Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Spoke too soon...Charity back to Broadway

OK, this isn't a stunt. none of this is a stunt, OK?

Sweet Charity is heading back to Broadway, starring Charlotte D'Amboise for maybe a couple of weeks and then the triumphant return of Christina Applegate. Apparently they've moved out the official opening to qualify for this year's Tony's and also to make sure Applegate is in the role on OPening Night. What will the Tony committee do, do you suppose? Poor Charlotte, yet again. All guts, no glory.

More from Broadway World and the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Did you know Rosie blogs?

Rosie O'Donnell blogs, it's true. It's an intensely personal blog, written mostly in a sort of free verse poetic style.

She mentions the blog in this interview from the BroadwayWorld site.

See, Rosie has removed comments from her blog because once people found out she blogged (mostly it started with a NY Times blurb about it) some of them started coming by with hate comments to leave on her site. Nice, huh?

So, that must have been a disappointment to Rosie...that amongst the nice and appreciative comments she received there were enough hateful ones to convince her to disallow comments.

And apparently trying to produce on Broadway was also a disappointment. Disappointing that so many people seemed to want her to fail.

I didn't see Taboo; it didn't sound all that promising to me, but then again original Broadway musicals are becoming rarer, and God knows they've made Broadway musicals about people as varied as a murderous barber, an abusive carnival barker and a nun who leaves her vows behind...why not Boy George?

It's an interesting read, whether you're a fan or not.

Meet Moonie: Michael Patrick Gaffney

Perhaps getting jealous that I'm always praising Michael Austin as a regular blog contributor, another Michael, Michael Patrick Gaffney, has gotten in on the act. You've already seen him this season in Hooray For What. And he has this to say about Minnie's Boys:

"I can't believe this is my 5th Moon show!!  How did that happen?  I'm like a bad rash that won't go away. There was something wonderful and exciting about my first show, Finian's Rainbow because of the short rehearsal time (a week of intense rehearsals and six performances at the Alcazar, with a seven piece orchestra) and the beautiful score, and of course my deep Irish roots, but Minnie's Boys has been my favorite journey so far.  I think is because it's about show people, but more importantly it's about the struggles of show people.  It's also about family, relationships within a family. 

It is truly a stellar ensemble, led by the amazing Darlene Popovic. It has been wonderful to watch Greg and the [Marx Brothers] Boys work and work and re-work the comedy bits. Truly funny stuff. Very specific. There is a great camaraderie building amongst the boys.  I must admit I'm a little jealous...ah to be 15 years younger! Anyway, Saturday night we will give birth to this new, old show and I hope everyone will join us.

Well, I'm going Sunday, but I am very interested to see the younger versions of the Marx Brothers. The plus is really that the actors aren't having to play caricatures of the Marx Brothers. Since this is set when they were quite young, in the time before they got really famous...they're playing the Marx brothers we never really knew.

And we're going to learn a bit about their family members, (like the one Michael plays) and how they helped them get into show business. I just imagine they sprung full-blown with cigar and secret word onto the scene. Not so.

Monday, March 28, 2005

After the matinee: Ellen Greene at Martuni's

So, if you're coming up to the City next Sunday to see the matinee of Minnie's Boys, like I am, then why not take full advantage of the rich cultural opportunities being in the City provides? Ellen Greene, most well-known for being the original Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, is singing that evening (April 3rd) at Martuni's.

I posted the full details here at my personal blog

I'm not sure I can make it because I might go watch my two worlds collide that evening instead. What does that mean, you ask?

Well, I have another theatre client, Heather Gold. She's a comedian/actress who is doing a one-woman show over at the Hotel Rex on Sutter & Powell. The twist about her show is that she bakes chocolate chip cookies while talking about her life and coming of age (and gets audience members in on the action.) She often has guest bakers from around the city too, usually foodies of some sort. I hooked her up with a foodie blogger! Amy, of Cooking With fame.

So, I'm going to go to Minnie's Boys, stay for the audience "talkback" session, go grab some dinner, run over to meet Amy and see blogger meet actress...then my choice is either stay and watch Heather and Amy bake together or run over to see Ellen perform at Martuni's.

So many choices, so few easily accessible parking spots.

More from Michael

Michael also sent me some impressions about more than just his character, Groucho, but about the show as a whole. Which is pretty know actors, usually so self-obsessed ;)

"Another challenge [with Minnie's Boys] is that it is about all of the Brothers in their seminal days as struggling Vaudeville performers, when they were first developing the character traits that they eventually settled on for the screen, and the rest of their public lives. The action of the play in fact ends before the point in history that they became stars, so the audience will have to get used to the fact that the boys never called by their famous names, but only by their real names: Julius (Groucho), Leonard (Chico), Adolph (Harpo), Herbert (Zeppo) and Milton (Gummo). Not only that, but they barely ever appear in the costumes and attitudes which the audience is most familiar with - i.e., Harpo talks (and even sings, one of the best songs in the show), Chico has no Italian accent (but rather a strong New York one!) and Groucho has no mustache!

All that said, the brothers in their off-stage, off-screen lives were always funny, and always contained some strong aspects of what later made them such a great and famous comedy team - Harpo was always sweet and somewhat shy, Groucho always had an acerbic and quick wit, etc. The show was written by Groucho's son Arthur, and while it takes some necessary liberties with time and history to form a cohesive show, I do believe it not only forms a fairly accurate general picture of the development of the Marx "act" and early family life, but is also hilarious and fun to watch.

