Thursday, December 30, 2004

Jogging Memories

For a certain generation 42nd St. Moon brings back memories. With just about every show we do, someone writes to us to tell a story about seeing the show.

Actually during "Hooray for What!" someone wrote to say that their mother had been one of the chorus girls in both that show, and in our season closer, "The Boys from Syracuse.". The gentleman had even scanned and sent photos of the original program, including pictures of his mom.

Now, with the addition of "Minnie's Boys" to the schedule, we got the following email:

"Minnie's Boys was the first Broadway show I ever saw! I have the original cast album, the CD, an original poster and a program autographed by all the leads including Shelly Winters and Louis J. Stadlen. If you'd like to display these materials at your performances, let me know... I'm a subscriber, so I can't wait to see you do this show...point of interest: the song "Empty" is on the cast album, but was actually cut from the show....


So, now you know that when you see vintage materials in our lobby, it sometimes comes from our audience members!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Some other reviews of "Mattress"

I found a few more links to "Mattress" reviews.

Here's the regional review.

Here's a briefer blurb from the Wcities web site.

Here's the Chad Jones review that gets printed in the Oakland Trib, the Alameda Times-Star and other papers I think.

All good reviews, with only minor spoilers.

My Review of a Review

I have a theatre friend who complains quite a bit about a certain proclivity of reviewers: to review the piece itself, rather than the production of the piece. IOW, he would rather hear how the performers pulled off a particular play or musical, than about the some long, pretentious piece of dramaturgy analyzing the piece.

I can't say I'm in full agreement, especially if it's a new work of art. How can you review the new Arthur Miller play or Sondheim musical without commenting on the work itself? But I do hope they don't send a musical hater to review musicals. And, I do hope that a reviewer will at least give a passing nod to talking about a specific production and the work of the individuals involved.

I read a review of "Mattress" this morning, though that will give my aforementioned friend and I a whole new debate: do you care what a reviewer thinks of past performances by a particular actor? The entire first quarter of the review is the reviewer's review of everything he has ever seen Lea in. Is it just me, or does it just seem like he is not name-dropping, exactly, but at the very least making sure we know just how well-traveled and clued into culture he is?

I'm trying to think back over reviews I've written, and I suppose I'll say "I've always loved this performer" or "I've never gotten the appeal of this performer", but I don't think I've ever gone into a show-by-show "loved it" "hated it" litany. It seems gratuitous and, more to the point, irrelevant, since most audience members won't have the same reference points.

He loved the show and Lea's performance, and I found the opening part kind of annoying. Not sure if it's because I'm biased, though? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Defining an artist vs. a performer

I make no secret of the fact that I idolize Ms. Bernadette Peters. I have seen her live and on TV numerous times, and am ever impressed with how she embodies the songs she chooses to sing. There is always something going on inside her that makes each song seem like only she has sung it, and only she has plumbed the depths that the song has.

Some may call her the consummate "performer", but I call her an "artist". And I read a quote from her in the NY Times that exactly illustrates why. The question was whether she had any regrets for 2004. And she responded:

"It was exhausting, but I wish we had kept doing the show ["Gypsy" on Broadway]. We could have gone deeper."

I saw this show last year, and Peters blew me away. Yes, she had vocal issues, especially early in the show. Who cares? I'm not a fan of "Gypsy", particularly, or of that role, and I thought Peters brought so many new layers to it. She made the show seem fresh and new, and her "Rose's Turn" was revelatory. She got a standing ovation at the end of the number, and it was well-deserved. IMHO, of course. You can read my original review of the show here.

My point is that after over a year in the show, she was still looking for more.

Non-performers (and even some performers) wonder how people get through such long runs. I've never been in a run that long, and certainly when I've been in shows where the people were a drag, and the show was a drag, and the venue was a drag...then even one weekend can seem like an eternity. But if you're in a great show, with a great role, with a great really can seem like each performance is a new one; each moment is a fresh one.

Sigh. Maybe I need to do a show.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Final Weekend: Lea DeLaria in "Once Upon a Mattress"

If, by chance, you have yet to see 42nd St. Moon's hit production of "Once Upon a Mattress" this is your last chance!

Don't forget, there is an added performance this Wednesday the 29th at 8PM.

