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Thursday
Aug242017

Call Redialed: Orfeh: "Legally Bound: Orfeh & Andy Karl Live at Feinstein's/54 Below"

Orfeh and Andy Karl at Feinstein's/54 Below, Photo Credit: Walter McBrideIn December 2016, I was lucky enough to attend Orfeh & Andy Karl's concert Legally Bound at Feinstein's/54 Below. Then it was announced that these concerts were going to be made into a live album by Broadway Records. I was beyond excited. The end result is an album that really captures the essence of the evening, from their powerhouse vocals to the fun and excitement of seeing them live.

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" to describe just how thrilling it was to speak with Orfeh about the making of Legally Bound: Orfeh & Andy Karl Live at Feinstein's/54 Below. She really gave me a piece of her heart, opening up to me about her life with Andy! This is one "History" lesson you don't want to miss!

Orfeh & Andy Karl: Legally Bound: Live at Feinstein's/54 Below is available now on Broadway Records and iTunes!

For more on Orfeh & Andy follow them on Twitter @official_orfeh and @Andy_Karl

For more on Broadway Records visit http://www.broadwayrecords.com and follow them on Twitter!

CD design by Robbie Rozelle1. You and Andy just released your live recording of Legally Bound: Live at Feinstein's/54 Below. What made you want to make this concert into a live album? We've been planning on doing a recording together for some time now as it's the one thing we have not done previously. At the time of the concerts, Andy was about to go into Groundhog Day & I was very busy with a few projects and we just felt this would be the perfect time to make this recording. These concerts get booked so far in advance and you just never know when the next opportunity for our schedules to align would come up, so we took advantage of this moment together. Plus, we were very proud of the performances and material.

2. What is the recording process like for a live album as opposed to a regular album? The process is really difficult, but we had a great team working with us. I produced the album with Broadway Records President Van Dean along with Steven Jamail and Michael Moritz & Robbie Rozelle. Steven & I come from the world of pop music while Robbie, Michael, & Van Dean are more musical theatre, so it was great to have all our expertises joined together.

The challenge of making a live CD is getting the right balance of capturing the live experience and not making it sound like mush. You want to be able to hear the harmonies, background vocalists, the bass at a certain time, etc. It's not easy to get it perfect, but we had so many great people helping, which made the process a lot easier.

Me: Well, the album does sound good. I've been listening to it since it's release and you did a great job with the mixing of it all. You hear a little bit of the plates clinging together, but it's so subtle, that you hardly notice it and it allows you to hear your vocals really well.

Orfeh: One thing we really strived for with this recording is to give it a feel, that if you weren't able to be in the audience for any of our shows, you can still capture the live experience of the nights.

Me: I definitely feel you did that. I was lucky enough to come see Legally Bound, but after listening to this album, you definitely capture the fun of the evening and how great & powerful it was to hear you and Andy sing. I love both of you individually, but hearing you two sing together with your powerhouse vocals was insane!

Orfeh and Andy Karl performing at Feinstein's/54 Below3. Were both of you equally invovled in organizing the concert or did one of you take the lead in putting it together? It was definitely 50/50. You've got to make it comofortable for both of you. You know, Andy & I sing in such different stratospheres and keys so, when we were doing the opening Motown Medley, we had to choose songs that would work for both of our voices because our vocals then have to blend on the harmonies as well. Those songs are so harmony heavy that it’s very important to pick songs that make sense vocally.

4. One of my favorite songs that you did was Whitney Houston’s "I’m Your Baby Tonight." I liked how you said, at the show, that this is a song everybody knows, but it’s not a song done very often. You did it so well. Out of all the songs in Whitney’s music catalog, what was it about that song that made you go, this is the song I want to sing? ? It’s my favorite Whitney song. It’s such a catchy, first-listen hit, that no matter what the audience is like (whether they be rock-heavy or Broadway-heavy), it’s going to be a major crowd pleaser, if you do justice to it.

Whitney made her songs seem so effortless to sing, but they are actually very complicated to do. There was no voice like Whitney before her and there will never be a voice like hers again. I got to meet Whitney a few times and she was so nice to me and the people around me. I love her so much & miss her terribly.

I never wanted to do a concert and say, "Well, I’m going to sing Whitney now because she’s gone." It's like with Prince, I’ve been singing "Kiss" for years and I decided to add Whitney in because I am finally at a place vocally, where I feel I can do the song correctly and not have a melt down in the middle of it.

Andy Karl and Orfeh5. What was your favorite duet to perform with Andy? We really enjoyed performing "Make Like A Nail"/"If Can Dream" (from The Great American Trailer Park Musical & the Elvis Presley song). Somehow you would never think these songs would make any sense together and somehow they do. We’ve done it in the past and I just think it works really well and I think the audience enjoys it, so again, you are hitting on all cylinders.

I also think, oddly, which no one expected us to do, is "History" by One Direction. I feel like this is the best track on the album. It’s such a great song, such a catchy melody, but you’d never think the two of us would do it. We loved singing it. The back-up singers enjoyed singing it. The band loved playing it. It’s one of those songs that will definitely be a keeper in the set.

I come from the pop world, I had a pop hit years ago, but randomly, here we are doing a Broadway-esq cabaret show with pop songs including a One Direction song, which we made a video of for Broadway.com, and I often hear from fans or read on Twitter people saying they like this version better than the One Direction version. Some say it’s their favorite track on the CD. Here, we get to introduce this song to an audience that may not be One Direction fans and they instantly like it. I think that is the point of music. Good music is good music and that’s universal.

6. Was there anything, now that the album is out and you’ve had time to look back on the concert, you wish you did a little bit differently? I don’t think I would do anything differently. I’m very happy with how everything turned out and the choices we made.

