Alumni Spotlights

For Denise Payne, '99, the Road to Success Is One Well-Traveled

January 19, 2012 by Joe Kirchmyer

Vacations are great, but most travelers will admit that there's no place like home. Living out of a suitcase and being away from your home base can get old after awhile, right?

Don't tell that to Denise Payne, a 1999 graduate of Niagara University and a member of the critically acclaimed Jersey Boys tour. She's been on the road almost constantly for a decade, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

We caught up with Payne while Jersey Boys played at Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo April 21 through May 9, 2010. The Buffalo engagement was among the shortest stops on their hugely successful cross-country tour. Many previous stops have lasted anywhere from one to three months in some of the largest U.S. cities.

“This is my fifth tour, and I've spent the last 10 years on the road,” Payne said. “Life on the road definitely has its pros and cons. You have to be the type of person who enjoys moving a lot. I think there's a little part of us that likes to be nomadic. Unfortunately, it means that I don't get to see my family a lot and we're only off one day a week. This job is a lifestyle. It's not for everyone, but it has allowed me to see the whole country.”

Her travels have brought her to the historic Shea's stage before. Several years ago she came to Buffalo with the Footloose tour. “We had a great cast, but the production wasn't the best quality and the show is a little cheesy,” Payne said of her previous visit with Footloose. “In fact, I think we were panned in Buffalo. But this show (Jersey Boys) is so much different. I'm so proud of it!”

Payne is equally proud of the outstanding education she received while attending NU.

“Niagara, for me, was the perfect situation,” she said. “I needed that individual, one-on-one work with the teachers, and the overall theatre program was just amazing. In this show (Jersey Boys), I play many different characters ... and we worked on that type of situation so much at NU. It's such a great program and I'm glad that I was a part of it.”