There are also the following performances remaining:

Thursday the 30th at 8PM
Saturday the 1st at 6PM
Sunday the 2nd at 3PM

NO performance on New Year's Eve...Happy New Year...have a safe and festive one!

So, four more to go. You can buy your tickets here.

42nd St. Moon family member releases a CD

Lisa Houston was seen this past spring as the Lady Hyacinth/Mrs. Drawbridge in Jerome Kern's "The Cabaret Girl". She was also featured in our Spring gala honoring Mr. Kern and appears on our CD, "The First Rose Of Summer."

Now, Lisa has released a solo CD all her own!

"Love, Liebe, L'Amore, L'Amour: songs and arias on the theme of love" is now available. This collection includes operatic arias, art songs, operetta and musical theatre selections ranging from Vivaldi and Saint-Saëns to Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern and would make a lovely gift for anyone who likes vocal music.  The CD booklet includes translations of all of the songs which are in German, Italian, French as well as English.  You can hear two tracks from the album by visiting Lisa's web site, listed below.. Ordering info is also on the site.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Holidays from 42nd St. Moon

"Mattress" has a night off tonight, and I'm about to log off the computer and start a present-wrapping marathon. I have to say the only downside to my secular,mixed-religion upbringing is the fact that I have many more days of holiday "stuff" I have to do!

42nd St. Moon has somehow developed fans around the world, and I'd like to leave you with a holiday greeting we received from one very enthusiastic Italian fan. His passion for classic American music matches our own and reminds us why we love bringing this music to our San Francisco audiences.

First his initial message to us:

"Dear 42 st. Moon,
I am italian, and I am, i think, one of the most italian lover about '30 american music. I have pratically all I can find about composers like Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter & Rodgers & Hart music. The last month i've bought some american cd that i can't find in Italy, and, among them, also your "Something for the boys".

When i read the booklet i was very surprised...for me was unbielevable that you made all the musical that i know only for the name, but that i've never listened to the music, 'cause they don't exist lp or cd about them. But i am very sorry that, if i've known well, there isn't any cd about them. Obviously it's impossible to me to go to San Francisco to watch there no way to have this music in some format? Why don't you make the cd about them? For me it's terrificly sad that you make a very, very good operation to resuscitate these musical and these great songwriters, but tomorrow there is no trace about your work, and, naturally, that i still continue to want to know these songs, but there is no way to know them.

Best regards and a sincere compliment however,
C.B., Italy

Then his holiday message after receiving his copy of our "First Rose of Summer" CD:

"I've received your cd, and i listened to's GREAT! I only knew two song of it, all the other are new for me, it's very exciting for me to buy a cd about my favorite composer with all unknown song; i think, about 20's and 30's american music, there are a lot of songs missing and unknown without a reason. It's the same thing for the people: a bit of luck can change the destiny of their life.

There's no logical reason that bring some song to become famous and other to miss, only luck, so i think it's very interesting to rediscover some hidden gems, and this is the reason why I admire your work and i hope you can continue ever more. I only hope you can start to make cd about the unknown musical you produce.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year and be sure, if i come back to the USA, my first tour will be to San Francisco to my friends.
C.B., Italy

Friday, December 24, 2004

Pictures from Opening Night

A little belatedly, but here are a couple of shots trusty 42ns St. Moon Administrator Annette took on Opening Night:

1. They may be nemeses (nemisises?) on stage, but not offstage, thank you: Milissa and Lea:

2. It's a Winnifred Sandwich: Lea between her Prince, Rudy and her director, Wayne:

(And, yes I know the second one is much blurrier, and I'm not sure why: same camera, same process putting it online...grrrr.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wow..."Mattress" Love Inspires Donation

OK, somehow that came out sounding naughty, but it's really not.

See, we got an email from a couple who saw "Mattress", and loved it so much they sent a donation to the theatre, along with this note:

"Please let the director, staff and crew know that on Saturday, December 18th at 6 p.m. we were in the audience for "Once Upon a Mattress." ALL about it was wonderful!!

When Lea was paging through the script on stage and could not find her place - she ad-libbed, 'That's what I get for memorizing my lines!' - lots of audience laughter! She's amazing!!

