'Wicked' actor's Instagram video sparks debate on whether he 'shaded' Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Michael Wartella took to Instagram as he toured Downtown Fresno recording himself expressing his feelings about the Central Valley city.

"Fresno? More like Fres-Yes!" He says in the video.

But some are questioning if the actor playing a role in the musical Wicked at the Saroyan Theatre is really saying "Fres-no."

Joel Abels is a member of the Actors Equity Association, a labor union representing American actors and stage managers in the theatre.

He is also the artistic director of StageWorks Fresno, and a Clovis North drama teacher who finds the comments Wartella made a bit disparaging.

"It's also the kind of bite the hand that feeds you kinda think he's here on tour; we're buying tickets. It might be nice to not bag on the city or wait until you've left the city," Abels said.

However, Ashley Gibson-Vasquez is not too bothered by the remarks.

"He looks like a lot of people when they come to Fresno," she said.

We caught her in line getting ready to buy tickets for the show, and she says what Wartella said is nothing new.

"That is a lot of people opinions about Fresno. I travel down south, and people hear Fresno and say really you're from Fresno," Gibson-Vasquez said. "It's a little disappointing, but everyone is entitled to their opinion."

Mark Standriff with the City of Fresno took to Twitter using his experience in musical theatre to relate to Wartella but also to call him out on his Instagram post.

"You want to be popular, but unfortunately, you ended up defying sanity," Standriff sings in a response video.

Standriff hopes he can convince Wartella to find the beauty in Fresno.

"(I) think it's a shame because the more that he spends time here, the more he hears these audiences they are going to be screaming like crazy you know I was wrong Fresno is actually a cool place," he said.

And Abels has a suggestion on the first place Wartella should visit.

"Has he been to the Underground Gardens? I mean come on the Underground Gardens got to go," he said.

Action News reached out to Michael Wartella on social media, but have not received a comment. We also reached out to the company he works for, but have yet to hear from them.
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