Interview: SECRET GARDEN 'Sisters' Gabriella Pizzolo and Cortney Wolfson Tell All About Friends in Theater's Sold-Out Benefit!

By: Jan. 09, 2016
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

This is the year of THE SECRET GARDEN- or at least the winter of THE SECRET GARDEN. As BroadwayWorld previously reported, on February 21, Manhattan Concert Productions will present a concert starring original Broadway cast members Daisy Eagan and Barbara Rosenblat, with Sierra Boggess, Ramin Karimloo, Cheyenne Jackson, Ben Platt, Jere Shea and Tony Award nominee Sydney Lucas as Mary Lennox.

There is even more of THE SECRET GARDEN to be had though, because before that, Friends in Theater will put on sold-old productions on Monday, January 11 and Sunday, January 17. Their company will be led by original Broadway cast member Rebecca Luker as Lily, Gabriella Pizzolo as Mary, and Cortney Wolfson as Martha, with Bradley Dean, Tom Deckman, Ali Ewoldt, Frances Mercanti-Anthony, Bill Nolte, Eli Tokash, Max von Essen. The production, which will benefit Make-A-Wish Foundation, will be co-hosted by composer Lucy Simon and original cast member Daisy Eagan.

The company of the latter production is in the home stretch of preparations and Wolfson (KINKY BOOTS) and Pizzolo (FUN HOME) just checked in with BroadwayWorld to tell us all about the process. Check out the full interview below!

I know you've been in rehearsal today... how have they been going so far?

G: I love it! It's been so much fun and I'm learning so much from everybody. Everyone is so talented!

Wolfson in KINKY BOOTS
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

C: It's been nice to do something other than the same eight shows a week that I've been doing for two and a half years. It's fun to work on music that's from a different time period and meet all of these new actors. I specifically love it because I get to see my husband, [Curtis Holbrook], more now than I ever do because he's my director and choreographer [Laughs]. Normally we don't get to see each other too much, so getting to spend time while we're at work has been really fun.

There must be an extra level of excitement knowing that both shows are already sold out!

C: Yeah! And they sold out really quickly too! We're all stunned and so excited.

I've always felt like the Secret Garden was such an underrated musical. Were you guys already fans of the show?

G: I love the book... ever since it was read to me. And so I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this show. When I heard that it was coming back for Make-A-Wish, I was so excited! I was thrilled and honored to get to be a part of it, but also to get to raise money for people who need help.

How do you feel about there being two productions? I'm sure you both have friends in the MCP one too...

C: I think it's been an all-in-good-fun experience. I've had a lot of people at work asking about the production and they say, "Wait, is it one with Daisy Eagan or Rebecca Luker?" and I'm like, "Well, it's Rebecca Luker, but Daisy Egan is hosting." So getting to explain and have this friendly battle has been really fun in promoting the show. The show is so great and they've both sold so well that it makes it more exciting. The buzz of the other show and all of the amazing people doing it has helped us too. Just getting everyone talking about it and not only people who know Friends in Theater and Make-A-Wish, but people who are just fans of the show. I think it's pumped everybody up.

Pizzolo in FUN HOME
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Gabby, you really carry this show! How are you managing to juggle this with FUN HOME?

G: I wouldn't explain it as hard. It's been a lot of fun just getting to do it. I'm so excited to be here every single second!

Have you gotten to meet Daisy Eagan yet?

G:I haven't yet, but I'm so excited to get to meet her.

C: When we all came into rehearsals everyone was kind of off book and sorta knew what they were doing, and then Gabby started saying her lines and singing her songs. Everybody went, "Uh oh, we better get serious!" [Laughs] We just kept looking during our first read through and saying, "She's a star!" She won't tell you that herself; she'll tell you that everyone else is a star. She's juggling two huge roles and just being amazing! Everyone is so thrilled. She really is the star of the show.

G: I can't wait for the audience to get to see you, Cortney! I think you're going to make an amazing Martha.

C: [Laughs] Oh, thank you! We're having so much fun together. I never had a little sister and I feel like I have one now.

