Monday, January 31, 2005

This Blog Gets Noticed in Blog Circles

I mentioned I was off at a Blog Conference last week. Most bloggy people are used to blogs being centered around technical or political themes. Most bloggy people are completely intrigued by the idea of blogging to give a backstage glimpse into an arts organization. It really opens up their minds to think about blogs outside the techie or political box.

So much so that this blog has started getting mentioned by a few bloggers:

Extension 311 - Tech for Arts Orgs

The Blog Bulletin

Butts in the Seats: an arts management blog

So while 42nd St. Moon may be expert at bringing classic musicals to stage, they are also pretty cutting edge when it comes to leveraging blogs!

The Change in Seasons

While we wait for the final 2005-2006 Season announcement, I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into how non-profits work.

Back in the days when I performed in 42nd St. Moon shows the season mirrored the calendar year. This was always slightly unusual; it's true that most theatres do a Fall-Spring season, with summers often dark to make way for the Shakespeare Festivals, mountain plays and other summer-related performances.

I asked Managing Director Lauren Hewitt why 42nd St. Moon decided to join the majority and shift to a fiscal year season, rather than calendar year. I mean why would an arts organization mirror financial organizations?

Not surprisingly, the answer, even in the non-profit world, does pertain to money.

Per Lauren:

"Most non-profits and arts orgs have a fiscal year rather than calendar July 1-June 30. All foundations fund on that cycle. Therefore, the physical calendar was much harder to manage due to cash flow issues. Budgeting on both fundraising and consumer side just wasn't as easy."

Actually this reminds me of my other life in high tech marketing'd try to catch decision makers before they had created annual budgets for the following year. Sure, sometimes room can be made to add some fantastic new expense to the budget after it's been approved. But it's so much better to have a budget made with your product, service, etc. already in mind.

Lauren actually got her graduate degree in arts administration, and it certainly is a big boon to 42nd St. Moon artistic directors Greg and Stephanie to have someone working with them who actually chose to go into the business side of art!

Friday, January 28, 2005

We'd like to thank the Academy: The Dean Goodman Choice Awards

42nd St. Moon's production of "Once Upon a Mattress" was more than just a critical and audience hit, now it's an award-winner. Dean Goodman has announced his annual Dean Goodman Choice Awards, and "Mattress" secured the following awards:

Lea DeLaria as Winnifred- for Principal Performance

Milissa Carey as Queen Aggravain- for Supporting Performance

Rudy Guerrero as Prince Dauntless- for Supporting Performance

Wayne Bryan - for Direction

Tom Segal - for Choreography

So a big CONGRATULATIONS to all of you for a job well done!


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Off to a Blog Conference

I'll be leaving extremely early in the morning (try 6:30am...yuk) to go to napa for a two-day conference on blogging for business.

If my experience is like the last couple of these I've gone to people will be all agog that I'm actually writing blogs for theatre companies. When they say blogging for business they tend to mean placing ads on their blogs or maybe working for a high-tech company that lets you blog about work.

I may just be, however, the only blogger there without a computer. I just have never gotten around to buying a laptop. They are going to be just as agog to see me taking notes on (gasp!) paper, with a pen.

How shall I survive for 2 days sans computer? It's going to be like serious withdrawal. No email. No IM. No blogging!

I will miss all of that. Don't miss me too much :)

Winner of Busiest Moonie, drum roll please!

I mentioned Moonie Michael Austin in my last post, and faithful blog reader that he is, he emailed me right away to give me an update.

First of all, Michael is in both Minnie's Boys and Boys from Syracuse! And he vows to happily provide me tidbits or answer questions for me any time.

But, here, let's hear it in his own words:

"I'm super-excited about portraying Groucho Marx and Dromio of Syracuse, though there's going to be some wicked overlap between shows of "Minnie's" and rehearsals for "Syracuse". In any case, it's not often that a character player like myself gets two such awesome and sizeable roles thrown his way at a musical company, and I plan to relish them!"

