The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.


JOAN OF ART - A Great Place for Xmas Shopping, Comedy, Musical and An Important Powerful Film

I know most of you are shopping for Xmas presents, going to holiday parties or planning them, but in between all that, you might want to take a break and let yourself be entertained.

The other day I went to a WGA screening of a beautiful, powerful, important film entitled THE HATE YOU GIVE. Even though it's been open for a few weeks I just had to share this with you.

'The Hate You Give' written by Audrey Wells based on Angie Thomas's novel and directed by George Tillman is the story of Starr (the exceptional Amandia Stenberg) a 16 year old black girl who lives in the fictional, mostly poor black neighborhood of Garden Heights but attends an affluent predominantly white private school, Williamson Prep.

After a gun goes off at a party Starr is driven home by her childhood best friend, Khalil (Algee Smith). On the way home they are stopped by a white police officer who mistakes Khalil's hair brush for a gun and shoots him dead.

Khalil's death becomes a major national news story which changes Starr's life as well as those closest to her in a very profound way.

The excellent cast also stars Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby as Starr's parents, Anthony Mackie as the local drug lord and Common as Starr's cop uncle.

This is one of the most important films of 2018 considering what is going on in our country today and one that regardless of race, everyone should see. It will stay with you long after the credits roll.

 

As you know one of my favorite things is to laugh and no one makes me laugh more than Miss Sandra Bernhard who will be performing at The Sorting Room at The Wallis in Beverly Hills.

Her show is entitled SANDEMONIUM. As it's described in the press notes "Have you been swept up in 'Sandemonium'? It's time for a psychic break. Sandra will bring you back from your bad trip. She will soothe your aura and calm your chakras. You will shut down your electronics, find your mantra, do a meditation and let it all go because Sandy and the Sandyland Squad Band will make it all better."

And having seen many of her shows, I am definitely a believer.

The show runs December 13th at 7pm, Friday the 14th at 7pm and 9pm, Saturday the 15th at 7pm and 9pm through the 15th. Tickets range from $19 to $22 and can be purchased at TheWallis.org/Bernhard or by calling (310) 746-4000.

The Wallis is located at 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills CA 90210.

I will be at Sandra's show on Friday and then back again to the Wallis on Saturday evening to see...

LOVE ACTUALLY for those of you who remember was screenwriter's Richard Curtis' beloved holiday movie and now it has been turned into a multimedia musical celebration.

The world premiere production of LOVE, ACTUALLY LIVE, presented by special arrangement with Universal Pictures and Working Title Films, will transform the Wallis' Bram Goldsmith Theatre into a giant, immersive cinema for the modern day.

The production will include songs from the hit soundtrack that includes Christmas and pop hits by Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, the Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell and many more musical artists. The film's well known set list includes 'River', 'Songbird', 'All Alone On Christmas', 'Silent Night', 'Puppy Love', 'Wherever You Will Go', 'Bye Bye Baby' (Baby Goodbye), 'All you Need is Love', 'Both Sides Now' just to name a few.

The show will be performed live by an all star cast and a 15 piece orchestra.

To purchase tickets and for the full schedule go to TheWallis.org/Love or call (310) 746-4000. The Wallis is located at 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd. Beverly Hills CA.

LOVE, ACTUALLY LIVE plays through December 31st 2018. Because of theatrical haze effects and adult content as well as brief nudity it is recommended for ages 13 and up.

Weather you choose to shop, laugh, see a film, or go to a musical, have a great weekend.


Friday Features – Sweet Shows This Coming Week

Better Lemons has lots of registered shows and lot of show have Critics and Audience reviews posted. Here you can see their favorite shows and when you click on each show, you will see all the critics and audience reviews and ratings. From there you can choose what your theatre adventure this weekend will be. We wish you a fantastic weekend!

DAMAGED FURNITURE

Under Milk Wood

Fallen Saints: Dark

Three Days in the Country

THE MOTHER F**KER WITH THE HAT

Outlaw

WAITRESS

Doctor Zomba’s Ghost Show of Terror

The Crucible

I AM SOPHIE

Haiti

YELLOW FACE

Coriolanus

Arrival & Departure

Aleichem Sholom! The wit and wisdom of Sholom Aleichem

PARADISE – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy

Side by Side by Sondheim


Events Opening This Week

PIZZA MAN @ The Complex

August 16, 2018 8:00 pm

Alice and Julie are frustrated 20somethings, sharing an apartment in Los Angeles. They're frustrated personally, professionally and sexually. Julie does not seem able to hold either a job nor a man for an extended ...read more


JEWS, CHRISTIANS, AND SCREWING STALIN @ Matrix Theatre

August 16, 2018 8:00 pm

Took A Cab Productions and the world-famous Improv comedy club chain present an outrageous comedy, inspired by a true story, about family dysfunction, atonement and matzo balls. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah in ...read more


I AM SOPHIE @ Pico Playhouse

August 17, 2018 8:00 pm

LA VIE THEATRE Presents The Los Angeles Premiere Of “I AM SOPHIE” An Emotionally Dramatic & Insightful One Women Show ​Opening August 17 – September 2, 2018 LOS ANGELES (July 5, 2018) – LA ...read more


CARNEYMAGIC @ Sierra Madre Playhouse

August 17, 2018 8:00 pm

Following two SOLD-OUT engagements in 2016, CarneyMagic returns to the stage of Sierra Madre Playhouse for three more dates of amazing FUN! John Carney is a unique blend of comedian, actor and sleight of ...read more


PARADISE - A DIVINE BLUEGRASS MUSICAL COMEDY @ Ruskin Group Theatre

August 17, 2018 8:00 pm

A Live Band on Stage with Book/Music from National Lampoon Writers at Ruskin Group Theatre When a southern coal-mining town goes from boom to bust, a charismatic preacher arrives to offer salvation…along with his bombshell ...read more


LYMAN, THE MUSICAL @ El Portal Theatre

August 18, 2018 2:00 pm

Written and directed by Anne Johnstonbrown, LYMAN, The Musical tackles the prevalent issue of homelessness and how choice and chance define our future. The musical stars Lou Beatty, Jr. (Tales from the Hood 2, The ...read more


