Monday, April 27, 2015

Great News: The Return of Deaf West's Spring Awakening to the Wallis Annenberg

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (“The Wallis”), Deaf West Theatre and Cody Lassen have announced Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning best musical, has a limited 22-performance engagement Thursday, May 21 to Sunday, June 7, 2015 in the Bram Goldsmith Theater. 

Deaf West Theatre Artistic Director David J. Kurs explains that their production illuminates the divide between deaf children and their hearing parents who do not share their world. “The play is all about the fraught relationship between parent and child, about navigating the world without strong guidance.  The inability of the characters in Spring Awakening to connect to and communicate with their parents is similar to the experience of many deaf children.” 

This innovative and acclaimed production, which enjoyed a sold-out engagement at downtown L.A.’s Rosenthal Theatre last fall, is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English, by a cast of 27.  An extraordinary creative team, including director Michael Arden, choreographer Spencer Liff, and musical director Jared Stein (first National Tour of Spring Awakening; Broadway productions of American Idiot and Hair), have reinvented the groundbreaking musical about lost innocence and the struggles of youth in true Deaf West style.

The Los Angeles Times said that Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening is “an emotional triumph,” and that “Awakening awakens us to the dormant possibilities of this musical, with all the goose-bumps and teardrops to prove it.”

Spring Awakening, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, is directed by Arden and choreographed by Liff.  Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play of the same name and featuring an electrifying pop/rock score, Spring Awakening follows the lives of a group of adolescents as they navigate their journey from adolescence to adulthood in a fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll. 

Arden,who plays Patrick on the FX series “Anger Management,” recently originated the title role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse and La Jolla Playhouse and previously appeared in Deaf West productions of Big River on Broadway and Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum. Liff is an Emmy-nominee for his work on FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and choreographed the current Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

F. Kathleen Foley said in The Los Angeles Times, “It's hard to enumerate all the ways in which Deaf West's Awakening is so very, very good.  The signing in this production does more than simply translate; it ennobles.”

“Spencer Liff's choreography incorporates signing and movement into perfectly coordinated sequences that seem completely organic to the narrative, while music director Jared Stein exploits the show's young singers to spine-tingling effect. Yet the real star of the evening is director Michael Arden, whose staging involves a mind-bogglingly intricate meld of the show's many disparate elements.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Interview with Young Reed Shannon

Actor Reed Shannon is currently on tour with Motown the Musical playing Young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In our chat he talks about preparing for these roles and his young theatre life so far.

Unbelievable! You are playing Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson when they were young like you. How difficult is it for you to differenciate between the 3 boys? What do you have to do physically and mentally to portray them? Did you watch tapes or listen to CDs to get the voices just right? I know Jackson performed young but I'm not sure about Little Stevie Wonder.

I have been playing the roles of Little Berry Gordy, Little Stevie Wonder, and Little Michael Jackson since April of 2014, which has been an awesome experience! I watched and still watch YouTube videos about each of these icons. I do not have videos of Mr. Gordy as a child, but I have spent some time with him and have read about him, and he has told me how Stevie and Michael were as kids. For the Stevie role I close my eyes and imagine not being able to see, and really use my sense of hearing every time I perform, and for the Michael Jackson role, I put myself in the mind set of auditioning as a younger child and really trying to show Mr. Gordy that I can perform for the whole world!

Did you know about these people before you became involved in this show? Had you heard Stevie Wonder sing? I'm sure you heard Michael Jackson. Talks about this.

I listened to young and older Michael Jackson before I was cast in Motown, and just a little bit of Stevie Wonder. Since landing the role, I have tried to listen to everything I can that each of them has written and produced! I believe their music has such a great message that if people take it in, it could change the world and help some of the problems in society.

What songs do you perform in Motown?

“Hey Joe (Black Like Me)”, “I Got the Feeling”,“Who’s Loving You”,“The Love You Save”,“ABC”
“I Want You Back”, and “I’ll Be There”.

How old are you? What is your experience onstage before Motown? Be specific!

Fourteen. I was trained to sing, act, and dance at NC Theatre Conservatory and my biggest roles were Gavroche in Les Miserables (regionally), and I was a work house boy in !Oliver, and also I performed as Sonny in In the Heights, and as the Youngest Tommy in The Who’s Tommy. I also had roles at my charter school in Peter Pan, School House Rock, and I was Mr. Bill the Candy Store owner and got to sing Candy Man (like Sammy Davis, Jr.), in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Which character is the hardest for you to play? Which is the easiest? Why?

The Stevie Wonder is the easiest to play, since there are just a few lines, and it is mostly acting, and the Little MJ role is the hardest, because there is so much precision dancing and singing at the same time.

Are you looking forward to playing LA? Are you from here or just visiting? Will you have time to see Disneyland while you are in town? I hope so.

I am from the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, and we are super excited to be in LA with Motown the Musical at the Pantages of Hollywood! This is really a highlight of our 14-15 months on this first national tour! I am not sure if I will go to Disneyland, because we only have Mondays off from the theatre, and I am going to visit high schools and will be exploring opportunities for my future in show business! I do look forward to seeing and experiencing as much of LA as possible!

How do you prepare before each show? Do you do something special before you go onstage besides vocal warmup?

I always try to get a 45 minute nap, then drink some tea with honey, get something healthy to eat like a salad, maybe play some jokes on my parents or cast mates, then put some good motivation music in my ears!

