Wheeling Native On Broadway

Actress Michelle Duffy, a Wheeling native, has landed her first Broadway role.

Another Wheeling native, playwright Sean O’Leary, alerted me to a casting announcement that mentioned Duffy.

In an online article posted on playbill.com, writer Andrew Gans reported that Duffy is featured in the company of “Leap of Faith,” the new Broadway musical “about a flim-flam preacher who blows into a small town, where he spars with a lady sheriff.”

Duffy, a graduate of Wheeling Park High School and daughter of Joe Duffy of Wheeling, has several stage roles to her credit on the West Coast.

Gans also reported that four-time Tony nominee Raul Esparza, starring as the preacher, and Jessica Phillips, as the sheriff, head the cast.

Rehearsals for the new show began Tuesday, Feb. 14. According to playbill.com and broadway.com, the Broadway production will begin previews Tuesday, April 3, and will open Thursday, April 26, at the St. James Theatre in New York.

Tony Award nominee Christopher Ashley is directing the production. “Leap of Faith” has music by Academy and Grammy Award winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.

Gans stated that the show’s producers described “Leap of Faith” in this way: “When his traveling ministry breaks down in a small Kansas town, part-time reverend and full-time con artist Jonas Nightingale (Esparza) quickly pitches a tent and invites the locals to a revival. The town sheriff, Marla Humes (Phillips) is determined to stop him from separating the townspeople from their money.”

“Leap of Faith” is based on the 1992 movie of the same title. The film starred Steve Martin (as Jonas Nightingale), Debra Winger and Lolita Davidovich.

Four Northern Panhandle residents were among a group of 34 people honored as West Virginia History Heroes during the annual History Day festivities at the state Culture Center in Charleston Thursday, Feb. 23.

This year’s class of History Heroes included Billy Lynn Cunningham of Pine Grove, Anne Hazlett Foreman of Wheeling, Louis Horacek of Moundsville and Gerry Wood of Glen Dale.

Cunningham, nominated by Wetzel County WVGenWeb, was recognized as “a pioneer of Internet genealogy.” When the WVGenWeb project began in 1996, he became the county coordinator for Wetzel County.

“His contribution to the preservation of Wetzel County’s history and genealogy is extensive, and he shares everything online,” the nominators said of Cunningham.

Foreman, an award-winning artist, was nominated by the Wheeling chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The nominators noted that her entry in the DAR’s Constitution Week poster contest won first place at the state and national levels.

She has contributed artwork to raise funds for historic preservation projects and has done illustrations for books and for Fort Henry Days promotional materials. Foreman also created panels of historic scenes for the Fort Henry Room of Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge and for the Artworks Around Town gallery in the Centre Market.

Horacek was nominated by the Ohio County Public Library, where he was employed from 1995 until his retirement, as assistant director, in December 2011. Through his efforts, primary source documents are now available online to researchers everywhere. He also helped revive interest in an early Wheeling novel, “Hearts of Gold,” written by J. McHenry Jones and republished in a new edition by West Virginia University Press.

The nominators stated that Horacek “almost single-handedly developed and maintained the archives, special collections and online historical collections of the Ohio County Public Library. He has gone beyond the call of duty working quietly behind the scenes to bring large portions of those collections into the 21st century, scanning and cataloging hundreds of historic images and creating the library’s ‘History online’ feature.”

Wood was nominated by the Marshall County Historical Society, of which she is a member of the executive committee and treasurer of its building fund. She also serves on the Cockayne historic preservation committee.

Her nominators stated, “Over a three-year period, Gerry organized volunteers and helped catalog furniture, clothing and other materials at the Cockayne House.” She also is a tour guide at the house in Glen Dale and for the historical society’s museum in Moundsville.

Linda Comins can be reached via e-mail at: Comins@news-register.net