Orfeh and Andy Karl7. Since the show was called Legally Bound and that is the name of the album, what is your secret to a successful marriage with Andy? I guess, according to the entertainment world, we’ve been married for like 110 years [laughs]. A long time ago, a girl I knew had a very successful/happy marriage and I said to her, "What’s the secret to your marriage?" and she said, "I married my best friend." Recently, I was having this same conversation with someone and they asked me the same question and I said, "Andy is my best friend. The best person I know on the planet."  I know it sounds cliché, but that is a very major ingredient. Prior to Andy, I had some ridiculous boyfriends, so I sort of came to the party with the knowledge of what I didn’t want in a relationship. That made things easier because I was able to go, "This I don’t want, this I don’t want, and this I don’t want," and then you meet someone who’s not suffering from those issues, who happens to be the most wonderful person out there. And Andy’s a really good person. We kind of matched instantly and while we are very different people, our core values are very similar, so it just really worked out.

Because of our schedules there’s a lot of time apart, which in it’s own bizarre way helps because it gives us our individual space and time. But what it really comes down to is that I like the person I love. When you like the person you love, it’s very, very, different and I like Andy more than anyone on this planet.

8. Just to go back in time a little bit. You and Andy met during the Broadway run of Saturday Night Fever. How long after you met, did you feel like he’s the one? We got married six months later [laughs]. It was truly love at first sight. It was one of those moments that you only think are complete nonsense when you hear about them happening to other people or you see them in movies or on TV. It’s a fantasy, but then it happened to both of us and we still look at each other and say, "Did that really happen to us?" [laughs]

Andy came into Saturday Night Fever in July and we got married in January. There are some people to this day who don’t know we’re married, but certainly, the cast/crew of Saturday Night Fever had no idea. It was just one of those moments. It's like trying to explain catching lightening in a bottle. It really was love at first sight. Nobody thought it would last, but, you know, they were wrong. And he’ll be the one forever and ever!

9. What’s next for you and Andy together, career wise? We’d love to do some film/TV together. I don’t have concrete dates yet, but I definitely think there will be more concerts in the not so distant future. The goal would be to wind up in some project together.

OrfehMore on Orfeh:

Broadway: "Paulette" in Legally Blonde: The Musical (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, Broadway.com Audience Award), Saturday Night Fever, Fascinating Rhythm, Footloose. Off Broadway: Love, Loss, and What I Wore, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Love, Janis. TV/Film: Sleeping with the Fishes (with Gina Rodgriguez), Across the Universe, Film U, L&O CI, Sex and the City, Chappelle's Show. She has performed at Lincoln Center with her husband, Olivier Award winner and Tony nominee Andy Karl, and in numerous Broadway benefits including Hair for the Actors Fund (Grammy nomination). Her extensive recording career includes music with the '90s pop group Or-N-More, she has performed with many music icons from legends the O'Jays to Cissy Houston. Her solo CD, What Do You Want From Me, latest single, "Forget My Name," and live album Orfeh & Andy Karl: Legally Bound – Live at Feinstein's/54 Below are available on iTunes.

Andy KarlMore on Andy:

Winner of the 2017 Olivier Award for "Best Actor" in a Musical for Groundhog Day, Andy was recently seen on the NBC series Law & Order: SVU as "Sergeant Mike Dodds." Andy has also won the Outer Critics Circle Award and has been nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Drama League Awards for his starring role opposite Kristin Chenoweth in the Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century. For his critically acclaimed performance as "Rocky Balboa" in the Broadway musical Rocky, Andy was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards. Other Broadway credits include the revival of The Mystery of Edwin DroodJersey BoysWicked9 to 5Legally BlondeThe Wedding Singer and Saturday Night Fever. Off-Broadway/NYC credits include Chita Rivera: NOWADAYS at Carnegie Hall, Annie Get Your Gun (City Center), Altar Boyz (OCC Award), Slut and Saturday Night. His film and television credits include Forever, And So It Goes, Joyful Noise, and Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods.

Monday
Aug212017

Call Redialed: Lindsay Mendez: Feinstein's/54 Below: The Golden Age of Broadway

Lindsay Mendez, Photo Credit: Murphy Made Photography (Matthew Murphy)It's been five years since Lindsay Mendez & I got to chat, so it's great to finally catch up with her and find out what's been happening! First and foremost, we talk about her upcoming concert at Feinstein's/54 Below from Sepetmeber 12-16, highlighting the Golden Age of Broadway. We also discuss life changes, Broadway, and the one thing Lindsay has not spoken about in any other interview....

Lindsday Mendez will be performing at Feinstein's/54 Below from September 12-16. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lindsay follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit https://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitterYouTube, & Instagram!

Lindsay Mendez Wakefield & Philip Wakefield, Photo Credit: Murphy Made Photography (Matthew Murphy)1. I can't believe it's been five years since we last spoke! It was 2012 and you were starring in Pasek & Paul's Dogfight. What do you feel has been the biggest change for you or in you during these last five years? I know!!! So wild! And so happy to be back! The biggest change in the last 5 years is probably my new marriage! I am married to an amazing man named Philip Wakefield now…and my marriage and our little family is a big focus for me and what I am working for.

2. However, I did get to see you in Significant Other in 2016 which I loved. It was like watching my own life of dating unravel before my eyes. What did you relate to most about your character and that story? Well, I saw myself so much in this story…both in the character I played AND in Gideon’s character from my single days. I think I related most to that feeling of change and growth in friendship…and how it can be really painful when people are growing at different rates than you are. I went through that a lot when I first moved to New York and all of my friends from home were settling down...and it still felt very palpable to me when I played this role this time around.

