Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It Couldn't Please Me More, Karen Ziemba starring in And All That Jazz: A John Kander Salon

The first time I saw Karen Ziemba perform, I was 18 and in the process of devouring everything Sondheim.  A friend had lent me a VHS of Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall – for those of you too young to remember VHS, they were an archaic form of DVDs.

Performance after performance, they were all delicious!

And though the list of luminaries was long – Madeline Kahn, Glenn Close, Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone, etc. – it was, without a doubt, KZ’s seduction of a clown (Bill Irwin) in a hysterically sensual rendition of “Sooner or Later,” that stopped the show for me.   See for yourself!

How could I not fall in love? (Strictly platonically of course.)

It would take nine years before I saw KZ on stage.  It was at the Magic Theatre, here in San Francisco.  She played Lucia in the World Premiere of Douglas Cohen’s musical adaptation of The Opposite of Sex.  Though the show had its problems, Karen was fantastic and won the Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award.

The one thing that I really missed in The Opposite of Sex, was her dancing.  There wasn’t much.

And if you’re a fan, you know that Karen was originally trained as a dancer, taking her first class at age six.  She later studied at the University of Akron, and joined The Ohio Ballet during her sophomore year.

Her first major job in NYC was in the 50th Anniversary celebration of Radio City Music Hall, she was backed by the Rockettes.  This wouldn’t be her only time dancing with the Rockettes, check out this video of her singing Alan Menken’s “I Wanna Be a Rockette,” backed by the famed troupe.

With all this dance experience, it was only natural that her first Broadway show would be A Chorus Line, where she went on to play Diana Morales the night that the show became the longest running musical in history.

She went on to win the Drama Desk Award for Kander and Ebb’s hit revue, And The World Goes 'Round,  a personal favorite and always on my i-Pod playlist. This would be the first of many Kander and Ebb shows; the team would later write Steel Pier for KZ (and earn her her first Tony Nomination).  She would also appear in a workshop of their musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth and finally Curtains, for which she received her fourth Tony Nomination.

Curtains                                                                            Steel Pier

What about the middle two Tony nominations?  Well, her second nomination and subsequent WIN was for Contact and her third nomination was for the Jerome Kern revue Never Gonna Dance.

Though not from the show here is KZ singing Kern's “Put Me to the Test” with Scott Wise.

OK, I’ll stop gushing now, I hope I’ve made you even half as excited as I am that Karen will be joining us for And All That Jazz: A John Kander Salon, January 27th at the Alcazar Theatre.  There are still great seats available, click here, or call us at (415)255-8207.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Glee - ful experience with Babes in Arms.

Glee. Let’s face it, it’s become a phenomenon.

Whether you like it, love it, or hate it, it looks like it’s going to be around for a while.  Personally, I love it.
I love the storylines. I love the song choices. I love the characters. I love that it’s making household names out of Broadway stars.   I love what it’s doing for Musical Theatre.

Glee is introducing legions of children and young adults (and some older adults, too!) to classic Broadway shows.  Shows from West Side Story to Wicked, from The King and I to, yes… Babes in Arms, have all had their spot to shine on Glee.

Here is Mark Salling (Noah “Puck” Puckerman) performing “The Lady is a Tramp.”

This jazzy version of “Tramp” is not the only connection between Glee and 42nd Street Moon, nor between Glee and Babes in Arms.

In 1999, 42nd Street Moon produced a concert version of Babes in Arms at The New Conservatory Theater.  The young man who played Beauregard Calhoun was a 12 year old aspiring actor by the name of Darren Criss.  Here is his bio:
Darren and Marsha Merchant
from Do I Hear a Waltz?
Darren Criss (Beauregarde) is currently attending ACT (the American Conservatory Theater) for his 3rd year.  Darren is happy to be back at 42nd Street Moon, having appeared in Fanny and Do I Hear a Waltz? He has also been a part of ACT’s production of A Christmas Carol, along with other productions such as A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, and The Voyzee Inheritance.  Darren is in the seventh grade at Stuart Hall for Boys, and he enjoys music, writing, reading, drama, and art.  He plays the violin and also enjoys the piano and guitar.  When he grows up, he hopes to become a successful actor. 

Now here is Darren Criss and Chris Colfer singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on last week’s episode of Glee, where Darren has become a regular cast member. (Incidentally, Darren also sang "Where or When" for his audition for Glee.)

I was so proud when I found out that the newest cast member of this show got his start right here at 42nd Street Moon. We were Darren’s first professional acting job, but he isn’t the only one.

42nd Street Moon has a long history of helping young actors start their performing careers.

Isaiah Boyd

Gabriel Stephens

Our current production of Babes in Arms has a bevy of young talent. Our youngest cast member, Gabriel Stephens is only 16, Isaiah Boyd -- who has been garnering a lot of attention for his dancing abilities -- is only 18, and Annie Donahey is a tried and true Moonie at 17.  Annie, who recently was awarded the National Youth Theatre Award for Outstanding Actress, also made her professional stage debut with Moon, seven years ago.

This past summer a number of our brightest and most talented young ensemble members moved to New York to further their careers: Andrew Willis-Woodward, Sarah Kathleen Farrell, Giana De Geiso, Jimmy Robertson, Robbie Cowan are just some of the phenomenal talent 42nd Street Moon has helped nurture.  We look forward to seeing their name in lights on 42nd Street soon!

Annie Donahey

This is also why you should come and see all the shows at Moon!  You never know who you’ll be able to say “oh my, I saw him in his first show ever… he was just 10 years old then,” or “She was so fantastic when I saw her do…”

And if you want to catch Annie or Gabriel in Babes in Arms, click here for tickets.

If you want to help 42nd Street Moon give more of these young, aspiring actors a chance, consider making a contribution to our end of year campaign by clicking here.

Until then, see you at the theatre!