Interview: Irley Vallejo of CARMELA FULL OF WISHES at The Growing Stage


By: Jan. 29, 2024
Interview: Irley Vallejo of CARMELA FULL OF WISHES at The Growing Stage

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey continues their season with a show for the whole family, Carmela Full of Wishes. The story is adapted by Alvaro Saar Rios from the book by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

It’s Carmela’s birthday, and she’s finally old enough to accompany her big brother on his errands. On their way to the laundromat, past fields of what her Mamí calls “flores de cempazuchitl”, Carmela finds a puffy white dandelion to blow, but her brother asks “Did you even make a wish?” The Newbery award-winning team behind Last Stop on Market Street portrays Carmela’s migrant community as a vibrant place of possibility. Full of touching and funny fantasies, Carmela must decide what her deepest wish is and she must do it before her birthday is over. The show will be performed from February 2nd to February 18th.

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing Irley Vallejo who is playing Carmela in the show. 

Irley is finding her way back into theatre after a break to recover from injuries and start a family, She is ecstatic to tell this beautiful story with such a talented cast and production team! Her most recent credits include Butterfly-Something like a Fairytale (Aurway), Yolanda - In the Heights (Count Basie). Irley’s wish is for this show to touch the hearts of everyone and anyone! She would like to give a huge thank you to God, Bernie, Ayden, Mom, and Dad for all you do to support me always! This is for you and because of you! Ahora si, Vamonos!!

When did you first become interested in live theatre?

I have always wanted to be an actor/singer/dancer but I did not know what theatre was until my elementary school had a grade production where I was the lead, Sally Swordfish. From that moment on I knew I wanted to continue doing live theatre. 

Can you tell us a little about your education in the performing arts or your inspiration to be an actor?

I was fortunate to belong to a public school system that tried their best to keep the arts alive so I participated in as many school shows as I could. Then during my pre-teens/early teen years I was finally able to join a dance school. When it was time for college, I double majored in Musical Theatre and Mathematics. During those years I also trained at The Joffrey Ballet School and with Urban Dance League. After graduating college I decided to focus on performing at The Institute for American Musical Theatre. While attending IAMT, the pandemic hit and our class had to have a virtual graduation. 

My inspiration comes from the influence that the arts has and if I can use that influence for good then that is what I want to be doing for a living.

What advice can you give someone interested in a career in theatre?

Do not give up. It does not matter how many years of training or if you were “born with it”! What matters is how much persistence you have. Persistence with training , persistence with learning, persistence with growing, and persistence with trusting the process. 

The Growing Stage is a very special venue for families.  Why do you think shows for young people are so important?

Young people are like sponges! That being said they observe and learn so much by going to see live theatre. So shows that can help their growth, imagination, and empathy are so important. As cliche as it sounds, children are the future and we want to set them up to be their best version of themselves! 

What are some of the challenges of your role of Carmela in the show?

My biggest challenge in being Carmela is remembering how to ride a scooter. Just kidding! I think, while it is a kid show that indulges in the beauty of the world, it also indulges in some very real and tough topics. That being said, I have to dig deep into how my 7 year old self has responded to tough situations or might have responded to some tough situations. When you play a character that is closer to your age  it can be a smoother transition to finding authentic responses to hard times. When you play a 7 year old there are more layers to uncover which has made this  process even more exciting.

Can you tell us a little about the cast/creative team for Carmela Full of Wishes?

They are the best! When working with a new theatre, you always wonder what the energy will be like. From the very beginning, the energy has been very welcoming and sweet!

I’ll start with our Director and Papi, Danny. He is just so kind and warm! The fact that he is also Papi just goes to show how committed he is to making this show the best it could be! 

Then we have Matthew who makes it so easy to be both silly and professional around! 

Then we have Stephanie, Stephen, Lori, Belinda, and the rest of the team who are all so professional and kind every time we see them!

And of course I can’t forget the cast, my familia! Both Tyler and Lisa are extremely talented. I am honored to be sharing the stage with these beautiful souls! 

What would you like audiences to know about the show?

The show has something for every one of all ages and backgrounds! If the audience pays close enough attention they can find my favorite thing that the show can offer. This would be empathy, both towards kids and situations that we may or may not relate to. 

Anything else, absolutely anything you want Broadwayworld NJ readers to know!

Your story matters! This story matters! If we want to show all stories matter then we have to come out and support them! So come out and see how a 7 year old can make reality seem like a beautiful and magical place while still confronting real life situations. 

You can learn more about Irley Vellejo on her web site and follow her on Instagram @ Elita2496.

The Growing Stage, The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey is located in The Historic Palace Theatre, 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ  07857.  For tickets and more information, please visit  973.347.4946.

Photo Credit: Idan Bar at Silky Money Studios