Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spotlight On...Neal Mayer

Name: Neal Mayer

Hometown: Toms River, NJ

Education: B.A. Communications - Susquehanna University.  In New York, I’ve studied acting at the Atlantic and with Wynn Handman and Betty Buckley.

Select Credits: Recently, I was seen as St. Aphrodisius in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at La Jolla Playhouse and Paper Mill Playhouse. I’ve appeared on Broadway in Les Misérables, on tour in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and off-Broadway in Forbidden Broadway and Bush is Bad.  I’ve also been featured in comedy sketches on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon".

Why theater?: There is nothing like the excitement of a live audience.  It really is the essential “other character” in any play. When it all comes together, there is a charge from the audience that is palpable.

Who do you play in Spot on the Wall?: I play Mike Hunter, a wealthy museum patron who is still reeling from the death of his wife.

Tell us about Spot on the Wall: The show centers on a young photographer (played by the wonderful Robert Hager) who is about to open an exhibition of photos chronicling the death of his mom to cancer.  On the day of the opening, the ghosts of the past haunt the living as they try to come to terms with the choices they’ve made in their lives. It has a truly original contemporary score that will be played solely on guitar, bass and violin.

What is it like being a part of Spot on the Wall?: I love working with the creative team. They’re young, dynamic and really excited to present this piece to the world.  Composer Alex Mitchell and Book Writer/Lyricist Kevin Jaeger are so open to actor questions and input, and they are constantly re-writing. You’ll be hearing a lot from them in the future.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love plays and musicals that surprise me and transport me. This season, Disgraced and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time both did that in completely different ways. You would never have that same experience in another medium.   A few seasons back, One Man, Two Guvnors knocked me out with a first-rate script and hilarious performances. I’m also inspired by Jeanine Tesori’s work and am so excited to be seeing Fun Home next week.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I love being part of new works so I look forward to something that isn’t even out there yet.  Of the current Broadway musicals, I’d love to play Jefferson Mays’ roles in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

What’s your favorite showtune?: "If I Loved You” from Carousel is the perfect theatre song and makes me tear up every time I hear it.  (But I also love “All That Jazz,” “For Good,” “Unlikely Lovers,” “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd,” “Suddenly, Seymour”…)

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Director Marianne Elliott. War Horse and Curious Incident were two of my favorite theatre experiences of the last decade.  Her storytelling and use of theatre craft are pure genius.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Ewww. I’d never want to see a movie about me!  I’d spare the world!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’d love to have been in the audience for the opening nights of the original Show Boat and Oklahoma! to see how groundbreaking they really were.  And I’m a huge Gypsy fan, so I’d like to catch that original cast as well.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Eating cereal. All kinds of cereal. There are at least five different boxes of cereal in our pantry at any time. Apple Jacks, Heritage Flakes, Cheerios, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries… Don’t judge me!

What’s up next?:  I’m thrilled that we’re going into the studio in August to record Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s gorgeous score from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. That was one of my favorite theatre experiences to date, and I’m so happy that the music and the performances of the Paper Mill cast will be preserved.  I’ll also be working on an exciting new musical by Josh Rosenblum called Mark Felt, Superstar. I play Mark Felt, the FBI man who was Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s secret source during the Watergate investigation. We did four workshop performances in April, and it looks like we’ll be doing a limited run later this year.  In keeping with the Deep Throat theme, I can’t reveal where until the time is right…”

For more on Spot On the Wall, visit spotonthewall.com and nymf.org.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Spotlight On...Becky Goldberg

Name: Becky Goldberg

Hometown: Farmingville, NY

Education: I got my BA in English from SUNY New Paltz, and my MFA in Dramaturgy from Stony Brook University

Favorite Credits: Directing: Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, Dramaturgy: Rabbit Hole, Pvt. Wars

Why theater?: Theatre practitioners are the best problem solvers. We're clever, resourceful, and innovative, and those are a qualities that I really admire in people. I also love that theatre asks us to look at and watch ourselves (represented by characters, of course!), as we are. There's no other media that requires you to watch a representation of real life that is quite as tangible as theatre, and I think it's really powerful because of that.

