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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

 

 

Monday
Feb132017

Call Redialed: Charles Busch: "Naked and Unafraid" at Pangea NYC

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael WakefieldEvery time I interview Charles Busch, I always learn more about what makes him tick and where his inspiration is drawn from. In this new interview, Charles and I let it all hang out as we discuss his new cabaret show Naked and Unafraid which will premiere at Pangea NYC on Saturday, March 4 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Charles be sure to visit http://charlesbusch.com and follow him on Facebook! 

For more on Pangea visit http://www.pangeanyc.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael Childers1. This March you are heading to Pangea NYC for your new cabaret show Charles Busch: Naked and Unafraid, where for the first time you will perform this show in "male" drag as opposed to your usual "female" drag. What made you want to create a show to be performed as yourself? The thing I love about performing in cabaret as opposed to being in a play is projecting a version of myself that is truly representative of who I am. A creative life seems to be a never ending journey of self-discovery and definition. After forty years of expressing myself through drag, I've become so comfortable with my own androgynous nature that the element of transformation means very little to me. In this performance at Pangea, I'm just going to push the androgynous meter a bit more towards the masculine. It's basically the same act, just minus one more veil.

2. In putting this show together, was your creative process any different than when you design your "drag" cabaret shows? How did your song choice differ with this show? A major part of my act is telling stories about my past and I have had quite a past, a full repertoire. At times I've decided against certain stories that placed too much of an emphasis on my being male. In this show, I'm not censoring myself at all. As far as songs, well, I'm doing some older material including a short ten minute piece as my character "Miriam Passman," to prove to myself and the audience that there really isn't that much difference. I can basically do the same show and it doesn't matter what I wear. Frankly, I haven't worn any falsies or foundation garments in years and in my regular act I've always worn pants.

3. Why did you choose to debut this show at Pangea? I asked a few of the out of town venues that I'll be performing in over the course of the next year if they'd mind if I did the show out of drag and they adamantly objected. They fear that my audience will be disappointed or worse, not show up. And it's a legitimate concern. I wanted to test the waters, and most importantly, see if I like it. I may not but I think I will. Pangea is a very safe place for me. I've known the owner Stephen and the talent coordinator Kevin Malony for many years. They were eager to provide me with a venue for this really rather mild experiment.

4. What do you hope audiences will come away with from attending this show as opposed to your previous cabaret shows? I certainly hope the audience will feel a greater freedom of expression from me and an even more honest experience of spending an hour in my company. And I really do hope they'll feel that it's not that big a difference. My persona in drag is so close to who I am in real life that it's not like they're gonna suddenly see me turn into Vin Diesel. It's basically the same persona.

Charles Busch a la Marlene Dietrich, Photo Credit: Michael Wakefield5. What are you most excited about in presenting this show? What are you most nervous about? I'm looking forward to singing with greater power because without intending I think I lighten my voice a bit in subconsciously feminizing it.

I'm a trifle concerned that perhaps the audience and I will miss the trappings of glamour that drag provides. In my act I suppose I evoke echoes of some of the great ladies at the mic; Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich etc. But perhaps with my own short hair I'll still be unconsciously evoking Judy and maybe a little Elaine Stritch. All of those ladies' stage personas traded on their androgyny. Judy in her tramp outfit and Dietrich in her men's tuxedos and even Stritch with her simple white buttoned down shirt. The great theatre critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote of Dietrich "She has sex without gender." That would be the highest compliment I could receive.

6. You will be joined once again by your long-time musical director Tom "Muscles" Judson. How will your chemistry with him differ with you performing as yourself? This should be interesting. Tom is a big good looking sexy guy and we enjoy singing romantic duets with each other. It's an element that I've never seen any other drag performer do in their shows. Not to my knowledge. Drag surprisingly can desexualize a performer. One of the things I've always admired about Rupaul is that he manages to be gorgeous, smart and sexy. Without the drag, it will be two men singing a romantic duet. I hope my seething blindingly muscular virility won't overwhelm Tom.

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Kenn Duncan7. Many people have hang-ups about being completely naked and exposed, fearing they might be rejected or ridiculed. What has been your most terrifying naked moment? Well, very early in my career I wrote a play and starred in and for a rather extended scene was completely nude. I played incestuous identical twin brothers and well....basically in the second act...I fucked myself. My dear, it was a coup de theatre. I was less nervous than I thought I'd be, but it was a little weird knowing that every friend of mine and worse my two sisters had all seen me totally nude.