Lindsay Mendez3. This September you are returning to Feinstein's/54 Below with an all new solo show performing songs from the golden age of Broadway, beloved tunes from your collaborations with current musical theatre writers, and more! My first question right away is, what is the more? HAHA. I’d say the "more" are selections of random FAVORITE artists of mine that may or may NOT be Musical Theatre artists. Fans that know me know that I am also a folk music fan…and if they come to see my show…they will DEFINITELY get to hear some great folk tunes that evening as well.

4. What is it about the Golden Age of Broadway that made you want to create a show around that time? The first music I fell in love with as a child was Rodger’s and Hammerstein and MGM Judy Garland movies…that material was exactly why I wanted to do this for a living. And when I think of Cabaret, I think of exposing the audience to your own personal style, taste, and journey…so this felt like the right time for me to express and explore my love for the art form THROUGH the stuff that got me started.

Lindsay Mendez singing at Feinstein's/54 Below, Photo Credit: David Gordon5. If you could have been in any show during the Golden Age of Broadway, which show or shows, would you have liked to be part of? OH MAN!!! SOOO MANY! Meet Me In St. Louis, Bell’s Are Ringing, High Spirits, Oklahoma, Flora The Red Menace……dare I go on? You don’t have enough cyber space!

6. What do you like most about performing at Feinstein's/54 Below? I absolutely LOVE the atmosphere there. The audiences are all so warm, kind and appreciative. And the staff is just lovely to work with, always. And, that venue is so iconic, and beautiful. It just feels like home to me. And it feels like what I always dreamt cabaret would feel like…it’s that exact feeling. Like the PERFECT….jacuzzi??? Warm, welcoming, life-changing. (Is that too much?)

7. Which musical theatre writers songs will you be singing? What is it about them that makes you want to perform their music? I am going to be singing some Marvin Hamlisch, Stephen Schwartz, Pasek and Paul, and Ryan Scott Oliver. I have a nice long history with all of these composers…and singing their work feels like an extension of them that I am excited and honored to get to present. These are all people I love (or loved), and I couldn’t perform a night without having them be up on that stage with me.

Lindsay Mendez with Pasek and Paul8. Which writers do you want to work with that you haven't already? OH my! There are so many! I love collaborating with anyone who wants to write and work…so I don’t feel like I can name anyone specifically. I am OPEN and always excited to attack new work!

9. What is something you can tell us about Lindsay Mendez that you haven't revealed in another interview before? Hmmmmm….I love clothes???? Shopping is like, the biggest release and relaxation exercise for me. I LOVE getting to shop around and try stuff on…even if I don’t end up buying anything…it’s just something I used to do with my mom that always makes me feel happy and energized.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Oh! I love this! Okay…one thing I would love to improve everyday is committing time “for myself…” where I am not booked up all day everyday and never have a moment for me to just, read, exercise, walk my dog, or hang out and watch tv...that is something I would love to get better at.

Lindsay Mendez, Photo Credit: Murphy Made Photography (Matthew Murphy)More on Lindsay:

Lindsay Mendez is a gifted singer and actress who has appeared in numerous Broadway shows including Grease, Everyday Rapture, and Godspell. In her most recent Broadway musical engagement, Lindsay took flight with the role of "Elphaba" in Wicked. Lindsay is celebrated for her star turn in Pasek & Paul’s Dogfight, which premiered at Second Stage Theater in 2012, where she earned Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League Awards nominations.

Wednesday
Aug162017

Call Answered: Ralph Sutton: Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll

Ralph SuttonWhenever I listen to the radio or in today's world, podcasts, I think of Nicki French's song "Voice of America," which celebrates the power of radio. I have been part of both mediums throughout my career. In college I hosted my own '50s/'60s & '80s/'90s radio show. Then I interned at WPLJ in NYC. More recently, I've been interviewed for Rep Radio's podcast and hosted my own radio show It's Showtime with Call Me Adam on YTP Radio. I love it all!

Needless to say when I found out about Ralph Sutton & Big Jay Oakerson's podcast Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll, I was eager to find out more about it. I called and Ralph answered! I had a great time learning about Ralph's rise in radio, his partnering with Big Jay Oakerson, the birth of Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll, plus memorable guests and unanswered questions.

Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll airs every Monday at 9pm! Listen on iTunes, Soundcloud, and at http://www.thesdrshow.com! Follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

On August 21, Ralph and Big Jay will welcome comedian and "Mooch" impersonator Mario Cantone! 

1. Who or what inspired you to become a radio/TV host? When my testicles dropped, and my voice went deep – I was told daily that I had a voice for radio, and even did a little stint on my college radio station but kind of walked away from it – then about 20 years ago – while I was a strip-club DJ – Howard Stern was talking about how to pick up strippers, and I called in to talk about it. Miraculously, I got through on my first try (and it was my first time every calling into a talk show), we had about a 2-minute call – it was a great call. They didn’t make fun of me after, it was quick and funny then then all that week people were calling me, asking if that was me on Howard Stern. It was that call that made me want to finally give radio a real try.

2. How did you and Big Jay Oakerson come to create your digital comedy show, Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll? I had been hosting this rock music cruise called Shiprocked – and they asked me if I knew any comedians that would work on the cruise…I suggested Jay – even though he and I were casual acquaintances at the time, I was aware of how funny he was, and how great he’d be for the cruise. They ended up having us host a bunch of events together, and all we did was make each other laugh the entire time. He then suggested we do a podcast together. My uneducated answer at the time was "Podcasts are for people who can’t do radio, and I already have a nationally syndicated rock radio show!" but over the next few months I kept reading about podcasting and how big it was getting. I told him about 5-6 months later that I was down to do it. He said - we need a name/concept/etc. I had the logo, website, and theme already picked out – for a morning show I was going to do – that never transpired…so I just sent him the logo, and he said "done!"