Additionally, despite suffering some criticism in its original recording for Shelley Winters'…"unique" singing, I find the score absolutely wonderful—often very funny and surprisingly touching, and always catchy.

I am really curious to see how they handle the whole name issue. I mean, are there ways that they remind the audience of which persona each of the brothers ended up being, or do they become characters in the show that sort of stand on their own, not requiring constant linkage to their Marx Brothers persona?

Can't wait to see,

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Meet our Groucho: Michael Austin

Michael is a Moonie veteran, and a frequent contributor to the blog. Groucho is perhaps the largest role he's had at 42nd St. Moon, so I was curious to see how he was holding up, especially since his last missive indicated he's been feeling over-worked and under the weather. Here's what he had to say:

"To be honest, I'm feeling a lot more pressure and excitement than I ever have before in a Moon show, because this is the largest/most central role I've ever had with them. Now of course, there are no small roles, and every part is very important to a show's overall success. But in the past, my roles have been about me finding the humor and interest in very short scenes, limited characters, a very small amount of lines, etc. In other words--no one expected much from the parts I had, so anything I could do with them was impressive. Suddenly with Groucho (referred to by his birth name, Julius, in the play), it feels that there is a huge wealth of opportunity and expectation, and I am going to have to work pretty hard to meet it, much less exceed it! Naturally, I am doing my best.

Doing a character that most of the audience has a certain picture of in their heads already is always an interesting challenge, because you have to strike a balance between doing an "impression" or imitation of the real person, the person as he is represented in the material you are working on, and of course who you are physically. This is all complicated by the fact that the public [impression] of Groucho is, I believe, an exaggerated one. After decades of bad impressionists over-doing the nasal quality of his voice and the rolling of his eyes, and those Groucho glasses with the huge nose and horn rims, few people remember that Groucho, at least as he appears in the Marx Brothers movies, was actually fairly subtle and flat in his delivery of lines, and actually only wore wire rimmed glasses on his not-terribly-large proboscis. Many people are surprised when I tell them that for most of his life, at least in his movies, he never even had a real mustache, or even a three-dimensional one (he painted it on ever since a time he arrived too late for call to glue one on and realized how much easier and faster it was to just use greasepaint!)

I don't look terribly like the Groucho everyone knows from his famous images, but happily I do look a bit more like pictures I've seen of Groucho at my age, at least when not in make-up.

Has Broadway lost its voice to American Idol?

Ben Brantley of the NY Times writes >this spot-on analysis of today's Broadway vocals.

But he gets the source of the problem wrong. It is not American Idol (of which I'm a big fan) that started this trend toward big, loud, fancy, but generic is Andrew Lloyd Webber. American Idol has only been on 4 years now. But loud, pop-style pop-belting has been a staple on the Broadway stage for almost 20 years.

The problem started when everyone thought they had to sound, or find singers that sound like Elaine Paige. Webber's original pop belting diva had what was at the time a unique sound: a clear, strong, break-free voice...the kind that sounds like a bell, but not particularly human. And she was playing iconic characters...Grizabella, Evita. Look, I don't recall anyone ever raving about her acting talent...she just sang the hell out of things. (Note: I've never seen her live but have loved many a recording.)

For a while people sought the Paige-style of voice, but could handle more idiosyncratic performers...Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, even Frances Ruffelle (original Eponine)...these women were not bland or homogenous. But female "stars" of late seem vocally indistinguishable. That "signature" pop-belt sound, is no longer any one person's signature. Somewhere in the last 5-10 years the individual charms of a performer became subordinated to simply getting the vocal effect. Brantley's comparison of Idina Menzel vs. Kristen Chenoweth, for example, is absolutely perfect.

I think it's a mistake to look outward to American Idol as the cause of Broadway's retreat from performing into mere singing. Broadway should look inward: why is every big number written in a key that requires full-on belting, as just one example? Let me tell you as a belter, if composers write a song to rest in the B, C, D range, they are going to be limited to casting women who have exactly the kind of pop belt that supposedly we're tired of. Sure songs can pop up there: Ethel Merman's money note was up there in the B or C range...her money note...the big note at the end. But the songs sure as hell didn't rest up there. That takes an entirely different kind of singer and different style of singing.

So, I agree there is an old vs. new Broadway singing...I just disagree it started with American Idol (exacerbated by it maybe.)

Lastly, I want to give Brantley (and America I suppose) credit for recognizing that last year's American Idol winner, Fantasia, had her own unique sound and approach to singing. She actually was the sole singer last year who could sing within a wide range of dynamics...soft and loud had equal support and quality. She approached every song as though it was her own personal story to tell. I have always used Bernadette Peters as an example of singing with subtext. Watching Peter sing you always knew there was something very specific and very substantial going on beneath the surface of every song. You didn't necessarily have to know what that something was, but you felt that she was telling you something deeply personal. Fantasia has the same ability. When she sang Always on my Mind or Summertime there was a depth to her performance that no other AI contestant has ever achieved. In fact she was so head and shoulders above the crowd, in a way it's surprising she won! She's almost a throwback...more like Bernadette than Whitney! Well, OK, a very Aretha kind of Bernadette.

Anyway, Broadway, know thyself.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Poor "Charity", poor Charlotte

I've been meaning to post a link to this story about Charlotte D'Amboise and the pre-Broadway Sweet Charity run.