FAITH HEALER BY BRIAN FRIEL @ The Mayflower Club

August 19, 2018 4:00 pm

Theater returns to the Celtic Arts Center in this staged reading of Brian Friel's 1979 play "Faith Healer," co-presented with the Mayflower Club. This is a haunting fable of how our artistic inspiration sometimes ...read more


KALAMAZOO @ Sierra Madre Playhouse

August 20, 2018 7:00 pm

Free event! (Donations accepted.) Peg and Irv, two quirky but endearing baby-boomers bravely venture into the world of modern dating. But when these opposites attract, they discover love isn't any easier the second time ...read more


AUDITION: 42nd Street

The Morgan-Wixson Theatre's
YES (Youth Education/Entertainment Series)
announces auditions for
performers ages 10 through 18 for
the 23rd Annual Youth Musical

42nd Street

Music by Henry Warren
Lyrics by Al Dubin & Johnny Mercer
Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Produced by Special Arrangement with Music Theatre International
Directed by ANNE GESLING
Music Directed by DANIEL KOH and ANNE GESLING
Choreography by KRYSTAL COMBS
Produced by TRACY SALTZMAN and MIRIAM BILLINGTON

SYNOPSIS
The ultimate show-biz musical, 42ND STREET celebrates Broadway, Times Square, and the people who make the magic of musical theatre. Aspiring chorus girl Peggy Sawyer comes to the big city from Allentown, PA, and soon lands her first big job in the ensemble of a glitzy new Broadway show. But just before opening night, the leading lady breaks her ankle. Will Peggy be able to step in and become a star?
The score is chock-full of Broadway standards, including “You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me,” “Dames,” “We're In the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “Forty-Second Street.”
***Please note: this casting call is for our annual Youth Musical. Only performers ages 10 through 18 will be considered.***
AUDITION DATES
Saturday, August 25, from 1:00 to 5:30 p.m (Stage)
Sunday, August 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. (Stage)
No appointment needed. Actors only need to attend one day of auditions.
CALLBACKS on Wednesday, August 29 from 6:30 to 10:00 (Stage)
You will be notified by email if you will be needed for callbacks.
PREPARE
32 bars of a song (verse and chorus) from standard musical theatre (no pop or rock, which means no song written after 2000, no Disney songs). Accompanist is provided. You may bring your accompaniment on IPhone or IPad or the Android equivalent as we do have playback ability for those devices. Be prepared to dance.
LOCATION
Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Street parking available. Venice Family Clinic's parking lot is available on weekends and on weekdays after 6 p.m. Do not park at our neighbors AAMCO/Viking Motors or SGI or you will be towed.
PERFORMANCE DATES
November 10 through December 15, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m., including Thanksgiving weekend. Actors will also perform in the Geoffrey Awards the evening of December 16. Actors must be available for all performances. NON-NEGOTIABLE!!
REHEARSAL DATES/TIMES
Rehearsals begin Saturday, September 8 and are held Monday through Thursday evenings from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, Saturdays from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Sundays from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Saturdays and Sundays are strictly dedicated to dance. More than 2 conflicts on those days may result in an actor not being cast. Actors are not called for all rehearsals, only rehearsals where they are being used for a scene/dance. Rehearsals will be worked around children's schedules as much as possible. As always, we consider homework a priority!
BRING
A picture (school picture or snapshot is fine), resume or list of shows done, and your conflicts for the rehearsal period. All conflicts MUST be submitted prior to callbacks. If additional conflicts arise after casting, it may result in an actor being replaced. Bring both jazz and tap shoes (if you tap).
CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS
Male Roles
Julian March: 14-18, Baritone, a tough, frazzled, and tyrannical director. He is gruff but as the show progresses you see how Peggy's charm touches him. Keeps his thoughts and feelings close to his chest. This is a strong acting role, and the role underpins the whole show.
Billy Lawlor: 14-18, Tenor, a leading man type, cheeky and charming with an eye for the ladies, excellent singer/dancer, tap a plus.
Bert Berry: Character baritone, half of the writing duo, must sing and move well and be able to play comedy with vaudeville timing.
Abner Dillon: Non-singing role, the producer of the show and Dorothy's current boyfriend, pompous, throws his weight (and money) around.
Pat Denning: Baritone, Dorothy's suave ex-vaudeville partner and the love of her life. He likes to stir up trouble. A little bit of a “player” but obviously really loves Dorothy.
Female Roles
Peggy Sawyer: 14-18, Alto/Soprano, extraordinary tap dancer who can sing like a Broadway leading lady and play the ingenue believably. At the beginning of the show we must see Peggy is nervous and quirky but eager and keen. As the show progresses, we see her talent shine through and her inner steel and strength of character to remain true to herself stand out.
Dorothy Brock: 14-18, Alto, a past-her-prime Broadway diva. Must possess a strong send of comic timing. While very selfish and mean to everyone at first, she comes to understand what's really important in life after breaking her ankle and therefore unable to perform. The actress cast must be able to play age (40+).
Maggie Jones: 14-18, Character alto, half of the writing duo; must sing and move well and be able to play comedy with great warmth and charm, good dancer.
Anytime Annie: 14-18, Alto Belt, one of the girls in the "chorus;" must be a first rate tap dancer and natural comedienne.
Larraine, Phyllis: 12-18, Alto/Soprano, two other girls in the “chorus”, featured in “Go Into Your Dance” excellent singers/dancers (tap).
Male or Female Role
Andy Lee: 12-18, Non-singing role, the choreographer of the show, excellent tap dancer.
Ensemble
Ages 10 to 18, must sing and dance well. Strong tap skills recommended. The more you tap, the more you do. Great ensemble parts with lots of lines.
Musical Numbers
Audition: Ensemble (opening tap number)
Young & Healthy: Billy/Peggy
Shadow Waltz: Dorothy & Girls
Go Into Your Dance: Peggy, Maggie, Annie, Lorraine, Phyllis
You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me: Dorothy/Billy
Getting Out of Town: Ensemble
We're In The Money: Peggy, Annie, Lorraine, Phyllis and Ensemble
Dames: Billy & Ensemble
Sunny Side to Every Situation: Annie, Lorraine, Phyllis and Ensemble
Lullaby of Broadway: Julian and Company
About A Quarter to Nine: Dorothy/Peggy
Shuffle Off to Buffalo: Peggy, Billy & Ensemble
42nd Street: Peggy, Billy & Ensemble
42nd Street Reprise: Julian
OTHER
Non-Equity, no pay.
Questions? Email director Anne Gesling at [email protected]


PODCASTS - The Belle's of 'Disney's Beauty and the Beast': Interviews with Susan Egan and Yvette Lawrence

5-STAR THEATRICALS production of “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" (Courtesy of 5 Star Theatricals)

5 Star Theatrical's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza until July 29, 2018 and Better Lemons recorded two podcasts, one with Susan Egan and one with Yvette Lawrence-Bishop.