Ralph Sutton interviewing KISS co-founder Gene Simmons on "Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll"3. Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll is a no-apologies, not politically correct, not for the faint of heart show that blends the classic energy of a morning radio show into the new era of digital entertainment. If you were to apply this description to your life, what do you feel has been the most shocking thing you have done that made you go, "I can't believe I just said or did that, and while I should feel bad about it, I'm living my life like my show, so fuck it."? Well the funny thing is of the S, D & R of the show, I am very light on the D. But I feel I make up for it with the S and the R. I also think shocking is such a relative term, what one person finds shocking, someone else finds common-place.   In the last few years since the show began, I have done things I probably wouldn’t have done, had it not been for the show. I also stay on bad dates longer because they might lead to good stories for the show!

For me – because my experience with drugs was so minor – doing mushrooms live on the show was a real bizarre experience for me. I remember drooling – and that’s about it. I also had a minor blackout on the show once too, which was not a fun thing at all. The best part of that story though was that my mom – who is a big supporter of anything I do, and always shares everything I post – shared the clip of me having a blackout on the air…and then was inundated with friends asking her "why the hell would you share a clip of your son having a blackout!"

4. What has been the best part about creating this show and what is the most challenging? The best part has been the difference a podcast listener and a radio listener. Podcast listeners are active listeners. Far more engaged than an average radio listener. I would rather have 1,000 podcast listeners than 10,000 radio listeners. Podcast listeners have launched an app, searched you out, and pressed play. They WANT to listen to you. Radio – usually is just on in the background, in the car, etc. I have been floored by the interaction we get from the show.

The most challenging is booking it! We do it live Monday nights in the East Village…so it’s been difficult finding people to come to my home studio 9pm at night.

"Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll" party5. You recently celebrated the three-year anniversary of Sex Drugs & Rock & Roll. What was the best part of this milestone? In looking back, what is something you can't believe happened that you had initially only hoped for? It really is amazing to me at this point. I spend days trying to come up with ridiculous ideas, and then see if we can make it happen. An idea that I had for three years, that we finally got done, and it ended up being the most listened to episode ever, was the "Oralympics." Where we got a $1000 escort and a $200 escort to donate their services for science. We were both blindfolded and then had to decide was it worth spending the extra $800 – if you want to know the answer, you’ll have to listen to the episode.

6. I love the fact that you tape these podcasts live right here in NYC. Why did you want to have a live audience for your tapings as opposed to doing these interviews in a closed-studio? What has been the craziest thing to happen during a taping? We do the show live in my home studio – and about once a month we do a live event somewhere – in front of an audience. Perhaps the most fun in recent memory was our Family Feud 3-year anniversary party. Sal Vulcano from Impractial Jokers, Corey Glover, the singer of Living Colour, Michael Alig, the subject of the movie Party Monster, and a few porn stars and burlesque performers like Payton Sin Claire showed up. It was just so much fun. After the live broadcast of the show – everyone just hung out. Sal DJ’d until 3am, I saw various guests go into the bathroom with various guests, I saw one of the interns make out with a porn star in the middle of the room, it was just decadence and debauchery at its finest.

7. Can you recall any questions that stumped a guest? If so, what was the question and who was the guest? In general, we try to have a relaxed vibe in the studio – the guest usually shows up about 30 minutes before – we offer drinks, we are very casual – I am not looking to bring a guest to tears. The one time it got dicey was when Mina Caputo from the band "Life of Agony" was in studio. She’s transitioning from Keith to Mina – and it was a sensitive subject for her (understandably), and while we’ve had a few transgendered guests on the show – they were usually porn stars who already fully made the transition, and were more comfortable with the general questions that might come up on our show.  And I didn’t’ think Mina was ready for how open Jay can be about it – neither of us are remotely phobic about anyone’s identity, but we do talk relatively openly. So I think she was a bit shocked…it did lead to a great discussion and openness about what she was going through and I think it was a great interview. But it was a bit touch-and-go in the beginning.

Big Jay Oakerson, Jennifer Esposito, and Ralph Sutton on "Sex, Drugs, & Rock N Roll"Mario Cantone as "The Mooch" on "The President Show"8. For this month's show, August 21, your special guest is the hilarious Mario Cantone. What are you looking forward to most about having Mario as your guest? Is there one thing specific you are hoping will happen with him on the show or a topic of discussion that will come up? This is a long time coming.  I've known Mario since I was about 10 or so…he’s like a brother to me, and I had a similar experience recently when Jennifer Esposito came on the show. It’s strange to interview someone you’ve known your entire life. I knew Jen since I was about 19, and Mario since before I had pubes. So it will probably end up being more of a trip down memory lane. Although I was so happy to see how everyone loved his "Mooch" impression. It was so good!

9. Who are some of your dream guests you'd still like to have on the show? Charlie Sheen, Axl Rose, Marilyn Manson. Charlie – because c’mon…he’s gotta have the most bonkers stories out there. Axl – because he is rock royalty. And Manson because not only is he Jay’s favorite, but he and I both dated the same girl...we’re wiener cousins! That’s gotta be something right?

10. As an interviewer yourself, what is one question I didn't ask that you wish I had? (please provide the answer to said question as well). The only question that doesn’t get asked enough is how does this crazy show affect your life directly?

