Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It Couldn't Please Me More, Karen Ziemba starring in And All That Jazz: A John Kander Salon

The first time I saw Karen Ziemba perform, I was 18 and in the process of devouring everything Sondheim.  A friend had lent me a VHS of Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall – for those of you too young to remember VHS, they were an archaic form of DVDs.

Performance after performance, they were all delicious!

And though the list of luminaries was long – Madeline Kahn, Glenn Close, Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone, etc. – it was, without a doubt, KZ’s seduction of a clown (Bill Irwin) in a hysterically sensual rendition of “Sooner or Later,” that stopped the show for me.   See for yourself!

How could I not fall in love? (Strictly platonically of course.)

It would take nine years before I saw KZ on stage.  It was at the Magic Theatre, here in San Francisco.  She played Lucia in the World Premiere of Douglas Cohen’s musical adaptation of The Opposite of Sex.  Though the show had its problems, Karen was fantastic and won the Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award.

The one thing that I really missed in The Opposite of Sex, was her dancing.  There wasn’t much.

And if you’re a fan, you know that Karen was originally trained as a dancer, taking her first class at age six.  She later studied at the University of Akron, and joined The Ohio Ballet during her sophomore year.

Her first major job in NYC was in the 50th Anniversary celebration of Radio City Music Hall, she was backed by the Rockettes.  This wouldn’t be her only time dancing with the Rockettes, check out this video of her singing Alan Menken’s “I Wanna Be a Rockette,” backed by the famed troupe.

With all this dance experience, it was only natural that her first Broadway show would be A Chorus Line, where she went on to play Diana Morales the night that the show became the longest running musical in history.

She went on to win the Drama Desk Award for Kander and Ebb’s hit revue, And The World Goes 'Round,  a personal favorite and always on my i-Pod playlist. This would be the first of many Kander and Ebb shows; the team would later write Steel Pier for KZ (and earn her her first Tony Nomination).  She would also appear in a workshop of their musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and finally Curtains, for which she received her fourth Tony Nomination.

Curtains                                                                            Steel Pier

What about the middle two Tony nominations?  Well, her second nomination and subsequent WIN was for Contact and her third nomination was for the Jerome Kern revue Never Gonna Dance.

Though not from the show here is KZ singing Kern's “Put Me to the Test” with Scott Wise.

OK, I’ll stop gushing now, I hope I’ve made you even half as excited as I am that Karen will be joining us for And All That Jazz: A John Kander Salon, January 27th at the Alcazar Theatre.  There are still great seats available, click here, or call us at (415)255-8207.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Glee - ful experience with Babes in Arms.

Glee. Let’s face it, it’s become a phenomenon.

Whether you like it, love it, or hate it, it looks like it’s going to be around for a while.  Personally, I love it.
I love the storylines. I love the song choices. I love the characters. I love that it’s making household names out of Broadway stars.   I love what it’s doing for Musical Theatre.

Glee is introducing legions of children and young adults (and some older adults, too!) to classic Broadway shows.  Shows from West Side Story to Wicked, from The King and I to, yes… Babes in Arms, have all had their spot to shine on Glee.

Here is Mark Salling (Noah “Puck” Puckerman) performing “The Lady is a Tramp.”

This jazzy version of “Tramp” is not the only connection between Glee and 42nd Street Moon, nor between Glee and Babes in Arms.

In 1999, 42nd Street Moon produced a concert version of Babes in Arms at The New Conservatory Theater.  The young man who played Beauregard Calhoun was a 12 year old aspiring actor by the name of Darren Criss.  Here is his bio:
Darren and Marsha Merchant
from Do I Hear a Waltz?
Darren Criss (Beauregarde) is currently attending ACT (the American Conservatory Theater) for his 3rd year.  Darren is happy to be back at 42nd Street Moon, having appeared in Fanny and Do I Hear a Waltz? He has also been a part of ACT’s production of A Christmas Carol, along with other productions such as A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, and The Voyzee Inheritance.  Darren is in the seventh grade at Stuart Hall for Boys, and he enjoys music, writing, reading, drama, and art.  He plays the violin and also enjoys the piano and guitar.  When he grows up, he hopes to become a successful actor. 

Now here is Darren Criss and Chris Colfer singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on last week’s episode of Glee, where Darren has become a regular cast member. (Incidentally, Darren also sang "Where or When" for his audition for Glee.)

I was so proud when I found out that the newest cast member of this show got his start right here at 42nd Street Moon. We were Darren’s first professional acting job, but he isn’t the only one.

42nd Street Moon has a long history of helping young actors start their performing careers.

Isaiah Boyd

Gabriel Stephens

Our current production of Babes in Arms has a bevy of young talent. Our youngest cast member, Gabriel Stephens is only 16, Isaiah Boyd -- who has been garnering a lot of attention for his dancing abilities -- is only 18, and Annie Donahey is a tried and true Moonie at 17.  Annie, who recently was awarded the National Youth Theatre Award for Outstanding Actress, also made her professional stage debut with Moon, seven years ago.

