Broadway singer returns to Snohomish for benefit concert

SNOHOMISH — She’s one of Seattle’s best known musical theater actresses.

A few years ago, Seattle Metropolitan magazine listed Billie Wildrick among the city’s hottest celebrity singles. She’s been called Seattle’s blonde bombshell, and one theater reviewer said she “couldn’t be more appealing if she were a banana.”

Wildrick, 34, spent most of the past 10 months on Broadway and now she’s traveling home from New York City this week to perform in a benefit concert for a scholarship at her alma mater, Snohomish High School.

The concert, “Raise a Ruckus,” is set for 2 p.m. Sunday in the school’s performing arts center. It supports the Patrick Castro Excellence in Vocal Music Scholarship.

Wildrick said she can’t wait to get home to see Castro, her old teacher. For his annual concert fundraiser for the scholarship, Castro often lines up his former Snohomish choir students to sing.

“I am thrilled that we have Billie back with us,” Castro said. “She is really making a name for herself.”

In the fall, Wildrick appeared in Kathie Lee Gifford’s musical “Scandalous” at the Neil Simon Theatre in midtown Manhattan. She also performed this month in a well-attended concert in the theater district featuring Broadway’s recent standbys, understudies and alternates. In addition to playing the character Eve in “Scandalous,” Wildrick also understudied the leading role of Aimee Semple McPherson, a 1930s-era Los Angeles-based Pentecostal evangelist and radio celebrity.

“Years ago, when I tried to make it on Broadway, I thought New Yorkers were mean,” she said. “I’m a little older now and I realize that in New York you just have to hold your own. Life is full and fast-paced. I face new challenges, new terrors and other peaks to climb, but it’s a great relief to know that I don’t need anyone to tell me that I am fine.”

In Seattle, Wildrick won awards for leading and supporting roles in dozens of professional musicals at the 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Village Theatre.

Her resume notes that Wildrick has green eyes, dirty blond hair and a soprano voice that can belt it out. She tap dances, plays the ukulele and kills at speed Scrabble.

“Billie has trodden the boards many times at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre,” the resume reads, “as a hippie, a groupie, a virgin, a shimmy instructor, a kid sister, a stewardess, a showgirl, a princess, an artist’s model, a grandmother, two maids, a daffodil, a foley artist, one-quarter of an intrepid radio quartet, a nymphomaniacal anthropologist and an iconic burly-Q headliner with the sniffles.”

Among her favorite roles are the long-suffering Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” and the mistress Dot in “Sunday in the Park with George,” the Stephen Sondheim musical inspired by the Georges Seurat painting.

“When I got the leading role in ‘Sunday in the Park’ in Seattle, it was an omen that I was supposed to come back home after I first tried my luck on Broadway. This time around, though, New York has been great.”

Wilder also can be heard on the original cast recording of “A Christmas Story: The Musical,” which played in Seattle a couple of years ago.

“At the 5th Avenue, we launched a lot of shows that went on to Broadway,” she said.

Wildrick, whose parents Mary and Bill Wildrick still live in Snohomish, said she hopes the concert Sunday will raise a lot of money. Also on the program are the Snohomish Men’s Chorus, the pop and doo-wop group Real Men and jazz pianist Eric Verlinde.

“It’s me and the boys,” Wildrick said. “I’m also going to get Pat to sing with me.”

Castro, who retired in 2005, served as the choral director at Snohomish High for nearly 25 years and Wildrick was one of his many successful students. In 2007, he started fundraising for a scholarship to help high school singers study music in college.

“This scholarship has meaning for me because I believe in live performance and so does Pat,” Wildrick said. “If you think of artistic creativity like a young seedling in need of extra care and nurturing to survive, that’s exactly what young artists need. It’s all too easy to stomp on the sprouts. A lot of young people who want to go into the arts get stomped on and discouraged from following their dreams. Pat is going the extra mile to give them some water and sunshine and I want to be a part of that.”

A member of the Snohomish High class of 1996, Wildrick sang in Castro’s Crimson Singers jazz choir.

“It was my only outlet. It was very theatrical, the kind of music that lights me on fire,” Wildrick said. “There’s a photo in the school yearbook of me clutching a microphone like a lifeline. The football team got a new stadium that year, complete with a water-sucking field, but we couldn’t even put on a musical because our stage was falling apart.”

Wildrick went on to earn a performance degree in 2001 from Western Washington University. Soon after leaving Bellingham, she got in with the musical production team at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

It’s all about luck, hard work and passion, she said.

“I’m coming home for the concert because I want high school kids to sing and know that it’s a worthy thing to do,” Wildrick said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

‘Raise a Ruckus’

Tickets for “Raise a Ruckus,” a concert featuring Billie Wildrick at 2 p.m. Sunday, will be available at the door of the Snohomish High School performing arts center, 1316 Fifth St. Cost is $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors or $50 for a family. Proceeds fund a scholarship for Snohomish vocal music students.

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