Annual Ticket Holder Awards 2017 Part II

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Desean Kevin Terry, LES BLANCS, Rogue Machine
RUNNERS-UP: Jim Abele, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Denis Arndt, Heisenberg, Taper; Tim Cummings, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Bo Foxworth, Building the Wall, Fountain; Edward Gero, The Originalist, Pasadena Playhouse; Russell Harvard, At Home at the Zoo, Wallis; Brian Henderson, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Troy Kotsur, At Home at the Zoo, Wallis; Eric Larson, Blackbird, Grove Theater Center; Ross Phillips, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus; Augustus Prew, The Pride, Wallis; Nick Salamone, Billy Boy, Playwrights' Arena; Stephen Stocking, Archduke, CTG/Taper
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Charlotte Gulezian, Blackbird, Los Angeles LGBT Center
RUNNERS-UP: Kimberly Alexander, Resolving Hedda, Victory; K Callan, Pie in the Sky, Victory; Jessica Collins, The Pride, Wallis; Addie Daddio, The Lost Child, Skylight; Ros Gentle, Grey Nomad, Australian Theatre Company; Candace Hammer, Blackbird, Grove Theater Center; Mary-Louise Parker, Heisenberg, Taper; Phylicia Rashad, Head of Passes, CTG/Taper; Maya Lynne Robinson, Runaway Home, Fountain; Ashley Romans, Rotterdam, Skylight; Debra Jo Rupp, The Cake, Echo; Sammi Smith, Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Coeurage; Rachel Sorsa, Billy Boy, Playwrights' Arena; Sandy Velasco, Nicky, Coeurage; Caro Zeller, The Devil's Wife, Skylight
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Garen Scribner, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Pantages
RUNNERS-UP: Demian Bichir, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper; Rob McClure, Something Rotten!, CTG/Ahmanson; A.J. Shively, Bright Star, CTG/Ahmanson; Matt Walker, How the Princh Stole Christmas!, Troubies
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Deedee Magno Hall, NEXT TO NORMAL, East West Players
RUNNERS-UP: Misty Cotton, Honky Tonk Laundry, Hudson; Carmen Cusack, Bright Star, Ahmanson; Sara Esty, An American in Paris, Pantages; Beth Kennedy, How the Princh Stole Christmas!, Troubies; Susan Kohler, Jacques Brel is…, Odyssey; Bets Malone, Honky Tonk Laundry, Hudson; Ashley Shaw, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Harry Groener, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Antaeus
RUNNERS-UP: Amir Abdullah, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Josiah Bania, Archduke, CTG/Taper; Will Bradley, Walking to Buchenwald, Open Fist; Ryan Brophy, Rotterdam, Skylight; Aric Floyd, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Ben Martin, Walking to Buchenwald, Open Fist; Jeris Poindexter, Runaway Home, Fountain; Leon Russom, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage; Dylan Saunders, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Matthew Wilkas, The Pride, Wallis
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Dawn Didawick, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Antaeus
RUNNERS-UP: Amiellynn Abellera, Walking to Buchenwald, Open Fist; Alana Arenas, Head of Passes, Taper; Anne Gee Byrd, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Sarah Hollis, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Laura James, Walking to Buchenwald, Open Fist; Joanne McGee, Archduke, CTG/Taper; Katie Pelensky, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage; Jocelyn Towne, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus; JoBeth Williams, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecological Oncology Unit at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, Geffen Playhouse
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Blake Hammond, SOMETHING ROTTEN!, CTG, Ahmanson
RUNNERS-UP: Rick Batalla, How the Princh Stole Christmas!, Troubies; Etai Benson, An American in Paris, Pantages; Jeff Blumenkrantz, Bright Star, Ahmanson; Scott Cote, Something Rotten!, CTG/Ahmanson; Tom Hewitt, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Liam Mower, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Darick Pead, Into the Woods, Ahmanson; Nick Spangler, An American in Paris, Pantages
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Abby Corrigan, FUN HOME, CTG, Ahmanson
RUNNERS-UP: Isa Briones, Next to Normal, East West Players; Emily Ferranti, An American in Paris, Pantages; Maggie Lakis, Something Rotten!, CTG/Ahmanson; Karen Murphy, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Gayton Scott, An American in Paris, Pantages
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A PLAY
Allison Blaize, Taylor Gilbert, Michelle Gillette, Joe Hart, Rob Nagle, Ben Theobald, STUPID KID, Road Theatre Company
RUNNERS-UP: Alan Abelew, Michael Antosy, Ron Bottitta, Jacque Lynn Colton, Sheelagh Cullen, Darius De La Cruz, Alex Elliott-Funk, Mat Hayes, Gera Hermann, Liesel Kopp, Yusef Lambert, J.B. Waterman; Arsenic and Old Lace, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Brian Robert Burns, Francesca Choy-Kee, Gene Gillette, Josephine Hall, John Hemphill, Robyn Kerr, Adam Langdon, Felicity Jones Latta, Kathy McCafferty, Tim McKiernan, J. Paul Nicholas, Maria Elena Ramirez, Geoffrey Wade, Benjamin Wheelwright Amelia White, Tim Wright; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
Andrew Carter, Tom DeTrinis, Drew Droege, Julanne Chidi Hill, Nathan Mohebbi, Gina Torrecilla, Pat Towne; Die, Mommy, Die!, Celebration Theatre
Natali Anna, Kristin Couture, Max Lloyd-Jones, Kevin Matthew Reyes, Nagham Wehbe, Cynthia Yelle; Kiss, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Michael Chieffo, Yvette Cason, Jeff Gardner, Peri Gilpin, Beth Grant, Ryan Johnson, Alfred Molina, Larry Poindexter, Jim Rash, Ceilia Witt; Miracle on 34th Street, Pasadena Playhouse
BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A MUSICAL
Pierre Adeli, Adam Bennett, Julia Finch, Lee Margaret Hansen, Adam Jefferis, Dora Kiss, Joshua R. Lamont, Will McFadden, Mary Eileen O'Donnell, Stephanie Pinnock, Cihan Sahin, Bob Turton, Guebri VanOver, Miroslav Vejnovic, Sabra Williams, Paulette Zubata; HARLEQUINO: ON TO FREEDOM, Actors Gang
RUNNERS-UP: Robert Petkoff, Susan Moniz, Kate Shindle, Abby Corrigan, Alessandra Baldacchino, Carly Gold, Karen Eilbacher, Robert Hager, Lennon Nate Hammond, Pierson Salvador; Fun Home, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
Lucy Anders, Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Kate Bailey, Daniel Beeman, Brandon Bieber, Mandie Black, Jeff Brooks, Nick Rashad Burroughs, Ian Campayno, Pierce Cassedy, Scott Cote, Drew Franklin, Josh Grisetti, Blake Hammond, Cameron Hobbs, Autumn Hurlbert, Maggie Lakis, Rob McClure, Ralph Meitzler, Patrick John Moran, Joel Newsome, Con O'Shea-Creal, Adam Pascal, Kaylin Seckel, Sarah Quinn Taylor, Tonya Thompson and Emily Trumble; Something Rotten!, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR 2017
Paris Fitzpatrick, MATTHEW BOURNE'S EARLY ADVENTURES, Wallis Annenberg Center
RUNNERS-UP: Jordan Cole, Finn Faulconer, Mitchell Wray, Ben Krieger, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Adam Langdon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, CTG, Ahmanson; Gavin Lewis, The Heart of Robin Hood, Wallis
BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE
Kirsten Vangsness, MESS, Theatre of NOTE
RUNNERS-UP: Hershey Felder, Our Great Tchaikovsky, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion, Geffen Playhouse
BEST CABARET/CONCERT PERFORMANCE
Levi Kreis, BROADWAY AT THE KEYS, LA LGBT Center
Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, LA LGBT Center
BEST ONSTAGE ORGASM... EVER
Maya Lynne Robinson, FUTURE SEX, INC., Lounge Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: No one even close.
BEST PLAYWRIGHT
Guillermo Calderon, Kiss, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom, Actors Gang
