Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Change of Heart



"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." - Seneca

Tomorrow marks the end of 2009, a year that I will look back upon as a year of preparation. Ironically, what I thought I was preparing for and what I was actually preparing for ended up being completely different.

Without question, 2009 was a very busy year. I directed two stage productions: Doubt at TheatreWorks New Milford and Little Shop of Horrors at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA). As the VP & Managing Director of TBTA, I produced four special events for the theatre: The Paddy Awards, the acclaimed production of Tea at Five, Susan Blackwell's Die, Vampire! Die! Workshop and Joe Iconis' Connecticut concert debut in The Not Suitable for Children Concert: The Songs of Joe Iconis. Also for TBTA, I directed two youth workshop productions: Sleeping Beauty Kids and Dear Edwina, Jr.

In 2009, focus on my writing took a back seat to theatre projects that were production-focused, not creative-focused. I spent the year entrenched in my activity, hoping that 2010 would see all of my hard work pay off. At the end of 2008, the current President of TBTA told me that I would be her choice to succeed her presidency. She also told me that 2009 would be her last year. I held that information close to the vest for the entire year. Since she said it, I took it to be true and I made plans accordingly. To make a long story short, she changed her mind. Instead of me being President, she wanted me to be a grant writer. Instead of nominating me, she nominated someone else to succeed her.

This change of heart devastated me. Many tears were shed. No explanation for the change in direction was offered, aside from the fact that it was the inherent right of the President to do so. So, in the end, I resigned from the Board and walked away from the theatre that I had called "home" for three years.

As I said before, though, 2009 was a year of preparation. While I thought that I was preparing to become the President of TBTA, that turned out not to be the case. TBTA slammed the door in my face but were kind enough to open up a window. Outside the walls of TBTA there lies a world of opportunity. And 2010 is the year that I will discover that world.

Want to join me on my expedition? Then stay tuned for a big announcement in 2010 that will mark the beginning of an incredible journey. And who better to share it with than you, my faithful readers?

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Shing-A-Ling, What A Creepy Thing To Be Happening!


Here it is, October, and I find my favorite time of year whizzing by, chock full of all of the usual craziness. Naturally, that craziness involves a theatrical project. In a sense, I am returning to the familiar in so many ways. I am very excited to be directing Little Shop of Horrors , a favorite show, at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, my home away from home.

Many moons ago, while in college, I played Audrey in Little Shop. Hands down, I would say that playing that role was my single most memorable performing experience. It is very exciting now to be on the other side of the footlights as the director and to have the opportunity to work with such a remarkably talented cast that includes Matt Austin (Seymour), Jessica Braun (Crystal), Elayne Cassara (Ronnette), Rachel Corn (Audrey), Stephen DiRocco (Mr. Mushnik), Joe Harding (Voice of Audrey II), Barbara Kessler (Ensemble), Caitlin Kuhfeldt (Chiffon), Bob Lussier (Orin Scrivello, DDS), Jim Ryan (Puppeteer) and Alex Vournazos (Ensemble). We also have a crackerjack production staff that includes Stephanie Gaumer-Klein (Musical Director), Meg Jones (Producer), Brian Casella (Lighting Design), Kyle Pascuitti (Puppet Design), Patty Tompkins (Costumer) and Cindy Tyler (Costumer).

For those of you who recognize any of those names, you know that it is a lot of fun going to rehearsal every night and that the production is going to be off the hook. It is also insanely busy trying to juggle it all – work, family and rehearsals. That said, my feeble attempts at keeping this blog current will remain just that – feeble.

The other night I had dinner with a couple of theatre blogger friends and I was bemoaning the fact that I never get asked to attend Broadway shows for free. And then I knowingly admitted that if I actually spent time reviewing the shows and blogging more often that would probably be different. It was at this point that my friend pointed out that I don’t have time to write because I am too busy making theatre.

And that is a good thing. A really good thing.

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Little Shop of Horrors
at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts (TBTA)
Evenings: November 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20 and 21 at 8:00pm
Sunday Matinee: November 15 at 2:00pm

RESERVE NOW! Click here to reserve online or call the box office at 203-775-0023.