And does she know how to 'milk a line'!! Wonderful - right up there with the best!! Bob Hope, George Burns, Milton Berle, Phyllis Diller, and her!!

Have a very enjoying holiday and a spectacular 2005!!

R.H., Burlingame, CA

Wow. He's ranking Lea up there with people that almost define comedy. Very nice.

The Examiner Loves the Cast of "Mattress"

The piece itself? Not so much.

Well, as I've said before, it's a matter of taste. I have always found the show itself to be cute and charming with some lovely tunes and funny schtick. The Examiner critic clearly isn't won over by lovely tunes, funny schtick and cute charm. Go figure.

But he has a lot of praise for lea and the cast in general.

Monday, December 20, 2004

ALERT: Added Performance for "Mattress" on 12/29


Due to brisk ticket sales, 42nd St. Moon has added a performance of "Once Upon a Mattress" on Wednesday, December 29th at 8PM.

Obviously this performance will have the best seat selection for the next few days, so get on it!


No Show Big Stars on Broadway: Epidemic or Minor, Irritating Rash?

Well, the NY Times is practically declaring the big star Broadway musical vehicle DOA in this article [registration required.]

They pick a few bad apple examples of frequent no-show celebrities and use that paint them all with an "unreliable" brush. And, they opine, if celebs are unreliable, people will no longer pay the big bucks to see them in their vehicles, and therefore the big vehicles will die out like the dinosaurs.

I think that's BS in many ways. First of all how many people outside the confines of the New York City theatre community even hear the griping of often-absent stars? Not too many. And tourism still comprises a big part of Broadway ticket sales.

They do bring up, as a side point almost, what I think will kill Broadway musicals as a big star vehicle: how few new musicals there really are, and how much time passes between star vehicle opportunities for our broadway legends.

In the "good, old" days (the days that 42nd St. Moon mostly celebrates) there were dozens of shows opening each season. And a big star, like a Merman, had a new vehicle every season too.

You could make a living off of that if you were a "star."

No more. Look at Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Kristen Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane etc. Do you doubt that in the old days, if they had wanted to, they could have been in some big show centered around their prodigious talents non-stop for years? Instead three and four years go between each appearance they make.

I think it's kind of cowardly of the Times to blame an actor here and there for the decline of the Broadway musical, when it has a lot more to do with economics way outside the actor's control. I'm willing to bet that Bernadette Peters' salary for Gypsy was a pretty small percentage of the budget. And the ticket returns for performances she even smaller impact.

IMHO, as they say.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Somebody had a birthday

I forgot to mention that part of the Opening Night activities was a birthday cake for Artistic Director, Greg MacKellan.

He seemed characteristically embarrassed by the display, but I have to say the birthday cake was extremely tasty. I just wish people could have let me squeeze in there to get a picture before they started slicing it. Actors after a show can be so ravenous!

And you never get such good Birthday Song singing as when you're with a theatre crowd!

Happy Birthday, Greg!

42nd St. Moon performer to star in Teatro Zinzanni

I've actually never seen several San Francisco institutions.

Never seen Beach Blanket Babylon.

And never seen Teatro Zinzanni either.

Might have a good reason too early next year, though.

Debbie deCoudreaux, who was a featured performer in 42nd St. Moon's gala honoring Jerome Kern earlier this year, is going to take over the starring role in January/February 2005.

Might be a good time to finally see it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

No blogging for a few days

I'll be out of town Wednesday thru Saturday and probably not blogging at all.

Don't miss me too much ;)

And go see some theatre!

What do Lea & the "Mattress" crowd do after a show? Not go to Disneyland!

So a little bird has this story to tell me about a night on the town after Sunday's matinee:

"Lea loves it here and has been out and about the city. So Sunday night, after the matinee, and then Indian food in the Mission, we ended up at Martuni's (would never have gone EXCEPT that I had the feeling she might just sing).  Well, the keyboard player was a solid jazz man, playing a Mose Allison tune and Lea, from across the room, started scatting.  One thing led to another and she ended up doing a couple songs.  One of which was "A Train."  It was fantastic. I only knew her from the theatre stuff.  This was a blend of Sophie/Ella.  The real deal.  Very excellent.  The place was suddenly full, people snapping photos (AT MARTUNI'S!!!).  She even did some original material (mocking a non-jazz, Show Tune singer types - well deserved!)"

