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Posts from the ‘Features’ Category

17
Jan

Lindsay Mendez: The rise of a fan favorite, still rising

lindsay mendez godspell broadway headshotAlthough not yet a marquee name, Lindsay Mendez sits comfortably atop many Broadway fans’ lists of favorite performers. For those unfamiliar with her, that’s all changing thanks to her well-received performance in this season’s revival of Godspell, as well as her endless lineup of cabaret gigs. In her latest concert engagement, Mendez headlines with her jazz partner Marco Paguia January 18 at Joe’s Pub. Before a performance of Godspell (but not after a day of workshop and concert rehearsal), Mendez sat down with Stage Rush to discuss the endless amounts of energy required for Godspell, singing with her Broadway A-list friend (and former roommate) Sierra Boggess at the ASTEP New York City Christmas concert, and whether she sees above-the-title billing in her future.

This show looks like it’s so much fun to perform. What’s been the best moment so far?
I’d say opening night, just because it was such a mammoth task to take on redoing this show. In the beginning of rehearsal, we all thought this could either be really awesome and fun, or it was going to be really bad. It took a while for it to come together. When we opened, the show was fluid and wonderful.

Since your character is called Lindsay, what qualities of Lindsay Mendez are in the character you play in Godspell?
I think the Lindsay in the show has a lot of joy and definitely wants to go her own way. She’s also very materialistic. I don’t think I’m quite as bad as her, in that respect. But I really like playing her because I get to wear really fancy things. I don’t wear anything this nice. There aren’t many things that differ from her and I and it’s been really fun to have the audience get to know who I really am.

Is that difficult to play yourself?
I feel like I always bring a huge part of myself to any role I play. In Everyday Rapture, I played myself as well, in a way. I’m kind of used to playing myself. It’s not as foreign to me.

This is such a vocally heavy show with sustained energy. How is your voice and energy level holding up?
My body is more tired than my voice. The first couple weeks, the cast was saying there’s no way we’re going to be able to do this. We’re on stage the whole time; we sing every song; we never get water; we never get a break. I had to figure out how to manage. When you’re doing a Broadway show, it can start to feel like jail, in a way. All you do is wake up and hope you have enough of a voice to do the show and that your body feels good enough to perform at night. I’m trying to find the balance of having my own life in the daytime, then coming here at night and doing a great job. It’s an ongoing learning process for me. Read more »

22
Dec

There’s more to Louis Hobson than prescription medication and firearms

louis hobson headshot next to normal bonnie and clydeAcross 733 performances, Louis Hobson played the dual role of the Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal. In addition to out-of-town iterations, Hobson was one of two actors to stay with the show through its entire Broadway run. After a stint in the brief run of The People in the Picture last spring, the former Seattle theater star is currently chasing down Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes in Bonnie & Clyde as police officer Ted Hinton (closing December 30). Hobson sat down with Stage Rush to discuss firearms, the highest highs of Next to Normal, and the satisfaction level of supporting roles on Broadway.

Ted Hinton is an interesting role in that you’re kind of the bad guy. The audience doesn’t root for you, but you’re on the side of the law; you’re doing the right thing. Sounds like a difficult mindset to get into.
Our conversation from the first rehearsal was that there is no antagonist in this show. If you need to choose an antagonist, you can say it’s society or the circumstances that everyone’s in. I wanted to push Ted as close to the middle of that line between right and wrong. I think that Clyde falls on that line as well. To me, it’s more interesting that no one in the show is all good and no one is all bad.

What’s it like playing someone who actually lived?
Ted Hinton was the last surviving member of the group that brought Bonnie and Clyde down. Ted in the show is sort of a composite of several different people. What he needed to be for this story was a little different than what he was in real life. But it’s always nice to start with something that’s real.