$20 for General Admission, $15 for Students with Valid ID

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

What The Future Holds: My Original Musical


Theatrically speaking, this is the time of year when my mind becomes preoccupied with what will happen next year. As many of you know, most of my spare time is spent in a theatre – either as an audience member, as a director or as a producer. When this year ends I will have produced two shows (Tea At Five and The Not Suitable for Children Concert: The Songs of Joe Iconis), directed the Young Performers Series (Sleeping Beauty Kids and Dear Edwina, Jr.), coordinated three special events (including a writing workshop with [title of show]’s Susan Blackwell) and I will have directed two full-length productions Doubt and Little Shop of Horrors).

2009 was a busy year. And it isn't even over yet.

In 2010, my spare time will continue to be spent pursuing theatrical endeavors but there will be a notable shift in focus. I will not be directing any full-length productions next year to free up more of my time for focus on writing, development and producing. There are so many talented directors in the area and I love that several of them want to be involved with TBTA. I directed four shows at TBTA in the last three years, they can do without me for a year or two.

I will continue to direct the Young Performers Series at TBTA, which will include a winter non-musical and a musical theatre summer camp for elementary and middle school students. I believe that the development of a young person’s appreciation for theatre is paramount to the future of the art and I am committed to making sure those opportunities continue to exist at our theatre.

My principal goal, however, is to get the rewrite of my original musical, Harvest Home, completed and to find a composer that will write the music for it. I just know that if I build it, they will come. I’ve had this rewrite in my head too long. When Maya Angelou said that there is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you, she wasn’t kidding.

I’m tired of the agony.

So in 2010 I will tell that untold story and mark the year that the agony ended and the ecstasy began. Because that is the year I will have written the book to what will be an award-winning musical.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

Shanley's Doubt Opens at TheatreWorks in July


Sister Aloysius has her certainty and armed with that she will not stop. Don't miss this riveting and thought-provoking production of the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt, which runs July 10 through August 1, 2009 at TheatreWorks New Milford.

Doubt is directed by yours truly and features some of the finest actors in the area, including regional favorite Noel Desiato as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, J. Scott Williams as Father Flynn, Jessica Alex as Sister James and Stephanie Jackson as Mrs. Muller.

Tickets are selling fast, so order yours today!





Saturday, June 06, 2009

I’m Making Strides To Cure My Diabetes


I am a Type I diabetic. This is not something that generally gets conveyed in conversations, so I have friends that are still surprised to learn this information. Type I is also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. I was diagnosed with in November 2008 at the very juvenile age of 39.

Being diagnosed with diabetes changes your life. It did not take long for me to learn about the conditions/complications associated with the disease or about the various treatments available and research being conducted. There are some fascinating advances that have been made and much of it is funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In fact, in a couple of weeks, yours truly will be handing over injection pens for an insulin pump, which will greatly reduce a bit of the PITA component of diabetes.

On Sunday, June 14th, I will be participating in a walk to raise funds for diabetes research. The walk is being co-sponsored by the Brookfield Lions Club and the JDRF. The Brookfield Lions Club also donated $200 to The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, the theatre where I serve as VP & Managing Director, so for me participating in this walk is paying it forward and sideways and every which way.

Please consider making a donation to support my participation in this walk. There is no amount too small. If you are going to see me in person before the walk, you can give the cash/check donation directly to me. Unfortunately, this walk does not take online payments through the Lions Club or JDRF. If you would like to donate online, though, you can click here and make a secure online donation via PayPal. I will then write a check for whatever amount you donate and will provide the Brookfield Lions Charities with your name (and info if you want to provide for tax purposes).

If your pockets are feeling a little light right now, no worries. I’m planning on doing the big JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes in the fall and I’ll reach out to you then, too.

Because I will keep participating until they find a cure.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

DVR Alert: Broadway in Your Living Room!

PBS never disappoints when it comes to bringing the magic of live theatre to our living rooms. While my eldest daughter is too young to see Billy Elliot (due to the frequent use of the F-bomb), the taste of Broadway she got from watching Finding Billy Elliot sufficiently awed her.

On May 27th, PBS will broadcast In The Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams, another documentary about a Broadway juggernaut. This film will chronicle the journey of Lin-Manuel Miranda as he chased, and found, his dream: winning the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical. View the trailer here:



Also airing on PBS, last year's concert of Chess filmed at Royal Albert Hall in London, starring Josh Groban and Idina Menzel. The musical, by the dudes from ABBA and prlolific lyricist Tim Rice, didn't have much success after it transferred from London to the States. However, it had a cult following and spawned the Murray Head hit "One Night in Bangkok". PBS will air the concert on June 17th at 9:00pm.



