By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Unless his circle widens, Kevin Covert's Apple Blossom Festival experience came full circle Friday.
A 1988 Handley High School graduate, he grew up on the festival. At 11, Covert performed with a choir for the queen of the event, Leslie Ann Landon. He would joke about returning as a celebrity sometime.
That happened Friday, as Covert, 39, a Broadway actor, participated in festivities for the first time as a special guest. The queen is Landon's niece, Ashley Taylor Landon.
Although Covert's family is still in the area, Apple Blossom was a real homecoming for him Friday. He was invited as officials looked to bring back some local celebrities, which also included actor Jon Huertas, who stars in ABC's "Castle" and has appeared on a number of other television shows. Huertas is a 1987 Handley graduate.
Covert returned to his alma mater Friday to find it "completely different" except for the cafeteria. Then again, he's changed a lot, too.
Since graduating high school, Covert studied music theater at Florida State University, one of the five best colleges to attend for that, he said. It catapulted him into a career on stage and in productions such as "Monty Python's Spamalot," "Cats," "Les Miserables" and "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas," a Muppet classic.
Covert is currently preparing for his role in "Memphis," which is to open soon on Broadway. Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan wrote the play.
The stage has always been Covert's first career love, although he does not rule out possibly making the transition to television after "Memphis." Covert has tested for some TV shows, he said.
"It's a different kind of acting," he said.
If he could plug himself into any current show, Covert said he would want to appear on "Lost" because filming takes place in Hawaii. He's also a fan of "Grey's Anatomy" because Sara Ramirez, an actress he worked with in "Spamalot," is a cast member.
The spectrum of Apple Blossom is not quite known to people on Broadway, Covert said, but word of it gets around. He has two friends working on a production written by Dolly Parton, who appeared in Winchester as a celebrity guest in 1978.
At that time, Covert was just beginning the march that would lead him to Broadway. He attributes some of his success to his time at the Wayside Theatre growing up.
Covert's Apple Blossom homecoming Friday can easily be repeated by any child who is participating in the arts now, he said.
"If children show an affinity for the arts," Covert said, "it should be encouraged."