Hmmm, "wicked"? Michael: are you an East Coaster by upbringing? We said "wicked" when I lived in Massachusetts as a kid, but never hear people say it here in California much.

But wait, that's not all. So, what have we got so far? Michael is in "Minnie's" which runs from 3/30-4/17 and in :Syracuse", which runs from 4/27-5/22. OK, 10 days gap between the end of one and the start of the other. That's pretty tight, I definitely agree.

But he's not just lolling about until "Minnie's" starts, no. No, not Michael (because he is crazy I think!)

He is also currently rehearsing yet another show, getting ready to open "The Rainmaker" at CCT in San Leandro from 1/26 through 2/20.

Michael is playing Jimmy, the very-sweet-but-somewhat-slow-on-the-uptake younger brother in the Curry family. It's funny; Greg [MacKellan] actually played the same part in the musical version of the play ("110 in the Shade") when he was younger!

[Incidentally, there is a free preview at 8pm tomorrow night (Wed. 1/26) for which no reservations are required, if any blog readers and Moon fans are interested.]

So, the way I figure it Michael will be either in rehearsal or performance every week for the entire first 5 months of the year. Can anyone out there beat that?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Picture from upcoming "Mattress" TV Show

Thanks, Greg, for the link to this picture.

I'm putting the link, rather than just the picture itself, because it's a huge size.

Greg's comments:
"Wayne [director of 42 st. Moon's "Mattress."] sent this link to a fun picture from the movie of MATTRESS.  What’s particularly interesting is that, at least per this picture, Carol Burnett is the star of the piece!  Tracy Ullman’s placement in the pic is clearly subordinate to Burnett.  Also, Edward Hibbert as the Wizard looks just like Maria Montez in Cobra Woman -- although Wayne thought he was more Agnes Morehead as Endora.  On closer inspection, I’m now thinking Dolores Gray in Kismet. Lavish costumes!"


Lavish is right. Burnett looks fabulously imperious. I just hope it's not the botox making her face look so cold and impassive. Seriously, is that a 71-year-old face? Meanwhile the Wizard is the one who needs a little work done if you ask me. Ullman looks rather dainty and pretty to be Winnifred...sorry dahlings, earth tones alone do not a Winnifred make. And the Minstrel must be someone from a boy band, right?

OK, claws back in. Meow.

You'll find me in the corner with my saucer of milk.

Potential for scoop during "Syracuse" improves!

You may wonder how I get some of the stories for my blog...the ones about things that happen in rehearsals, or during performances (or even after performances.) Sometimes I'm there, but usually I get fed info from those in the know.

It's always good when I know someone in one of the shows very well...then I can bug them regularly for scoop on rehearsals etc. (It also helps if Moonie Michael Austin is in a show because he loves to write.) :)

Greg is so very good about giving me stuff for the blog, but it's always nice to get perspectives from different positions around the theatre...backstage, on stage etc.

I discovered yesterday that there is someone on the production staff and one of the principals in "Boys from Syracuse" that are the kind of friends that I can bug. I gave them fair warning yesterday, so I'm sure they will be cooperative...and talkative.

I'm looking forward to lots of inside scoop.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Did you see the new Great Performances version of "Candide"?

Cross-posted on FMT's blog.

Great Performances recently aired a staged concert version of Leonard Bernstein's "Candide",starring Kristen Chenoweth as Cunegonde.

I'm wondering what other folks thought.

I thought they went a bit too far into schtick. So much so that it was hard to be very emotionally invested in any of it.

"Candide" reminds me of "Into the Woods." These are essentially fairy tale characters to whom some very real, tragic things happen. There are many humorous songs, there are also some songs of yearning and lamentation.

when I saw the original Broadway cast of "Into the Woods" they captured something that really noproductio since has done as well: they played their characters absolutely real. No mugging. No schtick. Not to say these were low-key performances, but they were committed, real performances. So, in the second act when all the bad things started really felt it. It makes the second act. If you don't feel for these characters as real people in the first act, the second act seems interminable and whiny.

"Candide" is somewhat the same.