Though it isn't going to air until 2010, PBS has also acquired Spike Lee's film adaptation of the rock musical Passing Strange. I was very disappointed that I missed Stew's run on Broadway when the show ended prematurely. Fortunately, though, someone in Hollywood had the good sense to capture it on film and I simply cannot wait to see it. Initial rumors were that Showtime was going to acquire the property but I, for one, am glad I don't have to re-up my subscription.



Hooray for free television broadcasting live theatre!

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Releasing My Inner Van Helsing


Today, it's all about gathering up those wooden stakes and slaying those Vampires!

Check out our nifty article on BroadwayWorld.com and our groovy feature in The Connecticut Post. And when you've finished doing that, come on down to TBTA and join in the fun!

The ass-kicking begins at 2:00pm at the The Brookfield Theatre for the Performing Arts, 182 Whisconier Road behind the Library. Tuition is $60 ($50 for TBTA Members).

For further information, visit the TBTA web site.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Gaythering Storm

Once again, Funny or Die and Hollywood pair up to make a point... Brava!

P.S. I am so proud to live in the State of Connecticut!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TBTA Offers Die Vampire, Die! Workshop with Susan Blackwell

proudly presents


featuring Susan Blackwell

Sunday, May 3rd from 2:00-5:00pm

From the [title of show] Vampire Hunting Guide:
“a vampire is defined as any person, thought or feeling that stands between you and your creative self-expression.”


This writing/performing workshop, led by [title of show] star Susan Blackwell, invites participants to identify and nurture the seedlings of ideas through the writing process and into performance.

THEMES OF THE DIE VAMPIRE, DIE! WORKSHOP INCLUDE:
Creative Writing * Performance * Identifying and taking creative risks
Contributing to a collaborative process * Tapping into brave artistic freedom
Developing clear self-expression * Establishing a creative safe space

The Brookfield Theatre
for the Arts
182 Whisconier Road (Route 25 behind the library), Brookfield CT
For further info: 203-775-0023 or www.brookfieldtheatre.org

Fee: $60.00 per person ($50.00 for TBTA Members), includes all supplies

Space is limited! Click here to register now!
Fee and contact info must be received by Thursday, April 30th.
Registrations processed on first come, first served basis.

Mail Payment and Contact Info to:
TBTA [tos] Workshop, P.O. Box 528, Brookfield CT 06804
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Monday, March 16, 2009

Now Playing or Coming Soon to a Theatre Near... Me!

As regular readers know, most of this blog is spent posting about other people’s projects or shows that I’m not directly involved with. I’m okay with that. I feel that I have a fairly valuable and informed opinion when it comes to such things.



However, I would be doing myself a great disservice if I didn’t highlight some of my own projects, one of which is currently underway at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts. At the moment, I am producing the critically acclaimed production of Tea At Five starring the incomparable Noel Desiato. This play, about legendary stage and screen actress Katharine Hepburn, has been touted a “theatrical phenomenon” in Northwest Connecticut.

The show’s playwright, Matthew Lombardo, attended the opening performance of this production, which premiered in January 2008 at TheatreWorks New Milford, and said: “This was the first presentation of the play I have seen outside of the original production [featuring Kate Mulgrew] and national tour. To witness Noel’s fearless interpretation and loyal dedication to the text was perhaps one of the greatest gifts I have received during my entire history with this play.”

If you haven’t seen this production and you have some availability in your calendar (only one more weekend to go!), I implore you to come and see this show. This performance is too important to miss.



Meanwhile, in the background, I am preparing for my next directing project, one of Connecticut’s first regional productions of the Broadway hit Doubt at TheatreWorks New Milford. My recent directing projects have been limited to musicals, for which I also have a deep devotion, but I am infinitely pleased to be helming a non-musical for a change of pace. And what a piece to sink my teeth into! This play, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005 and the Tony Award for Best Play, is a gripping story of suspicion, morality and certainty (or doubt) set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964. I am certainly looking forward to spending time with both the text of this play and the talented actors that this production will most likely attract.



And in October it’s back to The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, my home theatre, to direct the wildly popular and bloody rock musical Little Shop of Horrors. Back in my college days I portrayed Audrey, the ditzy blonde with the squeaky speaking voice, and fifteen years later it continues to be my fondest performance memory (yup, that's me in the pic above). I am definitely thrilled at the prospect of bringing that mean green mother from outer space to our quiet little corner of the world. It should be a grand way to end the season.