RUNNERS-UP: Mike Bartlett, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Jon Brittain, Rotterdam, Skylight; Bekah Brunstetter, The Cake, Echo; Alexi Kaye Campbell, The Pride, Wallis; Hally Feiffer, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecological Oncology Unit at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, Geffen Playhouse; Lauren Gunderson, Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Coeurage; Tom Jacobson, Walking to Buchenwald, Open Fist; Rajiv Joseph, Archduke, CTG/Taper; Dan O'Brien, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Nick Salamone, Billy Boy, Playwrights' Arena; Simon Stephens, Heisenberg, Taper; Sharr White, Stupid Kid, Road
BEST ADAPTATION OR TRANSLATION
Lisa Kron, Fun Home, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Boni B. Alvarez, Nicky, Coeurage; Matthew Bourne, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; David Farr, The Heart of Robin Hood, Wallis; James Graham, Finding Neverland, Pantages; John Klein, Resolving Hedda, Victory; Simon Stephens, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Craig Lucas, An American in Paris, Pantages
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Michael Arden, The Pride, Wallis Annenberg Center
RUNNERS-UP: Ryan Bergmann, Die, Mommy, Die!, Celebration; Gregg T. Daniel, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Bart DeLorenzo, Kiss, Odyssey; Elina De Santos, Arsenic and Old Lace, Odyssey; Julianne Donelle, Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Coeurage; Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Dave Fofi, Lone Star, Zephyr; Maria Gobetti, Resolving Hedda, Victory; Michael Kearns, Shades of Disclosure, Skylight; Jeremy Adrianne Lelliott, Blackbird, Grove Theater Center; Beth Lopes, Nicky, Coeurage; Michael Michetti, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Michael Michetti, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Jon Lawrence Rivera, Billy Boy, Playwrights' Arena; Giovanna Sasdelli, Archduke, CTG/Taper; Michael A. Shepperd, Rotterdam, Skylight; Anna Stromberg, Blackbird, Los Angeles LGBT Center; Cameron Watson, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus; Cameron Watson, Stupid Kid, Road
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Sam Gold, Fun Home, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Walter Bobbie, Bright Star, Ahmanson; Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, Into the Woods, Ahmanson; Dan Fishbach, Jacques Brel is…, Odyssey; Nancy Keystone, Next to Normal, East West Players; Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!, CTG/Ahmanson; Diane Paulus, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom, Actors Gang; Kiff Scholl, Future Sex, Inc., Lounge; Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper
BEST MUSICAL SCORE
Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, Fun Home, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Peter Bayne, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Simon Carpentier, Luzia, Cirque du Soleil; Salka Sol Eyfeld, The Heart of Robin Hood, Wallis; Lalo Guerrero, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper; Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star, Ahmanson; Tim Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom, Actors Gang
BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION
Micah Young, Fun Home, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Anthony DeAngelis, Bright Star, Ahmanson; Brian P. Kennedy, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Anthony Lucca, Jacques Brel is…, Odyssey; Marc Macalintal, Next to Normal, East West Players; Evan Rees, Into the Woods, Ahmanson; David Robbins, Harlequino: On to Freedom, Actors Gang; David Andrews Rogers, An American in Paris, Pantages; Daniel Valdez, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY
Matthew Bourne, Matthew Bourne's Early Adventures, Wallis Annenberg Center
Christopher Wheeldon, An American in Paris, Pantages Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Imani Alexander and Dara Weinberg, Jacques Brel is…, Odyssey; Matthew Bourne, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Joyce Guy, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Mia Michaels, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Maria Torres, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper
BEST SET DESIGN
Steven C. Kemp, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus
RUNNERS UP: Michael Arden, The Pride, Wallis; Lez Brotherston, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Bunni Christie, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Bob Crowley, An American in Paris, Pantages; Bruce Goodrich, Arsenic and Old Lace, Odyssey; Benoit Guerin, Nicky, Coeurage; Jeff McLaughlin, Stupid Kid, Road; G. W. Mercier, Head of Passes, Taper; Karyl Newman, At Home at the Zoo, Wallis; David Zinn, Fun Home, CTG, Ahmanson
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ann Closs-Farley, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper
RUNNERS-UP: Gregg Barnes, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Lez Brotherston, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Giovanna Buzzi, Luzia, Cirque du Soleil; Wendell C. Carmichael, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine; Bob Crowley, An American in Paris, Pantages; Allison Dillard, Die, Mommy, Die!, Celebration; Alex Jaeger, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Suttirat Anne Larlarb, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Terri A. Lewis, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus; Amanda Martin, Arsenic and Old Lace, Odyssey; Danae Iris McQueen, The Pride, Wallis; Halei Parker, How the Princh Stole Christmas!, Troubies; Sarah Figoten Wilson, The Devil's Wife, Skylight
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
Travis Hagenbuch, The Pride, Wallis Annenberg Center
RUNNERS-UP: William Adachek, Jacques Brel is…, Odyssey; Christopher Akerlind, Into the Woods, Ahmanson; Paule Constable, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Jeff Croiter, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Natasha Katz, An American in Paris, Pantages; Karyn D. Lawrence, Next to Normal, East West Players; Kenneth Posner, Finding Neverland, Pantages; Pablo Santiago, Zoot Suit, CTG/Taper; Jared A. Sayeg, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus
BEST SOUND DESIGN
Jeff Gardner, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Antaeus
Jeff Gardner, Les Blancs, Rogue Machine
RUNNERS-UP: Peter Bayne, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse; Joseph V. Calarco, Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Coeurage; Joseph V. Calarco, The Secret in the Wings, Coeurage; Ian Dickinson, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Paul Groothuis, The Red Shoes, CTG/Ahmanson; Kai Harada, Fun Home, CTG, Ahmanson; Peter Hylenski, Something Rotten!, Ahmanson; Rebecca Kessin, Die, Mommy, Die!, Celebration; John Nobori, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Joshua D. Reid, The Pride, Wallis; Jon Weston, An American in Paris, Pantages
BEST STUNT / FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
Joe Bostic, The Heart of Robin Hood, Wallis Annenberg Center
RUNNERS-UP: Bjorn Johnson, Stupid Kid, Road; Mike Mahaffey, The Devil's Wife, Skylight
BEST CGI / VIDEO DESIGN
Jon Driscoll, Finding Neverland, Pantages Theatre
59 Productions, An American in Paris, Pantages Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: Christopher Ash, Our Great Tchaikovsky, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; Tom Ontiveros, The House in Scarsdale, Boston Court; Finn Ross, The Curious Incident…, CTG/Ahmanson; Hana Sooyeon Kim, Miracle on 34th Street, Pasadena Playhouse; Jason H. Thompson, Liana and Ben, Circle X at Atwater Village
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS
Max Humphries, Puppet Design, Luzia, Cirque du Soleil, Dodger Stadium
April Metcalf, Wig and Hair Design, King Charles III, Pasadena Playhouse
Erhard Stiefel, Mask Design, Harlequino: On to Freedom, Actors Gang
MOST ABUSED STAGEHAND OF 2017
Sean Spencer, RESOLVING HEDDA, Victory Theatre Center


