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Margallo goes from Mitchell to Broadway

Jonelle Margallo, a 1997 Mitchell High School graduate, made her Broadway debut on Sept. 25 in “Miss Saigon” The show runs through January. (Photo courtesy of Billy Bustamante)

Twenty years after moving from Mitchell, Jonelle Margallo achieved a lifetime dream — performing on Broadway.

The Mitchell native and 1997 Mitchell High School graduate made her debut on Broadway in New York City two months ago on Sept. 25 — a day she’ll never forget.

“It was surreal and quite a blur to be honest,” Margallo said Tuesday in an email with The Daily Republic. “I tried to take it all in as much as I could, because well, you only get a Broadway debut once.”

After graduation, Margallo obtained a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in musical theater at the Boston Conservatory. Shortly after, she began performing across the country in regional theaters. Her most recent role was Aurora Aquino in David Byrne’s poperetta “Here Lies Love.”

And it wasn’t until this year she finally made the Broadway stage — and she’s ecstatic. “Miss Saigon” was the first musical Margallo said she fell in love with, and it has remained an inspiration to her.

The musical follows the tragic love story, Margallo said, between an Vietnamese woman named Kim and American G.I., Chris. The two are torn apart, and the musical follows the young woman’s three-year journey of survival to find him, displaying various settings of Saigon, Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Margallo is a part of the ensemble, playing various roles throughout the musical. The cast is huge, she explained, adding that it is created that way to show how heavily crowded Vietnam is during this time. One role she plays is Dominique, a bargirl who works alongside Kim.

“There's a desperation and need to leave Vietnam to go to America where we can escape this life and live the life we dream of — a better life,” Margallo said of her role. “From then on, it's a journey to the end for every single person on that stage.”

The show that ‘started it all’

Margallo can easily recall the day she found out she made Broadway.

Knowing the casting crew would move quickly, she anxiously awaited a phone call the day after her audition earlier this year.

Margallo said she remembers feeling bummed that she hadn’t heard from her agent by noon. But it was while she was putting away groceries, she got the call.

“My heart immediately started pounding really fast, I had a really good feeling about it, but then again, you never know,” she said. “A million things went through my head in those 3 seconds before answering the phone. That's when they told me I booked it.”

Laughing and crying at the same time, Margallo said she had “pure joy and happiness” at that moment. She then quickly called her parents, Lucio and Claudette Margallo who live in Mitchell, to share the good news.

“It was amazing,” she said.

“Miss Saigon” runs through Jan. 14 at the Broadway Theatre in New York City. And so far, in her first two months of production, Margallo said “a good handful of South Dakotans” have made the trip to see the show and she couldn’t be more grateful.

“I can say that it has been a very long journey to get where I am today, and I am so grateful that I finally got to fulfill one of my childhood dreams with the show that started it all for me,” Margallo said.

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