Is it fun to play cops and robbers on Broadway?
It’s fun having a gun. It gives you so much power. Unfortunately, I don’t get to shoot mine. Ted is one of the few guys that doesn’t get to shoot his gun. We have these big-ass guns [during the shootout scene at the end], but they don’t actually fire; they’re prop guns. Everything in that scene is firing sound effects. I don’t get to fire a blank in the show, and… that’s alright. [mock disappointed voice]

The gunshots in the show are jarring for the audience. Is it still startling for you?
We jumped when we were first [firing the blanks]. These are real bullets; they just don’t have the metal tips that fire the projectile. We were playing around with a full load of gun powder, then a half load, a quarter, an eighth—all to test different volumes. I can live with this volume now; it was so loud at the beginning. I’ve gotten used to it. Every once in a while, I get that ringing in my ears. But it’s much worse for Jeremy and Laura.

VIDEO: Louis Hobson talks about acting opposite Tony winner Alice Ripley in Next to Normal

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10
Nov

Ron Raines, the dark sun of the Follies solar system

ron raines follies broadway revival

Photo: Joan Marcus

In this season’s hit revival of Follies, Ron Raines plays the sun in which all orbiting characters collide. As Ben Stone, one

fourth of two married couples crumbling under the reminiscence of a showgirl reunion at a Vaudevillian theater about to be demolished, he holds the fates of everyone in his hands. Will he stay with his wife, Phyllis (Jan Maxwell) or choose his old flame, Sally (Bernadette Peters)? Raines, previously of the long-running soap opera Guiding Light, sat down with Stage Rush to discuss what it’s like to hold all the cards as Ben, Maxwell’s recent traffic accident, and the upcoming cast recording.

 

How did the recording of the cast album go?
It was terrific. The thing is, we did it on our days off, so we were kind of exhausted. You just click in your head that you’ve got to do it. Of course, you do nothing else [prior to the recording]. That dinner that you usually have with someone Sunday night; you go home instead.

Can you give us a sneak peek at the recording? What can we expect?
I hear there’s a lot more dialogue and story connection. Some of the numbers are really set up. They come out of the scene; which is good, I hope. They tried to connect the numbers with more dialogue, more story.

How did you find out Jan Maxwell had been in a car accident between shows on October 29?
I was sitting right there, reclined. [Points to dressing room lounge chair] My dresser, Danny, said that she had been hit by a car. Immediately, you hear, ‘Hit by a car!’ But he said she was aright, that she was upstairs with the physical therapist. So I knew she wasn’t dead! I knew they didn’t haul her off in an ambulance. They said everything’s alright, whatever that is.

How did the cast react, as a whole?
When we all found out about it, we were genuinely concerned about Jan. Everyone really rallied around her understudy, who was literally being pushed onto the stage, without any rehearsal. In those kinds of moments, you really find out the integrity of the company you’re in.

Early in the show’s previews, Follies was performed without an intermission. Did you enjoy that style or was it exhausting?
I don’t think we were as exhausted as the audience was. We got out earlier. The show is paced, but by the time we got to the “Loveland” sequence, the audience members that were fanatics loved it without the intermission. But the general public, who didn’t know, they were like, ‘We need a break.’ The audience just needed that respite with an intermission. It was fine for me.

VIDEO: Ron Raines on the time Stephen Sondheim came knocking on his door.

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25
Oct

Susan Egan on her dirt-catching days as a Disney Princess and humble motherhood

susan egan disney belle beauty beast

Photo: Kevyn Major Howard

When actors are accepted into the Disney club, the membership lasts a lifetime. The Disney Princess division is the most elite membership, and Susan Egan holds two of those spots. Having originated the role of Belle in the Broadway production

of Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and voiced Meg in the film Hercules in 1997, Egan has had young girls in awe ever since. In advance of her sixth solo album, The Secret of Happiness, being released on November 15, Egan talked with Stage Rush from her home in Los Angeles about her daughters’ favorite Disney Princess (it’s not who you think), being the punching bag of Broadway, and her future return to the Great White Way.

