Sunday, June 26, 2011

Interviews with Wildfire's Denise Crosby and Jamie Rose

The world premiere presentation of REVISITING WILDFIRE, written by Kari Floren and directed by Eve Brandstein, will play a limited 4-week engagement as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. Performances begin Friday, July 8 and continue through Sunday, July 31, 2011. 

Presented by Right Down Broadway Productions, REVISITING WILDFIRE stars Denise Crosby and Jamie Rose. Crosby is best known as Lt. Tasha Yar on Star Trek, The Next Generation, and Rose as Vicki Gioberti on Falcon Crest. I interviewed both actresses about the new play.
Denise Crosby (Pam) created the role of Lt. Tasha Yar on one of the most popular TV series ever, Star Trek, The Next Generation. Denise co-starred alongside Fisher Stevens and Jennifer Tilly in the Fox series Key West and played recurring roles on the acclaimed series NYPD Blue, The X-Files, Mad Men and Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman. She has guest starred in numerous TV series, most recently, Law and Order:LA, Dexter and Bones. Denise made her film debut in 48 Hours and went on to work with Blake Edwards on The Man Who Loved Women and Skin Deep. Other film credits include Pet Semetary, Jackie Brown and Deep Impact, and such indie films as Miracle Mile and The Red Shoe Diaries. Denise’s extensive stage work includes Last Summer At Bluefish Cove (Ovation nomination for Best Actress), Tamara (title role), Stops Along the Way, Epitaph for George Dillon, Beggars in the House of Plenty and most recently the L.A. Drama Desk Award nominee for Best Revival, Orpheus Descending.
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Tell me about the play and its challenges.

It's been a very long time since I have done an original piece of work. That is always thrilling and challenging. It has its own obstacles. You're breathing life into a character that's never lived before. You've got a lump of clay in front of you. Fortunately, we have a writer who is open and willing to try things, and very interested in the best outcome possible for her baby.

What is your character like?

Pam is a woman who very much started her life by moving to New York at 18, jumping into the scene in the West Village; she was a journalism student at NYU, an aspiring writer, very creative. She and Theresa (Jamie Rose) are soul-sister friends. We've gone through everything together, have had the same passions, have had that real girl friendship that only women know about. There came a fork in the road, I married and went to Cleveland; I went right and Theresa went left. However, we still maintained our deep love for each other, as our lives went in very different directions. So the story is about them at this point in their life where they're both having their own sort of change and crisis. It's not unlike what women experience right about hitting 50. It's a re-examination: are they living the authentic life that they hoped they would be?

What are the playwright's expectations?

I think she wants this play to touch you in an emotional way that you realize how much friendship can contain. They didn't tolerate certain boundaries. If it's true, it's true. It's OK to be vulnerable and to really need one another. We often view that as a weakened condition. Especially my generation of women. We've grown up under can have it all...kind of expression. We kind of expect have it all. What does that mean? It's a very tough one. You find yourself hitting some walls, and you feel like a failure. You need to cut yourself a break here.

Is there a favorite role you've played over the years?

In the theatre, there are some deep, resonant parts for women. But I certainly have enjoyed playing certain television roles. One of my favorites was in a short-lived series on Fox called Key West. I played the mayor; the show was so far ahead of its time. She was a wonderful character, challenged, conservative in a free-for-all kind of place. She was struggling with alcoholism...and at the same time incredibly funny. I like characters that don't have it all together, who are vulnerable and have some obstacles to overcome.