I've seen D'Amboise in a couple of things, most notably Song & Dance and Jerome Robbins' Brodway, and my assessment of her way back then was great that was about it. Since then she has gone on to take over leading female roles that required a bit more from her than her fabulous dancing...and apparently she has done well in those roles. Suzy over at BlogwayBaby certainly seemed to have liked her in Damn Yankess.

The article focuses on D'Amboise and the fact that this is the first Broadway show she was going to open since Jerome Robbins...and that in a way it was her big break...finally.

Well, it is not to b e.

Poor reviews in Boston and poor advance ticket sales have shut the show down before it even opened on Broadway.

Bummer for all concerned, I'm sure.

BTW: I had no idea D'Amboise was married to actor Terrence Mann. That certainly is a power Broadway couple.

Interview with Arthur Marx in Contra Costa Times

Interesting interview with Groucho's son and Minnie's Boys author, Arthur Marx.

Covers everything from his occasionally rocky relationships with Groucho to the inaccuracies he wrote into Minnie's Boys to some casting conflicts durng the original production.

Good read.

Friday, March 25, 2005

"Minnie's Boys": Plagued by plague?

I was wondering why I hadn't heard from my usual blog correspondent Michael Austin much on this show, and it turns out there are some pretty good reasons. Finally he clued me in:

"I've tried to maintain my children's theatre job with The Theatre of All Possibilities during the rehearsal of this show, which involves rising at ungodly hours of the morning to be in schools from Carmel to Napa Valley by 7am to teach and perform educational theatre for kids.I like the job, and children's theatre seems to pay better than regular theatre, but when one doesn't get out of rehearsal until 10, then has to get up at 5 and yell in a gym until noon, that's precious little rest for one's voice. Not to mention the fact that of course there are a lot of germs floating around schools and theatres--I fell
sick nearly two weeks ago and can't shake it, and only hope I'm not to blame for the cold epidemic claiming the whole "Minnie's Boys" cast one by one, including our director, who was out for two days! This is unheard of for Greg, with all his dedication and professionalism, so I knew he must've been really badly off! Thankfully, our stage manager, Laura Lutz, along with our intrepid accompanist Dave Dubrosky, managed to help us make our rehearsal time productive while Greg was

Oh, and then Michael tells me a "Small World" story. I love such stories. I keep a running tally of the Small World incidents in my life here.

Here's Michael's:

"Incidentally, a funny story about Laura Lutz, if you haven't heard this one yet: I was at my college roomie's wedding in Red Lodge, MT last year, when I met this nice woman who wanted to take my picture (because I was wearing my seersucker suit, which my friend Alex tells me makes me look like the Easter Bunny, but I digress...). We got to talking, and she asked what I did, and I told her I was an actor, and I did a lot of shows at this company that revived old musicals in concert productions. She proceeded to tell me she was a stage manager who had just moved to the Bay Area, and had worked for a similar company in her former home of Seattle, WA. I told her I'd be happy to pass on her information to Greg, and he interviewed her for "Once Upon A Mattress." Scheduling did not work out there, but happily, here she is, stage managing "Minnnie's Boys," and doing a fantastic job. She definitely has the all-important perfect balance of strict professionalism and friendly understanding and patience which is necessary in the position."

Because you know, there are just so many people out there who have worked at companies that focus on reviving classic musicals in concert!

Wow...major sale of theatre memorabilia at the PALM tomorrow

Our friends at the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (PALM) are holding their first major Duplicate Sale in four years, with thousands of opera, theatre, dance, musical theatre, and film-related items, all at low prices. 

The sale will take place at the Performing Arts Library, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue, Veterans Building, 4th floor, from 11:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday, March 26, 2005 (yes tomorrow).

So what's a duplicate sale? Well, I guess they have their archival copies of various items and at some point decide they can part with extras. Apparently they're going to have rare books, hundreds of musical theatre recordings, vintage programs, newspaper clipping collections, posters, and back issues of magazines for sale. People also donate items for sale to benefit the PALM, or on occasion the PALM ends up with items that don't really have a place in their collection..

All proceeds benefit PALM’s preservation and acquisition programs.

And in case you're not familiar with the PALM, here's their official statement on who they are and why they deserve your donation dollars:
"The San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and making available materials on the live performing arts.  Its collection, library, and galleries are open to the public without charge.  For further information on the collection, programs, and exhibitions, visit SFPALM at or call (415)-255-4800 ext. *814"

So if you're a collector, or maybe if you'd like to become one (how is it that I've gotten hooked on Antiques Roadshow when I don't collect anything?) you know where to go tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Meet a Newbie Moonie: Christa Boggs

This is Christa's first show with 42nd St. Moon. Although a native Californian (like rare is that anymore?) she spent a few years in NYC studying at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) before coming back and completing her BA in Theatre last year. Christa is playing Mrs. Flanagan and other female rolse in the Minnie's Boys ensemble.

When I asked Christa what her favorite Minnie's Boys moment was so far, she gave an answer that perfectly articulates why the theatre is a unique medium:

"Every night I find a favorite moment - the cool thing about live theatre is that no matter how much you rehearse something, it doesn't mean that is how it will always happen. It seems like even though you hear the same lines every night, a different one will catch your ear every time!"