This past summer a number of our brightest and most talented young ensemble members moved to New York to further their careers: Andrew Willis-Woodward, Sarah Kathleen Farrell, Giana De Geiso, Jimmy Robertson, Robbie Cowan are just some of the phenomenal talent 42nd Street Moon has helped nurture.  We look forward to seeing their name in lights on 42nd Street soon!

Annie Donahey

This is also why you should come and see all the shows at Moon!  You never know who you’ll be able to say “oh my, I saw him in his first show ever… he was just 10 years old then,” or “She was so fantastic when I saw her do…”

And if you want to catch Annie or Gabriel in Babes in Arms, click here for tickets.

If you want to help 42nd Street Moon give more of these young, aspiring actors a chance, consider making a contribution to our end of year campaign by clicking here.

Until then, see you at the theatre!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Extra... Extra... Read All About It: Murder at the Eureka Theatre. Witnesses Leave Laughing.

Last season we began asking our audiences to give us their unabashed reviews of our shows. Although we didn't specifically ask our audience this season, I found an unsolicited review on Goldstar.  Here is the review, with kind permission.  My guest blogger Gregory Alonzo.

Kinosian and Blair have publicly professed their allegiance to the conventions of the venerable musicals of a bygone era. The truth is, however, that they’ve composed a minor classic all their own that is as much subversive as it is respectful to the genre. That is no mean feat!

The nonstop humor is played with both broad and subtle strokes, and a perpetual droll wink, by a talented cast of two. To his credit, Adam Overett plays the straight man with enough comic alacrity and musical finesse to weather the force of nature that is Joe Kinosian. It's a daunting task, to say the least, and he succeeds admirably.

Kinosian, co-creator of the piece, adroitly performs ten discrete characters with a near boundless élan. The sheer physical and mental dexterity needed to convincingly portray several personalities while maintaining an insouciant charm is a genuine tour de force. The man is truly possessed with a prodigious, albeit demonic, talent!

Inasmuch as this comedy is also a musical, one is obliged to mention that the catchy melodies don’t wield quite the same impact as the masterfully honed wit of the lyrics. And Kinosian’s singing voice, while more than adequate, doesn’t live up to his acting prowess.

If one were to make a suggestion, despite its relative brevity, the show would benefit from an intermission. It can actually be exhausting just watching Kinosian, and one does detect a slight waning of both endurance and comic-timing during the latter half.

Be that as it may, this successful exercise in manic hilarity is as fun as it gets in live theatre. And it’s hard to imagine a better venue for this scale of production than the cozy ambiance of the Eureka Theatre. Go see it-now!
A native San Franciscan, Greg is an inveterate theatergoer. His day job is as an attorney with a solo practice in San Jose.

Need more reviews?
Here they are, and no spoilers... but they are raves!

Purchase tickets to 42nd Street Moon's West Coast Premiere of Murder for Two, A Killer Musical by calling (415) 255-8207 or click here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where Where Were You On the Night Of : An Interview with the Creators of Murder for Two

Our journey into the minds of Murder for Two, A Killer Musical co-creators Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair continues. Today, we discover how the show has changed over the past year and a half.

Hear some more...

                    Part 1                                        Part 2                                        Part 3

Don't miss your chance to see the West Coast premiere of Murder for Two, a Killer Musical. Playing Nov. 3 through Nov. 21, 2010 at the Eureka Theatre.  For tickets, call (415) 255-8207 or click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Life Upon the Wicked Stage: The Actors of Once in a Million Moons

As we prepare for Once in a Million Moons: A Jerome Kern Salon, I thought it would be interesting to find out who has the most previous experience with Kern.  Below, you'll find our cast and which Kern shows they have been in, and which is their favorite Kern Song.

Rebecca Luker

Rebecca Luker* (Special Guest Star) Rebecca is considered one of the great interpreters of Kern's music.  And no wonder: in her career she has performed in productions of Leave It to Jane, Music in the Air, Sunny, and of course her Tony-nominated role in the 1994 Broadway Revival of Show Boat, as well as on a number of Kern recordings(Jerome Kern Treasury, Jerome Kern in London and Hollywood, Broadway Showstoppers, and Early Kern).

What's Rebecca's favorite Kern Song? Well, here's our version from the West Coast Premiere of Very Warm for May.

Pierce Peter Brandt

Pierce Peter Brandt* (Performer) Though Pierce has worked on Broadway (Les Misérables and Martin Guerre), National Tours and right here at 42nd Street Moon (Fanny, Redhead, Kiss the Boys Goodbye), Once in a Million Moons represents Pierce's first "Kern Show".

What's Pierce's favorite Kern song?  Hmm, find out below!

