Center Players alum Bradford will be "home for Christmas"


In this photo from 2015, Corey Bradford (right) is seen with Lauren Luther on the set of The Center Players' production of "Seussical Jr." The two co-directed the performance, plus Bradford also played the lead role as the Cat in the Hat.


By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Home is where the heart is, says musical performer Corey Bradford, a Center Players alum and hometown favorite.

Next weekend, the 2016 Northeastern High School graduate will honor his native Elizabeth City with a two-day performance titled, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

Show times are 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15-16, at Arts of the Albemarle’s Maguire Theater. The shows will include a mix of original music by Bradford, plus past songs he performed as a Center Player and Christmas songs.

Joining Bradford will be guest star Holly Wright, the artistic director and choreographer for The Center Players during Bradford’s time with the children’s theater company. 

Wright, a former Miss Virginia, played a key role in his life, as well as the lives of other Center Players, Bradford said. Through her mentoring he learned that while musical theater is an art, it also requires a sense of discipline and passion.

“She’s been so instrumental in my career,” Bradford said Wednesday, adding that’s why he felt it was important to include Wright in next weekend’s shows. 

“She was more than excited to do it.” he said, of Wright’s response when he invited her. 

Bradford said the show is his way of saying “thank you” to the Albemarle-area arts community that has supported him.

“I’m so fortunate to have so many people to support me,” said Bradford. 

The Center Players was formed in 2009 as an after-school theater company for children ages 8-18. Despite what some people may believe, Bradford said, he is not a founding member. He joined The Center Players in 2010. That same year he performed as Simba in The Center Players’ production of “Zambezi Rhythms,” based on Broadway’s “The Lion King.” It was only his second time on stage and his first lead performance.

“I was scared out of my mind,” he said, recalling that performance.

He was 11 years old at the time and once he got over his initial stage jitters he settled in and realized the stage was where he was meant to be. 

“I knew I was in my element,” Bradford said.

Little did he know that the role of Simba would be one he would play again several years later, but this time as a professional.

After high school, Bradford traded his Elizabeth City address for one in Manhattan, New York, where he attended the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. The two-year college performing arts conservatory is located in the heart of Broadway.

“It was like heaven for me,” he said, of his college experience. “New York was a really, really awesome experience for me. It really opened my eyes to the opportunities.”

In November 2017 a friend told him that Disney was holding auditions for cruise line performers and she encouraged him to audition with her.

“You should come,” his friend said.

“I said, ‘OK’” Bradford replied. 

A week later he got a call offering him a job.

“It was my first audition in New York,” said Bradford, who’s now 20.

Locally, people may also remember Bradford performing as the Cat in the Hat in The Centers Players’ production of “Seussical Jr.” 

He also starred in The Center Players’ adaptation of “Legally Blonde Jr.,” which won the student actors a top dancing award while performing at the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta in 2016. Individually, Bradford won All Festival Best Male Performance at the festival.

Bradford said he loves Christmas and will be in Elizabeth City throughout the holidays. He’ll begin rehearsing for his show next week. Early next year he plans to return to New York to begin working on new projects. 

Tickets for “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” are $15 for AoA members, $18 for non-members, $12 for students and no charge for active military or veterans with a Blue Star Voucher. For more information, call Arts of the Albemarle at 252-338-6455 or visit AoA downtown between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.