Neon lights of Broadway feature Jonesboro native

JONESBORO -- Opening night of one of Broadway's best musicals, "West Side Story," featured none other than Jonesboro native, Matt Cavenaugh.  Playing the lead role of 'Tony,' Cavenaugh says the production brings him full circle; back to what got him interested in theatre in the first place.

"This is a great accomplishment (for me)," said Cavenaugh in a telephone interview from his New York City apartment.  "You know Diana, I was first moved by "West Side Story" 15 years ago back in Jonesboro.  Jonesboro High School, under the direction of Keith Saulter, was doing a production of "West Side Story" the year before I got to high school.  I wasn't wanting to go and my mom dragged me to it unwillingly.  I went to this thing and I was blown away by it!"

Bitten by the acting bug, Cavenaugh would graduate from Jonesboro High School and traveled to upstate New York for undergraduate studies at Ithaca College.  His Broadway debut came in 2003 when he landed the role John Travolta made famous in "Urban Cowboy."  That was the movie; this was the musical.  Since that time, he's added numerous stage and television credits to his acting resume--including appearances on soaps, "One Life to Live" and "As the World Turns."

But it's stage work, live theatre that he loves most.  And the role of 'Tony' in "West Side Story" is the biggest so far.

"It's certainly very challenging material musically, vocally, and emotionally," said Cavanaugh. "It's thrilling.  It's arguably the greatest musical ever written and some of the most beautiful music and choreography."

30-year-old Matt Cavenaugh is the son of Don Cavenaugh and Margaret Cavenaugh.  He believes his upbringing in Jonesboro helped him secure the success he's enjoying today.

"I gotta say my experience at Jonesboro High School.  Keith Saulter.  Gary Morris was my choir director and Robin Yates at MacArthur Junior High School, Fonda Lofton and Julia Lansford at ASU. I studied with her out at ASU.  All those experiences really planted the seeds for me to do this for a living," explained Cavenaugh.

Cavenaugh is a film and television actor, as well.  But he says it's the excitement and challenge of live theatre that he prefers.