Tell us about 210 Amlent Avenue: It's the story of a woman trying to let go of the past and a young man trying to discover and embrace it. It explores family, love, lies, and the things that connect us to the other people around us.

What inspired you to write 210 Amlent Avenue?: Karl, the composer, asked me to come in and write the book for the show. I'm inspired by a lot of the classic story tellers in the theatre world: Ibsen, Chekov, etc, but am also greatly moved by the Americans that are becoming the "new" classics: Letts, Abaire, Albee, etc.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I'm drawn to art, not just theatre, that makes me think about myself. I love finding things that pop the little bubble that I live in and make me think outside of the world that I live in. In a lot of what I write, I'm inspired by my own grief and trauma, and love using my characters as an outlet for my own demons.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I wake up every day disappointed that I haven't spontaneously morphed into Tina Fey, and I understand how unrealistic that is, so I would settle (ha!) for working with her. What a dream. She's made it okay to be an awkward, geeky, smart, creative chick, and I love her for that.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: August: Osage County, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Mabou Mines' production of Peter and Wendy (it was, I think, the most beautiful thing I've ever seen).

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Thora Birch (we look alike), and it would be called Cynically Optimistic (also the name of my hypothetical autobiography. Clearly, I've thought about this)

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Ohh..... Gosh.  Tyne Daly, Cynthia Nixon, and John Gallagher Jr. in Rabbit Hole. But also Michael C. Hall in Hedwig.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Sushi isn't really guilty, so that can't count. Noodles are guilty. I love noodles and ramen. And REALLY dirty gin martinis... Probably not at the same time.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Teaching (this is cheating because I already do). If I wasn't in theatre or theatre education, I'd probably be a Funeral Director (morbid, right?). I've always been interested in it as a career, for some of the same reasons I love theatre: you are the human connection for a person in a moment of redefinition and discovery, and something about that really speaks to me.

What’s up next?: I'm teaching a playwriting workshop and dramaturging a show in the fall, directing a play called She Kills Monsters in the spring, and will be working on my next play, a piece entitled Restless.

For more on 210 Amlent Avenue, visit 210amlentavenue.com or nymf.org

Spotlight On...Kevin Jaeger and Alex Mitchell

Name: Kevin Jaeger and Alex Mitchell

Hometown: 
KJ: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
AM: East Windsor, New Jersey

Education:
KJ: Florida State University
AM: AMDA

Favorite Credits:
KJ: As an actor, Louie in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? and Joseph Wykowski in Biloxi Blues.
AM: Performing as Private Louden Downey in A Few Good Men, Noah Countability in Billionaires for Bush and singing aboard the Norwegian Majesty.
KJ: As writers, I think we can definitely agree that the upcoming World Premiere of Spot on the Wall in the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival is our favorite credit.
AM: Absolutely.  Hands down.

Why theater?:
AM: Because live theater is one of the most honest and intimate ways to tell a story. The connection that is created and the communal experience that is shared between audiences and performers when the curtain rises and the lights come up--there's nothing like it in the world.

Tell us about Spot on the Wall:
KJ: Spot on the Wall is a musical about the beautiful forms of art and self-expression that are born out of love, loss, and grief.  Paul Hunter, a photographer, is preparing for an exhibition of his artwork that focuses on his mother's recent lost battle with cancer. As Paul and those close to him are forced to face their past on the walls of the museum, they learn to appreciate the ugly side of life and see the beauty in the stories we live.

