Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interview with Director David Galligan

Prolific musical stage director David Galligan helms another S.T.A.G.E. benefit this year for one night only on Saturday, May 1 at the Luckman Theatre entitled Original Cast, featuring stars who originated their roles on Broadway or in LA. Galligan has been interviewed many times over during the past several years, so I was hard put to think of a question that has not been asked of him. Therefore, we got right to the bottom line of what makes this year's different from all the other S.T.A.G.E. shows.

How did Original Cast come about?
We were starting to repeat composers. To frankly put it, I was down to like the only ones who would be...oh, what a terrible thing to say... box office. I would love to do Harold Rome but I don't think anyone would know who that is. I repeated Gershwin last year. I don't want to go back and do Cole Porter...I mean I love Cole Porter, but...so I thought I could do Schmidt and Jones or Meredith Willson, but I decided to move on and do a show with people who orginated Broadway or Los Angeles roles.

Had that idea emerged before?
Not really. It popped into my head and I thought I would be interested in that, and I'm hoping people...and by the look at ticket sales... they are interested.

Wonderful! Anything new as to the format of the show?
No, except it will be different songs. I think I'm going to put in bows this year; I used to always wait until the very end.

Will some performers be allowed to leave early?
No, they're not allowed.

What is the point of putting in the bows after each number?
Well, because then it makes it one complete number. Before they were all under the same composer's banner; now, they're performing numbers from different shows and different composers, so I thought I'd put a button on each of the numbers.

Are performers still signing up at this juncture?
I'm pretty much done. I added Davis Gaines and Ron Dennis. Ron is doing a number with Donna McKechnie. He was talking about a duet he had with Baayork Lee from A Chorus Line, a song called "Confidence" and it was in and out and never even made it to public performnce. He started humming it and said he had the music and lyrics. I called Baayork and she said she was not available, and so I decided to do it sort of schizophrenic with Ron doing both roles.

Tyne Daly is doing songs from Gypsy?
She and Jonathan Hadary are doing "Small World" and "You'll Never Get Away from Me" and then she's performing "Rose's Turn".

Great! What about Michele Lee?

She's doing the finale from Seesaw.

I saw her do that show on Broadway. She's sensational with that. Who else is on board?
Dale Kristien is doing "Think Of Me' from Phantom of the Opera. Carole Cook is doing "Before the Parade Passes By" from Hello Dolly. She's the original Australian Dolly Levi.

I have to compliment you on the Burt Bacharach tribute two years ago. I loved that the whole first Act was a condensed version of Promises, Promises.
Thank you. We worked so hard on that. With all the cuts, it had to get an OK from Neil Simon, who wrote the book, and he said he loved it. Now he owns it. But that was the deal. In order to get permission, he would own the abridged version...and that's fine.

Everyone did such an amazing job. Do you normally rehearse one full week or more than that?
More. I started rehearsals last Saturday (March 27). I'm rehearsing this week, because I'm leaving town. I have a show opening off-Broadway.

Tell me about that!
That's My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, Leslie Jordan's show. That's opening April 19th at the Midtown Theatre.

He's a hoot! You're a really busy director, Mr. Galligan. Who else can we talk about for S.T.A.G.E.?
John Lloyd Young is doing a medley from the second act of Jersey Boys.

Is Betty Garrett performing?
Betty fell in November and broke her hip, and when she was in the hospital recovering, her voice changed. Now she talks way up here, in a very high range. And so she can't really sing and I don't want to do the show without Betty. She's performed in it every year. So, what I'm going to do is to take her album and overdub it and put four backup voices - they're all her voices - have her pantomime to it and put four dancing boys with Betty Garret masks on, and since she's on a cane, I'll put a cane dance in the middle, and that'll be her number. It'll be fun!
Betty is 90 and Patricia Morrison is 95 now. She'll sing "So In Love". Charlotte Rae is doing something from Pins and Needles. Bill Hutton is doing a big production number of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Karen Morrow is singing "I Had a Ball". Nancy Dussault is doing "Make Someone Happy" from Do Re Mi.

Sounds like a terrific show! Any possibility of doing another show in the future like Bacharach, where Act I is devoted to just one show?
It always interests me and I've always wanted to do Funny Girl with Vicki Lewis, so...

Julie Styne with Funny Girl as all of Act I! I'd be there with bells on!


In Original Cast, John McDaniel will serve as Music Director with Mary Ekler as Associate Music Director and choreography by Lee Martino and Dan Mojica. Jon Maher will do sign language interpretation.