Debbie De Coudreaux

Debbie de Coudreaux* (Performer) and Rebecca are old buddies, both having performed in the 1994 revival of Show Boat on Broadway.  Debbie also performed an evening of Kern with the East Bay Symphony last year.

Irene Dunne sings Debbie's favorite Kern tune from the movie version of Roberta.

Bill Fahrner

Bill Fahrner* (Performer) is no stranger to Kern.  For Moon, Bill has performed in Sweet Adeline, The Cat & the Fiddle (twice), Roberta (twice), Very Warm for May (three times!), and the American Premiere concert version of Three Sisters.  Bill also appears on the 42nd Street Moon recording, The First Rose of Summer.

Like Rebecca, Bill has a fondness for "All the Things You Are," in fact that's him singing with Sarah Kathleen Farrell, and the cast of Very Warm for May.
Alexandra Kaprielian Alexandra Kaprielian* (Performer) if you work for Moon for any length of time, you're going to be in a Kern show, it's just how it is.  Alexandra has appeared in the American Premiere of  
The Cabaret Girl, as well as Very Warm for May, and with Rebecca Luker in 42nd Street Moon's Jerome Kern Gala.  She is also featured on our 42nd Street Moon recording of early Kern, The First Rose of Summer.

"You Are Love" is all the rage with Alexandra. Listen to Bob Merrill sing his heart out.
Greg MacKellan Greg MacKellan* (Host/Director) Greg has a fondness for Kern having produced, directed, and performed in a number of Jerome Kern’s works.   Kern’s daughter, Betty, advised him when he produced two Kern CDs: Early Kern and Jerome Kern in London in Hollywood.  His Kern directing credits include Sitting Pretty, The Cat & the Fiddle, and Roberta, and he’ll be restoring and directing Kern and Hammerstein’s Three Sisters for Moon next season. Greg has also been seen in Oh Lady, Lady! and Very Warm for May.

Greg and Pierce share a common love for a Kern melody... care to guess which it is?

 Michael Scott Wells Michael Scott Wells (Performer) is not only making his 42nd Street Moon debut with Once in a Million Moons, but his Kern debut as well!

The men of this company really love "Some Girl on Your Mind," in addition to both Greg and Pierce, this is Michael's favorite Kern gem as well. 

42nd Street Moon presents Once in a Million Moons: A Jerome Kern Salon. At the Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary St (@ Levenworth). One night only, October 28, 2010.  For tickets call (415) 255-8207 or click here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just the Facts Ma'am: An Interview with the Creators of Murder for Two

Join Kellen Blair (Book / Lyrics) and Joe Kinosian (Book / Music) -- in part three of this multi-part interview -- as they discuss their musical theatre influences and why Murder for Two, a Killer Musical will be a hit with 42nd Street Moon's audience.

Need to catch up?

Part 1                                                    Part 2


If you'd like to see Murder for Two, a Killer Musical, get your tickets early.  This West Coast Premiere has a limited run and will sell out!  Call (415) 255-8207 or see our website.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Confessions of a Teenaged Theatre Geek

When I was 14, I hated musicals.  I didn't know who Stephen Sondheim was.  Heck, I didn't even know who Andrew Lloyd Webber was, and I didn't understand what was causing this phenomenon around something called Les Miz. The only musicals I really liked as a kid were The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins. 

I have no excuse; I was a late bloomer.

Then fate intervened.

My English class was brought to the theatre auditorium to watch a "teaser" of my high school’s play.  A comedy called Play On by Rick Abbott (not the musical, that would come years later). I remember thinking two things, 1) I don't like theatre... theatre is dumb, and 2) but this is funny and everyone onstage looks like they are having a lot of fun.  

I had a difficult time reconciling those two things that afternoon.

But fate is fickle and it wasn't done with me, yet.

I was flipping through channels, since reruns weren’t doing it for me, and came across this bizarre show on KQED, or as I called it back then "Channel 9".

A girl was singing, not dancing, just singing.  And the story looked familiar… it looked like Little Red Riding Hood

The weirdest part was I was enjoying it.  This wasn't a movie musical, this was a real, actual musical (even if it was on TV) and I was enjoying it.  I sat transfixed. I watched the rest of Act 1 and all of Act 2 of American Playhouse’s Into the Woods.

It was the first time I'd ever seen a musical where the music actually seemed important to me. The music was mixed into the action. People didn't just stop and start to sing and dance. Yes they were singing, but most of the time it seemed like dialogue.

Maybe I had this musical stuff wrong. What was this all about? Who wrote this show?

Hadn't that Drama teacher said that they were going to need help on the next production? Maybe I should get involved.

And I did. I joined Drama Club at the end of my freshman year.  It wasn't a school big on musicals, in fact we only did one while I was there.  But it was an easy springboard from Drama Club to devouring musicals.  Starting of course with Stephen Sondheim, the man whom I thought had crafted the perfect (and for a time only good) musical.

