ERIKA AMATO

Erika Amato
Erika Amato
Erika Amato

Erika was born in Plainfield, NJ and grew up in the neighboring town of Mountainside. She spent her entire elementary and secondary academic career at the highly competitive Kent Place School, an all-girls' prep school in Summit NJ, where she discovered her love for acting and music at a very early age.

Although she always knew she wanted to be an actress/singer, Erika's career path has turned out to be a tad on the circuitous side.

After graduating from Vassar College with both General Honors and Honors in Drama, she moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in television and film. She was lucky enough to land an agent within a month, and shortly thereafter she booked a role on Quantum Leap. Things were going well, but then her agent abruptly quit the business, leaving her to start over. Right around this time, she joined a male-fronted rock band called Heat Your Shack as a back-up singer with occasional lead vocals. After a matter of months, that band dissolved and became a new band - Velvet Chain - with Erika as the lead singer and co-composer. VC became hugely popular on the L.A. club scene, playing regularly at venues like The Key Club, The Troubadour, and House Of Blues. They were invited to perform on the cult-hit TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - both on screen in the episode "Never Kill A Boy On The First Date" and on the subsequent Soundtrack Album - which exposed them to both a national and international audience. This led to their being signed with an indie label and going on a very successful national tour, in addition to being used in many more TV programs and films, including HBO's Sex and the City, ABC's Big Shots, MTV's Live Through This and Road Rules, and the trailer for Touchstone Pictures' Con Air.

Meanwhile, Erika was still auditioning for TV, commercial, and film roles (without benefit of an agent) and was able to continue to book work, but it wasn't enough to qualify as being a full-time job. So, in addition to playing with the band and shooting the occasional indie film (A Couple of Days and Nights, Pickin' Up Chicks With Harlan Williams, Smack) she was working in retail to help pay the rent.

Then, on 9/11/01, Erika had an epiphany. Life was simply too short to wait around, hoping for the phone to ring with an audition, all the while folding sweaters and catering to Botoxed ladies with tiny dogs in their purses. She had a feeling musical theatre would be a good fit for her, plus she knew that theatre uses a much more "democratic" casting process than TV or film, with many productions holding "open" auditions. So, she went out that very weekend, bought a copy of the casting publication, Backstage, and decided to audition for something.

The rest, as they say, is history. :-)

Erika has been blessed to be a working actress since making that decision back in L.A. in 2001, and is now thriving in the highly competitve NY theatre scene. Her NY theatrical debut as "Hesione" in Triumph Of Love at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in spring of 2008 was met with great critical acclaim, as was her Off-Broadway debut performance as "Berta" in the World Premiere of the musical Signs Of Life at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre (Feb 16 - Mar 21, 2010). For her second Off-Broadway show, she had the pleasure of creating the role of "Cleopatra" in the new musical comedy, The Sphinx Winx, at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row (May 3 - July 24, 2011). In 2013, she created the role of in Jack London: Sex, Love & Revolution at the NY international Fringe Festival, and it was actually on opening night of that play that she learned she had been cast as "Miss Wilde" in the First National Tour of the new musical Flashdance, directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Interspersed with these "higher-profile" projects, Erika's been thrilled to be able to stretch her theatrical muscles in several Off-Off-Broadway plays: most notably the 75th anniversary prodcution of Waiting for Lefty (Edna) and the hilarious farce Nell Dash (Lady Fanny Dashwood), for which she was nominated for a NY Winterfest Award.

Of all her theatre credits, by far the most technically challenging was her role as the Voice of the "Clinic Director/Bad Fairy" in the World Premiere of the American Sign Language musical Sleeping Beauty Wakes, directed by Jeff Calhoun at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Not only did she provide a voice for the wonderful deaf actress Deanne Bray in the show, but she also had to learn ASL in order to be able to sign her own role as the "Night Terror Patient/Royal Servant." Erika's work was recognized with both an Ovation Award nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and a Garland Award Honorable Mention. Sleeping Beauty Wakes was a co-production of Center Theatre Group and Deaf West Theatre, and featured an extremely talented cast of both deaf and hearing actors.

Some of Erika's other favorite credits include: "Marion Froude" in Biography (East Lynne Theater Company - BWW Award nomination), "Domina" in A Funny Thing...Forum (The Wick Theatre, FL), "The Witch" in Into The Woods (Ocean State Theatre, RI - BWW Award nomination), "Velma Von Tussle" in Hairspray (Tuacahn, UT), "Fairy Godmother" in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Fireside Theatre, WI), "Bo Peep" in Toy Story - The Musical (Disney Workshop, CA),"Elsa Schraeder" in The Sound Of Music (Fireside Theatre), "Betty Haynes" in Irving Berlin's White Christmas (Welk Resort Theatre, CA), Sunset Boulevard at the Hollywood Bowl (starring Betty Buckley and Len Cariou), "Reno Sweeney" in Anything Goes (Candlelight Pavilion, CA- Inland Theatre League Award nominee), "Dorothy Brock" in 42nd Street (Welk Resort Theatre), the "Snow Queen" in the original musical, The Snow Queen (Disney Workshop - music by Alan Menken), "Cherry/Sarah" in Paint Your Wagon (Geffen Playhouse, CA), the "Evil Queen/Hag" in Snow White - An Enchanting Musical (Disneyland Resort, CA), "Hippolyte" in The Bungler (West Coast Ensemble, CA), "Wallis Simpson" in Madly In Love (Odyssey Theater, CA), "Hodel" in Fiddler on the Roof (Starlight Musical Theatre, CA), "Yvonne" in Sunday in the Park with George (West Coast Ensemble - Ovation nominee for Best Musical), "Maria" in The Sound of Music (Saddleback CLO), and "Luisa" in Nine (Chance Theater, CA- OCWeekly "Best Performance in a Musical" nominee, named one of the "Top 10 Best Performances of 2002" by the Orange County Register).

Television and Film credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bringing Up Jack, VH-1's Sparkle Lounge, Quantum Leap, starring roles in the indie features A Couple of Days and Nights and Smack, numerous short films, including the critically acclaimed Friends and Strangers, and as a featured singing voice on PBS' Danger Rangers TV series and the Disney feature film, Enchanted.

For more info about Erika's work with Velvet Chain, please visit the band's official website: www.velvetchain.com.

Erika Amato
Erika Amato
Erika Amato

 

Erika Amato