Paul C. Vogt Has Made A Lot of Funny Things Happen ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

Paul C. Vogt will again mount the boards of the first Los Angeles theatre he connected with upon his arrival to L.A. in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, beginning November 15, 2017. Just this year, The Falcon Theatre was re-christened The Garry Marshall Theatre, in honor of its founder. Some of the shows Paul performed at The Falcon include: LAUREL AND HARDY, TWIN-PROV, HAPPY DAYS, THE LITTLE MERMAID, CINDERELLA! Paul waxed most poetically on his many happy days working with Garry Marshall and The Falcon.

Thank you Paul for taking the time for this interview.

This will be your first time performing at the recently renamed The Garry Marshall Theatre. What originally connected you with The Falcon and Garry Marshall?

I saw the theater when I first moved to town in '99, and knew I wanted to work there. It was close to where I was living and I loved the look and feel of it - very homey, comfortable and welcoming.

I auditioned for BEANSTALK! - one of the Family Series of shows they performed on the weekends. I had no idea Garry was involved, or that the director Kathleen Marshall was Garry's daughter. I got a call-back for the role of the Giant; but did not get cast. Shortly after that, I was asked to work with a group of friends from Orlando doing a show at The Falcon theater called LAS VEGAS HOSPITAL. A scripted/improvised comedy. I would fill in for a couple of actors when needed. This is when I met Garry and realized where I was. He saw me in that show and we hit it off. The actor that got the part of the Giant in BEANSTALK! had to suddenly leave the show due to a family emergency. Garry and Kathleen asked if I would help them out and accept the role of the Giant. I said, "Yes" on Wednesday, and was in the show on Saturday.

So, Garry was already very familiar with your comedic chops at his theatre when you were cast in his film The Princess Dairies 2: Royal Engagement in 2004.

When Garry asked me to do Princess Diaries 2, we had done a couple of family shows at the theater including the first try at HAPPY DAYS: "AAAY!" IT'S A MUSICAL  and I was on MADtv by that time - which I attribute to Garry.

What words of advice or encouragement has Garry Marshall given you?

If you try a joke a couple of times, and it doesn't get a response - stop doing it. It's not funny. Do something else.

Do you have a funny Garry Marshall memory to share?

In HAPPY DAYS: "AAAY!" IT'S A MUSICAL, I played Jimbo Malachi, one of the bad guys. During our number, there would be moments my character would toss in a little bit of improv. Often before a show, Garry would come up to me and ask me to put random words into my song. Like one night he had me incorporate YoYo Ma the cellist. I sang my song,went into my improv section and sang about YoYo Ma. The audience laughed a bit 'cause it was funny and odd. BUT in the back behind them all, you heard a loud belly laugh that belonged to Garry, who was delighted that, once again, I took on his challenge and ran with it!! We would both giggle like idiots after when we would see each other.

If MADtv were to write a breakdown description of Pseudolus, what character traits would it include?

Large, loud, bossy servant/slave, has passion to acquire his freedom and will do anything to achieve it... ANYTHING!

How would you compare Pseudolus to some of the other characters you've inhabited on the boards- HAIRSPRAY!'s Edna Turnblad, CHICAGO's Amos Hart, CHEERS LIVE ON STAGE's Norm Peterson?

Oddly enough, each one of these characters has an overwhelming passion that drives their actions:

Psedolous to be free,

Edna to love and take care of her family,

Amos to protect his wife,

Norm...beer.

Who have you seen perform Pseudolus previously?

It's been a long time since I've seen anyone do the show.

Would you name your favorite Stephen Sondheim song?

That's a hard one. Sooooo many. Ummmm? Anything from SWEENEY TODD, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, INTO THE WOODS. Also "I Feel Pretty" from WEST SIDE STORY - that song has been very good to me.

I caught your HAIRSPRAY! duet with Michael-Leon Wooley at the Broadway to the Rescue fundraiser. Your Edna to his Wilbur rocked the Montalban Theater audience.

Thanks! It was so fun to do it with him.

How old were you when you realized you were a funny (and talented) guy?