How does this album differ from your others?
Music speaks to me now in a different way than it did in my 20s, probably because I’m in a different place and I have a different point of view. The album is an examination of life, love, and how much more relaxed I am about all of it and letting things happen instead of trying to force them. I love that the album reflects how so many of the writers I first started working with in New York have also grown. They’ve gotten married and also had kids. I’m singing a lot of material from Jason Robert Brown, Georgia Stitt, Marcy Heisler. We’re all in different places and we’re all growing up together.

The track “Nina Doesn’t Care” is about how your oldest daughter isn’t caught up in you being a Disney Princess. How does she convey this to you?
On a daily basis! It’s not subtle or implied. [Imitates her daughter] “Mommy, my favorite princess is still Ariel.” OK, honey; glad to hear it. I foolishly thought in my 20s as I exited those stage doors as Belle, with hordes of little girls waiting to meet me, allowing myself to believe that some day I would have little girls and they would think that I was pretty cool. Nothing is a bigger or better ego check than becoming a parent. Read more »

20
Oct

The agony and the ecstasy of Anything Goes’ Robert Creighton

robert creighton anything goes headshotRobert Creighton made the decision that he would not understudy anymore. After covering roles in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Little Mermaid on Broadway, he felt that he was losing his spark, his “umph,” which Creighton cites as his greatest asset. But then along came the revival of Anything Goes, and as Creighton himself says, “[Understudying] Joel Grey’s a different story.”

Creighton has been covering Grey in the role of Moonface Martin in the Tony-winning revival since October 4, while Grey is sidelined by a foot injury he sustained while walking around New York. Creighton usually plays the role of the Purser. While most actors would be ebullient with the opportunity to play such a major role in a hit show like Anything Goes opposite the great Sutton Foster, Creighton is not in a celebrating mood. “When I found out Joel had hurt himself… I love Joel. I don’t feel comfortable really celebrating that I get to [play the role] when Joel’s hurt. If he was in Europe for a month, I’d be like, ‘Hey, I’m playing Moonface! Come and see me!’ In this case, I hope he gets better and I’m just doing my job.”

This is not the first time Creighton has gone on in the role. While the show was still in previews, Grey was unable to perform one Sunday due to a vocal injury. Creighton got the call at 11:30 a.m. and an hour later was on the stage of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre with Foster receiving his first rehearsal as Moonface. In addition to no prior rehearsal, there hadn’t been time for a costume fitting. Creighton brought his own suit and tuxedo pants to the show. “It was scary, but it was also the highlight of my career,” Creighton said.

VIDEO: Robert Creighton on his bold Anything Goes audition and bonding with costar Joel Grey

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13
Oct

Adam Jacobs: A Disney prince, twice over

adam jacobs head shot lion king aladdin disneyIf you were a young boy in the early 90s, chances are you wanted to be Aladdin and Simba. Heck, if you were a girl, you may have wanted to be them too, or at least marry them. Only one person on this earth has been both Aladdin and Simba; his name is Adam Jacobs.

Although Jacobs is the only person who can carry the honor of being the first to do this, he is an example that the rest of our childhood dreams still can come true. Naturally, Jacobs was one of these children who wanted to grow up and be the street rat turned Sultan and lion cub turned king. He admits that his 10-year-old self would never have believed that by the time he would enter his late 20s, he would have played Simba in The Lion King’s national tour, the title character in Aladdin’s first theatrical production, and then Simba once again on Broadway, where he can currently be seen eight times a week. Disney really is the stuff dreams are made of.

Jacobs grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and earned his BFA in theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He did some regional theater work and performed on cruise ships (where he was made to pull double-duty as a security guard, poking a metal-detecting wand through old ladies’ purses), but those gigs didn’t last long. In 2006, Jacobs made his Broadway debut as Marius in the revival of Les Miserables, which opened the door for leading-man roles.

Aside from feeling ecstatic when receiving the offer to play Simba on Broadway, Jacobs noted that his other main emotion was relief. “I had been touring in various shows for almost five years,” Jacobs said, referencing his runs in Cinderella, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, and Aladdin’s Seattle run. “The whole goal from the beginning was to come home to New York.” But before Jacobs could make roots in his new hometown, he would get to tackle his second Disney prince—Aladdin in the buzzed-about world premiere musical in Seattle.