Annual Ticket Holder Awards 2017 Part I

As I begin the first year of my fourth decade obsessing over such an unprofitable madness as supporting, defending, and creating art in a town where such noble efforts are hardly appreciated at all, I humbly offer, for the 26th time, my choices for the best work done this year in our poor maligned desert climes by our stalwart little theatrical community despite everything we do and why we do it being thwarted and dismantled by a union with which I was affiliated for six-and-a-half decades. For many years, at the end of every bio, I would proclaim to be a “proud member of Actors Equity Association.” Now, I'm about as proud of AEA as Meryl Streep must be watching the clip of her awards speech referring to Harvey Weinstein as a god.

So, it seems to have been the Year of the Director in El Lay, if my awards reflect the season and the small percentage of shows any reviewer here can possibly devour. So many amazing creations, such an abundance of talent energizing our stages in 2017 despite AEA's greed-based efforts to stifle our voices.

You'll notice the elephant in the room right away, I'll bet--or should I say Founding Father Not in the House. In the Troubie's hilariously topical How the Princh Stole Christmas, creator Matt Walker's tiny-handed humbuggy purple title character first notes that the rhyming in their reinvented Prince lyrics sounds like the score from Hamilton, but than he tosses that comparison aside with, "Why are we referencing Hamilton when nobody's seen it?"

From everything I've heard or listened to, I'm purdy durn sure Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical phenomenon would indeed be high on my list of winners this year but, yes, despite the long-running engagement here at the Pantages this year, I haven't seen it either. The producers decided besides the Times and the Daily News, they didn't need the B-list press to sell their massive hit show, I guess, cuzzin' I tweren't invited and I'm way too cheap--or spoiled after 31 comped years as a reviewer--to pay $500 to $1,500 a ticket to see anything except the live execution of Donald Trump on CNN.

So I guess I'll wait until it returns here next time when us secondary critics will be invited. Shit, at age 71, it gives me something to live for, ya know?

My 26th annual TicketHolder Awards are now posted on my TicketHoldersLA website in two parts. You can read it below and click on my site for more photos.

PART ONE

BEST PRODUCTION of 2017
1. STUPID KID, Road Theatre Company
2. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
3. LES BLANCS, Rogue Machine at the Met
4. THE HOUSE IN SCARSDALE, Boston Court Performing Arts Center
5. THE PRIDE, Wallis Annenburg Center for the Performing Arts
6. ROTTERDAM, Skylight Theatre Company
7. KING CHARLES III, Pasadena Playhouse
8. KISS, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
9. WALKING TO BUCHENWALD, Open Fist Theatre Company
10. NICKY, Coeurage Theatre Company

RUNNERS-UP: Archduke, CTG/Mark Taper Forum; At Home at the Zoo, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; Billy Boy, Playwrights' Arena at Atwater Village Theatre; Blackbird, Grove Theater Center; Blackbird, LA LGBT Center; The Cake, Echo Theatre Company; Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight, Coeurage Theatre Company; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecological Oncology Unit at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, Geffen Playhouse; Resolving Hedda, Victory Theatre Center

BEST REVIVAL PRODUCTION OF 2017
1. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, Antaeus Theatre Company
2. NEXT TO NORMAL, East West Players
3. DIE, MOMMIE, DIE!, Celebration Theatre
4. ZOOT SUIT, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum
5. ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION OF 2017
1. FUN HOME, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
2. SOMETHING ROTTEN!, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
3. HARLEQUINO: ON TO FREEDOM!, Actors Gang
4. MATTHEW BOURNE'S EARLY ADVENTURES, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
5. THE RED SHOES, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
6. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, Pantages Theatre
7. BRIGHT STAR, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
8. FINDING NEVERLAND, Pantages Theatre
9. HOW THE PRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, Troubadour Theatre Company
10. OUR GREAT TCHAIKOVSKY, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

SPECIAL EVENTS AND PERFORMANCES
LUZIA, Cirque du Soleil at Dodger Stadium
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET: A LIVE RADIO PLAY, Pasadena Playhouse