It would take me a few more years to learn about Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and the others.  I lived on the CastRec Listserv (an email group for people who liked Cast Recordings), spent most of my extra money on used cast recordings, and slowly realized that even Rodgers and Hammerstein and the other golden age musicals not only had a place in my collection, but were glorious.

Rodgers and Hammerstein weren’t "old hat," as I previously had believed.  They were the originators! The reason Sondheim was able to do what he did.  

But for me, it all started with Sondheim.  Sondheim brought me into musical theatre, a passion I have sustained ever since.  A passion that led me here to Moon!

And that's why I was so excited to find out that we were going to be producing a Sondheim show this season.  Since Sondheim is the composer that brought me to musicals and 18 years later, 42nd Street Moon; I believe that Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum will do the same for others.  Bring new audiences to fall in love with Musical theatre, and fall in love with Moon.  
If you have a friend that thought the way I did…  bring them to see Forum, I’ll bet Sondheim will transform their lives (maybe just a little) like he did mine!

Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Megan Cavanagh, plays through Oct 24th at the Eureka Theatre.  For tickets call 415 255 8207, or avoid box office fees and buy online.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Funny Plot Happened on the Way to the Forum

Alas, it is that time, the season is upon us.

Forum rehearsals started last night and MoonSpace (42nd Street Moon's administrative and rehearsal space) is jumping.

In this era of digital gossip, minute by minute updates, and texts replacing phone calls, I thought "How would I tweet about Forum?"

"How will I express what Forum is all about in just 140 characters.  I mean, after all, you can barely get the entire title of the show out in 140 characters!"

And then I thought, "You know... I'm not that clever, I should ask other people do it for me." And so I did.

Here are some plot tweets from our Facebook and Twitter friends!
  1. "A Roman slave plays matchmaker to his master’s son and the courtesan next door. Eunuchs, maids, and dirty old men make comedy tonight. "
  2. "Hilarity ensues as Plautus’ based Sondheim musical chockablock with prostitutes, freed slaves, soothsayers and cross-dressing is lovely."
  3. "Sondheim+ Plautus=Roman farce gone wild. Ev’rybdy ought to see this show."
  4. "Forum makes Plautus more fun as Pseudolus helps Hero win the girl next door. Hysterium will try to stay calm! If only he had a maid…"
  5. "Not a lost classic, but will you be in the end"
  6. "Slave dude (lady?) forgets the verses for the opening song while the rest worry about how their legs look in short togas." 
There you go... so... which do you think is the best?  Vote in our poll (on the right side of the blog page) and the winner will receive two tickets to opening night.  If you think you've got a better tweet-able plot, leave it as a comment!

Then join us for 42nd Street Moon's first show of the 18th Season, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Megan Cavanagh.  Playing at the Eureka Theatre Oct 6 - 24.  For more information and tickets (415) 255-8207 or click here.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Questioning the Suspects: An Interview with the Creators of Murder for Two

In part two of our multi-part interview with Joe Kinosian (composer/co-book writer) and Kellen Blair (lyricist/co-book writer), Joe tells us about his 12 characters in Murder for Two, as well as his multiple roles in the creation of the show.

If you missed part one, click here for my last blog.

If you'd like to see Murder for Two, get your tickets early.  Call (415) 255-8207 or see our website.  Tickets go on sale August 17.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Let the Interrogation Begin: Interviewing the Creators of Murder For Two

There are so many things to be excited about next season at 42nd Street Moon, but for me personally, the most exciting is the production of Murder For Two: A Killer Musical.

This is the first time Moon has produced a brand new work.  San Francisco will be the first major city to produce this hilarious and innovative work.

Murder For Two is two parts Agatha Christie, mixed with one part old-fashioned musical comedy, added to that, a dash of 21st century flair (shaken, not stirred).

I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to the creators of Murder while in New York back in March.  This is a multi-part interview (each is about 2.5 to 4 min long), which will be posted over the next few months. There are also exclusive interview "snippets" (30 seconds to a minute each) that will only be found on Facebook, so if you haven't "become a fan" of 42nd Street Moon on Facebook, now is a good time!

In part 1 we meet the creators and learn their motivations for writing Murder For Two.

If you'd like to join us for our 18th Season and reserve your seats for Murder For Two, click here.  Otherwise, single tickets will go on sale August 15, 2010 and can be purhcased online or by calling us at (415) 255-8207.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cast of Thousands (well dozens, anyway.) - Update

For a small theatre company, 42nd Street Moon definitely boast some pretty large casts.  This fall 31 actors will grace the Eureka's stage.

Considering that our second show, Murder For Two, has only has two actors in it.  That leaves 30 actors for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (16 actors) and Babes In Arms (14 actors).  For those of you who are trying to figure out how 16 + 14 + 2 = 31, you'll see below.

I thought I'd share with you the casts for the Fall 2010 Season. There is only one role left to be  cast, but once it is, you my dear readers will be the first to know.

