Talented LaPlace boy plans for success

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2001

Special to L’Observateur
LAPLACE – Everything’s coming up roses and daffodils for 13-year-old Westley Keiser of LaPlace. The eighth-grade student at St. Joan of Arc Elementary School does not have your average teen-ager’s favorite hobbies. While others his age hang around the mall or shoot a few baskets, Keiser is on stage. And while he does go to football games, he doesn’t go to play. He’s been singing the National Anthem for three years. “I am more at home on stage than anywhere else,” says Keiser. Keiser’s future plans speak for themselves. “I want to be on stage as much as I can.” At the rate he’s been going, he’s been doing just that. Keiser’s first performances took place when he was just 3 years old, singing the “Jesuit Fight Song” at Jesuit basketball games. He was 8 years old at his first stage play. Some of his performances include “The Lost Shepherd,” “The Christmas Family Tree,” “Pompadours and Poodle Skirts,” and “Candy Cane Line,” all school productions; “Pasta and Puccini,” his most recent production with the Jefferson Performing Arts Society; and “L’il Abner” and “Oliver!” both at the St. John Theatre in Reserve. His favorite thus far? “Oliver!” says Keiser, confidently. “It was a really good play.” In this summer musical, Keiser played Noah Claypool, a big, mean, nasty, bullying undertaker apprentice who manipulates the love-stricken Charlotte into stealing him food and then relieves pressure by pummeling the title character. “I really enjoyed playing Noah because I liked being a bully,” Keiser recalls. “It was fun and it brought out a lot of stress.” It brought out a lot of stress? Poor Oliver! “The Noah scene was my favorite scene.” In the same play, directed by Chip Stelz, he was in the adult chorus, which involved being anything from a drunken, waltzing bum in a bar to an innocent passerby. He was also in the children’s chorus, as first, a starving, mistreated workhouse orphan, then later, a street-wise, wallet-stealing, hanky-swiping pickpocket in Fagin’s gang. Since August 2000, Keiser has been a tenor in the Jefferson Performing Arts Society. His first performance was “Pasta and Puccini.” On Nov. 26, he did his second concert, a Christmas special, and another on Dec. 16. Keiser says he wants to star on Broadway. He’s got his eye on the part of Old Deuteronomy in “Cats” and was very upset when Broadway shut it down. He also wants to be a famous country singer – a “serious” singer. He’s got plans to go to Nashville, once he’s 17 years old. His parents certainly don’t seem to mind Westley’s unique interests. “I think it’s wonderful,” says Leah Keiser, Westley’s mother. “He does a really good job. I encourage him as much as possible, and I will do anything I can to help continue his interests.” After all this stage experience, Westley’s got to be pretty stage-fright-proof, right? Wrong! Westley’s response to the question, “Do you get nervous?” was a very hearty “Oh, yeah!” “For the first three minutes on stage I get really nervous,” he says. “But once I just get out there and sing, everything just flows.” Even a pro like Westley makes a mistake sometimes. “When we did The Lost Shepherd,’ I skipped a whole page of the script and we were stuck on stage for, like, five minutes!” Oh, well. The show must, and did, go on!