interview here in two weeks!
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
You're not playing the same role this time around. Talk a little about the governor and how difficult a challenge it is to play him.
This in an interesting part of my journey with Parade, as the Governor is one of the few roles I did not cover or play in the Donmar version at the Taper. And exploring his point of view has brought me to another dimension of appreciation for the entire piece. I have grown to truly appreciate Governor Slaton as a man apart in politics at this time in history. Though full of southern gentleman charm and wit, he also had a strong conscience, and a certain fearlessness about him. In the end he was convinced of Frank's innocence, and he willingly put his political career and possibly his life on the line, to make a highly unpopular decision.
One of the technical challenges of playing Jack Slaton is his being the center of the Tea Dance sequence, dancing up a storm, while being the only one singing, and yet, playing scenes peppered throughout, most importantly, handling Lucille Frank at the end. That is, among other things, a test of stamina. Then, once that scene happens, he is on a relentless quest for the truth, until he makes that fateful announcement. He is a wonderful tapestry of charm and intelligence, who believes that, most often, it is best to catch flies with honey, but he is also a man who will not back down from a fight. Finding that balance in him, and bringing those colors into a cohesive whole is both a joy and a challenge.
Is your role a singing one or non-singing?
My role is definitely a singing one, primarily in the Tea Dance number. Otherwise, I sing in a bit of the group numbers.
How is Parade different from most musicals?
Parade is an extraordinary piece, in the subject matter alone. It is difficult and tragic, and yet, laced throughout is a love story that blossoms in spite of the surmounting challenges that Leo and Lucille face. It is one of only a few musicals that I can think of that tackles the ugliness of prejudice and fear-mongering, while shining a light on the power of love. And Jason Robert Brown's music and lyrics soar, in breathtaking and heart-wrenching songs, all true to the period, bringing the true flavor and rhythms of the era and place, enhancing these multi-layered characters' journeys. This is a beautiful and complex piece, and one that cannot help but touch hearts and shed light on some of the prejudices still lurking about today.
What do you feel is really special about it?
I think one of the special things about Parade is that love story between Leo and Lucille, a pair in the beginning of the story seemingly without love. But as adversity mounts, their truer natures rise and the walls crumble between them. They begin to see one another in clearer and truer fashion, and they do indeed fall in love, in the midst of the madness. That is the beauty in this story, sending the message that, even in the darkest times, there is hope. Roses do bloom and grow through cracks in the concrete. And Parade shows numerous other people changed by adversity as well, like the Governor finding his conscience, and daring to chuck his career, to be an honorable man, and to do the right thing. There is so much beautiful and raw emotion throughout this piece, that one cannot help but be deeply moved by it all.
Performances are May 10 - 26 @ Plummer Auditorium 201 East Chapman Ave in Fullerton /Tickets may be purchased by calling 714-589-2770 Ext 1 or visit:
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Friday, April 19, 2013
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Olivier nominated for Love Never Dies, Canadian born actor/singer Ramin Karimloo will perform his cabaret act at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal April 21-22. This will mark his cabaret debut in Los Angeles, and all three performances are already sold out. Renowned on the UK stage for every role in Les Mis including that of Jean Valjean and also for the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies, Karimloo performed on the Oscar telecast in February singing "One More Day" alongside Hugh Jackman, Ann Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks and others from the cast of the film Les Mis. In our chat, Karimloo talks about career past and present as well as his love of music that includes bluegrass as well as Broadway.
Tell me how your singing career began in Canada.
I didn't have the finances to train and the idea of going to debt court, with my background, kind of scared me, so I started working on cruise ships. These were British based companies. I remember when I first auditioned, I had never seen a musical in my life apart from Phantom and Les Mis. I didn't know any musical theatre songs. I didn't know how to dance. So, working on the cruise ships was my theatre school.
You never even sang as a kid?!