As I'm sure most of you know, Moon shows generally have about a 50/50 split between new and returning cast members. Next season, we're gonna be seeing a whole lot of new faces!

Twenty of the 31 actors comprising the casts A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Murder For Two, and Babes In Arms are new faces to Moon. (They are denoted below with a double asterisk.)

But that doesn't mean there won't be some Moon favorites as well!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
PSEUDOLUS – Megan Cavanagh, our Moonie favorite from Jubilee, High Spirits, and Out of This World, will be heading our Forum Cast. Megan has also appeared in the major blockbusters A League of Their Own, and Mel Brooks' Robin Hood Men in Tights. Currently touring in Menopause: The Musical, she will be joining us this October for her fourth show with 42nd Street Moon.

HYSTERIUM – Mike Rhone**
PHILIA – Meghan Ihle**
HERO – Luke Chapman
SENEX – Bob Greene
DOMINA – Chris Macomber
MARCUS LYCUS – Rudy Guerrero
MILES GLORIOSUS – Rob Hatzenbeller
ERRONIUS – Elmer Strasser**
GYMNASIA – Kate Paul**
VIBRATA – Christine Bagube**
TINTINABULA – Janine Burgener**
FIRST PROTEAN – Isaiah Boyd**

THIRD PROTEAN – Tyler Costin**

Murder For Two

ALL 13 SUSPECTS - Joe Kinosian**
Joe isn't just starring as 13 different characters (the Peter Sellers of our day perhaps?) But he also co-wrote the book, composed the music, and created 13 character backstories for Murder For Two. This is truly a tour de force and you won't want to miss it. Look for a multi-part series of interviews with Joe and co-writer/lyricist Kellen Blair, here on the blog. There will be additional footage of the interview exclusively on facebook.

*** UPDATE (7/20/2010)***

Adam Overett has been cast as Detective Marcus.


Babes In Arms
[Babes is an extra special case. Not only are there a number of new actors, but there is some amazing young talent in this show. Starting at age 10, Annie Donahey first joined Moon for Finian's Rainbow. She is now a seasoned actress at age 17!  At at age 13, Gabriel Stephens will be the youngest actor to work with Moon since Ben Franklin in Paris. We are so happy to have so many wonderful young actors working with us on Babes In Arms.]

VAL – Michael Scott Wells **
BILLIE – Alexandra Kaprielian

GUS – Caleb Haven Draper
BABY ROSE – Sophia Rose Morris **
MARSHALL – Joshua James **
DOLORES – Tyner Rushing **
PETER – Jonathan Shue**
IRVING DE QUINCY – Isaiah Boyd (making his debut in Forum)
SAM REYNOLDS – Ben Euphrat **
PENNY – Maeve Martin **
BEAUREGARDE – Gabriel Stephens **
MAIZIE – Annie Donahey

We are so happy to have all these new actors become Moonies (no Kool-aid needed). If you'd like a chance to see them all next season, consider a season subscription. Click here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Offical and Un-official National Anthems

Happy 4th of July all. 

Check out Alexandra Kaprielian singing our National Anthem (minus a few seconds due to technical difficulties). 

And a note from the Rodgers and Hammerstein facebook page.

"Don't forget to sing Irving Berlin's 'God Bless America' this weekend! Did you know that the original lyrics to "God Bless America" as written for YIP YIP YAPHANK were:

'God Bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her
And guide her
To the right with a light from above
Make her victorious on land and foam
God Bless America, my home sweet home'

Monday, June 14, 2010

And She Was Beautiful... (and still is)

Thank you to 42nd Street Moon's new intern, William Gaines, for this fun posting.

Who watched the Tony Awards Sunday night? If you’re reading this blog then chances are that is a superfluous question.

My favorite moment of the telecast, and a moment which only the most cold-hearted, ruthlessly ageist could take issue with, was the appearance of, and the ensuing standing ovation received by, legendary star Angela Lansbury.

I would venture that there isn’t a person who hasn’t been touched by Angela Lansbury.  I know at least a few of you reading this  grew up enjoying Angela as Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote, eschewing your academic duties and missing meals in order to watch Angie solve a murder on TV every Sunday night. I know others of you must be obsessed with her Academy Award Nominated performance as Mrs. Iselin, the mother from hell, in The Manchurian Candidate, or her almost too adorable, deliciously cockney Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. Is there any self-respecting musical theatre fan that didn’t cut their teeth on the cast albums of Angela’s legendary Broadway shows: Mame, Sweeney Todd, Dear World and Gypsy? Raise your hand if you ever threw on a feather boa, borrowed momma’s pearls, and stomped around the house lip-synching to Angie’s recording of “If He Walked into my Life.” Yup, that’s a lot of hands.

What some of you Angela fans may not know, is that in the 1940’s -- before the five Tony awards and the long-running, heavily syndicated TV series -- Angela was under contract to MGM and appeared in two of their most delightful musicals.