Kristen Chenoweth continues to impress. She manages to play huge, yet (most of the time) real. Patti LuPone as The Old Lady can pull of that delicate combination pretty well too.

The opera singers? No way. They do sing absolutely beautifully, but their attempts to act seemed almost painful to me.

And they certainly weren't helped by the direction. Exactly what does it serve to have Candide packing up a roller-suitcase during his Lament? It's just a cheap joke. As is the Donald Trump caricature and other modern references that just don't help.

Of course, I have a thing about that, as I mentioned in my recent review of "Once Upon a Mattress."

So, am I just a cranky purist, or did anyone else feel that the material was not served by the adaptation and direction?

Friday, January 21, 2005

The NY Times Review of Harvey as Tevye

Since I brought it up a couple of weeks ago, figured I'd provide a link to the NYT review of Harvey's performance.

It's...mixed...I suppose is the word. They seem to like him better than a nearly languid Alfred Molina performance, but they say how jarring it is to hear that voice speaking and singing Tevye's lines.

If I lived in NY, or visited there, while Harvey was in the role, I still think I'd check it out. I'm sure, if nothing else, he is bringing a fresh interpretation to the stage!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Scoops on 2005-2006 Season Start to Leak Out

I have the first bits of scoop on next season to report. Here they are, three little tidbits to chew on:

Tidbit #1:
We will be doing Cole Porter's "Red, Hot & Blue" starring (drum roll please.......) Klea Blackhurst!

Red, Hot & Blue starred Ethel Merman back in 1936, and, of course, Klea has performed her Merman tribute "Everything the Traffic will Allow" to great acclaim since 2001.

Tidbit #2:
We will be doing "The Golden Apple." The Golden What, you ask? Yes, The Golden Apple is quite lost and quite wonderful. It's the ancient tale of Ulysses, set during the Spanish-American War, with Music by Jerome Moross, Book & Lyrics by John Latouche: based on Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad. It's nearly sung-thru, quite challenging, and something that Greg & Stephanie have been wanting to do for a long time.

Tidbit #3:
This coming season at 42nd St. Moon number one audience-requested musical in our history will finally grace our stage...pending right approval...which is why i can't give it away just yet.

So two true tidbits, and one tease! Not bad.

(Oh, and Greg promises to post the full season to the blog first, even before letting our publicist get up and running with the season announcement. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How are actors like bloggers?

I waxed philosophical about this topic over at the blog I keep for my business, Worker Bees.

Check it out.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Saw AMTSJ "Chicago" Last Night [Touring production]

Nothing beats the live theatre, folks.

If you liked the movie "Chicago", you need to be blown away by it live and on stage. If you didn't like the movie...I admit the quick-cutting and high-concept and stunt-casting were sometimes tough to take...then you need to see it live and on stage, so the show can be redeemed in your eyes.

The tour running down at AMT is a damn fine place to start. Fantastic.

Here's my full review.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Choosing a Season: Casting & Budgets

More on the Process:

Casting & Budgets are kind of intertwined. I talked in the last post about how getting press coverage necessarily leads to getting audience attention, and then ticket sales. Well, when it comes to appealing to the press (and to new audience members) nothing does the trick like "a name." This is true for 42nd St. Moon; this is true for Broadway.

[Yeah, remember that whole NY Times article contending big-star Broadway vehicles were a dying breed? Guess the above cited NY Times article published but a month later takes a different view, huh?]

Lea DeLaria was such a name this past Fall, and ticket sales were higher than the other shows in the season. Now whether that was purely driven by her name, or by the press coverage and reviews that came because of her name, the result is the same.

Of course, hiring "names" does impact the budget. So, there's part artistic decision, and there's part business decision. And even non-profits have to worry about whether they're running in the black or in the red.

It's not only the cast that impacts the budget. Think about "Can-Can" and all those brightly colored can-can outfits. They're sort of necessary when you do the show. Luckily 42nd St. Moon found someone who had those outfits already made. Didn't have to buy the fabric and pay someone to create them. Big savings. But it was lucky.