Jamie Rose (Theresa) made her professional acting debut at age six portraying Little Girl #2 in the TV series Green Acres, where she appeared alongside television luminary Arnold The Pig. Since then, she has worked extensively in theater, television and film. Her many TV appearances include starring roles in the series Falcon Crest and Lady Blue, recurring characters on St. Elsewhere and Chicago Hope, and numerous guest star roles. Favorite film credits include Tightrope with Clint Eastwood, and Chopper Chicks In Zombie Town with Billy Bob Thorton. Recent TV credits include guest stars on House MD, ER, and Two and a Half Men. Favorite theater credits include: Room Service at the Pasadena Playhouse, Detachments at the Tiffany, Shim Chong at the Getty Center, Sunrise In My Pocket at Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill N.C., It’s Just Sex at the Two Roads Theatre in Studio City, and Hercules Furens at the Getty Villa in Malibu. Also an author, Jamie’s memoir/self-help book titled Shut Up and Dance! about her experiences learning the Argentine tango and how they affected her relationship with her husband is being released September 15th 2011 by Tarcher/Penguin.
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Tell me about the play and its challenges.

To keep it all kind of succinct, what attracted me to this material was that this woman is turning 52 and I'm turning 52...

You don't look it!

Thank you very much. Victor Hugo said, "Fifty is the old age of youth and the youth of old age". It's so true. I still have youthfulness, and I thank you for the compliment...but old age is in sight. With the time left, what do you want to do with it? My life has changed in an incredibly remarkable way. I have my first book coming out in September. Writing was something I came to later in life. And then in was written for me by my friend John Putch...a movie, a comedy...and I've never had the chance to do a lot of comedy. I got kind of pigeon-holed into the one-hour drama mode. I play a very goofy, funny kind of person in this movie. And then I had a chance to do some classical theatre, which I love, but never do, and now this play was offered, so this year has been my full personal expression. And that's the theme of this play. This person I play has spent her life doing one thing. She started as a driven artist in fashion design, but instead got involved in a lot of big money. She didn't really completely sell her soul, but she comes to the point where she says "This is the youth of my old age and what do I want to do with the rest of it?" I was experiencing the same thing in my own life. Someone asks "Who are you doing this play for? Who needs to hear it" My answer is "I need to hear it." When I approach the journey of my character, it's: What is she going to try to discover that I, Jamie Rose, also need to discover? Our journeys are very similar, and that's what attracted me to the part of Theresa. And I also get to be funny. Please God, let them laugh! One of my idols in theatre is Laurie Metcalf. Her comedy one can touch her. I just keep praying to my altar of Laurie Metcalf in playing this character. I'm trying to conjure her spirit, even though she's still alive. (we laugh) I get to do some crazy, zany stuff.

Is this the playwright's message, about the youth of old age?

It's about understanding that 50 is not the end of your life. It's the beginning of perhaps a second life. You can really recreate your life into whatever you want it to be, but it's up to you to do it. I think it resonates with men too, but especially with women past menopause, who can no longer bear children and create another life. Instead it's about ... creating another life that maybe I can hold within my own ... Oh my God, how poetic was that! (we both laugh boisterously)

Tickets for REVISITING WILDFIRE, which range in price from $20-$30, are available online at or by calling the Odyssey Theatre Box Office at 310-477-2055. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. in West Los Angeles.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Old Interview with Barbara Minkus (2005)

Actress/singer Barbara Minkus is a charmer on and off stage. Currently 
treading the boards as Jennie Grossinger in the world premiere musical 
Saturday Night at Grossinger’s at Theatre West, Minkus delivers a 
star-making performance. She also happens to be a delightful lady 
who entertained me with a plethora of amusing stories throughout our chat.

My father owned a department store in Chicago – Leslie’s Department 
Store on Armitage Avenue – and my mother was his biggest shoplifter. 
She had a room in our house, which she called the secret gift room, 
because she had half of his inventory there. Whenever he couldn’t find 
the right size in the store, he would call my mother and ask her if she
had it. And then I learned that it’s not right to cheat dad (she laughs, 
practically in tears) …but I was never arrested. (continues laughing)

That’s so funny. Tell me how the Grossinger project came your 
way. Wasn’t there another show about Grossinger’s a few years 