In George Sidney’s 1946 classic, The Harvey Girls, a 19 year-old Angela Lansbury plaid the bitchy showgirl, Em, the vinegar to Judy Garland’s sweet as honey portrayal of Susan Bradley. The film, a thrilling entry from the Golden Age of the movie musical, is perhaps best remembered for the much-lauded production number ”On the Atchison, Topeka, and The Santa Fe,” but rest assured that the entire film is a complete delight, with Angela vamping it up and Judy singing her heart out, throughout. 

Till the Clouds Roll By, a 1946 musical bio-pic of legendary composer Jerome Kern, featured a who’s who of MGM’s brightest stars, from June Allyson and Kathryn Grayson, to Lena Horne and Cyd Charisse, singing some of Kern’s most beautiful music from Roberta and Show Boat.  In the film, Angela, looking as youthful and glam as she was ever allowed, performs a delightful rendition of “Spoon with Me,” replete with a red feathered hat, a relative army of dancing boys, and a few well placed swings.

If you love Angela in these classic musical films, if you are even the least bit nostalgic for the great music that Hollywood produced in the 1940’s, come down to the Alcazar Theatre on June 21st to see some of your favorite Moonies perform the most celebrated tunes from the Golden Age of the Hollywood musical in 42nd Street Moon’s annual fundraising gala Kiss the Boys Goodbye. It is an evening you won’t want to miss.  For tickets click here or call (415) 255-8207.

William Gaines is a proud resident of San Francisco and a drama major at Vassar College in New York. He has always loved musical theatre--whether that be as a performer, an audience member, or as a 42nd Street Moon's newest intern and sometimes blogger.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Telephone Hour: Raising Money for MoonSchool

Wow, what a night!

This is the third night of our 2nd Annual Phone-a-thon.  Over the past three nights, cast members from all five shows, volunteers, Board Members, and staff have been calling our patrons to drum up support for MoonSchool, our new education program.

So far things are going pretty well, we've raised about $5,000 but we still have $10,000 to go.  If you'd like to make a donation to MoonSchool, click here or give us a call at (415) 255 - 8207.

Here's a little video message from Dyan McBride, our new Education Director.

Want to know a bit more about MoonSchool?  Here's the Mission Statement:
42nd Street Moon has a 17 year history of exclusively producing musical theatre for the entertainment of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, and preserving the distinctive American art form that has long added to the richness of our culture. 42nd Street Moon’s position is that training for musical theatre must be taught in an integrated way, with an emphasis on combining three disparate practices: acting, singing, and dance. This three-prong technique is highly specialized and unlike any other training program one might receive at other San Francisco institutions. MoonSchool will provide this high-level, professional musical theatre training for a diverse student body of all ages and levels in a safe and trusting environment. It will be taught by leading experts and educators in the field. MoonSchool will combine a curriculum of contemporary musical theatre, as well as classical musical theatre from early to mid-20th Century Broadway (a hallmark of 42nd Street Moon’s identity.)

Keep on eye on the Blog for more info about MoonSchool!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jerome Kern: That Moment Divine

I was floating around in cyberspace and came across this blog Something Old, Nothing New:Thoughts on Popular Culture and Unpopular Culture by Jaime Weinman.  This particular post talked about Very Warm for May. With permission from the writer, I’ve reposted an edited version here (all links are mine). Enjoy!

In my previous post, some commenters mentioned another track from that John McGlinn "Broadway Showstoppers" album, the original version of "All the Things You Are."

This was from Jerome Kern's last Broadway show, Very Warm For May, one of many bombs Oscar Hammerstein wrote in the '30s. (When Oklahoma! became a hit, Hammerstein took out an ad listing all the flops he had written in the past 10 years, and ended it with "I've done it before and I can do it again.") Directed by Vincente Minnelli, the show originally did well in tryouts, but was heavily rewritten at the insistence of the producer, Max Gordon. From Hugh Fordin's biography of Hammerstein:
Between the end of the Boston engagement and the opening night in New York six days later, something happened to Very Warm For May. Max Gordon had reappeared on the scene, and he and Minnelli became convinced that the show had to have drastic revisions in order to be "commercially successful." Gordon brought in Hassard Short [one of the most successful stage directors, a specialist in big, elaborate productions] as consultant. The book was completely rewritten, the gangster plot removed entirely, and along with it an element of fantasy upon which the tone and humor of the play depended. The character of Quiller [the pretentious director of the play-within-the-play] was so toned down that the satirical element was eliminated and the preposterous, posturing figure became an inexperienced but sympathetic young man. The dialogue was emasculated in the hasty rewrite, losing its wit and verve. The new script showed a tightness that the first version had lacked, but removed the wacky charm of the original without offering any substantially stronger structure [note from Ken: 42nd Street Moon's production uses a combination of the original Boston and Broadway scripts, most of the original Quiller material has been re-introduced into the new San Francisco Production]. Russell Bennett, the orchestrator of the show, called Very Warm For May a "great show that was produced into a failure."
Kern went back to Hollywood after the failure of the show and concentrated on film musicals for the rest of his career. Hammerstein coaxed him back to New York to do Annie Get Your Gun, but he died before he could start work on the score.