I have to admit I'm a big believer in consistency, especially when you're playing off someone else. I have worked with actors who thought doing wildly different things each performance...from altering the blocking to completely altering their emotional approach to a line...would keep it fresh and keep everyone "in the moment." To that I say 'Hogwash.' I personally think that is totally rude.

BUT...Christa's point is very well taken that live theatre has many layers to it...I don't think the human brain can really take in every layer, every gesture, every vocal nuance, every facial expression, every movement, every sound all at once. So every night it might be a different layer that stands out to you, and that does keep it fresh.

Christa's secret word for the day is one with which I'm well-familiar in my other life, writing a political blog:


Unlike Amy, who gave no definition for her word, "schmendrick", Christa kindly provides a definition:

Filibuster: (n) long speeches to delay a legislative vote

Very educational!

Some quick scoop on "Minnie's Boys" from Greg

As you might know, 42nd St. Moon hold an audience "talkback" session after the first Sunday matinee performance of every run.

We have a guest for the Minnie's Boys talkback, Gary Raucher. Gary played the role of Miltie (Gummo) and understudied Groucho and Chico in the original Broadway run of Minnie's Boys. He also played Chico in a major summer stock revival of MInni'es that played a few years after the Broadway run and starred Kaye Ballard as Minnie.

Turns out he has lived in the Bay Area for many years now; he's a drama therapist in San Francisco. So he'll be at the April 3rd talkback with lots of stories to tell. Should make it an interesting one.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Meet Moonie: Amy Cole

Amy and I share something she is likely unaware of. Back when 42nd St. Moon first did I Married an Angel, a lovely show by Rodgers & Hart, I played Anna, the hotsy totsy American gold-digger. Some years later (I honestly don't know how many, OK?) when they did the show the second time, Amy played the same role. Amy has been doing shows at 42nd St. Moon since 1998, which coincidentally is the last year I did a show with 42nd St. moon, so we never overlapped. In Minnie's Boys Amy is not only playing multiple female characters, she's the co-costumer for the show. So, she gets to see the show from both sides of the stage.

Recently I asked the cast some questions about the show, at least so far, and here's what Amy had to tell me:

Amy's favorite "Minnie's Boys" moment is a classic. No picking the warm, touching ballad, "Mama, a Rainbow" for Amy:

"When Minnie sings "You Don't Have to Do It For Me"...the song is written as a passive agressive guilt machine..I swear I have heard my mother say the same things.  In addition, Darlene Popovic nails the sentiment of the's truly spot-on and hilarious!"

Since Amy is also also doing the costumes for the show, she had to do a lot of research.  Which brought up an interesting dilemma:

"Their early movies (closest to when the play takes place) are in balck and white, so it's interesting to rebuild what color a coat or suit might have been."

Being in the Marx Brothers mood, I asked Amy what Secret Word she would choose if she could. She chose a classic, an oldie but goodie, a never-grow-tired-of:


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

More on Bobby Short from an unlikely source

I read a ton of blogs, some to do with the arts, some with politics, some with business and marketing, and some that are pretty technical.

I regularly read the blog of my friend Mary, who is the very definition of a wired girl, geek girl...whatever your preferred term. She usually writes about technology...focusing on usability and user interface, and on digital rights management and content distribution in this digital age. She is all abot the digital....her life is in her laptop, which is always with her, as is her mobile device.

And, as it turns out, she is a Bobby Short fan.

Read her lovely, brief obit on Bobby, and you understand a bit why theatres like 42nd St. Moon are thriving today, and why they are hardly only for the people who might be closer to remembering the era of those classic musicals.

As Mary says: " was really fun to touch a rare world that represented great old style, and his singing and engagement with the audience was very elegant, and yet personal, and casual at the same time..."

Don't forget Minnie's Boys is now a mere week away.

And don't forget you can get 20% off all tix excluding Sunday matinees.

There's a link in the right-hand side bar there that will take you to a page with all the dates etc.

Just remember: use code 'ONLINE', order tix by phone at 415-978-2787 and you'll be good to go with the discount.

First Preview is next Wednesday!

Blogway Baby Lovefest

Some time ago I found and linked to Blogway Baby a great Broadway fan blog.

Now she has found us here, and returned the favor.

In case you haven't noticed, blogging is all about this. Finding like-minded folks, no matter their geographical location, and making connections. And I must say I've even built friendships, relationships with people who originally were just other bloggers.

But you already knew I was a big blogging champion.

Another great thing about blogging is the conversation. You do know you can comment on posts here right? And you can stay anonymous if you like; you don't have to sign in with Blogger to do so?

OK. Just checking. Because occasionally I get emails from readers, but pretty much never get comments.

Alright, that enough blog boostering for today.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bobby Short: Another Great Gone

Bobby Short, the long-time New York cabaret fixture has died of leukemia.

To me, although I never went to the Carlyle to see him in his natural habitat, he represented a certain part of New York.

He was the eternal and the timeless of New York.

He was the sophistication and the elegance of New York.

He was the kind of thing that makes people say that New York is the greatest city in the world. A man whose career could span decades. A man who could heed his calling and follow his bliss preserving the Great American Songbook...and make a healthy living at it...only in New York, I'm sure.

He was a New York fixture, and a New York icon.

Meet our Minnie: Darlene Popovic

I was trying to remember why I knew who Darlene was. It's true she's been in two previous 42nd St. Moon productions, Out of this World and Leave it to Me, but I hadn't seen those. And Darlene has one of those bios that so packed full, that she just ends up listing theatres she worked at instead of individual shows.