In the first podcast Egan talks about the joys of returning to the role of “Belle” while embracing the new elements brought to the production by director Yvette Lawrence-Bishop. She also discusses the similarities and differences from the original Broadway touring production.

Anime, Comic-Con, and cosplay fans will enjoy hearing Egan chat about her voice acting characters, including her work at The Broadway Princess Party with Club Kraftland at That's From Disneyland.

Egan is a BTVA (Behind The Voice Actors) Television Voice Acting Award-winner and has been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards.

In the second Podcast, Lawrence-Bishop talks about her working relationship with Egan and the elements that make this production a unique, educational, family affair.

Lawrence-Bishop also discusses her work as a teacher and as a director with 5 Star Theatricals.

Yvette Lawrence-Bishop is an award-winning multi-faceted director, producer, and performer. She also teaches a Master Class in acting and serves as director of Performing Arts and director of Drama at Chaminade College Preparatory.

Lawrence-Bishop has directed productions such as Guys and Dolls, Godspell, Once Upon a Mattress, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Romeo and Juliet. She also has credits as a performer on Broadway and on television.

5 Star Theatricals production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is currently playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza until July 29, 2018.

Visit the site for showtimes and ticket information.

For more podcasts like these, go to our Better Lemons Soundcloud channel.


Angel Kay Sedia's Always On Chico's Case

The infamous Chico's Angels will be opening their latest edition of their riotous, outrageous, hilarious, long-running (15 years!) series of Charlie's Angels drag homage - CHICO'S ANGELS 2: LOVE BOAT CHICAS on March 28, 2018. The self-proclaimed leader of these too, too funny Angels, Kay Sedia, managed to spare us some seconds of her most precious time between her many costume fittings, wig stylings and Tupperware functions. We even finagled a few moments from Kay's alter ego, CHICO'S ANGELS co-creator Oscar Quintero.

Mucho gracias for doing this interview, Kay Sedia!

You have worn many a bright colored dress and a huge wig in all your performances in CHICO'S ANGELS since 2003. Do you have your own personal Versace? Or do you sew your frocks yourself?

No, I have my own Versage. Her name is Carol, and chee has a quinceañera shop on Western. Please don't be jealous or try to approach her because chee is exclusive to me.

Just how many wigs is 15 years worth?

Worth one million dollars, if I had put a number to it. But I say I have about 35 wigs.

How much time needs to pass before you become emotionally unattached to them that you can throw them out?

10 minutes.

With all the shellacking, er, hair spray, how long does a set to your raven locks keep? A week? A Show? The run???

Just depends how active the cho is. Some have last for five minutes, and there are some that last for ten years. It just depends on the amount of work I'm willing to do for the cho. A few of them last ten minutes, but most of them hold their curls for ten years because I'm lazy.

You were born in 1999, out of pageantry necessity. Were you a product of immaculate conception? Or did you have 'help' in your creation?
No one can say they do anything alone, specially in the world of drag. Ju always need jur mentors. I had some help from some very fancy gay peoples in Hollywood - mainly Glen Allen, James Gray and a bunch of other queens.

Which would you pick as your moonlighting job - being a Chico's Angel? Or a top-selling Tupperware Queen?
Well, I tell ju! Tupperware is my yob, I enjoy it. CHICO'S ANGELS is my pasión. So ju decide! They both pay the bills. One just stores my food better.

Can I speak to your alter ego Oscar for a few moments? You can interrupt, er, join in, when you get the urge, OK, Kay? 

Si!

Oscar, did any particular person inspire your creation of Kay Sedia?
She is inspired by many women in my family. My mother, my aunts, and my sisters. Kay is a combination of them with the majority inspired by my mother. My mother was the most self-centered woman you've ever met. She was the life of the party and a bit clueless about how self-absorbed she was. But you loved her anyway.

What cosmic forces brought you and Kurt Koehler together to create CHICO'S ANGELS, aside from the wonderful Mr. Dan?

We were sitting next to each other and we were on our way to see the Plush Life. We met through the same circle of people. We didn't know each other that well and he told me about a project he was working that was called "Super Fag." I told him I had done this alter ego/superhero Kay Sedia, which was called "Taco Chick." My friend Glen was also sitting with us and mention it was similar to "Electric Women & Dina Girl" — yet like "Taco Chick & Salsa Girl." We all started laughing. Later, Kurt cast me in this film and that is when we started talking about CHICO'S ANGELS. Cut to about a year later, Kurt called to ask if he could direct CHICO'S ANGELS and I said he could direct it if he would help write it. AND... that's when the world of CHICO'S ANGELS began.

Okay, Kay, back to you... Describe your relaxation attire? Heels, si or no?
My cha-cha pumps are everything to me. They can help me climb walls and they can make me look sexy when I'm laying on the bed. Cha-Cha pumps are everything.

Do you prefer performing live on the Cavern Club Theater stage or shooting video on location?
I feed off the audience. I feed off their energy. I feed off their nachos if they have them on their table! There is nothing like a live audience for me. 

Which of your past CHICO'S ANGELS cases was your favorite?

We now have done five cases on stage and I would say my favorite would be a combo between the one where we are high school hookers, and when we go on the Love Boat. I just love the Love Boat one because of all disco music. I guess ju could say they're my twins. I love them both equally.

Tell us what you like most about Frieda Laye?

Chee's slutty and chee doesn't apologize. I aspire to be like Frieda because ju know, I'm a hopeless romantic and I have to fall in love. Frieda can spread them open, give it away and then walk away to the next guy - I wish I could be like that. Chee's my spirit animal.

Is there any quality you admire most about Chita Parol?

There's very little I admire about Chita Parol. Chee's so mean and so jealous of all my sexiness on a daily basis. But if I have to admire something of her - I admire her jealousy of me.

You've had Charo in your show, si?

Ches.

Tell us about your experience with Senorita Charo.