Jeremy Rabb & Deborah Strang CAROL-ing & Making NOISES Together

A Noise Within continues its annual Christmas tradition of presenting A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The sixth edition of ANW's Producing Artistic Directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott's distinctive take on the Charles Dickens classic has already opened earlier this month. Many cast members return to perform in the same roles they've inhabited before. We had the chance to chat with two of them - Deborah Strang, who's currently playing Ghost of Christmas Past and Charwoman and Jeremy Rabb, alternating as Marley.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Deborah and Jeremy!
How long have you two been Resident Artists of ANW?
Deborah Strang: 26 years!
Jeremy Rabb: I was asked to join the company in 2014.
How did your becoming a Resident Artist come about?
DS: Total luck and chance. I was in the process of switching careers and had gone back to school to pursue a biology degree to get into environmental science. My husband, Joel Swetow, was doing a couple of shows with ANW. So I met everyone, and Joel dropped off a resume. I auditioned, not really expecting there to be any openings, and the rest is history. My first three years at ANW, I continued my science studies, but eventually theatre won out.
JR: I can't speak to what ultimately put me over the top since Geoff and Julia alone determine what that is, but becoming an RA was something I aspired to ever since my first show back in 2009. I've always loved the idea of a repertory ensemble that works together so closely and for so long that they bring a level of artistry to their work that doesn't exist elsewhere. I've loved working on plays elsewhere, but once a production finishes, there's usually a let-down since the cast will most likely never work together again. The idea of having an artistic home and developing connections with a professional family is much more gratifying. When I did my first ANW show, there hadn't been a new RA added to the roster in years, so it felt like a pipe dream. I decided not to worry about the result, but instead to focus on the process, figuring that even if it never came to pass, the journey itself would be worth it. My hope was to just keep getting cast in one more show. I brought a strong work ethic to each production, striving not only to be open to direction, but to actually embrace it as well. I loved Geoff and Julia's aesthetic, so that wasn't particularly difficult. I think the degree to which I expressed how much I cared about ANW, how deeply I embraced the theater's culture and community, and how eager I was to take on a variety of disparate roles, all contributed to my receiving the honor.
As Resident Artists, do you get dibs on a role before 'general auditions'?
JR: We do receive casting priority and are either offered or given the opportunity to read for roles in the season before the postings go public. There's no guarantee that any of us will be cast in the season, but it's the rare show at ANW that doesn't have at least a few of us in it. I've been fortunate to be cast in five of the seven shows produced at the theater for the past two seasons, so I have very much benefitted from the leg up, which I hope to exploit for as long as I can. 
DS: Geoff and Julia make the play selections and offer casting suggestions to the various directors. They always try to take care of the Resident Artists, but casting is always subject to director approval and the needs of the production. I have found that I just say, "Yes!" They are much more imaginative in how they have cast me than I could ever be.
How many productions have you two worked together on?
DS: Oh gee, I'll bet Jeremy will be able to answer this, but my brain doesn't work that way, I'd have to look at a list and add them up. I'm going to guess between 12 and 14. Let's see how close I get.
JR: NOISES OFF in the Spring will be our tenth production together.
Can you name the shows and your characters off the top of your head?
DS: No way! Once a show is over, my memory gets wiped clean for lines and characters. But two come to mind immediately because we had such fun together in our scenes: YOU NEVER CAN TELL and ALL MY SONS.
JR: I can, partly because I'm a huge fan of Deborah, and partly because I'm a bit of a weirdo: Queen Margaret & Buckingham in RICHARD III, Maria & Aguecheek in TWELFTH NIGHT, Prospero & Stephano in THE TEMPEST, Mrs. Peachum & Tiger Brown in THE THREEPENNY OPERA, Kate Keller & Jim Bayliss in ALL MY SONS, Mrs. Clandon & Finch McComas in YOU NEVER CAN TELL, Toinette & Dr. Purgeon in THE IMAGINARY INVALID, Christmas Past & Marley in A CHRISTMAS CAROL (twice).
Jeremy, one of my all-time favorite productions I've seen in the past years has got to be ANW's MAN OF LA MANCHA, in which you played Padre and Paco. Would you tell me some fun memories you had in that show?
JR: That was a very special show to be a part of. Sharing in the emotional outpouring from our audiences during the final moments of the play and through the curtain call was always so beautiful and moving. I had a lot of fun messing around with the other muleteers as we jumped into those fearsome characters head first. To switch back and forth so quickly between the unsavory Paco and the kind and gentle Padre was a blast, even though trying to juggle all the costume changes and myriad props could be tricky. Getting Cassandra Murphy (Aldonza) to laugh at me as Paco in rehearsal was also very entertaining. I'd express my lust for her character by getting on the ground and imitating a panting dog in heat, which always cracked her up. She finally figured out a way to keep a straight face... she stopped looking at me during the scene. She also never backed away from the aggressive fight choreography, urging her "assailants" to really go for it: "You can hit me harder!" I was so inspired by her ferocity during the final note of "It's All the Same" that I nearly blew out my voice during the guys' final cry of "Aldonza!" Even though I knew it might make my later solo a little harder to pull off, I didn't care because it was so fun.
This is the sixth year A Noise Within has presented A CHRISTMAS CAROL. How many times have you had a role in it?
DS: All six. We had done different versions of the play a few times in earlier years, and I was in those as well.
JR: This is only my second year, but I did play the same role in another production at Indiana Repertory Theatre years ago as well. 
 Deborah, did you always play Ghost of Christmas Past, and/or Charwoman?
DS: For the past six years, those are the roles I have always played. In our earliest version in the late 90s, I was Mrs. Cratchit. But in our next version in 2000, I was Christmas Past and that was actually when they built the dress I wear now – which makes that costume 17 years old. Each year they seem to add an extra layer of petticoat – it feels like it weighs about 50 pounds, but I'm sure that's an exaggeration.
Jeremy, did you always play Marley?
JR: I have. I guess there must be something about me that reads "eternity of regret and agony." I do also get to play some other fun characters like Fezziwig and Old Joe, but Marley's the most memorable and far and away the most exhilarating to play.
Must be nice to be able to 'step into' a familiar role, much like putting on comfortable slippers?
DS: I do hope that I get a little closer to being word perfect each year, but remember I'm the one whose memory is wiped clean when the show ends.
JR: It's definitely comforting, not just in terms of picking up the lines more quickly, but also in the added luxury of relaxing into a part while making new discoveries. Because Geoff and I have done the show before, and have acted together in many other plays, the ease and chemistry we have in the Marley scene is a delight. That said, I have to admit that familiarity can also breed concern. This particular production is a major workout with quick costume changes, warp-speed character switches and races to make entrances while avoiding a crush of other actors flying by. The first day of rehearsal invariably brings with it the question, "Am I really going to be able to pull this off this year?" So far, so good.
What tricks of the trade do you utilize to keep your portrayals fresh from year to year?
DS: Geoff and Julia keep us pretty honest. Each year they approach the play with new eyes and give us new direction and tweaks. The cast changes a bit each year as well, so there's new blood and energy. But it's the audience that really keeps it fresh. When I first enter, I have a perfect vantage point to gaze out at those wonderful faces – both the young and the young at heart – and they are looking up at me in awe and wonder, totally accepting the stage magic. No matter how cynical I might have felt before my entrance, the audience delivers me right into Charles Dickens' timeless tale of hope and redemption and I invest anew in delivering the story.
JR: They're not exactly secret tricks of the trade: I listen actively to my scene partners, and reinvest in what my character needs to accomplish. No two live performances are the same, so that moment-to-moment uncertainty and not knowing how an audience might respond, keep the performance fresh. We have a saying at the theater: don't try to be perfect, just try to be present. The more present I can be, the more alive the performance feels, so I don't have to try to make things fresh. Plus, new cast members this year bring their own rhythms and energy to the piece, which also helps transform it into something new and exciting.
What satisfying response from a past audience of ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL just warms the cockles of your heart?
JR: An adorable little girl once came up after a performance to comfort me. She said she was sorry that Marley was so sad, but that he was a good person because he helped his friend, Scrooge, live a happier life.
DS: After the show, we stay and meet the audience and take pictures. One little girl just clung to me. She couldn't even speak – just kept looking at me, touching my dress – as if she couldn't believe I was real.
What's the most surprising response to ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL you've experienced?
DS: What's most surprising is how many people return each year. One family has taken pictures with me each time they come. The children keep changing and growing in each picture, and I remain the same.
JR: Kids and adults alike are often startled by my first entrance, which is intended to shock. I've heard screams, curses and even seen some people jump in their seats. The most memorable response came from a boy who was so freaked out that he started yelling. It became so intense that he had to be taken out of the theater by his mom to help calm him down. I found him after the performance and was relieved to find that he not only felt a lot better, but actually loved the show and the character of Marley as well. He explained that I was very scary, but that he liked being scared.
Any particular role you are looking forward to in tackling in ANW's upcoming season?
DS: We're bringing back NOISES OFF this year – one of the funniest plays ever written. We laugh rehearsing it, the audience laughs, we're backstage laughing – we laugh so much and run so much that we all lose weight. Laughing must adjust your body chemistry because I'm always happier when we do that show.
JR: I'm really looking forward to playing Freddy in NOISES OFF. Having been in the audience for each of the previous mountings of the production and wanting desperately to be a part of it, I'm thrilled that I finally get to share in the fun. Freddy will be particularly fun to tackle, not just because he has great lines and hilarious moments of slapstick, but because he'll be a nice contrast to the more aggressive and less sympathetic characters I've played as of late (Crofts in MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION, Cornwall in LEAR). I've also had the pleasure of working previously with everyone in the cast, so I know just how wildly talented and funny they all are. I can't wait!
Deborah, is being a part of ANW's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, the most Christmas-y thing you're doing this Holiday season? Or is there a much more Christmas-y tradition you will be partaking in?
DS: This is my tradition, otherwise I'm afraid I'm much more of a Scrooge in real life. Getting together with the cast and the play each year brings me right into the holiday spirit. Some of the young people in the play have been in it every year, we've watched them grow up. Rigel Pierce-English has been Tiny Tim, then Turkey Boy, and now Scrooge's sister Fan. I imagine that one day she will be the Ghost of Christmas Past. It's a beautiful thing.
Thank you again to you both! I look forward to experiencing your CHRISTMAS CAROL magic!
For available tickets and A CHRISTMAS CAROL scheduling through December 23, 2017; log onto www.anoisewithin.org