So, as you can see, I have a full plate for 2009 and, while I know your entertainment dollar is spent more judiciously these days, I hope that you consider stopping by to support both my creative endeavors and the fabulous theatres that are so graciously hosting them.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Story of My Life Could've Been So Much More


I am very bad about getting reviews out in a timely manner. And then by the time I get around to it, they are no longer relevant because most of what I would have said has already been said by people far more important than me. Story of my life…

Speaking of which – how’s this for a crappy segue? – I saw the modest tuner The Story of My Life two days before its recent Broadway opening. The premise, sentimental and schmaltzy, was right up my alley. I’m also a longtime fan of Malcolm Gets and a new fan of Will Chase (thanks to the Rent: Live on Broadway DVD). Throw Richard Maltby, Jr. in the director’s chair, and you have a show with a lot going for it.

So what is the premise?

Two friends make a deal as kids – he who survives will eulogize. Thomas Weaver (Chase), finds himself in the sad circumstance where he has outlived his lifelong friend, Alvin Kelby (Gets). In a series of flashbacks, he attempts to put together the pieces of the past by “writing what he knows” for his friend’s funeral.

Basically, if Sunday In The Park with George, Merrily We Roll Along, Groundhog Day and It’s A Wonderful Life all walked into a piano bar, The Story of My Life is what would walk out, drunk and sloppy, with nowhere to go…

While the show does have a few nice moments, it never really packs the punch I was hoping for. We don’t really understand the reasons the two characters make the choices they do – to stay behind or to move on, to wed or to not, to pursue a dream or to be happy with the cards you’re dealt. Perhaps if we understood that better we would care more at certain points in the play. The one memory that repeats and builds throughout the show ends in a big “So what?” I felt a little gypped.

The music and lyrics by Neil Bartram were nice enough but nothing I left the theatre humming. One of the first songs in the show, “Mrs. Remington”, is catchy and clever and it sort of set an expectation that was never really met again. Also worth a mention is “The Butterfly”, a tidy little story song that serves as the perfect opportunity to showcase Chase’s vocal agility. It is also a song that will likely be plumping the audition books of aspiring singers everywhere. The book, by Brian Hill, services the score nicely enough but it never really peels back the scab, which might help this show have a little more impact.

The fact remains that Gets and Chase are both talented performers and, while the story is bland, the two actors carrying the show are not. Gets is intense and affable as Alvin and Chase is charming and aloof as Thomas.

Robert Brill's simple monochromatic set, with stacks of books that fade into a white wall, is striking. It serves as the canvas for some cool lighting effects by designer Ken Billington but for some reason I thought it would go further or do more and it didn’t. And, pretty as it is, when you start seeing snow fall from the rafters 30 minutes into the show, it kind of ruins the moment when it snows at the end.

Overall, I was nonplussed. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. Even though I saw the show at a deeply discounted price, I still feel I should have been a little more satisfied my entertainment dollar investment. In actuality, I feel that that night, my money was better spent on the sushi dinner at Kodama.
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UPDATE (02/21/2009):
After having had only 5 performances and 18 previews, The Story of My Life will close after its February 22nd matinee.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stop the Breaking of 36,000+ Hearts

Ken Starr - and the Prop 8 Legal Defense Fund - are attempting for forcibly divorce 18,000 same-sex couples that were married in California last year. The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in this case on March 5th, with a decision expected within 90 days.

How I feel about Prop 8 is no secret. I have many gay friends - some of whom are married, some of whom are parents, all of whom have the capacity to love and care as passionately and devotedly as any heterosexual couple I know.

I urge you to watch this video, created by The Courage Campaign with the support of musician Regina Spektor. Then go to www.couragecampaign.org/divorce and join the 300,000+ people that have signed the letter to the Supreme Court asking them to invalidate Prop 8 and reject Starr's case.



This is important. Important to me. And important to so many that are important to me.




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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Real House Lives of Osage County


I turned 40 a couple of months ago and, since my birthday is a week after Christmas, it is hard to come up with good birthday gift suggestions for those interested in giving them to me. My father, who I’ve mentioned on this blog several times and to whom I give most of the credit for cultivating my love of theatre, has not seen August: Osage County. So, knowing that the show suffers the same malady as others on Broadway, I suggested that for my birthday he and I go together before its low box office results in a closure.

