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Annaliese Wilbur

Just like the main character, Fanny Brice, in “Funny Girl,” it was a fantasy come true when performer Annaliese Wilbur took the stage recently in the Broadway touring cast of “Funny Girl,” at the Fisher Theater – which will continue performances nationally through December.

The Bloomfield Hills native saw their first Broadway show, a production of “The Lion King,” at the iconic theater as a child and was mesmerized by the whole experience. “I knew from that very moment I wanted to be up on that stage,” Wilbur recalls.

Wilbur’s family encouraged them in another direction, and after graduating from Bloomfield Hills High School in 2018, they studied neuroscience, attending college in Syracuse, New York. The childhood dream still alive, they added a minor in musical theater and that soon became a major – finishing up with a BFA at the prestigious Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music on a merit scholarship.

A testament to their multi-faceted talent, after graduation they were scooped up by an agent and sent on Broadway auditions – quickly garnering the role in “Funny Girl.” Wilbur reverently credits university teachers and mentors for their early success. “Without my phenomenal training at Boston Conservatory I would never be where I’m at now in my career,” said the 24-year-old, who now resides in New York City when not touring. “Under tutelage there I developed my dance, singing, choreography, piano, violin, guitar and acting skill sets.”

As a swing cast member in the current “Funny Girl” production, Wilbur must be ready to fill in – or under-study – for every female performer in the cast, memorizing dance, lines, singing and partner work if there is an emergency or low coverage. “Whenever you see a note in your playbill that says a role will now be played by a different performer, just know it’s a ‘swing’ like me giving it their all,” the animated and energetic thespian said.

While loving every aspect of live theater, tap dancing in particular, is a consuming passion for Wilbur. They are a member of the current wave of young tap dancers bringing a resurgence and revitalization to the historical dance form.

“I’m so honored to be working in a show that pays homage to tap’s Black history and feel a responsibility to keep the importance of tap dance alive. I’m also fortunate to be led by a female-heavy artistic team who are my career idols including, choreographers Ellenore Scott and tap dancing choreographers Ayodele Casel and Dre Torres,” said Wilbur. “These talented women give 'Funny Girl' a depth and resonance to the empowering female storyline. The women on this team – especially the queer, Jewish, Black and Latina women – have been the greatest gift the Broadway industry could have given to this show.”

To further inspire support for the art of tap dancing, Annaliese founded BoCo/Berklee's Premiere Tap Dance Showcase, which has been invited to perform at the Berklee Performance Center for the last two years – the first ever student Tap Showcase to perform at the center.

During their recent stint back home Wilbur felt the love from those who support her burgeoning Broadway career. After the “Funny Girl” performances at the Fisher Theater each day, they exited the stage door to be greeted by a throng of admiring family, friends and classmates. “One night there were 45 people there seeing the show and supporting me,” said Wilbur. “Performing on a hometown stage was nothing short of a lifetime dream.”

Story: Susan Peck


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