So I was doing a little Google-stalking. Well, no, it's not really stalking since it's to do publicity for the show. But I think I like the term. I'm not sure I've ever heard it before. I know I didn't make up the term "ego-surfing" (when you Google yourself to find out how many hits you have.) But can we say I made up the term "Google-stalking"?

You know it really helps when Google-stalking if you've dated people with very unique names. In fact someone out there Google-stalked a 42nd St. Moon actress and found her mentioned on this blog and emailed me asking me to give her his contact info. Which I did. But that's a whole other story.

But I digress. Back to Darlene.

So by Google-stalking I discovered that Darlene was in a show I saw at TheatreWorks' years ago, Another Midsummer Night. Her part was really fun because she played Nicky Paton, a performance artist who mostly shows up in multimedia images on TV screens. I'd be lying if I said I had total recall of the show, but I do remember her face on those screens...and the wacky hilarity that ensued :) I wish I'd been writing my Personal Blog back then, because then we could dig up a review! The onyl one I could dig up online was this one from the Los Altos Town Crier!

In any case, you can see, if I dig into any Bay Area performer's bio deep enough I will find something I've seen them in.

BTW: Darlene also has a CD, Love and Laughter for sale. You'll be able to get it in the lobby.

So, now you know a bit about Minnie from Minnie's Boys, Darlene Popovic.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Testing Moblogging

What's that you ask?

Well, right now I am creating this post from my mobile device, not my computer.

So theoretically the next time I get a blindingly brilliant thought about theatre, but I'm not home, I can still share it with you immediately!

Cool, huh?

These words brought to you by Ogo. Find out more at

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bonus post: NY Times review of 'Spamalot'

OK, maybe you out there aren't as obsessed as I with the idea that they made a Broadway musical out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you couldn't care less, I apologize for this my second (or is it third) post about it.

But, how can you not want to read the NY Times review of Spamalot? Come on, you know you want to.

Greg's advice being passed on

I was a little bit proud today when I saw this. is your typical message board for enthusiasts. I follow such boards at TalkinBroadway and BroadwayWorld too.

A common thread on such boards is about auditions. Do you know this show? What should I sing? etc.

And today, in response to someone's query about what to sing for an audition, someone re-printed Greg's advice about how to choose an appropriate song. (Scroll down toward the bottom.) And as far as I can tell the poster isn't even my mom! (Or Greg's.)


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Marx Brothers fans online

I've been searching around to find Marx Brothers fans online, figuring Minnie's Boys would be really fun for them.

Turns out there are more online groups dedicated to the Marx Brothers than you would expect, and they're a pretty cool bunch.

Stefan at put a banner for our show up on his site, without my even having to ask!

Someone at the crazyforthemarxbrothers Yahoo Group volunteered that he saw a concert version of MInnie's Boys a couple of years ago in New York and loved it! In fact he remembers there being chatter at the time about moving it to Broadway. I had to break it to him that that probably wasn't happening this year, or they wouldn't have given us the rights.

There are many more groups, big and small online. Who kenw the Bros. still had such a following? Well, okay, ignorant me didn't know.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Greg's favorite audition story (and mine)...which do you think is better?

Here's Greg's:

At our very first auditions 12 years ago — this was at New Conservatory Theatre — an actor wandered in from a Sam Shepard audition down the hall.  Stephanie and I looked warily at each other, because he looked like he might suddenly go postal on us — he had the Shepard grunge look down pat.  So, he’d never auditioned for a musical before, but Stephanie had a fake book there and he looked through it and found one song he knew, which he then proceeded to sing for us.  It was "I Enjoy Being a Girl" from FLOWER DRUM SONG.  Over the years, when directors and casting directors get together and nosh over audition stories, we can always trump their aces with this one.

So, contestant #1: grungy Sam Shephard-type singing "I Enjoy Being a Girl" for his first musical audition ever.

Here's mine:

I did a couple of summers in stock at the Barn Theatre in Michigan, that's where I got my Equity card. Each year they auditioned for new apprentices in Chicago, and as you can imagine got a broad variety of skill levels in those auditions.

The first year I worked there the big audition story was this: a girl had come in to audition for an apprentice position. She pulled out "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" by CORRECTION: The Gershwins to sing. [Note: Thanks to reader KH for correcting my egregious, can't-believe-I-made-it error of saying it was by Cole porter. I hang my head in shame.]

In case you don't know it by its title, that's the "You say Potato; I say Potahto. You say Tomato; I say Tomahto; You say eether; I say eyether" song.

Only this girl didn't quite get it. She got up and sang it, completely serious and determined:

"You say potato; I say potato
You say tomato; I say tomato
Potato, potato, tomato, tomato
Let's call the whole thing off"

OK, it might be a little more hilarious when you hear it.

Anyway, I always crack up because I try to imagine what she thought the song was actually about!

Contestant #2: Clueless girl singing Cole.

What do you think?

Audition advice from Greg

After I posted the 42nd St. Moon audition notice, I sent Greg an email and asked him some questions about what he likes and does not like to see during auditions. He graciously answered them all...and quite pithily too. Here it is:

Question from EC: Any songs you never want to hear again?

