JOAN OF ART - Chills & Scares, An Iconic Singer, Songwriter and Poet, A Rock Group That's Still Rocking & More Halloween Fun For The Whole Family

For the past five years, every Halloween, I find myself having the intense need to be scared and the place that fulfills that desire is found on the Queen Mary where they put on one of the most creative and terrifying Halloween event entitled DARK HARBOR.

This is the ultimate SCREAM festival. You walk through dark mazes where you will be greeted by monsters, ghouls, super gory scenes and people sneaking up on you in pitch black darkness to tap you on the shoulder. I can't tell you how many times I've screamed at the top of my lungs during this experience all aboard the Queen Mary which has been said to be haunted. What could be better?

There are over two hundred monsters, six terrifying mazes, nightly live entertainment, secret bars and exciting rides. This is Southern California's most authentic haunted attraction. It started in September and runs through November 2nd. There is no better place to experience Halloween.

For tickets and more information go to QueenMary.com/calendar-of-events/dark-harbor/2019 or call 1-877-600-4313.

If getting terrified isn't you thing then I suggest on October 11th, you take a trip over to UC Irvine-Bren Center to see the one and only BOB DYLAN. There is no need to explain who Bob Dylan is. If you don't know, then you should go to I tunes and download all of his music.

 

No musician has had such an influence on society as he had. The show starts at 8pm. UC Irvine-Bren Center is located at 100 Mesa Road, Irvine CA. For tickets go to BobDylan.com.

Speaking of music, there is another group playing in Los Angeles this weekend and perhaps you've heard of them. They're called THE WHO and if Dylan isn't your thing, fo see The Who instead playing at the Hollywood Bowl this coming Friday, October 11th, at 7:30pm.

This is their North American MOVING ON TOUR and they will definitely bring their indelible brand of powerhouse rock to the Hollywood Bowl. For tickets and more information go to HollywoodBowl.com.

Now kids might find the DARK HARBOR event a little too scary so that's why I suggest you take them to NIGHTS OF THE JACK which is an interactive family friendly Halloween experience at the beautiful King Gillette Ranch in Calabases CA.

You and your family will walk around a half mile trail around the vast grounds that display intricately hand carved and illuminated jack o'lanterns. It also features a live pumpkin carver, gift shop, top LA food trucks and their 'Spookeasy Bar' serving specially crafted Halloween cocktails and tons of other 'Instagramable' moments for all to enjoy.

This year they are in partnership with Nickelodeon so the event will feature a special 'SpongeBob Square Pants' installation which bring to life fan favorite SpongeBob characters and iconic Bikini Bottom places through an illuminated pumpkin display, as well as an "Are You 'Afraid of the Dark?" pre-show tent space to include twisted surprises, along with an interactive augmented reality experience.

For tickets and more information go to NightOfTheJack.com. The King Gillette Ranch is located at 26800 West Mulholland Highway, Calabasas, CA 91302.

Whatever you chose to do this weekend, have a great one people.


JOAN OF ART: Luminario Ballet, John Legend, Dinner With Friends and Pop Up Art - Equals Major Fun

This weekend, June 14th, 15th, 16th Luminario Ballet presents: "Choose Your Identity", modern dance legend Bella Lewitzky's TURF, 'LedZAerial and the world choreography award nominated 'Lift Ticket.' by Luminario artistic director Judith FLEX Helle.

I've seen them many times and they are absolutely fantastic. This is ballet like you've never seen it. Their aerial work alone will blow you away.

Special guest stars: Dreya Weber (PINK) will perform and Tawny Ellis and her band will play with Luminario Ballet dancers dancing.

The show will take place at the ultra cool Cafe Club Fais Do-Do located at 5253 West Adams Blvd, in LA. This is a club that offers a gumbo of eclectic music and diverse people coming together to build a stronger community by offering exposure to new cultures, sounds and philosophies.

To purchase tickets for LUMINARIO BALLET go to LuminarioBallet.org. or call 818-235-6588.

Another great event happening this weekend is the opening of the Hollywood Bowl on June 15h with the great John Legend performing. He'll be accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and a sky full of fireworks. Now it doesn't get more romantic than that.

John is an incomparable talent, a charming presence on stage who brings great depth of emotion to his work as a pianist and songwriter. He'll kick off their season with style and a performance you won't forget.

To purchase tickets go to HollywoodBowl.com. or call (323) 850-2000. John goes on at 8pm.

Now for a different kind of theatre...Dinner With Friends, a play written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Donald Margulies.