Doesn't it sound like a scene from a glamorous 1940s musical movie? Sigh. I missed it. 

More on Diva-dom

My friend, Milissa, of Queen Aggravain and "good diva" fame, informs me that my idea of good divas and bad divas is somewhat approximated in the opera world. She tells me:

"In opera, there are kunst divas and hoch divas.  Kunst means Art and Hoch means High or Lofty"

And that concludes our cultural lesson for the day.

My next post gets back to gossip!

How to see 42nd St. Moon for free

It's called bartering, folks.

Give us your ushering skills, we'll get you in to see the hot hit "Once Upon a Mattress" for free!

Here's the deets:

In exchange for some volunteer ushering services pre-show (and maybe at intermission helping us sell concessions), you're welcome to stay and see the show. For example, we can still use ushers for our current run of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS
on these dates:

Saturday, Dec. 18th at 6 p.m. (be at theater at 5:15 p.m.) - need 3
Thurs., Dec. 23rd at 8 p.m. (be at theater at 7:15 p.m.) - need 3
Fri., Dec. 24th at 8 p.m. (be at theater at 7:15 p.m.) - need 4
Sun. Dec. 26th at 3 p.m.(be at theater at 2:15 p.m.) - need 1
Thurs., Dec. 30th at 8 p.m. - need 2

Please call 42nd Street Moon (415) 255-8207 for more information. Ask to speak to Mike Figueira or Annette Lai.

And tell them the blog sent you :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Some Moonies in concert

Actually I'm not sure we like that "Moonies" does evoke mass weddings in Yankee Stadium, doesn't it?

Anyway, whatever we call ourselves, two of us are iving what sounds like a wonderful holiday concert next week:

Fans of veteran 42nd St. Moon performer and director, Caroline Altman, and long time 42nd St. Moon performer and musical director, Brandon Adams, are presenting DECEMBER SONGS, a winter song cycle and other favorites by Maury Yeston, Monday evening, December 20th, 2004 at 7:30 p.m. at the Montclair Presbyterian Church 5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland, CA 94611. Admission is free.

Don't Forget Lea Event Tomorrow!

Don't forget, Ms. Lea will be live and in conversation with the Oakland Trib's Chad Jones on Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m.

For ticket information, please visit the Queer Cultural Center website. Don't forget it's for a good cause.

Email from a happy audience member

"Saw "Once Upon A Mattress" last Friday night. Going again with other friends who will love it too."
P.P., San Francisco, CA

Reviewers are one thing. They're paid to see the show and tell you what they think.

Messages from anonymous audience members who take time out of their busy day to let you know what they thought...that's quite another thing altogether!

Monday, December 13, 2004

A GREAT review in the Chron

Read it here.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

My Review of "Once Upon a Mattress"

Is up at my Personal Blog right here.

Why don't I post it directly here? Thanks for asking I'll tell you the same thing I said after "Can-Can" and "Hooray For What!":

1. Some people really hate reading reviews because they inevitably contain spoilers. They reveal plot points, or at the very least, they predispose you to be on the lookout for things, either good or bad. Some people really want to know as little as possible before seeing something. My SO, for example, doesn't even like to watch the 'scenes from next week's show' that follow nearly every series you watch on TV.

2. Some actors don't like to read reviews while they are in a show. I do not understand the will power of such actors myself. Curiosity has killed this cat many a time, but there it is. In deference to the actors who do come check out the blog, but don't want to see anything written about themselves, the review is posted a mere click away.

So, if you do not fall into either category, have fun:

My "Mattress" Review

"Freaky" trivia about "Mattress" composer

So, I'm busily writing my review of last night's performance, and did a quick google look-up of composer Mary Rodgers.

And she is the author of the book "Freaky Friday"!!!! You know...the one made into two movies, one with Jodie Foster back in '77 and one just last year with Jamie lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.

I so did not know that.

The book came out when I was 8, and I loved that book!

I am tripping out about this! I feel about 8 years old as I write this actually.

Anyway, FYI!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Waiting for Opening Night!

