Friday, July 31, 2009

As "Fate" Would Have It

Yes Moonies, that’s right. I’m sure I didn’t fool most of you with my coy deception as to the #1 pick on the Moon ballot in last week's blog.

Fate...? Destiny…? It must be Kismet.

And it is.

Being such a grand show, it got me thinking about large productions and our little theatre. Would we ever be able to do justice to Kismet at the Eureka?

I decided it was time to sit down with Artistic Director Greg MacKellan and have a little chat. We talked about Kismet, to be sure, but also about larger productions and 42ND Street Moon in general. Here’s a little bit of that conversation:




K. So Greg, the people have spoken, what are Moon's plans for Kismet?

G. Kismet is a show we have wanted to do at Moon for a long time—twice it has topped the ballot choices, and our audience members have let us know that they would like us to produce it. The score is stunning—“Stranger in Paradise," "And This is My Beloved," "Fate," "Not Since Nineveh," "Baubles, Bangles, and Beads," "Night of My Nights"—what an amazing collection of songs! I saw the movie again recently, and was reminded how funny the script is. It really is great, old-style Broadway at its best.

However, there is a certain lavishness that is integral to Kismet—both in the physical production and in the score—that we simply cannot provide at the Eureka Theatre on that small stage and with only a piano and a reed accompaniment.

For us to do Kismet, we need to return to the Alcazar Theatre. Our hope is that we will open the 2011-12 season with Kismet at the Alcazar, sometime around Sept-Oct 2011.

K. We have performed at Herbst in the past, will there be other shows mounted there in the upcoming season?

G. Well, no, not at the Herbst, but hopefully yes at the Alcazar. Kismet was designed to be our "big return" to the Alcazar, but in fact we may have something there as soon as the 2010-11 season.

K. Ah, a secret huh? No hints yet? Ok, I’m sure you’ll tell me first though so I can let all my Moon Blog friends know the lowdown! So potentially we have two larger shows coming up, why don't we do more of these large scale productions? Is it simply a cost issue? Or is there more?

G. Cost is the major issue. When we perform at the Alcazar (or the Herbst, as we did once with A Connecticut Yankee), we have larger casts, and we are on a larger [Actors'] Equity contract [the Professional Union of Actors and Stage Managers]. The theatre itself is more expensive, and has a union stagehand requirement that the Eureka does not have.

Add in the musicians, and rental of orchestrations, and it becomes a pricey venture. In the past, we have tried the "Encores" approach for the big shows—ten days of rehearsals and a week of performances. And financially, we simply can't make it work by running only a week.






K. Would a return to the more intimate staging allow 42ND Street Moon to produce more of these shows? Going back to the purely "concert" version of some show perhaps? Or even a studio readings?


G. Well, I think we're navigating that fairly well, so far. Girl Crazy, Ben Franklin in Paris, and Wildcat were all huge shows on Broadway (for that matter, so was High Spirits), and we've managed to do them justice, I think, in a smaller production.

This season, Call Me Madam, Destry [Rides Again], and especially Jubilee were done with huge casts and sets on Broadway, but I am fully confident that we will pull them off and the audience will feel like they've seen the full show. In fact, we did both Madam and Jubilee with less people back when we were doing the strict staged concerts at NCTC [New Conservatory Theatre Center – former home to 42ND Street Moon].

K. I for one hated John Doyle's Sweeney Todd (and sometimes I feel like I'm alone in this), mostly because I felt a central character—the score—was decimated. Whereas the musical treatment he did for Company was much more in keeping with the feel of the story. Are there shows that you'd like to see us do that are too large in a technical sense (either production or score) as opposed to simply a large cast?

G. I loved the Doyle Sweeney! But then I saw it in London in a small off-West End Theatre (before it transferred) and never saw the Broadway-ized version. It was tiny, and it was really scary—maybe the scariest Sweeney Todd I'd ever seen. It wasn't sung particularly well in London, only Sweeney and Toby really had the voices for it, but it was very well performed, and I felt like I was really hearing and responding to Sondheim's lyrics in a way I hadn't since I saw the original on tour with
Angela Lansbury and George Hearn. I think that's why I didn't want to see it in the US version—didn't want to see what Broadway had done to it.

