Saturday, May 28, 2016

2016 Interview with Jeannine Jackson

Dancer Jeannine Jackson is performing with Gloria Angeles and five other ladies in The Marge Patka Summer Spectacular 2016 on Saturday June 25 at 2 pm at Reseda High School. In our chat, she talks about the show, her past career achievements, her plans for the future and her overall joy of being in show business.

Tell us about the dance numbers you are performing in the show.

This is my 5th year in this show. I have been very busy rehearsing. The show is a lot of fun to do but I have my work cut out for me. I will be in six numbers. The show is going to feature different age groups and varieties of dances. I will be performing in four tap numbers, a samba and a 1920s flapper number. The opening number which I am in, is a big band number called "Sing, Sang, Sung" with 9 girls which is a big tap number with fast moves. The opening of the second act is a jazzy number called "Bayou Drive" which is also a tap number and an Irish Michael Flatley type of river dance number that will be a first for me. The samba number called the "Magdalena" will be quite colorful because we are wearing authentic samba costumes that you will see in the Rio Carnavale. "The Black Bottom" toward the end of the show will add a little vintage dancing that people don't see every day. The 1920s costumes were specially designed for our group.

How did you first get interested in dance?

I am from a showbiz family. My father was in a famous orchestra and had a dance school. My mother and I sang...and I grew up around music. Fred Astaire was like "god" in our house growing up. By the age of 12, I was performing on stage as a classical pianist doing recitals, Guild auditions and my mom making me sing, dance and play the piano for anyone entering our house. It got to be quite annoying. I would run and hide if anyone came to the house. I never wanted to play the piano but I was forced to. Later on, I was glad. I always wanted to dance instead which I eventually did because I watched all the old dance movies and wanted to be just like Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell.

Explain how you are trying to advance your career. How difficult is it for an actress over 50 in Hollywood?

I was a model for about 15 years when I lived in Texas. I started out very young, 19 years old. I was with one of the biggest modeling agencies in the United States. I did print, runway, catalog modeling, advertising and trade shows. I was in many fashion magazines such as Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle. etc. I auditioned for many TV commercials but I only got non-speaking ones because of my Texas accent. I enrolled in acting class immediately and took diction lessons. I did a couple of plays and I moved to California where I did some modeling also and then I got into SAG and AFTRA. I have put my acting career in the background for many years but I am going to actively pursue this in the near future and see what happens. The fact that I am over 50 doesn't bother me. There are many parts for all age groups in this business.

Talk more about performing onstage.

Getting back to my performing onstage career, again, I started out with the piano recitals and symphony which I hated. Later, I played and sang with my dad's different bands and orchestra and I met many famous people. I can say that I really miss that part with my dad. He passed away over 20 years ago at a young age of 73. I never pursued any singing or playing after that. I guess it is a sad
thing but I got used to performing with him and it just wasn't the same without him. I take many dance classes now and I am in a dance group which is Vintage Angeles Dance Group which was started by Gloria Angeles. There are 6 of us right now in the group. Others have dropped out and new people have joined the group. We perform at different shows including the Marge Patka show. We have done our own shows at private parties and events.

What are your immediate and long range goals? Are you looking for film/TV representation?

I am having a good time in my life and I think that is very important to any situation. I am the type of person that is never depressed. I never have time to be depressed. I am always on the run doing something. Right now, I am actively involved in our dance group and trying to be a better dancer. Tomorrow, or soon, whichever the case my be, I am going to start on my acting and piano playing career. The right thing will always happen as long as you are having fun.