8. Since the show is titled Naked & Unafraid, when have you been naked and not afraid of what people thought? I was raised by a remarkable woman, my mother's older sister, my Aunt Lillian. My mother died when I was seven and Aunt Lillian eventually adopted me. She was my first great collaborator. She was involved in everything I did. Among the great gifts she gave me was a sense that every creative idea I had was worthy and should be encouraged. I was brought up without any sense of "what will people think?" Looking back now, I'm realizing that I don't think I ever turned down an experience. I have some regrets of things I didn't do, but never something that was actually offered to me. My entire career has been predicated on taking a chance, putting on a show in some bizarre venue for the sheer fun of it. Creating a drag role because it was a cinematic fantasy that I wanted to experience. Thank God, I never have concerned myself for one second on "what will people think." I think I've always been naked and unafraid.

9. Continuing with show's title, what is the most intimate fact about Charles Busch you would be willing to reveal in this interview? It's been so long since I've performed this activity, but all modesty aside, I think I'm a world class kisser. I wonder if the younger generation have technically improved on it. I'd like to find out.

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? I would like to be a more thoughtful friend. It would be nice to be a little less self-absorbed. I actually am making an effort. I hope I don't let it go like I have all of those unused gym memberships.

Charles Busch, Photo Credit: Michael WakefieldMore on Charles:

Charles Busch is the author and star of such plays as The Divine Sister, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Tribute Artist and The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, which ran for nearly two years on Broadway and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays, Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Charles received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. He is also the subject of the acclaimed documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch. He is a two-time MAC award winner and has performed his cabaret act in many cities including San Francisco, Provincetown, Palm Springs, New Orleans, Atlanta, Philadelphia, London, Paris and in New York at Feinstein's/54 Below. In winter of 2016, his show The Lady at the Mic premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series.

Friday
Feb102017

Call Answered: Lewis Cleale: Book of Mormon + 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists: Let's Misbehave: The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter

Lewis ClealeI love the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists series. They always have the best artists perform! In this next installment, I got to interview Book of Mormon's Lewis Cleale who is returning to the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists series in Let's Misbehave: The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter, which will be taking place Saturday, 2/11 at 8pm, Sunday, 2/12 at 2pm & 7pm, and Monday, 2/13 at 2pm & 7:30pm at the 92Y (1395 Lexington Avenue, 92nd Street & Lexington Ave). Click here for tickets!

"Night and Day," "I’ve Got You Under My Skin," "You’re the Top": Behind Cole Porter’s famous wit and sophistication lay an artistic genius’s mastery of the American popular song. How did this wealthy scion from Peru, Indiana thwart familial legal-career expectations to join Berlin, Loesser, and Sondheim on the very short list of iconic composer-lyricists? Artistic director David Loud leads a stellar Broadway cast — Allison Blackwell, Lewis Cleale, Nikki Renee Daniels, Rebecca Luker and Matthew Scott — through Porter’s most exquisite creations, including songs from such smash-hit shows as Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate.

For more on Lewis be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on 92Y visit http://www.92y.org and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

1. This February you are performing in 92Y's Lyrics & Lyricists concert featuring the music of Cole Porter. What made you want to be part of this month's show? What are you looking forward to about performing with Allison Blackwell, Nikki Renee Daniels, Rebecca Luker and Matthew Scott? I have been performing in the Lyrics and Lyricists series since 1994. My first appearance was with Nancy Lamott and Kitty Carlisle and KT Sullivan and it actually led to my getting cast in my first Broadway show, because our musical director for that program was the famous Peter Howard. Peter is a Broadway Legend who did the dance arrangements for not only Swinging on a Star, which was my first show on Broadway but for Cabaret, Crazy for You, Chicago and on and on and on. I've known many of the cast members in our current show for a long time and they’re some of my favorite singers around. Nikki Renee Daniels and I have been doing the Book of Mormon together for a while now. And finally the host, narrator, arranger and man-about-town David Loud is singularly one of the most talented people in our business. His arrangements are spectacular and always a great joy to sing.

2. What do you think 92Y audiences will love about this installment of Lyrics & Lyricists? What will surprise them? David Loud, in addition to entertaining the audience with the beautiful music, also will give a great deal of insight into the construction of the music from a musical and lyrical standpoint. Many of the songs everyone knows, but when you break them down and you look at the mechanics behind the songs as David will show you, it's quite fascinating.