I had never had a singing lesson. I like country music and bluegrass and rock...on the cruise ships...I still hadn't seen films like The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music...but, I learned. We did like ten different revue shows, a music theatre show, country-western... I learned a lot. I was working with people who had done West End, so at this point I'm getting the bug for it and enjoying it. Then there was someone on the ships, I'll never forget the story... he gave me grief about my unorthodox background. When I was on deck during the days, I'd be reading Strasberg's teachings, Stanislavski's, Meisner's...because I want to be Daniel Day Lewis, he's my idol. I remember this guy's words, "You'll never make it to the West End, and you'll never get an agent like Michael Garrett if you continue the way you are." There are so many different roads. If I had the funds, I totally would have trained, the orthodox way. Because there's something to be said about a two-year course, what you learn, the references, the connections, the social aspect of it, it's a great thing to do. He had done West End, and I didn't rate him. I thought, "If he could do it, I could do it." So, I decided to move to England and give it a shot. Long story short, two years later, who's my agent? Michael Garrett. I remember, by chance I was in this vocal coach's house to learn some theatre songs. He liked the fact that I was untrained, I was raw. And he said, "Let me bring in my friend, who's an agent." And I'm thinking, "Here we go, another I'll make you a star, kid!" Anyone who says that, walk out the door! And in walked Michael Garrett. "Holy crap, this is the guy they said I'd never get!" He said, "I really like what you do. I can't promise you anything, but I'll try and get you auditions." I thought, "That's the most honest thing you could say. Let's do it!" We had a great seven-year relationship.
What was the first show you did?
The Pirates of Penzance.
That's good training!
Not only that, it was with the New Shakespeare Company at Regent's Park, open air, which is... I didn't realize at the time... just how prestigious that job was. I'd never stay in my dressing room, I'd be in the wings. I was understudying the Pirate King. I did not want to go on; I just wanted to watch and learn. This was rep season. The best training! For me knowledge is power. Knowledge inspires me. The more I learn, the more I'm prepared. Even from those you don't like, you can learn from watching them. But, what I lacked...I don't think instinct carries your career... you need technique.
Frankly when quite rapidly my career started doing good things, and I started making money, I put that toward tuition...it's funny, the moment I got nominated for an Olivier, instead of celebrating, I phoned an acting teacher and said, "I want to take some one to ones." I thought, "An Olivier nomination. A fraud!" So, I got a great acting coach. What you get, you can give back. I never want to rest on my laurels. I never want to meet expectations.
What came after Pirates of Penzance? Was it directly into Phantom?
Sunset Boulevard. I did it with Faith Brown as Norma Desmond. I was a last minute sub. They needed someone quick to play Artie Green. I had two rehearsals and I was on with Artie Green. After two days, they said "You go on as Joe Gillis in twelve days." I can't remember the words to "Sunset Boulevard", let alone the whole script. Twelve days! I was 22 years-old. I remember the line"Forty-two inch chest..." I have it now, but at the time I was a skinny little kid. My whole career I had been technically too young for things, taking on these different roles. They came to me; I didn't ask for Joe Gillis.
How did it work out?
I loved it! I'd love to have it now, when I'm more suitable for it. The scenes when he first meets Norma Desmond, it's a gift. "Salome!" I loved his interaction with the audience. Joe Gillis is there to serve Norma and tell that story. Let her be the star. You just carry the audience with you. Like Phantom, it's one of my favorite Andrew (Lloyd Webber) shows, because the book, the music, the lyrics... it takes you back to that era. They work so well together. I love being in LA now driving down Sunset Boulevard, I think of those lines, "You take away my car, you might as well cut off my legs!" I totally understand that now.
What came next?
You've played every role in that, right?
It feels like it. On the Japanese release of my album, I did "I Dreamed a Dream", so there's my Fantine as well. (we laugh) I first went into Les Mis as an understudy. My agent didn't want me to take it, because it wasn't a lead, but I did. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be in the ensemble and learn what it's like to do eight shows a week. Understudying for that was the hardest job, but I'm so glad I did it. I understudied Hadley Fraser, and we've been friends ever since. We've become this theatre couple. We're in this bluegrass band together. In my most recent stint of Les Mis, he was Javert.
|As The Phantom in Love Never Dies|
Do you have a favorite role from Les Mis?