Besides Kismet, off the top of my head I know it would be almost impossible to pull off Robert & Elizabeth—for both cast size and nature of the score—in the Eureka. We did manage to make The Golden Apple happen, but that really pushed us to the limit. That was the one show we've done in the Eureka where I felt in retrospect it needed a bigger space and bigger cast.

Promises, Promises is a show we'd love to do, but we can't get the rights, and I believe it's because Bacharach does not want it done without a rhythm section -- piano only, or piano/reeds only won't fly for that one apparently. So we'd need to go to a larger space for that.

K. What are some other larger scale shows you'd like to do, and that are feasible?

G. Do you mean at the Alcazar? Or at the Eureka? We'd love to redo Paint Your Wagon and do it at the Alcazar this time. Same with I Married an Angel, although that's a very intimate show, but would love to hear it with an orchestra. I'd love to be able to do Kern's The Cat & The Fiddle again with the orchestration (which is small -- only 18 pieces, which was tiny by 1930s Broadway standards).

K. Will the larger shows necessitate bringing in a "name"? If so, who are some of the actors on your wishlist?

G. Well, yes, they do -- we simply can't fill a theatre the size of the Alcazar without some "name" power behind it. For Encores and
Reprise (in LA) it's easy, because so many name musical theatre performers live in both places, but for us it means bringing someone in and housing them, so that's another expense. I would love to have Rebecca Luker come do something with us—She Loves Me, Pal Joey, or perhaps something else.

Gosh, who else?
Emily Skinner, Victoria Clark, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, these are all people who would be wonderful in the kinds of shows we do. Andrea Marcovicci would love to come back and do Tovarich for us. I'd love to be able to get them for some of these shows. And, to dream really big for a moment, I would love to have Bernadette Peters work her magic on Rodgers & Hart or Porter


 So Moonies, what do you think? How do you feel about big shows getting intimate productions? And who is in your dream cast?

___________________________

Last week’s trivia answer:

P.D.Q Bach, aka, Peter Schickele is responsible for most of the score of Oh, Calcutta! A show I’ve been told we will not be doing at Moon anytime soon.

This week’s trivia question:

Who holds the distinction of being the only Nobel Prize winner to write a libretto for a Broadway musical, and what was the musical?


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Moon Spotlight

( Moon Actress Giana DeGeiso)


I know the summer is a difficult time for us Moonies. While there are still many things going on here at the office, our beloved fans have limited opportunities to interact with the Moon family.


Never fear! I wanted to let all of you know about a few Moon-actor sightings.


Putting It Together


For those of you who saw Ben Franklin in Paris and High Spirits last season, you might have noticed an adorable blonde playing Yvonne in Ben and a Beatnik in Spirits. Giana DeGeiso lent her beautiful mezzo-soprano to Moon with her roles last season and if you’d like a chance to catch her again, she is currently starring in the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting it Together at the Custom Made Theater.


I had a chance to see this production last week and I can tell you, it’s very cute. Anthony Luke was the strongest of the males with an amazing performance as the Observer. Luke’s use of manic energy rivals Mandy Patinkin to great effect, further his voice fills out the theatre in a way that would make Ethel Merman proud!


It was the ladies, however, that commanded my attention. Amy Dondy’s seasoned Leading Lady role was dripping with irony and a scathing heartache that was perfect for a range of Sondheim’s most notable 11 o’clock numbers (“Could I Leave You,” “Getting Married Today,” “Ladies Who Lunch”).


Giana’s turn as the
Ingénue was hilarious. This girl has some chops and when she belted out “The Miller’s Son” the audience paid attention! She also spun her silvery tones through “Sooner or Later” and “Lovely” so seductively, it was hard to imagine any straight man getting away from her (she may have even ensnared a few gay ones too).