The score of Very Warm For May is, as you'd expect from Kern in his prime, full of beautiful things, but no song from the show (or any flop show, really) has become as famous as "All the Things You Are," the essence of the Kern technique: write a song that sounds like a pure, simple little melody but has, by Broadway standards, almost avant-garde harmony. "We never thought the public would take it," Hammerstein said. "It had three changes of key in the middle of the refrain, which is a very risky thing to do."

In the original version, the song is performed as part of the show-within-the-show. The Orson Welles-ish director, Ogdon Quiller, plays one of the characters singing the long verse (which was rewritten and shortened in the published version), the refrain is sung by a soprano while the tenor harmonizes, and then there's a big, lush choral arrangement of the refrain.

Another Very Warm For May song that has always had a powerful effect on me is "Heaven In My Arms," a dancing song (which would have been perfect for Fred Astaire; it was here introduced by Jack Whiting, a singer-dancer who got a lot of Astaire-style parts after Astaire left New York) that Kern and Hammerstein expected to be the show's big hit. It never quite made it, maybe because it's somewhat ungrateful to sing: Kern keeps dipping down really low ("the music and...LIIIGGGHHH--TING"). But it's a gorgeous song, and another of Kern's formal experiments: instead of the normal verse/refrain format, he writes it in such a way that the verse and refrain almost seem to be part of the same unit, and ties the whole structure together by repeating the opening notes of the verse at the end of the song.

I first heard the song sung by Broadway singer/dancer Harold Lang on Ben Bagley's Jerome Kern Revisited album. The recording from McGlinn's Jerome Kern Treasury, is a composite version, using the second refrain that was cut on the road, but keeping the choral section that was added during the same tryouts. (The young and brilliant composer/arranger Hugh Martin was called in to Very Warm For May to provide a more modern sound in the vocal arrangements, the way he'd already done for Richard Rodgers in The Boys From Syracuse. I don't know for certain if this arrangement is his or if it's by Robert Russell Bennett, who sometimes did vocal arrangements in addition to orchestrations.)

- Jaime J. Weinman, Critic, Maclean.ca

If you want to see the West Coast Premiere of Very Warm for May, this weekend is your last chance.  For tickets call 415 255 8207 or click here.  Also, I recommend checking out Something Old, Nothing New it's a terrifically informative and fun blog!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ogden Quiller’s Progressive Playshop Production of ETERNITY

By now I'm sure you know that Very Warm for May has a show within a show plot.  Well the "players" decided they wanted their moment to shine.  If you were one of the lucky few who saw the Ogden Quiller Progressive Playshop Production of Eternity at the Spofford Barn Theatre in Connecticut, you might have forgotten to get a show program.  Here it is.

Ogden Quiller’s Progressive Playshop Production of ETERNITY

Who's Who in the Cast

Ogden Quiller (Writer / Director / Adam Standish) is delighted to see Eternity, his 27th work, produced. He believes that this production will lead to his other 26 plays finally being staged as well. Ogden received his formal training with Karel Capek, while traveling in Czechoslovakia. As an actor Ogden has portrayed the role of Otto Paul Vanderkill, in Children of Manhattan (Wichita Community Presbyterian) and the title role in The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden (Wallace Theatre in the Square). Ogden is currently working on the novelization of Eternity.

Elizabeth Rose Spofford (Hester Blankwiller) is a graduate of the Westover School for Girls, where she served as President of the Dramatic Club and was an inaugural member of Le Cercle Francais. Under the scrupulous artistic direction of headmistress Louise Bulkley Dillingham, she appeared as Miss Kate Hardcastle in Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer and as Lydia Languish in Sheridan's The Rivals. Upon graduation and with the encouragement of her mother, Elizabeth left for New York to train at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she appeared in Edna St. Vincent Millay's Aria Da Capo and had the opportunity to work with Broadway notable Johnny Graham in his workshop production of The Gobble-Piper Kiss Off. Elizabeth has actively admired Mister Quiller’s oeuvre since witnessing his ill-fated attempt to engineer improvised performance (Teatrus Extemporanitus) at a mixer hosted by the prestigious Players Club. She’s delighted to be a part of this avant-garde journey in the nostalgic comfort of her childhood local.