Answer from GM: Yeah, "Why God Why?" from MISS SAIGON, and "The Music of the Night" from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  In both cases, the songs are so overwrought that I have to fight to keep from laughing as the poor actors struggle with them, and in the former case I prefer it as "There's a Small Hotel" by Rodgers and Hart, and in the latter case it's much better as "Come to Me, Bend to Me" from BRIGADOON.

Seriously (although actually, I wasn’t joking!) for the most part, I am bothered when people are totally unprepared to audition for what we do.  By that I mean, as examples, "Why God Why" and most Lloyd Webber are wrong for auditioning for us anyway -- it amazes me the number of people who don't have one good ballad and comedy or uptempo number from the Golden Age songwriters (Rodgers & Hart/Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jule Styne, Kander & Ebb, Kern, etc). It's not just for us -- if you're going out for a production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC -- and let's face it, every year hundreds of actors are going out for THE SOUND OF MUSIC somewhere -- you don't go in with "Why God Why" or "What's New, Buenos Aires?"  Except that a lot of actors do.  I took a great musical theatre audition class 20 ...uh, jeez, 25 years ago! -- taught by a Broadway performer named Connie Danese, and she was a terrific teacher.  She taught us that we should ALWAYS have at least five songs handy and ready to perform -- a "classic" Broadway ballad and uptempo, a "contemporary" Broadway ballad and uptempo, and a comedy song.  It was wonderful advice, and anyone who is working all the time in NYC would echo it.  Of course, back then "contemporary" meant, in fact, "What's New, Buenos Aires?," whereas today you might want to have something from RENT or AIDA or THE LAST FIVE YEARS as a contemporary piece.  It amazes me how many people come in with two ballads, and that's it.  Or an "angry" ballad -- and an "angry" uptempo.  No variety!

EC: Any clothing choices (or lack thereof) that turn you off?

GM: Huge clog shoes.  So annoying.  And really, it also is surprising how many actors don't realize this is a JOB INTERVIEW.  It behooves you to look your best!  Now, if you are indeed going in for something along the lines of RENT, yeah, sure, you might want to dress down for it.  But basically, don't look like you're ready to hit the mall on a Saturday afternoon when you are auditioning for a musical.
EC: Do people ever actually come in and ask your pianist to transpose on sight?

GM: It has happened, although not often.  Of course one never wants to do that -- bad move, because what if he can't transpose on sight for you?  What's more common is people whose sheet music isn't in a binder (or taped together as one long sheet) so it's easily playable by the accompanist.  Or, people who want to do a song in a specific arrangement, but have never bothered to have it arranged that way -- they just have the original sheet music!  And they try to explain it to the accompanist, and get flustered, and it's usually unfortunate.

EC: Anything else you loathe or really like about auditions?

GM: I'm always impressed with performers who have taken some time to figure themselves out for auditions -- what their best "look" is, which songs they can best use to show off their strengths, and who come in with a confident, straightforward manner and act as if they are eager to show you what they can do.  Everyone's nervous, that goes with the territory -- but it really impresses me when someone can override that and convey that they are having a good time performing for you!  ALSO -- this is a biggie -- Performers really need to be prepared to give you more if you ask for it.  I mean, the best thing that can happen at an audition is that they like you, right?  And want to see more of what you can do, right?  And yet many, many performers are not ready with anything more than their two songs.  Very surprising!  That's why the "always have five songs in your book" rule is such a good one -- there's always something else to give them.  And believe me, if we like someone, we frequently will ask for more!

Something else that’s impressive — when you ask someone to repeat something and ask for a change, or an adjustment.  It doesn’t really matter if they nail exactly what you were asking for, exactly, if they understand how to make a change.   A lot of people will do it exactly the same way — and you realize they don’t really understand how to do it differently, or that they are so locked into one way of doing it that they can’t.

Last but not least:  Smile, at least a couple of times sometime during your audition.  If your ballad just isn’t a "smiling" song, then make darn sure you can throw it into your uptempo (or — for us — we really prefer a comedy song for a second number).  You’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to smile.

Great advice! Now I have one piece of advice from my own personal annals of auditions. Don't second guess yourself the whole way into the audition room. I was the queen of deciding what to sing, then at the last minute changing my mind and deciding something else was better. Sure, I knew the other song, but it's a big mental shift to make last minute, and it was only a symptom of lack of confidence...which as Greg said is the opposite of what they want to see. Now, this doesn't mean you shouldn't be ready to sing a bunch of other songs if they ask.

Greg also sent me his favorite audition story. (ANd after years of running this theatre, he must have hundreds of stories he could tell. That's in the next post.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

How would you like to be IN a 42nd St. Moon show?

That's right, auditions are coming up for 42nd St. Moon's newly announced Fall season. (You know, the one that was announced here first! Not that I'm obsessed with that or anything.)

42nd St. Moon does its auditions like so: they take submission by mail of pictures and resumes and then call people in at specific times. Appointments are so much nicer and more humane than open cattle calls, don't you think?

So, they are first going to cast the first two shows of next season, Red, Hot & Blue and Miss Liberty.

Here are the deets:

Seeking submissions for Fall, 2005 shows:
Red, Hot and Blue! (Cole Porter)
Reh/perf: Sept.-Oct.)

Miss Liberty (Irving Berlin)
Reh/perf: Oct.-Nov.)

Strong actor/singers and dancers needed, all ages & ethnicities.

Auditions will be mid-May - early June.