Lewis Cleale performing at 92Y "Lyrics & Lyricists: Getting to Know You: Rodgers and Hammerstein", Phtoo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff3. As a current cast member of the Tony Award winning Book of Mormon what is it like to go from singing those lyrics to performing the music of Cole Porter? I'd say what the writers of Book of Mormon and Cole Porter have in common is a great and devious wit. I personally am fairly devious so it's not a great switch to go from the lyrics of Book of Mormon to Cole Porter.

4. How has Cole Porter influenced you? What was it about his music that you relate to? I wouldn't say I've been influenced by Cole Porter but his music has been a constant through-line in my musical career. I first sang some of the very songs I'm singing now on the stage in college. When you're that young you're singing about things that you don't understand. Now I comprehend a great deal more because of life experience. I would say now as an adult I can relate to the longing for love, loss, lust, wit, sarcasm, honesty, and sheer unbridled joy in some of his lyrics. They are very much alive and relatable even in our modern world.

5. Of the songs you are performing, did you jump up & down with excitement over one of them? If so, which one? I have been singing all of the choruses to "It's De-Lovely" for many years now and it's one of my favorite songs to sing. In fact, I've booked many shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway using the song. So I know it inside and out and it's very joyful to do and it's a very upbeat song and it tells a great story and it ends on a big high note so it's fun to do.

Lewis ClealeMore on Lewis:

Broadway: Sondheim on SondheimSpamalotAmourOnce Upon a MattressSwinging on a Star (Drama Desk nom). Off-Broadway: The FantasticksA New BrainTime and AgainCall Me Madam (Encores!). Tours: Sunset BoulevardSouth PacificMamma Mia! Regional: more than 30 leading roles including Giant (Signature), Passion (Helen Hayes Award), 1776 (Ford’s Theatre, Helen Hayes nom.). Recordings: Infinite Joy: The Songs of William FinnEncores From Encores!Myths and HymnsGreat MusicalsCall Me MadamAmourOnce Upon a MattressSwinging on a Star. Film: Frozen.

Thursday
Feb092017

Call Answered: Conference Call: The "Georgie" interviews: Ed Dixon, Eric Schaeffer & Kathie Lee Gifford

Ed Dixon has been on my radar for quite some time. I've been lucky enough to see him on Broadway in the original Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, and the 2011 revival of Anything Goes. But it was the enthusiasm of my friend Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf over his autobiography Secrets of a Life Onstage...and Off that really got me interested in Ed. I immediately purchased his book and could not put it down. Needless to say, I was over the moon when my call got answered to interview Ed about his new one-man tour de force show Georgie, about his friendship with actor George Rose. Ed's performance in Georgie is one of the most powerful I have seen in a long time! It's gripping from start to finish!

The best part about this interview was I got to conduct it at the opening night party for Georgie which afforded me the opportunity to not only interview Ed, but also Georgie's director Eric Schaeffer, and one of my long-time idols, Kathie Lee Gifford, whose work with both Ed and Eric as parlayed into a life-long friendship.

Ed Dixon's Georgie plays at The Loft at The Davenport Theatre through April 15 (354 West 45th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Ed be sure to visit http://www.eddixon.biz and folllow him on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Georgie visit http://georgietheplay.com and follow the show on Instagram!

Ed Dixon in "Georgie", Photo Credit: Carol RoseggEd Dixon (Actor/Playwright):

1. What do you miss most about George? He was my connection to an entire world of show business: the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Edith Evans and superstardom in the theatre. And in an instant, he was gone. We would go see openings together, the opera and for months after he died, I would go to the phone to call him because when someone disappears instantly like that with no warning, they just don’t leave you. Obviously no matter what you find out about them, if you love someone for 20 years that doesn’t leave you either. 

2. When you were performing at North Shore Music, you said that was the first time you actually felt as though George was your friend. What was that moment like? Let me tell you, George was not an easy person to get along with. When you see his interviews on line, there’s a great formality to him. He was born the same year as my father, in 1919. That’s a whole different level of gay. A whole different era of gay. Even in 1970, you weren’t allowed to be gay. Casting directors wouldn’t hire you, but he didn’t care. But there was a part of him that did because when you see the interviews, all that joyousness I’m trying to show, that I got personally, wasn’t in any of the interviews. They are very business like, which I found very fascinating.

Ed Dixon in "Georgie", Photo Credit: Carol RoseggGeorge Rose and Ed Dixon, Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi3. In Georgie, there’s a big twist in the show which I don’t want to give away in the interview, but when you found out about it, did your heart just sink? Let me tell you, it takes a long time for a thing like that to sink in. There's a picture of me George took while we were in the Dominican Republic and I look happy. I see that picture now and I go, "My God. That’s amazing." He’s been gone for 30 years. I couldn’t have done this play before. I had my own problems to deal with.