Tomorrow night, thanks to my dad, I am going to visit the Westons once again in their new home at the Music Box Theatre. And tomorrow afternoon, as a sort of amuse bouche, we will be heading to the 92Y Tribeca to attend On Stage with August: Osage County, featuring Estelle Parsons and members of the cast and creative team for a behind-the-scenes look at the show. That should be really interesting.

I saw August: Osage County around this time last year, at the Imperial, with the entire original cast. I loved every minute of it. Certainly, I am eagerly anticipating both Estelle Parsons and the new casts’ performance. In actuality, though, I am just excited to see the show again. And I’m sure that coming fresh off the lecture, too, will add a whole new perspective that theatre geeks like me just get giddy for.

After a week of impetigo, strep throat, sick days and deadlines, it will be nice to escape to Osage County for a few hours. Funny that. Really funny.

I’ll be sure to let you know how the trip was.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'd Plotz for a Klotz!

At least there's free shipping...


Monday, February 02, 2009

Top 5 Discoveries of 2008

The last few weeks have been, shall we say, tumultuous and as a result of said turmoil I have had a minimal presence in the blogosphere. However, yesterday was Superbowl Sunday. As a no/low-sports family, the Superbowl is honored in our house by muting or fast-forwarding the game, watching the commercials and eating kick-ass snack foods. I made use of the time by hopping back on the bloggy horse in order to provide the last of my round-up lists… The Top 5 up-and-comers on today’s musical theatre scene.

#1. JOE ICONIS


Loyal readers should find no surprise in the fact that my top discovery of 2008 is Joe Iconis and his unruly troupe of musical theatre punks. Joe is so sick with talent that, despite the troubled economy darkening several New York marquees, he saw three fully-realized productions of his musicals in 2008: The Black Suits, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and ReWrite. This past year also saw the critically-acclaimed return of Iconis' signature concert, Things To Ruin, as well as gigs at Joe’s Pub, Sardi’s and the West Bank CafĂ©.

Joe's songs tell stories. Good stories. Songs that people relate to. Songs about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Each tale told with the perfectly blended cocktail of honesty, irreverence and dirty words. But what intoxicates you are those contagious melodies, euphonious harmonies and pulsating rhythms that make people want to sing them. And sing them. And sing them.

And stomp a hole in the floorboards.

#2. SCOTT ALAN


I first stumbled upon Scott Alan via a YouTube search that ended with a video of Jonathan Groff singing a beautiful ballad about a telephone call. That led to Danny Calvert killing you softly with this heartbreaking tale of divorce. Which led to song after song of Broadway celebrities singing Scott's beautiful compositions. Not long after, I downloaded Scott's release Dreaming Wide Awake from iTunes.

Like Iconis, Scott has a knack for writing songs that tell a story. Where Iconis' songs tend to tell stories more about the idiosyncratic, Scott's songs are inclined to explore those universal chords that strike in relationships. His follow-up release, Keys, won my heart with "Blessing" and "The Dress". In addition to his incredible talent, Scott also champions the work of other up-and-coming artists through his Monday Nights, New Voices program, which has featured several of the composers featured in my sidebar.

All of my exposure to Scott's music has been through his releases and YouTube. I haven't made it to a live show yet but plan to as soon as schedule and budget allow. I also count myself among those anticipating the staging of his musical Piece. I love it when a composer's music, like Scott's, stands on its own, so I am always anxious to see their music in the context of a book musical. And something tells me when that happens, I won't be disappointed.

#3. NICK BLAEMIRE


2008 marks the year that the multitalented Nick Blaemire hit my radar. The first I'd heard of Nick came in April or so, when the theatre community was abuzz about this kid, who was making his Broadway performing debut in Cry-Baby and, at the same time, preparing for his Broadway debut as a composer/lyricist with the coming-of-age musical Glory Days. I did see Cry-Baby and was nonplussed. I did not see Glory Days but wish I had. Both shows shuttered quickly but Blaemire certainly did not walk away defeated. A streak of performances to round out 2008 followed: in Iconis' The Black Suits at The Public's Summer Play Festival, in Mazzaferri's Green Eyes at the NY Fringe, in the return of Iconis' Things To Ruin and in the debut of Iconis' musical triptych ReWrite. Nick is an energetic and dynamic performer with a savage rock tenor voice. And you are hard-pressed to find a performer with a higher likeability factor. He's sort of the Ferris Buehler of musical theatre.