Some shows rely on "production values" to a degree that makes them hard to do for 42nd St. Moon. When I did "I Married an Angel" back in '95 there was a centerpiece ballet number that was simply cut altogether, not because the actress couldn't have danced around a bit, but because it would have been pointless without a bunch of props and scenery that were scripted to go with it. As it happens it wasn't really plot-worthy, so no biggie. But fast forward 100 years...can you imagine someone doing "Miss Saigon" without something replicating a helicopter?

And it's not only budgeting that affects casting. Whether they like to admit it or not, casting and artistic directors do bear in mind the stable of performers in the area when choosing shows. It's not pre-casting; it's just common sense. Certain shows were vehicles for certain kinds of talents. You want to feel like if the perfect person doesn't just walk through your door at auditions, you might be able to find them with a few phone calls.

Now, the Bay Area happens to be rich with musical theatre talent. But consider timing...will it be as easy to get that talent to commit (not to mention to pull in the audience) during the holidays, as an example? There's a lot competing for people's time and money during the holidays.

Variables, variables, variables.

I got a different view of the process this week, and it made me more than a little glad that I just show up and watch theatre...I don't have to make it happen!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Choosing a Season: More to it than meets the eye

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent Wednesday afternoon at MoonSpace, in a meeting to give feedback on the 2005-2006 season.

It's not like I thought artistic directors just closed their eyes and picked shows at random, or that they just thought of a handful of shows they really liked and moved forward based on that alone. But I did underestimate all the factors that go into choosing a season.

I can't actually divulge the season yet, but I can give you a peek into the decision-making process.

First, like any business really, you think about audiences. With 42nd St. there is a strong subscriber base, but it still only comprises about 25% of tickets sales. This wasn't the case back in the days of the New Conservatory Theatre and 3-week runs, but since moving to the larger Eureka and adding a 4th weekend, subscribers definitely fill fewer seats than single-ticket buyers. So, in addition to appealing to 42nd St. Moon's longtime subscribers, we of course want to appeal to and bring in new ticket buyers...and hopefully lots of those will decide to subscribe.

42nd St. Moon has actually done some subscriber surveying, so we have some idea about what matters to them. Unfortunately it doesn't correlate very well with what reviewers and other press folks care about.

What's an example? Well, press folks care about whether a show is rarely performed or not. But their definition of a show that's been performed "too often" is nothing like the average audience members definition. "Can-Can" is a great example. As an audience member, I can't remember ever getting a chance to see it live before 42nd St. Moon's production last fall. Theatre press folks consider that a "well-known" piece!

There was quite a bit of discussion around this issue. There were voices in the room who basically wondered why we were caring about what the press thinks.

But the point is that if the press doesn't like a season, they won't do articles about the shows, and worse still, they won't come review them. And ticket sales do, whether we like it or not, jump when the little man is clapping.

So, if one of our stated goals is to appeal to new audience members, then appealing to the press is part of the equation. Certainly not the only part, but undeniably part.

Audience vs. Press appeal: only one factor. And enough to chew on for today.

Next I'll tackle casting and budgets.

Hah! I'm Not the Only AMC Geek!

Annette in the 42nd St. Moon office also faithfully reads the blog. So, she has immediately chimed in to let me know that she, too, remembers brent from All My Children.

But even geekier: she wrote a fan letter to Jenny (trivia: played by NYPD Blue's Kim Delaney) and got an autographed picture in return.)

Of course, I think Annette is a little younger than I am, so we'll chalk it up to youthful exuberance!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Some casting scoop

So I participated in a discussion on the 2005-2006 season yesterday (more on that later) and learned three new casting tidbits that are pretty exciting.

The first is that 42nd St. Moon (and Bay Area theatre) favorite Darlene Popovic will be starring as Minnie in "Minnie's Boys." If you're a regular attendee of 42nd St. Moon shows, you know Darlene from numerous shows, such as "Leave It To Me" and "Out of this World." Darlene is also an acclaimed cabaret artist.