4. Do you think the death of George was the first step towards your own downward spiral? It would be very disingenuous to say that. It’s a very complicated thing when someone loses control of their life. There were many pieces to it. In truth, I had been on a bad road for a while, but it certainly doesn’t help when a good friend is murdered violently and you find out a horrible secret about them.

5. How did you pick-up your life after George’s death as well as the death of two of your other friends at that time? Show business saved my life. I went into treatment while I was working in the original Broadway run of Les Miserables and they gave me my job back. I went back into the biggest hit on Broadway and if I hadn’t, I don’t think I’d be alive today.

Ed Dixon and Director Eric Schaeffer, Photo Credit: Joseph MarzulloEric Schaeffer (Director):

1. As the director of Georgie, what attracted you to the project? Well, Ed…hahaha. We are good friends and because it’s such a personal story for Ed I think he wanted somebody he could trust. When he asked me, he said, "I’m writing this play. It’s a one-man show. It’s really personal to me. Would you do it?" I said "Absolutely!" And I hadn’t even read the play yet, but I think Ed is such a huge talent, not only as an actor, but as a writer/storyteller, so I wanted to be part of that.

2. You worked with Ed on Kathie Lee Gifford’s Under The Bridge as well as Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and Sunset Boulevard. You’ve seen him grow as an actor over the course of his career. How do you think, in this show particularly, he’s grown from working with him previously? I think the hardest thing for Ed was to play multiple characters and not just one role. Plus, it’s such a personal story that it’s a challenge to know where the line was to say this was just enough and now it’s time to move on. In a rehearsal room, you have to be able to trust the person you are working with to say, "I trust you to tell me when it’s too much and when it’s not." I think the range of emotions, that Ed goes through, is probably the biggest thing he’s ever done.

3. For people who don’t know George Rose, what could be one reason, in addition to Ed’s incredible performance, they should come see this show? Anyone who loves theatre will love this show because it’s a real history through the theatre and it’s all about what the theatre was and is not anymore. It’s so exciting to re-live those moments to someone who actually lived through them originally.

Me: And it has that twist, which I don’t want to give away in the interview, but it’s like you’re watching the show and then bam, where did that come from and it’s such an emotional point, it’s so great. You did a really good job with keeping that hidden and just letting it drop.

Eric Schaeffer: It goes back to the writing. As Ed says in the play, "It’s all about the text."

Kathie Lee Gifford and Ed Dixon, Photo Credit: Joseph MarzulloKathie Lee Gifford (The Today Show):

1. You are here tonight to see Ed Dixon’s Georgie about his friendship with actor George Rose. You had cast Ed in your show Under The Bridge. What do you love about Ed? How did you initially meet? Ed was doing a reading with me of another project that I had written called Saving Aimee, which ended up being Scandalous on Broadway, but at the time, I had also written Under The Bridge, and I took one look at Ed and I said, "You’re my 'Armand' and Ed laughed at me and said OK!" He didn't even know who "Armand" was at that time, but that's what actors learn you to do. You tell them they are a character and they are like, Ok, I'm that character." He was just brilliant to work with and we have remained friends all these years.

2. How does everything come full circle for you by seeing Ed Georgie? You know, any time you are on the road or in rehearsals with Ed, he always has a gazillion stories. I had heard a couple of the stories through the years of his friendship with George Rose, but I’d never known the story in its entirety of how impactful it was on Ed, on his whole psyche, his whole being. How do you process the devastation of finding out something so heinous about the person you admire the most? That is the real question. This show, Ed’s performance, is a tour de force! I’m trying to remember a more unbelievably powerful performance by a man on stage that I’ve seen in my recent memory and I can’t.

Eric Schaeffer was my first director when I made my Broadway debut in Sondheim’s Putting It Together. He also directed Under The Bridge at The Zipper Theatre and then he was my very first, very important director on Saving Aimee as well. And Mary Cossette, one of the producers of Georgie is the widow of one of my husband’s (Frank Gifford) dearest friends, Pierre Cossette. So this is like old home week for me. I’m almost shaking with joy seeing all these extraordinary talented people I’ve been blessed to work with and call friends in my life.

Me: They’ve been lucky to work with you.