Speaking about spirit animals, chee is definitely my spirit animal. What I find so espiring about Charo is that chee carved out a little niche for herself in this crazy entertainment business that is predominantly Anglo. Charo is a classically trained guitarist, but even chee says "Cuchi-Cuchi!" took her to the bank. That's what I admire. I'm funny, I'm sexy, and I'm gonna let it take me to the bank, too.

What celebrity would you like the Angels to solve a case for?
Jaclyn Smith… That angel hasn't come to the cho.

Where do you find your CHICO'S ANGELS Hotties? Do you have a lengthy audition process?
Ches! We have a farm in Hollywood that's called "Chico's Estates!" That is where we groom them. We teach them how to learn lines, flex, and workout. Our one main acting technique for the Hotties is how to take their shirts off. It's a hard class, not many can do it. Frieda has to cho them how using her teeth, but it gets dangerous for her, chee swallows -- too many buttons! Chico usually tries to get the young actors as soon as they arrive here to LA. I can't tell ju how many have fallen in love with me. It's so sad, but I understand, my beauty is a curse. 

Do you know what your boss Chico is planning for you in the near future?

Chico's next assignment for us has us doing our variety cho. Later in the year, we will be back to celebrating our 15th anniversary on the stage with our original episode. There have been rumors that we might be moving to a “bigger” theater. Gil, there is a lot of good stuff coming up, and we definitely want to make our CHICO'S ANGELS feature film this year. Chico better make it happen soon, because I'm getting bored.

With LOVE BOAT CHICAS returning to the Cavern Club Theater at the Casita Del Compo beginning March 28, are you expecting your Angels aficionados to relive their LOVE BOAT experience and shout out your lines with you?
Thees is a scripted cho and does not include audience participation people! There is NO shouting out, unless ju're yelling, "Kay, ju are so SEX-EEEE!" By the way, I know that, so keep it that to jurself. (Kay is blushing)

And on a closing note, please share with your fans how you stay the "Pretty One" of the Angels? What's your diet and beauty secrets?

My diet consists of a lot of chips & salsa. I also do a guacamole mask which then I eat with the chips - it's almost like a two-for-one facial. Honestly, I try to do as little as possible in the arena of exercise. It's too much work, and I don't like it, and it hurts. Sexy is as sexy is. I can't help it.

Mucho, mucho gracias, Senorita Sedia! I look forward to laughing out loud at you and your fellow Angels. Hmm, I mean laughing with you and your fellow Angels, while oogling your latest CHICO'S ANGELS Hottie.

For ticket availability and show schedule through April 8, 2018; log onto ChicosAngels.com


PRISCILLA's Jessica Hanna Making Outsized Theatre Magic Within Intimate L.A. Parameters

The Celebration Theatre will be presenting the Los Angeles intimate theatre premiere of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL as their second show of their 2017-2018 season, beginning February 10, 2018. We had the opportunity to chat with a die-hard, creative contributor to the Los Angeles Theatre community, Jessica Hanna, who just happens to be directing this huge extravaganza in the tiny, but always efficient Lex Theatre.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Jessica!

You have worked with a number of Los Angeles theatres, especially Bootleg Theatre which you co-founded. What magnetic forces drew you to The Celebration and PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL?

I've been a fan of Celebration Theatre for some time, but hadn't had the chance to work with them. So when Michael Shepperd asked me to direct PRISCILLA... well, it's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL at Celebration Theatre, how would that not be a fantastic project? I was honored they brought me on and I'm having a fantastic time making it. PRISCILLA is about transformation. All of the characters, even the bus, go through some sort of transformation on the outside and in. We are living in a time of transformation, which isn't easy, but it can be glorious. And in this case, sparkly. The stage version is lavish with a very large cast and, well, the titular character is a bus, so the puzzle of how to make this epic journey story in an intimate theater also excited me. Working within parameters seems to be something I thrive on. We have to find ways to tell the story that work on the scale of the space without losing the surprise and delight built in to the show. We have a great team of collaborators in the room and I'm very excited about what we've found so far and can't wait to see what we have on February 16.

I scored an early screener of the 1994 film, and I must have watched it with friends at least twenty times within the first three months I had it. Were you first familiar with the film? Or the stage musical that began in 2006?

I never saw the stage version, but the movie was striking when it came out. The images and story were fierce and groundbreaking. It helped to create change in Western culture's perception and feelings about gender. Plus, it had amazing costumes, super fun music, and at the time, was a window into another country and culture that I didn't know much about and found totally exciting.

As a multi-creative, did you want to just sink your teeth into PRISCILLA then? Which creative aspect of PRISCILLA did you want to tackle? Or did you simply enjoy it as a 'civilian'?

Well, when I saw it, I was a just a child (ahem). So it never occurred to me that it would be something I could work on. When I heard it was a musical, all I could think was, it has to be a giant show because it has to have a bus in it, right? How do they do that? A lot of the theater work I've made or been part of making, has a flare or spectacle aspect involved. So the challenge of making a giant show in an intimate setting means figuring out how theater magic can create spectacle in a small space. My theater tastes run the gamut from simple and small to giant costume shows. This one lands more on the giant costume side. Yet, at its heart is a simple story of being true to yourself, facing your fears, and finding support and acceptance with friends and family.

The movie is iconic for many artistic reasons, but also, because it was groundbreaking. We wouldn't have RuPaul's Drag Race today without it. PRISCILLA is set in the 90s and we are working hard to pay homage, but not make it a copy or a dated period piece. We're reflecting where we are now within a period piece. For instance, the three Queens (Tick, Bernadette and Adam) all represent different eras of drag to me. Bernadette is the earlier Les Girls style - more in the style of burlesque. Tick is the late 70s/80s avant-garde drag of early RuPaul, and Adam is closer to us now as gender becomes more fluid. I think, or I hope, by following these ideas, we'll end up with a very relevant show that reminds us where we came from and encourages us to keep progressing forward.

Any particular moments really register with/touched you?

Tick's relationship with his son or his finding a relationship with his son always moved me. Remember this was 27 years ago, so the idea that a gay drag queen would or could be married and have a child was still very taboo. To watch Tick fear that his son would reject him, and then see that who he is, is exactly who his son wants and needs, was deeply moving. And, of course, watching Bernadette kick ass against bigots was fantastic to watch. Still is.