Married couple Karen and Gabe live an idyllic life in Connecticut. They regularly have their best friends Beth and Tom over for double-date dinner party But of course dinner is not just about food. At least not in Margulies' play.

As the evening goes on Beth tearfully reveals that she is getting a divorce from Tom who has been unfaithful and from there it only get better and better. I've seen this play twice and it's one not to be missed.

'Dinner With Friends' opens at the Beverly Hills Playhouse 254 South Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills CA 90211. To purchase tickets or for more information go to CrimsonSquare.org. The play runs Fridays and Saturdays 8m and Sunday at 2:00pm and 7:00pm, until June 30th.

If art is what you desire starting Friday June 14th at 7pm the Pop Up Arts & Music Festival will be at the Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

As the name suggest, the festival will feature pop up public performances and activities at a variety of locations throughout Thousand Oaks.

The primary goal of the festival is to provide residents and visitors with an opportunity to actively participate in and enjoy the arts in unexpected and distinctive locations throughout the community.

The festival will feature seven free events over three weekends, June 14 and 15, June 21, 22, 23 and June 28 and 29. In partnership with local arts organizations, the festival will include local and regional artistic talent, in addition to nationally recognized performing artists.

For more information, visit CivicArtsPlaza.com.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend people, make it a fun one.


MAMMA MIA! Conductor David Holcenberg's A Super Trouper Who Really Knows the Name of the Game

This year's Hollywood Bowl's annual staged Broadway musical - the enduring, ever popular MAMMA MIA! - will be performed on July 28, 29 and 30. First premiered on Broadway in 1991, MAMMA MIA! (chock-full of classic ABBA songs) has been produced countless times, and in countries all over the world.

We were most lucky to get conductor David Holcenberg to spare a few minutes in the midst of his always-too-short rehearsal.

Thank you, David, for taking time off your short, crazy rehearsal schedule for this interview.

So how many sessions do you get to rehearse with your Hollywood Bowl musicians?

I have just one four-hour rehearsal with the band. I also get a Sitzprobe, which is a rehearsal with the cast and the band in a rehearsal hall singing through the show. It is the first time the cast hears the band and is always one of my most favorite days.

Do you bring in any of your own instrumentalists? Or are all your musicians members of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra? 

I brought my associate conductor (who will also play keyboards) and my drummer. We just use a rock band for this show, so I don't believe they are regular players with the Bowl Orchestra.

How many times you get to rehearse with the performers?

It is very fast. We started full-cast rehearsals Monday July 17. However, I did some music coachings with our principal actors ahead of time.

Have you worked with any of this Hollywood Bowl cast before?

No, but they are great!

Ever previously played at the Hollywood Bowl?

No. Very excited.

Have you been able to sit out in the audience as a civilian and enjoy any Hollywood Bowl shows?

Yes. I used to go when I lived here in my early 20s, and went back this week.  

You are currently the associate musical supervisor for MAMMA MIA! in North America - one of your original positions in the 2001 Broadway production (in tandem with musical arranger). Could you explain what those responsibilities encompass?

I am responsible for casting the show and making sure we have great musicians as well. Once rehearsals start, my job is to teach the music for the show to the cast and band, and work with the sound department and other departments to be sure the show sounds as exciting and clear as possible.

Has there been any major or minor musical changes from the 2001 show?

We are staying true to the 2001 show. Benny and Bjorn - the ABBA guys – are very specific about how the show sounds. They want the audience to get an exciting recreation of their original arrangements from their recordings.

That 2001 edition celebrated the 10th year anniversary of MAMMA MIA! on Broadway. What do you remember of that October 18th performance and the aftershow in Times Square?

Yes. We closed down Broadway, set up a stage on the street and performed a few numbers from the show. It was really cool.

For those of us uninformed in musical terminology, what are the duties of a 'conductor' vs. a 'musical director,' of which you are both for this production?

The conductor leads the band and cast in the performance. The music director teaches the score to the cast and works with the director, choreographer, and other designers to be sure we are presenting the best, most cohesive show we can.

I'm sure if you knew the exact ingredients of MAMMA MIA!'s success you would bottle it yourself. But what do you see as the basis for its popularity and longevity?

Besides the amazing ABBA score, I think the worldwide success is that it is a good time. Everyone can relate to someone on the stage. Everyone is someone's mother, father, son or daughter; and can relate to some of the relationships in the show. I have been fortunate to put together MAMMA MIA! in many countries, in many languages, and it is always well-received.

