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Actor, author and mom Sharon Wheatley originated the role of Diane and others in the Tony Award-winning musical Come From Away and has been in the show ever since. Originally from Ohio, she “married into Hell’s Kitchen” and lives here with her wife and kids. This is Sharon’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born and raised and went to college in Cincinnati, Ohio. I moved to New York City in 1991 with the usual “I want to be a part of it…” New York City/Broadway dreams.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
I have worked on and around Broadway since I moved here, but I married into Hell’s Kitchen when I married my wife Martha Donaldson in 2017 and moved in with her.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
It’s an 11-minute walk to work! Best commute in the world!
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
The drugs. I hate walking home through clouds of pot and now even seeing people shoot up. It’s awful.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit or did you find an escape for some of the time? We went to Cincinnati for some of the time and watched the spring flowers grow.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
I have the distinction of being the only actress to appear in the three Broadway blockbusters Cats, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. Since spring 2015 I have been in Come From Away — starting with the first professional production in La Jolla, California. I don’t know my exact show count as Diane and Others but I must be near 1,500 performances at this point! So proud and grateful. The show was slated to celebrate its third year on Broadway on the very day that we shut down due to the pandemic. Now I am (thank GOD) back at Come From Away on Broadway.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Grit. Resilience. Who I am at my core. Teaching it to my kids. We made life fun in the face of awfulness. We climbed in an RV and drove around to see what else was going on in America since we usually live and work in a 5 block radius. It was the best — and it inspired my new book (more of that later).
Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
Probably this West Side Story 😂😂
What’s your superpower?
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
I warm up for my show in the shower so…. Arpeggios. Sorry neighbors!!
Which people inspire you the most?
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
Move a muscle change a thought.
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
I love Times Square. I had pictures of Times Square and Broadway on my wall as a kid, and now I live here. It happened. I can’t believe it.
Do you love Hudson Yards? Why, or why not?
Sure. I love a mall. I am from Ohio.
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
Edison Cafe. Hands down. Best split pea soup in the world. And they were all so bossy. It was PERFECT.
Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
My new book came out this week called DRIVE Stories From Somewhere in the Middle of Nowhere which tells the pandemic journey of me and my family from curtains down on Broadway to curtains back up. If you like midtown, Broadway and travel, and if you like to laugh, this book is for you. DRIVE is part travelogue, part Little Miss Sunshine, and all Broadway.
The book is prefaced: “Allegedly, early on in my relationship with Martha, I promised her we would travel around in an RV someday. I don’t remember saying that. And I have an annoying habit of remembering everything.”
It’s my second book, my first, ‘Til the Fat Girl Sings, follows the trials and tribulations of being an overweight Midwestern kid with giant Broadway dreams. When not acting or writing, I also speak to young people across the country about the importance of pursuing dreams and surviving in a society that values a small waistline over individuality. I also run musical theater workshops for aspiring actors at both college and high school levels.
Sharon’s Hell’s Kitchen Happy Places
Westway Diner: Westway is my everything. We go there often, they know me by name, and they know what we order. My whole life I wanted to be a “regular” at a New York City diner, and now I have a “special order” that is just mine (chicken piccata, double helping of broccoli cooked in with the chicken, salad no onion, Diet Pepsi and a water with lemon).
Amy’s Bread: The black and white cake. Say. No. More.
Schmackary’s: How do you spell that? Help!: Three reasons (besides the cookies which are so stupid good that I avoid them or my jeans would be even tighter!)
1) Have you seen their adorable cookie tins??? Seriously, go look.
2) Their “Broadway Blend” coffee bags are a great “insider” gift.
3) When I walk home from work I am often in a crowd of audience members from my show who are heading there. They don’t know who I am and it is fun to hear them talk about the show as they walk to this “famous cookie place” that is on the same street. Sometimes I go in and buy people cookies just because.
Sticky’s Finger Joint: The sauce. Oh wow, my top three are food places. This says a lot about why my jeans are tight.
The foot rub place between 42 and 43 on the west side of 9th [All Seasons Body Work]: All I do at work is stomp my feet. They bring me back to life. I don’t know what these lovely people are paid and I worry about them, so I try to tip a lot.
More west side stories
Ivy Nails: The manager Angela became my friend during the pandemic and we would commiserate about how empty the neighborhood was. She would say, “We need Broadway back!” Many times I was the only customer in there and I am always happy to see faces back in there.
The Little Pie Company: It fills the block with the most delicious aroma. It’s perfection.
Silver Towers Dog Park: So civilized! Kids and dogs! What more is there in the world? We call it “The Elf Park” because of the play structure so I don’t know what it’s really called [It’s a Tom Otterness creation — you can spot his work around Union Square subway station too].
Smiler’s: I swing in before my matinees, grab some food and pet the kitty, Tiger, who lives there. So. New. York.
Intrepid Museum: 25 years ago I was pregnant with my first child and I opened for Wynona Judd for a USO event. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life! My dad worked on an aircraft carrier in the 50s and now the company of Come From Away packs meals as a day of service on 9/11 every year on the Intrepid. It holds so many memories — and — it’s cool as hell.
Beautiful story; especially needed now, as the world watches what’s happening in Ukraine!
You were amazing in Come From Away. First saw it on Apple, then sought out a magnificent touring version. Singing its praises to other people was my most important survival skill during Covid.
I am headed out to my local book store to buy the new book!
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