I'm very excited to be going to Opening Night tonight. I actually enjoyed going to the first Sunday performance and attending the talk-back session with the audience for "Hooray For What!" (and it gave me lots of blog material) but nothing beats an Opening Night.

So, the show tonight is sold out. And with all the press the show has been getting, I'd have to imagine the entire run will sell out as well. So, get on it! Get your tickets. They're hot out of the oven, people!

Anyway, I'll post my thoughts on Opening Night as soon as I can. I'm a little hampered by the fact that I'm also going to see some theatre tomorrow. (Striking 12 at TheatreWorks.) But I'll try to post my mini-review before I go out tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Lea in the News

Here's some local press Lea has gotten in the past week:

Oakland Trib feature by Chad Jones, who happens to be the guy sitting down with Lea for the Queer Cultural Center benefit next week.

Contra Costa Times feature by Pat Craig.

San Francisco Examiner piece

A little item in the San Francisco Chronicle

SCOOP! Blog exclusive: Next scheduled show is changing!

Got this message from Greg today, and you, my fine blog readers, are definitely the first to learn this news. This is one of the three characteristics of blogs I love to talk up: Immediacy! (The other two are interactivity and informality, if you're curious.)

So, back to Greg:

"Okay - no TENDERLOIN.  For various reasons, we have decided to switch the next show (opening end of March) to MINNIE’S BOYS — 1970 on Broadway, about the early days of the Marx Brothers, their days in vaudeville, and how they developed their distinctive personalities (as "Groucho," "Harpo," etc).  ("Minnie," the star part, is their very pushy but loving mother.)  Groucho collaborated on the development of this musical, which originally starred Shelley Winters (That was their first mistake — although she’s actually lots of fun on the cd).  GREAT SCORE!!!! By Larry Grossman and Hal Hackady (who also wrote "Goodtime Charley" and "Snoopy" - when we did "Goodtime Charley," Hal Hackady came out to see it and spent several days with us.)  Some people may know Harpo’s song, "Mama, a Rainbow" and "Where Was I When They Passed Out Luck?" is also popular on cabaret circuits.

Stephanie and I are REALLY excited about this - we were facing some real casting difficulties with TENDERLOIN, but when we thought of MINNIE’S BOYS (we’ve danced around it before - but an audience member, Ray Workman, suggested it to us recently, and it put it back at the forefront of our thoughts.  We have had so many talented young men work with us this year, that it seemed like the perfect thing, so we checked the rights - and found out today we got them.  Really, we’re thrilled.  I think our audiences are going to have a great time with this show.  As for TENDERLOIN, it’s still in our future - we’re not abandoning it.  It just turned out that this was not the right time to do it.  But we don’t feel like it’s a “bait and switch”...we’re replacing one extremely lost but wonderful musical with ANOTHER extremely lost but wonderful musical.  And although MINNIE’S BOYS was written in 1970, the score very much has the flavor of the 20s and 30s.

There you have it. You heard it here first!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Our Blog Interview with Lea DeLaria

Ms. DeLaria graciously sat down and let us ask her questions yesterday morning. Given she's been doing that a lot lately, and has a big interview evening planned for next Wednesday, I appreciated her time (and her ability to avoid sighing when she heard questions she must have heard only 100 times before.)

On "Once Upon a Mattress"

"It's just a part I always wanted to do. I've never done the show before in any capacity. And I've only seen it a few times...the Carol Burnett version on TV, the Broadway revival a few years back. But it's just one of those roles."

On having such a "diverse" career (stand-up, jazz singing, Broadway, TV)

"I've always done a lot of different things. Because I can do them. I just can. I do a lot of different things well. I guess I'm old school. I think entertainers should know how to do a lot of things. It's the media (and the audience) that tend to compartmentalize. When I first started out, a reviewer told me, 'you have to decide: are you a singer or a stand-up comedian?'. And I thought, 'why?' I'm a singer and a stand-up, and then I added acting and writing. I don't see why anyone should hide their light under a bushel.

And it energizes me. I don’t feel stretched.

Take this year alone. I've done everything. I started out the year on the Newport Jazz Tour, touring the country with some jazz greats.. Then I went into performing my comedy special “I’m just a Girl”. Next was Rodgers & Hammerstein's “Cinderella” at the NY City Opera, now it's “Mattress”, and after "Mattress" closes I head off to do Beckett's Happy Days, which is basically a huge dramatic role, in NYC.