Jean Valjean is just...a role I was dead set against doing. I turned it down twice before Cameron Mackintosh himself said "I've come for my pound of flesh. I want you to play Jean Valjean." I thought "What am I going to do with it?" At this stage, I didn't even think I could sing it. Colm Wilkinson was just in the room singing it. He was preparing his audition for the film. I thought, "That's what Jean Valjean looks like!" Mackintosh had more faith in me than I had in myself. I said, "I'll make you a deal. After we finish this Phantom 25th Anniversary show, let me come sing it for you. If you still like it, I'll do it. If I suck, this doesn't ruin our business relationship. We were good up until now. This is your call, not mine. If I go for something and I blow it, fine, be mad at me, but let it be on your head!" As it turned out, I bought myself time, so I started reading the novel again. I thought, How can I live it? I don't want to just sing a part. I hate when actors do that. I want to make sure I'm not a caricature, trying to play old. Watch me do the exercise on how to become old! It's not about that. What I found was my heart connection with Valjean and his struggle with faith and his journey, layer upon layer...
Is Jean Valjean your favorite role so far, more so than the Phantom?
|Karimloo will reprise Jean Valjean in Toronto in October|
Over those two, I would take Valjean. There's more you can do with it, and the payoff is...even though you're not playing a caricature, but you do span 40 years with this guy's life. As an actor, it's a dream role. I used to think "What role do I need to take my career to the next step?" I don't think like that anymore. If I get an offer or I go for something, will I have fun doing that? Then that's my answer. If you're having fun, you're doing your best work. There's no point in going into a new show because it's new. And it can be up for awards, but I don't want to do it. There's no fun. I'd love to do Guido in Nine in a couple of years when I'm a bit older. Stanley in Streetcar, I'd love to do that, but my arm is full of tattoos, so I don't know if they'll let me do it.
Let's switch gears to your upcoming cabaret. How does the bluegrass play into all this musical theatre?
I've always loved country and bluegrass. What I like is the storytelling. And what's music theatre but storytelling!? When I do concerts, I don't want to do a music theatre concert. I don't find that as enjoyable. I want to save that for the part; I want to save it for when I'm actually doing the musical. When it comes to concerts, you've got to be yourself. There's no more character! So when I started recording and doing music in a night of concert, I thought how do I strip the character away and let it be Ramin singing it and enjoying the song? "Bring It Home" is so beautiful as a prayer. Les Mis is actually written for French folk singers. So, I started learning the banjo and started writing folk music. For fans that still want to hear what they've known me for, I thought, How can I present it so that I don't feel like I'm singing a song just because they want to hear it? I want them to get my heart. Broadway to Bluegrass. It all started with "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning"! I started to think why don't I do it like Mumford and Sons in 6, 8 rhythm. Real hoedown. How would it sound if the people of that time with those instruments... if it becomes authentic? So then we did that with all the music. "Music of the Night" just with fiddle and guitar. I sing it as it's written. I don't put a country twang on it. I sing it as authentically as possible. I toured America last year, and we played where Johnny Cash used to play, and Alison Krauss. I'm not great on the banjo, but I'm getting better. What I learned is that you don't have to be perfect to be authentic. It's your heart that's authentic up there.
Will there be a lot of your own material in the Federal show?
When we do the Federal, there'll be more theatre content because of the venue. I always think you have to be gig appropriate, and it's my first time here. I will do some songs I've written, but I'm going to do a lot more theatre than I did on the first tour. I've got this version of "Empty Chairs" where a banjo comes in. It starts with just guitar, then the banjo kicks in to give it...the texture of the banjo can be quite haunting. It sounds beautiful. "Bring Him Home" just with fiddle. It's intimate. I love that. I'll only have three musicians on stage with me. We're not going to pretend to be an orchestra. I'm not going to get a synthesizer. We're going to be authentic. What you see is what you hear, and what you hear, is what you see. Let's just be true to that!