The second bit is about this year's gala, which will be a Cole Porter tribute. As if an evening of Cole Porter wasn't exciting enough, I learned that Lea DeLaria is confirmed to perform in the gala. If you saw Lea in "Once Upon a Mattress", and especially her performance of the song "Happily Ever After", I'm sure you are, like I am, itching to see her sing some more.

The third bit is way exciting too. Brent Barrett is confirmed to perform in the gala too! Brent is a Broadway leading man who has trod the boards in such shows as "Closer Than Ever", "Grand Hotel", "Chicago" and much more. He is yummy.

But more than that, to me, he will always, always be the man who killed Jenny on All My Children back in, what?, I don't even know what year.

I wonder if he thinks that's funny, or pathetic and annoying?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Greg corrects me yet again!

It's so nice to know Greg pays such attention to the blog. I posted earlier that I thought I had missed the chance to see two of my favorite songs in context. The first was Cole Porter's You Don't Know Paree, and yes, Greg confirms the song is from "Fifty Million Frenchmen", which the Moon has done twice already.

But the second song was Jerome Kern's The Song Is You. And no, the Moon hasn't done "Music in the Air", the show from which the song comes.

Problem is, Greg says the book is not so good for "Music in the Air", which is why they have yet to do it.

I told him right away that that is simply no excuse. He is known as the great "book-fixer", so he should look at it only as a terrific challenge for him. One needs challenges to keep one fresh don't you think? (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

So, get on it, Greg! It's one of my favorite songs!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Drama on Idina Menzel's Final Weekend in "Wicked"

There's a local theatre legend in the Bay Area: back when AMTSJ (then SJCLO) performed Yeston's "Phantom", and the Christine had a trapdoor incident during a student matinee. Her leg was gashed, and all the little students were treated to the kind of "unique" theatre experience no one wants to have. (Although, by all accounts everyone thought the blood-curdling screams were part of the show at first, this being "Phantom" and all.)

Luckily there was a chorus girl who had, no lie, learned the entire role and was able to go on for Christine with only about 24 hours preparation. (This was back before they were quite as thorough about having understudies.)

Well, trap doors are apparently a problem in even the most professional, modern theatres in the world.

Idina Menzel, Tony-winning star of "Wicked", fell down a trap door shaft in what was supposed to be her penultimate performance as Elphaba, breaking a rib!

Many people had paid hundreds of dollars to see her final performance the next day, so she made the effort to come onstage in the last minutes of the performance, sing a bit and take a curtain call with her castmates.

It's quite a story.

Shorter recap of story that doesn't require subscription.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Oh, BTW: New season announcement coming soon

I'm sworn to some amount of secrecy, but I can tell you that the 2005-2006 season will likely be announced by the end of the month.

Although the 42nd St. Moon mission is really about reviving "Classic" musicals, not necessarily only "Lost" musicals, rest assured there will be some musicals that qualify as lost: really, really lost.

And also as per usual, musicals can get lost even when they have a hit song or two in them. It's half the fun, IMHO, to hear certain songs in the context of a plot you never knew existed. "Spring is Here" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" are two of my favorite examples. Songs I have loved, long before I knew they were in lost musicals.

Actually, I'm bummed because I'm pretty sure 42nd St. Moon has recently done the shows that featured "You Don't Know Paree" and "The Song is You", and I missed the chance to see those favorites in context.

Anyway, keep checking back. I'm sure I'll get another blog exclusive when we announce the new season!

Friday, January 07, 2005

You know I forgot to make a key pro-42nd St Moon point in my last post!


I write that whole post looking at AMTSJ's season yesterday, and forgot to wrap up with what started out (in my over-stuffed mind anyway) to be my main point.

That point was: despite 42nd St. Moon doing shows that are usually quite old, their season usually holds more mystery (and therefore, to my jaded theatre-going mind) more promise...because the shows are not chestnuts you've seen a million times, nor the biggest current hits that have already been through a couple of times on tour.

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest.

I have committed a vocabulary faux pas!