Expect great things from Nick. More great performances, certainly, but look out for his next writing project, which partners him again with his Glory Days co-writer James Gardiner. Nick played a selection from the commissioned project at a concert a few months back and I feel confident saying that he has not seen the last of his "glory days".

#4. GABY ALTER


If you want a composer who is on the cusp of greatness then you need look no further than 2008 Jonathan Larson Grant winner Gaby Alter. As with the other composers on this list, Gaby writes a kick-ass story song set to some fiercely catchy melodies. I defy anyone to listen to this song and not walk away humming. Gaby is a prolific writer with many works in development, including my personal favorite, 29. In January 2009, Gaby and his writing partners Tommy Newman and Mark Allen had their musical Band Geeks! featured as part of Goodspeed Opera House's 4th Annual Festival of New Artists.

I had the privilege of hearing Gaby perform one his compositions at The Secret Show back in the fall. But his talent won't be a secret for long. Before long Gaby will break through in a big way and you can say that you heard it here first. And you'll be able say something similar to what I say to my friends when they finally discover Facebook: "Yeah, I started that addiction 2 years ago!"

#5. JAKE WILSON


2008 saw many memorable Broadway/YouTube marriages (think [tos], Legally Brown, Cubby Bernstein). Not to be outdone, fresh-faced and fancy-footed Jake Wilson leapt right onto that bandwagon with The Battery’s Down. This "online tv series" chronicles Jake's life as a struggling actor in New York, complete with fancy Broadway guesties and big splashy musical numbers. Bear in mind that this YouTube jewel is a ship captained primarily by Jake, who wears the hats of director, writer, cinematographer, actor and choreographer. It helps, too, that he runs with a talented crowd who help out as his supporting cast. The professional quality of TBD, combined with Jake's unbelievable charm and business sense, as heard in this Playbill Radio interview, will most assuredly propel him swiftly to the limelight.

But the bottom line is this: Jake has talent. Well, many talents. In fact, while The Battery’s Down was on filming hiatus, that talent landed him a role in a production of Hair out West. But fret not, the tours and out-of-town gigs are over and the cast and crew of TBD are back at it for Season 2, premiering March 1st. And they should be around until the next gig surfaces, which is pretty much assured with this bunch.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Broadway Can Kick Your Ass

Thanks to Moxie the Maven for posting this one. Hey - we've all had our fair share of laughs and chortles at Jeremy Piven's expense so why should Kristin Chenoweth be an exception?

Yes, ye Hollywood types who dare tread the boards, Broadway can kick your ass! It's haarrrd!



Kristin Chenoweth's Advice to Jeremy Piven

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Save Broadway

The lights on Broadway may be a little dimmer these days but thankfully there are people like Neil Patrick Harris (and the cast of SNL) to remind us that even in the darkest days a little laugh can go a long way.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Top 5 Performances of 2008

TOP 5 BROADWAY PERFORMANCES


#1. Deanna Dunagan
I have not experienced a performance as engaging, intricate and complex as Deanna Dunagan’s interpretation of acid-tongued Violet Weston in August: Osage County. We saw the Pulitzer Prize winning show fairly early on its run but by then the buzz about Dunagan’s performance was loud and the expectations were high. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.


#2. Lin-Manuel Miranda
The exuberance with which Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted his Tony for Best Score speaks volumes about what he has assembled onstage at the Richard Rodgers. The young and talented star of In The Heights takes the American dream and those universal yearnings for success, for wealth and for love and brings a vivid story of family and belonging to Broadway. To see him perform that story was truly an experience to behold and I am happy that I had that opportunity.


#3. Amy Morton
August: Osage County is a masterfully written ensemble piece with solid performances throughout. However, to not single out Amy Morton’s performance would be a significant oversight. As Vi’s daughter Barbara Fordham, Tony nominated Amy Morton navigated her way through Letts’ tour-de-force and didn’t miss a beat. Not only did she navigate, she took you for a thrilling ride. After a brief stop back at Steppenwolf to direct Conor McPherson’s Dublin Carol, Morton reprised her role with most of the original cast in London. Yeah. It’s been a pretty awesome year for Ms. Morton.


