Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Interview with Chris Verdugo and Joe Nadeau of GMCLA

Chris Verdugo

Executive director Chris Verdugo and artistic director/conductor Joe Nadeau of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) are busy these days getting ready for the big holiday concert to take place this weekend Saturday December 13 at 3 pm and 8 pm and Sunday December 14 at 3 pm at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.

What is new about this year's concert in comparison to those of past years?

GMCLA's Holiday Spectacular: A Gleeful Celebration is drawn from two main inspirations:  The TV Show GLEE  (which is currently in it's final season) and music that has been performed by men's glee clubs over the years.  When looking at the potential list of songs for this concert there were hundreds of selections to choose from.  From this extensive list we created a concert that is fun, artistic, challenging, exciting, entertaining, and spectacular. This year there are more costumes and more flesh than in year’s past and possibly the funniest second act we’ve ever had in a Holiday Show. 

Is there a happy balance between upbeat popular music and traditional carols?

Very much! Each year GMCLA pulls out all the stops for our Holiday Spectacular - and our audience expect nothing less.  For A Gleeful Celebration we will be singing traditional holiday favorites, new and exotic selections from around the world, pop hits, delightful surprises, hilarious spoofs with a fabulous cast of characters.  

Tell me more specifically about the comedy in the show.

We end the first half of the concert with a song called "Heavy Christmas".  This is a big medley of famous "heavy" hits from classical music with a gay holiday twist.  This one song will include appearances from Santa and his (ahem, sexy) reindeer,  elves, and toy soldiers. The second half features a show-stopping all-male version of the Nativity - with Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men, and a heavenly host of angels to bring it all home. 

What is planned for 2015? Any special guest stars on tap in the year ahead?

Our Holiday Spectacular is just the first performance in GMCLA's 36th Season. In February, GMCLA will collaborate with the amazing string quartet - Well Strung to present a special concert we are calling Heartstrings. This concert will showcase the LA premiere of a new commissioned work called "Tyler's Suite", showcasing the life and legacy of Tyler Clementi.  We also have GMCLA Goes Down Under in March and Vegas Baby in June and are currently in negotiations with some exciting guest artists.  

How has the chorus been doing over the past year in its attempt to bring different members of the community closer together? 

Over the past several years, we’ve seen an influx of younger members auditioning and making it into the chorus. This wonderful occurrence has created a truly intergenerational membership within the chorus that is mirrored in the make up of our audiences.  Never before have we had so many young people attending our season shows. And through the work of our it gets better tour, we are traveling to cities across the country, engaging in conversations about bullying while bridging the gaps that exist in those communities so they can work toward the shared goal of keeping their youth safe, alive and prospering.  

The chorus is in a great place and we continue to move upward with the new concerts this February and an expansion of our it gets better tour through California.  We’re truly changing hearts and minds in all corners of the world.  
Dr. Joseph Nadeau
For tickets go to:

  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Interview with Charles Edwards

Actor Charles Edwards, known for his roles in Batman Returns and Downton Abbey, will appear in Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury at the Ahmanson opening December 14. In our conversation he talks about the play, working with Miss Lansbury and other highlights of his career so far.



I read that one of your first appearances on stage was in Blithe Spirit. What part did you play then?

I played the role I’m playing now - Charles. It was my first theatre job and I was way too young for the part but it was at a beautiful rep theatre in Yorkshire, the Harrogate Theatre, that used to hire people straight out of drama school to gain experience. We were really cheap to hire, too, which perhaps had some bearing on it.

How does it feel to return to the play? 

It’s about 20 years since I first played the role so I don’t really have much recollection of it. I remember being terrified because it’s a large role and I felt very responsible. That hasn’t altered much.

Have you been with this production since Broadway or have you recently stepped in?