On "Role Models" and "Icons"

First, I asked Lea if she had any "role models" when building such a diverse career. I personally can't think of another stand-up who is or was also a jazz singer, for example. Then I asked her how it felt to be called "an icon."

She didn't find either phrase something she relates to or can even really understand.

When it comes to role models, she listed a variety of singer/actors...such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland...who were multi-talented. But only offered them as examples of performers who also thrived in multiple areas. I'm still waiting for an example of a stand-up comic/jazz singer, though. If anyone can think of one, please let me know.

As for being an "icon":

"I don’t know how to respond to the word. It seems silly. I mean, maybe it helps me get laid, but other than that! Who is an icon? Miles Davis. Charlie Parker. John Coltrane. Ella Fitzgerald. Judy Garland. Frank Sinatra. Lily Tomlin.
But it freaks me out. To be called that or a role model.

I'm just an entertainer who has something to say. And I'm not afraid to say what I think. I think these days a lot of comedians want to get TV show so they suppress what they really think. It's easier to talk about meaningless stuff.

We talked a lot about the current political climate and its impact on comedians. Jon Stewart, for example, certainly talks about current events, but all the while he's highlighting the absurdity, he's rarely expressing an opinion about it. That's in stark contrast to someone like Janeane Garofalo…who actually got a TV deal pulled, due to her remarks about the Iraq war.

You can combine political action with humor. Al Franken and Janeane are doing that now on Air America. That desire to make a difference and make her voice heard always drove Lea. Her act can be angry and loud, but funny.

But as Lea said: "The pendulum swings in this industry, and right now it's swinging toward milquetoast."

There's nothing milquetoast about Lea, but that doesn't mean one of her favorite shows can't also be the sweet and silly "Once Upon a Mattress", fit for the entire family.

Discount Day for blog readers may be over, but if you haven't got your tickets yet, be sure to get on it. The show's going to be a huge hit for the Moon, due in no small part to triple threat, Lea DeLaria.

Just don't call her a "role model" or "icon", please!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Little Story about our Queen Aggravain

Enough about Queen Aggravain from 40 years ago, let me tell you a story about 42nd St. Moon's Queen Aggravain, Milissa Carey. I met Milissa eight years ago when we were co-starring in Foothill Music Theatre's production of "Kiss Me Kate"

She was the regal (though not really a queen) Lili Vanessi, and I was the...ummm...let's say "saucy" Lois Lane.

Milissa taught me the true meaning, not of Christmas, but of diva-dom.

Now, most people associate the word diva with a slew of negatives, but the fact is there are good divas and bad divas. Sort of like the witches in "The Wizard of Oz." But a diva is simply someone who has undertaken a large role because of their larger-than-life talent and/or personality.

Bad divas think that entitles them to be rude, mean, and to make unreasonable demands. Good divas realize it's okay to ask for what they need, for the good of their own performance and the show in general.

Now, in "Kiss Me Kate" Milissa and I had many costume changes, some quick. The Smithwick Theatre at Foothill is large, but its dressing room situation is not ideal. It's down a long flight of stairs, and there are just two big rooms, one for women and one for men. When they do large-cast shows, the number of people milling about down there can be overwhelming.

Milissa and I had discussed how much we wished there was some place a little less noisy to get ready and get prepped for the show, but I never thought to ask for one. I probably didn't want to seem too demanding. But the theatre has lots of wing space. So much so that Milissa simply asked if we couldn't construct a couple of enclosed spaces up there to be an on-stage spot for quick changes and the like, one for men and one for women.

I actually can't believe no one had thought of it before. But it turned out to be quite simple to set up two side-by-side curtained off spaces complete with makeup tables, mirrors, wardrobe racks etc. We ended up using the space not just for quick changes, but to get ready in general. The fact is that it made life better for us. It made more room for everyone downstairs. It was more practical. And during the run of the show everyone who had a quick change used it.

The only potential obstacle was that the staff did not want to leave the costumes up there unattended between performances. So, we agreed to roll our wardrobe rack to a lockable office each night. (Note: we didn't ask anyone else to do it.)