If you are like me, once you’ve seen what Giana can do on stage, you’ll be hooked. And like me, you’ll want to see her turn as Princess Maria in Moon’s production of Call Me Madam with
Klea Blackhurst (Sept. 23 – Oct. 18th). Single tickets will go on sale August 15th.


Connie Champagne Sings Songs to Make You Gay


I also saw Connie Champagne’s Songs to Make You Gay at the New Conservatory Theatre this weekend.


The show is about as eclectic as you can get, with songs taken from pop, musical theatre, country and even novelty. While a number of these songs may not be our normal 42
ND Street Moon fare—they include music by Madonna, David Bowie, and Cyndi Lauper—there are a number of Moon gems, including Noel Coward's "Mad About the Boy," Cole Porter's "Primitive Man,” and favorites by Bernstein, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Warren and Dublin, and many others.


Connie is charming, with a quick wit, and an obvious fervor for entertaining. She engages the audience throughout the evening, especially during the
highlight of the show, an impassioned "If I Loved You" from Carousel.


“If I Loved You”
connected the audience, performer, and song in the best traditions of theatre. She will make a superb Frenchy in 42ND Street Moon’s Destry Rides Again, coming to the Eureka this fall.


Help Is On The Way


Moon’s favorite redhead Maureen McVerry will be one of the many headliners at the 15th Annual Help Is On The Way AIDS Benefit at the Herbst Theatre this Sunday, Aug. 2nd. Tom Orr, Juliet Heller, Lisa Hensley, Carly Ozard, and Dave Dobrusky will also be lending their voices in the opening number, “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

There you go Moonies, plenty of Moon-sightings to help you through this summer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Piddle Twiddle and Resolve


As I brought up on our Facebook discussion board, most of last season’s audience had an opportunity to vote on six shows they would like to see Moon produce in the future (four new shows, and two encores). Artistic Director Greg MacKellan gave me the inside skinny on those results.

There were some clear favorites—and clearly some were not, sorry Shenandoah. I don’t think Moon will be doing a Civil War re-enactment anytime soon.

So what shows are amongst the Moonies favorites?

Amongst our encore choices…

Moon patrons want to chase rainbows in an upcoming season, specifically Finian’s Rainbow. The Harburg/Lane hit came in first. Unfortunately, due to the recently announced Broadway revival this pot of gold will have to wait a few more years.

Maybe it’s some good old-fashioned home-pride, but the California-set, Paint Your Wagon was second, followed closely by the Cole Porter vehicle DuBarry Was a Lady.

“I Won’t Dance” around it, Moonies want another chance to see our truly lost musical, Three Sisters. In 1995, 42nd Street Moon was the first to produce this 1934 Kern/Hammerstein show in the U.S., and it hasn’t been seen since!

“I Have to Tell You” it’s “Never Too Late for Love” with Fanny, the number five choice in our encore series.

As for new productions…

It appears Frank Loesser has some fans in the Moon community. Where’s Charley and Most Happy Fella both made the Top Five (fifth and fourth place respectively).

Coming in third was our oldest selection, The Desert Song, the Romberg/Hammerstein operetta of 1926.

“Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” They helped usher Lerner and Lowe’s Gigi into the #2 spot.

And finally, drum roll please….

Actually, as fate would have it, I’ve decided the destiny of the #1 pick will wait for another blog. *wink*

So Moonies, do you agree with these choices?

Encore Production:

  1. FINIAN’S RAINBOW

  2. PAINT YOUR WAGON

  3. DU BARRY WAS A LADY

  4. FANNY

  5. THREE SISTERS
New Production:
  1. ????


  2. GIGI

  3. THE DESERT SONG

  4. THE MOST HAPPY FELLA

  5. WHERE’S CHARLEY?
What one show would you choose from each of these lists? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!