The movie itself was such a convergence of magical talents - songs, costumes, performances, sweeping fabric atop a giant high heel atop a pink bus, ping pong balls. What can the Celebration Theatre audiences expect to see in their tiny, but so-efficiently-used space?

They're going to get all that and, oh, so much more. The space is going to be packed with joy. And sparkles. And heart. I hope that audiences will be jumping in their seats, overcome with the creativity on the stage, fighting the urge to sing along, and in the next moment find themselves moved by the beautiful relationships and the friendship and acceptance the Queens find. Celebration always makes the most of their space and this show will carry on that tradition. We have a spectacular team of theater magic makers and they are employing all their tools. I hope that there will be a lot of surprise at what we have created.

Aside from the aforementioned tiny space of the Celebration, what challenges did you have to deal with and overcome in mounting PRISCILLA there?

Working within parameters causes creative choices that would never have been thought of if the space were giant and the budget unlimited. We must be creative in order to figure out how to tell the story the way we want within the parameters. There have been challenges in figuring out how to scale the cast size down to something workable for the space. How to then schedule rehearsals with a large cast of working actors is also a bit of a dance, always is. I love ensemble theater work and I strive to make space for the ensemble to find each other, which is difficult when you have a very limited rehearsal time and a LOT of material to learn quickly. But we were able to take a little time to do some ensemble work that really helped the group gel and grew their excitement about working with each other. And when working in a small space, cultivating excitement and awareness of each other makes a huge difference in focus that permeates the stage and effects the audience in beautiful ways.

Have you worked with any of this cast and crew before?

I've worked with a few of these artists, but most are new to me, which I love. I'm always excited to meet talented strangers! Los Angeles is teeming with amazing artists. I feel privileged to have opportunities to get to know and work with more of them.

I've never directed Tad Coughenour (Bernadette), but he has been in a couple shows I've produced. And I've been a fan of Gina Torrecilla (Marion) and her work at Celebration, so that's been a treat to work with her. Becca Kessin sound designed a show I produced at Bootleg years ago, but we hadn't found another project to work on until this. And Brandon Baruch, the lighting designer, and I have a long and fructiferous history of collaboration and we're having a ball on this one.

You have contributed to the theatre community using many of your various talents. Which gives you the most satisfaction - hearing the audience direct responses to your own performance onstage? Or sitting in the back of the house listening to the audience respond to the combination extension of your talents?

Sitting at the back of the house - or if a space has a vom, I love to watch & listen from a vom.

Wait, Jessica! Sorry to interrupt your train of thought, but what's a 'vom'?

The 'vom' is an entrance or aisle into a theater - comes from Ancient Rome, I think, when that aisle or hall out of the theater led to the vomitorium. You can stand in the vom and not be seen by the audience.

My new word of the week - 'vom.' Can't wait to use it. "I was standing in the vom on my way to the vomitorium and..." I digress, back to you, Lovely Lady.

I actually have a hard time sitting in an audience during a show I've directed. The energy I get from bearing witness to an audience's reactions to my collaborators performances and ideas is moving. Literally. I love hearing/feeling an audience say, "Yes!" and take the ride with the company. That's the exciting part when I'm onstage or off. Nothing like an audience saying, "Yes! I'm in. What happens next?!"

Since co-founding Bootleg Theatre in 2006, what growth have you noticed in the Los Angeles theatre scene?

You got another few pages of space? The growth has been astounding really. In the artists and the levels and variations of storytelling. L.A. is vast, and there is space for all different kinds of theater artists and their interests. And, one could argue, more importantly the audiences have grown. There is an interest in live performance in the city that feels different. Maybe it's because of the times we live in, and the technology that isolates us; but more and more I see ALL kinds of people out seeing art. Wanting to have a group experience that illuminates their humanity. Audiences all walks of life with different interests. Angelenos are craving experience. We are adventurous by nature, that's how many of us ended up here in the first place. We followed our interest, our dreams. Dared ourselves. And you can see it in the cultural landscape of the town. So much new work being incubated. Retelling of old stories in fantastic ways. Artists seem to feel a safety here to express, to attempt their wildest dreams. We encourage each other to reach because that's why we're here too. I'm gonna really start waxing poetic here soon. I can talk about theater and art for hours. It's my favorite subject.

One more thing on this topic, there has been an energizing in the L.A. theater community in the last few years, as many of us were forced to more clearly define what our theater scene has been, what it is and what we want it to become. It is a difficult and sometimes infuriating process, but it has caused conversation, collaboration and creative solutions. And I hear more pride in what we create and how we create it than ever before. It's an exciting time to be an artist anywhere, but especially in Los Angeles.

As one who's been in and around the Los Angeles theatre community, what do you see as its status in the next five years?

I think it will continue to grow. The theater that's made here will be exported more with tours of L.A.- based productions and scripts developed here in L.A. being picked up by regional theaters. Busting the myth that L.A. isn't a theater town. New plays will continue to be developed here, as I don't see the small screen giving up on all the amazing playwrights they're hiring lately. And those playwrights are based here and want to make plays. And the plays they are writing and will write will reflect the diversity of L.A., and make them more accessible in more places outside of L.A. National New Play Network rolling premieres will become more prevalent. What's really going to be key, I think, to the continued growth of the L.A. theater community is support, not just financial (though that's always welcome), from the city and state. I would love to see the city put more effort into promoting the theater and live performance scene as an asset, a glorious facet of an exciting city. Finding ways to get more young people interested in theater and art early. Helping artists make spaces that encourage collaboration and conversation that will energize all Angelenos.

Next ten years?

Ten years from now, L.A. will all be gearing up for the Arts Festival that I hope will be happening in tandem with the Olympics that summer. The city will find exciting ways to highlight and celebrate local artists, as well as, bring in some international artists, hopefully from Latin and South America. And by that time, I hope we have at least two new midsize theaters that will be supporting the growth of shows year-round by local artists. The larger houses will be casting and hiring a majority of local artists. Work will highlight diversity and give voice to those without equality more and more, because that's what audiences want to see. And since we're dreaming about the future, the city will have at least ten well-appointed spaces around town that they rent for theater and live performance for $1 a year.

What do you see for Jessica Hanna in the next five, next ten years?

Lots and lots of theater making. Continuing to allow my interest to dictate what I work on. I have a couple stories I'd like to tell in the television format as well. I will be touring theater pieces that I've directed, outside of L.A. and outside of the country. Being hired to direct outside of L.A. Working with artists all over the world, yet always being based in L.A., 'cause I mean, the weather's pretty damn amazing. And as stated above, I love this L.A. scene. I will have created an incubator space for artists of all mediums to collaborate, develop and present their work - including my own. And I will be a part of whatever arts component is happening with the Olympics. Working to highlight local artists and raising the profile of Los Angeles theater.

Thank you again, Jessica! I do so look forward to reliving my Australian road trip on the pink bus through your eyes!

You're so welcome, Gil!

To check ticket availability for Celebration Theatre's PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT - THE MUSICAL running through March 25, 2018; log onto CelebrationTheatre.com


Julie Brown's GOT A GUN Aiming At Your Funny Bones

Spawned from Julie Brown's 1980's hit song and subsequent music video, HOMECOMING QUEEN'S GOT A GUN fully morphs into Julie's staged musical beginning October 13 at the Cavern Club Theater. Co-written by Kurt Koehler, this high, high-camped musical will elaborate on how Debi the Homecoming Queen acquired her gun, and the assortment of reasons she went on a shooting rampage of her high school classmates. We got the chance to sit Julie down for a few hot seconds to answer my inquisitive queries.

Thank you for doing this interview with me, Julie! 

Absolutely!

I've seen your after-show photo with Chico's Angels on their website, so I know you've been to at least one of their shows. How did you and Kurt Koehler first meet?

I think I've been to almost all the shows since I've known Kurt. I met Kurt because he got a hold of me and wanted to do a show that incorporated all my songs. But I told him that I was already trying to do Earth Girls as a musical, so I didn't want to use all my songs in another play. I also started thinking of how I could do Homecoming Queen as a musical, and I went to see Kurt's show INVINCIBLE – THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN and I loved it! It was so funny and campy and exactly the tone I wanted for Homecoming Queen, so I asked him if he wanted to write it with me, and we did. I had so much fun working with him that I asked him if he wanted to write EARTH GIRLS – THE MUSICAL with me because I was trying to do it, but having trouble translating it from the movie to the stage. So we did that too, and we're going to do that in spring!

When did you realize that Kurt and your kooky, off-center, out-there sensibilities were on the same wavelength?  

When he first wanted to work with me, I didn't know exactly what his sense of humor was but INVINCIBLE convinced me. When he had puppets singing, “Hell is for children!” I knew we would get along. And we do. We laugh a lot when we're writing and we never fight.

You wrote your hit song Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun in 1983 and followed up with a music video in 1987. Which came first, your Valley Girl persona? Or this song?

The persona came first. I was doing it in my stand-up act, and I'd even been on TV doing it (Evening at the Improv), and then the song Valley Girl came out. I was so bummed, but then I thought, “I can still do my version of my character.” And I'd been doing songs when I was doing my act with Charlie Coffey in San Francisco. So after we'd both moved down here, I was trying to think of a song. The title just occurred to me while I was driving. I asked Charlie if he wanted to write it with me.

Guess you could describe MTV to millennials as the precursor to YouTube. Did you produce/construct your Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun video specifically for MTV to broadcast?

We'd written the song, and I just knew it had to be a video-because that's what was happening then. So we wrote out the video shot-by-shot. Amazingly, this guy came along who said he would finance it if he could be the director. I said, “If you follow our shooting script,” He said, “Fine.” And we got this great DP Dominic Sena, and they followed the shooting script exactly. And then, because I was doing guest VJ spots on MTV to promote my new album, they put it on the air.

I see you've uploaded your videos onto your YouTube channel. Any immediate plans to add to your video collection/selection?

Well, I did direct Another Drunk Chick, that's up right now. And I might do more. Kurt and I are planning to do a webseries of Medusa (the satire of Madonna) that I did in the 90s. It would be her now, with all her kids and her young boyfriends, etc.

Did you have a BFF named Debi who became homecoming queen? Or was Debi your alter ego?

I did not have a BFF who became Homecoming Queen. I think it was my alter ego, because in the video I'm the one with the gun!

In your video, you played yourself and Debi. Who came up with the genius idea to have ever-popular LA theatre staple Drew Droege portray Debi?

When Kurt and I were working on it, we thought about having a woman at first. But, because the whole thing is a campy satire of a girl with a gun at school, we thought the more ridiculous we can make it, the more it's not real. So, we actually added more death – to make it more like an 80s horror movie, and we made Debi the super talented Drew Droege.

So, how will your show at the Cavern Club Theater expand on your music video? More dancing? More singing? More beefcake?

I think the show explains a lot of the mystery in the song. And - there is more singing and more beefcake!

Can you bring us back in time to when Lily Tomlin first discovered you? How did it all happen?

I invited her to come see me in this little club in San Francisco because she was in town doing her show. I just loved her, so that's what gave me the nerve to do it. And she showed up! She was super sweet and said to contact her if I came to L.A. I did and she gave me a part in The Incredible Shrinking Woman and I got my SAG card.

What qualities do you look for in the person that you skewer, er, pay homage to (i.e., Madonna)?

They have to be really interesting. It's sort of best if they don't have that much sense of humor about themselves. Like they take themselves pretty seriously.

Can you give us a hint as to whom your next target, er, honoree will be?

It will be Madonna again! She still cracks me up and I love her!

Since your co-writer Kurt is also the co-writer of CHICO'S ANGELS, any chances of you joining forces with the Angels to solve their latest case in the near future?

Yes, I could be a much younger Miss Marple. I'll have to ask them! 

Thank you again, Julie! I look forward to your crazy night at the Cavern Club.

