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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Noah Racey, A Contemporary Song and Dance Man

Today's guest Blogger is Joe Mader.  Joe has written on theater and film for a variety of publications, including, the San Francisco Weekly, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Hollywood Reporter. He served as managing director and producer for a Worcester, Massachusetts theater company for two years.  For 42nd Street Moon, he previously stage managed Peddling Rainbows, Girl Crazy, and Very Warm For May, the company's last three annual fundraising galas, and our first entries in Moon’s Salon Series:  Nice Work If You Can Get It: An Ira Gershwin Salon and I Feel a Song Coming On: A Dorothy Fields Salon.

Noah Racey as Charley Wykeham

I first saw Noah Racey perform in 2004 when he played the title role in the Goodspeed Opera House’s production of the terrific musical farce (with songs by Frank Loesser) Where’s Charley?

The astonishing thing about Racey was that, as the plot and the show got crazier and crazier, as Charley had to slip in out of that damn dress with increasing haste, as the lies being upheld became more and more preposterous and hilarious, Racey’s Charley became more and more delighted with it all.

And the truly great thing was that Racey did too.

Racey is a consummate performer who delights in giving an audience pleasure. He is also one of the best dancers on Broadway.

In Curtains, opposite his And All That Jazz co-star, Karen Ziemba, Racey was the third or fourth lead, but when he danced, you couldn’t take your eyes off him.

He moves with an unbelievable ease and fluidity. Like having just seen a Gene Kelly movie (yes, I said it), you can’t help but try out a few steps in the foyer or the sidewalk or the parking lot after seeing Racey perform. (That’s when, of course, you realize just how much hard work goes into that seeming ease.)

Check out some of Noah's moves with the New York Tap Ensemble (of which he is the Founding Artistic Director)

I am crushed to have missed both him and Ziemba in Never Gonna Dance, which by most accounts was two hours or so of bliss, and I was unable to get to New York to see him in the recent off-Broadway production of Earnest in Love, also reported to be incredibly charming.

Noah and Karen Ziemba in Never Gonna Dance

I did see him steal the show in the latest incarnation of the Broadway by the Year franchise that played at Broadway by the Bay. The joy and skill he brings to performing is infectious. An increasing number of people are learning that Noah Racey is reason enough to see a show, any show.

Karen and Noah in rehearsal for On Broadway!
Once again paired with Ziemba -- also one of the best dancers on Broadway -- performing the songs of Kander for this 42nd Street Moon show, I am thrilled to be working with them as stage manager. Moon audiences are in for a treat.

And All That Jazz: A John Kander Salon
Starring Karen Ziemba and Noah Racey

At the Alcazar Theatre, 650 Geary Street
One Night Only!
January 27th, 7 PM

More information, click here.

For tickets call (415) 255-8207, or click here.