S.T.A.G.E. is the second fund-raising event ever created to fight AIDS, and it has raised millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS organizations throughout the Southern California over the last 25 years. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from ORIGINAL CAST will go to APLA, a community-based, volunteer-supported organization with local, national and global reach that provides bilingual direct support services, prevention education and leadership on HIV/AIDS-related policy and legislation.

ORIGINAL CAST is set for Saturday, May 1 at 7:30PM at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA, 90032. A VIP reception for Premium and Most Preferred ticket holders will precede the performance at 6:00PM at which time the silent auction will also open.

For ticket or sponsorship information, visit www.stagela.com, call 866-679-0958 or email mcacciatore@apla.org

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview - Model/Singer Quentin Elias Bows in First Stage Play

Singer Quentin Elias makes a formidable debut in THE BLVD currently @ The Macha Theatre in WeHo. Visit more reviews to the right for my review of the show.
through April 18!

Q: Tell me about your background - about growing up in Marseille, France and how you got into the arts. Didn't it begin with dance?

I am Algerian, not French. Marseille is the best city ever.. it's like LA .. dry weather and blue sky all the time. Food is great and people are very genuine. Then I went to NYC .. I consider NYC home for me since it's where I really grew up.. and learned everything I know. I started dance class when I was 6, so at an early age I was on stage.. it's the best years of my life..

Q: When did you make the transition to New York from Europe? Was it after you became a successful singer in France? Talk about that success!

I was living in NY when I heard about a casting for a "boyband" so I flew to Paris and got the job.. we were like the backstreet boyz in France.. sold 5 millions cds then I became like Justin Timberlake when I went solo.. after a solo album I decided to go back home to NY. I had enough and I was really home sick.

Q: When did the acting bug bite?

I never really thought about acting .. when Danny De La Paz asked me to be part of this project I had no idea what I was getting into .. once I started doing the reading and rehearsed I felt I was born to be an actor as well. It's a new experience and I learn a lot.. it's really hard work for me but I am getting better every night.. I love it.

Q: What great training to be onstage every night!

It's more difficult than tv or movies since you are onstage and once you step onto that stage you have to give your best every night for almost 2 hours straight with no cut. You have to be real focused and listen to the other actor that feeds you your lines and energy... I believe doing theater is the best acting class I could ever do.

Q: How is the music career going?

The music is good; the industry has changed a lot. I keep performing and recording new stuff all the time . I found a new style that fits me more now .. it's more soft rock . Just shot my new music video and posted it on youtube, and people really like my new direction.

Q: Have you done any film? If so, is that a goal?

Yes, I have done 4 feature films since I got here to LA . LA loves me and I love LA. I really want to pursue a career in acting .. that's my new goal.

Q: Who are your favorite film or stage actors? European or American.

I love so many .. but I'll say, I love Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock - she is amazing, but of course I like many more...I love Christian Bale, Jack Nicholson.

Q: Do you have a favorite movie? Which? Why do you like it?

OMG .. I have so many favorite movies.. as far as comedy I love Mean Girls.. it's so funny and the writing is excellent; for a more serious but cool movie I love The Family Stones.. what a great movie.. About Family is a great movie.. and of course, Broke Back Mountain .. what a master piece!

Q: Tell me about your bodybuilding and modeling.

I started working out when I was 14, when I started doing kick boxing.. I love working out.. of course it maybe gives a wrong image of myself .. I am not that mean even if I look super tough and mean .. I am a real teddy bear.. as for modeling. I never thought I could take a picture when I was young .. if someone told me I will be a model when I was teenager I would have laughed so hard.. it still amazes me when people ask me to pose for them.. I guess I don't see what people see in me, which is a good thing.

Quentin Elias is definitely humble, but a go getter, nonetheless. Indeed, there's much pulchritude to admire when he's onstage, so don't miss him through April 18!
THE BLVD plays Thursdays through Sundays @ The Macha Theatre on Kings Road above Santa Monica Blvd in WeHo.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Interview with GRT's Artistic Director Ernest Figueroa

Artistic director Ernest Figueroa has been steadily making changes at Group Rep @ Lonny Chapman since he began the position September, 2009. “Ernest’s intent is to keep Lonny’s legacy alive while moving the membership of the theater forward with new and innovative ideas,” said Janet Wood, newly elected Board President. “With his vast theater experience as a producer, director, playwright and actor, Ernest has both a strong artistic sensibility and solid business savvy. In addition, he epitomizes an exciting energy and direction for our theater. Already, everything is moving forward at a fast clip, with a new board, a new season, new ideas and untold possibilities.” It is a rebirth of sorts for the 36 year-old theater company.
In our interview he talks about the changes and their overall effect on the progress of the company.