For available tickets for one of the four October dates, log onto www.juliebrown.tix.com


HONKY TONK LAUNDRY's Bets Malone & Misty Cotton Just Shootin' The Breeze

Roger Bean, creator of the popular THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES and its subsequent sequels, will be directing the Los Angeles premiere of his HONKY TONK LAUNDRY, beginning August 5 at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre.
We had the fine opportunity to chat with the two lovely ladies starring in Roger's latest -  Bets Malone and Misty Cotton.
Thank Y'all for letting me intrude on your down time.
This is not your first rodeo with Roger Bean. Although placing THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES in a rodeo might not be quite the accurate analogy.
Any challenges in adapting singing styles from Motown to Nashville?
Misty Cotton: These songs are mostly motivated by a situation the character is in, and so they are really colored by that character, as opposed to singing them like you personally might on a recording or in your own voice, so to speak. At least that's the way I approach them as they are theatrical songs to me really. So I've never really thought of the differences in singing in a Motown or Nashville style. I sing them in the character's style with a little of my own, of course. 
Bets Malone: In a lot of ways, Nashville suits me better. Country music is full of storytelling, so it's very theatrical. Although, I haven't sung a whole lot of country, I believe I'm hooked.
There's been three sequels to THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES. How many of these shows have y'all worked together?
BM: Misty and I have done three of the four WONDERETTES shows together. WINTER WONDERETTES and CAPS AND GOWNS we both originated.
MC: We have known each other since we were kids and I did my first musical with her down at the Moonlight Amphitheatre way back when. So what fun to be doing this show together! 

Misty, would your character Katie Lane Murphy give us a one-or-two-line plot description of HONKY TONK LAUNDRY?
MC: Two women at a crossroads in their lives find heartache, friendship, strength and healing in a laundramat, with a lot of help from laughter and country music. 
Bets, how would your character Lana Mae Hopkins describe HONKY TONK LAUNDRY in a one or two lines?
BM: Two gals from two different places come together and find common ground on love, heartache and the importance of a great friendship.
Describe your Wishy Washy Washateria, if ya Ladies would.

BM: I guess you might call it, "Retro." Nana built it up with her own two hands and I just spruced it up a little. Nana would be proud.
MC: Lana Mae's Washateria is described by Katie in the show as "a cute, little place. Kind of old-fashioned., Like from another place and time."

When did y'all first get involved with HONKY TONK LAUNDRY?
MC: After having done WINTER WONDERETTES at the Milwaukee Repertory, a long while back, Bets and I expressed to Roger that we loved working together and would love to do a two-person show. Low and behold, about a year later, we mounted a version of HONKY TONK at the Milwaukee Rep and had a blast.
BM: I think it was 12 years ago now.
MC: We loved doing it. I know Roger did, too. But he really got busy with the success of THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, as well as other shows. This project, I believe, just sat on the back burner for a while.
BM: The show has gone through a whole lotta changes. But our characters have remained with their hearts intact.
MC: I feel so grateful to be able to be working on this at this time. 
How long has your rehearsal period for this Los Angeles premiere of HONKY TONK LAUNDRY been?
BM: This one is going up fast. One week of rehearsal, one week of tech.
MC: We did mount it for an out-of-town engagement at the beginning of this year, so we had learned most of it, and now we can work on any changes. 
BM: And then, we get to share it with the world.
How much input did y'all have in creating the distinct onstage look of your two characters? Or did y'all just come in and slap your wigs, denim and fringes on without question?

BM: I actually think Mr. Bean develops the look of the world and his characters through the rehearsal process, collaborating with what we bring to the table. The moment I stepped into my costume, I said, "Yes, there she is!"
MC: It really was/is the designers who have created the looks with the costumes and wigs. And, of course, Roger knows what he likes and has his ideas as well. We get new wigs for this one, so I'm dying to see what Katie will look like this time. 
Bets, how would ya describe Misty's character Katie Lane Murphy?
BM: Katie Lane is dramatic, passionate, and a bit dangerous. She acts on her feelings. The opposite of Lana, who is much more resigned.
Misty, how would ya describe Bets' character Lana Mae Hopkins?
MC: A strong, no-nonsense, big-hearted woman who takes care of everyone else, and is learning how to do that for herself. She's also got an arsenal of amazing southern one-liners that are constantly coming out of her mouth, which is fun. 
Bets, do ya think your character of Suzy in WONDERETTES has enough interests in common to be galfriends with Lana Mae?
BM: I think Lana and Katie would think Suzy is very simple. But innocent in a likable way. The HONKY TONK gals sure have lived a more dementia life.
Misty, do ya think your character of Missy in WONDERETTES has enough interests in common to be galfriends with Katie Lane?
MC: Well, I think Missy would think Katie was a little crazy, but they both are good souls at heart and I think would get along. 
Besides all the wonderful country classics y'all sing, did y'all write a few numbers yourselves?
MC: Nope. These are all written by writers that have had them recorded. Roger's great at finding gems that people don't know, and fall in love with. 
BM: I think that's next for them. Stay tuned for some future shit-kickin' classics!
Can you Ladies name your favorite song to perform? Or is that a too Meryl Streep/Sophie's Choice question to ask?
MC: I honestly could never answer that. It's usually a song I might be doing at the time I'm doing the show. There is so much good music, it's hard to choose. Those questions are hard for me. 
BM: I think it would be between "Born To Fly" and "Who I Am." But "Born To Fly" probably wins out 'cause I get to sing it with my great friend Misty.
Did ya have to learn how to yodel? Or is that a natural hidden talent of yours?
BM: I actually already knew how. I have done the SOUND OF MUSIC a few times and learned for "The Lonely Goatherd."
MC: Had to learn. You work most of your life as a singer to have a seamless voice and to sing seamlessly over your break. So when you are asked to yodel, it's the exact opposite of that. You want to emphasize that break and it's totally different muscles and technique. 

 If y'all were to pick one song from HONKY TONK LAUNDRY to perform in a benefit or include in your cabaret act, which song would that be?
MC: I think the song "One Good Friend" would be good. I think it's a song that we both sing like a duet more than others. I love the song.
BM: Probably "Who I Am" or "Smile."
What can the Hudson audiences expect to leave with after your curtain calls? Clean clothes? A hankering for Nashville fried steak or hot chicken?
MC: I hope they leave having had a really good time and laughing a lot. As well as maybe falling in love with some of the music, if they hadn't already.
BM: I think they leave with the thought - I need to gather up a few of my gal pals, grab a brew and go back to the HONKY TONK again.

MC: And isn't everyone always in the mood for fried chicken!

Thank y'all again, Ma'ams! I look forward to checking out your Washateria.
BM: Can't wait to see ya. We'll keep a seat warm for ya!
For a knee-slapping, foot-stomping good ol' time; go check out Lana Mae's Wishy Washy Washateria (a.k.a. HONKY TONK LAUNDRY) at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre. Log onto www.honkytonklaundry.com for available tickets and schedule through September 17, 2017.