_________________



Last week's trivia question:

Brigadoon, Guys and Dolls, Victor/Victoria, & Mary Poppins were filmed indoors, with no location shots at all. Congratulations Clifford, you had the answer I was looking for! Michael, your answer, while a bit unexpected, was also correct. Congratulations to you both! You’ll each receive a concession coupon good anytime in our next season. You’ll also be entered into our drawing for some Moon memorabilia. Good job guys and keep coming back for more trivia and more prizes!

This week’s quiz:

What Broadway show did P.D.Q. Bach help score?

BTW, it’s more fun to hear your guesses, try not to search on the internet for the answers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat?

Jan Wahl Does!
You have seen her interview stars on KRON. You have heard her movie reviews on KCBS Radio. You have read them in the Examiner. But chances are, you have never glimpsed her in the same hat twice. Since moving to San Francisco to partake in the city’s “freedom, music, poetry, and history of rebels and eccentrics,” Jan Wahl has become one of our unique institutions.

I hope that you all witnessed her vast movie knowledge, unassailable comedic timing, flamboyant Mae West impressions, and signature hat at 42nd Street Moon’s We’re in the Money. If you missed it, you missed a great dame!
Moon Artistic Director Greg MacKellan and Jan had a grand time on stage discussing old Hollywood, mostly Pre-Code Hollywood.

It’s always nice when you can make a history lesson both informative and fun. With Jan quoting some classic lines from films before Hollywood’s Donna Reed-ification, our evening’s lecture definitely fell under “infotainment.”

As Jan recites Joan Blondell’s infamous line from Footlight Parade, “as long as there are sidewalks, you’ve got a job,” she instantly gives us a sense of the language and humor we lost due to the Motion Picture Code of 1930.

Jan and Greg quickly schooled us in some of the lost songs of the time period as well. After the history lesson finished, we got some examples of those lost songs.

Justin Torres and Sarah Kathleen Farrell sang of love, sex and salami in, “Breakfast Table of Love.” Darlene Popovic donned a tux for the gender bending, “I’m One of the Boys.” And while Alexandra Kaprielian espoused the virtues of “Marahuana,” Nina Josephs got in touch with herself with, ”I’m in Love with a Tune” — a tune written many years before Bernadette Peters would get in touch with herself on Saturday Night Live singing “Making Love Alone.”

I asked Jan why she decided to take part in 42nd Street Moon’s fundraiser. The answer was simple, “I believe in what they do… keeping the great music and musicals alive!”

Is this the only involvement we will be seeing from Jan? I don’t think so.

Jan has a brilliant idea for staging How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She had this to say:

I would love to do a version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying where the boys play the girls and vice-versa. I could help with the re-writing. I’d love to be in it, too. I could play even the lead... a girl climbing to the top in business, playing by the rules of the book. The boys would be secretaries and assistants… even sex objects... like in the original but reversed. The songs in it don’t take a good voice, mostly personality or even talk singing. It’s a wonderful play with some great music.

So Moonies, what do you think? Would this make an interesting addition to our repertoire? Leave a comment and let us know.

 
Oh, and now one of those pop quizzes I promised you!

What do the movies Victor/Victoria, Guys and Dolls, Mary Poppins, and Brigadoon have in common (other than being musicals)?

Leave your answer in the comment section. The first person to guess correctly will win a coupon for a free concession item and will be entered into future drawings for bigger prizes, including: Moon memorabilia; CD’s; tickets to Moon shows; and more!
(Photo: Rob Hatzenbeller, Jan Wahl, Robbie Cowan)

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Moon Studded Evening

(Photo: Special Guests Jan Wahl and Paula West)


Open: A stage bereft of persons, a lone-lit piano, and 12 stark chairs.

Enter: Dave Dobrusky, Maestro of all things Moon, followed by Bill Fahrner and Caroline Altman. Bill sat on the end of stage right and began the evening with a plaintive and tender “Hooray for Hollywood;” the music continued as Caroline Altman delivered a touching oratory tribute to Hollywood during the Depression Era.

