Jay Frisby has been entertaining audiences since kindergarten, so it's not surprising to find the 25-year old baritone among the cast of the national tour revival of the Lincoln Center's 2008 Tony Award-winning production of "South Pacific" making its final stop at Wolf Trap. Earlier this season, the show played at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater to appreciative crowds.
A history buff, Frisby is especially pleased to be involved in the musical that reveals the prejudices of many Americans during the World War II era. "It's a timeless story of love and people who have prejudices against those who are different," he said. "The black members of the ship's crew are not treated the same as the white ones. Even though we were a country at war and many were away from home, that did not change the attitudes they grew up with. I've enjoyed traveling across the country and telling this story to audiences who aren't familiar with our history."
While attending Glenelg Country School in Columbia, Maryland, Frisby was cast in "Into The Woods," "Guys and Dolls," "Godspell" and numerous other musicals. He played Coalhouse Walker in a Columbia School for Theatrical Arts production of "Ragtime," but his most memorable role was as a black Huck Finn opposite a white student playing the runaway slave Jim in "Big River." Despite the controversy that erupted when the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate refused to permit the school to enter the song "Muddy Waters" in the 2005 Critics and Award Program for High School Theater and Journalism (Cappies) held at the second annual Baltimore Cappies Gala, cooler heads prevailed. Frisby and the student playing Jim were honored as Lead Actor in a Musical and Featured Actor in a Musical respectively.
|Where: Wolf Trap Filene Center, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna|
|When: 8 p.m. Thursday to Sunday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday|
|Info: $40 to $80 in-house, $20 lawn; 877-965-3872; wolftrap.org|
His next stop was Yale University where he was a member of the Whiffenpoofs, the famous 14-man choral group. During his college years, he was highly involved as a dancer and choreographer in school productions. After graduating with a B.A. in theater studies, he spent the next three months touring around the world with the Whiffenpoofs."
Frisby still is grateful for the learning experience of his involvement in "Big River." It took an emotional toll on him and others, but in the end the opportunity to reverse roles and receive an award for his performance of "Muddy Waters" was confirmation that attitudes are changing. Looking to the future, he plans to continue auditioning for both stage and television. He is especially eager to play meaningful roles with some historical background.
"At the heart of 'South Pacific' is a love story surrounded by prejudice," he said. "You see the military segregation and how they treat the islanders. Unfortunately, that attitude still exists today. I hope the audience leaves the theater having looked at the situation with analytical eyes."