GYPSY OF THE MONTH: Amanda Kloots-Larsen of 'Follies'
Like many bloggers, Amanda Kloots-Larsen has turned a hobby into the subject of a website. For Amanda, that hobby is eating sweets. It's something she's been doing since her childhood in Canton, Ohio, where she lived next door to a Dairy Queen. This "addiction" may even be genetic, Amanda says—she had a grandfather who topped off dinner every night with ice cream. For four years now, Amanda has been co-writing the blog Just Desserts NYC and attracting the notice of such mainstream media as the Today show with it. It's even been pitched to the Food Network, Cooking Channel and Travel Channel as a TV series.
A blog success story like that isn't so extraordinary anymore, however. What makes Amanda's story extraordinary is her day (night) job—which might seem at odds with being a dessert aficionado. She's a dancer on Broadway, and at 5 foot 10 inches tall, the type of dancer who's often cast in showgirl roles. That means lots of costumes that bare her limbs and sometimes midriff too. She's one of the Follies girls in the Follies revival currently in previews at the Marquis Theatre. Her featured bit in her Broadway debut, Good Vibrations, was a part called Bikini Girl. She was a Rockette, for pete's sake!
So how does Amanda and her blogging partner, Beth Johnson Nicely (who's also a dancer), stay in stage shape while regularly indulging in calorie-laden treats like—to cite a few recent blog posts—Oreo cheesecake, white chocolate- and sugar-crystal-coated cake pops and a big chunky Birthday Cake cookie? "We live at the gym," she admits. "Beth and I are very good about balancing out our sweets-to-working-out ratio."
She also manages by practicing portion control—sharing a dessert with Beth or whoever dines with her—but exercise is the key ingredient. "I know that I have to do that if I want to continue my website," she says. Amanda works out at New York Sports Club six days a week and frequently takes classes at Broadway Dance Center or Steps as well. She used to depend on the machines at the gym but now favors Zumba and other classes like Total Body Conditioning and Cardio Jam. If she knows an expedition for the blog is coming up soon, or there's a box of goodies from a bakery awaiting her at home, she'll do even more than usual.
Lest that mislead you about Amanda's priorities, she emphasizes: "Don't get me wrong. I love sweets. I have them every day. They will always be a part of my life." She and Beth met on Amanda's first professional job in theater, the national tour of 42nd Street. They were both in the chorus and they're both from Ohio, but that's not what sealed their friendship. "We bonded immediately over our love for sweets," recalls Amanda, a blonde. Beth, a brunette, came up with the idea for a blog, and they now even film webisodes for it—billing themselves as Brownie & Blondie (For more about Just Desserts NYC and some of Amanda's recommendations, see below.)
As for Kloots-Larsen's live performances, Follies is her third show on Broadway, following the 2005 flop Good Vibrations and the last few months of Young Frankenstein's run in late 2008. She was on the Spamalot tour for most of 2006 and the Young Frankenstein tour in 2009-10. Her regional work includes Carnival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Massachusetts' Cape Playhouse; and Crazy for You at the John W. Engeman Theater on Long Island. And for two Christmas seasons, she was a center Rockette at Radio City Music Hall.
Her career began with 14 months on the 42nd Street tour—a job she got two days before her graduation from AMDA, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, in 2002. Though her parents had lobbied for a four-year college, Amanda chose the two-year conservatory because it was located in New York City and "focused on singing, dancing and acting, and I knew that I needed to concentrate on those things in order to be in this business." The second youngest of five, Amanda is the only one of her siblings who didn't attend a four-year college, and she knows her "mom cried the whole way home when they left me [at AMDA], saying it was a big mistake." But the school "turned out to be exactly what I needed," Amanda says, and she appreciates her parents letting her go: "If it wasn't for their courage and belief in me, I would not be in this business."