[Side Story: Now, I wanted to be a bad diva when I discovered that the costume designer's plan included my character always being in some shade of orange...which I loathe...even my wedding dress in the final scene was orange! But the fact is the costumers were pretty, fit well etc. etc...just orange, so i didn't make a fuss.]

From then on we joked about our diva-dom, but the truth is, I learned a good lesson: if you're polite; if you ask, don't demand; if you have a good reason...then requests are perfectly reasonable to make.

To this day, FMT creates those on-stage dressing rooms for the big summer shows. It makes perfect sense, but only Milissa had the confidence to simply ask!

Monday, December 06, 2004

LIMITED TIME ONLY: Once Upon a Mattress discount for blog readers

Here's the dealio on the discount. This discount offer is ONLY for blog readers...the show is selling so well they're not doing any other discount offering.

The Previews are almost sold out. All the Saturdays and Sundays are almost sold out.

So, act quickly!

Preview Promotion: Get $12 tickets for this Wednesday December 8th ONLY
Code: BLOG12
Time to call: Starts NOW, through show time Wednesday

All other performances:
Get $20 tickets for any other weekday performances, starting Thursday the 16th
Code: BLOG20
Time to call: 11AM-6PM Wednesday December 8th ONLY

Discount not available for Saturday or Sunday performances, Wed.-Fri ONLY

Think of this being just like when your favorite band comes to gotta call right when the tickets go on sale!

Number to call: 415-978-2787

To recap:

If you want to go to the 1st Preview on Wednesday, you can call in and order now. ($12)

If you want to get $20 for any other weekday performance starting on the 16th, you must call in on THIS WEDNESDAY ONLY, 11AM-6PM

Sunday, December 05, 2004

One last Jane White tidbit

Greg told me this tidbit about the one time he saw Ms. White perform live:

"Steph and I saw her in the revival of Sondheim's "Follies" in NY in 2001 -- she was playing the "Ah, Paris!" character. And she was wonderful! They played it like she was an aging Josephine Baker type."

More on the Jane White story

I try to spread this blog around to the theatrical world, so yesterday I went and posted a bit about it on the Broadway World message boards.

An interesting conversation ensued. [Hope that link works if you're not a member logged in?]

Basically someone read my post about Ms. White and thought I was implying she was "forced" to do the part in white face, and that I was calling producer George Abbot a racist.

Actually, I think Abbott was just afraid that lots of other people (like prospective audience members) were racist. And I'm sure Ms. White wasn't forced with a gun to her head...she had free will...but it was clear it was the only way to get the Broadway starring role. And given that her father has expressly rejected passing for white all his life (he was blond and blue-eyed and only about 1/8 African American to begin with) I have to believe she would, at the very least, see the irony there.

Anyway, what I was trying to express was my personal surprise that such a move would be necessary. We see so much "non-traditional" casting these days, I'm sure producers wouldn't give it a second thought today. And I don't think of Mattress as some old, creaky show, but rather of a more modern musical era.

I went and did some Googling about and found a couple of interesting links about Ms. White and her father, Walter White.

On this site, Jane White reminisces about her childhood.

And here is the story (PDF-sorry) of Walter White passing for white, or not as the case was.

Gotta love the Internet.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

"Mattress" trivia that will blow your mind!

I was reading some notes from Greg on the show and ran across the tidbit that the Queen Aggravain in the original Broadway production was played by a woman named Jane White.


Well, Jane was the daughter of the man who founded the NAACP, and she contracted to do the role, understanding she would play it in white face!

I had no idea.

And it's not as though the show was produced in the dark ages; it opened in 1959. I guess the North wasn't always as open-minded and advanced as I thought.

I'm sure there are many other noteworthy things about the original production, but this one really did surprise me.

Friday, December 03, 2004

HEADS UP: Info on Blog Readers' Discount for "Mattress"

So, "Mattress" ticket sales are brisk, brisk, brisk.

We want to make sure blog readers have a shot at discounted tickets, but its going to be handled a little differently than the last two shows.

We're going to set aside one day for blog readers to call and get discounted tickets. You'll be able to order them for most performances (as per usual Sunday matinees will likely be excluded.) But it's only going to be one day. And it's only going to be for blog readers.