Tickets for the dance show on June 25 at 2pm at Reseda High School can be purchased at the door for 25.00 or you can come by Gloria Angeles' studio and purchase them.  The phone number to call for info is 818-943-8677.  email:

In the meantime check out the gorgeous ladies and their costumes below in more exclusive photos. The ladies are: Grace Carmona, Debbie Crocco, Jeannine Jackson, Gloria Angeles, Rebecca Minazadeh, and Pamela James. Missing from the photos is Desiree Angeles.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2016 Interview with Felicity Wren

Actress FELICITY WREN currently stars in the world premiere quirky romantic British comedy BABY OH BABY through June 4 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Califorini.  Felicity has a Masters Degree in Acting from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London and her Honors Degree from Bretton Hall College. She is proud to have worked extensively in theatre in the UK, been the muse for 4 plays for amazing playwright Glyn Maxwell and a writer /performer with her own comedy sketch show Greedy (London, Edinburgh & NYC).  Recent TV - “Contingency” for New Street Pictures.  Felicity also stars in upcoming comedy feature films, “The Trap” and “The Man You’re Not” whilst producing with her LA company: Dangerously Funny Productions.
by Steve Peterson

How did you first get involved with acting?
I started Ballet at two and a half, and Drama at seven. I was told my second toe was too long for point work, and I had too much hair for a tidy bun, so I had to make a choice and acting won.

When did you know that you wanted to make acting a career?
It took me a while, even saying out loud that I wanted to act was hugely embarrassing; it always seemed so unworthy a profession when you could be doing so much good in the world - but then I realized telling stories is my ‘good.’ Empathy, compassion and even laughter come from great tales, I believe we all have an important story to tell.

What was your first break as a performer in the entertainment industry and how did it further your career?
My first professional break was playing Hedvig in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at the Dixon Studio in Westcliff-on-Sea. I was reviewed as a ‘young Meryl Streep.’ This inspired me to keep going. My strength as an actor is my ability to be vulnerable and ugly. Some people are unwilling to be either.

How did creating your own theatre company in England come about?
My ex-partner had written a play. We were young and green, and could not find a theatre willing to take a chance on us and it. It was very disheartening. Finally Dani Higginson, the bar manager at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in London took the time to read the piece and loved it.  We met and loved her, and the 17 year love affair with creating a company and space for artists to be supported and have fun continues to this day. Unrestricted View (my company - still with the ex) has now created an independent Film Festival, to spread the love to filmmakers too. 

What propelled you to move to Los Angeles and what were you wanting to accomplish in the States?
I moved to LA because if you keep walking down the same road looking at the same things nothing will ever change. I was ready for a new adventure and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron getting into office was my final push. I adore LA, the gorgeous people I have met (everyone on Baby Oh Baby has been a dream), the positivity, the kindness I have experienced and the amazing opportunities of more and varied acting work. I also produce comedy with my Brit writer/director friend Paul McKeown with our Company Dangerously Funny Productions out here.

What is Thirst (can’t remember the rest) and why/how were you involved?
Thirst is a non-profit company finding a way to get clean water to rural communities through digging wells and offering filtration systems in homes -  However, my involvement was only to go to a benefit to support them. My main charitable work in LA so far, has been being on the Board of 'Kitty Bungalow - Charm School for Wayward Cats' for 2 years - my cats are both rescues from this organization. KB works to get feral cats off the street, neutered and into loving homes. They also have an annual “Catbaret" fundraiser with incredible talent from Film and TV - which I helped organise for 3 years.

You’ve also participated in some Sundance events?  What were they and what was it like to be part of that prestigious group’s events?
The Sundance Institute does amazing work in supporting emerging talent and for the last 4 years, I have been lucky enough to be involved in events during the Sundance Film Festival. I especially like working with screenwriters on their stories and my role as the Director of Development with the International Screenwriters’ Association has allowed me to showcase award winning writers by organizing and participating in Table Readings all over the US and the UK. We return to London in October 2016 during the London Film Festival. I cannot wait.

What brings you back to theatre?
I love the theatre.  It is where I started.  You just cannot beat the interaction. We are all in it together, the crew, the cast and the audience; we all make this beautiful pact to go on the ride. In this play we laugh, we cry, and I hope there are a few surprises along the way.

What is it about your character or the story that you most enjoy or enjoy exploring?
I am not the character of Angie, but I truly understand the societal pressure women feel, sometimes unconsciously, to 'complete themselves’ with motherhood. Angie is ultimately looking for love, probably in all the wrong places. When you stand back and look at her life, she has a wonderful sister in Bella who is there for her, and does truly love her.  Now, all Angie has to do is to love herself. That is probably where we collide, Angie and I - the continuing journey to accepting and loving ourselves fully, with all our missteps, sweetness and imperfections. Baby Oh Baby!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016 Interview - Corky Hale

The great musician Corky Hale needs no introduction. She and her husband composer Mike Stoller have worked with everyone in the music business including Sinatra and Steisand. She is currently producing a revue entitled I Only Have Eyes For You about the music of Al Dubin. It will open at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre Friday May 13. In our chat Hale talks about the show, Dubin and about her incomparable show business life.

Tell our readers about I Only Have Eyes For You. Is it a book musical?

Yes it is.

I’ve heard that the show has a terribly interesting background. Tell us about Al Dubin and how you became familiar with him.

I am married to songwriter Mike Stoller and am a musician and a singer – and I am always interested in songwriters. We were living in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, and there was a series at the 92nd Street Y called “Lyrics & Lyricists” produced by Maurice Levine. Maurice called me one day and said, “I am going to do an evening on Al Dubin and Harry Warren and I’d like you to play piano.” I knew about Harry Warren but nobody knew who Al      Dubin was, even though we always knew them as Dubin and Warren.   
Al Dubin (standing) with Harry Warren
They had written the songs for the groundbreaking Busby Berkeley musicals at Warner Bros. – and what songs!  “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “About a Quarter to Nine,” “42nd Street,” “We’re in the Money,” “You’re Getting to be a Habit With Me,” “September in the Rain,” “South American Way,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” and “Lullaby of Broadway” which won the Academy Award for Best Song in 1935.  

The night of the event in the front row was a woman in a wheelchair, and she introduced herself as Al Dubin’s daughter, Patricia McGuire, who the producer had flown in from LA. We got to talking and she said, “I would love to get together with you when you are in LA.” When Mike and I moved to Los Angeles in 1989, I called her -- and we became close friends.  She gave me the book she wrote on her father Al Dubin.

I then saw a show about Oscar Levant and saw the possibilities of creating a show about an important musical figure – and thought that the life and times of Dubin would make a great show. 

Where did you first produce the show?

I originally produced the show at the Tiffany Theatre in Hollywood.  The show got great reviews – the Los Angeles Times said it was one of the best shows of the year – and we ran for three months.  After our success at The Tiffany, the Coconut Grove Playhouse wanted to do it, so I took it to Florida, where it ran for a month and received another set of great reviews.

What does Kay Cole bring to this new production of the show as director and choreographer?

When I was looking for a director and choreographer, I saw a show that Kay had directed and staged – I always knew she had a great reputation.  She and I met and she said she loved the material.  I think she’s an incredible director and choreographer.   She really understands the music from this era. Those great songs are just fantastic. And it is what brings the audience to us.

Talk a little about Jared Gertner who is playing the lead. What does he bring special to Al Dubin?

We had two weeks of auditions and our casting director and Kay Cole found Jared Gertner.  After seeing hundreds of people we said “He looks like Al!”  He is the embodiment of Al Dubin, so imagine my delight when Jared walked in, looking like Al, and then sang!  He is a terrific guy and easy to work with, and I can’t say enough good things about him. 

What makes this musical bio different from others that we have seen?

I have been thinking a long time about the challenges we have in the world today, and I began to think about how Al Dubin was an inspiration during the Depression and how his songs uplifted the nation.

Mike and I think and act on our beliefs in making the world a better place. We are involved in many important causes, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery Alabama. Two years ago, they dedicated their Civil Rights Memorial Theatre in our honor – it’s in the same plaza where Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks spoke. 

And suddenly, I wanted to do this show again. I want to bring something happy into the world – and this is a showpiece of this joyous music with a cast of 12 dancers and singers and a 10-piece orchestra.  And it brings back tap dancing to the stage.

For me, it is the music that sets the show apart from others.  The greatest show I saw on Broadway this past year was An American in Paris.  Each composer is different and while not the same story as Gershwin, or the new Shuffle Along about Eubie Blake – every composer has a different life and a different story to tell.  So I want to bring this music, and Dubin’s life, to the stage.

Tell us more about your passion for the American songbook...and your association with Billie Holiday.

I have had the good fortune to live a life in the great American popular songbook.  I am the only woman who was ever Billie Holiday’s pianist.  When director Lonny Price was putting together Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill a few years ago on Broadway, he brought Audra McDonald out to meet me so I could share my memories of Billie Holliday with her. 

I understand for someone who appears to be a big city woman, you began life as a farm girl. Is that so?

Yes. I’m from a small farm town from the Midwest – I have had the most unusual life.  It’s the happiest life of anyone I have ever known.  My mother never set foot in the kitchen as she went to work everyday with my father – they owned a chain of woman’s clothing stores in small towns with my dad’s seven brothers.  They gave me the happiest start of what has become an incredible life.

Who are some of the all-time great singers you have worked with?

A book about my life is in the works, detailing my relationships with everyone I’ve had the great fortune to work or record with over the years: Sinatra, James Dean, Sammy Davis, Jr., Chet Baker, Nat King Cole, June Christy, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Yusef Lateef, Phoebe Snow, Judy Collins, George Michael, and Björk-- just to name a few. I met Sinatra and played on some of his records at Capitol.  Frank was always wonderful to me.  I also had a nice black dress with pearls and went to parties with him, so if he got bored he had someone to talk to, and he treated me like a daughter. I am in Kitty Kelley’s book about him!

Streisand is still my idol of any singer I have recorded and performed with.  She is a genius. Not only did I play with her when she became the first one to do a major concert in Central Park; she also brought me out in 1968 to play at the Hollywood Bowl with her. 

Any last words on I Only Have Eyes For You?

It has taken a long time to get I Only Have Eyes For You to the production that I have always imagined, and I am so thrilled to be doing this now! 

(production photos by Michael Lamont)

I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU began previews Tuesday, May 10, and has its official press opening on Friday, May 13. Performances will continue through Sunday, June 12 at the Montalban Theatre, 1615 Vine St. in Hollywood. Following previews, performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm; Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm; Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available now at or by calling 1-323-461-6999.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2016 Interview with Phil Olson

Playwright Phil Olson, known for his popular, hilarious DON’T HUG ME musical plays written with brother Paul Olson and that are crowd favorites wherever they are performed, has re-imagined a new version of his first play A NICE FAMILY GATHERING. It is currently enjoying a run in the new UPSTAIRS at the Group Rep black box theatre on the second floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre at the edge of the NoHo Arts District in North Hollywood.  Phil shares with us  a bit about his life as a writer and how A NICE FAMILY GATHERING came about.

by Steve Peterson

When did you first become interested in writing as a profession?

In 2010, I had four plays published by Samuel French and they were playing in theatres all around the country. I was also producing my own “Don’t Hug Me” musicals in the midwest.  I owned my own set, and I had a group of actors that toured for me. It was 2010 when I gave up my “day job” as a financial advisor and went into writing and producing plays full time.

What was your first paying writing job and what did you learn from that experience?

In the late 90s, I met a guy at The Groundings who had contacts in television. He got a job writing a treatment for an animated TV series. He asked me if I would help him. It was a two page treatment and it took us a couple days to do it. I was paid $800. I thought that was a ridiculously large amount of money for the amount of time it took us to do it. What I learned was, writing for television is like winning the lottery.  If anyone out there wants to give me crazy amounts of money writing for television, I’m available.

When did you start writing plays?  Do you have any favorites?