AEA Contract - BAT, Tier One; stipend to non-AEA cast members.

Please send pic/résumé to:
Casting, 42nd Street Moon
601 Van Ness #E3-621,
SF, CA 94102.

More info, contact: mfigueira at 42ndstmoon dot org

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Urinetown prequel

OK, I understand that Urinetown, being a very modern musical, is not exactly 42nd St. Moon fare, but I thought this article on Broadway World was interesting enough to share.

So they're working on a prequel...and they ultimately envision a trilogy, of which Urinetown is the centerpiece.


And to give this post a local flavor, I hear that a local theatre is hoping they can secure rights to Urinetown for their Winter show early next year. I cannot say which one, and I cannot divulge my source, even though a local judge recently said bloggers weren't like journalists and must reveal confidential sources. The case is being appealed, so mum's the word from me.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Local theatre review

Nothing's running at 42nd St. Moon right now, but theatre goes on around the Bay Area.

I saw Sweeney Todd at Foothill Music Theatre on Saturday night. Sweeney happens to be my favorite musical ever, and Foothill's production did not disappoint.

The show featured at least one Moonie, Austin Ku, as Anthony. And the voices were so amazing throughout the show that I honestly think Greg & Stephanie should go see it to go trolling for new faces to trod the 42nd St. Moon boards. Not just the principals either...every ensemble soloist who opened their mouth possessed great pipes.

Oh, which reminds me, the Musical Director for Sweeney was none other than Moonie fixture Brandon Adams.

Anyway, my full review is here.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A couple of Sunday Times theatre articles worth reading

When I lived in New York I bought the paper every day and read it during my subway trip into the City. (I lived in Astoria, the starving young actresses haven.) ON those weekday trips I went for one of the less serious papers...the News or Newsday (never the Post...I never sunk that low.)

But on Sundays...well, that was the day I walked to the nearest corner and bought the Sunday New York Times. I pretty much focused on a few sections: the Magazine, the Arts & Leisure section, the Sports section (big Mets fan) and the coupons!

I still read the Times online, but it's not quite the same to sit with a cup of coffee at your computer as it is to sit on the couch or your bed with the paper spread out around you. Your two cats hanging out, swatting at the paper, some Sunday brunch music playing...maybe Basia (it was the 80s)...and if you were particularly lucky it was your boyfriend who had picked up the paper...along with bagels...while you still were in your PJs.

Sigh. It sounds pretty romantic when I put it that way...I'm leaving out the fact that the garbage trucks woke you at 5am as they drove down your street...and that if it was winter your radiator was pumping out way too much heat...heat that you couldn't control. And if it was summer you'd have to periodically hose down the cats to prevent them from getting heat stroke.

But I digress.

Two articles worth reading in today's online version of the Sunday Times:

1. A delightful interview with David Hyde-Pierce, about to open in Spamalot.

2. A brief description of a mash-up I'd love to see: A production of "MIdsummer Night's Dream" starring Campbell Scott (dreamy) and Hope Davis (completely underrated) and featuring the use of Mendelssohn's incidental music written for that play. Actually when I was but a Jr. in high school, some 25 years ago, the now-defunct California Actors Theatre collaborated with the also now-defunct San Jose Symphony to do this very thing at the the CPA downtown. They had our Treble Ensemble sing the fairy choruses that occur at several instances during the play. I have loved Mendelssohn's MIdsummer suite ever since and would love to be able to see this current production at Avery Fisher Hall.

Hmmm. Spamalot running, A Midsummer/Mendelssohn Mash-up and a 12-hour Sondheim Celebration featuring all of your favorites.

There's never been a better time to jet off to NYC for a weekend, specifically the weekend of the 19th. Anyone with me?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Shameless Plug: appearing on stage!

Five years ago when Stephen Sondheim turned 70, the NY Times published a now-famous list of songs that Sondheim wished he had written.

Now, on the occasion of Sondheim 75th birthday, I'll be appearing in a cabaret evening that culls its material from that very list.

I haven't performed publicly in ...oh, at least a year, so this will be a ton of fun for me.

And it should be a really enjoyable evening. There are 12 performers, all but a couple of whom i performed with or certainly heard sing before...very talented bunch.

If you care to make ti down to San Jose to see a great evening of song, more details are here.

One bummer: the two shows are the same two nights as the previews for Minnie's Boys, so none of that crowd will even be able to consider coming :(

But maybe some of my faithful blog readers can come watch us celebrate Sondheim onnight, and then see Minnie's Boys open the next!

If you want to share the "Minnie's Boys" discount joy

I already blogged about the discount that's been set up for 42nd St. Moon blog readers for Minnie's Boys.

If you want to spread the discount joy, you can refer people to this URL:

Unlike this blog, where posts get pushed down the page, or even off the page, as time goes by...this URL will remain up throughout the run of Minnie's Boys and be an easy place to get all the details about the 20% discount.

Feel free to pass it around.

Friday, March 04, 2005

We've Lost Some Theatre Greats Recently, Huh?

42nd St. Moon Administrator, Annette, emailed me upon John Raitt's passing. Seems in a previous life as a journalist (!) Annette had gotten to interview the great Raitt. This was 10 years ago.

We tend to think of all things digital as eternal, but Annette is experiencing a common frustration...she has the interview on some disk in some format that simply doesn't exist anymore. She can't recover the data...what a bummer.