A big Grossinger’s. This show was originally in a very big form with 
20 people at Casa Manana Playhouse in Texas. I suggested to the 
writers, who were my friends, to do a smaller version because they 
couldn’t sell such a big production. Smaller shows are more economical. 
When they finished it, I was involved in Picon Pie. I saw the non-equity 
production in Long Island, and it’s gone through even more changes 
since then too. I was able to get a production at Theatre West, 
because I’ve been a member here for 25 years. I was thrilled to be 
able to do it here, but I first had to finish my contracted obligation in 
New York with Picon Pie.
Now…there have been many twists and turns to this whole story. 
One of the writers of the show is Rita Lakin. When I first met her, 
she was doing the NBC soap The Doctors. I was 17 years old, 
in my first show in New York – You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. 
She sublet my apartment in New York because I was coming out here 
to do The Danny Kaye Show. She saw me in Charlie Brown and told 
me I was an incredible talent and that she wanted to do something to 
 help me. I said, "Sure, sure, sure…just sublet my apartment." Many, 
 many years went by. I did many shows in New York and she was out 
here writing for television, but we kept in touch. In fact, she recommen-
ded me to the woman who wrote Picon Pie: Rose Leiman Goldemberg. 
I had left the business several years earlier while my kids were growing 
up, so Picon Pie was the second show I did after my return. And then 
when Grossinger’s came along, she said, "Let me know when you’re 
ready for this, ‘cause you’re Jennie Grossinger." Want to hear another 

Sure. I’m loving every second of this.

When I presented this show to Theatre West to do here, the chairman 
of the board was the producer who hired me years before on Love, 
American Style – Arnold Margolin.

Everything comes around again.

By the way, of the writers of Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, only one 
is still alive: Stephen Cole. I was very fortunate to meet Claibe 
Richardson before he passed away. He gave his go ahead for me to do 
the role. I was so honored because he was a very famous composer. 
I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see him. The same thing 
happened with Doris Silverton who was Rita’s partner – they conceived 
the show. It’s very special for me that I was able to have that connection 
with those people.

Did you ever meet any of the Grossingers?

I got involved in meeting the existing Grossinger family. And here’s the 
funny thing – Jennie Grossinger’s great, great niece lives here. And she 
was my children’s kindergarten teacher. Really. And she had the This Is 
Your Life, Jennie Grossinger" recording with Ralph Edwards that’s used 
in the show.

Talk about six degrees of separation! How long were you away 
from performing?

I didn’t work for over 20 years.

But your voice is phenomenal. You must have kept up your singing.

I’ve always taken singing lessons with my cantor Nate Lam, who’s a won-
derful teacher.

Do you feel that you are somewhat like Jennie Grossinger?

(She laughs) To tell you the truth, I think I am because she was a real 
go-getter. She was a dynamo. She was little (like me). She had a 
vision and she went for it. I had a vision with Picon Pie. I researched it, 
I went for it, and I did it. (It’s still running off-Broadway.) I had a 
vision for this show too. I brought it to these people and they did it - 
with no money up front. I raised with June Sattler (a great producer) 
over $25,000, just on pre-sales: going to seniors and groups, talking 
about the show. I made an arrangement with Grossinger’s, I sang it, 
and I went down to Florida. I think that’s the way Jennie Grossinger 
was - a hustler. I got the tuxedos for free, the food for opening night.
I think what’s happened in the world is that people need to help other 
 people. Jennie Grossinger in her time was that way. She was the first 
person to open up a hotel that wasn’t segregated. Everybody was 
welcome. She was the first woman to bring in star entertainment. 
This was long before Las Vegas. She was an innovator. They had 
an airstrip for famous people to fly in, but she treated everyone like 
they were important. They were all equal. It was a wonderful quality, 
and if I have it like her, I’m honored.

Saturday Night at Grossinger’s continues on at Theatre West on 
Thurs, Fri and Sat@8pm and Sun @2pm through May 15.  
Extended through July 31.  It should have a future. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview with Debby Boone

Triple Grammy Award winner Debby Boone will appear at the Welk Resort in Escondido from June 22 to 25. In 1977 she skyrocketed to fame with "You Light Up My Life" and has never stopped recording since. In the 80s it was gospel and Broadway into the 90s and more recently Reflections of Rosemary, a CD that honors her late mother-in-law all time great singer Rosemary Clooney. Boone has had a varied career, running the gamut from country to Christian to pop - Broadway and standards - and will soon record a Big Band Swing album. In our chat, this talented gal talks about her music and her childrens' books, which she wrote with her husband illustrator, Gabriel Ferrer. 