For the production, which ran at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater in July, Disney need only look at its current pool of princes for the right candidate. Adams was plucked from his Simba duties in The Lion King’s national tour to mount the flying carpet. Read more »

6
Oct

Christina Bianco: The Princess of Off-Broadway Comedy

christina bianco forbidden broadway newsical musical lady gaga celine dion aguileraChristina Bianco impersonates Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga. She has to, because she’s already mastered most of Broadway’s biggest stars. Yet if you’re thinking that Bianco is some run-of-the-mill impressions actress, you obviously haven’t heard her sing. In addition to matching (and perhaps even surpassing) the vocal skills of the Grammy and Tony winners she impersonates, Bianco wholly embodies them—movements, facial idiosyncrasies and all. It was her display of these skills in the final incarnation of the cherished off-Broadway spoof fest Forbidden Broadway and currently in the ripped-from-the-headlines revue NEWSical that has made Bianco one of off-Broadway’s most valuable comedic actresses.

For most actors, it takes a few gigs before they find one that defines who they are as a performer. For Bianco, it was her first job in New York. Growing up in Rockland County, New York and attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bianco snagged a spot in Gerard Alessandrini’s final installment of the critically-acclaimed revue, in which current Broadway shows are strung through the satirical wringer, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab in 2008. Although it earned her a Drama Desk nomination for her performance, Bianco caught the production at unfortunate timing, as the long-running revue series was concluding.

“I grew up listening to it,” Bianco said of Forbidden Broadway, which Alessandrini first created in 1982. “When I booked the job, I figured I had a job for life; I thought I could do it for years and years. Unfortunately, Gerard just had enough and wanted to do other things.”

However, a similar role was around the corner for Bianco in NEWSical, which has been running since December 2009 and is currently playing at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row. Rick Crom’s ever-changing satirical revue reflects the political and pop-culture headlines of the moment in riotous musical numbers. Currently, Bianco can be seen skewering Christina Aguilera’s butchering of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at this year’s Super Bowl, embodying an eccentric Celine Dion, and embellishing Lady Gaga’s passion for protecting the gay community.

Forbidden Broadway was such an institution. When people see you in that show, they associate you with it for a really long time. That wasn’t a bad thing for me,” Bianco said, acknowledging that the similar skills of improv and satirical comedy required for Forbidden Broadway landed her the job in NEWSical.

VIDEO: Christina Bianco on being Dora the Explorer and meeting her husband, Benny the Bull. Read more »

20
Sep

The suite magic of Steve Cohen

steve cohen magic magician chamber waldorf astoria hotel

Photo: Clay Patrick McBride

Most people want to separate their work environment from their home, but most people are not Steve Cohen. Cohen, his wife, and two children live in the Waldorf Towers in the same suite where he works, inviting over 200 strangers in every weekend. Cohen is known as the Millionaires’ Magician, and he performs his acclaimed show, Chamber Magic, five times a weekend in his residential suite. Yet Cohen’s is drastically different from the popular magic acts found in Las Vegas; he performs in front of no more than 50 people at a time, with close-up tricks steeped in Vaudeville culture.

And he’s made it into a multi-million-dollar business.

Cohen looks the part of a Waldorf resident. Dressed in tails with a yellow vest and thick-knotted necktie, Cohen, 40, not only appears dapper, but as if he’s not of this period. Even without him admitting so, it’s clear from his act that he has an affinity for old world style. Audiences of Chamber Magic are required to wear cocktail party attire (don’t even think about wearing jeans). Between the formal dress of the audience and the performer, the elegance of the setting, and Cohen’s charming delivery, Chamber Magic transports to a much older era. Yet Cohen delivers with boyish wonderment in his eyes.