What I loved about Raitt's obit was the fact that after his big Broadway successes were a memory, and his one film starring role failed to lead to more, he just continued to work. He did national tours. He did summer stock. He was a working actor first, a star second.

I think Ossie Davis, on the other hand, may well have been an activist first, actor second. Sometimes I think Morgan Freeman has taken on the mantle of saintly, wise African-American figure, but he's doing it in the movies. Ossie did it in life. Not the least of his role model behavior was his lengthy marriage to fellow actor, Ruby Dee. They surely join Cronyn/Tandy and Newman/Woodward as examples that even show biz folks can build long-lasting relationships.

Then there's Jerry Orbach, the only of these great performers that I saw live, both in Chicago and 42nd St. Today's audiences knew him from Law & Order; the previous generation may remember his best as Baby's father in Dirty Dancing ("when I'm wrong, I say I'm wrong.") I remember him first from my Fantastiks album.

All three of these guys were theatre stars first, and returned to the theatre again. I do wish Jerry had done one great role in his post TV stardom would have shown a whole new side to him to L&O fans. Can you imagine if he's subbed in for Billy Flynn in the current Chicago revival? Awesome!

It really came in threes this time: three great theatre leading men gone with just a few weeks of one another. I hope Annette finds her John Raitt interview or can convert it, but if she can't, suffice to say she said it was an honor to speak with him.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

CORRECTED: Minnie's Boys Discount Code is ready to go

OK, if you would like to get 20% off all tickets for Minnie's Boys, excluding Sunday matinees, the Box Office is now ready to take your orders via phone only.

Call: 415-978-2787
Use promotion code: ONLINE

Eligible Performance Details:

Minnie's Boys

Weekend #1 (CORRECTED)
Previews: Wed.-Fri. 3/30-4/1 @ 8PM
Opens Saturday 4/2 @ 6PM (reception afterwards)

Weekend #2
Thurs./Fri. 4/7-4/8 @ 8PM
Saturday 4/9 @ 1PM and 6PM

Weekend #3
Wed. 4/13 @ 7PM
Thurs./Fri. 4/14-4/15 @ 8PM
Saturday 4/16 @ 6PM

There you go.

More on M&M

Greg had a bit to say about M&M, and here it is:

"In ref to Mack & Mabel, it’s a show we’ve been dancing around for years now. Twice before we’ve tried to get the rights and were not able to (I don’t remember exactly, but I believe this would have been around the time of the London revival and also when it looked like there would be a Broadway revival with Douglas Sills and Jane Krakowski off their Reprise gig in same).  Usually when "something's up" with a show they pull rights in the major venues (which includes San Francisco) in the event that a major national tour might be in the offing.  Of course, that was not the case this time, thank goodness.  There were other times it seemed like we might get Mack & Mabel in, and it just didn’t fit the season.  But every time it’s on the ballot, it ranks in the top five, and we get comments like "When are you going to do MACK & MABEL already?" and "Stop teasing us with MACK & MABEL!  Either put up or shut up!"  (Those are real comments!  People seem to get very passionate about this show.  Of course, it’s Herman’s own favorite of his scores, too).  Anyway, Stephanie and I are so glad that we finally are going to be doing it.  I saw the original when it tried out in Los Angeles in the summer of 1974, and it’s stuck with me all these years — not just that Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston were magical, but that it was such an interesting story and had that glorious score.

The company that did the really interesting London revival of SWEENEY TODD this year (the one with nine actors who were also the orchestra) is doing MACK & MABEL this summer.  Stephanie and I are hoping to get over there to see it.  I loved SWEENEY and can’t wait to see what they’re doing with M&M.


Let's recap what we knew:

September/October: Cole Porter's Red, Hot & Blue, starring Klea Blackhurst.

October/November: Irving Berlin's Miss Liberty

November/December: Open

March/April 2006: The Golden Apple

April/May: Open

Drum roll please:

The holiday slot will be filled with The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd!

An Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse show that opened on Broadway in 1965, Roar/Smell (which I'm going to call it from now on, has rarely been produced in recent, oh I don't know, decades, but did spawn a couple of cabaret standards, including "Who Can I Turn To." There are certainly shows from the 60s that have a classic Broadway musical sensibility, but Roar/Smell had a definite modern sensibility, and is quite a departure for 42nd St. Moon

Even bigger drum roll please:

The Season Closer will be the number one audience-requested show in Moon history, Jerry Herman's Mack & Mabel, henceforth to be called M&M by this lazy typist.

There you have it. All rights secured; everything nailed down: the entire 42nd St. Moon Season announced at last, and you heard it here first!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

It's nice to be nominated

No matter how you feel about awards, especially artistic awards, it usually makes someone feel pretty good to be nominated.

Our own Ann Morrison, star of Can-Can was nominated for a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award.

You can see the full list here.

The particular thing about these awards is that there's no guarantee how many of the critics have seen the shows nominated. Sure, you can assume some number has seen a show for it to get nominated in the first place, but to win...well I would assume only critics who have seen a show would vote for it, and who knows how many have seen each one?

I mean, I know you can't guarantee all the voters have seen Oscar- or Tony-nominated films/shows either. But there's a far larger number of those voters I think, so the differential is probably mathematically far more spread out.

But you know, I should just shut up right now. I actually have no idea and am talking completely out of my butt.

Congratulations to Ann for her BATCC nomination!

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