’s theater district.
“I love Bella Rose. She’s super funny, a mix between Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett,” said Hottenstein, 27, a Kingston native who is a stand-by for the two female roles. “There’s a lot of physical comedy and weird facial contortions,” she added. “It’s not understated at all.”
While the saloon girl is fun, Hottenstein also enjoys portraying Sister Mary Jo, whom she described as “probably the biggest role in the show. Our director, Bill Castellino, describes Sister Mary Jo as Alice and everyone else the crazy characters of Wonderland: the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, etc. The play is happening to her and she is along for the wild ride.”
One factor that unites the saloon girl and the religious sister is their desire — actually, their desperate wish — to save a handsome young cowpoke named Johnny Blood from hanging.
“The play is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Measure for Measure,’ ” Hottenstein said.
If you’re familiar with that play, you know there is a villainous authority figure (Lord Angelo) who wants to enforce capital punishment against a much more likeable character (Claudio.)
In this musical comedy, set in the Old West, the bad guy is an ornery cuss of a governor who would like to see Johnny Blood hang high.
Will the two ladies be able to save this young man? Come and see, Hottenstein said.
If you want to be sure to see Wyoming Valley’s homegrown talent onstage, consider attending a performance at 8 p.m. Oct. 5; 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. Nov. 1 or 8 p.m. Nov. 2. Hottenstein is scheduled to play Bella Rose in each of those performances.
The actress, who lives in Manhattan, is a graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School and The Boston Conservatory with a BFA in musical theater. After leaving Boston, she toured with “The Phantom of the Opera” as the alternate for the lead role of Christine.
Local audiences may remember her as Polly Peachum in “The Three Penny Opera” at Wyoming Seminary’s Performing Arts Institute and as Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” at Wyoming Valley West.
She also grew up doing community theater at the Music Box Dinner Playhouse and the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre from age 8 to about 16, and she studied ballet with Kristin Degnan at Ballet Northeast, where her mother was on the faculty.
Her family includes parents William and Nora Hottenstein, of Kingston; grandparents William and Barbara Pfeiffer of Kingston, William and Eleanor Hottenstein of Plains and Mildred Hottenstein of Kingston and a brother, Booey, who is a commercial airline pilot.
Family members have already seen her in the show, she said.
“I’ve gone on about 35 times in six months, which is quite a lot for a stand-by.”
“Desperate Measures,” which started at the York Theatre before moving to New World Stages earlier this year, received two Drama Desk Awards for outstanding music and outstanding lyrics and one Outer Critic Circle Award for best new Off-Broadway musical and one Off-Broadway Alliance Award for best musical. The theater is located at 340 W. 50th Street. For ticket info, see desperatemeasuresmusical.com.
Hottenstein expects she’ll have a week in December of portraying Bella Rose. When she knows the dates, she’ll announce them on her Facebook page and on Instagram, where her handle is @celiahottenstein.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT