Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Christmas Story, The Musical!" Coming to Broadway This Holiday Season

Christmas Story, The Musical! will arrive on Broadway at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre just in time for the 2012 holiday season.  The producers have announced that the new musical, based on the 1983 movie perennial, will play a November 5 – December 30 holiday engagement.  Opening night is Monday, November 19.
America’s #1 holiday movie came to hilarious life onstage when A Christmas Story, The Musical! launched a tour in 2011 with stops in Hershey, PA; Detroit, MI; Raleigh, NC; Tampa, FL; and Chicago, IL;  The musical features a bright holiday score by composer/lyricist team Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a witty book by Joseph Robinette based on the writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd and the 1983 holiday film favorite. Tony Award winner John Rando (Urinetown) directs the production with Warren Carlyle (Chaplin, Follies, An Evening With Hugh Jackman) choreographing.  Casting is soon to be announced.
A Christmas Story, The Musical! features scenic design by Walt Spangler; costume design by Elizabeth Hope Clancy; lighting design by Howell Binkley; sound design by Ken Travis; wig design by Tom Watson; orchestrations by Larry Blank; music direction and  supervision by Ian Eisendrath; dance music arrangements by Glen Kelly; and vocal arrangements by Justin Paul. 
The Chicago Sun Times described A Christmas Story, The Musical! “an enchanting holiday gem…an altogether beguiling…luminous musical comedy,” while Variety called it “a slick, undeniably enjoyable musical,” and The Chicago Tribune heralded it as “a moving celebration of family.” The Detroit Free Press raved “the cast practically triple-dog-dares you not to enjoy yourself. Time Out Chicago predicted “A Christmas Story, The Musical! has the potential to be a new perennial favorite.” 
The story from a cherished movie classic that’s enchanted millions is now a musical spectacular. In 1940’s Indiana, a bespectacled boy named Ralphie has a big imagination and one wish for Christmas—a Red Ryder BB Gun. A kooky leg lamp, outrageous pink bunny pajamas, a cranky department store Santa, and a triple-dog-dare to lick a freezing flagpole are just a few of the obstacles that stand between Ralphie and his Christmas dream. Co-produced by the film’s original Ralphie, Peter Billingsley, A Christmas Story, The Musical! is holiday entertainment that captures a simpler time in America with delicious wit and a heart of gold.
A Christmas Story, The Musical! is produced by Gerald Goehring, Roy Miller, Michael F. Mitri, Pat Flicker Addiss, Peter Billingsley, Mariano Tolentino, Louise H. Beard, Michael Filerman, Scott Hart, Timothy Laczynski, Bartner/Jenkins Entertainment, Angela Milonas, Bradford W. Smith.

A Christmas Story, The Musical!  is based upon the motion picture "A Christmas Story"© 1983 Turner Entertainment Co., distributed by Warner Bros.,written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, and "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" written by Jean Shepherd.  A Christmas Story, The Musical! is produced with permission of Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Inc. and Dalfie Entertainment, Inc.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

“More Of Our Parts” - A very satisfying and informative whole

By Judd Hollander
Photos by Carol Rosegg

Theater Breaking Through Barriers, a company which uses artists with disabilities and able-bodied performers in their productions, and who presented a winning collection of one-acts last year with Sum Of Our Parts, had another success this past June with More Of Our Parts, billed as "six new plays (all world premieres) about disability in 70 minutes", at Theatre Row Studios with topics ranging from the funny to the satirical to the very touching.

Starting things off was The Ahhh Factor by Bruce Graham. With a script that had the feel of a work by David Mamet, the play features a meeting between Robert (Warren Kelley), a director, and Jerry (Jonathan Todd Ross), a writer, regarding Jerry's film script and how a deaf character, to be played by a deaf actress, should be presented on screen. Robert, not quite comfortable with the whole idea, goes way over the line in political correctness so as to not offend anybody, while Jerry urges the character be treated just like any another person. A satire on liberal guilt, the author shows what can happen when one tries to overcompensate for something you don't want to deal with and letting your own fears and prejudices cloud the issue. Nicely written, and well directed by Russell Treyz, the play really hits home thanks to some hilarious lines uttered in perfect deadpan earnest by Kelley.

Definitely the most poignant piece of the group was Jeffrey Sweet's A Little Family Time. Eli (Shawn Elliott), a respected sixty-something writer, is unable to deal with the fact he has a mentally disabled son named Lewis (Joshua Eber), even concealing it from Annette (Donna Bullock), the woman he intends to marry. When Lewis appears unannounced and uninvited at speech Eli is about to give, the two make small talk, Eli desperately trying to ignore the elephant in the room, one growing ever larger as the conversation progresses - something quite apparent to both Annette and Nell (Blair Wing), Lewis' companion at the assisted living center where they both stay. Great credit must go to Elliott in making Eli come off as a completely three-dimensional person and not just a simple caricature. A heart-wrenching story about denial in the face of truth, the moment when Lewis embraces his father and Eli can't bring himself to respond is shattering. The play is directed with strong respect for the subject matter by Patricia Birch.

After Breakfast, Maybe by Bekah Brunstetter presents an interesting look at a somewhat strained mother and daughter relationship. As the play begins, Marcy (Shannon DeVido) who's unemployed and living with her mother, is planning to take over the world via the internet, while her mom, the almost computer illiterate and somewhat overprotective Diane (Melanie Boland), questions exactly what her daughter is doing and why she is attempting it. Yes Marcy realizes this idea is all a fantasy, but it's her fantasy and she's determined to carry it through, using her mind and imagination to do what her body cannot. While Marcy continues plotting her elaborate scheme and Diane continually interrupts with various mundane comments, such as the fact she's made pancakes with smiling faces for breakfast, the play presents a scenario of a seeming inability or unwillingness to learn new things and move forward from one's present position, due to an overriding fear of failure and looking stupid - a fear that does far more damage than any actual limitation. While a bit clichéd at times and ending just a bit too abruptly, the piece takes the characters from a forced co-existence to one with perhaps just a bit of hope for the future.

Playwright Neil LaBute's penchant of looking at the dark side of human nature is evident once again with his work The Wager, where a Guy (Nicholas Viselli) and Gal (Tiffan Borelli), an upscale white couple, are leaving a party when they're accosted by a Homeless Dude (Shawn Randall) a wheelchair bound black man, who asks them for change. Guy, who's not a nice fellow to begin with, quickly begins belittling the Homeless Dude unmercifully, claiming the Dude should get a job and find ways to earn money instead of begging for it, all the while ignoring Gal's pleas that the two just leave. As Guy continues to push things further and further, and the situation becomes more and more explosive, it seems violence and disaster will surely result. However, there is a twist here, more than one actually, none of which the audience sees coming, whereby motives and assumptions turn out to be not at all what they seem. An involving story about perceptions, the most interesting moment of the play occurs when the Homeless Dude asks Guy to join him for a drink; an offer Guy hurriedly dismisses out of hand, the Dude's usefulness to him being over.

A.R. Gurney's The Interview takes place during a car ride where Ken (Stephen Drabicki) a deaf teenager, is telling his father Howard (Nicholas Viselli) about his interview for acceptance at a prestigious college. The meeting may not have gone as well as hoped since Ken didn't reveal his condition to the interviewer, Ken not wanting to be accepted at the college, or in life, solely because he is deaf. However Howard urges that since being deaf is a part of who his son is, he should not hide that fact and if need be, sometimes actually use that condition to show just how special he is. As with many of the plays in this collection, all of which deal with opposite points of view with the truth being somewhere in between, Gurney provides a gentle lesson on how honesty will only get you so far, and that it's one's abilities that get you the rest of the way. Like the LaBute play before it, the circumstances are more involving than the characters involved, but all in all, it's an interesting morality tale.

Last up is Samuel D. Hunter's Geese, an amusing, if somewhat pedestrian piece about the difference between people's public and private personas. Ben (David Marcus), is a city worker who has to remove geese from a park and take them away to be killed, they being a danger to airplanes. However Ben may not have the heart to do so, especially when he meets Melanie (Shannon DeVido), a woman in a wheelchair who claims to love the birds, even though she's eating chicken salad for lunch. This piece takes a look at the question of perception, as well as how much power a person in a wheelchair can have sympathy-wise, and how people can unconsciously overcompensate when talking to such a person. Stronger than the script itself are the various acting performances, which ultimately show Geese to be the most politically incorrect play of the bunch. Especially enjoyable were the reactions of a pair of joggers (Melanie Boland, Tiffan Borelli) who happen to wander into an argument Ben and Melanie are having. The play also stars Shawn Randall and Jonathan Todd Ross.

It's a testament to the various writers, directors and performers that each work was able to pretty much grab the audience almost immediately and hold their attention throughout. Additionally, the premises from many of these pieces could easily be expanded significantly were the playwrights so desirous. As with any collection such as this, some of the shows worked better than others, with The Ahhh Factor, A Little Family Time and The Wager being the most interesting, but all were enjoyable to varying degrees. Best of all was the seamless way the different performers interacted with each other, treating their conditions and situations as part of the story when needed, and ignoring it when not.

More Of Our Parts

The Ahhh Factor
Featuring Warren Kelley (Robert), Jonathan Todd Ross (Jerry)
Written by Bruce Graham
Directed by Russell Treyz

A Little Family Tree
Featuring Donna Bullock (Annette), Joshua Eber (Lewis), Shawn Elliott (Eli), Blair Wing (Neil)
Written by Jeffrey Sweet
Directed by Patricia Birch         

After Breakfast, Maybe
Featuring Melanie Boland (Diane), Shannon DeVido (Marcy)
Written by Bekah Brunstetter
Directed by Christina Roussos

The Wager
Featuring Tiffan Borelli (Gal), Shawn Randall (Homeless Dude), Nicholas Viselli (Guy)
Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Ike Schambelan

The Interview
Featuring Stephen Drabicki (Ken), Nicholas Viselli (Howard)
Written by A.R. Gurney
Directed by Ike Schambelan

Featuring Melanie Boland (Jogger 1), Tiffan Borelli (Jogger 2), Shannon DeVido (Melanie), David Marcus (Ben), Shawn Randall (Husband 1), Jonathan Todd Ross (Husband II)
Written by Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Christopher Burris

Set Designer: Nicholas Lazzaro
Costume Designer: Kristine Koury
Lighting Designer: Jeffrey Collier
Sound Designer: Donald short
Prop Designer: Sego Marchand Lazzaro
Dramaturg: Julius Novick
Fright Director; J. David Brimmer
Production Stage Manager: Brooke Elsinghorst
Stage Manager: Adrianna Nicolé Perlman
Production Supervisor: Nicholas Lazzaro
Wardrobe Supervisor: Jamie Bertoluzzi

Clurman Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Closed: July 1, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interview - Jeanette Bonner of "Love. Guts. High School."

By Byrne Harrison

Jeanette Bonner's recent New York credits include original one-acts with Magic Futurebox Productions, Ars Nova and Primary Stages, and A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Christmas Past) at the DeBaun Performing Arts Center. She has toured nationally in Sesame Street Live,The Bully (Vital Theatre Company), and Spell in the Well and Other Tales (Shoestring Players). She is a company member of National Comedy Theater and performs in their weekly improv comedy show. Jeanette received a BA in Theater and Dance from Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and is currently writing a full-length farce about all the things that could go wrong on stage, and do.

Her play Love. Guts. High School. is currently in production at the Midtown International Theatre Festival.

Tell me a little about Love. Guts. High School.

Love. Guts. High School. is a 60-minute semi-autobiographical show about falling big for your high school crush.......who doesn't like you in "that way."

How did you come up with the concept?

I knew I wanted to write a solo show before I knew what it would be about, so I enrolled in a class taught by playwright Matt Hoverman.  When discussing the potential topics of our shows, he asked us to consider if we had any unanswered Life Questions: "if this particular thing hadn't happened in my life, would I still be who I am today?"  I think we all know immediately what that one Thing is, and for me is was the story of this crazy high school relationship.

How did Peter Michael Marino become involved in the development of the show?

Last fall, my classmates and I decided to showcase the 30 minutes of material that we had from class in a performance at Stage Left Studio.  We got together a few times to talk about how to approach this strange new art form.  I literally had no idea that I needed to hire a director; I was thinking, "Can't I just direct myself?"  Thankfully, my classmates set me straight.  I asked a few friends but they were too busy to take on a new project, so I turned to a Facebook page called Solo Show Artists Unite and asked around.  Peter was recommended to me, and we worked so well together instantly that I never even interviewed anyone else!

Is this your first solo show?


What has it been like working in this genre?

I really love creating my own work.  It has been extremely empowering, especially after many years in the audition circuit.  What's nice about being the playwright and the actor is, I can stop myself in the middle of rehearsal and go:  "I would never say that!" and delete or change whatever I had written.  You definitely dont' have to justify any weird language or thoughts, which can come up alot when acting out another playwright's language.  I also dearly love being able to rehearse any time of day in any location.  I have rehearsed with my kitchen table in my bathing suit (it was like 90 degrees in my apartment, in my defense), and at midnight in my bedroom!  I even ran lines on Ellis Island once, no joke.  But mostly I am in love with telling MY story. 

Producing it myself is a whole nother has given me a lot of anxiety!  But it has taught me SO MUCH as well.  You really don't "get it" till you try to do it yourself.

Any advice for someone who wants to do their own solo show?

DO IT.  Take Matt's class and do it.  It's ultimately so rewarding, in a thousand ways. 

What else is coming up for you this year?

Well, I'll admit that my show has eaten up my life a bit so I've fallen off the wagon in terms of auditioning for projects after the show ends!  But I do have another play I've been developing, it's a full length farce, and I'm contemplating producing it myself (a glutton for punishment, aren't it??).  In addition, I shot a short film in May called "Fetus Envy" and we are hoping it will gain momentum.

And one that's just for fun... if you could go back to high school again, what would you do differently?

Ha, this question is REALLY relevant to my show.  If I could go back to high school and tell my younger self not to get involved with that one boy... would I?  I don't know.  I believe that experience made me stronger, and makes me who I am today.  I think he helped show me how I deserve to be treated in a relationship, and helped me to discover that I deserve to be loved.  It seems every young woman needs that one heartbreaking relationship so that when her true love comes along, she can recognize it and appreciate it for what it is.  So would I go back and do it all over again differently?  No doubt I'd want to.  But knowing what I know now, I'd have to say, I can't.

Love. Guts. High School.
Written & performed by Jeanette Bonner
Developed with Peter Michael Marino

Dorothy Strelsin Theatre in the Abingdon Arts Complex
312 West 36th Street, 1st Floor. (Btw 8th & 9th Avenues)

Tickets are $15 to $18 and can be purchased at or by calling 866-811-4111.

Show Dates                                                                  
Tuesday, July 17th @ 7:30pm                                                      
Wednesday, July 25th @ 7:30pm
Friday, July 27th @ 7:30pm
Thursday, August 2nd @ 9:15pm

More information can be found at

Monday, July 23, 2012

“Prison Dancer: The Musical” – Return to Oz?

By Mark A. Newman

The New York Musical Theatre Festival has done it again. Every time I attend a production, I walk away amazed at the talent on the sparse stages as well as the creative talent behind the scenes. This year the hot ticket is based on a viral YouTube video of Filipino prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” While that tune is nowhere to be found in “Prison Dancer: The Musical,” the tunes that are included are just as dance-worthy.

Written by Romeo Candido (book, music, and lyrics) and Carmen De Jesus (book), two Filipino actors who both appeared in “Miss Saigon,” their goal was to create a show that had Filipinos playing Filipinos on stage. Mission accomplished! While not based on the specific prison in Cebu, the musical tells how the choreography-inspired exercises brought the inmates closer together, reduced violence, and drew a clear distinction between rehabilitation and punishment. The show has a distinct message but tells it in the most entertaining and original manner I have seen in a while.

The cast—some newbies and some Broadway workhorses—get their Pinoy on and all of the characters are surprisingly well drawn. While the entire cast is outstanding, a true diva has been born on the stage of the Theatre at St. Clement. Jeigh Madjus—a Toronto-based actor—plays the titular role of Lola, a cross-dressing inmate who swishes and struts his stuff yet ably puts down the prison thug with ease. I have never heard of Madjus before but he is nothing short of amazing. What could have been a shrill, irritating performance (i.e., most of the characters in “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert”) became a nuanced, sensitive portrayal of a tortured soul who gets through life with a fresh mouth, lacquered lips, and a kick punch that would render you senseless.

The prisoners are somewhat divided into two groups with Lola being the makeshift leader for the feminine “lady boys” that also includes Oo Oo (Nathan Ramos) and Nana (Enrico Rodriguez). The tough guys’ leader is Hookaps (Marc Delacruz), and includes the doomed Tondo (Albert Guerzon), to a lesser degree Shakespeare (Moses Villarama), and the newly imprisoned Christian (Broadway stalwart Jose Llana). The cast is rounded out by Christian’s girlfriend Cherish (Catherine Ricafort) and the Warden (Andrew Eisenam), who takes credit for the prisoner’s sudden internet fame because it was “his idea.”

While Oo Oo and Nana serve more as a Greek chorus to Lola, the other characters are more deeply developed. Shakespeare is the smart one: reasonable, likable, but harboring a harsh and disturbing secret; Tondo is the murderer on death row who finds a new lust for life through dance; Hookaps is the suave cellblock major domo who’s an expert at acquiring contraband getting things done; and Christian is the stoic lovelorn newbie who wants nothing more than to be with Cherish. How these archetypes intertwine and work together to be a part of an Internet sensation is truly a work of art and takes the audience on an interesting journey that is both joyous and heartbreaking.

Guerzon is enlightening as Tondo, the “dead man dancing” who’s new quest to live is at times desperate and joyful. As Hookaps, Delacruz brings a cool authoritative demeanor to the cell block and his realization that prison is the only place he belongs has a sad acquiescence and makes the character vastly likable. Also, Delacruz is a great dancer and is fun to watch. Villarama’s Shakespeare fits the bill as the show’s “everyman” because he’s so darn nice. When you find out why he’s in prison it’s hard to be appalled because by that point you’ve really grown fond of the character. Llana, one of Broadway’s Asian-American stars for over a decade, brings a quiet, resigned dignity to the role of Christian while also seemingly on a constant low boil. Is he going to explode? You never quite know but Llana gets the chance to show off his singing chops nicely in a second act solo that all but rattles the stained glass windows in the sanctuary of the Theatre at St. Clements right out of their leading.

“Prison Dancer” is as innovative and passionate a production you are likely to see on Broadway or off, off, off, off Broadway. With a desire to create a show that is strictly unique to the Philippines, Candido and De Jesus have successfully told a story about a forgotten group of people, but the themes of love, loss, redemption, and forgiveness are universal.

Final performances: Friday, Jul 27th, 2012 at 5:00 pm; Saturday, Jul 28th, 2012 at 5:00 pm; and Saturday, Jul 28th, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

Prison Dancer: The Musical

Theatre at St. Clement’s 423 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036

Featuring: Marcus Calderon, Marc Delacruz, Andrew Eisenman, Albert Guerzon, Jose Llana, Jeigh Madjus, Nathan Ramos, Catherine Ricafort, Enrico Rodriguez, and Moses Villarama.

Book by Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus
Music and Lyrics by Romeo Candido
Director/Choreographer: Jenn Rapp

Scenic Design: Josh Zangen
Costume Design: Sky Switser
Lighting Design: Betsy Adams
Sound Design: John Westin
Musical Director: David Madore
Fight Director: Rick Sordelet

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Raissa Katona Bennett Releases New CD, Premieres Concert Version at Feinstein's in August

In her third Feinstein’s engagement, MAC & Bistro Award winner and Broadway’s Raissa Katona Bennett (Christine in Phantom of the Opera) celebrates the release of her latest CD, "Another Kind of Light."  The concert version of the album premieres Tuesday, August 21 at 8pm, playing five shows through August 25.

Produced by the award-winning Ron Abel, with music direction by David Caldwell, the CD releases courtesy of LML Music on August 14.  "Another Kind of Light," includes never-before-recorded songs by prominent songwriters, including two songs written for her by Michael John LaChiusa.  Bennett performs a mix of jazz, pop and theatre songs, and puts a contemporary spin on well-known standards - songs that intelligently explore the human condition. The evening is directed by Eric Michael Gillett.

The weeklong, primetime engagement of “Another Kind of Light” features Bennett’s core musicians from the album -- Sean Harkness on guitar; Ray Marchica on drums; Ritt Henn on bass; and music director David Caldwell on piano.

Other song debuts were contributed by Ron Abel & Chuck Steffan, and David Caldwell.  Also represented are Christine Lavin; Alan Menken & David Spencer; Alan & Marilyn Bergman; Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens; Michael Mooney & Stephen Hoffman; Scott Frankel & Michael Korie, and Amanda McBroom & Michele Brourman.

Bennett, who performed the role of Christine on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, and was in the first national tours of Cats and Parade, has been called “a superb vocalist with an impeccable ear for timing and nuance” by David Spencer, in David Finkle, writing in Backstage, says she has “a sweet yet sturdy voice – even piercing and fierce when she wants… with a generous helping of intelligence behind what she does.”

Bennett is the Bistro and MAC Award-winning producer and host of “Concerts for City Greens,” a free outdoor concert series whose mission is dedicated to the “greening of cities,” while building new audiences for live music.

“Another Kind of Light” performs Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday August 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, all at 8pm, at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency, 540 Park Avenue (at 61st Street).  The music charge is $30, or $50 for premium seating, with a $25 minimum.  (High top tables with no minimum are also available.) All attendees receive a complimentary copy of the new CD.  For the Wednesday and Thursday performances Feinstein’s generously donates its service fee to benefit the non-profit Music and Art for Green. (Please use code GREEN) For information or to order in advance, call 212-339-4095 or visit

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Twelfth Night" Coming to the Secret Theatre in August

After critically acclaimed productions last season of The Three Sisters, Servant of Two Masters and Ibsen’s Ghosts the Queens players returns to the Secret Theatre stage in this hilarious, groundbreaking new production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Director Alberto Bonilla (who brought new meaning to the word funny with his sell out production of Servant of Two Masters) calls the production “a celebration of the theatre” in which the audience themselves is one of the actors and the whole performance space is part of the stage.

Using elements of clowning, improvisation, and audience interaction allows the cast to explore this classic tale of illusions of love, mistaken identity, and the masks we all wear in joyous new ways.     
In short you'll laugh, you'll cry…and then you’ll probably laugh again really…really…hard.

Featuring: Thom Brown III, Zack Clark, John Cormier, Nicole Davis, Jonathan Emerson, *Kathryn Finch, *Elizabeth Inghram, Marcin Mesa, *Michael Moreno, Kaylyn Scardefield, Mark Weatherup Jr.

Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare
Produced By Richard Mazda for The Queens Players
Directed by Alberto Bonilla
Producer: Jonathan Emerson                        
Assistant Director: Chrissy Sheehan                               
Co Stage Manager: Luke Rosenthal                                    
Co-Stage Manager: Kenny Broadway                      
Costumes: Terrell Green                              
Photography: Peter Giglio
Videography: Kenny Broadway                                      
Original Music by Will Stackpole

Aug 2-4, 9-12, 16-18@ 8PM              
Matinee Aug 18 @ 2PM

Tickets $18 Door (price includes 1 free drink)
Available online  Reservations/Inquiries 718 392 0722

An approved Actors Equity Showcase

Friday, July 20, 2012

UglyRhino Announces Casting for "The Awakening" and "GLAMDROMEDA"

UglyRhino announces casting for their produtions of The Awakening and GLAMDROMEDA, which will take place this August at The Brooklyn Lyceum. UglyRhino’s 2012 micro-season places these mainstages plays at the heart of a larger artistic celebration, providing a variety of events on any given evening. What results is a social experience you can’t find in your traditional theater setting. The third annual micro-season will focus on music, surrounding the two entirely new musical plays developed by the UglyRhino team, with live bands, two free curated cocktails, and a DJ after party following Friday night performances. Both The Awakening and GLAMDROMEDA explore the unifying themes of personal, sexual and creative awakenings through unique musical compositions.

The Awakening, an original play with songs adapted by Bryce Norbitz and Nicole Rosner from the classic novella by Kate Chopin, will feature Michael Bernstein (Nevin Porter in UglyRhino’s Centralia), Leighton Bryan (MFA in acting from NYU, BA from Brown University, and Summer Intensive at RADA), Eric Gravez (NYC debut), Austin Hohnke (Steve Martin’s WASP at Playwrights Horizons), Meghan E. Jones (Annie in The Real Thing with T. Schreiber), Kelsey Landon (Get Gone with The Glass Bandits), Jennifer McVey (Knives and Spoons Go On The Right with 3Roads Productions), Craig Mungavin (Cato at The Flea), Katie Tuminelly (Measure for Measure with The Public Theater),  Harrision Unger (Batz at The Brick/Joe’s Pub). The production will be directed by UglyRhino co-Artistic Director Nicole Rosner with Lighting Design by Catharine DiGirolamo, Original Music by Gisela Fulla-Silvestre, Choreography by Megan Kendzior, Costume Design by Oril Nativ, and Set Design by Kathryn Lieber.

GLAMDROMEDA, a glam rock theatrical experience with Book by Bryce Norbitz, Music by Ben Bonnema, and Lyrics by Christopher Staskel with Additional Lyrics by Zayre Ferrer, will feature Fernando Contreras (Pipeline Theatre Company), Brett Robinson (She Kills Monsters at The Flea), and Steven Schmidt (National Tour of Cabaret). The production will be directed by UglyRhino co-Artistic Director Danny Sharron with Costume Design by Angela Harner, Lighting Design by Mike Inwood, and Set Design by Amy Rubin.

UglyRhino’s 2012 Micro-Season will run August 15-31 at The Brooklyn Lyceum (227 4th Avenue at Union Street, Brooklyn), Wednesday through Friday at 8pm. Tickets ($18 including all the evenings events; $15 for all performances August 15, 16, & 17) are available online at All ticket purchases will include two free curated cocktails. UglyRhino’s 2012 Micro-Season is proudly sponsored by Lagunitas Brewing Company.

UGLYRHINO is a new way to experience theater. Expanding on our high quality productions, we integrate dynamic arts programming ranging from emerging musicians to warehouse parties. UglyRhino curates affordable evenings with a social atmosphere that capture the inimitable spirit of Brooklyn.

“If you’ve always thought theater performances needed more of a party vibe, your day has come.” New York Press

"Regardless of the evening’s fare, be prepared for a night of theater unlike any other." Metro

THE BROOKLYN LYCEUM is a producing arts venue and cultural center on the edge of Gowanus. Originally opened in 1910 as an indoor bathing facility, it now plays host to a range of theater, music, dance, markets and community activities. The Lyceum programs small and large artistic works, working with both local and travelling professional groups, and has an array of activities throughout the year, including our large markets and conventions, zumba classes, a drop down batting cage and weekly jazz. The Lyceum Café is open every day, serving Intelligentsia coffee and fresh house-baked goods, including our famously addictive blueberry muffins and Emmet's homemade bread.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

John Paolillo Puts the Tail in Fairy Tales

By Byrne Harrison

There is no shortage of burlesque in New York City.  That said, it's always fun when something new comes around.  The latest is John Paolillo's naughty take on the fairy tales that we all know and love.

What is Humpty Dumpty hiding under that shell?

What is a tuffet, and what will happen if you sit on it?

Is three men in a tub ever really enough?

Did Little Red Riding Hood know the wolf was watching?

You may find out the answers at Hairy Tails & Rhymes, currently being performed Tuesday nights at XL Cabaret.

Choreographer Paolillo has created a show that is funny, dirty, and features some amazingly... um, talented performers.  They're not just pretty faces (and bodies) - these men and women know how to move.  With Paolillo's exciting choreography, these performers give us an athletic striptease that is a pleasure to watch and slyly humorous.

While it's hard to pick out the strongest numbers, the ones that stuck with me were Miss Muffet's, featuring Audry Hamilton (and a very naughty, and persistent spider), and Paolillo's take on Three Men in a Tub, featuring David Gifford, Dave Guggino and Brandon Mason (who was also a terrific Humpty Dumpty).

Hairy Tales also features Sister Goose (Luxury Cartax), who provides some of the filthiest versions of classic fairy tales that I've ever heard.

XL Cabaret is an interesting space, and seems well suited for burlesque.  Hopefully this will turn into a regular event.

Hairy Tails & RhymesCreator/Director/Choreographer - John Paolillo
Cast: Audry Hamilton, Brandon Mason, Pixie, David Thomas Guggino, Jubilee Diamond, Luxury Cartax, Marisa Jo Merless, David Gifford, and Holly Dae

With special guest Molly "Equality" Dykeman
XL Cabaret
512 W. 42nd Street (btw 10th and 11th Ave.)

Tuesdays in July (remaining shows on the 24th and 31st)
8 PM (seating at 7 PM)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Interview - Anthony Johnston of "Tenderpits"

By Byrne Harrison

Anthony Johnston is a New York City based actor and theatre maker, originally from Canada.  He has worked across Canada for some of the country's most important theatres. Credits include; Alan in the Canadian revival of Equus (Citadel), Billy in Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? (Centaur, MTC), Brodie in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing (MTC), Gary in the Western Canadian Premiere of Shopping & Fucking (Pi, Ruby Slipp ers) and Bill Mercer in the Dora-Award winning production of Leaving Home (Soulpepper, Toronto).

In New York, Anthony has worked with NY Theatre Experiment, Stage Left Studio, Ensemble Studio Theatre's Youngblood, 13th St Theatre, the Management Theatre Co. and HorseTrade Theater Group. His original one-man shows have been produced across Canada, in New York City and in New Jersey. Art's Heart was awarded Outstanding Solo Show at the 2009 NY Fringe Festival and Tenderpits was selected as Best Multi-Media Performance at NYC's 2010 United Solo Festival at Theatre ROW. Most recently Anthony participated in The Public Theater’s 2011 Shakespeare Lab, headed by Barry Edelstein, and played the role of ‘Ken’ opposite Joel Leffert in The Public Theatre of Maine’s production of John Logan’s Red. He is represented by The Jim Flynn Agency, NYC.

First of all, congratulations on taking your show, Tenderpits, to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. When will you be heading to Scotland?

Thanks! We're super excited to be bringing our work there for the first time. We head off on the 31st of July.  And we do the show at Underbelly for the entire festival: Aug 2-26 with just one night off! I'm gonna be exhausted! :)

For those who haven't seen Tenderpits, will you be doing any performances of it before you go?

We are! You can see Tenderpits here in NYC July 24, 25 + 26 at 9PM at 59E59 Theaters-- as part of their "East to Edinburgh Festival".

Tell me a little bit about the show.

Here's some official copy on the show, I think it sums it up pretty well:

"Tenderpits uses a unique combination of stand-up, physical theatre and performance art to spin a dazzling narrative about immigration and magic. On the back of a mystical moose, a young gay wizard journeys from the wilderness of Canada to New York City - where he buys a gun, crashes a Broadway production of Three Sisters, befriends an illegal Mexican immigrant and goes on a psycho-sexual rampage.

Tenderpits was tragically interrupted during its premiere in 2010 when writer/performer Anthony Johnston's sister suddenly passed away. What began as a comic exploration of “the powers of positive thinking” now takes on an immediacy and urgency that touched audience and performer alike. Moving with hyperkinetic speed between worlds of fact and fiction, Tenderpits is an explosive comedy possessed by bouts of unrestrained hopefulness and brutal intimacy."

You recently did a reading of your work in progress, Tenderpits 2: Revenge of the Popinjay. How is that progressing?

"Tpits 2" is kind of on the back burner at the moment as we prepare to bring the original Tenderpits to Edinburgh. But we're looking forward to getting back to work on Revenge of the Popinjay when we return to NYC in September. I'll keep you posted on when you can see more workshops!

I've seen several of your shows now, and they all seem to have an auto-biographical element to them. What is it like for you putting so much of your own story on stage?

I think with Tenderpits, and a lot of the other work me and Nathan (Schwartz; co-artistic dir. of AnimalParts) have been creating, is that we're exploring that line between truth and fiction. Asking ourselves what is true and honest in theatre, and how can we use our art to tell our story, and how can we make an honest connection with our audience...

Tenderpits especially is very autobiographical, and sometimes it's scary to reveal myself in the ways that I do in this show, but I've found that the more specific and true to myself I am - the more people can relate and connect what they see in the show back to their own lives.

You've been in New York for a while now. How is that influencing your art?

I love New York City. My relationship with this city and all of it's magic and mythologies is a big part of what originally inspired Tenderpits. I can't imagine not being greatly influenced by your surroundings- and especially a city as vibrant and diverse and exciting as this one!

In addition to seeing Tenderpits before you leave, how else can people support the show?

Our company, AnimalParts thatre, has just been incorporated and we are accepting tax deductible donations through Fractured Atlas here:

What's next for you when you get back from Scotland?
Definitely getting back into the rehearsal room with Tenderpits 2. Possibly touring the original Tenderpits (depending on how things go in Edinburgh- fingers crossed!), and creating new stuff too!

Good luck with Tenderpits. I hope you'll let us all know what your experiences are like.

Thanks again, Byrne! I will definitely keep you posted on how things are going over there!
And definitely come check out the show at 59E59 July 24-26 9PM! Would love to see you there!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cast Album Round Up

By Mark A. Newman

So far 2012 has seen a wealth of new cast recordings released to keep the iPods of the theater lover full. Here are a few thumbnail reviews of some of the latest offerings.

Bonnie & Clyde: Original Broadway Cast (Broadway Records)

Bonnie & Clyde was a show that definitely did not stay around long enough…while other shows tend to overstay their welcome. The score was rich in melodies that reflect a rural America of yesteryear without sinking to the levels of hokum. This is probably one of Frank Wildhorn’s best scores simply due to its variety of styles and lack of overwrought power ballads (Jekyll & Hyde it ain’t!). As the titular title characters, Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes have ample opportunity to shine as do the supporting players especially Melissa van der Schyff who as Blanche comes very close to stealing the show. The show’s score is likable and a nice addition to any theatre fan’s collection whether you like Wildhorn or not.

Bring it On! The Musical: Original Cast EP (Ghostlight Records)

So far the only taste of the new Lin-Manuel Miranda/Tom Kitt/Amanda Green musical is via a three-song sampler available as downloads on iTunes and What a tease these tunes turn out to be. Since I haven’t seen the show I can only hazard to guess that “It’s All Happening” is the show’s opener as it ably sets the tone with an athletic, driving rhythm infused with Miranda’s trademark rhymes and urban beats. The other two tunes—“Ain’t No Thing” and “Enjoy the Trip”—are equally enjoyable but it was the excitement of “It’s All Happening” that hooked me. Broadway is getting another taste of the genius behind In the Heights and I for one cannot wait. (I’ll leave my pom poms at home!)

Evita: New Broadway Cast (Sony Masterworks)

The new recording of the Evita revival will likely cause many arguments among theatre aficionados, some of whom will rally behind Patti and Mandy while others are ready for a new take on a show that is over 30 years old. I fall somewhere in between. Does Ricky Martin sing the songs as well and Mandy Patinkin? Well—to borrow from the show—yes. And no. And yes. Either you like Patinkin’s vocal histrionics or you don’t. Personally I enjoyed Martin’s Latin swagger and if he can’t hit the high notes like yesterday’s Che, I can live with it. I am an admirer of Patinkin’s but it’s nice to hear the role of Che sung without the actor’s often-noted and eloquently parodied overindulgence. Elena Roger’s Evita is an altogether different animal than LuPone’s with a shrewish quality not unlike Elaine Page but, in my mind, probably more in line with the actual Eva Peron (Roger is also Argentinian). The real standout is Michael Cerveris as Juan Peron who brings a depth to this thankless role. You can hear both the ambition and pain as Cerveris ably demonstrates the politico’s many sides. Also, the new orchestrations and arrangements are hands down better than the over-synthesized recordings from the 1970s. What a treat to hear actual musical instruments that don’t need to be plugged in!

Lysistrata Jones: Original Broadway Cast (Broadway Records)

Lysistrata Jones was an adorable little show that I had the opportunity to see twice. Did it belong on Broadway? Probably not. Had it stayed in a cozy off-Broadway house it would likely still be playing to packed houses rather than closing much too soon. The score by Lewis Flynn is one of those tightly knit tapestries that is a blast in the theater, but doesn’t fare as well on the recording. The energy of the hardworking cast is evident but leaves the listener lacking. Some cast albums either get repeated listens or get put on the shelf as a token of a lovely night at the theatre. I’m afraid this recording falls into the latter category. There are some amazing voices, most notably Patti Murin, Liz Mikel, and the underused Jason Tam, but the music had more of a “wow factor” in the theater than it does on my headphones. This would’ve been one of the few cast albums that would have benefited from a live recording.

Newsies: Original Broadway Cast (Ghostlight Records)

Alan Menken and Jack Feldman’s Tony-winning score to Newsies has been an audience favorite since the movie musical first bombed across America in the early ‘90s. The new Broadway cast recording is akin to having your favorite room exquisitely remodeled with improvements you didn’t know you needed. Wisely, the creators have ditched the wobbly tunes sung by Ann Margaret in the film and replaced them with peppier replacements sung by the same character in the persona of Capathia Jenkins. In his second cast recording this year Jeremy Jordan again shines, this time as Jack Kelly, an enigmatic paperboy with dreams of artistic greatness and wanderlust (granted, “Santa Fe” is a great song but set your sights higher, Jack!). With anthems like “Seize the Day,” “King of New York,” “The World Will Know,” “Once and For All,” and the show- and heartstopping opener “Carrying the Banner,” Newsies translates nicely onto CD or into an iPod. While some of the energy that is so prevalent in the theater is not as obvious on the recording, the score won the Tony for a reason: it was the best music and lyrics of the 2011 – 2012 season.

Monday, July 16, 2012

“Ghost: The Musical” – A spirit in the material world wanders the Great White Way

By Mark A. Newman

Granted, saying that a musical is much better than you expected is not exactly high praise but that’s exactly how I’ve been describing Ghost: The Musical currently at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway. The story is familiar, the cast is likable, the music is inoffensive if forgettable, the direction by Matthew Warchus is quickly paced and presents the story of ill-fated lovers Sam (Richard Fleeshman) and Molly (Caissie Levy) in a tidy, overproduced package that will please casual theatergoers and offend theater aficionados.

The story is pretty much the same story from the movie starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore: banker Sam and artist Molly are deeply in love, Sam is murdered and wanders around the afterlife until he stumbles upon storefront psychic Oda Mae Brown (a show-stopping Da’Vine Joy Randolph), whom he gets to communicate with Molly while he discovers who killed him and why. The bad guys get what’s coming to them and the moral of the story is, I guess, love conquers all…even when one of the lovers is an apparition.

Despite my faint praise above, Ghost would not be as remotely entertaining without the triumphant performance of Randolph or the splashy special effects that include ghostly illusions, LED walls, and manic projections, not to mention lighting and cable tricks thrown in for good measure. Randolph, the only Tony-nominated aspect of this show, is a star in the making in what has now become the obligatory “sassy black diva” role. She conveys fear, anger, confusion, and even greed in a way the ropes the audience in and keeps them on her side.

While the leads are certainly likable and talented enough, there’s really nothing outstanding about either one of them, aside from Fleeshman’s abs which are prominently featured in ads for the show but only make a single appearance. Note to the director: Your audience is young girls and gay men. Ripped abs are to be showcased, not hidden in the shadows. Miss Saigon taught us all that. But I digress…

As Carl, Sam’s slimy co-worker who may or may not be complicit in his demise, Bryce Pinkham really brings on the smarm. He has a creepiness to him that is offputting and he even vaguely resembles Tony Goldwyn who played the role in the movie. Even when he reveals his own chiseled torso there’s still an ick factor present that sent a collective shiver through the audience. Also, Michael Balderamma as thug Willie Lopez shines in the largest role I’ve ever seen him in. Typically a dance captain or featured dancer (Movin’ Out, In the Heights, etc.), Balderamma shows off considerable acting chops.

Sadly, the score by The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart along with Glenn Ballard is pretty underwhelming. The tunes all seem to run together and don’t really have a cohesive link. They could be in a musical about lab rats, the life of Martin Van Buren, or a musicalization of  The Poseidon Adventure. Other than the overused and often-inserted “Unchained Melody”—oddly how often that song pops up to remind Molly of her dearly departed Sam—the score is unimaginative, dull, and forgettable.