What is in the show? Primarily songs from your CD Reflections of Rosemary?

That's the focus. I've been out doing it around the country. It's definitely a tribute to my mother-in-law, and I am using a lot of the songs from the CD, but a lot of other things too-on topic but not on the CD. Then we sidetrack a little; it's a well-rounded show.

You're including "You Light Up My Life"?

I think people would be really upset with me if they came to my show and I left that one out. (we laugh)

Tell me what it was like growing up with your dad (Pat Boone) and your mom (Shirley Foley, daughter of Red Foley) and singing as a little girl. You were exposed to such a mix of pop and country music.

I don't know that it's been strategically planned, but the variety has been wonderful. Being in a musical family was the greatest, because I was exposed to wonderful music from as far back as I can remember...and primarily from my mother, because she was in a musical family and loved tight harmonies. As soon as any of us could talk, we were learning four/five part harmony. And traveling around with my dad and seeing him do what he did, going to Vegas and seeing his show, his peers and their shows. It was exciting and wonderful and yet all at the same time I had a really normal home life, a family life that was completely set apart from show business. I had the best of both worlds.

That is unusual. Many performers do not have a family life growing up. You were so lucky.

Exactly right. I'm very fortunate.

And you credit the country side of your career to the influence of your maternal grandfather Red Foley. Tell us about that!

Right, right. It was more natural for me (to sing country) than I even anticipated. I've been having so much fun. I've incorporated some of his music into my Rosemary show. I talk in the show and in the liner notes of the CD that Rosemary and Red Foley had the opportunity to share the same stage, and I have a picture of it in my front hallway... at the Grand Ole Opry, when she recorded "Half As Much", a Hank Williams tune. They had a strong connection. Coming from Maysville, Kentucky she came into contact with a lot of country music. It's kind of a genetic thing for me too when I started to incorporate a few Red Foley things into my show. It just felt so absolutely part of who I am.

What are some of those songs?

I do a huge hit of his called "Tennessee Saturday Night", and I recently added what another huge hit for him and Elvis Presley, "Peace in the Valley".

After your success with country, you segued into gospel in the early 80s, correct?

That's probably a fair estimate of what happened. I was raised in a Christian family, and that's always been an important part of my life. And because I had had success not only with "You Light Up My Life" in the pop field, I had also recorded with my sisters in the contemporary Christian marketplace. A couple of companies approached me about doing some Christian themed music, which I was excited to do. I never looked at it as a career move or career change. I never saw myself leaving secular music, but it kind of looked like that because the music industry was changing rapidly. My music and my image became not that appealing for the programmers of Top 40 stations. Music was changing, and I wasn't getting much air play there. But I was getting a lot of air play on the contemporary Christian stations, and I went out on the road and did tours of that music. I never gave up one for the other; it just evolved that way.

I read somewhere that when you had such tremendous success with "You Light Up My Life" and after they made a movie with the same title, calling the song romantic... you said it was not romantic for you, but you sang it to God. Is that right?

That is the truth. I never did it with any agenda, like "I want people to know this" or that I somehow wanted to evangelize the world with it (she laughs) or anything like that. It was my private interpretation. I never thought the song was going to be a hit. I was just excited somebody wanted me to go into the studio and record it.  So when it did become a massive hit, people started to ask me "Who were you singing to?" I never expected to answer that question, but when it was there, rather than make up some story...the truth was the lyrics lent themselves to a prayer-like quality, and that was my interpretation.

You also did Broadway. You did the musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" on tour. How did all that come to be?