What inspired you to write Spot on the Wall?:
AM: We both began as actors, so I think first and foremost we were inspired to create a show that actors would want to do.  Actors are the instruments of storytelling in theater and giving them a piece they can really sink their teeth into was something we were very focused on.
KJ: We were also inspired by elements of Greek mythology.  I have a degree in Classical Civilizations with a focus on Ancient Greco-Roman Society and Culture--
AM: And I've always loved mythology.
KJ: So we were both excited about creating a contemporary story with allusions to classical mythology.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
AM: Theater that is honest and original.  Pieces that inspire you to think and question things.  Shows that push the boundaries of storytelling and reimagine the strengths and limitations of the live theater experience.
KJ: People like Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron, Simon Stephens, Marianne Elliott, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tracy Letts, and the incomparable Stephen Sondheim continue to raise the bar and advance the art form of live theater.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
KJ: We've definitely fantasized about working with people like Audra McDonald, Michael Cerveris, Brian d'Arcy James, and Lindsay Mendez...but to be honest, we have been amazingly blessed with the people we've been able to work with so far!  Our cast and creative team for the NYMF production of Spot on the Wall is an absolute dream team, so we're pretty lucky guys!
AM: As long as we can continue to work with people who are passionate about telling stories, we're happy.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:
KJ: Fun Home and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
AM: Two of the best shows we've ever seen.  Just amazing.  Everyone should run and see both of these productions.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
KJ: Chris Pratt...in his chubbier "Parks and Recreation" days...and it would probably be called "Finding the Words".
AM: Eddie Redmayne and it would be called "A Search Within".

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:
KJ: The opening night of Sweeney Todd on Broadway!
AM: Anything produced by The Group Theater in the 1930's!

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
KJ and AM: AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR!!
KJ: We've been watching it for a few seasons now and we're obsessed!  We never miss an episode.
AM: But it's not really a guilty pleasure...I mean, I don't feel guilty about it.
KJ: Because Alex is going to be on it one day.
AM: Exactly.  First goal: Establish Jaeger/Mitchell on the Musical Theater scene. Second Goal: American Ninja Warrior. But really. I'm serious.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?:
AM: Music Therapy with children.
KJ: Teaching High School English.

What’s up next?:
AM: We hope for a continued life for Spot on the Wall after our run in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, but we also have a few new shows in the works.
KJ: We have a new piece with the working title Everything No One Should Know that we're excited to develop...plus we have some other ideas we're working on.  We've got a lot of stories and we're so excited to share them.
AM: Plus...there's American Ninja Warrior--
KJ: Of course, can't forget about that.

For more on Spot on the Wall, visit spotonthewall.com and nymf.org.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spotlight On...Catherine Gowl

Name: Catherine Gowl

Hometown: NYC. I was born and raised in Murray Hill.

Education: BA in the History and Literature of France and America from Harvard. MFA in Acting from the Old Globe/USD.

Select Credits: Baby Joey/Callaghan in the War Horse North American Tour. Chyrsothemis in Electra at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. Understudy for all of the female roles in Theater for a New Audience’s tour of Merchant of Venice. Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Emilia in Othello at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. Cordelia in King Lear, and Elizabeth in Six Degrees of Separation at the Old Globe. Milton in The Director at The Flea. Wendy in I’m Not Peter Pan at the Cherry Lane and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Associate Artist with blessed unrest.

Why theater?: I believe that theater is one of our greatest tools in what I trust, at least on some subliminal level, is the universal human project towards empathy. I love telling stories, finding points of connection to and entry into lives distant from mine, and the small act of community building and consciousness raising that comes with each performance. Theater, especially theater in intimate spaces, can demand an immediate and visceral connection between audience and performer that both engages the imagination, and bypasses it, to go straight for the gut.

Who do you play in Body?: Body is a fully ensemble piece, but my main role step out role is that of the Doctor. She is a trauma surgeon.

Tell us about Body: Body is a fully devised piece, that started with a germ of an idea and some bodies in a room. The initial activation energy came from the real life inspiration of two people: a painter of nudes and a trauma surgeon. How do these two professionals see and encounter the body differently? Our exploration lead us to other sources of inspiration: a sister struggling with her sister’s absence, and a woman grappling with the literal loss of part of herself. Body has become an exploration of our relationships to, and through, the body.

What is it like being a part of Body?: My work and education have taken me out of the city for 5 or so of the 8 years I have been working with blessed unrest, but even with that time away, blessed unrest has become the artistic home to which I always return. Body has brought together an ensemble of actors who know each other both as professionals and as complex whole people. We are a true family, and from that foundation our rehearsal room is utterly safe and therefore deliciously dangerous.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I’m an omnivore, theatrically. I’ll see shows in houses and warehouses and Broadway houses. I am moved by theater that seems necessary, that lingers with me afterwards, that surprises me by engaging my thoughts and my feelings, and that demonstrates mastery and/or exuberant mess. Tom Nelis, Chuck Mee especially as directed by Tina Landau, Ivan Van Hove, Jason Robert Brown, Fun Home, Trip Cullman, Laurie Metcalf, Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Ko Murobushi, Keli O’Hara, K. Todd Freeman, Will Eno - these are some of the people who inspire me.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I’d love to do a Shakespearean pants role: Rosalind, Portia; and I’ve recently developed a hunger for Lady M. Anything by Will Eno.  I do love working collaboratively, though, so a play written with me in mind, that I’d really love to do.

What’s your favorite showtune?: At this moment, "Another Life" by Jason Robert Brown. But I was raised on Camelot and have a solid through line of love for Sondheim.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are so many wonderful artists I’ve yet to work with. Today, I’ll say Steppenwolf. The totality of the world they created with Airline Highway blew me away.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called: Jessica Ranville then Keri Russell and then Annette Bening. “The Right Words”

If you could go back in time and see any musical or play you missed what would it be?: The Rite of Spring complete with riot.

What show have you recommended to your friends: Airline Highway. Gloria. Fun Home. Hand to God. Curious Incident.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Nut butter from the container, frequently on a double-dipped spoon.

What’s up next: The Return at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in July. This piece is an intersection of traditional performance and new technology. I play a docent in conversation with a digital avatar of a Renaissance sculpture of Adam, played by an actor in a motion capture suit in the next room and rendered using gaming technology. Together we tell the story of how the sculpture, the Biblical Adam on which it is based, the fall that shattered it in 2002, and the digital Adam that was used to help the conservators reconstruct it over 12 years are all intertwined.
http://www.metmuseum.org/events/programs/concerts-and-performances/the-return-reid-farrington

Monday, June 29, 2015

Preview: 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival

The 2015 New York Musical Theatre is upon us and to get you ready, Theater in the Now is giving you a little glimpse into the 22 full production of this year’s festival! NYMF runs from July 7th until July 27th. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit nymf.org and remember to use #musicalslivehere and #titn on Twitter and Facebook! And visit NYMF's Soundcloud playlist for a musical glimpse into the festival. And without further ado, a preview!



Top 5 Exciters

Claudio Quest
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Drew Fornarola and Marshall Pailet

This is the show for the geek inside. Written by Drew Fornarola and Marshall Pailet (Triassic Parq) and directed by Tony Nominee John Tartaglia (Avenue Q), Claudio Quest has all the makings for a superfun musical with a vibrant young cast. The musical follows a very super hero, his less super brother, and one butt-kicking princess on a mission to overcome killer eggplants, a love starved platypus, and their own 8-bit existential crisis. It sounds like it will be paying homage to Mario and friends, Claudio Quest has a cool logo and the marketability potential.

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/7 @ 7; 7/10 @ 1; 7/12 @ 8; 7/13 @ 1; 7/14 @ 5; 7/14 @ 9

Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera
Book by Jon Peter Lewis, Ryan Hayes, and Garrett Sherwood, Music and Lyrics by Ryan Hayes and Garrett Sherwood

Reality TV super fanatics, we got some names to draw you into this one! Written by Ryan Hayes, Garett Sherwood, and Jon Peter Lewis, Deep Love: A Ghostly Rock Opera is a haunting rock and roll opera where sweethearts become adversaries in pursuit of what they cannot live without. For those who are avid fans of singing competitions, Deep Love is written by The Voice season 4 contestants Ryan Hayes and Jon Peter Lewis of Midas Whale and features Amy Whitcomb. If you want to go deeper, you'll remember Amber from The Sing Off Season 3 and JPL from one of the most competitive seasons of American Idol, Season 3, also known as the year that Jennifer Hudson was robbed. But back to the musical. Rock and roll and musical theater have had a nice bond in recent years and this one has a haunting score. Audience, you are encouraged to come dressed in your best funeral attire. Cue the cult followers

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/17 @ 8; 7/17 @ 9; 7/19 @ 4; 7/22 @ 1; 7/24 @ 5
deeploveopera.com

Manuel Versus the Statue of Liberty
Book by Noemi de la Puente, Music by David Davila and Howard Post, Lyrics by Noemi de la Puente and David Davila

If ever there were a poignant piece of theater. Manuel Versus the Statue of Liberty is a Latin-infused American musical set up as the ultimate boxing match where Manuel, an undocumented immigrant, must take on The Statue of Liberty in a high-stakes fight known as immigration. Manuel Versus the Statue of Liberty packs all the punches in musical comedy fashion. Led by powerhouse performers Shakina Nayfack and Gil Perez-Abraham, this musical is riding high on the American Dream.

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/21 @ 8; 7/22 @ 5; 7/25 @ 5; 7/26 @ 8; 7/27 @ 12
manuelvsthestatueofliberty.com

Spot on the Wall
Book and Lyrics by Kevin Jaeger, Music by Alex Mitchell

Following the tale of Paul Hunter, a talented photographer who is about to receive an exhibition of work that focuses on his mother’s recent battle with cancer, Spot of the Wall is a musical about the difficulty of facing your pain and your past. Led by the stunning vocals of Robert Hager and featuring the beautiful score by Jaeger and Mitchell, Spot on the Wall seems like the sleeper musical of the festival that you’ll need a pack of tissues or two for.

Theater 3
7/7 @ 7; 7/10 @ 5; 7/11 @ 9; 7/12 @ 12; 7/14 @ 5
spotonthewall.com

Tonya & Nancy: the Rock Opera
Book and Lyrics by Elizabeth Searle, Music by Michael Teoli

Every festival needs that campy show that draws audiences via pop culture. And believe me, I love pop culture. NYMF’s offering this year is Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera. For those who may not remember these 90s icon, this musical is about dueling figure skating divas Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerigan and the infamous whack heard round the world. Tonya & Nancy is certainly bound to garner much attention. Led by Jenna Leigh Green and Tracy McDowell as Nancy and Tonya, this one is sure to pack houses by concept alone.

PTC Performance Space
7/9 @ 8; 7/11 @ 5; 7/12 @ 8; 7/14 @ 9; 7/16 @ 1
tonyaandnancytherockopera.com

The Rest of the Fest

210 Amlent Avenue
Book by Becky Goldberg, Music and Lyrics by Karl Hinze

An homage to New York, rather the Hamptons, 210 Amlent Avenue follows a Fourth of July celebration at the old Jordan estate hosted by retired actress Mrs. Jordan. A young poet arrives in search of the truth, setting off a firestorm of events. Inspired by the storytelling styles of Ibsen, Chekhov, and O’Neill, 210 Amlent Avenue features a score reminiscent of the classics.

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/9 @ 8; 7/10 @ 9; 7/11 @ 1; 7/12 @ 4; 7/14 @ 1
210amlentavenue.com

Acappella
Conceived by Greg Cooper, Book by Vynnie Meli, Music and Lyrics by The Acappella Company

A gospel singer leaves home and makes it big as a pop singer. He returns home to find his own voice. Acappella is the message and the music in this romantic comedy. Performed solely by voice, Acappella has a hook that is certain to entice audiences.

PTC Performance Space
7/7 @ 7; 7/10 @ 5; 7/11 @ 9; 7/12 @ 12; 7/14 @ 1
acappellathemusical.com

Foolerie 
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Santino DeAngelo

Be a guest of the Great Earl and meet Clowne, the most infamous jester of the age, and his traveling troop of fools as they employ madcap madness and musical comedy in their desire to divert you. Wits will be battled, entendres will be doubled, and art itself shall be put on trail in this whacky cross-dressing, mistaken identity, true love, and pure, unadulterated, foolerie send-up of Shakespearean proportions. And for those brave souls, on-stage seating is available!

PTC Performance Space
7/22 @ 8; 7/24 @ 5; 7/25 @ 9; 7/25 @ 12; 7/27 @4
fooleriemusical.com

Headvoice
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Ethan Anderson

Eric is writing a musical about his life. But instead of actors, he’s using voices…the voices in his head. Headvoice is a funny, touching, and original musical that tells the story of a young composer grow up and discovering love, loss, and the power of music. Developed at Elon University with a workshop session with Adam Guettel, Headvoice is a witty and clever score, featuring super beltress Molly Emerson, and is certain to touch hearts.

Theater 3
7/17 @ 8; 7/19 @ 12; 7/22 @ 9, 7/23 @ 1; 7/25 @ 9

Held Momentarily
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Oliver Houser, Additional Material by James Zebooker

Previously part of FringeNYC last year, Held Momentarily has an eerily similar story to NYMF 2012 show Stuck. Regardless, the musical follows six strangers stuck on a stalled subway car and discover it’s not just the train that’s stuck. Held Momentarily is a musical comedy about making connections, living in the moment, and moving on in life. Oh, and a woman just went into labor.

PTC Performance Space
7/20 @ 8; 7/23 @ 1; 7/25 @ 5; 7/26 @ 8; 7/27 @12
heldmomentarilythemusical.com

Moses Man
Book and Lyrics by Deborah Haber, Music by Casey Filiaci

Inspired by the true saga, Moses Man portrays the indomitable spirit of survival recounting the true saga of a Holocaust survivor and his nine-year journey throughout Europe, Cypris, Palestine, and Africa before finally finding freedom in America. Leading the cast of the epic musical is West End legend Oliver Thornton

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/8 @ 8; 7/10 @ 5; 7/11 @ 9; 7/12 @ 12; 7/13 @ 9
mosesmanthemusical.com

Napoleon
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Andrew Sabiston and Timothy Williams

With a score reminiscent of Les Miserables, Napoleon is the story about icons and the people who make them. Talleyrand, a mater politician operating in the shadows, believes he can manage the man he’s grooming for greatness. But there’s only one thing he can’t control; Napoleon’s obsession with Josephine. In the battle to come, two of the three will be known forever, one will be known as the devil incarnate.

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/15 @ 8; 7/18 @ 5; 7/19 @ 8; 7/20 @ 12; 7/22 @ 9

Passing By
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Patrick Thompson

Set in the small rural town of Jacksonia, Wisconsin, Passing By follows the relationship of Jenny Zimmerman, an ambitious writer, and Edison Wolter, a young man who runs his family farm. The two have grown up together and now they must decide what comes next. Will they plan a life together or follow their own separate dreams? Passing By is a romantic dramedy with a contemporary folk score.

The Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café
7/20 @ 4; 7/21 @ 12
passingbymusical.com

Pope! An Epic Musical
Book and Lyrics by Justin Moran, Music by Christopher Pappas

Pope! An Epic Musical tells the tale of a young, idealistic, rock star Pope and his ambitious nemesis, the Archbishop, who will stop at nothing to wear Pope’s mitre. With a comic book world backdrop, Pope soon learns that a few well-placed enemies can overpower a few million fans. Good and evil collide in this rambunctious, Shakespearean power struggle where liens must be drawn, sides must be taken, and confrontations must be musical.

PTC Performance Space
7/15 @ 8; 7/16 @ 9; 7/ 19 @ 4; 7/ 19 @ 8; 7/21 @ 5
popethemusical.com

Real Men: A Musical for Guys and the Woman Who Put Up With Them
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria

A show for bros by bros. Getting straight men to the theater without being dragged by their lady is hard. Get ready for an original musical comedy about real men behaving like, well, real men. This musical revue answers the one pertinent question on everyone’s mind: “Do real men sing and play with puppets?” You better believe they do!

The Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café
7/13 @ 8; 7/15 @ 12; 7/17 @ 12; 7/18 @ 7:30; 7/20 @ 8
realmensingshowtunes.com

Single Wide
Book and Additional Lyrics by George D. Nelson; Music and Lyrics by Jordan Kamalu

Katy may live in a trailer park but that doesn’t stop her from having enormous dreams. As a single mother, living with her own single mother, Katy does all she can do to get her son out of the “single wide” situation. But when her son befriends the reclusive new move-in two trailers down, Katy sees something different in him that makes her take a second look. Led by Stacia Fernandez and Emma Stratton, Single Wide features some unlikely musical heroes.

PTC Performance Space
7/17 @ 8; 7/21 @ 9; 7/23 @ 5; 7/24 @ 9; 7/25 @ 1

Songs for the Fallen 
Book by Sheridan Harbridge; Music and Lyrics by Sheridan Harbridge and Basil Hogios

The year is 1847. The place is Paris. Songs for the Fallen takes you through the extraordinary life of Marie Duplessis, courtesan, party girl, liar, and legend, from desperate poverty to meteoric rise as the most notorious woman in France. Part vaudeville, part cabaret part MTV-goes-Baroque, Songs for the Fallen is the wild and hilarious tale of a woman who knew one thing: good girls don’t make history.

Theater 3
7/21 @ 8; 7/24 @ 12; 7/25 @ 1; 7/26 @ 9; 7/27 @ 12

Summer Valley Fair
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Dylan Frederick

At Summer Valley Fair you can be anyone you want to be, right? Aching for more than the blue glow of 432 friends, one sixteen year old girl trades safety of her attic for roller coaster screams, laser light nights, boys who might be real, and supermoon girls who definitely aren’t. Created and featuring Dylan Frederick, Summer Valley Fair is the great hope that even without uploading, we can sing ourselves into existence.

Theater 3
7/16 @ 8; 7/18 @ 1; 7/19 @4
summervalleyfair.com

The Calico Buffalo
Book by EJ Stapleton, Music and Lyrics by Peter Stopschinski and EJ Stepleton

When the first born son to chief of all buffalo arrives covered with the markings of a calico kitten, the chief, his son, and the entire buffalo nation are catapulted into the adventure of a lifetime. This kid friendly musical is the stage adaptation of the book of the same name.

PTC Performance Space
7/8 @ 8; 7/10 @ 9; 7/11 @ 1; 7/12 @ 4; 7/16 @ 5

The Cobalteans
Book and Lyrics by Yianni Papadimos, Music by Andrew Bridges, Ben Chavez, and Yianni Papadimos

One year after their friend Gabriel’s death, four young men return to the lake house they had spent their summers growing up in. The boys have come to say goodbye but the tranquility of November on the Lake Erie coastline does not linger for long as tensions rise. The folk rock inspired score features a top notch young cast eager to explode on stage.

Theater 3
7/8 @ 8, 7/10 @ 1; 7/11 @ 5, 7/13 @ 1; 7/15 @ 9
thecobalteans.com

Wearing Black
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Riley Thomas

When his twin brother Charlie suddenly passes away, all Evan wants to do is forget their complicated relationship and move on, but the tangled relationships Charlie left behind prevent Evan from truly letting go. As he slops into a spiral of self-destruction, Evan must mark a stark decision: either accept and forgive his dead twin brother, or become him. Written by Stuck scribe Riley Thomas, Wearing Black is an emotional journey of moving on featuring a heavy score.

Theater 3
7/9 @ 8, 7/10 @ 9, 7/11 @ 1, 7/13 @ 5, 7/15 @ 1

What Do Critics Know 
Book by Matthew Gurren, Music and Lyrics by James Campodonico and Matthew Gurren

This musical already gets the award for insulting the people reviewing the show! But nevertheless, What Do Critics Know follows three of the most powerful theater critics who have taken countless shows off the stage and now must put one on. With time running out they enlist struggling writing Nathan Wood, who is in need of a comeback. Can cooperation, harmony, and perhaps even love exist between an artist and a critic? The old-fashioned musical features Bach and Shakespeare, so get ready for anything!

The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
7/23 @ 8; 7/24 @ 9; 7/25 @ 1; 7/26 @ 4; 7/27 @ 4

