Budding theatre actors from Fitchburg, Westminster, Ashburnham and other area communities performed in “Tilly the Trickster” at the Theatre at the Mount, part of the Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. (SARA ARNOLD)
Theater at the Mount
Andrew Burton Kelley is a full-time working actor in musical theater, but he’s not famous. He’s very happy with that, and he wants to tell young actors all about it.
Kelley grew up in Westminster and attended Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. He acted in both middle and high school as well as Wachusett Community College’s Theatre at the Mount.
Now, he’ll be the guest speaker at the TAMY Awards Gala in Gardner on Sunday, May 21, as a homecoming to the Theater at the Mount stage.
The TAMY Awards celebrates the best of regional high school musical theater in a variety of categories including overall production, performances, stage crew, costumes, dance, chorus and many more. This year’s nominees include Leominster High School, Ashburnham’s Oakmont Regional High School, Wachusett Regional High School, Harvard’s Bromfield School, Nashoba Valley Tech, Monty Tech and 20 others.
Kelley chose musical theater as his avocation because he says he thinks “the form of storytelling, integrating music with dialogue … there’s just something about it! It’s the escape, it allows not only the audience to partake in, but the actor as well.”
He agreed to what he says is the “honor” of speaking at the TAMYs “because I feel like what most people consider as successful actors, are famous, wealthy, etc. And that’s not the case. So I guess in a way I wanted to represent all the working professionals in my industry and to show the young performers that there is more to it than fame.”
“I think anyone who creates something they are passionate about can be considered an artist,” he added.
Kelley lived in Westminster for 13 years, from age five until he left for college at 18. He loved “the fact that Mount Wachusett was about five minutes from my house, so I was able to snowboard pretty much all I wanted.”
His first introduction to performing was through an elementary school competition to create a new Oscar Mayer commercial, which won for Massachusetts, earning Kelley a ride in the famous Wienermobile.
He was hooked.
Acting in afterschool theater at Overlook Middle School built Kelley’s foundation to take part in the Drama Club at Monty Tech.
He credits acting in Westminster and Monty Tech as “the whole reason why I chose this as my career. I had such a great support system through theatre, and my passion for it was very apparent. But it was actually my shop teacher who really helped me realize the direction I wanted to go in. I’m truly forever grateful to him.”
Kelley attended Monty Tech from 2007 to 2011, where he got his certification in Machine Technology.
He also performed in a multitude of Theatre at the Mount shows, both the youth and adult productions, from the ages of 12 to 20 plus took part in their summer camps for several years.
“Theatre at the Mount was by far the biggest hands-on experience I had, and taught me what it meant to be a professional performer, on and off stage,” Kelley said.
He graduated from Plymouth State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Musical Theater in 2015 and has been working professionally ever since, including national, regional, tour, and cruise work.
After meeting fellow actor Rachel Pantazis at college in 2013, they performed on Carnival Cruise Lines together. They got engaged in 2018 and married in December 2020.
Cruise work was something he’s glad he did, but it wasn’t for him.
“I think cruise ship work is for a very specific type of performer. I loved my cast and the many different people I got to meet, but it’s tough living in a shoe-boxed size room, floating in the middle of the ocean for six months,” he said.
Kelley has worked regionally all over New England, upstate New York, and Michigan and has gone on two national tours, including one of the first to go back on the road post-pandemic shutdown.
Community theater is still close to Kelley’s heart. “I think I love the fact that it is so accepting of individuals with a love and passion to create art, regardless of experience, who you are, or where you came from. It’s really all in the name,” he said.
He said he’s “incredibly lucky to have a family that supports me in every shape and form” of his life and career including his mom Barbi, dad John, and sister Alex (his parents are still in Massachusetts).
Based in New York City since 2021, he absolutely loves it there. He said it’s pretty different from Massachusetts, but he’ll “always be a Red Sox fan.”
Kelley has been teaching himself guitar, something that has always been a passion of his. He’s also a certified personal trainer, and “enjoys connecting physical health and fitness within the theatre space.”
He got certified during the pandemic “as a backup career”, although he was able to do some Zoom readings and remote work during the pandemic; now that entertainment has returned, he still has “a love for fitness, but it’s more recreational than business.”
He also says he’s a “cat dad.”
For more information visit andrewburtonkelley.com and on social media.