SANTASIA's Shaun Loeser On How Family, Fun & A Funny Father Merge For A Most Hysterical Show

An annual Valley holiday staple for a raucous time to be had by all, SANTASIA - A HOLIDAY COMEDY opens December 1, 2017 at The Whitefire Theatre. We had the chance to chat with one of the co-founders of SANTASIA, Shaun Loeser on the familial inspiration and family ties that creatively bind this troupe of funny, funny people.
Thank you, Shaun, for agreeing to this interview!
Thank you Gil! I'm really excited to talk with you.
I see a number of people with the last names 'Loeser' on the SANTASIA website. How wonderful that this is a family affair, yes?

Ha, ha!, Yes! This is a family affair. My brother Brandon and I started SANTASIA - A HOLIDAY COMEDY 18 years ago. My wife Tania, has been part of SANTASIA for 15 years and Brandon's new wife Rachel, has been with us for two years - she's the newbie. BTW, The full show title is SANTASIA - A HOLIDAY COMEDY. But most people call us simply SANTASIA. We've reached the Cher and Madonna level!

Do you have to separate SANTASIA creative pow-wows from your everyday family lives? Or does everything overlap?
I wish we had separate SANTASIA pow-wows! Unfortunately, this show has pretty much taken over our lives for eleven months of the year. (We try not to think about it in January!) Things will inspire us throughout the year, so we start to create those ideas as soon as they transpire.
Can you specify who originated the idea of your first SANTASIA? Or was this a group light bulb?
SANTASIA was honestly created to get me and Brandon through the holidays without our Dad. Our Dad passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer on July 1st, 2000. He (our Dad) was crazy about Christmas, holiday decorating and frigging Christmas lights. He made us hang all these lights on the coldest Chicago nights. But he always made Christmas the most fun and the best time of the year for us. Our Dad was also the funniest guy we ever knew. He had a great sense of humor, and he was very snarky and sarcastic. He was the most lovable asshole you'd ever know. After he died and Christmas was approaching, we didn't know what to do with ourselves. We knew that Christmas and that holiday season would just cause us pain and anguish. So we decided to get in front of that depression and start making fun of Christmas, it's traditions and our family. Seemed like something “our Dad would want us to do.” So that's when we created our SANTASIA. I remember telling Brandon, I think producing this show would be cheaper than a shrink. 18 years later, I was way wrong.

So, your first SANTASIA was put on in winter of 2000?