Tell me about working with this cast and crew. Do you all get along well?

Traveling around the country with Motown has really become a second family for me. Everyone is really professional and they have fun too! With me and Leon being the only two teenagers in the tour company, we learn a lot about life everyday…I really like to shadow the crew and management when I can during the four shows each week that I do not perform in.

Who is your favorite singer/dancer/performer of all time? Why?

Tori Kelly and Ariana Grande are two of my favorites, because I love their singing, their style, and they have very distinct personalities!

Are you schooling with a tutor while you are on the road? How do you like that? What is your favorite subject? Why?

Yes, I am an eighth grade home schooled student. I have an A average in the Calvert Education Curriculum. My cast mate and class mate is Leon Outlaw, Jr., in the seventh grade, and we have Ms. Melissa Waters, who is our traveling tour teacher and wrangler while the show is going on. My favorite subjects are history, and reading, and I am liking math a lot more too! It is so cool to be traveling all over America and seeing and experiencing some of the sites and subjects that I have been learning about in school.

Anything else you want to add?

Follow me on Instagram @ reed.shannon, visit, and like Reed Shannon on facebook!! I want everybody, people that have come to see Motown, my family, my community in North Carolina, my church, and the Motown company and creative team, to know how thankful I am for the encouragement and support they have given me over the past year and a half. Being in the cast of the first national tour of Motown the Musical has been a dream come true, and meeting and working with Mr. Berry Gordy, the casting agents, producers, the cast and crew has taught me so much that I will be able to use forever!

Catch  the amazingly talented Reed Shannon at the Pantages in Motown the Musical starting Tuesday April 28!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 Interview with Mary Jo Catlett

Everybody's favorite character actress/singer/ comedienne from stage, TV and film Mary Jo Catlett will appear in S.T.A.G.E on May 9 at 7: 30 pm at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. This year's show is entitled To Broadway from Hollywood...with Love.

What are you doing in the show this year?

I'm singing a Doris Day song "It's Magic".

How many shows have you done? Have you been with S.T.A.G.E. since its initiation?

Yes, I've been with S.T.A.G.E. from the start but missed a few along the way.

Talk a bit about David Galligan and how it is to work with him. You keep coming back, so he must be doing something right.

David and I don't always agree with the concept but the end result is worth it. He is one of my best friends.

Do you have a favorite show from the past? Which one? 

It's kind of a draw between the "high" lady ("Smokin Reefer") and those wild and crazy Nuns.

Oh, yes! I loved those nuns. Have you been doing your one-woman show as of late? Would love to see it here.

Nope. It's sort of in limbo.

Well, I hope you resurrect it. Is there a stage role that you performed that remains a favorite?

Many. I'd love especially to resurrect Something's Afoot. I also loved playing Ms. Tweed. (original) and also Mama Rose, but too long in the tooth now.

Any role you would love to play that you haven't?

Every actor has one or two of these; some passed me by. I would love to have played Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress; or mine would be Lady M in the Scottish play in an all Senior, hum? How old would Polonius have to be?? We'd wheel him behind the curtain!

Funny stuff! For you, what is the greatest highlight of doing a S.T.A.G.E. show?

I really love being a part of this show and laughing with Carole Cook and seeing Patricia Morison and the glorious Dale Kristien. I really think PBS is missing a bet in not televising it. It would also make a great documentary for an enterprising young film maker.

Don't miss the deliciously warm and amusing Mary Jo Catlett and a bevy of other celebrities including Greg Louganis in this year's S.T.A.G.E. on May 9 at the Saban Theatre! 

Louganis will take part in an extraordinary presentation of original costumes featured in classic Broadway productions. Acclaimed actress Susan Claassen, whose one-woman show “A Conversation with Edith Head” has won awards across the country, will narrate the costume cavalcade in character. Joining Louganis will be his husband Johnny Chaillot-Louganis, Broadway veterans Haviland Stillwell (“Les Miserable,” “Fiddler on the Roof”) and Craig Ramsay (“Mama Mia!,” “Bounce”) and his celebrity hairstylist/TV personality husband Brandon Liberati, TV stars Noah Bean (“12 Monkeys”), Lyndsy Fonseca (“Nikita”) and others. Florence Henderson will perform a Dan Mojica number in a tribute to the late choreographer, as well.

Stars of cinema, Broadway and television scheduled to also appear in the concert include: Obba Babatunde, Adrienne Baron, Susanne Blakeslee, Carole Cook, James Darren, Nancy Dussault, David Engel, Julie Garnye, Thea Gill, Jason Graae, Bill A. Jones, Sally Kellerman, Jon Maher, James C. Mulligan, Patricia Morison, Robert Morse, Scott Nevins, Kevin Odekirk, Jake Simpson, Sally Struthers, Donna Theodore, Leah Thompson, Lisa Vroman and Adam Wylie.

Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world. To date, STAGE has raised more than $5 million for HIV/AIDS organizations in the Southland. David Galligan has directed every production of STAGE and returns this year for the 31st time. Brad Ellis will make his first appearance as Musical Director.

For tickets and detailed information, visit:

Monday, April 6, 2015

news - James Darren

Actor/singer James Darren will appear in S.T.A.G.E. this year on May 9 at the Saban Theatre.