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Amy Marie McCleary


Amy Marie McCleary is a multi-faceted musical theater artist who works as an actor, director and choreographer in local and regional theater. Most recently, she choreographed Broadway Palm Thru the Decades, a revue of the top-selling musicals produced by the theater since its inception in 1993.

McCleary started in theater as a chorus girl. Since then, she has played some pretty prestigious roles: Mona in Dames at Sea, Velma Kelly in Chicago, Velma Von Tussle in Hairspray, Lexie in The Dixie Swim Club, Lola in Damn Yankees, Bombalurina in CATS, Gladys in The Pajama Game, Tiger Lily/Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan, Lily St. Regis in Annie and Sheila in A Chorus Line, to name a few. Her reprisal of Velma Kelly in Prather Entertainment’s 2018 production of Chicago earned her a well-deserved Broadway World Best Actress in a Musical Award.

Most Southwest Florida theater lovers know McCleary more through her work as Prather Entertainment Group’s resident director/choreographer. In that capacity, she has staged more than 50 productions, including The Wizard of Oz (2022), Escape to Margaritaville (2022), Singin’ in the Rain (2022), Beehive the 60s Musical (Dutch Apple Theatre), Holly Jolly Christmas (which she created (see below)), The Sound of Music, Happy Days, Holiday Inn, Kinky Boots (choreography by Chris Kane), Beauty and the Beast, Momma Mia, Jesus Christ Superstar, Saturday Night Fever, Little Shop of Horrors, Memphis, Hairspray, Grease, CATS, Swing, Sister Act and Peter Pan, among others. As choreographer, Amy has staged dances for Evita, Cabaret, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, All Shook Up, The King and I, Les Miserables, Annie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the 2009/2010 national tour of The Wedding Singer. She also did the choreography for Prather’s 2018 production of Chicago, for which she won a Broadway World Award for Best Choreography (Professional).

Among Amy’s favorite director/choreographer credits are Grease (Broadway Palm 2021), Beehive: The 60s Musical (Broadway Palm 2021), Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (Broadway Palm), Yeston & Kopit’s Phantom (Broadway Palm), the 2015 national tour of Memphis the Musical, the international tour of The Wizard of Oz (Choreographer), Footloose, Sister Act, I Love a Piano, Hairspray, 9 to 5 (Little Theatre on the Square), CATS, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (for the Herb Strauss Theatre), Spamalot (Herb Strauss Theatre), Hairspray (UNCG), Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, Grease and Some Enchanted Evening.

McCleary has also created a number of musical revues for Prather Entertainment. In 2019, she wrote, directed and choreographed the highly successful holiday smash Sounds of Christmas. Among Amy’s other revues are Holly Jolly Christmas and A Swinging Christmas. The latter production featured a Fosse version of The Nutcracker Suite and a tap ballet featuring all nine of Santa’s reindeer.

Over the course of her more than 30 years in theater, her work has been enjoyed by audiences across the country, including national and regional touring productions and regional houses that include The Little Theatre on the Square, Allenberry Playhouse and University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Department of Drama.

McCleary’s directorial style reflects her passion for creating the world first and giving each actor equal attention as a facet of the story. She brings fresh and original ideas to every production in which she becomes involved.

“I’m very much about focus and finding the role each actor plays within the world,” Amy explains.

When directing, McCleary feels as though she has a part in all the roles, and is able to affect the picture at large. There’s a stronger sense of being able to work with individuals and help them grow in their paths as performers. Her positive energy, passion for theater, collaborative style, inventive direction and unequalled organizational skills create wonderful environments for actors to play and discover.

“I am ‘an actor’s director’ and have a knack at creating a great ensemble connection that spreads from the rehearsal room onto the stage.”

McCleary’s movement style is always character based and works to propel the storyline forward with special attention to time period and the confines of the world being created.

“I love stepping out of the box with style and vision,” she expounds. “My individual dance style combines a love of ballet, Fosse and contemporary street. I’m equally at home with a romantic pas de deux in the The Music Man or the poppy hip hop of High School Musical. ​And a good old fashioned Weimer era club scene makes me weak at the knees.”

“Working with Amy is like a breath of fresh air in this business,” says Katherine Walker-Hill, who played Betty Haynes in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. “Not only is she well-prepared, she is also interested in creating a truly beautiful piece of art. She works well with all ages, talent levels, and backgrounds; but she also pushes each and every performer to be the best they can be in a nurturing, yet professional setting. She has raised the bar for all directors and choreographers, which is a gift to the theatre community.”

“I’m a champion of education and thrive on working with young professionals,” states Amy, who has a passion for education through the arts. “And as a working mother, I’m a self-proclaimed feminist who encourages tenacity and leadership in the young women I have the honor of working with on a daily basis. I hope my legacy is to encourage and enlighten other artists in the best way possible – through excellent work that has vision and heart.”

In 2015 Amy created the Musical Theatre Intensive Arts Summer Camp in partnership with the Alliance for the Arts. The camp works with students on music theory, performance skills, dance, acting, collaboration and improv. In partnership with Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, campers are provided with the opportunity to work with professional actors on their skills in an environment which gives every student the chance to shine.

Amy received her BFA with highest honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied at CAP21, the premiere training ground for musical theater performers. She now makes her home in Southwest Florida. Her works in progress include a four-year-old and a two-year-old who love singing and dancing almost as much as their mom.

January 11, 2019; revised September 10, 2022.


McCleary brings new understanding to role of Velma Kelly in Broadway Palm’s production of ‘Chicago

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