I wrote my first play “Crappie Talk” in 1997. I was 40 years old. I got a late start. I currently have 14 published plays, 8 of them are published by Samuel French. It’s hard to say which play is my favorite. They’re like children to me. With that, I have to say, “A Nice Family Gathering” is at the top of the list because it’s such a personal story. It’s about my family, and because it has played in 120 cities around the world, I’m thrilled that so many theatres have embraced it. It’s also been optioned to be made into a movie which is very flattering.

Did you have mentors and muses along the way, and if so who?

My inspiration to write plays came from Neil Simon. I performed in a bunch of Neil Simon plays in the early 90s in Tampa, Florida, and it was like taking a seminar in writing. I loved his comedy, his writing style, his characters. I came to Los Angeles, trained at The Groundlings, wrote and performed sketches with Maya Rudolph and other extremely talented people. I learned character development at The Groundlings.

Lonny Chapman gave me my first break as a playwright. He green lit my first play, “Crappie Talk,” to be produced at the Group Rep Theatre in 1997. He then approved “A Nice Family Gathering” for its world premiere in 2000. I can’t thank Lonny enough for giving me my start.
I also have to give thanks to Doug Haverty for being so generous with his notes on my plays. Doug is a great playwright and a wonderful dramaturg. He’s given me so many great notes on my plays and helped me keep focus in areas like story conflict and stakes, basically things that make a good story.

What generated the idea for A NICE FAMILY GATHERING?

“A Nice Family Gathering” is based on my Minnesota Norwegian-American family. My dad actually told us he was the Norwegian who loved his wife so much, he almost told her. I never heard him tell my mom he loved her, ever. In fact, I never heard him say ‘I love you’ to anyone, including myself. Part of the reason I wanted to write the play is because I wanted to see my dad say ‘I love you’ to my mom. When my mom came out from Minnesota to see the world premiere at the Group Rep Theatre, she saw herself on stage, with my dad, who had passed away a year earlier. It was a very emotional scene. I was playing the role of the son, ‘Carl,’ and I couldn’t help to look out and see my mom in the audience, tears running down her cheeks. My mom loved the play.

Many of your plays center around your family and the community of Minnesota Norwegians you grew up in.    How did the play come to be re-imagined with an African American cast?

I saw Robert McCollum and Cynthia Bryant perform in "Stories about the Old Days" and they were wonderful. I realized we had great talent but not as many opportunities for our African American members, so I asked Doug Engalla if he would direct a staged reading of "A Nice Family Gathering" with Robert and Cynthia as "Dad" and "Mom." They did the first act off book and it was very successful. As luck would have it, a slot opened up for a full production, and I'm very happy that we have such wonderful actors in the play and that my family comedy, originally set in a Minnesota Norwegian-American household, is so universally accessible.

Youve penned numerous plays and musicals, both solo and with your brother Paul Olson, among others, that have been published by Samuel French.    Have you been working on anything new youd like to share with us or have an event you might be attending in regards to your playwrighting youd like us to know about?

Because of the success of “A Nice Family Gathering,” I wrote a new play, “A Nice Family Christmas.” It’s the same family as “A Nice Family Gathering,” but two years later at Christmas. I’ve been doing readings of “A Nice Family Christmas” all around the country, and it will open in five cities this year, including the Group Rep Theatre. “A Nice Family Christmas” will be my 9th play published by Samuel French. My next reading will be in Port Clinton, Ohio, on May 17, and I’ll do another reading in New York in June.

Is there anything you wished had been asked about you or the play?

I have to thank Doug Engalla for his tireless efforts in putting this production together. Doug has directed three of my world premiere “Don’t Hug Me” musicals and he’s terrific to work with. I’m usually a little more involved in rehearsals and the production, but with “A Nice Family Gathering” Doug has done everything from directing to cast photos to set design. I’m very fortunate to have someone like Doug Engalla at the helm. He’s a blessing.