Still trying to figure that out.

I've seen you perform in various shows in Los Angeles, At least I thought I had. When I was looking at my old programs, I realized it was your twin brother Peter Allen Vogt that I saw in ROMEO & JULIET: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, and more recently DOGFIGHT. Was TWIN-PROV in 2008 the first time you two performed together? Or was it a reunion performance of your fraternal talents?

We have worked several times together on TV and a couple movie items. In Orlando for Disney back in '89, we did improv. We have been doing improv together and in groups for years. TWIN-PROV was our first TWIN IMPROV show with special guests.

Any plans to perform together again?

It always seems to happen.

You wrote your first children's book Billy Butler and the SnowDog last year. Any theatre projects you're penning to come in the near future?

Nothing yet. I have an idea for a one-person show chatting about my cancer situation, but it's still all in my head.

What is your dream role you'd love to take a stab at?

Hard to say... I would love to play Sweeney Todd. I love his passion and drive. I kinda understand him.

Thank you again, Paul! I look forward to see your sure-to-be hysterical Pseudolus!

Thanks! It's such a fun show to do, amazingly well-written.

For ticket availability to experience what funny things Paul makes happen ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM through December 31, 2017; log onto www.garrymarshalltheatre.org


Sondheim and Faustin Linyekula! Two Upcoming Shows to Put on Your Calendar

Love is hard to explain.  Sometimes even to oneself.

Well, not all love.  Everyone understands loving babies. And parents' love for their children in general.

And love for dogs and cats.  And other pets.  And food.  (But please, not pets as food.)

But loving theater?  It's different in LA and NYC.  Yes, that's a generalization, but I've generally found it to be true.

Illustration: when I first came out here, I was looking for a writing agent.  I met with a guy at William Morris (before Endeavor was even a word that required a capital E).   I asked him if he represented stage scripts as well as film and TV.  He gave me a long look, as if translating my sentence into his language, then said, "No, but we respect it."

A lot of people out here are like that.  They're like, "Oh yes, I really wish I could see more plays, they are so much  more substantial and Human than movies and TV, but I just don't have the time."  That's respect.  But respect is not love.  No explanation is required in NYC when singing the praises of a show you've seen.  Before you've reached your noun, your friend has his or her phone out, checking on ticket availability.

Love is unreasoning and compulsive, love feeds on itself.  It's not necessarily good for you - in fact it usually isn't - but it's a surefire reason to get up in the morning and to go out at night.

So for those who are afflicted with theater-love - for those who love the avant-garde and for those who love Stephen Sondheim - here are two upcoming events.  Both are only for a few performances and could be easily missed.  My job as the Twisted Hipster is to make sure you are well informed.

September 21-24: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC IN CONCERT AT THE COLONY THEATRE IN BURBANK

One of Stephen Sondheim's most beloved shows, with a book by the always-masterful Hugh Wheeler, the Broadway production received Six Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  This concert production will be directed by Laura Stribling, with musical direction by Jennifer Lin.  The cast includes Liza Baron, Angela Baumgardner, Carly Bracco, Marc Ginsburg, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Michelle Holmes, Taj Jageraj, Jennifer Kumiyama, Stanton Morales, Joey Nisivoccia, Sara St Pierre, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Peyton Thomas Tucker, Alison Whitney and Robert Yacko.  I saw Ginsburg and Morales perform in their recent Fringe production of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and they were both in fine voice, outstanding.  If the rest of the cast is up to their level, it should be a must-see for Sondheim-lovers and afficionados of musicals.  Click here for ticket info.

 

September 28-30: REDCAT SEASON BEGINS WITH CONGOLESE DANCE-THEATRE-MASTER FAUSTIN LINYEKULA'S NEW WORK

"Faustin Linyekula is one of the most powerful, death-defyingly deft, and determined artists on the planet." -  theater director Peter Sellars

REDCAT, CalArts downtown center for contemporary arts, begins its new season with a bang by presenting Sur les traces de Dinozord (In Search of Dinozord), a new work by Congoleses choreographer and writer Faustin Linyekula/Studio Kabako.