Our first SANTASIA was performed in 2000. We did four shows. We played on Tuesday nights, and between 15 to 20 people attended every night. But, on our final performance, we sold out. Sixty people showed up and we got our first standing ovation.
Have revised any original SANTASIA sketches from your first show for this show opening December 1st?
From the original show back in 2000, there's only two scenes we've kept for all 18 years. And these scenes are pantomime - one is an epic snowball fight, and the other, an adventure's bobsledding fiasco.
Any cast members who have been involved in all of the editions? Do you have a core SANTASIA troupe (besides the four Loesers)?
Brandon and I, of course. And, then my wife Tania has been with us the longest for 15 years. Another cast member Lon Gowan has been going strong for the past 13 years. Then Rachel for just two years.
Does your wife Tania choreograph around the unique dancing strengths of your core cast? Or does she have to audition for someone to be able to perform a specific dance move?
Ha! Yes, we do have a “unique dancing strength.” You're never going to believe this, but none of the guys in SANTASIA are trained dancers. I know, but it's true. We do try our damnest to be the best we can. It's a part of the charm and innocence of the show. Tania has a real gift of creating and inspiring non-movers and non-dancers to look the best they can. Tania is able to pull your unique strengths out of you and incorporate them into her amazing vision. Her choreography is very imaginative, and her ideas are both clever and funny and always smartly executed. Fun fact - Tania is the genius who incorporated dance and the musical numbers into our show. After Tania saw our show for her first time in 2000, she insisted we add a dance number to bring the show to the next level. Tania came up with the idea of "The Full Monty" and proposed it to me. It ended up being a hit and "The Full Monty" is still in our show as a staple. We have added musical parodies ever since. Our take offs include “A SANTASIA Line,” “All Those Toys,” “Snow Block Tango.,” Last year, we added a HAMILTON parody. Now we have to describe SANTASIA as a holiday musical/sketch comedy/multi-media event!
Whitefire Theatre's currently in its 35th season. How did you originally connect with Whitefire?
By phone. That's partially true. SANTASIA was performing at the El Portal Theatre as the guest artist for the 2004 “Valley Theatre Awards.” SANTASIA was nominated for, and won, Best Comedy Ensemble. Tania won Best Choreographer, and a I won for Best Comedy Actor (Although, Brandon claims he's the funnier Loeser brother).
It was at that awards show Bryan Rasmussen, owner of the Whitefire Theatre, first saw us perform. After we ended that year's run, we knew we needed a bigger venue. It was fun because when we called Bryan, he remembered us and welcomed us with open arms. Bryan is one of the most supportive and most giving theatre owners I have ever had to pleasure to work with. Bryan is truly passionate about his theatre, the work that goes on there and their patrons. In my opinion, the theatre is the nicest one in the valley. It also has really comfy seats that don't hurt your butt.
How soon did you start conceiving this current edition? Right after last year's?
To be perfectly honest…we usually get inspired two weeks into the run. Somebody will shout backstage, “Next year we should…” Then we'll, “yes and...” the idea and that will be our starting off point come February.
How did the inclusion of claymation multi-media come about?
I've always been a fan of the Rankin and Bass holiday specials. I grew up on Rudolph and Frosty. I met Michael Granberry the second year he came to see SANTASIA. He was what we like to call a super-fan or a “Santasi-ac.” Anyway, he told me he was a stop-motion animator. Michael asked me if I ever wanted a claymation piece for the show. I told him I had an idea for this split scene I was working on. It was going to be live on stage. Two kids were trying to build a snowman and just when the snowman was completed everything and everyone kept falling down. It's revealed later on the other side of the stage there was a little girl shaking a snow globe. So I wrote the scene down on a napkin for him. And I couple month's later he produced our first claymation film San Andreas Snowman. We now have four claymation films - Pulp Christmas, Some Assembly Required and Penguins Don't Fly. Fun fact - after Michael worked on our SANTASIA projects, he is now a two- time Emmy Award-winning animator for the show Tumble Leaf on Amazon. Not sure if SANTASIA had anything to do with it, but we are tight with Santa Claus.
Video plays a big part of SANTASIA. Who's the mastermind behind your videos?
Yes, they are, and they began out of necessity. Brandon and I hate long blackouts and scene changes. I wrote the very first film parody, based on the Matrix, titled Santasia Reloaded. This first trailer was our unique take on the Matrix Reloaded. It had stunts, Santa flying through the air and special effects. It was ridiculous! The audiences loved it. Then they asked, “What are you doing next year?” We realized then, we had to make more.
Whoever is inspired, gets to write and direct them. Tania, Brandon and I have all had our fair share of creating and producing these films. This year's film was directed by Tania. These films are full-on mini-productions. Tania will also do costumes and hair. Brandon does all the post-production. I'll get props, locations and talent scheduled and booked.
These films are definitely a collaboration of ideas by the SANTASIA team. Since our first film, we've produced Brokeback Igloo, Breaking Naughty, On Santasia Tides, Snowfall 007, The Walking Gingerbread, to name a few. Also, we add various commercials and PSA's throughout the show. But to be honest, I'm very excited about this year's parody film. It's really a bit Strange.
You and your brother Brandon both studied under Chicago's improv guru Del Close. Did you and Brandon start out performing together?
Yeah, pretty much. We started doing shows in college, and then Brandon and I started training at the iO in Chicago. If you know Del's work, you'll see the big influence Del had us in our storytelling. SANTASIA's structure is derived from Del's famed long form, the “Harold.” Del showed us how to truthfully do a scene and find the comedy within that truth; and how scenes, people and relationships will organically always find a connection.
After we studied with iO, both Brandon and I both went on to pursue careers as actors and stuntmen. We've both been lucky enough to work film, TV, and commercials. Brandon and I usually don't work together too much. We usually get cast as the same type. It just depends if production wants the short, chubby Loeser brother or the tall, goofy one. A couple of times, we did a sketch on the Conan show together. Come to think of it, SANTASIA is the only show we do that we actually share the stage.
Was stuntwork your entree into the entertainment industry? Or we you acting first?
For me, it kind of came at the same time. I was a diver in high school, so I developed some pretty good air sense. I auditioned for this Batman Stunt Show at Six Flags in Chicago. My big stunt was falling off a two-story building, and because I acquired that air sense, I was able to successfully do that fall. Then I bought some high fall pads and taught Brandon how to high fall. He became my counterpart the next year at the show. The live shows were a great way to make ends meet while pursuing the film and TV work. I have done the live show circuit, and it has literally taken me around the world. I've done shows in Chicago, New Jersey, Orlando, California and Italy. It was in California at Six Flags Magic Mountain doing the Batman and Robin Show where Brandon and I met Tania for the first time. Tania was playing Poison Ivy, and Brandon and I were cast as the mad scientist.
Any specific themes you incorporate into your yearly SANTASIAs?
Basic holiday dysfunction and the craziness of the holiday season and family. It seems like we always go back to family, if you love them or not. We go out of our way to try to make SANTASIA an escape from the holidays, so we try our best to keep current events out of the show, and make it more of a timeless production.
Any different goals you Loesers have set for this year's SANTASIA? (Laughs per minute? Shocked gaffaws? Extended standing O's?)
Usually we get about 10 to 12 laughs per minute. This year, I'd like to see if we could bump that up to 14.5 laughs with a guffaw every three minutes. (I don't want to push it.)
But, you know what would be really cool is an ovation so big that after we run off stage the audience cheers so much, they demand us to return. You know like the rock stars get! Then we perform Freebird and call it a night!!!
Thank you again, Shaun! I look forward to laughing a lot at your SANTASIA!
Thanks, Gil! It was fun. Let me know if you need anything else from us! I gotta go so I can learn Freebird.
For schedule and available SANTASIA tickets through December 25, 2017; log onto www.santasia.com