Your characters have a special relationship in this show. Have you guys enjoyed working together?

C: We love it!

G: You're the first person in the show who is actually trying to get me happy!

C: Totally! It's fun for me because the show is pretty solemn and dark. As a kid, I don't think I absorbed that. I just saw a little girl who is doing all of these fun things. I grew up on the movie. But in reading the script, it's just as Gabby said it- Martha's the first person who is trying to bring her into the light. So for me that's really fun to get to do some of the silly stuff in "[If I Had a] Fine White Horse" and then the closeness of "Hold On" and the big scenes in the second act. It's been so powerful. And I think it's been fun for us to get teary-eyed together. It feels good to do that kind of acting! You don't always these full-of-everything, girthy roles that we are getting to play together. We're enjoying sharing that.

I've always had a special place in my heart for the song "Hold On"...

C: I actually didn't know it by heart when we started. I knew of the song. I heard a lot of college-mates and whatnot sing it. Doing it now, every single time I get excited and we find new stuff. There's a lot of pressure in singing that song, because every girl who has ever sung musical theatre probably knows it by heart, but I like it too. I feed off of energy like that. I love doing those big, epic songs. I'm just so lucky to get to sing it every day. I'll be sad when it's over!

Gabby do you have a favorite song?

G: I love them all, but I had to choose one, I'd probably choose "Wick."

Oh, good choice!

C: Yeah! And those two are really cute.

Lucy Simon is co-hosting. Are you excited to get to meet her?

C: We haven't met her yet, but yes we are. Our rehearsal process has been crazy and exciting, but also spotty and scattered. We all hadn't come together as a group really until yesterday.

G: Yeah. That was the first time.

C: It was the first time that the principals and ensemble were all in the same room. Later this afternoon will be the first time we've ever gone through the show from top to bottom! [Laughs] It's nuts. We're meeting out costume people and lighting designers and sound designers. So this is the first time and I think the second will be opening night!

I did hear rumors that they are going to bring a Make-A-Wish family, one of the kids whose wish is actually being granted by our production, along with Lucy and Daisy on Monday for part of our rehearsal. So we're gonna get to spend a little bit of our time with them. We're all looking forward to that happening.

Monday is just around the bend. What are you looking the most forward to?

G: I think just getting to do it and knowing its for Make-A-Wish and that all of the money is going to go to someone in need. And getting to do it with all of my friends- all of these amazing people is going to be a blast.

C: Totally. Yeah, it's like all of the nerves that go into an opening night with reviews and the "Is it gonna be a success? Is it gonna run?" It's totally removed from this process. Like Gabby said, it's for such a good cause and we get to go out and say, "Nothing else matters. Let's say these lines. Let's communicate. Let's tell this story about this awesome little girl and how she changes everyone around her." Then once it's over... it's happened. It's over. We don't have to worry. We just get to have fun.

And then you have the added bonus of getting to do it one more time!

C: Exactly! And that's so rare for Friends in Theater. I know that the past two seasons they've only gotten to do one production at the Lortel The fact that they granted us the time and space and that they're allowing us to do it twice and raise twice the money that we would have been able to...

What a great opportunity.

G: We're so excited!

C: And we all have new friends now. I'm gonna force Gabby to hang out after this is over. We haven't told her that yet! [Laughs]

G: Yes!

C: Let's do coffee dates in midtown! We're so pumped to be together and creating the awesome show.

First Rehearsal for The Secret Garden!

We started rehearsals for THE SECRET GARDEN this week! Step into the garden with Rebecca Luker, Bradley Dean, Cortney Wolfson, Gabriella Pizzolo and the entire team at FITC!

Posted by Friends In Theater Company on Wednesday, December 16, 2015

All proceeds will benefit the local chapter of Make-A-Wish, a non-profit organization that has given hope, strength, and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions since 1980. Donations are still being accepted via Friends in Theater's website.

Friends in Theater Company endeavors to promote the talent and skills of artists while encouraging them to participate philanthropically. Past beneficiary foundations have included The Make-A-Wish Foundation, The American Cancer Society and The World Trade Center Fund. Visit for more information.