Q: What has been your greatest challenge in reshaping GRT?
I think the greatest challenges for The Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre this season have been the same challenges facing every theatre, finding and reaching our audience and updating our infrastructure to explore new media. With papers and other traditional marketing tools going by the wayside, it is imperative to position the theatre to take full advantage of social networking. It's all about the audience. Otherwise, why do what we do?

Q: Tell me about your vision for upcoming shows, particularly those with an emphasis on women.
Currently our Actors Company has more men than women. We also know that women comprise the greater part of the theater going audience.

I have felt a strong obligation to give our company members the opportunities to explore themes and characters to which they can relate. This is also why I have chosen such multi-generational pieces to showcase some of our older actors as well as the younger ones.

Plays written about and by women are still strangely few and far between. Many women's roles written by men are strong, but still the majority of plays are male dominant. I love AR Gurney and feel strongly that he belongs on our stage. He is also very balanced when he writes women's roles.

Sweet Sue (opening March 19) explores many of today's themes. For a long time, drama has dealt with the male mid-life crisis… Death of a Salesman being the most famous, but few plays have explored the angst or passions of women of a certain age. Sweet Sue is not only funny, but honest in its depiction of the ongoing struggle we all have to define ourselves. Is Susan a wife, a mother, an artist, or lover? She is all these things.

Sweet Sue also explores the themes of love and lust, men and women, older generation and the younger generation, what A.R. Gurney calls the "tragic gap." This is something I think is of great interest to our audiences and our membership. Our future offerings will also try to explore these universal themes and try to bridge that "tragic gap".

We are also excited about the play we have picked for the Group Rep summer musical - Maltby and Shire's BABY. We are so excited we have decided to offer it as our NEXT production instead of waiting until mid-summer. Although this is a change from what was previously announced, BABY is such a charming and fun musical we feel it has the potential to last all summer and is a topic to which many people of all ages can relate to. Three couples explore their relationships in light of their newly expectant parenthood. It is light, charming and poignant.

Q: And the rest of this season?
I had really hoped to launch a new play this season and I do feel that The Redemption of Mrs. Satan by Julie Daniels will be a great show. But the play might be better suited for a charged election season like next November since the play deals with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States. Historical dramas are wonderful to produce, and this one is great exploration of women's themes. I hope we can see it come to our stage sooner rather than later.

What has been exciting as well has been the sudden flurry of activity within our own company. Two company generated projects, A Walk in the Woods and String of Pearls were so excellently presented as company projects that we hope to include them on our stage soon. The freedom that has developed in the Company to create wonderful art has been inspiring and I am sure it will continue.

Q: Anything else you care to add?
It has been inspiring to see the devotion and creativity which is continually demonstrated by our company and I'm looking forward to the summer and especially creating our next season.

Sunday, March 21st, at 7:00 p.m., the Group Rep will hold a Bingo Fundraiser at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood to raise money with proceeds going towards refurbishing the Lonny Chapman Theatre’s ninety vintage theatre seats.

Bingo festivities begin at 7:00 p.m. The evening includes Bingo Games with fabulous prize packages for winner and auction items including tickets to The Broad Stage, The Colony Theatre, Crown City Theatre, the Group Rep, & the Laugh Factory; Dinners at Morton’s Steakhouse, Eclectic, Cheesecake Factory, and Maggione’s; Gift certificates/giftcards to: Beverly Hills Cheese Store, Bodies in Motion Studio City, Golfsmith, Dr. Jay Silverman (Eye Dr./Beverly Hills), Hypnotherapy Session with Barbara Brownell Cht., and more!
The suggested donation for the event is $20, which includes 10 rounds of bingo.
Donations are tax-deductible.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 8288 Santa Monica Blvd at Sweetzer in West Hollywood.
Valet Parking is available. Some street parking available. Please read posted signs.
For more information please call (818) 700-4878.
Upcoming as well:
The Group Rep Presents
YARMY’S ARMY One Night Only Fundraiser Event
Wednesday, April 21 at 7:30 pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Blvd. North Hollywood 91601
http://www.thegrouprep.com/ or (323) 822-7898

Performers will include as available: Shelley Berman, Sam Denoff, Pat Harrington, Jr., Steve Landesberg, Jim MacGeorge, Peter Marshall, Jack Riley, Howard Storm, and Jonathan Winters among others.
The group of comedians is named after the late actor-comic Dick Yarmy (brother of Don Adams) and was formed by his comedian pals in 1995 to honor him and to raise money for performers who may have need of financial help. The group is donating their time and talent for this very special Group Rep Fundraiser.

