Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Haul out the Holly...

HOLY MOLY has it been a busy couple of weeks since my last post! Thanksgiving came and went, and I just seemed to completely lose track of the blog. I haven't forgotten you, though! Lots to talk about...

First of all, some of you may have read my last post in which I (unoficially) reviewed Level Ground Arts' production of Crushing Grain. It seems that the Higher Powers that Be needed me to see that show and find a catharsis I didn't know I so desperately needed. If you'll recall, the show dealt on one level with the JFK assassination, but was mostly about cancer. A little over a week after I saw this play and just wept from the pure emotion it brought out in me, my brave and wonderful aunt passed away from lung cancer. I feel certain that, had I not seen this play and gotten out a lot of the emotion I had been storing up inside, that weekend would have been much harder for me to handle. So...my family is strong in their faith and has banded together during this holiday time (now missing so many loved ones), but that has been one reason for my lack of blogging.

I've written a couple of reviews for The Column lately as well, which can be found online at PegasusNews.com here and here.

Also -- I have been a busy little Christmas bee working backstage on the HILARIOUSLY funny production of A Tuna Christmas at Denton Community Theatre. The two brilliantly talented men in this show, Justin Harmon and Buster Maloney, are both actors with whom I have had the pleasure to share the stage this year (in Crazy For You and Company, respectively). The show has been selling out, and there is one more weekend of holiday hijinks in Tuna, Texas before it closes. I suggest you try to get your tickets ASAP before you miss it!

Also Also -- Did I mention that I've been cast in Show Boat at Lyric Stage in Irving, Texas?? Yep, remember when I blogged about auditioning for that way back here? Well a few weeks ago, I finally got a call that I've been invited to be part of the cast. It's looking like a stellar cast of people, and I cannot wait to perform this beautiful music next month on that gorgeous stage with a 40-piece orchestra under the baton of Jay Dias!

Finally -- You guys? The FIRST EVER PERFORMANCE of One for Mahler is TOMORROW NIGHT! I am really ridiculously excited about this. We've gotten a lot of unexpected publicity, including an interview on a recent This Week in the Arts podcast! (The interview begins around the 30-minute mark.) The singers are myself, Tyler Donahue, Aaron White, Shane Strawbridge, and Stephanie Felton, and we are accompanied by Aaron Albin on piano. There are 19 SONGS on the program, including favorites such as "For Good" from Wicked, "Always a Bridesmaid" from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, "Adolpho" from The Drowsy Chaperone, and MANY MORE.

Please plan to come out to Art Six Coffee House (located at 424 Bryan Street in Denton, TX) tomorrow night (Wednesday, December 16th, 2009) from 9pm—11pm and hear some great tunes & drink some great coffee!

That's it (I think!) for now! Happy Holidays to you all!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crushing Grain; Living Strong

DISCLAIMER, BLAH BLAH BLAH: This is not an official review, nor was it solicited by any news outlet or anyone associated with the production.

Dallas, Texas is famous for many reasons: its football team (and said team's cheerleaders), killer barbecue, an excellent local music scene...heck, there was even a television show named for it. However, one of the most important events that helped put "Big D" on the map happened 46 years ago this month: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This historic event and the man held responsible for it, Lee Harvey Oswald, have been the subject of conspiracy theories, books written, movies and television shows produced...you name it. It also appears to be the main plot line in the play Crushing Grain, written, directed and produced by Level Ground Arts founder Bill Fountain. The production is currently playing at the Dallas Hub Theatre in Deep Ellum, a mere stone's throw away from the location of the events of that horrible day in 1963.

As the audience seats itself in the Hub's small, intimate black box setting, a man in white pajamas is laying facedown on the stage. This man might be Lee Harvey Oswald, and he might be Alec Hidell. He may be in a psychiatric hospital in Russia or he may be in a movie theatre in Oak Cliff. The doctors, the other patients, all others he encounters...they may be real or they may be all in his head. The audience must watch as Oswald/Hidell struggles to desperately uncover the past (or is it the future?) and answer the questions that those in power are trying to torture out of him — or is he just torturing himself?

But wait. Is this play really about Oswald or the Kennedy assassination at all? Why are the actors suddenly breaking the fourth wall to talk about watching a husband, a father, a brother...dying of cancer? Because the truth is, that's really what this play is about. It is about the suspension of reality by those dealing with cancer in their personal lives, whether directly or indirectly. The monologues are heartbreakingly real. As the granddaughter of a wonderful man lost to cancer and the niece of a brave woman losing to cancer, I found these moments in the play almost unbearable.

In a recent interview with Elaine Liner of Theater Jones, playwright Fountain is quoted as saying, "[the play is] about what was happening to my life as my dad started to slip away from me." The Oswald/Hidell storyline really appears to function as a vehicle through which a cancer patient attempts to make his own stamp on history before leaving this earth. Historical reality becomes obsolete as personal validation and the desperate need to have mattered somehow gives way to surreality.

Admittedly, this may not be as obvious or clear to those lucky enough to have never been affected by the evil "c-word." Perhaps director's notes in the program may have helped those in the audience who came in to see a play about Oswald, lone gunman/conspiracy theories, and the infamous event that put our fair city in the public eye on that fateful day.

Either way, the play is wonderfully written and earnestly performed by a group of dedicated actors led by Nick Jones as Oswald/Hidell. Jones, who eerily resembles Lee Harvey Oswald, carries the show on his fully capable shoulders. He conveys the arrogance of Oswald but his frustration as Hidell is palpable as he desperately claws his way towards the answers his torturers/doctors demand. He borders on shrill at times, which makes his lines a bit difficult to understand, but he never relaxes for one second. It is both thrilling and exhausting to watch.

Ken Long as The General and one of Hidell's "roomates" has an incredible presence onstage, and one can't help but be drawn to him and hang upon his every word. Daylon Walton gets awkward laughs (the good kind) as The Soldier, and Robert G. Shores as The Leader is compelling, even as an "audience member" to the action onstage. The spot-on accent he uses provides an ominous foreshadowing of what will happen to his character, and it's hard not to keep him in the corner of your eye at all times. Fountain himself makes a cameo as The Agent, and provides the stuff of nightmares during the waterboard torture scene.

The rest of the cast is equally talented; there are no weak links. Even actors who never say a word create very strong presences as silent torturers, special agents, et al.

There are only two opportunties left to see this play (December 4th and 5th), so do yourself a favor and reserve your tickets. It's not often enough that original works are performed and heavily publicized, so take this opportunity to witness something that is real and that meant (and still means) something to someone. Seize the chance to be a part of something new being premiered. Support the local playwrights that pour their hearts out and bare their souls to the public in such a way. If nothing else, attend just to see how such a cataclysmic event in our city and our nation's history can be used as the basis for something surreal and outside its usual box. You won't be sorry.

REMAINING SHOW TIMES: Friday, December 4th and Saturday, December 5th at 8pm

PLACE: Dallas Hub Theatre 2809 Canton St. (Deep Ellum) Dallas, TX 75226

COST: $15 - $20 General Seating, doors open half-hour prior to performance

TELEPHONE: 214-749- 7010 or 877-238-5596 for reservations

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmastime is Here. It is. It is, It is.

Pictured: Justin Harmon (L) and Buster Maloney (R). Photo by Eagleton Photography

Meet Charlene and Bertha Bumiller, mother and daughter residents of Tuna, Texas!

I have the pleasure of working backstage for Denton Community Theatre's upcoming holiday production of A Tuna Christmas with some very good friends and two extremely funny and talented actors (pictured above).

I'll be working backstage as an Assistant Stage Manager and probably more often than not moving Christmas trees and helping one of these men in and out of different shoes, wigs and dresses as they each play 11 different characters.

I attended a rehearsal recently just to familiarize myself with the show and get to know some of the very interesting residents of Tuna, Texas, and boy I tell you what....this show is going to have people in stitches! I laughed so hard I cried more than once.

Don't find yourself in an overheated, downhill wreck because the shows sold out -- Get your tickets now to see this show!

I'll Drink to That

Remember in this post when I talked about how I was brainstorming with friends about how to start up a cabaret for singers in Denton?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you One for Mahler, the latest and greatest thing to hit the North Texas (or at least Denton) music scene!

Our first performance will be on Wednesday, December 16th from 9pm—11pm at Art Six Coffee House, located at 424 Bryan St. in Denton, Texas.

Here is the awesome lineup of singers, including myself, Stephanie Felton, Tyler Donahue, Shane Strawbridge, and Aaron White!

Come on out and start off your holiday season with a bang!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Evil Dead the Musical - My Thoughts

Photo by Daylon Walton. Originally Uploaded to LevelGroundFilms.com

DISCLAIMER TO KEEP PANTIES OUT OF WADS: This is not an official review, nor was it solicited by any news outlet or anyone associated with the production. This is just your everyday blog post containing my thoughts about a show I saw this past weekend. However, I did type out all my thoughts and I'd be happy to share if you'll just email me.

What do you get when you mix all the campy greatness of cheesy slasher flicks with doo-wop music, horrible one-liners, and rocking band of the undead? The answer: Level Ground Arts' recent production of Evil Dead the Musical.

Boy, was I glad when I found out that this production was extended into the first weekend of November! Due to a RIDICULOUS October schedule that I have already mentioned, I was incredibly bummed out to think that I might miss this gory, zombie-riffic production that received rave reviews from Elaine Liner of the Dallas Observer and TheaterJones.com, Mark Lowry of TheatreJones.com and Christopher Soden of the Dallas Examiner. But, thankfully the stars aligned and I was able to catch the penultimate performance!

I had one very good friend in the production, one Stephanie Felton, playing the role of Cheryl. I've known Stephanie for a very long time and I felt like a proud Mama watching her -- or at least a proud aunt or cousin, since her actual Mama was in the audience, bravely seated in the Splatter Zone! She belted her sassy behind off, and I was floored by the way she went balls-to-the-wall in her vocal performance, both in singing and in gravelly zombie-speak! It would be very easy to just throw caution to the wind in a show like this, and the result would be vocal chords shredded to ribbons after a six week run. However, Stephanie once again impressed me with her level of professionalism as a singer and an actress/comedienne!

Several other performers have been my "Facebook friends" for months now, and this show provided an opportunity for me to see them perform and meet them "in real life" for the first time. I was not disappointed on either front. Shane Strawbridge as Jake had us all (especially our friend Justin) in stitches with his hillbilly accent, awkward hip thrusting and, most memorably, a particular string of profanities as he walked offstage that still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. Liz Woodcock as girlfriend Linda was especially funny with her high-pitched giggle and headless antics, and Clayton Younkin made a big impression -- even though his character, Ed, could barely get a word in edgewise, I couldn't help but be drawn to him every time he was onstage.

The "Band of the Dead," lead by M. Shane Hurst, was flawless, if not a bit loud at times. The guitar solo by Alex Atchley towards the end of the second act was actually one of my favorite moments of the entire evening!

So, despite a few minor frustrations and distractions such as the inability to decipher lines/lyrics at times and the fact that, on this particular night, the show was being filmed and one of the videographers and cameramen kept walking in front of our seats and blocking our view, I highly enjoyed this production and I give a standing ovation to Bill Fountain and Level Ground Arts and the immensely talented production team, cast and crew of Evil Dead the Musical. Should this show ever come 'round again, I will be first in line to audition and/or buy tickets!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now what?

Each of those posters, which are lining the wall above the top shelf in my office, represents a show with which I have been involved in 2009. There is just the perfect amount of space left for just one more, which I intend to fill with a poster for A Tuna Christmas in just a few short weeks. Thankfully, I will be working backstage for that one (with perhaps the most amazing backstage crew the Campus Theatre has ever seen, I might add) rather than onstage, but it will still be a rocking good time and an amazing show, starring two men I have already worked with in separate shows this year: Buster Maloney (Harry in Company) and Justin Harmon (Bobby Child in Crazy for You). You definitely will not want to miss this one!

So, yes, Talking of Michelangelo closed on Sunday. We had a FANTASTIC weekend of shows with some great audiences (minus the lack of an audience on Thursday, which we won't count because the rest of the run went off so successfully) and some even better cast parties. Wow...this cast certainly knows how to have a party! Two nights in a row of getting home after 3:30am took its toll on this old fart, though, and I was pretty exhausted come Monday morning! I miss everyone already, though, and am looking forward to a get-together soon for karaoke at Mable Peabody's! :)

In other theatre news (no, the theatre world as it pertains to my life still doesn't slow down even when I'm not actually in rehearsals for a show...what can I say? I can't sit still), I have a few other things coming down the pipe that I am very excited about:

* On Friday night I will be going, along with my husband Michael and our good friend Justin to see the critically acclaimed Evil Dead: The Musical produced by Level Ground Arts and directed by the one and only Bill Fountain. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill when he came to see Chicago with my dear friend (and Zombie-convert Cheryl in Evil Dead for that matter) Stephanie Felton. Some other online-only-via-Facebook-and/or-Twitter friends are in the cast, and I can't wait to meet them IRL* as well.

(*IRL = in real life)

* I hope to get back to reviewing shows for The Column VERY soon. I miss going to see theatre and writing the reviews! Since the last review and the feedback from it left a rather, well, bad taste in my mouth, I'm looking forward to seeing more local theatre and putting my Critic hat back on.

* Forever Plaid opens at Denton Community Theatre in a couple of weeks, and I am quite excited to see this one. It's a wonderful, feel-good musical, and I'm looking forward to seeing it also just out of sheer curiosity. This may be the first show I've seen in a while with a cast containing not one single person that I know or, at the very least, know of. I don't even know the director! It will be refreshing to see some of the new(er) talent that Denton has to offer in such a great musical....which is a nice segue into telling you about my newest project I'm trying to get off the ground....

* For those of you who are Facebook friends with me, you will have likely already gotten an invitation to join the group Denton "Cabaret" Brainstorm. No, this is not a brainstorm on how to produce the Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret. Instead, it is something I've been thinking about for a while. Denton boasts so many talented people of all ages, but there is not always a venue in which to showcase the different facets of the talented community. So, I am trying to create a musical showcase that will occur (hopefully) weekly in order to feature the myriad talented singers in our fair city and in the surrounding areas. I'm currently working on securing a venue for at least one show before 2009 ends, coming up with a name and writing a mission statement, so stay tuned for exciting news regarding the cabaret! If you have any ideas or just want to stay informed of what we're doing, PLEASE join our Facebook group or comment here and join the discussion!

That's it for today! Now that I will have evenings free and a bit more of a relaxed schedule, I hope to be a bit more attentive to this site. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Talking of...the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Yes, there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel I so gladly stepped into on January 5th, 2009 at our first Company rehearsal! Tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 28th) marks the first of the final five performances of Fight Boy Theatre's production of Talking of Michelangelo. Which also means I'm just that much closer to taking a break from theatre for a while. Yes, I have agreed to help out DCT's production of A Tuna Christmas, but that will be in the role of Assistant Stage Manager, and my duties will not begin until November 30th. I will have four whole weeks off! Amazing. I honestly think that will have been my longest break since the beginning of the year.

And what a great experience it all has been! Every director has been different and amazing in his or her own way, each cast has taught me something new about myself as a person and as a performer, and each script and/or score has been a challenge in its own way.

I've also started and - for the most part - maintained this blog and become a theatre critic for The Column. All in all, I'd say a VERY artistically successful 11 months once it's all said and done. No wonder I'm exhausted, though!

So, back to the current production. I have to say, I definitely had reservations and trepidation about stepping outside my comfort zone and into the world of guerilla theatre. However, this experience has been no less rewarding than any other I have had this year! The cast, the script, the director, the...ahem...weather we have had to deal with...all have been amazing. Plus, I've discovered a new love for Art Six Coffee House, the venue at which we perform each night. The space is absolutely beautiful (a restored house with a spooooooky story attached), the coffee is delicious (I need to set up an IV of the toasted coconut blend), and the staff is amazing. Imagine my surprise when I realized that two figures from my brief foray into the UNT Theatre Dept., Olivia and Tommy, run the place!

It has truly been my pleasure to encourage people to support both an indie theatre group as well as my friends' establishment. In case you'd like to check us out (bring weather-appropriate items, dress in layers, etc....some nights are chilly!), we have five more performances: Weds (Oct 28th) through Sun (Nov 1st) all at 8pm! Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students, and Halloween night (Sat) is a pay-what-you-can.

Enjoy some photos below that I took at one of our dress rehearsals! Pictured: the muy caliente Kristina Lujan and the man your mother warned you about: Kevin Wickersham.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 16, 2009

CHICAGO - Backstage: A Picture Essay

Since this blog is entitled "DFW Backstage," I thought I ought to do my part in making the name logical and take some backstage photos at last night's pick-up rehearsal/benefit performance! Enjoy!

My dressing room spot! Makeup and hair are done, I'm just killing time before they call "Places!" which is when I put on my microphone, costume, and lipstick. (Don't worry, I don't go onstage for a good 15 minutes or so after the show begins!)

Our wonderful dance captain, Whitney, leading warmups! This is a very dance-heavy show, so we spend quite a while warming up.

No final weekend of performances is complete without a cast party! Two of our cast members made flyers with all the pertinent information, and we made sure to let our orchestra members know the deets, too!

Three members of our OUTSTANDING orchestra always arrive early and get set up, go over some tricky passages, and generally heckle us as we warm up. :)

A great photo of "They Both Reached for the Gun" from my spectacular vantage point in the wings!

Very blue shot of one of our prop tables, and the fans used in "All I Care About is Love."

Very green shot of two of our sexy ensemble members, as well as all the spreadsheets with set change assignments, etc. on the wall in the stage left wings.

Assistant stage manager SarahAnn Sutter on headset Stage Left! She's amazing!

The other fabulous ASM, Olivia Norine on Stage Right headset!

Going over my lines and blocking again before I go onstage!! I'm terrified not to do this, because I've had very little time to let this show saturate my brain!

Who's that sexy "Mama?" It's me! I'm ready to go onstage!

This is the final weekend of performances, and it has been such a rockin' good time! I'm going to miss it, but I'll have Talking of Michelangelo to keep me busy for the two weeks after this show closes, so I'm never facing an excess of spare time, that's for sure!

OH and did I mention that Chicago is SOLD OUT? Well, it is! Wahoo! And you can read the review in The Column by clicking here or by clicking on the show poster in my sidebar ------->

Friday, October 9, 2009

Razzle Dazzle 'em

(photo by Khai Ha, NT Daily staff photographer, originally uploaded to NTDaily.com)

Another openin', another show...

Yes, tonight is OPENING NIGHT for Music Theatre of Denton's first show of it's 25th season - Chicago. You may be wondering why I didn't mention that I was a part of this show back when I was talking about auditions and such, or perhaps you remember this post in which I discussed my husband being in the show and me enjoying my nights off.

Well, it's been a bit of a whirlwind three days.

Due to reasons I will not disclose so don't even bother asking me, the original Matron "Mama" Morton in this production needed to step away from the production, and I was asked to fill in—with about 3 days before opening night (tonight).

As you can probably imagine, it's a delicate and potentially awkward situation, but I am good friends with this actress and respect her tremendously as a colleague and as an amazing woman. I am doing my best to fill her shoes and to rise up to the caliber of talent in this outstanding cast while at the same time trying to remember all my lines, blocking, lyrics/notes and trying to match the style of the show and find my inner Mama.

What has impressed and humbled me, though, has been the incredible support I have been shown in the past three days! The cast and crew and production team of Chicago has been welcoming and helpful, and I find myself being hugged backstage, slapped on the butt a few times (ahem, Tyler), and even gently nudged or guided (discreetly, of course) onstage. Talk about making a scary situation easy on a girl!

Beyond that, even, the cast and production team of my other current show, Talking with Michelangelo has also been incredible and supportive. The director is being supportive and accommodating to my suddenly crazy schedule, and he and our leading actress have even offered to meet with me at odd times to work on individual scenes so that I can stay up to speed on that production as well.

Finally, I have been ridiculously impressed with the way the two directors of these two vastly different companies have helped one another out, making absolutely sure that neither show gets slighted in any way, but that each production is promoted and rehearsed to its full potential. That, my loyal readers, is what I think that theatre—especially community theatre—should be all about. This situation, which could have been much stickier, has been not only smooth and pleasant, but incredibly rewarding and uplifting.

So? Here we go. Off to OPENING NIGHT tonight (aka my 4th rehearsal) and kicking off what I hope will be a fantastic and successful run of one helluva show.

Here's a bit of press about Chicago, for your viewing/reading pleasure:

Murder, Fame and All That Jazz - NT Daily Article (10/9/09)
Chicago - NT Daily video (10/9/09)
All That Jazz - Denton Record Chronicle's "Denton Time" (10/8/09)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Outside the Box

"Talking of Michelangelo" image (originally uploaded to FightBoy Theatre)
Due to the recent surge in some of my closest friends and colleagues encouraging me to step outside the box, leave my comfort zone, try something new, etc., last week I went to two auditions that pretty much scared the hell out of me. But, due to the strong desire to have something other than the two (wonderful!) Denton musical theatre companies on my resumé, I swallowed my fear and got my audition materials ready for the week.

The first audition was for a concert version of Show Boat at Lyric Stage in Irving, TX, which will not even begin rehearsals until January of 2010. Lyric is a highly respected company in this area, due to their diligence in producing beautiful productions with full, lush orchestras. The thought of working with a theatre of this caliber, especially after performing my last role to a recorded orchestra, was too wonderful to pass up. I don't have high expectations for this one, especially due to it being my first audition outside of community theatre, well,....ever. I just wanted to feel as though I did my best and gave a good audition. I think that I achieved that. The jury is still out on casting, as far as I know, but overall I'm pleased with the experience and am very glad that I got my first audition for an equity theatre out of the way. It will only get easier, right?

The second audition was for a straight play, which I have not done since high school. I won't even tell you how many years ago that was, but suffice it to say, I'm a little rusty and anxious when there is no big musical number (or several) for me to fall back on! The play is called Talking of Michelangelo, and it is an original work by FightBoy Theatre founder (and friend of mine) Joshua Scott Hancock. This audition was so much more intense - but relaxed at the same time - than most musical theatre auditions, and I really had to step outside my comfort zone a few times. It was incredibly fun - and liberating! - and the eclectic group of talented people that showed up to auditions made me feel very comfortable, and not quite as vulnerable as I was afraid of feeling.

I ended up getting cast as an ensemble role in the play, and our first rehearsal/read-through is this evening. This will be a very short and intense rehearsal process - the show opens on October 21st - and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Finally, I'd like to say congratulations to another of Denton's indie theatre companies, Sundown Collaborative Theatre. They opened Nina Raine's Rabbit this past weekend and have been receiving great reviews so far, both from my colleague Gina Robertson of The Column as well as Mark Lowry from Theater Jones. I hope to catch a performance this weekend, and I encourage you to do the same and support the indie theatres!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Answer to a Repeated Question

After a relatively short (for me anyway) hiatus from all most things theatre, things have been picking up a bit more momentum lately. I reviewed two shows last week, and the reviews are up online: My Way can be found here, and Funny Girl here. I also have two auditions this week that could not be more different from one another–one is for a musical at an equity theatre (my first audition for equity…aaaaaaand vomit) and the other is for an original play (yes! Play!) written and directed by a good friend.

When I was talking to someone about my busy recent schedule, that person asked me, “How long do you think you’ll be able to perform and be a critic?” I believe my response was a shrug and, “Dunno. As long as I can do both, I guess.”

Here’s the thing–I love doing both. I love being onstage and performing, and I honestly cannot go to a musical performance without aching a little bit on the inside as I sit in the audience thinking “When, DEAR GOD WHEN, can I do this again?” Those of you who are also performers know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s intangible, really. I can’t answer why I love doing it, just like I can’t answer why I continue to do it even when I’m exhausted, frustrated, stressed, etc. It’s just…because.

And on the other hand, I love being, even in my very small, insignificant way, a theatre resource for people. If a review I write convinces someone to go see the show, even just out of curiosity or to see if what I said about the sets/costumes/actors’ performances is really true, that’s fantastic. If one of my Facebook friends clicks on a link to an article or a link to a YouTube performance of something particularly fierce, that’s excellent! If six people read and enjoy this blog, that’s great, too! It also broadens my own horizons. Reviewing gives me an opportunity despite the financial limitations of being…ahem…a twenty-something newlywed to go see shows all over the Metroplex and, who knows, maybe even farther some day. Plus, as someone who has always enjoyed writing and blogging, I’m getting the added professional benefit of having my reviews published in such widely read online publications such as The Column and PegasusNews.com.

However, I know what this person meant by asking me that question. Eventually, despite my intentions and my desire to write with tact and objectivity, I’m bound to someday get on the wrong side of an actor, a director, a choreographer, a producer…you get the idea…and it could very well affect whether or not I’m cast in some places. And that’s fair – it’s their prerogative! My career aspirations are not to make a living on the stage; if they were, I’d stop reviewing now and focus on performing only. My goals are to just keep doing what I’m doing for as long as someone lets me do it. I want to perform as often as my schedule, my day job, my home life will allow – and not necessarily in that order. And I want to continue seeing the myriad high-quality theatrical productions that Dallas/Fort Worth and its surrounding suburbs have to offer.

I also want a million dollars, a new car, and maybe just one pair of Jimmy Choo mary janes…so if someone could get on that for me, I’d be much obliged. :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quick Update

I logged into Blogger this morning and found that I have more followers of this blog now for a grand total of ::drumroll, please::.......SIX! Woo hoo! Hey, you've got to start somewhere, right? I'm just thrilled that anyone stops by here, adds me to their Google Reader, etc. Welcome!

So, I'm enjoying my time without a show right now, believe it or not! I've had time to make dinner plans with friends, catch up on my poor, desperately neglected house, spend time with the puppy, do some leisure reading (in the past couple of weeks I've finished The Time Traveler's Wife and Son of a Witch), and think about upcoming auditions/projects with a much clearer head than I do while in the prep for another show.

My husband is working very hard preparing the role of Billy Flynn with MTD's Chicago, which I hope you will all try to see. Click here for more information on that one. You can safely assume you'll see me, no matter which evening you decide to attend!

"My Way" cast, L-R Brynne Huffman, R. Bradford Smith, Claire Moore, Silas Moores. Photo by Jan Toms, originally uploaded to Pegausnews.com

Kristin Dausch will play Fanny Brice in Lyric Stage's Funny Girl. Picture originally uploaded to Pegasusnews.com

In reviewing news, I have a couple coming up this week...back-to-back, actually, so it will be a weekend of writing for me! The first one is on Thursday night (tomorrow!), and it's a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra entitled My Way. The second is on Friday night, when I will be reviewing Lyric Stage's production of Funny Girl. I am very much looking forward to both of these productions!

Other than that (oh, is that all??), there are a few auditions coming down the pipe that I've got my eyes on, including a straight play (gasp!), and potentially becoming a Local Correspondent for a fantastic new web site that is getting the finishing touches put on it this month called The Opera Insider. Kala and her mom, Carol, started the web site together, and this is a quick excerpt from their "Why We Are" page:

Now, through The Opera Insider, there exists a virtual venue for a local,regional, and international, cutting-edge, focused,intimate,opera-loving, opera-perpetuating community. We don’t and won’t compete with anyone. Opera company websites, sites that provide performance information, even websites that do some of what we do exist; we know that. We invite them to grow and thrive with us, link to us, work with us, and we’ll work with them. Opera bloggers, critics, patrons, singers, technicians, everyone from in front of and behind the curtain, we invite you to join us to create something unique, supportive, and inspiring. We invite you to join with us and become an opera insider.

Cool, huh?? Kala contacted me through Twitter (if you're not following me, start now!) and I'm very excited for what this web site will do for the operatic community - both on and offstage.

So that's it! That's what's been going on around my life lately. I'm really trying to increase following on this blog, so let me know what you'd like to see on this blog, topics you find interesting (related to the performance arts, preferably), etc. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Theatre Wish List

I just did one of those theatre survey things on Facebook, and one of the questions was, “What is your dream role?” Wow. That’s a question not easily answered. I’m sure there are tons of roles I’d love to play some day, and some of them are qualified with “…but only if I can sing it with and/or play opposite __________.”

So then, I started thinking about other “dream” situations. Which director(s) would I LOVE to work with? Which local or regional actor/actress? Which roles would I love to sing even though I’m not right for it because of age/gender/ethnicity?

I decided to make my own quiz. Here it is, with my answers, in no particular order and by FAR not complete. Also, by "regional" I mean in the D/FW area and by "local" I mostly mean Denton. Feel free to copy/paste and repost. I’m limiting each to 5 with one alternate…just because I hate choosing only 5 (hey, it’s my survey and I can do what I want!).

Dream Roles – Musical Theatre
1. Aldonza/Dulcinea in MAN OF LA MANCHA
3. Fanny Brice in FUNNY GIRL
5. Eliza Dolittle in MY FAIR LADY

Dream Roles – Plays
2. Jacqueline in DON’T DRESS FOR DINNER
5. Catherine in PROOF

Directors I’d Love to Work With (mine are all local/regional)
1. Terry Martin
2. Emily Scott Banks
3. Bonnie McCormick (again)
4. Tashina Richardson
5. Dennis Sloan
ALTERNATE: Bill Kirkley (on a play this time)

Local Actors I’d Love to Work With
1. Kenny Fudge
2. Kevin Wickersham
3. Justin Harmon (again)
4. Tyler Donahue (again)
5. Joseph Montgomery Brown
ALTERNATE: Buster Maloney

Regional Actors I’d Love to Work With
1. Regan Adair (who intimidates the hell out of me because he’s so good)
2. Tom DeWester
3. Donald Fowler (I’d be rendered speechless in front of him, though, so not likely)
4. Christopher Deaton
5. Dan Forsythe
ALTERNATE: Keith Warren

Local Actresses I’d Love to Work With
1. Stephanie Felton
2. Erin Turek
3. Jeannene Abney
4. Jennifer Ehrhart
5. Olivia (DeGuzman) Emile
ALTERNATE: Sharon Barnhill

Regional Actresses I’d Love to Work With
1. Jessica Wiggers
2. Delynda Johnson-Moravec
3. Sara Shelby Martin (I never know where the hyphen goes)
4. Stephanie Hall
5. Marianne Galloway
ALTERNATE: Kayla Carlyle

Songs I’ll Never Sing (within the show)
1. “Wheels of a Dream” – RAGTIME
2. “A Call to the Vatican” – NINE
3. “Tonight” – WEST SIDE STORY
4. “Maybe This Time” – CABARET
5. “Being Alive” – COMPANY

Now…what are yours??

Friday, August 21, 2009

Now - read it like a one-eyed monkey in a blizzard.

A college friend of mine posted the above YouTube clip on her Facebook page today, and it's definitely worth a watch. Kate Winslet, on an episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio," was asked by an audience member to recall a time in which she had to improvise. Her story is pretty entertaining and of course, she's adorable in her re-telling.

As primarily a singer, cold readings at auditions simply terrify me. Whenever possible, I try to have read the script beforehand so I at least have an idea of the story, the characters, and possibly even my own ideas of things to try should I be asked to read for certain characters. However, that's not always possible, nor is it helpful once the director starts asking you for other things.

Don't get me wrong -- I very much appreciate being given direction in an audition during the reading portion. It's just that my lack of experience in reading auditions or - god forbid - just plain old improvisation/movement auditions simply renders me terrified. Usually, I try to just swallow my fears of inadequacy or looking foolish and give it the ol' college try (with varied results).

I'm curious, though -- what is the strangest thing you've ever been asked to do at an audition, whether it be to read the side again in a different way, to improvise, etc?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seven Brides - A Recap and a Tribute

An original publicity shot

Our version!

Another original publicity shot...

...and our version!

Singing "Wonderful, wonderful day!"
(L-R: Hannah Lane as Ruth, Alyssa McClendon as Sarah, Mandy Rausch as Milly)

7 sold out shows of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!

Cool shot of the marquee at night

Dorcas and Milly (SarahAnn Sutter and Mandy Rausch) in the dressing room. Perfume, Starbucks and Hairspray: essentials for any good show!

This photo speaks for itself for those who know the inside joke!

It's been a week since the epic adventure that Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was closed at DCT. What a long week it has been, too! Post-show depression and malaise (plus a week of auditions and callbacks, which I'll delve more into at the end*) is always hard, but rest assured a reunion is already being discussed and the first stirrings of planning are happening!

This show was, quite possibly, one of the most challenging and subsequently most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my ten years of doing theatre. I know, I said that about Crazy For You, too, but I'm not lying about either one! Each show I have done this year has been such a blessing in that it has provided not only a tremendous learning experience for me, but also an arsenal of new friends, new inside jokes (quite possibly the best part -- second to the friends of course), an addition to my resumé, and a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.

Seven Brides had some unique challenges for me. First off, it is by far the largest role I have ever been offered. When I went through and started highlighting my lines and songs, I started to hyperventilate a bit, especially since I missed the first two weeks of rehearsal due to a previous show commitment and an unexpected trip due to a death in the familiy. Secondly, we learned early on that we would be using a recorded, MIDI orchestra for rehearsals and performances. I won't waste time going into the challenges that provided, because I've already written about that once here. Then, there is the fact that the show is a beast to put together. Quick changes, giant (but absolutely beautiful) sets, you name it -- we faced it and whipped it's butt.

But the reward? Seven sold out performances. Yes, seven. MTD and DCT shows normally only produce 6 performances per production (how's that for alliteration?), but because this one sold out in presales, another performance was added. Approximately 2100 gracious and complimentary audience members. A great review in The Column. Relationships formed with the cast that will last a lifetime.

During one of the more stressful weeks pre-production, I was complaining to my mother about how tired I was. She asked me, "Why do you keep doing it then?" I had no answer for her. The answer is intangible to anyone who hasn't experienced what we experience when we do this. We just do.

So, this is the part of the show where I thank my fellow cast members and production team - aka the moment where you should stop reading if you don't care! If I left anyone out it's not because you didn't make an impact on me; it's just because I'm forgetful and scatterbrained at times. Don't be offended!

Bonnie, Liz, Gerald, Cindy, Betty Ann and Christopher- thank you for trusting me with this role, and thank you for being so patient with me as we figured out the whole process. I tried to keep my Inner Diva in check, but I'm very aware that she made an appearance at some of my more exhausted and/or insecure moments. I loved discovering Milly and bringing her to life onstage, and I couldn't have done that without all of you.

Nick - well all we heard when you were cast was "he loves the movie and he's driving all the way from Wichita Falls every day!" We all thought you had to be a little nuts to put up with that kind of commute for a community theatre show, but you totally pulled through and were a trooper. We all watched you progress throughout the rehearsal process, and by the end, nobody could have guessed that this was your first leading role. Keep it up, my friend -- keep broadening your theatre horizons and you'll do very well!

Sarah"Tran" Sutter - Sarah, what a joy it has been to do two shows back-to-back with you, and have them both end up being at the top of our lists of "great theatrical experiences in Denton!" While I will take some of the blame (though I still place the majority upon Abby's pretty head) for corrupting your vocabulary with words such as "tranny" and "bajankity," I also love how much I've seen you come out of your shell - onstage AND off - and become one of my favorite people in the world. P.S. - You're not allowed to leave Denton. P.P.S. - Don't worry. If you do, it's not like I'll come into your bedroom at night and kill you with a knife or anything.....or will I?

Alyssa - You and Boomer provided so much of my entertainment through out this process and I love you for it. You are such a beautiful girl with such a giant talent - my hope and prayer is that some day you believe that as much as the rest of us do! Your humility is so endearing, and you have such a sweet spirit while at the same time being able to catch my eye in the mirror and just raise your eyebrows and it makes me crack up laughing -- because I know what you're thinking! I'm so glad to have also been able to inject "Tranny" into your vocabulary.

Hannah - From one redhead to another, believe me, you'll come to embrace the word "sassy!" It's definitely a good thing! Your voice and your talent blows me away, and I'm just glad I'm so much older than you are so that I won't have to compete with you when you start getting leads left and right!

Heidi - You have such a wonderful heart and great attitude, and I'm so blessed to have you in my life now as a result of this show. Your love for Jesus is evident in everything you do, and your positive vibe always lifted me up, even when I was feeling so exhausted and tired and stressed out that I didn't think I'd make it through the night.

Jessica - Oh, Jessica. You do know we were always laughing with you right? :) From forgetting the correct undergarments to almost going onstage every night with something wrong (a curler still in your hair, a forgotten hat), you always always made me smile.

Ellen - Thanks for being our translator in the dressing room during show weekends! I'm saying this so often that it's starting to sound trite, but seriously, you had such a wonderful, positive attitude. It was truly a joy to have our few moments in the dressing room each night to chat before everyone else started arriving, and I truly enjoyed your Ferrett Commentary every evening.

Donna - Thank you for being such a positive Christian influence over all of us with your presence and your constant encouragement. Your support and love for your children is incredible, and I very much enjoyed the "Lornce" stories every night. Thank you for always being around to help me with a costume malfunction as well!

CiCi - I'm so glad that you were in this production with your amazingly talented children! Thank you also for being the sweetest sleepover hostess/Mom to a bunch of "Crazy" girls! Your scones are to die for. :) Thank you also for your positive attitude and influence in our dressing room and all over that theatre every night!

To my "Brothers" - I know, I did the girls individually, but when you spend that much time in a dressing room together, you just can't help but bond! You guys made this show for me -- no questions asked. Every time I was onstage with you, I forgot that I was onstage because I was wrapped up so much in the action of the scene -- thanks to you all. You gave me so much to work with emotionally and physically (hey-o!), that I truly believe Milly came to life the moment she met the Pontipee boys. Mike Strecher - your Benjamin was adorable, and every night it got harder and harder not to laugh at your meeting with Dorcas at the social. Mike Schafer - sweaty hands and all - your physicality and fun that you gave Caleb was evident in all the pictures, and even though I had a recurring bruise from you pulling me down from the stool every night, it was worth it! Jaime - nobody could ever guess this was the first show you've done in years. You jumped in headfirst and made the Ephraim/Daniel combination my favorite of all the brothers. Plus, you introduced us all to the wonder that is the Special K and Wine Diet. Best of luck in Chicago - you're going to love it! Michael Alonzo - oh, my Ephraim. You are so talented I can't even stand it!! I had so much fun dancing with you and having our "special time" every night before the lullaby! ;) You are also, quite possibly, the most mature 17-year-old I have ever encountered. Thank you for trusting me enough to talk to me about things that are important to you. I love you! Wes - it took you a while to come out of your shell, but once you did, I was so glad! You made such a wonderful Frankincense, and I'm so proud of the way you grew during the rehearsal process. You have an absolutely beautiful singing voice, and I am looking forward to hearing it as you mature and fine-tune it. Kurt - oh, Kurt, how I enjoyed working with you! You made an absolutely wonderful, sweet and endearing Gideon, and I don't know a soul who could have played the part better! I look forward to seeing MUCH more of you onstage -- though it's unlikely that I really could see much more of any of you boys, after seeing you in those quilts!!! ;)

To the Suitors - you guys turned what could easily have been minor roles into some of the most fun characters on that stage every night. It was one of my favorite moments ontsage each night to stand behind the traveling curtain and listen to your "Suitors' Lament," as it got more and more raucous and over-the-top. Joe - I am so glad you ended up doing this show! Thanks for not man-handling me too much in the restaurant scene every night, and thanks for always giving me my "pre-lullaby hug" backstage each night! Michael Wolfe - you were also a quiet one at first!! Once you opened up, though, I discovered what a sweet spirit you have, and I consider myself lucky to have found out! Best of luck at TCU, and make sure you come back and visit LOTS. Jackson - I didn't even know Mike had a son until you came around. ;) I enjoyed getting to see the "real" Jackson (both behind the scenes with your weird frog puppet and via Amanda Leavell's facebooks status updates -- what's this about a WWII veteran??), and I look forward to seeing you more onstage! Riley - I'm glad to know that you actually DO give a sh*t, and that that expression of yours is just a facade. ;) Haha! Boomer - you crack me up SO much. I'm so glad that I got to hang out with you before rehearsals/performances when you'd show up early and sit in the dressing roomw ith Ellen and me and tell me about your trantastic day. Come visit me this semester! Cody - Cody, I knew you were a doll and had some good raisin' (your mom RULES, btw), but you impressed me so much with your behavior during the Pottygate '09 scandal. You also always made my day with a hug or a compliment when I came offstage. Thank you for that!

To the Town Chorus and Lumberjacks - you guys were super troopers (not to be confused with Super Troupers or Super Troopers) during this process, and I hope I speak for the entire cast when I say thank you for never complaining (out loud) about not having enough to do. You all gave 100% when you were onstage and it made the town scenes so much more fun -- or at least so I heard through the monitors and saw out of the corners of my eyes onstage during the Social Dance! I can't wait to watch the DVD and see all of your little intricacies I missed every night. Lane, you especially cracked me up every night as I wondered just what would come out of your mouth after the social dance. Geoffrey and Paul - oh how I wish I could have caught you guys passing that bottle back and forth onstage! Andrew, Michael, Noah, Jillian, Sycada, Laiken and Amanda - I had such a great time interacting with all of you onstage every night during the Social Dance! I especially loved my hugs from my girls, and watching Jillian steal that pie every night!

To our amazing backstage crew and props mistresses - Honestly, could not have done this without you. Thank you for always being on the ball when I would run offstage and all but push you out of the way for a drink of water, or "yell" in a frantic whisper "where's my quilt?? where's the slab of meat I NEED THE SLAB OF MEAT RIGHT NOW!" This show went off smoothly and beautifully because of you.

I think that's it! Again, if I left you out, please do not be offended! I promise I love every one of you and am so glad to have had this experience with you!

As SOON as we know anything about a reunion, you'll hear from (at the very least) me and SarahAnn!

I miss you all, and I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity to work with you all!

*My husband and I both auditioned for Chicago this week. I was called back, but not cast, and my talented hubby was cast as the one, the only Billy Flynn! Our own Michael Alonzo and Jaime Rodriguez were also cast, in the ensemble! Show dates are October 9th - 18th, so anyone who wants to go in and cheer on this amazing cast with me, let me know!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


(photo by Gary Payne of the Denton Record Chronicle. L-R: Mandy Rausch as Milly, Hannah Lane as Ruth, Ellen Whatley as Liza)

[photo by Gary Payne of the Denton Record Chronicle. Top row, L-R: Nicholas Long (Adam), Mandy Rausch (Milly); Middle row, L-R: SarahAnn Sutter (Dorcas), Mike Strecher (Benjamin), Jessica Gibson (Martha), Michael Alonzo (Ephraim), Jaime Rodriguez (Daniel), Ellen Whatley (Liza), Michael Schafer (Caleb), Hannah Lane (Ruth), Kurt Sutter (Gideon), Heidi Erickson-Lewis (Alice); Bottom row, L-R: Wes Middleton (Frankincense), Alyssa McClendon (Sarah)]

(click on each picture for a larger image!)

Remember that time when I wanted to blog more often? Especially about theatre, rehearsals and such? Silly Mandy, thinking I'd have time to do that AS WELL AS rehearse for said theatrical endeavors, write reviews for The Column AND work a full time job.

No matter, though, here I am now. It's the Tuesday between show weekends for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (7B47B), and I'm happy to say that despite some anxiety on my part before opening this show, we had a VERY successful opening weekend. We sold out the entire weekend before the curtain was raised on opening night, and as of mid-afternoon yesterday, the second weekend was completely sold out as well.

I'm truly amazed and speechless by this. I'd like to say that these ticket sales are indicative of the hard-working cast and our performances, but logic tells me that since the show sold out BEFORE a single note was sung, the title of the show alone has been responsible for most of our publicity!

Don't get me wrong, now, this is a great, hard-working cast, and what I think is a successful show (still waiting on The Column review as of 9:09 CST on Tuesday)!

I have mixed feelings about the show selling out. Part of me is, of course, thrilled! I'm always glad when a community theatre production does really well, especially a show in which I've contributed a lot of blood, sweat and tears of my own (either onstage or off). But, this is also why I wish we had more than two-week runs! SO many people are already disappointed that they now won't get a chance to see it!

Again, though, I am so proud of this role, this cast, and this production. It has been a beast to put together for everyone involved, and it's a(nother) perfect example of just how much the volunteers in community theatre lay their hearts and souls onto that stage every. single. night.

CONGRATULATIONS to my cast -- my friends -- and I am truly blessed to have worked with you and gotten to know each and every one of you!

I will post a link to The Column review as soon as it becomes available!

P.S. -- check out the sidebar! There's a link to ALL reviews by The Column's Associate Theatre Critics, and a link to my own page of reviews I've written on PegasusNews.com!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hot Topic: Live vs. Canned Music

A friend of mine (a music director, no less) recently pointed me towards this article, which he discovered via a tweet from @backstagejobs on Twitter:


Now, while I'm not sure that legal action was necessary, it did prove the disgruntled theatre-goer's point in a big way and got people talking about it.

In this current economic climate, theatres are suffering. Budget cuts have to be made and, in some of the worst cases, theatres are having to close their doors (North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA, was one of the closings that really made me sad). While we'd all like to think that these theatres (especially the non-profits) exist solely to promote the arts in our areas, the fact remains that, "at the end of the day," they are still businesses. And any business requires money management and a bottom line that remains in the black. It makes perfect, logical sense.

However, why should only the musicals suffer, while the stage plays get to keep all of the artistic integrity of their productions?

Should theatres try to find all-volunteer orchestras? I know for a fact that in an arts-heavy area such as the Dallas/Ft. Worth region, you're going to be hard-pressed to find musicians who will work for free when there is usually another paying gig they could accept instead.

Some publishing houses, such as Music Theatre International (MTI) for one, will offer electronic musical resources such as OrchEXTRA to supplement (read: not replace) a smaller orchestra -- but these resources are not free. They are paid for and licensed along with the rest of the materials needed to produce a show. I can't be sure on whether or not paying for these resources would actually save any money -- it would ultimately depend on the show and the orchestration required to perform the show as intended by the composers (and, ahem, the license).

What do you think? Is canned music here to stay, at least given the current economic situation in which we find ourselves?

Are you a musician? An actor? A director? A budget manager of a theatre? What do you think of this?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Brain Overload!

So, fellow actors and performers...I'm sure you've all been here before during the preparation of a role:


It's a loosely defined term, tending to have different meanings and arrive at various stages of the process for each individual, but the general concept is the same.

It is the point in the preparation in which the performer's brain becomes saturated with lines, lyric, staging and choreography. Which lyric comes next? Do I cross downstage on his line or mine? Or was I supposed to cross upstage?

The level of Brain Overload is also directly related to the size and scope of a role being learned, I've found, and this is arbitrary depending upon the performer and the role. Sometimes, a larger role is much easier to learn than a walk-on cameo or featured role. It's all relative.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm reaching that point with my current role (see sidebar).

I think it is possibly more difficult for those of us who are performers "on the side" or as a hobby -- something extracurricular when we leave our day jobs. It's sometimes tough to compartmentalize all of the "theatre information" into a tickler file in your brain -- managing to keep it organized and all in there, yet still accessible whenever we need it. Though I can only imagine it's equally difficult for the professional performers, who are likely always working on more than one project at a time.

So, I'm curious. How do you handle Brain Overload? What are your tried and true methods of learning your lines and lyrics and making them "stick?" Do you just read them over and over? Do you write/type them out? Do you record them on a recorder/Mp3 player? What has worked and what has not worked for you?

I'm also curious to know which roles were the most difficult for you personally. Enlighten me!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Wait is Over!

Remember when I posted about having exciting news?? I can finally share it with everyone!

I am VERY happy and proud to say that I am now one of the Associate Theatre Critics (ATCs) for The Column by John Garcia!

I will not be posting any of my reviews here on the blog, in accordance with John's rules. However, once they are published in the Column and on Pegasus News' web site, I will post a link.

I am very excited and grateful for such an amazing opportunity to get out and see more live theatre while simultaneously stretching my writing muscles and facing the challenges that come with critiquing my peers while maintaining objectivity.

I've set a very organic mission statement for myself (nothing set in stone, nothing even written down) that I will never, for any reason, completely trash a show. I can see no valid point in people who are mean and nasty just for entertainment's sake (though, it can only entertain them personally...it certainly isn't entertaining to the reviewees!) and, as a sometimes-performer myself, I see no point in being hateful and acerbic to those people who, just like me, are trying to do what they love. I will strive to make any and all criticism constructive, and to balance negative/critical comments with positive ones as well.

I'm very much looking forward to my first assignment, and I'm thrilled to be associated with a local staple such as The Column!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tweeting the Tonys

I always wish I could live-blog the Tony Awards (or the Oscars....or any other awards show), but that would mean I'd get control over the t.v. and the computer, and my husband just will not allow it. So, I had to resort to Tweeting during the telecast via my cell phone. Here were some of my thoughts (all with the hashtag "tonyawards"):

OperaWife: This opening number kinda seems like a cluster-F. Sound is off or something.

OperaWife: Stockard Channing ouch.

OperaWife: @orchconductor she sounds awful

OperaWife: Oh Liza....tranny mess.

OperaWife: God I would wreck NPH.

OperaWife: I thought that opening number was mostly shit. Sorry they spent so much money on it.

OperaWife: Ok the sound guy needs to be fired.

OperaWife: Loving the Shrek number....makes my knees hurt to watch!

OperaWife: You go Angela Lansbury!

OperaWife: Choreography for WSS revival is amazing!

OperaWife: What a phenomenal cast. Would love to see it!!

OperaWife: I'm confused by the Rock of Ages performance. Constantine did a good job with the beginning of "Don't Stop Believin."

OperaWife: But the rest of it was really just kinda stupid. Why am I so underwhelmed by most of these performances?

OperaWife: Oh, LIZA...again -- you hot tranny mess.

OperaWife: Son of a....WTF, Tonys? SOUND FAIL OVERALL!

OperaWife: Mic problems notwithstanding, LOVED the performance from Guys & Dolls.

OperaWife: Best speech so far - Karen Olivo from WSS. True emotion.

OperaWife: Despite sound issues...very intrigued by Next to Normal. Amazing performers.

OperaWife: I always get chills during the In Memoriam section when Broadway goes dark.

OperaWife: This kid from Billy Elliott is blowing my freaking mind.

OperaWife: Yay for HAIR!! All 3 revival nominees were amazing.

OperaWife: OMG i'm dying from the cuteness of these 3 boys.

OperaWife: Neil Patrick singing! SWOON!!!

So there you have it. I obviously got distracted and forgot to tweet at some points during the show, but that happens during a 3-hour telecast. Dogs need to be walked. Dinner needs to be had, etc.

Overall I was impressed by the musical numbers from the show. This was probably the first Tony Awards in a LONG time where I didn't know the majority of the shows nominated, or hadn't at least heard the cast recordings.

I think all three nominees for Best Revival of a Musical gave incredible performances, but I was happy for Hair. Of the Best Musical nominees, it seemed to be a given that Billy Elliott would win the crown, but I was equally impressed and intrigued by Next to Normal. I absolutely loved the performance by the cast of N2N, and I can't wait to get my mitts on the cast recording.

Neil Patrick Harris was a great host, but I felt as though he was holding back a lot until the very end of the show, at which time he sang (!!!) a "Tonight" parody detailing the night's events. Loved it.

Can't wait til next year!

Friday, May 29, 2009


Jessica Wiggers as Samantha and Regan Adair as Shuman. Photo by Mark Oristano, originally found at WaterTower Theatre.

Last night, my husband and I ventured out of Denton and into Addison to see Kenny Finkle's charming play Indoor/Outdoor at WaterTower Theatre.

When I first proposed the idea of going to my husband, and told him that the main character was a cat, he gave me the stink-eye. Finally I coerced him with $0.49 drinks at QT on the way there, and he conceded.

As theatre enthusiasts ourselves, we really enjoyed the production. As recent pet-owners? Fagettaboutit. Loved it.

At one point I found myself laughing until tears came to my eyes because I've been in situations with my puppy similar to the situation onstage. This is a really great, light-hearted and charming script, and the cast of four (Jessica Cavanagh Wiggers, Regan Adair, Joey Folsom and Renee Krapff) is stellar.

I know that finances don't always allow us to see all the things that we'd like to, but I highly encourage anyone who is able to find a way to go see this production.

Pertinent Info from the WaterTower web site:

Indoor/Outdoor will run May 21 - June 7, 2009 at the Addison Theatre Centre, which is located at 15650 Addison Road in Addison, Texas. Performance times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 PM (no matinee May 23) & 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Seating is reserved with NO late seating. Ticket prices range from $25 - $40* and can be purchased by calling the WTT Box Office at 972.450.6232 or online. Group rates are also available.

*psssst -- too expensive? Are you a Column subscriber? CHECK YOUR EMAIL!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Getting Married Today

A clip from our production of Company:

The Reviews are In

Well, put another script on the shelf for posterity. Crazy For You closed on May 10th after what I feel was a VERY successful run. We sold out the entire second weekend of performances, which is a huge step in the right direction for MTD, and I could not be more proud of this show. The cast, the production team, the crew -- everyone and I mean everyone worked their asses off on this show, and we all were boo-hooing on the last performance. Not just because it was the last performance, but because we truly all formed an emotional bond that I can't describe to anyone who hasn't been a part of such a process. I'm blessed to have known and worked with ALL of them, and my thanks go out to each and every new relationship I formed within this production process.

That being said, the reviews are in, and prove that everyone does in fact have their own opinion and that you can't please everyone! This one was written and posted by John Garcia of The Column, a weekly email group that began as a source for Dallas/Ft. Worth theatre-lovers and has expanded to more than 12,000 subscribers. This one was written by a couple of new reviewers who are just starting their "business" as it were and only have a couple of reviews up.

No matter what, though, nothing will take away from my experience and my views on a wonderful, exhausting, emotional, and rewarding experience.

Now. What's next?

I'm going to be assistant stage managing Denton Community Theatre's production of Don't Dress for Dinner, which is a play opening the first weekend in June, and there's a chance I'll be auditioning for a new adaptation/collaboration piece with a smaller theatre in Denton that same weekend. I'll try to be better at keeping everyone posted. I know, I've been bad...but work + two shows back-to-back = one stressed out and tired and BUSY lady! Summer will be a lot more laid back. :)

P.S. those beautiful photos above were taken by my friend and Very Favorite Photographer, Lynn Michelle when I invited her to be my guest at our preview performance. She rules...as usual.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: Carousel at Denton Community Theatre

Pictured: Keith Warren as Billy Bigelow; Sarah Geist as Julie Jordan. (Photo by Phillip Lamb)

DISCLAIMER: This review is unsolicited, and written solely for the purpose of the DFW Backstage Blog and its readers. It is not to be re-posted or published without the permission of the author.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a phrase beginning with “In this economy…” over the past several months, my own economic crisis would be sufficiently erased. Everywhere you look, people and businesses are trying to find ways to cut corners as a way to cut costs, yet still maintain the quality of their life (or their product, as the case may be). The local arts communities are no exception. Many local theatre groups have changed their productions mid-season, lowered ticket prices, offered discounts and, in the worst of cases, shut down due to reduced numbers in the audience affecting their ability to meet the costs involved in mounting a full-scale theatrical production.

However, Denton Community Theatre (DCT) did not shy away from its plans to produce Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical Carousel this month. Rather than spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on elaborate sets and costumes, director Sharon Veselic and her production team simply took a different approach in deciding to present the musical in “grand concert style,” opting for a full orchestra (necessary for a lush R&H score) onstage with the actors and a simple, innovative set design consisting of various levels and ramps that surround the musicians. By using the talents of Dallas-based Phillip Lamb, who specializes in creating corporate videos, the creative team implemented technology, in the form of projections, to bring the small New England town to life onstage.

Overall, I think the venture was a successful one. The opening “Carousel Waltz” featured brightly colored images of a carnival projected onto a screen at the back of the theatre, while the carousel (complete with revolving horses!) was projected onto a smaller, custom-built scrim placed in front of the back screen. The images were original, and very eye-catching. However, as the show progressed, I admit I became distracted by some of the projections, as they varied between brightly colored, painted images and photographs of actual seaside communities. I personally would have preferred a consistency in the choice of projections.

I had issues with some of the choices made by the lighting designer and musical director of this production. At times, the actors’ faces were completely hidden in darkness or low lighting, while an unoccupied area of the stage was extremely well-lit in contrast. During the ballet on the beach in Act II, there was no follow spot on Louise, and at times she was dancing in the darkest corners of the stage. As a musical purist, I cringed a bit when the “Carousel Waltz” was shortened, when the reprise of “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” was cut from the end of Act II, and when Nettie’s beautiful solo “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was turned into a full chorus number a few measures in. The onstage orchestra did a fine job of not standing out during the performance, visually, but I couldn’t help but stifle a giggle at one point when I saw all of them holding their ears, ruining the surprise of the gunshot that was fired thirty seconds later.

I applaud DCT for taking an innovative approach to such a classic musical, though and, in doing so, allowing the talent of the performers onstage to shine without the distractions of moving sets, scores of props, and over-the-top costumes. The audience is able to focus on the actor’s voices singing what I believe to be some of the most beautiful and well-known songs in the American musical theatre repertoire. In an age where rock or “jukebox” musicals are all the rage, songs such as “Soliloquy,” “If I Loved You,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” feel like a breath of fresh air. They also require a tremendous vocal ability and this cast handles them ably for the most part.

I am not a fan of the book for this show, due in large part to one of the underlying themes of the show, which is domestic violence. Some of the lines spoken by Julie Jordan have my inner “Women’s Libber” screaming in protest. However, this cast does a nice job of making the characters realistic, rather than stereotypical.

Keith Warren as Billy Bigelow does a fine job of making the audience sympathetic toward him, even as we cringe and groan when he raises his voice or grabs Julie’s arm. Many actors will just play the character as a heartless bastard, but Mr. Warren brings an endearing quality to Billy, most notably in the scenes where Billy and Julie are alone together. Vocally, he masters the role. The “Soliloquy” at the end of Act I is quite possibly one of the most challenging pieces of music in the male repertoire. Operatic singers have even struggled with it. Mr. Warren’s tenor voice, which surprised me as I’m used to hearing the role sung by a baritone, soars in the higher notes and brings a warmth and brightness to the lower sections without pushing to reach them.

Sarah Geist, a recent Column Award winner, brings a quiet strength to the role of Julie Jordan. She is understated without appearing weak, and is markedly different from all of the other characters in the show, some of whom are so larger than life that they are almost caricatures. She steadfastly stands by Billy even when told by her friends and family that she should leave him if he hits her. Ms. Geist’s lovely and clear soprano voice is unaffected which is, again, a nice change from some of the pop musicals currently on the market.

Shane Strawbridge and Erika Ostermiller are charming as Enoch Snow and Carrie Pipperidge, respectively. The relationship between these two characters is vastly different from the relationship between Julie and Billy, and these two actors provide a good comic balance to the more serious tones of the scenes with Julie and Billy.

Two of the standout acting performances came from Desiree Fultz as Mrs. Mullin and Daylon Walton as Jigger Craigin. By comparison, these roles are small and could easily be forgotten about or overshadowed by the larger roles. Ms. Fultz and Mr. Walton, however, prove that there are no small parts – only small actors. Ms. Fultz plays the owner of the carousel with a restrained intensity, causing the audience to wonder how far she would go to keep Billy close to her. Mr. Walton is hilarious as the miscreant Jigger Craigin. He takes a character with no visible redeeming qualities and makes him funny and even likeable (if not a little sleazy), and his New England accent is spot on.

Overall, the production is consistent and solid. I think DCT did a fine job of paving the road for new and innovative ways of presenting standards in the canon of musical theatre in Denton, and that future productions done in the same vein will be successful and impressive. The production runs for one more weekend, and encourage you to go and see for yourself.

Denton Community Theatre presents Carousel by Rodgers & Hammerstein

Location: The Campus Theatre in Historic Downtown Denton
214 W Hickory Street
Denton, TX
(940) 382-1915

Performance Dates & Times:
Mar. 27, 28 & Apr. 2,3,4 at 7:30 pm
Mar. 28, 29 & Apr. 4,5 at 2:00 pm

Ticket Info:
Adults $18.00
Seniors (62 and over) $16.00
Students $10.00