Sometimes I sit here at my computer blogging away (you know I write about 4 or 5 blogs on a near daily basis) and almost forget that there are actually people paying attention. Especially since I haven't got a lot of folks commenting on this blog. (You do realize you can comment on any post, right?)

But at least I know Greg MacKellan, busy 42nd St. Moon Artistic Director, is paying attention.

He emailed me last night to let me know that "On the Record", one of the shows announced as part of AMTSJ's new season, is a Musical REVUE, not REVIEW!

Of course.

Yes it is.

Oh, the humiliation.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

AMT SJ Announces 2005-2006 Season

I know this may be Down South for some SF Moon fans who never leave the confines of the City, but I am a South Bay gal, and an AMTSJ subscriber.

Actually, I have a love/hate relationship with that subscription. I've had it for probably a decade, and our seats are in row 8, but at this point I keep it mostly because it's a regular social engagement with a couple of very good friends that we wouldn't see so often otherwise.

I know it's conventional wisdom to say they went all downhill when they started bringing in tours, but actually I did think the quality went up, plus I got to see some new faces. They were getting in quite a rut over there.

They've announced their new season here. And while it may be an exciting season for some, there is, unfortunately, only one out of the six shows that I haven't seen.

At this point I've seen Lion King on Broadway and the tour last year in SF. Maybe I'll stay for that incomparable Opening Number then go have a nice dinner!

And I saw "Hairspray" in NY in 2003. Of course, I didn't quite get that magical feeling from it that so many people did, so maybe seeing it again will open my eyes to what I clearly missed.

I also saw Bernadette Peters in an unforgettable performance in "Gypsy" (which is not usually one of my favorite shows.) I honestly said after that performance, "I never need to see "Gypsy" again."

So much for that vow, huh?

So, that leaves "Wizard of Oz" (yawn), "On the Record", some manufactured musical REVUE (corrected, thanks to Greg) of Disney songs which could be cute but will hardly change my life, and a show which I've seen many times, but in fact never mind seeing again, "West Side Story."

Of the entire sextet of shows, this latter one, a classic from 45 years ago is the only one I'm a teensy bit excited about.

AmI just getting curmudgeonly now that I've hit 40?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Harvey as Tevye? I'll bite.

So, have you heard that Harvey Fierstein, late of "Hairspray", is taking over for Alfred Molina as Tevye in the Broadway production of "Fiddler on the Roof"?

One of my NY friends has trouble seeing it.

I think I could be convinced.

First of all, while Harvey may be most famous for "Hairspray" and more comedic roles in film, let's not forget he has always been a dramatic actor. If you've seen "Torch Song" or "Safe Sex" you know he can pull off the pathos.

So, the main stumbling block may be imagining his raspy, New Yorkese, Harvey voice attempting Tevye. But again, if you forget about "Hairspray" and Jon Lovitz impersonating Harvey, the actual voice is likely something he can modulate down while dialing back the accent, to achieve an appropriate vocal sound.

Anyway, the NY Times has an interview with him this morning [reg.reqd.], and first of all the picture of harvey in Tevye mode is pretty convincing. And second of all, his connection to the material sounds heartfelt.

If I were to make a trip to NYC this Spring, I think this might be on my list!

Saturday, January 01, 2005

What will Moon fans do this winter?

With "Mattress" closing tomorrow, and "Minnie's Boys" not opening until March 30th, whatever shall Moon fans do to get their fix of fabulous music?

Well, for one thing, you can go see Moon regular Meg Mackay in her de-lovely new show of Cole Porter songs at the New Conservatory Theatre.

The show, So In Love features Meg and husband/collaborator Billy Philadelphia, performing numerous well-known and lesser-known Porter standards.

Meg was last seen at 42nd St. Moon as sophisticated spy siren, Stephanie, in "Hooray For What!" Now, she's back in her other life as celebrated cabaret chanteuse.

The show is running January 14th through February 6th only, so check it out, and get your musical fix during 42nd St. Moon's brief hiatus.

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