Luckily the show rises above its tunes, but only on the shoulders of Randolph’s hilarious star turn and some of the most advanced special effects on Broadway. Still, it’s not the worst show of the season (that would be the bilious Leap of Faith), nor is it the best. But for a night at theatre, you could do a lot worse.   

Ghost: The Musical

Featuring: Caissie Levy (Molly), Richard Fleeshman (Sam), Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Oda Mae), Bryce Pinkham (Carl) and Michael Balderamma (Willie Lopez), with Moya Angela, Jason Babinsky, James Brown III, Stephen Carrasco, Sharona D'Ornellas, Jeremy Davis, Josh Franklin, Albert Guerzon, Afra Hines, Carly Hughes, Karen Hyland, Alison Luff, Tyler McGee, Vasthy Mompoint, Jennifer Noble, Joe Aaron Reid, Lance Roberts, Constantine Rousouli, Jennifer Sanchez, Daniel Watts, and Jesse Wildman.

Book & Lyrics by Bruce Joel Rubin
Music by Dave Stewart and Glenn Ballard

Sound design: Bobby Aitken
Video and projection design: Jon Driscoll
Costume & Scenic design: Rob Howell
Illusions Designer: Paul Kieve
Lighting Designer: Hugh Vanstone
Choreographer: Ashley Wallen
Director: Matthew Warchus

Orchestrations: Christopher Nightingale
Music Direction: David Holcenberg

Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
205 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Maltby & Shire's “Closer Than Ever” - Better Than Closer - it's Here!

By Judd Hollander
Photo by Carol Rosegg

The 1989 musical revue Closer Than Ever (lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr., music by David Shire, conceived by Richard Maltby Jr. and Steven Scott Smith), which looks at the ins and outs of relationships, their beginning, middle and possible endings, makes a welcome return to New York City with a somewhat updated production at the York Theatre Company.

More than simple songs, (the production is 99% musical numbers) just about every one of the pieces performed tells a story about the afore-mentioned subjects and people in crisis, bliss or transition because of it. If there's a through line here, it would be one of time and progression, with such issues as change, love, death, growing older and combinations of all of the above coming to the fore at different points. How the specific stories are emotionally presented depends on those performing the songs in question, the four member cast (Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano) mostly hitting all the right notes.

While the score of the show is simply wonderful to hear, since most of the songs were written over twenty years ago, there's often a slight feeling of things being just a bit out of date, coupled with an ever-present element of nostalgia, rather than something seemingly more on the cutting edge. In perhaps in recognition of this fact, some new songs have been added for this production, with at least one number being cut. Maltby and Shire have also updated a few things here and there, with a reference to Dan Quayle replaced by one of Glenn Beck, and a $50,000 salary mention changed to $90,000. At the same time, it's interesting to note that the issues raised and situations explored are pretty universal and could be taking place in just about any era or setting.

It's also worth noting that the slower and more somber pieces in Closer Than Ever have the stronger emotional effect, such as when Noll sings "Life Story" and "Patterns", both pieces showing the path a person's life has taken and how perhaps, with a little change things might have been quite different. In the same vein, Viviano powerfully delivers the angst-ridden "One of the Good Guys", about a man who has always done the right thing yet now sometimes finds he is more content than truly happy. Elsewhere, Dvorsky beautifully carries off "If I Sing", and he and Viviano do a wonderful job with "Fathers of Fathers," the former looking at life from son to father, and the latter looking from father to child.

Some of the faster numbers that come off well are "I'll Get Up Tomorrow Morning", sung by Dvorsky, a satirical look at a man pushed to the breaking point by numerous responsibilities; while Colella, Noll and Dvorsky have fun with the cute, if somewhat kitschy "Three Friends". Also worthy of mention is the opening number "Doors", the at times all-too-true "The March of Time", and "Back on Base", a somewhat risqué number featuring Colella and base player Danny Weller. It should also be noted that Weller, and piano player Andrew Gerle - who is also the show's music director, do a great job providing musical accompaniment for the production.

The four actors all do pretty well with the material, with each having numerous moments to shine, holding the audience's attention and belting out the numbers when it really counts. There were however, a few misfires in the show, including Viviano with "What Am I Doin'?", a number about lovesickness carried to the extreme. Done for comic effect, the piece might have resonated better with some more emotional shading. There was also "Miss Byrd", sung by Colella about a supposedly ordinary woman with a secret, with the actress not doing enough to really sell the two sides of the woman via the song.

Maltby handles the directing chores and for the most part does the job quite well, allowing for quick transitions between the songs and not letting any one story or number overstay its welcome. The one glaring exception being "There's Nothing Like It", a song about physical fitness, which unfortunately goes too far over the top more than once. Kurt Stamm does fine with the chorography, making good use of the stage playing area. The set by James Morgan, basically a lot of doors, are nice.

An enjoyable musical revue which has a surprisingly large amount to say, Maltby & Shire's Closer Than Ever may not hit a total home run, but still is a major game winner this summer theatre season.

Closer Than Ever

Featuring: Jenn Colella, George Dvorsky, Christiane Noll, Sal Viviano

Lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr.
Music by David Shire
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Steven Scott Smith
Scenic Design: James Morgan
Costume Design: Nicole Wee
Lighting Design: Kirk Bookman
Technical Design: Wyatt Kuether
Dance Captain: Jenn Colella
Associate Choreographer: Emily Morgan
Casting: Mungioli Theatricals: Arnold J. Mungioli, CSA
General Press Representative: O&M Co.
Marketing: Red Rising Marketing
Co-Directed by Steven Scott Smith
Assistant Stage Manager: Niki Armato
Production Stage Manager: Bernita Robinson
Additional Vocal Arrangements: Patrick Scott Brady
Music Direction/Piano: Andrew Gerle
Bass: Alan Stevens Hewitt; Danny Weller
Associate Direction: & Choreography: Kurt Stamm
Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.

Presented by the York Theatre Company
St. Peter's Church

619 Lexington Avenue
Tickets: 212-935-5820
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission
Closes: August 25, 2012