It’s destroyed my dating life. I have to beg girls not to google me or look up my show. As I know if they base my persona on the show – I have no prayer of a 2nd date. My mom puts it best "It’s what he does, it’s not who he is." I will pretty much do anything – if I think it will be better for the show. When we first started, I wanted to do something that I knew would get listeners. Calling a show Sex Drugs & Rock n Roll was the answer to that…and I think I have only said no once on the show to some idea that came up. I want this show to be the inner voice that pushes back against all the crazy SJW stuff, and political correctness that is going on in the world right now. It’s ok to be ridiculous – if you are not doing it from an evil place. It’s OK to laugh at others, as long as you are also willing to laugh at yourself. It’s OK to do things for nothing other than pure enjoyment. Even if you end up blacking out in the process :)

Ralph SuttonMore on Ralph:

Ralph Sutton is a long-time veteran of television & radio with his own built-in international fan base. for nearly two decades – Ralph hosted – The Tour Bus, a nationally broadcast rock radio show that was syndicated in 50 markets across the nation and re-broadcast worldwide on the Internet. The show boasted over one million listeners nationwide. In 2016 Ralph launched the GaS Digital Network - with 11 shows and 750,000 listeners a week network wide.

Monday
Aug142017

Call Answered: Max Vernon: The View UpStairs: Original Cast Recording

Max Vernon, Photo Credit: Frederic Lagrange PhotographyCast Recording designed by Robbie RozelleAfter two viewings of Max Vernon's The View UpStairs, I couldn't get this story out of my head. It has stayed with me for months. I keep wanting to learn more about this time in gay history when the UpStairs Lounge was burned to the ground. Additionally, I have been waiting for this cast recording to get released. I loved the music! Nathan Lee Graham, Michael Longoria, and Frenchie Davis, are just some of the vocal powerhouses that have stayed with me.

When it was announced The View UpStairs cast recording was being released by Broadway Records on August 11, I knew this was the right time to call Max. Luckily, he answered! I loved learning about the recording of the album, why he wrote this show, and what he learned from this run.

To download or purchase your copy of The View UpStairs, click here!

For more on Max be sure to visit http://maxvernon.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. On August 11, your show, The View UpStairs will be releasing its cast recording. What is it like to know that something you wrote the book, music, & lyrics for is getting a digital/CD release? Who is the first person to get a signed copy? Ever since I first started writing songs, I dreamed of having an artifact of my work that was beautiful from start to finish, but never had the resources to create something of that caliber. It took 15 years for the dream to become reality, but I really believe we have created one of the all time great rock musical records. Growing up I was that weird kid wearing kimonos at 14, watching David Lynch films, and listening to Kate Bush and Roxy Music. I hope for all the queer/glam/arty/weirdo kids coming up that this record means something to them.

First signed copy goes to my grandma!

"The View UpStairs" cast, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon"The View UpStairs" cast, Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon2. What was the recording process like? What song took the longest to record? What song was recorded in a matter of "minutes"? I already love recording studios because they tend to feel so suffused with musical ghosts and memory, but our room at Avatar felt particularly magical. Being in the console room with the engineers playing back the mix while looking into this giant space filled with our band and incredible cast - I felt like I was on the Starship Enterprise, overseeing this army of fierce glam rock warrior divas.

I think "Some Kind of Paradise" took the longest, because it's our opening song so you *have* to get that exactly right to set the tone for the rest of the day. People needed that to know - are we gonna phone it in, or are we here to make one of the great cast albums of all time? It's 10am, people were just waking up like "Can I have a sip of this coffee?" and I said "Yeah, after you wail that high F# for Jesus!" Hello!

Michael Longoria did essentially a perfect straight through take of "Sex on Legs." It was on FIRE. When he finished, everyone around the room looked at each other in silence 'til I said, "Well damn! Okay." He went back to overdub some crazy melismas and screlted dolphin sonar high notes, but the entire song was done in less than ten minutes.

3. Can you share with us any funny stories that happened during the recording session(s)? Only one thing, but it's rated NC-17 so I can't say!!! Take me out for a drink first :)

Nathan Lee Graham in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonNathan Lee Graham, Jeremy Pope, Nancy Ticotin, Benjamin Howes in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon4. Let's talk about the show itself for a minute. What initially made you want to write this show? Why do you think this event is not as widely known about as say The Stonewall Riots? Before I went back to school for the financially savvy grad degree of musical theatre writing (ha), I was a gender & sexuality studies major undergrad. I was going pretty deep down the rabbit hole of queer theory - you know, Foucault, Butler, Cyborg Feminism, Disability as Queerness, etc - but none of my professors had even heard of the UpStairs Lounge Fire, which before Pulse was the worst attack on the LGBTQ community in history.

I knew I wanted to shine light on the event, but I really wrote the show with the intention of speaking specifically to my generation of the queer community - to the experience of feeling disconnected from one's history; wanting to reclaim that past to help us navigate through all the bigoted bullshit going on right now with Trump, etc. What I was not expecting was that some of the most emotional responses came from audience members in their sixties and above who had lived through the 70s and everything that followed. So much of queer theatre is centered on the tragedy of the AIDS crisis, that we don't often celebrate the raw sexuality of the 70s because it seems tainted in some way. I think for some of the older audience members, watching a piece created by a younger author that attempted to reclaim and honor their sacrifices was moving.

I think The UpStairs Lounge Fire is not as widely known as Stonewall for a variety of reasons: It happened in the South, where gay rights and gay lib politics were essentially non-existent. Many patrons at the UpStairs Lounge refused to give interviews on camera for fear of being outed, which could lead to being fired or denied housing. The police, media, churches, and local government officials all essentially ignored the attack, which helped it lapse from public consciousness. Finally, the likely arsonist, Rodger Dale Nunez, was a gay hustler who'd been thrown out of the club by his own community for harassing patrons at a glory hole in the bathroom. That doesn't fit a clean, convenient narrative of a hate crime for our community.

5. What did you learn from the Off-Broadway run that might inform future runs to those who mount The View UpStairs? Our midnight Friday and Saturday shows were always the best because the audience came with a drink or two already in them and ready to go on a muthaf*ckin time travelin gay glam rock VOYAGE. The actors could feel that energy and they would go wild and start improving crazy, insane bits that had everyone in stitches. That kind of freedom and wildness is so crucial to what this show is all about. Our superfans (we call them "voyeurs") who saw the show anywhere from 10 to 34 times, started coming with glitter already on their faces, ready to get cruised, dance, and flirt with our actors. I think future theatres need to embrace that spirit and cultivate that cult following as a means of generating community!