What would be the most surprising audience response you ever experienced in a MAMMA MIA! performance?

We had a few post-show wedding proposals, which were very cool. What I have always loved is when audience members dress in glitter and spandex and dance along.

Your Broadway resumé is quite impressive. Aside from some mind-blowing brand-new musical yet-to-be/soon-to-be written, what old/not-so-old chestnut would you love to tackle?

Well, I did a new version of CHESS in D.C. that I created a new orchestration for, and was really proud of, I wish that could have a life. I tend to prefer working on new shows. I'm not sure what old chestnut I'd like to tackle. I am sure there are many!

Thank you again for doing this interview, David. And, of course, thank you for your music!

For ticket availability for this infectious toe-tapping, hip-shaking ABBA songfest, log onto HollywoodBowl.com


Claybourne Elder Enthuses On His Multiple Collaborations With Stephen Sondheim & Moisés Kaufman

The Hollywood Bowl will be producing a one-night-only event of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM to benefit the LA Phil's flagship program, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), and other LA Phil educational initiatives. Partaking in this Sondheim songfest on July 23rd will be (in alphabetical order): Lewis Cleale, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Phillip Boykin, Carmen Cusack, Claybourne Elder, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jonathan Groff, Ruthie Ann Miles, Solea Pfeiffer and Vanessa Williams. Amongst this Broadway-star-studded cast, we got the chance to nab the always-working Broadway staple, the talented Claybourne Elder to chat on his extensive theatre resumé, which includes three Sondheim shows and multiple opportunities of performing incredible Stephen Sondheim compositions.
Thank you Claybourne for taking a break from your rehearsals for this interview.
Have you worked with anyone in this show before?
I have! The theatre world can be so small sometimes, I've actually worked with almost everyone at some point. Ruthie and I were in a production of TWO BY TWO with Jason Alexander a few years back. Groff and I did a gala for the Public Theatre. Vanessa Williams and I just sang at Lincoln Center together. Plus Carmen, Phillip, Solea, Ruthie and I all worked with our director Sarna Lapine on SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. So it really feels like a reunion!
Which songs would you have on your wish list to sing? Would any be from the three Sondheim shows you've already performed in?
I always love singing "Talent" from ROAD SHOW, though it isn't in this version of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM. They've cut the show down quite a bit from it's over two-hour original version. So things have been moved around and added, I think it's a very concise and dynamic evening. I do get to sing "Finishing the Hat" which holds such a special place in my heart.
Was your role as Hollis Bessemer in the world premiere of ROAD SHOW at the Public Theatre in 2008 your first Sondheim show?
It was, and it was my first professional job! I had just gotten my equity card and moved to NYC. I had no agent or anything, and so I went to the open chorus call for the show. They kept calling me back and I kept thinking, "Oh, this is so nice of them, but they're never going to give me this job." And then, after several call backs, Sondheim was suddenly in the room, and I thought, "Oh, they're serious." John Doyle and Steve really took a chance on me, and I will forever be grateful. So paying tribute to Steve in this show feels wonderful.
There were originally 40-plus Stephen Sondheim songs in SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM. Have you already been given a clue on which songs you're singing? 
Yes! The really great thing about this show is that we all sing in almost all the musical moments. It's not just a review with solo after solo. The arrangements and "medleys" (though I kind of hate that word. Ha, ha!) involve many people of the whole company. Steve is really the star of the show and we get to be his voice for the songs he is talking about in the interview sections.
Do you remember the feelings you had being in a world premiere of a Sondheim musical?
I do not. Ha, ha! I was so overwhelmed. I always compare it to those 15-year-old gymnastics Olympians who are just out there doing back flips in front of the whole world, and then suddenly, a decade later, say to themselves, "Oh, my God! I was in the OLYMPICS!" Everyone was so kind and lovely to me that I never felt like I was out of place. Steve treats everyone the same, whether you're Liza, Barbra, or some kid named Claybourne Elder.
ROAD SHOW's "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" and, originally "Talent" were included in SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM. Which songs did you sing as Hollis?
Both of those were songs I sang! One funny story about "Talent" - rehearsal for ROAD SHOW was full of exploration. We never just showed up and blocked things and ran things like you do in rehearsal. Every day felt like we were all figuring something out together. And unbeknownst to me - or rather unperceived BY me - Steve was changing the key of "Talent" every day to see where he liked it best in my voice. Just little half steps, so I never really noticed. Then one day, we were going along, doing the show and we got to the end of the song and, as I was singing, I thought, "I'm not going to be able to hit the high note at the end of the song," and I had no idea why. So right before the note, I stopped and said, "Whoa, is this higher?" Everyone laughed and Steve said that we had found the key.
Your working with your INTO THE WOODS director Moisés Kaufman (Kansas City Repertory Theatre 2009 production) must have been most favorable as you teamed up with him again in 2011 in the Tennessee Williams' ONE ARM. What directorial notes did he give you that has stuck with you throughout your performing career?
Moisés has truly been a champion of my career. He is an incredible man and artist, and I owe as much to him as I do to Steve and John Doyle, so it's perfect that you bring him up. I actually met him right after I'd been cast in ROAD SHOW when the Public Theatre asked me to sing at a private fundraising event that Moisés attended. This was long before rehearsals for ROAD SHOW started. After the performance, we ended up chatting, and he complemented me on my performance. He said he would like to work with me some day. I sarcastically thought, "Sure you do." A year later, he cast me in INTO THE WOODS and while we were working together on that, he said that he had been working on a Williams play for a long time and he thought I might be right for the lead character. I read it and fell in love with it and that year we did a workshop which then led to the production.
What I love most about working with Moisés is that he believes deep within his soul that anything is possible. I have heard many times actors or designers say to him, " Well, obviously, we can't do that." To which Moisés responds, "Why not?" It makes you challenge the things you take for granted or decisions you feel like you've made and forces you to really open up. I love it. I find it to be the most free and creative way to process and form plays. 