The Broadway production was sort of remounted and remodelled for London, but Angela and Simon Jones were the only two cast members who remained. I joined in London where we played earlier this year, and now for this new production we have an amalgam of the two previous ones, with members of both the Broadway and London casts involved, but with a brand new Ruth, Charlotte Parry. The joining together of the various strands has created a unique fresh energy that is very exciting to be part of. 

What is it like to tread the boards every evening with Dame Angela Lansbury? Talk a bit about her as an actress and costar.

Talking of energy. She totally owns the role and has made it completely her own; she says it’s the best role she’s ever had. We’ve got her at her absolute prime. She’s played it many times now and won a Tony for it. What I love about seeing her play the role is that her Englishness comes absolutely to the fore, which perhaps for people more used to seeing her in American theatre and TV will be a fresh experience. She uses a voice for Madame Arcati that is the English of her childhood, the kind of accent that you only ever hear in old black-and-white movies. It’s a beautifully observed performance, full of rich detail and delicately executed comedy. A real treat to watch, you’ve got to see her.


Which Shakespearean role is your favorite? Why?

I had a terrific time with Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Many people who’ve worked at the Globe say the same thing which has sort of become clich├ęd so forgive me, but the plays that were written for that theatre make total sense in performance there. A role like Benedick, where you are literally conversing with the crowd, is a lot of fun. The Globe is a wonderful place to be. Even when it rains.

Tell me about The 39 Steps. You premiered in it in London and then in the US, correct? What an achievement for an actor to play all of these roles! It is  so physically demanding as well as emotional. How do you feel about this role and the play?

I’m very proud of The 39 Steps. I played Richard Hannay first at the brilliant Tricycle Theatre in London, then into the West End, then to the Huntington in Boston, then for Roundabout at the American Airlines, and then to the Cort. It’s still on in London at the Criterion. My giant face still looms over Piccadilly Circus. It’s a production that required and continues to require a lot of work and care from everyone involved, from its inception to current performance. Anyone in it will tell you it’s exhausting, but very satisfying when it’s done right. I did 2 years in all.

Tell me about Downton Abbey and your role in it. How do you account for its tremendous success in the US?

The Downton Effect. I don’t think anyone quite knows its secret, least of all Julian Fellowes who has often said so. I suspect at its core it’s something to do with the two faces of society - the social veneer above, coupled with the grime and the cogs below that keep the veneer intact. People like to peek behind green baize doors. I play Michael Gregson, Lady Edith’s lover who is currently in Germany, trying to get a divorce from his lunatic wife so he can marry Edith.

Do you have a dream role? By that I mean one that you are yearning to essay. Why this particular one?

When I was younger I always found myself being much more interested in roles that would come later in life. Young lovers and confident heroes have never held much appeal and as a result I was never very good at them. Flawed people whom life has chipped away at are more satisfying to play. George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is something I would love to do one day because the role exemplifies those elements.

What do you think makes Noel Coward plays as timeless as they are? Talk about his wit and how your character in Blithe Spirit contributes to the humor.

The humor in Blithe Spirit is maybe a little different to what you’d imagine from a Coward play, although that’s not to imply that he only ever churned out a particular brand of humor. His style and wit are of course intact as they always are, but this play is very much a farce as well as being a pretty tart observation on sexual satisfaction versus solidity and comfort in a relationship, and whether a balance of the two is ever possible. That’s a question that has never gone away, and never will.


Don't miss Charles Edwards in Blithe Spirit, which begins previews Tuesday December 9 with official opening set for Sunday December 14!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

2004 Interview with Ellen Greene

Ellen Greene has just released Songs for a Winter's Night, her second solo album, featuring mostly Christmas music. It has taken her 10 years since her first solo album In His Eyes.
This is a wonderful collection from this premiere artiste who can still sing at the top of her craft.
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From 2004:

A singer's singer Ellen Greene was about to launch her brilliant new album In His Eyes in 2004 when the following interview took place for reviewplays.com

Why has it taken you so long to record a solo album?

