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Julie A. Burdick, highly talented young stage actress
July 27, 1981 -- Jan. 27, 2007

A highly talented stage actress from Amherst, who went on to perform in popular musicals across the country, died unexpectedly Saturday at age 25.

Julie A. Burdick, who starred in productions at Niagara University and Artpark, before leaving for the bright lights to pursue her theater career, died at home in New York City after a brief illness.

Cause of death appears to have been acute meningitis, said her father, Dr. James Burdick. His daughter had not been feeling well last week, he said, and she went to a hospital but was sent home with what was believed to be cold or flu symptoms.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Niagara University Alumni Chapel on the campus where Ms. Burdick honed her theatrical skills.

"She was what we call in the business a triple threat," said Brother Augustine Towey, director emeritus of Niagara's theater program. "She could sing, act and dance equally well, but on top of that was this wonderful personality. It made you want to work with her."

The blond, blue-eyed soprano grew up in Amherst, where she graduated from Williamsville East High School.

She didn't expect to pursue a stage career until her junior year in high school, when she performed in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" at MusicalFare Theatre, Ms. Burdick explained during an interview for a Niagara University publication.

Her performances in Drood and later "Strike Up the Band" were the first and only times MusicalFare used a high school student in a production, said Randall Kramer, artistic/executive director at MusicalFare.

"We really made an exception for her," Kramer said. "She was just so talented. And she just continued to get better and better."

Ms. Burdick went on to Niagara and appeared in numerous productions at the university, as well as Artpark, grabbing lead roles in musicals such as "Grease" and "West Side Story."

After graduating from Niagara in 2003, Ms. Burdick landed the role of Iris Kelly in a 10-month North American tour of "Fame, the Musical." In 2004, she went on another 10-month tour, playing Laurey Williams, the female lead in the classic musical "Oklahoma!"

Ms. Burdick then was the understudy for four roles in the first national tour of "Little Women, the Musical," and most recently was in the musical "Cabaret" at a regional theater in Washington, D.C.

"My mom always says I've always been a ham," Ms. Burdick said in that Niagara interview.

Surviving, in addition to her father, are her mother, Sharon, and a sister, Gretchen Wyant.

-- Jay Rey

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