According to the Redcat's press release, "this dance-theatre work nurtures hope in the face of the ongoing legacy of war and ruin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Scored with fragments of Mozart's Requiem, metronomic taps on a typewriter, and live vocals by rising opera star Serge Kakudji.

This is a poetic, political fairy tale. ... Through exquisite movement and text, Linyekula and his exceptional performers delve into the wrenching history of the Congo and their own childhood stories, as they mourn the loss of a friend.  In the process, they are hoping to fashion a new kind of myth that is a truer reflection of their lives."

Only 3 performances.  Click here for ticket info on Sur les traces de Dinozord at Redcat.


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


WOODS' Evan Harrington's Baking Up Some Tasty Theatrical Treats

The classic INTO THE WOODS from the creative minds of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine has been having a successful, standing-ovation-filled run at the Ahmanson Theatre (closing May 14). With Sondheim and Lapine's blessings, Fiasco Theater has re-interpreted their 1986 musical into a no-frills, bare-bones version that some say is the most relatable retelling of familiar INTO THE WOODS' fairy tales.

We had the chance to chat with Evan Harrington, who embodies the role of the upstanding Baker.

Thank you, Evan, for taking the time for this interview.

You started this touring production of INTO THE WOODS last November. How did you first get involved with Fiasco Theater?

My involvement with Fiasco Theater began with my audition for INTO THE WOODS! I had, of course, heard of the production and the company, but never had a chance to see any of their work. And when I heard they were sending this version of the show on the road, and I jumped at the chance to do it!

You had played the role of 'Baker' before in the New Repertory Theatre's 2005 production. What was it like putting on the baker's apron after over ten years?

It is always strange and exciting to revisit characters you've played before after a few years. I think having grown up over the years (sorta, ha-ha) puts a totally different perspective into your choices on stage. I feel like now, I'm at a good age to really understand more of what the Baker and his Wife are dealing with in the play. Every time I've been involved in INTO THE WOODS, it's been a totally different experience; this is actually the third time I'm playing the Baker.   In addition to New Rep's 2005 version, it was the last show I performed in my senior year of college. So I've played this role over a long span of my life, and my own life experiences continue to influence the way I play the role. I feel lucky to have played the Baker over many years in my life, for sure!

How has your interpretation of 'Baker' evolved over the long span of your life from your life experiences and your profusion of theatrical roles?

My version of the Baker has certainly changed with each time I've done it. I feel more grounded now as an actor and a person, so I hope that comes across in this current version. I think as a college student, I was just jazzed to be doing a Sondheim show! Stephen Sondheim was our hero back then, and certainly continues to be for me! It was the last time I got to perform with all of the graduating class I went through theatre school with - our 'last hurrah' before choosing our next step; so there was a youthful sentimentality we all had for that production. As I've gotten older and had opportunities to work on many projects over the years, I feel like the experience I've put under my belt has made the Baker more relatable to me. Hopefully as you get older, you gain some wisdom and knowledge of the way the world works. And that is part of the journey the Baker is on - finding himself in the face of adversity. The best kind of theatre! 

The cast of the Fiasco Theater production of “Into the Woods,” which plays April 4 through May 14, 2017, at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4400. Media Contact: [email protected] / (213) 972-7376. Photo by Joan Marcus.

What it easy for you to adapt your 'Baker' from the more traditional presentation you were involved with in 2005 to the current Fiasco's interpretation of INTO THE WOODS?

It was 'difficulty easy.' Ha-ha! This production is so different in terms of how we put the show together, that it all felt new in many ways. For example, the staging and movement and instrumentation is so unique. The advantage of having the music/lyrics in my memory was super helpful in allowing me to focus on adapting to the Fiasco Theater version.- But, I also think some other shows I've been involved with recently (ONCE, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM) had set me up to fit well in the world this show lives in (i.e., playing instruments, using the actors and props to create the play, etc.)

Do you, yourself, actually bake?

Nope! Ha! Not really. I make a mean Thanksgiving dinner once a year, but that's about it for me in the kitchen.