Some actors when they've been cast in a role, avoid seeing the role previously performed. Unless you're cast in an original musical (as you were in ROAD SHOW); odds are, with any Sondheim material, you would have seen a role performed, or, at least, heard a stand-alone Sondheim song. What school of thought do you adhere to: avoid previous interpretations or seek out performances for learning tips?
I think it's best to know the rules before you break them. So, in that respect, if I get cast in something, I like to watch the videos, go to Lincoln Center archives and watch past performances. But then, once rehearsals are about to start, I put that all away. I essentially try to forget everything I've learned, ha, ha! It seems counter-intuitive, but you won't always forget everything and the things that you absorb will return in some way to your performance. You can't ever "copy" someone's performance, because you are you. Not them.
What Sondheim tunes did you perform at last year's Signature's annual Sondheim Award Gala?
I sang "Beautiful" from SUNDAY and "Worthy of your Love" from ASSASSINS with Karen Ziemba (who I secretly worship).
Did you also perform at the Gala the year before when they honored James Lapine?
I did! And I sang songs from SUNDAY which we had done that year at Signature.
You were the Soldier and Alex in both recent productions of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE with Jake Gyllenhaal. In a 2014 production, you played George and sang "Finishing the Hat," "Sunday," and "Beautiful." What was it like playing different roles in SUNDAY? Different perspective? Easier the second time as you already knew the show?
I had never played a different part in a musical that I had already done. But in the same manner that I try to forget things I've learned previously about a show, this was a whole new production and experience, and so I just put that all away. I did have several moments though the first few weeks of rehearsal where I would hear a music cue and panic a little thinking, "Ah! I should be singing right now!" And realize that it was George's cue.
Which role in a Sondheim musical would you still love to tackle? And what songs would your character would be singing?
I'm dying to play Bobby (in COMPANY). I wish it every day. I've sang "Being Alive" many times before, but getting to sing it in the context of the show would be wonderful.
What words of wisdom has Stephen Sondheim shared with you?
Ha, ha! Well, there are great pieces of advice, and then there are some great stories. "Just sing the words" has always really stuck with me the most. On opening night of SUNDAY IN THE PARK at the Signature in which I was playing George, he sent me a telegram (an actual telegram!) that said "Sing out Louise." Then while working on SUNDAY on Broadway where I was playing the Soldier, I had decided that make the soldier a little more...how to put this..."light in the loafers" than in previous productions. After a run-through in the theatre, he walked past me and patted me on the shoulder, and said, "It's getting a little gay, Clay," and walked away. 
What was your very first audition song and do you still bring it out in a pinch?
I sang "On The Street Where You Live" for one million auditions and I still sing it today. I just love singing the song. Sometimes I get tired of it and I put it away. But it keeps coming back. 
Thank you again, Claybourne! And break a leg at the Hollywood Bowl!
For ticket availability for this one-night benefit performance of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, log onto HollywoodBowl.com