That's it. One shot to see Lea and the rest of the "Mattress" crew on the cheap.

The day will likely be early next week, and I will post the final details as soon as they have them.

Want to make sure you don't forget to check back and get the details? If you click on the link in the right hand side bar that says "Sign Up for Blog Updates", you'll get a weekly (Monday) email from me updating you on blog posts from the previous week, including the post to come about the discount details.

Stay tuned.

ALERT: You can be in the Audience for West Coast Live! with Lea tomorrow morning!

CALLING ALL LEA FANS: See Lea Live and In Person Tomorrow Morning at the Empire Plush Room in SF.

I know I posted this event yesterday, but I didn't really make it clear that it is a live radio show...with audience.

So, you can get up close and personal with Lea DeLaria in the beautiful, intimate Plush Room...tomorrow, Saturday morning at 10AM.

Go to the West Coast Live web site and get info to order tickets online or via phone.

Tickets are $15 in advance, and it's a two hour show, featuring other performers besides Lea as well.

All the details are at their web site.

Check it out!

Handling Vocal "Issues"

This isn't really a 42nd St. Moon story, but I thought our faithful blog readers might be interested.

I've been Vocal Directing a local high school production of "Fiddler on the Roof" for the last couple of months. The kids are generally pretty good kids, they're putting in a lot of effort, and the Tevye? He's 16 going on 40 I swear.

So, Wednesday afternoon I show up to watch the Final Dress Rehearsal and am greeted by general panic. Apparently between long days of school and rehearsal and spending the previous day, all day, going from classroom to classroom singing "Tradition" to promote the show, the kids are all sick...or at the very least they have lost their voices.

Everyone's drinking tea and whispering (yikes!) And the Director and Choreographer are actually suggesting everybody just whisper their way through the final Dress and not even attempt to sing.

So, I'm not one to be quiet, and I had to disagree. Here's my philosophy, and I shared it with both the director and choreographer...and the kids:

The choreographer said "Well, my sister is a speech therapist, and she said not talking is the best thing."

I said: "Is she a performer?"

Performing is a mental game. Even the most talented people can give sucky performances...and you can bet it's something mental that turns talent into suckage. And even musical theatre acting is, after all, about the acting. I've seen performers whose voices were on their last legs, but they kept me enthralled nonetheless.

I thought the worst thing for these kids would be to go out there Opening Night and have no idea what was going to come out of their mouths. It seemed like they were thinking that 24 hours was going to miraculously cure their voices...but what if it didn't? How shaken would they be if they hadn't worked through a performance and figured out where they could take it easy, where they could "Henry Higgins" their way through some moments, where they could act their way through?

Of course I gave them my personal DOs and DON'Ts:

DO gargle with warm salt water
DO drink hot liquids
DO add honey if you like it (lemon, not so much IMHO)
DO hum
DO keep your placement up in the mask of your face, not in your throat...think high, think nasal

DON'T whisper, under any circumstances
DON'T drink dairy
DON'T drink caffeine

Am I missing any of your favorites?

And as I suspected, most of the kids were actually a lot better off than they thought they were. They had woken up in the morning, felt hoarse and so had been not talking, in fact had been whispering. Consequently their voices had simply never gotten properly lubricated and warmed up.

All that hot tea and a few vocal warm-ups, and most of them were pretty much good-to-go.

Crisis averted.

Opening Night last night was a lot of fun, and the kids sounded great. When they were on beat beat and on pitch, of course :)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Lea's Busy Schedule

Lea's doing yeoman's duty for "Once Upon a Mattress", rehearsing, plus doing the equivalent of a publicity tour, albeit one confined to San Francisco city limits.

Where can you see/hear her?

Here's a run-down:

Friday, December 3rd:
Hear Lea live with Pete Wilson on KGO at 3:30PM

Saturday, December 4
Hear Lea sing "Shy" live on WCL at 10:30am
(WCL is a weekly 2-hour variety show taped in San Francisco for satellite radio.)

Saturday, December 11
See Lea live TV interview with Jan Wahl on KRON at 9:00am

Wednesday, December 15
See Lea in conversation with journalist Chad Jones at the Queer Cultural Center at 7:30PM. Buy tickets at their site.

FYI :)

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