Frenchie Davis in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt SneddonFrenchie Davis, Taylor Frey, Jeremy Pope in "The View UpStairs", Photo Credit: Kurt Sneddon6. What was one of the most memorable things you heard from audience members about the show? Did you hear from any of the survivors or their family/friends? One of the most incredible things was actually, one night after a show, I went out with some friends to Odessa Diner for some midnight pierogis. We started joking about my show's glowing dildo chandelier, the drag queen's confetti lactating breasts, how my dad wishes I would stop talking about fisting in my interviews, etc. I notice there's a very butch lumberjack kind of a man sitting in a booth behind us and he starts to tense up. I'm thinking any minute he's going to come over and assault us for our very public display of art-faggotry. He walks over with a grimace on his face and bellows "Are you talking about that show about the UpStairs Lounge Fire!?" And then the butch all melts away, and he proceeds to tell us he's actually a gay poet who went to all these clubs in the 70s and remembers the fire firsthand. A month later he sent me a collection of his poems.

7. Which character in the show most resembles you? "Wes," the main character, is somewhat autobiographical - a bit of a satire of all my worst qualities x 100.

8. Since the title character in the show is a young fashion designer and you certainly seem to have an eye for fashion. Do you have aspirations to have your own clothing line? What designers inspire you? Thanks! It was all just kind of borne from necessity. When I was 18 and first starting to perform my songs around the city I wanted to be dressed head to toe in Alexander McQueen couture, but didn't have $20,000 for a blazer, so I bought a glue gun and started making my own sh*t instead and cultivating an eye for all the strange, colorful, sequined power bitch blazers that the grannies of the upper east side were throwing away. Recently I've started tricking out looks for other artists - I just finished stoning a shirt for Charles Busch's Fire Island Cabaret to give a kind of Marie Antoinette trompe l'oeil necklace effect. All of my favorite designers are dutch: Iris Van Herpen, Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester. I'd love to do a Max Vernon inspired capsule collection if anyone cool wanted to collab...call me!

Max VernonMax Vernon9. The View UpStairs takes the audience on a  journey of seduction and self-exploration. What is one seductive tale from your life you can share with us? Last week, while waiting for the Q train some guy came up to me around 9 am and said "Hey can I ask a question? Are you single? Cause you know I wanna fuck you in the park behind a tree right?" He was barefoot and seemed probably insane but he was kinda cute actually! That mighta been my soulmate right there! Hey, if any of you boys are feelin' thirsty who knows, he might still be at Prospect Park.

10. After The View UpStairs finished its Off-Broadway run, you got hit with a wave of Brooke Shields post-partum emotions and you took some time to go deal with that. Now that you are back, why do you think you got to depressed after the show? What was it like to take those months to yourself? How do you feel this rejuvenation made you stronger? Imagine spending 5 years creating a show with a cast full of characters you deeply love, and then having to watch them die every night for three months! That's a lot. And to have such a political show hit NY right after the election, there was so much catharsis happening with the audiences as well who would come up to me after the show because I dress like Bea Arthur on acid. I loved connecting with those people and all the fancy 2am cocktails at Noho Star spending up that royalty money, but once the show ended I kinda collapsed from exhaustion. I just stayed in bed for three weeks doing snail mucus face masks, eating gelato, and watching reruns of Two Fat Ladies.

My next show, KPOP at Ars Nova, was in pre-production only a month later. So, after a mini-hibernation and a few chemical peels, I shook off the post-partum blues and got pregnant again. Now I have pink hair, a floor covered in teal rhinestones, and a 32-song all electronic half Korean score ready to go. We start performances Sept 5th!

Max Vernon, Photo Credit: Frederic Lagrange PhotographyMore on Max:

Max Vernon is a composer/lyricist, playwright, and performer. Described by the New Yorker as "equal parts bohemia and Broadway," Max's work has been performed and developed at Ars Nova, Actors Theatre of Louisville (Wondrous Strange, Humana Festival 2016), Berkeley Rep, Dixon Place, Disney Creative Entertainment, Goodspeed Opera House, Keen Company, LaMaMa, Naked Angels, New Dramatists, Ma-Yi, Pride Films and Plays (Chicago), Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Theatreworks USA, and Two River Theater (NJ), among others.

He is a recipient of the Jonathan Larson Grant, New York Stage and Film's Founders Award, New York Foundation of the Arts Fellowship, and the JFund Award from the Jerome Foundation. He has been a Dramatist Guild Theatre Fellow, and an artist in residence at Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat and the Johnny Mercer Writers Colony. He is currently a member of Ars Nova's Uncharted, and former member of the Civilians' R&D Group. He has performed over a hundred concerts in New York City, including sold out shows at Joe's Pub (Frisk Me: The Songs of Max Vernon), Lincoln Center (LC Originals) and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You).

His musicals include The View UpStairs (NYU, Pride Films and Plays, Invisible Wall Productions), 30 Million (Keen Company) and WIRED (Ars Nova) Developing: KPOP! (Ars Nova/Ma-Yi/Woodshed Collective); Co-Op (Ars Nova, Naked Angels Radio); Show & Tell (Jerome Foundation, Civilians R&D Group); Nincest (Berkeley Rep Ground Floor); Better for Night (Weiner Theatricals/Randy Weiner). He hopes to one day dismantle patriarchy and steal your grandma's sequin blazer. MFA: NYU - Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.