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


Audio Interview: Judith Scott - of the feature film GUESS WHO - stars in “Mrs Warren's Profession” at A Noise Within

Enjoy this interview about “Mrs Warren's Profession” By George Bernard Shaw staring Judith Scott (of the feature film GUESS WHO where she played alongside Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher & Zoe Saldana) at A Noise Within, running until Nov 18th. 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.


Audio Interview: Richard Fancy - Mr. Lippman of Seinfeld stars in “Daytona” at Rogue Machine Theatre

Enjoy this interview about “Daytona” By Oliver Cotton (Cesare Borgia in the BBC's 1981 drama series The Borgias) staring Richard Fancy (Mr. Lippman in a recurring role on Seinfeld) at RogueMachine Theatre, running until Oct 30th. 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.


Bryan Rasmussen On His Visions for His Whitefire Theatre - The SHORTS & the Long-Reaching

Whitefire Theatre will be presenting their latest edition of their SHORTS series, FALL SHORTS, opening September 26, 2017. Whitefire Theatre has been a reliable San Fernando Valley fixture providing countless entertaining theatre pieces and workshops.
Whitefire Theatre's artistic director Bryan Rasmussen took some moments from his creative multi-tasking to chat with us.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Bryan!
This is your fifth year of presenting your evenings of original short comedy plays. What was the genesis of inaugurating this series?
When Jake O'Flaherty (the producer) and I started the company; we still didn't know exactly what material we would be presenting as a company. Because the choice of the material you do is your reputation usually for the company itself. I had already been working in the 10-minute format for a while and thought it was just amazing. And then it all came together, being able to use every actor in the company for every show. And they would basically get cast as leads in their short pieces. So everybody got great roles, and we could use 25-to-30 actors for a show. So we started using that format. It worked so well, we just kept using it, and we use it now exclusively for the company.
How do you select what shorts become a part of each production?

We have a core group of writers that we work with on a regular basis, both within the company and outside of the company. Many award-winning comedy writers are involved. It takes approximately 16 weeks to find the plays, rehearse and develop them. Because these are plays and not sketches, it needs that kind of rehearsal process. We pick the nine or ten best plays we can find, and we cast them that way rather than the opposite way of finding plays that fit the company. But it happens anyway every time. Amazing!
Have any of the 100-plus shorts you've presented in the last five years grown into full-length plays?
Some have, but that's not necessarily the reason this is happening. The 10-minute play is its own genre. It's not just a short clip in order to get the long-form produced, etc. And many great things can happen in that arc of 10 minutes. I did one that covered the characters from babies to Alzheimer's, and it was incredible! The format that these lend themselves well to is the web series. And we are developing many of those as well.
Any specific success stories to brag about?
Well, we have many great relationships with artists, but collaborating with Academy Award-winning writer (Crash)/director/producer Bobby Moresco for over eight years is a great one! Many of our projects that we developed in the Gym have gone on to full-length play productions, feature films, scripts and other projects. We've been developing a new work inspired by Studs Terkel's WORKING but with completely new characters and written by members of the Actors Gym and Bobby Moresco who conceived the project called WORKING 2017, starring a world-class cast that we will be streaming live worldwide.
This is the 35th anniversary of Whitefire Theatre. What made you decide to stake ownership in Whitefire eight years ago?

It was actually a very serendipitous event. I was an actor at the time bartending with no real ability to start a business whatsoever. But a friend of mine stepped in and put up a little money, and then I was able to get a few others to do the same. Amazingly, it all took place over the course of a six-month period. Then after about three years of steady bookings, the recession hit and changed everything drastically. 
I had run spaces and produced before but having my own theatre was not a realistic goal of mine. I think everybody would like one, but it was certainly not on my goal list. I was on full steam ahead for an acting career, and had already done a lot by the time this came along. But it came along in my life when I was at a crossroads trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life and, Boom!, this came into my life. It's been an amazing ride!
Your Whitefire website pictures a core group of eleven company members. Do you choose the plays Whitefire produces to fit their talents? 
Actually, our core group is 25 company members. The biggest difference is most casting is the actors becoming characters that have already been written. But in film and television, it's very important to understand what your 'personal' essence is, as opposed to your 'casting' essence. So these parts are all customized for each of their individual talents and diversity or ethnicity. And it's worked just fantastically that way!
Do company members get first crack at new roles? Or do they have to audition at your open auditions?

Yes, they do...we always consider our company members for other shows playing at the Whitefire. Theatre company members read all the submitted plays and are then cast based on who can represent the characters best as written. We have open auditions after the close of each show for any new company members who would like to join for the next show. Our producer Jake O'Flaherty arranges the audition process. 
How does one become a company member? 
Auditions are held on the week after the current show closes. The actor needs to prepare a two-minute comedy monologue of their choice to perform, and bring a headshot and resume.
You, Bobby Moresco and Jessica Lynn Johnson offer classes at Whitefire. Does one need to audition to enroll in your classes?
Yes, but they aren't as much classes as they are workshops. Bobby's are by referral and he has writers, actors, and directors in that. Jessica's is a free ongoing workshop developing solo shows. Mine is an ongoing on-camera, working-actors class for all pro-actor needs. Bill Chott (This is Us) teaches an ongoing improv workshop on Saturday and Sunday 11am-1pm. Portia Scott runs a Sunday morning voiceover workshop. Jake O'Flaherty has commercial and business of acting classes as well. The rest of the time we are in production.