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Review: The Cyborg Future

The future is upon us. The rise of technology has proven that the world is ever-changing and the capabilities are boundless. What was once science fiction is becoming science fact. In Citizen Cyborg, a stage version of the James Hughes book, an enthusiastic ensemble takes the audience on a journey to a future where the next class of citizens are robots.
Adapted for the stage from the book of the same name, Citizen Cyborg is a series of vignettes and audience addresses that tackle the technological near future of the next generation of citizens. By blending mask work with mashups of Shakespearean and Greek texts, Citizen Cyborg takes the audience on an ambitious eye-opening expedition. From the start, the fourth wall is broken. The ensemble mingles with the audience prior to the first line, the dressing room area is completely exposed, and the masks are placed on chairs to encourage handoffs. Without warning, the transmission begins and a fast paced flurry of definitions are tossed into the room. Broken up into three short "acts", what occurs next are the theatrical vignettes where well known characters and themes are replaced with Hughes' thesis of the future. Director Neal Utterback established a physical vocabulary with his ensemble that allowed a cohesive dialogue with the audience. The physical theater nature of the piece is strong. The simplicity of the staging allows for the thesis to take the focus. That being said, some of the masks were a bit restricting in vocal clarity as dialogue muddied tone. The piece remains moving allowing space to be virtually nonexistent. The moments of air are deliberate, allowing the audience a moment to digest.
photo courtesy of Ethan Farell
The way into this world is through the youthful acting ensemble. They are an assertive bunch eager to share a warning of the future. They bring a mesmerizing sense of devotion and commitment even if they may not comprehend every word they recite. With the piece merging the world of character and actor, some of the best moments came through the direct addresses where they were given the opportunity to share their hopes, fears, and beliefs. One of the most beautiful moments of vulnerability came from Jamison Monella, who also gave a strong showing throughout. Monella is an actor that in time could have a bright future.
Due to the nature of the piece, Citizen Cyborg treads that fine line of hokey experimental theater that gets parodied on “SNL”. With a group of growing actors, there were times that came off as unintentionally humorous. The basic black shirt, no shoes, and jeans uniform were a bit too on point, aiding into the hokey nature. Though the paired down approach Utterback took did work well with the festival confines. He used the space properly, benefiting from the diagonal, and kept the various worlds consistent through lighting looks. What did bring the production up to a new standard was the live music created by Gabriel Gould. The soundtrack blended electronic sounds into an underscore that kept the stakes high.
Citizen Cyborg is a piece of political theater that provokes great talking points. It's ambitious and brave and happens to be wonderfully prevalent.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spotlight On...Bay Bryan

Name: Bay Bryan

Hometown: Golden, Colorado

Education: Life. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Favorite Credits: The past couple months I have been really fortunate: I composed the music and played it live in True Believer at TheaterLab; it is a one woman show, and the actress that played the woman is my sister Kersti Bryan, so that was a very special run for me. Less than a week later I was in Scotland, and I had the opportunity to play my music at Dundee Rep Theater, opening for singer-songwriter Horse McDonald. Then immediately after that I flew out to LA to visit a friend and by chance I got to see a screening of an animation I composed the music for: The Walker by Heather Collins, Produced by Matt Groening.

Why theater?: Well... I love stories. On top of that though, there is just something so powerful about them unfolding in front of us live... There we sit grouped together as individuals and as a collective to witness it. It's kinda weird right...? I LOVE IT!

Tell us about Growing into My Beard: Let's see... it is a quirky coming-of-age story of sorts that follows my personal journey of coming out, flying far from home, and inevitably ending up where I am now. Ultimately it's about self-acceptance and love, and is told through my songs, farcical dance, musical improvisations, anecdotes, with dash of drag queen thrown somewhere in!

What inspired you to create Growing into My Beard?: Since arriving in NYC I've been feeling my way through the singer-songwriter world and the theater world; even though they are both performance, they are very different market-places and I suppose I've been trying to find where they can intersect... So I guess this show is sort of the product of that effort- a piece where I get to tell a story that both involves my music and whatever the hell else I want to do.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Stories with heart. done.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are so many I can't even think... I'll shoot for the stars: Ian McKellen, because he's Ian McKellen.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Matilda, because I love that story, and because Tim Minchen is such a talented and quirky songwriter, and then to have him write the music and lyrics for the show was an interesting choice which I thought it worked beautifully!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Kersti Bryan in drag because we kind of look identical, although she's far prettier than I... I think it would be called "Growing into My Beard" :P

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would have to say the original production of Hedwig.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Plants vs Zombies.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: a Killer Whale. definitely.

What’s up next?: A kombucha. Yes I think that will do the trick