Lonny Chapman Theatre 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood 91601
Lot & Street parking
Wednesday, April 21 7:30 pm Reception to follow
Tickets are $30.
Seating is very limited!!!
Pre-purchasing tickets is recommended
http://www.thegrouprep.com/ .
For information please call 323-822-7898

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview with Director David Lee

(CanCan @ the Pasadena Playhouse)

In our interview, he talks about the Reprise Theatre Company, his direction of their upcoming A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and other theatrical favorites.

Q: I loved your production of Camelot. Was the staging based purely on economics, or did you have other reasons for scaling it down?

DL: Not at all based on economics. I fell in love with the show because of the score but always seemed to be disappointed in it when I saw it--and I saw several incarnations. I always wondered why it always seemed like such a slog to get through despite that score and what at its core is a great story. And I was not alone.As I studied it, it seemed like there was just a lot of extra "stuff". Well intentioned and well written stuff, but nevertheless extra, that made one lose track of the emotional thru line. Even though CAMELOT has big ideas it basically is about the relationship of three people. So just for fun I went through and eliminated everything that didn't directly relate to that core story. What I had left was the same emotionally strong, beautifully written story, a lot shorter show, and room for songs often left out. The discovery that it could be told by only eight actors on a minimal set was a found opportunity. From there it was all theatrical fun figuring out exactly how to do that. I think if my initial goal was to find a cheap way to do CAMELOT I would not have found the piece I ended up with. That it now happens to be economically more feasible for a lot of theaters-is a nice side effect, though.

Q: Can you give away any surprises about your staging of A Funny Thing...?

DL: I am using the book from the 1973 revival (the one with Phil Silvers,directed by Shevelove) , so it will include the song Sondheim wrote for Nancy Walker in that version, "Farewell", and "The Echo Song" , which is usually not heard.

Q: What is the favorite show you've directed so far?

DL: CAN CAN, which I also co-authored a new book for, was a blast. Did it at the Pasadena Playhouse a couple of years ago, and now a national tour is in the works. Loved my "CAMELITTLE" too.

Q: Any show you really want to helm that you haven't yet?

DL: The show where I have a workshop and then eight weeks of rehearsal and a month of previews.

Q: I also loved Do I Hear a Waltz? Hardly ever done. Talk a little about that show.

DL: Like CAMELOT, I had fallen in love with this show because of its score. I had heard, as many had, of the animosity between its authors during production, and because each of them (Sondheim, Rogers, and Laurents) had spoken of their experience with such vitriol, I assumed the show was no good. Then I finally sat down and read it. I thought it was terrific but needed a few tweaks. Just about that time I heard that Laurents and David Saint had done a rewritten version at the George St. Playhouse. I got the script, thought they had totally fixed it, and did it. It's a lovely little show. We did a nice recording of it too which is still available I believe.

Q: Talk briefly about the challenges of doing stage versus film or TV!

DL: In TV you have an idea in January, pitch it in February, write it in March, film it in April and it's on the air that fall. Do you have an example of anything in the theater that has moved faster than molasses in winter?

Q: What is your favorite musical show of all time? Why?

DL: I think SWEENEY TODD is a masterpiece. Not a wasted word or note. About big themes and little people.

Q: You seem to prefer directing musicals to straight plays. Any particular reason?

DL: I always find myself at some point when I direct a play asking "Where's the orchestra?" I like the extra excitement music brings to the theater.

Q: Talk about working with Reprise!

DL: I'm so thrilled I have Reprise as a home base. Not that FORUM fits in this category, but I do tend to like what I call "orphan" shows. Shows that are lacking a bit of attention because they are not perfect or may be a bit too old. Reprise is one of a couple of places that lets me revisit those shows for better or worse. And that's a treasure to have.

@ The Freud Playhouse at UCLA conveniently located in Macgowan Hall
March 16 to 28, 2010 (Press Opening: March 17)
Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm & 7:00pm
UCLA Central Ticket Office: 310/825-2101 March 16 (preview) $60.00; Opening night - $75.00; Tuesday through Thursday Evenings - $70.00; Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, (all performances) - $75.00. Student/Senior rush $20, 15 minutes before showtime (subject to availability).
More Info: www.reprise.org