And We’re in the Money was off to an amazing start…

The cast (in alphabetical order) Caroline Altman, Derek Travis Collard, Robbie Cowan, Bill Fahrner, Sarah Kathleen Farrell, Rob Hatzenbeller, Nina Josephs, Alexandra Kapreilian, Greg MacKellan, Darlene Popovic, Stephanie Rhoads, and Justin Torres whipped through hit after hit from “Singing in the Rain” and “Jeepers Creepers” to “Some Like it Hot” and of course the title song, “We’re in the Money.”

There were even special guests: the Decobelles, the Jesters, Jan Wahl and a breathy and bold Paula West. Paula joined the evening unannounced and sang an audacious “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise.”


Every single member of the cast shined that night, but I was absolutely astonished by the felicity of Darlene Popovic’s comedic timing and Greg MacKellan’s masterful knowledge of all things Musical.

When Greg joined Darlene in “We’re in the Money,” he sang the lyrics in pig Latin à la Ginger Rogers. The audience sat mesmerized, only to be jolted into hysterics when Darlene implored them to join in Greg’s version. “Everybody!” she said coyly.

One of the most touching moments came after “We’re in the Money,” when the mic was passed between the actors to explain what Moon means to them. Darlene summed up most of the actors’ sentiments, “This is a family.”

However, it was Justin’s declaration, “It’s tough being one of the only straight male actors in musical theatre,” that once again brought the house down with laughter.

After intermission Jan Wahl looked like she was having the time of her life on stage. Who could blame her? She was being serenaded by the sultry tones of Bill, Robbie, Rob, Justin, and Derek singing the Kern-Fields gem, “The Way You Look Tonight.” Five hunks to one “woman of many hats,” them’s odds Jan looked kindly on!

The show was only part of the evening, which began with hors d'oeuvres, wine and a silent auction. After the concert, patrons visited with the cast as more wine and desserts were passed. I’m told the auction was a huge success, as was the entire evening.

Kudos to Board Member and Event Chair Joanna Leighton-Nevesny, Moon’s Managing Director Lauren Hewitt, Greg MacKellan, the cast and all the volunteers who made the gala fundraiser such a wonderful event.

This concert was reminiscent of the earliest days of Moon: no props, no scenery, just beautiful music, brilliant singers and an evening of entertainment that brought all those in attendance just a little bit closer together. I know it sounds mushy, but it’s true.

P.S. The evening was a fundraiser. If you weren’t able to make it, but would like to make a donation to 42nd Street Moon you can do so by
clicking here.



P.P.S. For more about the gala (and specifically Jan Wahl’s involvement) check back next week!

A New Moon

(photo: New 42nd Street Moon Blogger Ken Levin with Maureen McVerry at We're in the Money)

Hello all you Moonies!

I’d like to introduce myself, ever so quickly. My name is Ken and I became a full-fledged Moonie in February when Lauren called me (quite out of the blue) and asked if I’d be interested in House Managing the final three shows of the season. Already familiar with 42nd Street Moon’s mission, I jumped at the chance of working for an organization that felt the same way about musical theatre as I did.


More recently when Lauren and Greg asked me to take over the blog I jumped again.


I can’t express how excited I am to be doing this! Well I could, but it would probably take a much lengthier blog, some diagrams, and perhaps an interpretative dance or two. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty excited.

As you may have noticed we haven’t had a blog entry in… quite sometime. I aim to change that. I know Moon has had a few different voices in the past, and I hope to take the best parts of those who have come before me and add my own panache.

You’ll also find me a bit more conversational in style. And to that effect, I hope you will join in the conversation. Leave comments, give opinions, and answer questions (oh yes… there will be questions and pop quizzes in the upcoming months!)

Consider this MoonBlog v. 3.0; funnier (I hope), more informative (I get to break all the Moon News that’s fit to print), and Moonier (I want all my Moon family in on the action – actors, production and administrative staff, and most importantly FANS!).