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


Choreographer/Director Keith Young On Working W/The Best & Sharing His Craft W/The Masses

SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! will be opening July 26 at The Pasadena Playhouse under the slick choreographic vision of Keith Young. Amidst running his SHOUT cast through his distinctive dance routines, Keith managed to find a spare moment to answer a few of our questions.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Keith!
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was the first to combine gospel with secular music and became a big crossover hit in the 1930s. Was your family or you growing up aware of her music?
No, I wasn't aware of her or her music; not sure about my family.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe caught a lot of flack for taking gospel music out of the church and into nightclubs. Did your family have any opinions on that matter?
Yes, it wasn't really acceptable to combine the two.
So what styles of dancing can we expect to see in SHOUT SISTER SHOUT!? What was popular or indicative of the 1930s and 40s?

As always, I will use the movement to nourish the storytelling (gospel-inspired), and this show has various fun styles within that.

Which songs of Sister Rosetta Tharpe will you be choreographing to? "The Train"? "Down By the Riverside"? "Strange Things Happening Every Day"?
There is a little something to all of her songs, and there are many. But my approach has been to allow you to see the music.

With her distinctive vocals and spirited electric guitar playing, she became known as the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Will SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! audience be able to see similarities of movements to later artists like Little Richard or Elvis?
Yes, the likes of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and others.

What aspects of SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! drew you to commit your artistic energies?
I think Rosetta was an amazing and powerful force. As a trailblazer, she really broke down so many walls and expectations. She also was an incredibly vibrant personality, woman, and artist. Having said that, she was primarily looked over, and I hope my participation will help bring her and her artistry to the forefront.
Earlier this year, you choreographed and directed FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE. Did directing seem for you like the obvious next step after choreographing?
Absolutely! For me, it was a natural progression. I also didn't have to tell the choreographer what I wanted, or ask the director to try something - a fun, timesaving fact.
Would you describe the challenges in choreographing in the different mediums you're quite busy in - commercials, television, theatre, Carnival Cruise lines?
I am fortunate to be able to create in so many different mediums. Each one does have unique and specific challenges. But for me, the larger objective remains the same - to make sure that what I create perpetuates the story, and helps bring the overall vision and objective to fruition.

How do you choreograph for a performer cast for their acting chops rather than their dancing abilities?
This is very common. My approach is to embrace what they have naturally and embellish on that, giving them pride of ownership and not discouraging them.

What dance classes did you, yourself, start in (jazz, modern, ballet)?
I was insatiable and pursued them all.

Which style of dance did you prefer when you began?
Modern.

You started your choreography career as Twyla Tharp's assistant on Milo Forman's Amadeus. Please tell us what Twlya first recognized in you and what lessons you learnt from her.
I can't really speak on what she saw in me, but I was determined. Regarding the lessons, that list is too long. But I will say she is a remarkable visionary and can stand proudly in the pantheon of the greats. 
Would you consider her your first mentor?
No, that honor would be my mother.
Can you briefly describe your experience as rehearsal director for the American Ballet Theatre's staging of The Sinatra Suites with Twyla and Baryshnikov?
Having been an original member of her NINE SINATRA SONGS, I knew most of the roles, so when Twyla and Misha condensed it to create The Sinatra Suites, I was asked to be the rehearsal director. It was such an honor. I was humbled by the opportunity to engage with these legendary artists.

Have you ever been awe-struck by the performer you're hired to work with?
I wouldn't say AWEstruck by anyone, but there have been many that have amazed me with their focus, talent and work ethic.

Your professional resumé contains so many name-dropping gems, we'd be here all week discussing them all. Sooo, allow me to name a few and you say a word or a sentence about each person or show you choreographed, OK?

The 78th Annual Academy Awards' production number of Oscar-winning song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"-
This was an extraordinary experience. I felt as if I was on the front line of a cultural mash-up.
So You Think You Can Dance -
Am so glad shows like this exist, and have brought dance into the living rooms of people who would not normally get a chance to experience it. Was happy to be part of it.

Dancing With the Stars -
Again, I like the accessibility to dance these shows provide, a fun one.
Kristen Chenoweth in Pushing Daisies -
A divinely charming, hard-working and talented artist.
Emmy nom for The Drew Carey Show -
Having done many episodes, I feel this was instrumental in changing dance on TV at the time. They worked really hard which I really appreciated.

Naomi Campbell in the  SuperBowl SOBE commercial -
She was willing, and beautiful.

Jane Krakowski in Trop 50 commercials -
Such a pro, and so full of willingness and talent.

Meryl Streep & Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated -
Really love the director, Nancy Meyers, and was really taken by Meryl's phenomenal ability to be in the moment, and her consistency. Alec was a lot of fun and willing.

Mel Gibson in What Women Want -
Simply loved his work ethic. He worked so hard, and never gave up.

RENT, the movie -
I'd have to say this was the most meaningful, in that the content, objective, and message were aimed at compassion, kindness and tolerance - virtues I cherish and prescribe to.

So what's in the near future for Keith Young? Any more directorial gigs?
I certainly hope so. I really love the opportunity to affect life through my art, and will hopefully continue to have the chance to honor my craft. I am in the process of creating a show that's been on my mind for a bit .

What dance steps would you love to see your SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! audience attempting as they leave Pasadena Playhouse?
I'd like to see them dance their way over to the box office to get tickets for them and their friends to see SHOUT again!!! 
Thanks again, Keith! I look forward to seeing your dancing feets SHOUT.
For tickets and schedule of SHOUT SISTER SHOUT! through August 20, 2017, log onto www.pasadenaplayhouse.org


Audio Interview: Oklahoma! @ 3D-Theatricals is SHOCKING!!!

The 3-D Theatricals' take on “Oklahoma!” …is SHOCKING. It is either bad taste or pure genius (and whichever it is, is completely up to you). Is it the story of a Jim Crow Negro being killed for harassing a white woman? Do the audience members feel like they're part of a lynch mob after watching a trial? Do black lives matter? You may never see it done like this again – no one would be courageous enough to show it! Personally, I love this disturbing take on “Oklahoma!”
Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Oklahoma!” at 3D-Theatricals, which closes Jul 9th. You can listen to this YouTube interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage.  For tickets and more info Click here.