I did an album as a youngster when I was 21. We worked on ii for a bout a year and a half. It was beautiful. On it was "Never Never Land", "Nights in White Satin", "This Amazing Thing"...it was for Atlantic...and when it was almost finished, I was told that it was not going to be released. I was so in denial, how much that hurt, because I loved recording it. Every time I would record for a show...I always loved recording and making movies, because you're only with artists. Not that I don't love stage and all that, but when you're just around artists, it's all about the creation. There's no response, there's no reward; the reward is the creating part. It's a collaborative thing.
After what happened, for many years I didn't own up to how badly I wanted to record. I've never thought of myself as a singer, but an actress.

You're a terrific one and that's what makes your singing come alive!

Thank you. There are also many other reasons I stopped singing. At Peter Allen's memorial, my friend Don Palladino was out in the audience, and I was singing "Love Don't Need a Reason", and I looked at him and I just knew he was next, and both of us knew. My heart just went into my throat, and I said, "I cannot do one more memorial for someone I love, and I don't want to sing again. "I'll sing for a show, but singing...me, portraying myself, I don't lie...and my heart was broken. When I started singing again with Christian (Klikovits), I realized how much I missed doing it, and he so admired my work, he made me realize that I've always wanted to do an album and was in denial about it. There are so many singers that are better technicians than I, but...

You put your soul into it. And on In His Eyes your voice manages to capture so many different stylings, it's amaItaliczing!

They're really great songs, aren't they? I love the writers I've chosen. They, in my mind, do the songs best. I hope that I add to the renditions. I let you see their words in another way. I'm so very proud of this album.

As well you should be. Let's go back a bit. Now that Little Shop of Horrors is a great big stage hit all over again, and Audrey is in demand, does that part of your life come back to haunt you? How fond of her are you?

I love Howard Ashman. I miss him desperately. That was 5 years of my life. If someone could love a character I've done...means I loved it first. I loved her. She was a sweet brunette on the page. It was one of those times...it happened in my life a few times like In His Eyes and Side Man, the play I just finished at the Malibu Stage...I get on a creative roll and I create something that's beyond me. Certain things happen; it clicks. For Audrey: the voice, the look, the clothes, the hair, the makeup...round enough to fall off the tree like a peach...Howard and I wrote some lines for her; we were very, very close. I knew things instinctually. I'm proud of her. I made her from the ground up. I thought she should be created in the land of Little Shop. Anything that was a little campy got taken out of the script. When I went to say the lines, the voice just came out of me naturally. I felt that she would be dressed-up. What she thought was in good taste, obviously was a little off. I wanted her in high heels, because I wanted her teetering. Just when you got to laugh, she makes you cry. Just when you're about to cry, she makes you laugh. I thought the power of her insides should come out when she sang. That's her inner life, and her outer life...I bought a wig, we cut it into a bob with a duck back. I remember Carol Channing coming to one of the shows and wanting my wig. When we auditioned for replacements, I said, "This character doesn't have to be a blonde. She doesn't have to be dressed like this." I'm proud that everyone loves my take on it, but to me, the key to Audrey is her innocence, her sweetness and how she views people.

Getting back to the new CD, one of my favorite songs is T. Amos' "Winter"!

Isn't it beautiful and aren't you touched? I remember the first time Christian said he wanted to have a tribal feel in that moment where it's the opening up realization that life is going by, and if you don't do something about your dreams and make them a reality and start to love who you are as yourself, then you will not be able to embrace any of those dreams. Who you are is the immense magic. It's a very hard thing for all of us to accept ourselves at all the different stages - the horrible side, the wonderful side, the adorable side - and who you are as a grownup. And then to bring what you learned as a child to that grownup: that is the magic of creativity. That song says so much to me.
to purchase In His Eyes, visit
www.ellengreene.com
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Visit CD baby to buy digital or CD copies of Songs for a Winter's Night.
www.cdbaby.com