The Island’s rising stars

A host of Mercer Island shooting stars are breaking into showbiz.

Perhaps you caught Joel McHale, son of Jack and Laurie McHale, April 9 on NBC’s new improv series called “Thank God You're Here.”

McHale duded up as Sergeant Jones, policeman on an improbable chase; and again as a 1860s professor searching the jungles for Oompa Loompas; as superhero “O” with see-through vision; and a hip traveler at customs who chug-a-lugs his magnum of whiskey rather than declare it.

Although he didn’t win the contest, his mom said he’s always loved improv since he did TheatreSports, dedicated to improvisation at Seattle’s Market Theater. McHale’s staple job is hosting “The Soup,” a whacky commentary on the misadventures of showbiz. He’s in orbit all right.

McHale, Nic DeLeo and Ethan Sandler all graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1991, and are alumni of Youth Theatre Northwest.

Sandler’s parents are Norm Sandler and Andrea Friedman of Mercer Island, and Ethan is an actor and writer in Los Angeles with a recurring role on “Crossing Jordan,” in which his wife, Kathryn Hahn, stars. He also starred in a one-man play in San Francisco, “Fully Committed;” and performs multiple voices in the animated hit movie “Meet the Robinsons.”

DeLeo is a writer on “The Soup” and often makes brief appearances on the show.

Another rising star is 31-year-old Anne Marie Cancelmi, whose stage name is Annie Parisse, best known for playing Alexandra Borgia on the T.V. drama “Law & Order.” She grew up on the Island, along with brother, Louis Cancelmi, who also has had roles in “Law & Order” and “Third Watch” and is married to the daughter of “Law & Order” veteran Sam Waterston. Earlier, Parisse had roles in “Big Apple,” “Third Watch,” “Friends,” and appeared in several soaps. After living on Mercer Island, she attended Fordham University, where she began her stage work.

TV actress Reiko Aylesworth, daughter of Troy and Julia on the Island, has had parts in “24,” “CSI” and “Law & Order.”

Robin Lewis-West, daughter of Bob and the late Gwen Lewis, was part of “Gilmore Girls” production, a TV series that explores American pop culture and issues in a close-knit town with many quirky characters. (Sound familiar?) Evidently, she’s picked up a couple of new shows as “G.G.” concludes. She was known to have made jewelry for Hollywood stars in her earlier years. She was a 1975 graduate of Mercer Island High School, and a graduate of the L.A. School of Costume Design.

Scores more YTN alumni have gone into related fields, says board director John Gordon Hill. His daughter Megan Hill currently is at the American Repertory Theatre (ART) Moscow Art Theatre School (MXAT) Institute for Advanced Training at Harvard University. Other alums have studied there and at Julliard, North Western, NYU and other universities with renowned theater departments.

YTN is already registering for its one- and two-week summer camps, in case your kids would like to follow suit!

Islander Mariner fans are pumped about the fastball of Sean White, right-handed pitcher traded from the Pirates via the Atlanta Braves to the Seattle Mariners this season. White, 25, who graduated from MIHS in 1999, also played for University of Washington for four years. The 6-foot-4-inch, 215-pound pitcher throws up to 96 miles per hour and wears jersey No. 46. Cheering from the bleechers are dad Tom, step-mom Amy, and mom Mary, all of Mercer Island. Sean lives on Queen Anne.

Everybody dance now

Amber Cameron, daughter of Lora Cameron of Mercer Island, was one of the high-kicking Rockettes — even the Rockette’s captain at one time. She also danced in Cats on the New York stage. She had early training from Camille Chrysler of MercerArt studio, graduated University of Washington in 2001, and moved to New York to continue her dancing career.

Melinda and Paul Booth, of Booth Construction, moonlight on the professional dance circuit. They recently placed in the master’s category at a national convention. But, at local affairs, the pair are show-stoppers as they twirl, dip, glide and swing like Ginger and Fred. Paul is also a DJ and the couple gives private dance lessons in Kirkland.

May your star also rise soon, meaning: may you receive an income tax refund grand enough to pay your real estate taxes by the end of this month, with a little left over for a movie or a dance lesson.

To contact Nancy Hilliard, e-mail her at

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