Have you worked with any of your current cast and crew of INTO THE WOODS before, by chance?

I had only worked with Darron West, our sound designer (Great guy, even though he's a Red Sox fan) from our time with THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM, but I hadn't worked with any of the actors before. I have known Ms. Stephanie Umoh as a friend for many years, and have admired her work. But this was our first time working together! Everyone else was a relatively new face to me. But this theatre biz is so small, we all had several mutual pals...

What's your "I love this moment" in this show?

I love anything Darick Pead (our Milky White/Rapunzel's Prince/Florinda) does. He's a really funny dude and he regularly cracks me up! But specifically, his melodramatic Shakespearean cow death is particularly sublime.

Any Ahmanson audience responses so far took you by surprise?

I've been humbled to have so many huge fans of the show itself say how this particular production is the best version they've seen; how it feels accessible to them in a way INTO THE WOODS hadn't felt before. 

And for people who haven't ever seen the show before - They seem to really be excited by the way we present the play and how we all make it happen with 'just the actors' doing all the ensemble work and music playing. 

It's rewarding to have people say they didn't know what to expect at first, and then tell us we drew them in to the show. And by the end, they've taken the journey with us! That's why I love live theatre. You can feel the audience reactions. That's the good stuff...

I'm sure you can hear the audience laughing from the stage (i.e., "Agony"). Can you actually hear when they cry? Like maybe during "Moments in the Woods" or "No One Is Alone"?

The audience reaction when hilarious things are happening is certainly more apparent than when you're going through some of the more delicate moments of the show. But you can feel it when you're up there and you've got the audience with you in the more emotionally charged moments. I don't hear or see them crying often, but when you're trying to be 'in that moment' - the audience's attention and silence are just as telling as the laughs.

The cast of the Fiasco Theater production of “Into the Woods,” which plays April 4 through May 14, 2017, at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. For tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4400. Media Contact: [email protected] / (213) 972-7376. Photo by Joan Marcus.

You've been in shows on Broadway and all over the US. Have you noticed any notable differences from audience responses in different cities?

I like bringing shows on the road to different cities; because in NYC, you may have lots of people come see the show, but not everyone can make it to NY to see shows. The NY audiences are excited and ready to see everything there is to see. It is so electric to work in NYC. There is nothing like it. 

Bringing shows to the rest of the country is a whole different excitement. People across the country are excited for us to be in their town - where they can do dinner and a show in their hometown! 

And the extra perk of being able to see friends and family who live in the far reaches of the country is amazing. Many of my friends wouldn't have seen this show and many others I've done if they were just performing in NY. So I like touring for that reason. It brings theatre to a wider audience, and it allows me to see friends and allows them see my work! Win-win!

Could you describe a 'typical' New Yorker reaction vs a Los Angeles one you could easily pick out of a crowd?

I don't think I could say if there was any particular difference, except in LA, people are more sun-kissed! Theatre goers usually love theatre to begin with, so it doesn't matter where you're from.

Any subtle dissimilarities in Broadway audience reactions from Off-Broadway audiences?

I think with Broadway audiences, you get both the theatre-savvy and the tourist crowd, so it's more of a cross section of reactions. I sometimes feel like Off-Broadway shows are where you'll see some of the more risky new works that might eventually find their way to a Broadway house. So really savvy theatre goers are checking out all that that has to offer. Some of the most exciting theatre happens Off-(or Off-Off) Broadway! 

What cities will you be 'Baker-ing' in next?

We finish up this week in LA, then off to Dallas, TX to close out this amazing tour! We close up shop May 28th at the Winspear Opera House.

What's on the horizon for Evan Harrington?

First on the horizon is a little mini-vacation - doing a road trip to see some live music, some MLB games, and visit family back home in Rochester, NY. Then I'll get back to NYC to (hopefully) book that next gig!

Thank you again, Evan! And congratulations on a wonderful, most entertaining trip through THE WOODS!

To check ticket availability through May 14, 2017, log onto www.centertheatregroup.org