KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
December 29, 2020
By Natalie Cook Clark
For two years, Katy’s Jana Ellsworth performed in more than 400 performances in the Phantom of the Opera World Tour. Despite the pandemic, the show went on, but now, she’s happy to be home.
Jana Ellsworth loves to sing and perform. Her passion grew along with her faith while singing with her father, a music evangelist, in West Texas. For the past 25 years, Ellsworth has been performing professionally, including eight seasons locally with the Houston Grand Opera.
Ellsworth has lived in Katy for 20 years and is married to Edward Ellsworth, the orchestra director at Katy Junior High. The couple has two children: Brennan (14) and Ashlynn (10).
She trained at Texas Tech University with John and Mary Gillas and participated in young artist opera programs. In addition to singing, Ellsworth has always been a voice teacher, including serving as the Children’s Choir Director for St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Katy.
“I have a passion for helping others to find their voice and to be effective actors and communicators,” she says.
Connecting with Her Characters
Ellsworth says she enjoys immersing herself in characters and connecting with emotions that may be beyond something she's experienced personally.
"I like the storytelling journey, taking an audience away from themselves and we all go on a journey together," says Ellsworth. "Music elevates emotion. I can’t describe how wonderful it is to sing at the top of my voice filled with emotion. Whether it be "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis or "Prima Donna" from Phantom in an operatic voice. It fills me with joy."
Family Fan Club
Playing Carlotta in the Phantom of the Opera World Tour was an incredible experience but one that required a lot of adjustments for her family.
“(Edward) knew this was a fantastic opportunity for me and wanted me to take it,” says Ellsworth. “Because he is a school teacher, he and the kids were able to visit me for extended periods of time in countries like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.”
Her family had plans to visit her in South Korea, however, travel was banned due to the pandemic.
Edward, Brennan, and Ashlynn met Jana in Kuala Lumpur. Photo courtesy: Jana Ellsworth
“I was always appreciative of my husband, but his unending support of this adventure has been so lovely,” says Ellsworth.
As a voice and theatre teacher, her work often involves evening hours. This routine helped Edward slip into the almost single-parent role.
“He is a wonderful father and this tour might not have been possible for me to do with another partner,” says Ellsworth.
The Show Must Go On
The coronavirus pandemic came on and continued to grow as the curtain for Phantom opened for over 460 worldwide shows. The touring company performed in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Israel, United Arab Emirates (Dubai), and Taiwan. Ellsworth says that safety precautions were taken very seriously.
In Phantom, Ellsworth was the alternate for the lead role, Carlotta. She had the opportunity to perform the role more than 50 times on the tour.
“We were able to continue our tour because there were little to no cases in our locations,” explains Ellsworth. “The countries we were in were better prepared for an outbreak because they have dealt with similar outbreaks in the past, such as SARS.”
The ongoing pandemic has impacted many creative industries, especially the performing arts. New York’s Broadway, where Phantom of the Opera remains one of the most celebrated musicals, has been dark since last March. The reopening date for Broadway has been pushed back multiple times, and currently, the earliest plans to open theatre doors is June 2021.
The Houston arts community has also suffered including some of Ellsworth’s friends.
“I did have survivors’ guilt in a way,” she admits.
She took her final bow with the company earlier this month at a 6,000-people sold-out show in Taiwan. At the curtain call, she looked up to see thousands of lights from cell phones and flashes going off to take pictures.
“It was like each person saying, ‘Here I am. I see you. I have love for you.’ I cannot put my feelings into words,” says Ellsworth. “Thank you, God, for this experience.”
Settling Back at Home
She did miss her hometown of Katy.
“I missed driving and seeing my home city,” says Ellsworth.
Aside from hugging her family, the first thing she did when she got home was to sit on her couch, under a blanket with her dog.
“My children had a great chance to see other parts of the world and other cultures,” says Ellsworth. “It was eye-opening for them.”
So what’s next for this talented woman?
“As with all performers, there is a question mark as to our future but we are always eternally hopeful that our industry will recover soon,” says Ellsworth.
Photo: Claire Louise Lyon
Ellsworth plans to teach in the Katy area.
“We need theatre. There is community and humanity in it. It transcends race, religion, country, and language. Theatre will be back. There is light in the darkness,” says Ellsworth. “There are millions of stars on and off the stage that will light the way.”