Wednesday
Aug092017

Call Redialed: Annie Golden: Sundance Institute, Joe's Pub, "Orange is the New Black," "Inner City the Musical" concert

Annie GoldenIn the two months since my last interview with BroadwayOrange is the New Black's Annie Golden, she has had her plate full! So much so, that in a reversal of roles, she called and I answered! Annie wanted to catch up on all that she has going on from her upcoming Annie Golden Friends & Family concert at Joe's Pub to singing at Feinstein's/54 Below's Inner City concert to a new film. Annie gives me the low down on everything!

Catch Annie in Feinstein's/54 Below concert of Inner City The Musical on Thursday, August 17 at 7pm & 9:30pm! An evening of music from Tom O’Horgan’s 1971 Broadway musical! With book and lyrics by Eve Merriam, and score by Helen Miller, this pop-rock-gospel musical won a Tony Award for its star Linda Hopkins, and has become a cult favorite of musical theater aficionados. Hosted by original Broadway cast member, Allan Nicholls. In additon to Annie, the Feinstein's/54 Below Inner City concert will also feature the talents of Yolanda Wyns, C.E. Smith, Ray Shell, Lauren Elder, Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Dionne Carole, Elisa Galindez, Sarah Kowalski, and Erika Xiomara Reyes. Feinstein's/54 Below is located at 254 West 54th Street (between Broadway & 8th Avenue). Click here for tickets! 

Get your tickets now for Annie Golden Friends & Family at Joe's Pub on Friday, August 25 at 7pm! It's an evening of original songs and stories that only Annie can tell! Click here for tickets!

AND, if you want to hear Annie talk up a storm, you can listen to her new podcast It Makes A Sound on iTunes starting Sunday, September 24!

For more on Annie follow her on Facebook!

1. It's so great to catch up with you Annie! First, now that Orange is the New Black Season 5 is out, is there any behind the scenes story from filming this season you can share with us? What was your favorite scene to film? Which one was your most challenging? I think being in "Freida's" bunker was my favorite: The girls getting high together and playing games and going through "Freida's" things before "Gloria" got the frightening news about her boy, "Benny." The most challenging was taking "Piscatella" down: That was real teamwork: our ensemble of castmates, the crew, the prop department, as well as our stunt doubles: Just an amazing accomplishment! We all loved being directed by our fearless leader, Laura Prepon for some of the sweetest moments underground!

Annie Golden, DJ & Boston Globe contributor Oedipus & his wife Amy at "Ripcord" at Huntington Theatre CompanyCast & Crew of "Ripcord" throwing Annie Golden a party with orange carrot cake on the night "Orange is the New Black" dropped2. Second, how did your run of Ripcord at The Huntington Theatre go? Is there a funny or crazy story that sticks out in your head? I am delighted to report that Ripcord was a huge hit for Huntington Theatre Company. I think I speak for the entire company, cast and crew, when I say we did not want it to end, but we did get extended for an additional week.

Many years ago, I participated in the CBGB's Rathskeller band exchange program (I met THE CARS there playing "The Rat" and a bleached blonde ska trio from England, THE POLICE) right behind Fenway Park in Kenmore Square. The crazy good thing that happened while I was back in Boston doing Ripcord, was reconnecting with Oedipus, the first dee jay to play THE SHIRTS on the radio on WBCN and also on his "demi-monde hour" out of Cambridge. "Are you ready for Oedi?" he was my date on the red carpet with me when Hair premiered in Boston. We hadn't seen each other in decades. He now writes for The Boston Globe and lives in Thailand and came back to Boston when he heard I was in Ripcord!

Annie Golden's favorite spot to sing & study music at SundanceAlex Brightman, Annie Golden, Kate Wetherhead at Sundance Institute's Theatre Lab3. So much has been happening since our last interview. You went to the Sundance Institute Theatre lab to work on a new musical theatre piece with Jeanine Tesori (who you worked with during Violet on Broadway) & David Lindsay-Abaire (who's play Ripcord you just finished at Huntington Theatre). What can you tell us about this new show? What was it like to work them both again so soon after just working with them? SUNDANCE was wonderful! This city slicker faced a huge learning curve being on a mountain in the woods! Singing at that altitude makes breathing a challenge and the desert climate with relentless radiant sunshine depletes any and all moisture. I had to get my PH balance back.

SUNDANCE is a "show and tell" of works in progress. I enjoyed meeting David Lindsay Abaire in his hometown of Boston doing Ripcord. His language is lovely and so, therefore, his lyrics are too and his words sung or spoken are clever and soulful and sweet. Working with Jeanine again was a joy! Her melodies raise you up as a songstress and you better rise to that opportunity! Keala Settle played my mentor. We worked to perfect ACT ONE and presented it to the other lab participants and they seemed so thrilled by it! So who knows? I loved working with Alex Brightman, too!

4. What did you relate to most about your character in this show? What was one characteristic of hers that you were glad you didn't possess? I related to my character's strength and endurance and childlike resilience. I'm glad I didn't have my character's devastating disappointment.

Annie Golden and Keala Settle at the final night of SUNDANCE Theatre Lab at a "1980s Theme Party"5. You are also about to start filming a new film in NYC. What is the film called? Who do you play? What attracted you to it? We are filming on location in Prospect Park and elsewhere around town. It is a romance between an IRS accountant (Christian Coulson) who audits the representative of a church of Vampires in the future when the bloodsuckers are accepted into society as a religious cult. It's called Bite Me!

6. What's it like to make a film in your home residence of NYC? Do you look at the city any differently while filming? Well my first film was Hair 40 years ago now. It gave me this gift of a career. I filmed once on City Island, a magical place, which I did not know existed, and I look forward to uncovering some more best kept secrets!

