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Broadway light shines on Mandy Bruno in dream Les Mis role

'Guiding Light' star juggles TV show, Broadway play

Beaverton's Mandy Bruno is living a dream she's had since she was 6.

She is stepping into the role of Eponine and joining the Broadway cast of 'Les Miserables.'

The 25-year-old, Emmy nominated actress takes the stage April 24.

'It is really unbelievable,' said Mandy by phone from her New York home. 'Today it really started to sink in when I was standing in the middle of the stage and looked out into the Broadhurst Theatre.

'I have to keep pinching myself because I can't believe it's really happening. The theater is what I love, and this is what I've always wanted to do. It's amazing, and I feel so blessed.'

Mandy secured her spot in the Broadway production after an intense audition process that included a special meeting with Claude-Michel Schonberg, co-creator of 'Les Miserables' who also wrote the music for the well-loved musical drama.

When she found out that she had been chosen, Mandy didn't let a three-hour time distance keep her from calling her parents and former Jesuit High School drama teacher Jeff Hall in Beaverton.

'It was a re-enactment of the Emmys,' recalled Diann Bruno, Mandy's mom. 'The phone rang at 7 in the morning, and when I picked it up Mandy was screaming and crying, then I started.'

Love of theater

In February 2006, the Bruno family received a similar early morning call when Mandy learned that she had been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of Marina Cooper in the popular daytime soap opera 'Guiding Light.'

However, this time Mandy's parents knew from the first ring that the news on the other end of the line was good.

'This is her first role on Broadway, and it's so fitting,' Diann said. ' 'Les Miserables' was the first show we ever took her to see when she was 6, and she really fell in love.'

Mandy sat in the audience spellbound, her parents said.

'I was so enraptured by the whole production when I saw it,' Mandy recalled.

Watching the actors bring the story to life ignited something within Mandy, especially when she watched Tony award winner Lea Salonga's portrayal of Eponine in the show.

'I knew then, that's what I want to do,' Mandy admitted. 'She was the reason I fell in love with the theater.

'I'm not sure if back then I wanted to be an actor or be her. She is such an icon.'

Recognizing Mandy's budding interest in the theater, her parents purchased a videocassette recording of the show and four audiotapes.

'I would go in my bedroom and act out the entire four-hour production,' Mandy recalled. 'I played every role.

'My favorite was always Eponine.'

When she was 11, all that practice in her bedroom and in the family room with her younger sister Megan paid off.

Mandy claimed the first-place prize in a talent show after singing 'On My Own,' securing her a coveted scholarship to a Kids Alive performing arts summer camp.

More than a dozen years later - with several acting roles and a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater from Otterbein College under her belt - she will sing Eponine's song on Broadway.

'Singing 'On My Own' is every girl's dream,' Mandy said. 'I sang it when I was 11 for a talent show.

'Singing it now in the circumstances of the show is something quite different. It's magical. It really is.'

What makes it even more special is that Mandy will be performing in the same cast as Lea Salonga, who now plays Fantine in the Broadway show.

'I can't wait to meet her,' Mandy said. 'Acting on the stage with her is more than humbling. We sing a duet and bow together at the end of the show.

'I can't tell you how excited I am. She's the reason I'm doing what I am.'

Mandy's first time performing with the cast will be on opening night April 24.

In the meantime, Mandy has been busy rehearsing for 'Les Miserables' in the afternoon while continuing to shoot scenes with 'Guiding Light' in the morning and memorize lines at night.

'Her story line is really picking up with 'Guiding Light,' ' said Bruce Bruno, Mandy's dad who continues to faithfully record every episode of the show. 'This is going to be a really busy time for her, but she's living her dream and loving every second of it.

'Every step of the way, I've talked about how surreal it's been to see her succeed and it just keeps happening. We are all so proud of her.'

Diann agreed.

'She's really, really been blessed,' Mandy's mom said. 'I never doubted that this day would come. It may be sooner than I thought, but she's been working toward this her entire life.'

Family support

The Bruno family plans to travel to New York for opening night to cheer Mandy on as she realizes her dream.

Mandy's extensive support network, including a group of more than 40 former teachers, parents and alumni from Jesuit High as well as members of the 'Guiding Light' cast, plan to follow and pack the house of the Broadhurst Theatre in the coming months to watch their girl perform.

'I couldn't do this unless they were there,' Mandy said of her supporters. 'This business is tough. There are a lot of people struggling.

'I was fortunate that I had a strong support system behind me the whole time. It takes a lot of great people to help you get here. Performing on Broadway is a prize that I want to share with them.'

Her siblings said they are thrilled for Mandy.

'This is pretty amazing,' said her 22-year-old brother Buddy. 'I'm very happy for her and excited to go and see her perform.'

'The stage has always been her love,' added Megan, Mandy's 20-year-old sister. 'Les Mis is the whole reason she went into this business in the first place. This is the best role for her to play on Broadway.

'I'm excited to see her dream finally coming through for her.'