That pretty much describes Ramin Karimloo. He is very sincere and passionate about what he does. What you see is what you get. I have listened to his CD Ramin, and it is simply gorgeous, so I can't wait for this concert.
Ramin’s Sunday, April 21 show at 5:30 – 6:00 pm dinner seating, 7:00 pm show is sold out. Three shows are scheduled with him including a matinee at 1:30 pm on Sunday, April 21 added as the third show, and Monday evening April 22 at 8pm, which at this point are also sold out. He holds the record for number of sales in all of almost 7 years at Sterling's. Also the quickest sell outs ever for each show.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Tell me about Broadway My Way and what you're doing in it. I love David Galligan's sense of humor, so I'm sure it will be a great show.
Yeah, it's quite a group. I'm very excited about it. I'm thrilled to join them. I was asked what I might like to sing or what I've always wanted to sing, so I'm doing "What Kind of Fool Am I?" from Stop the World I Want to Get Off.
You have a great voice for that!
Oh, thank you very much! I'm really excited about it. I've never sung the song before and I've always wanted to.
Any comedy involved?
No, I'm not the comic relief this time. I'm leaving that to some other folks. I'm playing it straight, as it were.
Well, I'm sure it will be great. What's it like to have a Grammy and a Tony nomination?
(he laughs) Well, it's very nice. The Grammy thing...Josh Gad and I were so surprised by that. When it happened, we were still doing The Book of Mormon in New York, so neither one of us really got to participate in the activities. All the parties we were invited to were in Los Angeles, so the evening the awards happened, we were doing a show, and we got a text message saying that we had won. It was very exciting, but it felt a little funny not to be there.
You're from Omaha, Nebraska, a small town boy. Did that help you to develop the role of Elder Price in The Book of Mormon?
There was kind of a midwestern shorthand that came in handy. I'm from Nebraska, Elder Price from Colorado. It wasn't so much religion...I wasn't raised Mormon, I was raised Catholic. But there was just an understanding of the general tone of this guy and these kids who go out as missionaries. So being from the mid west was helpful, I will say that.
I saw Gavin Creel do the role here in LA. I understand you guys are pals.
He's one of my oldest and best friends. I was so excited that he's getting the opportunity to play this part.
Tell me about Jersey Boys and your involvement in that. You were with that quite some time, correct?
I did it for about 2 years. I started in a company in San Francisco and then moved to a company that toured a little bit, and then we opened the Toronto company and then I finished my run with 6 months on Broadway. All in all it was about 2 years that I did Jersey Boys. I loved doing it...completely different from Book of Mormon. It was also such a great role, playing Bob Gaudio. The real Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli were very much involved in the production at the time. It was very cool to get to meet him and hang out with those guys. The show was such a hit every place we went. It was thrilling getting to open it in these new cities.
Tell me about Elijah in HBO's Girls and then your new role on NBC in The New Normal.
Two very different characters. Elijah on Girls is a little bit of a mess. He and Hannah in this last season just kind of tripped around New York and Elijah made a lot of bold and hilarious mistakes in his friendships with Hannah and Marnie. Bryan Collins in The New Normal is a very established, very successful television producer who is in a very committed relationship and ready to start a family. It was interesting. We shot Girls first and I finished in July. Right away I went to Los Angeles and started in early August with The New Normal. We start the third season of Girls in mid-April and it's yet to be decided exactly what my involvement will be, but I'm happy to be there.
|the cast of The New Normal|
Who are your idols? Do you have any?