7. On August 17, you will be participating in Feinstein's/54 Below Inner City The Musical concert. What made you want to be part of this concert? What do you relate to most about the show's story? I have only been involved with the re-boot of it since about 2011. This piece is (tragically) timely still. This is a 1972 Broadway gem that deserves another run! It is Michael Boyd's love child and he invited me along after I loved seeing my friend, Darlene Love, in it decades ago!

Annie Golden & her bandAnnie Golden and her brother Michael Golden backstage at "Fashion Rocks" at Studio 548. On Friday, August 25 at 7pm, you have your own concert at Joe's Pub with your band. Now that it's just a few weeks away, what excites you and what makes you nervous? The concert is on the 25th of August, Friday night at 7 pm so, after the show, people can get the hell out of Dodge if they want to for the weekend.

Nothing about doing my own songs makes me nervous now since I played them on Pride Weekend after my Violet matinee. Not only was our band multi-generational but our audience was, too! The feedback from young Broadway and TV crew people, diverse acquaintances across the board, new, as well as, old fans was overwhelmingly positive and powerful! It was most encouraging that the people who came loved the songs, picked favorites among them, wanted to know when they could hear them again and hoped to have a CD to buy soon and take home with them. I needn't worry that the songs would not move and delight my listeners because thanks to that come back gig there was not one comment about the material being dated or out of time.

So what excites me about this concert? Singing my songs to a new audience of every age and demographic. Every other aspect of my career is in service to a director, a writer, a composer, a conductor. My task is always to be a tool used in the realization and creation of someone else's vision, with the exception of my cabaret act: Velvet Prison, which I hope to find the time to update and present again soon, this band is completely and totally mine: Telling the stories I want to tell, the way I wanna tell them and singing those stories with abandon!

Annie Golden and her nephew Mick Golden at "Dear Evan Hansen"Annie Golden's brother Michael Golden9. What is one reason you can give fans NOT to miss this show? Well, besides the fact that it's gonna be a love fest on Lafayette Street? I guess I would say my nephew who is 18 and my drummer kept my dream alive by taking his father's place on the kit when I lost my brother, his dad, suddenly a few months after that triumphant comeback gig and Mick Golden stepped up and will be leaving the next day to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston. So who knows when we will get to do it again? How's that for a tease?

10. Bringing the interview back to Orange is the New Black. It really seems as though things are exploding for you, career wise, since being on the show. How do you handle being in such high demand? How do you stay grounded? How do you relax? Orange is the New Black has given me the gift of notoriety. Your questions always ask: What attracted you to the project and now more than ever I am OFFERED the most interesting, cutting edge, creative, cool projects. In other words, people seek me out and ask me to join them on their journey as opposed to always having to audition.

Being in high demand is a blessing not a curse so in order to enjoy my own busy-ness I take the time to be present and give each project the attention it deserves. I gotta prioritize, be on task, and organize according to deadline. I am a good juggler! I'm presently recording a most intriguing podcast for Night Vale Productions called It Makes A Sound.

How do I relax? I don't. Ha! If I see someone I'm working with or singing for, smile or take delight in what I am doing for them then I can relax. I see friends and family and catch up on their lives. I also enjoy being a couch potato and watching old movies! Other actors' work inspires me. I can't believe my luck!

Annie Golden, Photo Credit: Lee BobbeMore on Annie:

Annie Golden began her career as the lead singer of The Shirts (which headlined CBGB's in the late 70s). During the early 1990s she performed as part of the duo Golden Carillo with Frank Carillo. They released three albums; Fire in Newtown, Toxic Emotion, and Back for More. Since then she has performed solo and with a band. She performs a revue of songs from her stage career along with originals called Annie Golden's Velvet Prison. In 1984, her song "Hang Up the Phone" was featured on the soundtrack of the film Sixteen Candles.

While with The Shirts she was discovered by Miloš Forman who gave her a part in Hair. She had featured roles on Cheers and Miami Vice. On Broadway, she has appeared in the 1977 revival of Hair, Leader of the Pack, Ah, Wilderness!, On the Town and The Full Monty. She had the title role in the workshop of the short-lived adaptation of Stephen King's novel Carrie. She also played the role of "Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme" in Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's musical Assassins Off-Broadway in 1990-1991. In 2003 she joined other original Off-Broadway cast members in a Reprise! (Los Angeles) concert production of Assassins. In 2007, she was stand-by for the two comic villain roles in the musical Xanadu on Broadway.

Annie has the distinct honor of having appeared in three separate versions of Hair; a Broadway revival in 1977, the motion picture in 1979 and a special benefit performance concert in 2004. Annie was the voice of "Marina" in the Don Bluth film The Pebble and the Penguin. In recent years, she has been seen in commercials for Coinstar, in which she portrays The Tooth Fairy. She appeared in the musical film Temptation with actors Adam Pascal, Tony Award Winners Alice Ripley and Anika Noni Rose, and film actress Zoe Saldana and in 2009 had a small role in I Love You Phillip Morris, with actors Ewan McGregor and Jim Carrey, playing a simple woman requiring legal assistance. In 2011, Annie starred with Peter Scolari in the world premiere of The Nutcracker and I. Comically playing the "Sugar Rush Fairy" (and three other roles) in this musical comedy featuring the music of Tchaikovsky and lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini, she and Scolari were compared in one review to the team of Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar. In 2014 Annie returned to Broadway in the Tony nominated revival of Violet, starring alongside Tony Winner Sutton Foster.

Annie continues to play solo gigs and with her own band. For the past five seasons, Annie has been starring as "Norma Romano" in Netflix's Emmy award winning show Orange is the New Black. Additionally, Orange is the New Black has won, three years in a row, The Screen Actors Guild Award for "Best Ensemble." Annie can also be seen in Season 3 premiere episode of Hulu's Difficult People, playing "Flipper."