MIAMI — The theater bug bit Desiree Dillon while playing a minor role in the Miami Little Theater production of “Oliver.”
Dillon, a 2006 Miami High School graduate, cast as an orphan in that MLT adaptation, plays a key role in the national touring production of Broadway’s “Finding Neverland,” which will make a stop in Pittsburg on Sunday, Jan. 26 for a performance at the Bicknell Center for the Arts on the campus of Pittsburg State University.
“MLT really helped build my foundation, got me used to being on stage, understanding the building blocks of what an actor needs to know: what blocking is, what a cue is, the right time to speak, and how to deliver a line,” Dillon said in a recent interview.
“I had the time of my life,” she said of “Oliver,” noting that she made it a point to learn the prompt script, which included the lines of every actor in the production.
“I think that was when I got bit by the theater bug,” she said.
In addition to “Oliver,” she was in MLT’s “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Annie,” “The Sound of Music” and 2005’s “The Wizard of Oz,” which was her last appearance on the Coleman Theatre’s stage.
Dillon, who is excited to get a chance to perform locally again for the first time since moving to New York City in 2010, can’t imagine herself doing anything different.
Dreams of being a professional singer and dancer started at a young age. She got her start when she was 4 years old, singing her first solo at her church, the second verse of “Away in a Manger.”
Dillon got a vote of confidence from her grandmother after that performance.
“She had no idea that I could carry a tune in a bucket,” Dillon quipped.
She began dancing with Kaye Lewis — founder of the Midwest Regional Ballet — by the time she was around 7 and her career blossomed from there.
Blessed with a 4-octave vocal range, she has won the 2016 Mario Lanza and Elaine Malbin Vocal Competition in New York City and the 2010 International Crescendo Music Award.
After getting her foot in the door in New York City, Dillon has been in regional productions of “Mary Poppins,” “Anything Goes,” “42nd Street,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Smokey Joe’s Café.”
She also has been a singer, dancer and actress on Disney and Carnival cruise lines and has even dabbled in opera.
In a review of her role as Winifred Banks In “Mary Poppins,” the writer said "Desiree Dillon as Winifred Banks, actress-turned-banker's-wife, is sweet and bewildered by her husband's change from adoring suitor to stuffed-shirt businessman. Her "Being Mrs. Banks" is one of the best renditions this writer has heard, and one can feel that she believes she's a failure because she hasn't become the social success her husband expects."
“I’ve got a wide variety of things on my resume,” she said.
In “Finding Neverland,” Dillon plays Mrs. Emma Du Maurier, who is the show’s antagonist — grandmother of the show’s real-life children who inspired the characters in “Peter Pan.”
“Finding Neverland” is a semi biographical look at Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie and his relationship with a family that inspired him to create the children’s classic.
Johnny Depp portrayed Barrie in the 2004 film version and it was adapted as a musical in 2012.
The performance in Pittsburg is part of a 3 and a half month cross-country tour that includes stops in California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Texas, New Jersey, Indiana, Connecticut and Vancouver, British Columbia.
A limited number of tickets remain for the performance.
For more information, call 620-235-4797, or visit www.bicknellcenter.com.