That look is something that has never left him. Cohen began performing magic when he was 6 years old, growing up in Chappaqua, New York. His great uncle was an amateur magician and taught him card and coin tricks. Cohen was hooked. “That’s 34 years of a lot of magic,” Cohen said.

In 2001, Cohen commandeered a friend’s Greenwich Village apartment a few nights a week for one of the first iterations of Chamber Magic. This engagement didn’t last long, however; the friend’s wife got tired of constantly rearranging the furniture for Cohen’s magic shows. So it was off to the National Arts Club in Gramercy Park, where Cohen performed for a few months. It was there that Cohen made connections that lead to the Waldorf and it wasn’t long until he took up his current residency.

Cohen refers to the kind of tricks he performs as “thinking-man’s magic.” “If I’m just doing fancy flourishes and random rolls of coins across my fingers, you enjoy it while you’re watching it, but then it’s over and it doesn’t leave you with any impact,” Cohen said. “My design parameter when creating a magic show is to make magic that lasts in your head longer.”

VIDEO: Steve Cohen talks about wooing his wife with magic, and one of his biggest fans—Stephen Sondheim. Read more »

27
Aug

FringeNYC report: Closing notes (Rock Me Like a…)

fringenyc fringe festival new york city pig pen pigpen mountain song

Photo: Bart Cortright

Well, try as we might, no human drama can muster up quite the same impact as all the combined forces of Mother Nature. So with a whimpering bang, the New York International Fringe Festival (and most other theaters in the city) has decided to batten its hatches and shutter its doors two full days earlier than scheduled. And so, with little ado, I must take my leave of you, Rushers, and bid you a fond farewell. Alas, it’s too late for these mini reviews to persuade you to rush out and see these shows this weekend (my original intention), but at the very least they may persuade you to check out these companies’ work in the future. Maybe even at next year’s Fringe.

PigPen Theatre Co., last year’s FringeNYC winners for Overall Excellence in a Production, returned this year with PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song, a disarming yet bittersweet tale set in Appalachia, as narrated by an amiable mountain (Ben Ferguson). If you failed to see their award-winning The Nightmare Story, last year, you can catch it this October at Brooklyn’s Irondale Center. Read more »

24
Aug

FringeNYC report: Day 10, Mothers of Invention

fringenyc fringe festival new york city anna annadroids

Photo: Grace Passerotti

If you had to choose, would you say your life most resembled a cartoon or a carnival? Drawn by the hand of fate or propelled by the chaotic momentum of the midway? Rendered in meticulous India ink or 64-bit digital, or covered in grit and spangles? Anna Sullivan and Naomi Grossman are here to lead you through the pleasures and pitfalls of each with their respective solo performances Anna and the Annadroids: Memoirs of a Robot Girl and Carnival Knowledge.

The mysterious entity that is the Amerifluff Corporation lurks behind this latest edition of the Annadroid saga, two different installments of which were performed at the 2006 and 2007 New York International Fringe Festivals (The Robots’ Dream Tour, and Clone Zone). This performance however is different in that it is just Sullivan alone onstage, supported with video, original music, and 3- D live camera effects rather than with a troupe of flesh-and-blood “robot” dancers. Sullivan is a flexible and courageous dancer, and the driving electronica that forms her score (composed by David Morneau, Forest Christenson, and Sullivan) sets an appropriately forbidding and futuristic tone. As Sullivan doesn’t speak during the piece, all of the exposition and storyline is presented via video, which cuts between hilarious spoof commercials for a variety of Amerifluff Corporation products (“Touchy-button” phones, for example), and the pages of a “Heavy Metal”-style graphic novel in progress (drawn by Natalya Kolosowsky, Grace Passerotti, and Bella Messex). The major drawback of this strategy is that the performance proper never builds up momentum, so often does Sullivan quit the stage altogether (reappearing several minutes later in a series of sexy costumes designed by Liz Harzoff and Sullivan). Recently relocating to the West Coast might have inspired Sullivan to strip her Annadroids production as close to the bone as possible, but quite honestly, it could use a little more meat. Read more »