Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our past two blogs have discussed the two guest stars of tonight’s salon tribute to the legendary composer John Kander. Karen Ziemba and Noah Racey comprise two of the seven performers you’ll see at the Alcazar, and they both originated roles in John Kander shows.

Rob Hatzenbeller
Karen originated roles in four Kander shows, including Curtains which Noah also originated a role in. However, they aren’t the only cast members to have been in a world premiere Kander show. Rob Hatzenbeller had the wonderful fortune to be cast in the world premiere of Kander and Ebb’s The Visit.

Tell me about your character, Lenny, in The Visit?
Rob: Chita Rivera played Claire Zachanasian, the wealthiest woman in the world. [ed. Her job? The world’s oldest profession!] Lenny was part of her entourage, one of her bodyguards. He was a gum-chewing, tough-guy type, a real brute.

Chita Rivera and her "entourage"n from the Visit
Were you living in Chicago at the time? Or did they cast from elsewhere?
Rob: The Goodman [Theatre] cast from NYC and Chicago. They were anticipating a Broadway transfer. I happened to be living in Chicago at the time. It was a lengthy audition / callback process, but thankfully, I got it.

Did you get to work much with Kander & Ebb personally?
Rob: I did. Since it was a world premiere, we had an extended rehearsal period. Both John and Fred were there a good part of the time. John would sometimes play for rehearsals. It was amazing seeing them make changes - adding things, moving things.

What does it feel like to have been in the world premiere of a new Kander/Ebb musical?
Rob: It's very surreal. I have always been a huge Kander and Ebb fan. Having the opportunity to meet and work with them was a true honor and something I'll never forget.

What was your favorite moment of the show?
Rob: There were many, but Chita singing "Love and Love Alone" was stunning. The cast would watch from backstage every night.

Any fun horror stories you want to share?
Rob: Unfortunately, our big 'horror' story - really was a horror story. We'd only been in rehearsal for a week when 9/11 happened. Our stage manager called each of us Tuesday morning to tell us not to come in. We had just had two days off and a number of the New York cast members had flown back to NYC.

No one could reach them.

It was such a frightening time. It was very hard to move forward particularly with a show with such dark subject matter. However, our terrific director, Frank Galati, reminded us of the value of theatre and of our work... and that people were going to need to be entertained. So, we banded together and continued doing what we do.

Kerry Butler and David Bertka in the Opposite of Sex
On top of being a reunion with the work of Kander, this is also a reunion for you and Karen, what is it like working with her?
Rob: Karen is lovely. I was brought in to understudy The Opposite of Sex at the Magic a few years ago. I ultimately went on, playing Karen's love interest. As you can imagine stepping into a show is pretty daunting, but she was so warm and generous, she made it easy. And talk about a powerhouse performer! Moon audiences are in for a treat.

Anything you’d like to add?
Rob: I'm so glad that Moon is celebrating the work of John Kander. Thursday's audience is going to hear some amazing music!

For tickets to And All That Jazz, click here or call (415) 255-8207

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