The Examiner

All in the Family: Performing is in Young Actor’s Blood

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Bedford's Gabriella Palminteri, daughter of actor and director Chazz Palminteri, has embarked on her own career
Bedford’s Gabriella Palminteri, daughter of actor and director Chazz Palminteri, has embarked on her own career

There aren’t many entertainers of any age who possess the complete package of top-notch acting, dancing and singing talent.

But Bedford resident and Fox Lane Middle School sixth-grader Gabriella Palminteri has all of those qualities, not to mention a good head on her shoulders, as her career is off to an auspicious start.

For the past three years, Palminteri has been part of John Fanelli’s Lighthouse Youth Theatre, which now operates out of Standing Ovation Studios in Armonk. Palminteri has appeared in both lead and supporting roles in the theater company’s twice-a-year productions at Westchester Broadway Theatre, including as part of Fagin’s gang in the current version of “Oliver.”

“I was in love with (acting) anyway and my parents, they kind of molded it for me,” Palminteri said last week during a break between matinee and evening performances. “They showed me the beauty in theater and my mom is totally obsessed with Shakespeare. So she showed me that kind of acting and my father showed me all this acting with movies. That’s how I got around to be on stage. After that it kind of grew on me and I took it into my own hands.”

If her last name sounds familiar that is because Gabriella is the daughter of director and Academy Award-nominated actor Chazz Palminteri, perhaps best known for “A Bronx Tale.” Her mom, Gianna, is also an actor and is currently producing films in between raising Gabriella and her 17-year-old son, Dante, who also has acted and has embarked on a music career.

Like many young girls, Gabriella took ballet lessons by the time she was three years old. But Gianna Palminteri said she and Chazz were hesitant to have their daughter go into acting, aware of the pitfalls of the industry.

They sat up and took notice the following year when Gabriella attended a session while Chazz was instructing an actor on how he wanted the lines to be performed for a film he was making.

“(The actor) was going over a line with my husband, to go over it just the right way, and she said it perfectly and she mimicked and mimed what we were trying to do perfectly,” Gianna Palminteri recalled.

When Gabriella turned eight, in her first year with Lighthouse Youth Theatre, she snagged the lead role in “Annie” and “belted out the most beautiful ‘Tomorrow,'” her mother said. “That’s when I knew.”

Show business may be the family business, which certainly provides certain advantages such as when her father put her in as an extra in his 2004 film “Noel.” But Gianna Palminteri has witnessed firsthand how much her daughter loves performing. In fact, she said that Gabriella has greater commitment to acting then when she was a teenager. During this summer, the cast of “Oliver” has had two shows three days a week and a fourth day with one performance. That doesn’t take into account rehearsals on off days.

“She can be at the theater 24 hours a day and have a smile on her face, ” Gianna said. “They’ll be here until 11 o’clock at night and she will come home and sing and dance.”

A crucial consideration in opting for Lighthouse Theatre’s training program rather than companies in the city was that her parents wanted Gabriella to be close to home but they also insisted that she has time to be a child.

Fanelli said that not only is Gabriella an immensely talented actor, dancer and singer, but has a level of professionalism that is at least equal to any of the adults he works with.

He said coming from an acting family she seems to know instinctively how to handle herself. However, Fanelli is most impressed with how Gabriella will show equal dedication whether she plays a lead or has a minor role.

“Sometimes it’s harder to be in the ensemble than it is to be a lead,” Fanelli said. “You have to develop the character. It’s hard. To her credit, whether she’s a lead or in the ensemble she puts in just as much work. Always.”

As Gabriella continues to amass credits, her dream is to go to Broadway because she loves acting on stage so much.

“I don’t want people to think I do this because I have to,” she said. “You know what I mean? I really love this on my own, even if my parents weren’t actors.”




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