Jonelle Allen


GEORGE M! Starring Joel GREY as George M. Cohan (l-r ) – James Dybas, Ron Young, Jonelle Allen, Gene Castle, Harvey Evans, Joel Grey ). Directed by Joe Layton.                            Palace Theatre (Broadway)

Opened on Broadway at The Palace Theatre
I was the Secretary in the Cohan – Harris Office.
I also Understudied The Role Of Real-Life Star Faye Templeton, played by The Tall Beautiful and Blond Jacqueline Alloway.  
I even got to go on( what a story that was)
Love you, Joe Layton, like my mentor Joe Papp, They cast me in roles that were totally Non- Ethnic.
A Secretary in 1907, Producers Office & a Real-life 1900’ s Broadway Star.

( that’s why I always tell my students
“ do not think there are roles you cannot play, the ONLY One who Limits You is YOU”)
And then I share with them my many experiences that support that.


She lived in Harlem, worked on Broadway, and attended a private school, Walden on posh Central Park West. “I was like Sybil with her multiple personalities,” says Allen. “I was interacting with diverse groups of people. It probably helped me as an actress.” But an unexpected spurt in growth at age 11 turned her into a has-been. “Almost overnight I became too big for little girl roles.”

At 13, Allen entered New York’s Professional Children’s School, the high school for show business youngest, and concentrated on her education until, in her senior year, an agent told her that Joseph Papp, the founder of the New York Shakespeare Festival, was auditioning young singers and dancers for “Hair,” billed as an “American Tribal Love Rock.” She got a role and Papp became something of a mentor. “Hair” opened to great acclaim at Papp’s Public Theatre but when, a few months later, it was brought to Broadway by a new production team, Allen opted for a role in “George M,” starring Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters, which ran for over 400 performances at the renowned Palace Theatre.

Film and television roles beckoned. Allen filmed “Cotton Comes to Harlem” which starred Godfrey Cambridge and Redd Roxx and was directed by Ossie Davies. She shot a segue, “Come Back Charleston Blue,” and won an NAACP Image Award for her role in “The River Niger” with Lou Gossett, James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson. She filmed “Hotel New Hampshire” with Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe for director Tony Richardson who had directed her earlier in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at the Long Beach Theatre.

Allen starred off-Broadway in the musical version of Irwin Shaw’s “Bury the Dead” right after filming “Come Back Charleston Blue.” New York Times reviewer Walter Kerr saw her performance and was moved to award her the dream of every actor, “a love letter review.” It was soon thereafter that Joe Papp called Allen for “Two Gentlemen of Verona.” Originally planned as one of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s free productions in Central Park, it was giving a rock score at the suggestion of director Mel Shapiro to help give the modern adaptation of the play the proper contemporary flavor.

Down front to review the play for the Times, Kerr again had only good things to say about Allen’s performance. “It was almost as if he felt that I was his discovery,” remembered Allen. “In a way, I suppose I was.” The play was a smash outdoors in Central Park all summer long. It then moved indoors to Broadway for a run of 627 performances and ultimately to Los Angeles where it played at the Ahmanson.

Allen moved permanently to the west coast where her agents were determined to sell her as the new Diana Ross or Lola Falana. She, on the other hand, wanted to be a fully rounded actress and demanded that they find dramatic roles for her. She guest-starred on “Cagney and Lacey,” “Hill Street Blues,” “The Trials of Rosie O’Neil” and many other hour dramas. She appeared in many diverse roles in a long string of movies-of-the-week, from playing the right-wing district attorney to Peter Strauss’ presiding judge in CBS TV’s “Penalty Phase” to a 17-year old lesbian opposite Susan Dey in another CBS movie, “Cage Without a Key.”

Allen wasn’t as fortunate as a series regular. “Palmerstown,” created by Alex Haley, was canceled after only a few months on CBS during two different seasons. “Berrenger’s” lasted only three months on NBC and ABC’s “After Midnight,” directed by the much sought-after Tony Richardson and featuring John Goodman and Gary Cole along with Allen, never got past its pilot episode.

It wasn’t until the spring of 1989 with the premiere of NBC TV’s “Generations,” the first daytime serial in which one of the two major families were Black, then Allen settled down for a substantial two-year run. It was the support of this vanguard series and her continuing efforts to expand the opportunities of minority actors that Allen appeared on the floors of Congress and saw her impassioned testimony published in “The Congressional Record.” Soon after the demise of “Generations,” Allen embarked upon what promises to be the extended run of “Dr. Quinn.”

Perched in a tiny dollhouse of a house in the hills above Laguna Beach for the last decade, Allen is the mistress to two cats and one dog. An exercise nut, Allen works out three hours a day, seven days a week.