Most recently, at the time I moved to New York, I think that Patrick Wilson was a really big influence.Watching him do The Full Monty, and the tour of Carousel, and then seeing his whole career sort of explode with the film of Angels in America...he was definitely inspirational for me. He's a great actor and such a nice guy. I've never gotten to work with him, but have had the chance to hang out with him a little. Dick Latessa has also been a big influence on me. I did Hairspray, but not with him, and then years later we did workshops on Little Miss Sunshine. I just completely fell in love with Dick. I think he's a great example of somebody who just consistently does really great work, and he's worked for decades in the theatre and on TV and film. I think that's what every actor aspires to, that kind of longevity and that body of work he's created. I greatly admire him. Role models are an ever changing thing for me. I work with people that maybe I didn't know before and...
Well, you're just beginning.
People ask me what the turn was. It feels like it was getting my first Broadway show. Being cast in Hairspray was a huge deal for me. Even though I was a replacement in the ensemble, it felt like the biggest thing that had ever happened. Hopefully you keep having these moments where you feel like you've reached a new level.
What role would you like to play?
The Book of Mormon taught me it's probably not been written yet. What I took away from that was the excitement of creating a show and creating a role. If you'd asked me 10 years ago, I would have had a long list of things that I would love to do...and maybe some of those things are still possible... but it's the shows that are yet to be discovered that mean the most to you. I would love to go back to New York and do another musical, certainly, but I haven't pondered what, because maybe it doesn't exist yet.
Do you have a favorite musical of all time?
I think that's a tie: West Side Story and Sweeney Todd. West Side Story was the first musical I was aware of as a kid. Sweeney Todd to me is a perfect show.
As an openly gay man, how do you feel about the way things are right now? Do you think we've made strides?
I think you have to look at where we were five years ago to where we are today. I think there are big strides. Historically speaking, we're moving much faster than a lot of civil rights. It sometimes feels like there's not a lot happening. Since Gavin (Creel) and Rory O'Malley started Broadway Impact in ... 2008, even in that brief amount of time, it's amazing to see how much work has been done and how much progress has been made. We're definitely on the right track, and it's definitely moving. I may not be satisfied but I'm encouraged by what's happened. There's very much a conversation that's happening that didn't really exist even a few years ago. Public opinion is changing, and I'm happy to be a part of a television show with The New Normal. Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler (executive producers/creators) really are conversation starters. I'm thrilled, being the other half of a gay relationship with Justin Bartha, to be a little part of a larger conversation that includes gay parents, gay marriage... so we're definitely on the right track.
Andrew Rannells is most assuredly on the right track to stardom, so catch him on April 6 at the Saban Theatre for S.T.A.G.E.'s annual fundraiser for APLA (Aids Project LOs Angeles), this year's show called Broadway My Way.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
In the last two years, ALEX NEWELL has gone from regular high school student to
appearing on one of the hottest series on television. Newell can currently be seen in the recurring role of “Wade ʻUniqueʼ Adams” on FOXʼs “Glee,” and has quickly become a fan favorite. Introduced at the end of season three last year, ʻUniqueʻ is back this season and better than ever. Newell shines as shy, timid, outcast Wade, and his alter-ego Unique, whose bold and daring personality and talent on stage demands attention in every scene she is in. The drastic change from each character has shown not only Newellʼs powerhouse vocals, but also his versatility as an actor.
Newell will be making his first S.T.A.G.E. appearance in this year's show. Wells Fargo is the Presenting Sponsor with Grand Sponsors HBO and Swerdlove & Aster.
Other Broadway stars scheduled to appear in the concert that raises critical funds for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) include JIM BAILEY, PATRICK CASSIDY, MARY JO CATLETT, CAROLE COOK, KAREN CULLIVER, TYNE DALY, JOELY FISHER, DAVIS GAINES, KATHY GARRICK, MARSHA KRAMER, FLORENCE HENDERSON, SHIRLEY JONES, JANE LANIER, VICKI LEWIS, KIMBERLEY LOCKE, TOM LOWE, PAT MARSHALL, PATRICIA MORISON, The MuMos, JANIS PAIGE, MADISON CLAIRE PARKS, VALARIE PETTIFORD, ANDREW RANNELLS, ANDREW SAMONSKY, BRUCE VILANCH, LISA VROMAN, JOANNE WORLEY, and TERRI WHITE.