What are your long-term goals for Whitefire?
We are launching our live-streaming program as we speak. We are very excited about what this could all mean!
What's in the immediate future for Whitefire? 

I'd love to make the Whitefire the Netflix of theatre. Broadcasting our content nightly live out of the Whitefire, and creating a stream of income for theatre artists so they can make a living doing theatre in LA!
And in the future for Bryan Rasmussen, acting or directing?

The Company show FALL SHORTS that opens Tuesday, September 26 at 8pm. Then, I am acting in a feature film in October, shooting in New Orleans about the aftermath of Katrina. Jake O'Flaherty and I are also doing multiple web series together. So life is good when you get to do what you love. That is true success. After my heart attack a year ago, it helped me hyper-focus on what is important, and who I wanted to work with. I'm the luckiest guy in town.
Thank you again, Bryan!
For FALL SHORTS ticket availability and schedule thru October 31, 2017; as well as, ongoing Whitefire Theatre class schedules; log onto www.whitefiretheatre.com


Playwright/Actor Dean Ghaffari On Taking On the Cool Persona of Sal Mineo

An enduring interest in Sal Mineo, the actor who played James Dean's school chum in Rebel Without A Cause, has led to its most recentincarnation at the Promenade Playhouse in the form of Dean Ghaffari's one-man show REBEL WITH A CAUSE – THE SAL MINEO STORY, beginning August 11, 2017.

Dean spent a few moments with us to shed some light on his fascination with this ofttimes overshadowed actor.

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

What sparked your initial interest in Sal Mineo?

I first became acquainted with Sal Mineo in high school, when I took a film class. I saw Rebel Without A Cause for the first time and, although the teacher kept referencing James Dean, I remember I kept thinking there was something rather interesting about Dean's counterpart. I recall saying to my teacher, "Who is the guy with James Dean?" She replied, "That's Sal Mineo, who was actually murdered!" His performance as Plato Crawford to me was ambiguous, there was an uncertainty and mystery that compelled me.

Years later, in my early 20's, I took an acting class with an instructor who was very instrumental for me, who encouraged us to always try and find an historical figure we thought we may resemble, and to try and create an opportunity to play them, as this was a time when biopics were really hot. One day on the street some random person came up to me and said, "Excuse me, has anybody told you that you look like an actor from way before your time named Sal Mineo?" The name, of course, struck a familiar chord with me, and I remembered him from that film I saw way back in high school. I went up to my acting teacher and asked, "Do you think I can play Sal Mineo?" The next day he brought me a bio on Sal Mineo. And that was what kicked it off for me.

Any specific characteristics of his that you can relate to? 

Although there are contradictions between myself and Sal, at the same time we have many shared traits, the same dreams and goals. The need to be accepted!

You have been honing this one-man show with stage readings at the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood, the Ice House in Pasadena and the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre in NoHo. What significant tweaks have you incorporated into this production at The Promenade Playhouse from your previous editions?

I think every time one revisits a piece, it's a chance to rediscover the material. And hopefully try to evolve through experience. I think I have really expanded the piece as a whole, in terms of embellishing some of the characters that were significant in Sal's life. As the story progresses, I'm going to have a few wardrobe changes to suggest the times in which he was a part of. There are also a few technical changes that were added. As well as, a couple of additional scenes I've written.

What periods of Sal Mineo's life does your play cover?

I start from the time he was eight, from working with Yul Brenner on Broadway in the KING AND I to meeting and developing a friendship with James Dean. From struggling with his homosexuality, and the constant need to find an identity, to make a comeback and overcome his downfall. Mind you, the play is based on his life, however, there are some fictional aspects to the material.

Which of Sal Mineo's films and television roles have you seen and/or studied? 

Rebel without a Cause, Exodus, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Gene Krupa Story, Who Killed Teddy Bear, etc.

 Have you ever seen later productions of FORTUNE AND MEN'S EYES or P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD that Sal was associated with?

I never have, however, I've read both plays. They were pretty controversial for those times. It reminds me how ahead of his time he was. He truly was a “Rebel With a Cause.”

You brought your Sal to the St. Luke's Theater Off-Broadway. Was your first Off-Broadway experience everything you thought it would be?  Anything take you by surprise?

It was a very humbling experience. NYC audiences have a far greater energy for Theatre than any other audience, and that's infectious. One guy came up to me after the show and said, “We New Yorkers can be tough, but keep in mind we will always listen.” Walking down Time Square on my way to the theatre and seeing the marquees with the names of all these great actors that I admired up in lights, like Al Pacino, one can't help but be inspired. And my particular audience couldn't have been more gracious, there was a community of people from the Bronx that came to see my show. There was such a sense of pride coming from his hometown. One person said to me, “I haven't heard Sal Mineo's name in over 30 years, so when I heard there was a play about him, I couldn't miss it for the world.” For me, that's what it's all about!

You will be returning to Off-Broadway this September for the United Solo Festival. What will that event encompass?

United Solo is the largest solo show festival in the world. Actors come from all over to perform their solo shows. I'm very excited and humbled for my show making its return to NY. Tom Waters (my Director) has a lot of Broadway and Off-Broadway connections coming to see the show, so he'll be  promoting REBEL WITH A CAUSE for a possible move to NY for an extended run Off-Broadway next year!

I see on your resume, you list under your special skills - 'film historian.' Would you elaborate on that skill?

My passion for film history stems from my love of acting. I would never have had any knowledge of that had I not wanted to be an actor. I teach it, and I have been involved in various classical movies screenings in my community.  

Any other celebrities you'd like to tackle as a one-man show?

No one in particular, however I'm always open for suggestions.

What would you like your Promenade Theatre audience to leave with after you take your curtain bow?

I'd like them to leave the theatre having learned some things about who Sal Mineo really was. About how hard he fought to come out from under the shadow of James Dean, and how hard he had to fight what it meant to “come out.” To learn of all the fears and insecurities that came with having so much fame at an early age and the pressure to stay on top. And what it must have been like to have discovered his homosexuality the moment he fell in love with James Dean. The toll it took on him by having to hide it and fight it for years, and the toll that coming out and also aging into an adult actor took on his career.

Thank you again, Dean! I look forward to meeting your Sal.

My pleasure. Thank you!

For REBEL WITH A CAUSE – THE SAL MINEO STORY's ticket availability and schedule through August 26, 2017; log onto www.promenadeplayhouse.com


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