Some regional theatre did it before I got involved. My name got thrown in the hat as somebody who could star in that show. I was then approached about doing a summer stock tour and I had never done any musical theatre, and very little acting. It wasn't an audition; it was an offer, and I ended up having the time of my life. I was very well suited to it, which I had not anticipated. It was very successful, so several producers decided to do a big tour and take it into Broadway. Then the history did not bode well. (she laughs) We landed two weeks on Broadway. We had a very successful cross country tour for a year, and then we got killed in the New York Times so we were shut down. But I so don't regret it. Since then I've done many runs of The Sound of Music, Meet Me in St. Louis, South Pacific, Camelot...

What's your favorite of the shows you've done?

The King and I.


That show of all the ones I mentioned is so well constructed from beginning to end. I loved doing Sound of Music and playing against type as Rizzo in Grease, for the crazy kick of it, but there is something so incredibly beautiful in the arch of the character of Ana and how she evolved and what she learned . It's such a beautiful story with such a beautiful message. It has everything from beautiful costumes, dancing and cultural differences...the King grows and learns, and she grows and learns...everybody makes transformations in that show. It's a huge undertaking to do. When that show starts, from the time you set foot on the stage to the final bow, it's like riding a wave, it's so well written. You go with it.

And that Rodgers and Hammerstein score!


Let's go back to Reflections of Rosemary. When you recorded that in 2005, it was a few years after Rosemary Clooney passed. Why did you wait?

Everybody was too raw when she first died. It was too early. It was a rapid decline, and I'm glad for her that she didn't have to go through years of suffering. To tell the story, to sing the songs, I emotionally couldn't have done it any sooner. Bette Midler came out with one pretty quickly. (she laughs) Hers was of a completely different nature. It was exactly the right tone and only someone like Bette could have done that with a novelty record with a character song like "Mambo Italiano" and "C'Mon a My House". Mine of course is much more personal and intimate.
Rosemary Clooney

So it really was the perfect time for me. It came out just as my youngest daughter went off to college. It was the perfect time for me to hit the road and not feel like I was shirking responsibility or leaving somebody's needs unmet while I did it.

I heard a Big Band Swing album is in the works. Are you in  fact planning that?

I am, and I'm so excited. It's a show and a CD I'm working on simultaneously. Swing This. The basic idea of the show is the throwback to Las Vegas in the 60s with all the great swing music and the glamour and the fun of what it was like to go to Vegas in the glory days when The Rat Pack was there...glamour girl singers like Peggy Lee or Julie London...that kind of music, Louis Prima and Keeley Smith and the fun of the interplay with the band and the audience. I am having a blast!

When can we expect this show?

Even though I'm not finished with the CD or the planning for the show, I'm booked as early as October.

Wonderful! Summing up, what do you now consider your favorite genre of music? Is it what you're doing now?

I really do. I definitely am going into the studio one day and do a Red Foley tribute. Much more country than what I'm doing now but very much infused with a little bit of the jazz field. The arrangements I do now in my show are that, and they're working so beautifully. Musical director John Otto works with me on everything and a musical director will be working with me as well on the next show to make sure all the fat is cut out and everything is working the way it should work.

Tell me about your childrens' books. Your husband Gabriel Ferrer illustrated with you. Are you still writing those?

My kids were the inspiration. We took polaroids of them and that's where all the illustrations came from. Not husband created a few little baby characters, but the kids were pretty much the inspiration and as they got older, we stopped doing the books. When I become a grandmother, I hope we'll reintroduce ourselves to that. The old ones are out of print, but we're looking into buying back rights and reissuing them. Kids and what they love I don't think really changes from generation to generation as long as it's true and honest. Of course, some books are popular at one time and not another, but I think these books have a real ageless quality to them. I'm so proud of them.

Debby Boone is a very talented singer and wholesome human being that you do not want to miss in person. Remember her show will play the Welk Resort in Escondido June 22-25. Matinees every day at 1 pm preceded by a wonderful breakfast/lunch buffet in the Canyon Grille.
for tix and info