Carroll Beamish (Heart Voice and Virginia Creeper) is delighted to make her debut with the Ogden Quiller Progressive Theatre Guild, Inc. A seasoned amateur in the local theatre circuit, Miss Beamish is currently studying Classical Vocal Performance at the Hollace Shaw Conservatory for Talented and Promising Young Women. Most recently, she has performed the roles of Girl (Pinewood High School Summer Musical Theater Review), First Soprano (Pinewood Show Choir Christmas Concert Extravaganza), Gooseberry Bush #4 (Hamlet), and the title role in Carroll Beamish's High School Senior Recital. The upcoming school year at Hollace Shaw will present Carroll in several recitals, concerts, and operas.

Smoothy Watson (Heart Voice and Virginia Creeper) is a graduate of the Eastunder Boys Academy. Although he has never acted before, he has spent a few summers in his church’s chorus under the direction of Choir Mistress Matilda Manly.  At Miss Manly's suggestion, Smoothy auditioned for Mr. Quiller's and is excited to start this new career in acting. Smoothy will be moving to Manhattan this fall with a group of his friends, where he plans on continuing his new path to 42nd Street and beyond!  Smoothy wants to thank his Mom, Dad, Miss Manly, and of course Jesus for all of their support.

Rhetta Hyde (Babbling Brook) has flipped her wig!  She is so excited to be a part of the Ogden Quiller’s Progressive Playshop. Rhetta was born Rhetta-Lynn Majorca Hydenonsvensson (she changed her name at 18 for obvious reasons) and hails from Georgia.  She comes from an old vaudeville family, the singing and dancing Hydenonsvenssons.  She set her sights on the stage and headed for the Big Apple. Needing some dough to get there, Rhetta was encouraged to audition for the Ogden Quiller Progressive Playshop since the summer gig paid “a sawbuck” a week and that buys an awful lot of pop!  Miss Hyde would just like to add: “Gadding about with these artistic types has really been the bees knees and Mr. Quiller’s direction will soon have my on my way to the Big Apple.  And that Lowell Pennyfeather is just to die for! I hope you enjoy my performance as the Babbling Brook because, well, it’s important!”

Shirley Wasserman (Old Musket) has trained since highschool by taking as many acting classes she could from Lou Fields (comedian/ vaudville actor). After landing staring roles in NY theatres including Smiling Faces (Cordoina Potts) with music by Harry Revel lyrics by Mack Gordon and musical book by Harry Clarke and also Walk A Little Faster (Bea Lillie) with music by Vernon Duke and lyrics by E Y Harburg, When the last vaudeville bill closed at New York's Palace Theatre in 1932, some feared that the Broadway musical was doomed to a similar fate. After 3 years of being off the stage, Shirley is excited to make it back again doing what she loves to do

Raymond Sibley (Composer) is happy to work with his Aunt’s childhood friend’s son, Ogden Quiller. Raymond has had some wonderful successes off-off-broadway, and is thrilled to be honing his craft writing for his first time in Connecticut. He hopes that you all enjoy his little ditties and wants you to know his work can be purchased through the Denton & Haskins Music Publishing Company.

Lowell Pennyfeather McGee (Weeping Willow and Personal Assistant to Ogdon Quiller) is joining the Ogdon Quiller Progressive Playshop, Inc. for this summer's production of Eternity to further his dreams of life on the stage.  Lowell first got a taste of the acting "bug" when his father took him to see a play at the local theatre, he doesn't recall the name, but it sure was swell! This led to 15 years of acting, singing, and dancing lessons.  However, it is as the son of a banker that Lowell both perfected the art of sycophantry and gained the organizational skills of a government contractor.  Lowell's exceptionally proud of his superior tenacity, as commented on often by Mr. Quiller, himself!  This is Lowell's first production.

May Graham (Dancer) is newly seventeen, and eager to do anything and everything she wants to do, when she wants to do it! May was born to William and Penny Graham. William and Penny were a Vaudeville pair, living their lives on the road, and eventually taking their two children along with them.  Will instilled his love of the theater in both of his children. Although May is unfazed by her brother Johnny's fame, she admires all he has done on the stage. Despite her connections to the Broadway stage, May is determined to make it on her own, and work her way up the ranks (even if that means working in a barn theater). May wishes to dedicate this performance to her Mother who passed away when she was 3.
Alvin S. Theodore (P-P-Prompter, Ensemble) is thrilled to be a part of Ogden Quiller's new production of Eternity.  Though trained in gardening, Alvin finds every excuse to juggle his tools, and is often seen balancing his hoe on his forehead.  A big fan of the circus, Alvin has also been practicing acrobatics for the past three years.  Alvin hopes that Eternity will tour Germany, as he is fluent in German!
Sonny Spofford (Lighting designer, Bird) is the lighting designer. He is also forced to fill in for people when they miss rehearsal. As well as he is being preassured by his sister and mother to fill out this stupid bio. I had nothing to do with the script, direction, or encouraging of this production.

Would you like to see Ogden Quiller's Eternity? Join Ogden Quiller's Progressive Playshop at the Eureka Theatre for one last week of performances.  For tickets, call the 42nd Street Moon Box office at (415) 255-8207 or click here.