From The Woodlands to Broadway

Straight from suburban Houston to New York City, Mallory Bechtel began living her dream on the Broadway stage at the youthful age of 18. And she always believed she would be there, because she simply loved the art of musical theater. “For me, because I started out so young – I don’t remember not considering Broadway as an option,” Bechtel shares. 

Raised in The Woodlands, Bechtel experienced a traditional childhood and education, but at a young age she began taking classes at a local theater company, Class Act Productions. She performed in shows in the heart of Houston at Theater Under the Stars in elementary school through their youth program, Humphrey’s School of Musical Theater. “I have always loved singing. All of my idols were on Broadway – that’s what we listened to in the car,” she recalls. As a professional actress and student, young Bechtel spent countless hours training with instructors, attending rehearsals and auditioning while still attending The John Cooper School, and would participate in her school productions when she was able. “They were always willing to work with me, to help me pursue my dreams,” she says.

Chairman of Performing Arts at The John Cooper School and Bechtel’s high school theater teacher, Mary Rotella, believes that Bechtel’s professionalism and humility made a huge impact on her success. Watching her grow as an actress, Rotella says, “Mallory is interesting in that she is pretty low-key and takes things in stride, but she is intense in her approach. She’s a smart actress that pays attention to detail and understands the importance of authenticity when acting.” Continuing to be involved as both a student and performer at school, Rotella recalls it was important for Bechtel’s overall well-being. “With her talent and credits, Mallory could easily have been intimidating to her peers, but she was always supportive and encouraging. She truly lifted her fellow actors up and helped them to reach their fullest potential on stage,” remarked Rotella.

Her first love was singing, and she always seemed to connect to singing as a character in musical theater productions. She recalls that acting and nailing auditions didn’t always come easy to her, however, Bechtel was willing to work hard to improve in those areas. As she continued fine-tuning her skills with the help of Houston area instructors and theater venues, her status as a triple threat with unique talents in singing, dancing and acting sent Bechtel on her way to making her dream a reality. “Houston has such a great theater scene. I feel lucky to have grown up so near it,” Bechtel says.

Bechtel had the vision of making this her career, but she never dreamed she would be quite so young when she entered the Broadway scene via Tony award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. At 17, she auditioned to be a vacation understudy for the lead role of Zoe and was offered the job. However, the opportunity never arose to perform on stage as the understudy. But in 2018, just after high school graduation, Bechtel was thrilled to accept the full-time role of Zoe at New York City’s Music Box Theater.

The two-show days can be tiring, but she is kept energized by her fellow actors who have so much passion for what they do. She claims it has been exciting working alongside such amazing talent. “It’s always fresh, always new. People are always changing it up. It’s just what I love to do so the best part of it is getting to do it every night,” states Mallory. 

 

Dear Evan Hansen began with quite the buzz when it debuted in 2016 and was a Tony Award winner for Best New Musical in 2017. It has continued with a strong fan base and began conversations of meaningful themes presenting both an entertaining and emotionally complex musical. “It’s about a teenager dealing with anxiety and depression which is very relevant right now. I feel very lucky to be a part of a show that has helped a lot of people,” she says. Following much hype and success, the show began touring in the fall of last year, making the award-winning musical available to far greater audiences. After completing her performance in Dear Evan Hansen ending her contract this summer, Bechtel has chosen to pursue other outstanding opportunities after her success with the musical and her debut on Broadway. 

Raw talent alone didn’t get her to where she is. She only realized her dream of making it to Broadway by devoting countless hours and effort, not to mention the support from her family including her parents and three siblings. “They never doubted me. And they did force me to do things that maybe I didn’t want to. They are very supportive. I’m grateful for that,” Bechtel says. 

Her plans for the future? “For actors, it’s hard to say. I would love to stay in New York, but it depends on what comes along.” No matter what lies ahead, Bechtel has paved her way with plenty of hard work and grit, and it seems she’ll continue in that direction. There is no easy route, she claims, but her passion for music and theater made the ride more enjoyable. Bechtel’s motto for pursuing any dream is revealed in her own path, “Put the time in. Take advantage of every opportunity. Keep putting yourself out there.”  

Connecting through Canopy

Coming Full Circle: Connecting through Canopy

When I first met Ann Christensen, it was early in the morning; she was perched at the kitchen counter at Canopy, and though she had been given a breast cancer diagnosis just a couple days before, she seemed very much at peace and focused. She had lists of physicians that needed to be seen and appointments that needed to be made.

She had a separate list of questions for Linda Nelson and me. She had her bearings and was ready to fight, and it’s how I will always think of her: a woman with quiet strength, incredible focus, and a deep faith. After we had talked for several hours, I walked her out during an ongoing support group. When I asked if she wanted to stay, she said, “Oh no, that isn’t really for me.”

Flash forward one year later, and she is done with treatment, regularly attends our Healing Art classes, and is one of the co-leaders of Canopy’s new breast cancer support group, The Nest. Each month she positively impacts the lives of people battling cancer. It is truly beautiful when things come full circle.

When Canopy started this group, I approached Kelly Hull because of her passion for counseling services and her experience in the industry, but we knew we needed a survivor. Someone who had been where these women are. Someone who still is. We both immediately thought of Ann, and I will admit I wasn’t sure she would do it, but she accepted without hesitation.

After the first few meetings, I sat down with her to ask her what made the change for her. Why now? Her answer was simple: she wanted to be a part of creating an environment for people to “find their person.”

She said, “When I was diagnosed and going through treatment, I didn’t want cancer to be my entire identity. I was still the same person, and I had the same passions and interests. I refused to let cancer define me, BUT I still needed someone who had walked the steps I walked. I needed someone who truly understood. My friends, family, and other survivors were an incredible help to me as well, but people who had fought this fight could greater understand the highs, and truly sympathize with the lows. Canopy provides the environment and opportunity to create those relationships, and I want to be a part of connecting people.”

The Nest meets the last Tuesday of every month. There is always space to process feelings and situations, but they also discuss stress management techniques, how to find encouragement, and even do art projects while meeting. The next meeting is May 22nd. If you’re interested in participating simply email Canopy’s manager, Amanda Poole at amanda.poole@memorialhermann.org, or call Canopy at 713.897.5939.