#4. Cheyenne Jackson
I was certainly very late jumping on the Cheyenne Jackson train. But I’m glad I’m aboard. I had seen him in United 93 and thought he was very good. I never made the connection that that same actor was Sonny Malone in the unexpected hit of the season, Xanadu. I have since seen Cheyenne in Damn Yankees and in episodes of several YouTube series including [title of show] show, The Battery’s Down, Legally Brown – The Search for the Next Piragua Guy and, of course, the Cubby Bernstein videos. I look forward to whatever he does next. A class act and a stellar talent indeed.


#5. Daniel Radcliffe
Of all of the Broadway shows that I saw in 2008, I would have to say that Equus is the one that I anticipated the most. I never really posted a proper review of this production. Largely because I was insanely busy. Partly because I didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. However, one thing that delivered as expected was Daniel Radcliffe. His Alan Strang was subtle, complex and passionate. I hope that he continues filling his down time from Hollywood with stage work.

TOP 5 OFF-BROADWAY PERFORMANCES

#1. Jim Norton
It was his performance in Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer that earned him the Tony but it was his turn in The Atlantic Theater Company’s production of McPherson’s Port Authority that captured my heart. His simple and sad portrayal of Joe was heartbreaking. McPherson wrote a beautiful role and upon seeing Norton in Port Authority it became clear why he is frequently entrusted with roles in McPherson’s plays. It is because he is an actor that knows how to lovingly and masterfully bring those characters and that gorgeous language to life.


#2. Nick Blaemire
I saw Nick Blaemire perform in a lot of things last year, one of the reasons that he is also on my forthcoming Top 5 Discoveries of 2008 list. It is difficult to single out one performance, as they were all good. But I would have to say that it was in Joe Iconis’ The Black Suits that I was first won over. Nick is an energetic performer with an impressive vocal agility and a natural gift for musical comedy, qualities that were well showcased in Iconis’ rock musical.


#3. John Gallagher, Jr.
Last winter was one of transition for John Gallagher, Jr. He left Spring Awakening, he parted ways with Old Springs Pike and he landed a small role in Woody Allen’s new film. He also appeared in two productions at The Atlantic Theatre Company, Farragut North, which was touted as one of the best in 2008 by Time magazine. The other, the simple monologue play Port Authority. Gallagher’s sensitive performance, complete with a spot-on Irish brogue, proved once again why he is and will remain one of my favorite performers.


#4. Will Swenson
Charismatic actor Will Swenson, who played George Berger in last year’s concert in Central Park, reprised the role in The Public’s 2008 summer production of Hair. His boundless energy, powerful voice and infectious delivery explain why this performer is one to watch. It is also why he is in the fortunate position to be choosing between two 2009 Broadway transfers: Hair and Rock of Ages. Rumor has it that he has favored the 60s rock musical over the 80s one. I, for one, am happy with that choice.


#5. Sam Waterston
OK – I’m sure I’ll get slapped silly for saying this – but I am not a fan of Shakespeare. I have tried numerous times to appreciate his work, each time hoping that I will get caught up in his spell, but alas to no avail. This summer I once again made the attempt with Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Hamlet. I have to say that this was the most engaged I have ever been and that is largely due to Waterston’s interpretation of the meddlesome Polonius. The mixture of humor and pathos with which Waterston played the character has definitely proven him worthy of his espoused reputation among Shakespearean troupes. Who knows, perhaps I will give the bard another whirl if Waterston is at the helm.

Honorable Mentions
These “best of” lists are limited to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows of 2008. However, I wanted to venture beyond that parameter to cite two stellar performances: one from community theatre and one from college theatre.


Noel Desiato’s performance as Katherine Hepburn in Theatreworks New Milford’s Tea At Five was positively mesmerizing. Never before have I seen an actress embody a character more expertly or more believably than in this one-woman show about the legendary actress. Desiato proves that you don’t have to go to New York to see a gifted actress perform. I look forward to producing Tea At Five in 2009 at The Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, where Desiato will reprise her star-quality performance.


2008 also saw the performance of Caitlyn Caughell in Jeanine Tesori’s rarely produced gem Violet. In the titular role, Caughell was earthy and sincere with a voice that masterfully navigated the challenging score. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Tesori, who saw NYU’s production, has invited Caughell to sing at The Kennedy Center later this month. Without a doubt, Caughell is a force to be reckoned with, and it won’t be long before she takes up residence on the Great White Way.

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