Kaithe Lee Gifford: Oh, I don’t know, you’d have to ask them…hahaha. I was the one who was new to the Broadway world and they welcomed me and encouraged me. You never forget the kindess of people.

Ed DixonMore on Ed:

Ed Dixon is the author/composer/lyricist of Shylock (The York Theatre) which garnered him his first Drama Desk Nomination. He wrote Richard Cory with A. R. Gurney, on a Steinberg Grant from Playwrights Horizons. It was nominated for a Leon Rabin Award for Best New Work and won the NYMF Festival Award and the Audience Prize. Cloak and Dagger, his four-person musical recently opened at the Signature Theatre in DC, helmed by artistic director, Eric Schaeffer. Dixon’s Fanny Hill was presented by the York Theater where it won a Dramalogue Award, two Dean’s List Awards and was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards. Cather County which opened at Playwright’s Horizons won him a Leon Rabin Award at Lyric Stage in Dallas where it was also named best new theater work of 2000. Dixon’s grand farce, L’Hotel was given its premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater last year by Producing Artistic Director, Ted Pappas. Ed’s comic thriller, Whodunit…The Musical has had countless productions all over the United States and he is the author of the highly successful book, Secrets of a Life Onstage…and Off.

As an actor, Ed made his Broadway debut in 1971 with No, No, Nanette starring Ruby Keeler and directed by Busby Berkeley. Six months later he was opening the Kennedy Center in Washington DC as a soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, a role he reprised on the recording and at the Metropolitan Opera. Other Broadway credits include "Belasco" in King of Schnorrers, "Cardinal Richelieu" in The Three Musketeers, "Thenardier" in the original company of Les Miserables (a role he played more than 1700 times), "The Baker" in Cyrano: The Musical, "Ozzy" in The Scarlet Pimpernel, "General Wetjoen" in The Iceman Cometh (with Kevin Spacey), "Senator Carlin" in The Best Man (he also went on for Charles Durning as "President Hockstader"), "Mister" in Sunday in the Park with George, "Max" in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, "Admiral Boom" in Mary Poppins, and "the Captain" in Anything Goes. On tour he was "Mssr. De Rougement" in David Merrick’s Very Good Eddie, "Charlemagne" in Pippin with Ben Vereen, "Max" in Sunset Boulevard, "the Governor of Texas" in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas with Ann-Margret, "Albert Blossom" in Doctor Doolittle, "the Director" in Curtains, "Max" in The Sound of Music and "Doolittle" in My Fair Lady. Off-Broadway he teamed up with Leonard Bernstein again (as well as Comden and Green) for By Bernstein, played opposite Bebe Neuwirth in Here Lies Jenny, joined Len Cariou and Roberta Maxwell in The Persians, and starred in Oliver QuadeHotel BroadwayIdentity and Shylock, all of which he wrote. He has received a Helen Hayes Award, and been nominated for a Drama Desk, a Joseph Jefferson, an Irne, and a Henry.

Eric SchaefferMore on Eric:

Eric Schaeffer is the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.  Under his leadership, the Theatre was honored with the 2009 Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theater in America, as well as 90 Helen Hayes Awards over the years, with an additional 340 nominations for theater excellence in Washington, DC.

At Signature, he has directed numerous productions that include Elmer GantryCloak and DaggerBeachesCrossingMiss SaigonSpinHello, Dolly! (Ford‘s Theatre co-production); The Best Little Whorehouse in TexasBrother RussiaHairspraySunset BoulevardChessShow BoatFirst You Dream: The Music of Kander & EbbThe HollowLes MisérablesACEKiss of the Spider WomanGlory Days; The Witches of EastwickSaving AimeeInto the WoodsMy Fair LadyNevermoreThe Highest YellowOne Red FlowerAllegroTwentieth Century110 in the ShadeHedwig and the Angry InchThe Gospel According to FishmanGrand HotelThe Rhythm ClubOver & OverThe FixWorkingThe RinkCabaretFirst Lady SuiteWingsPoor SupermanUnidentified Human Remains and The True Nature of Love; and the Sondheim musicals Merrily We Roll AlongSunday in the Park with George (Arena Stage co-production), PassionInto the WoodsCompanyAssassinsSweeney ToddFollies and Pacific Overtures, among others.

On Broadway, Eric directed Gigi, the critically acclaimed revival of Follies, as well as the Tony Award®-winning Million Dollar QuartetGlory Days and Putting It Together. His national tours include Million Dollar Quartet and Big. Off-Broadway, he has directed Sweet Adeline (City Center Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert) and Under the Bridge. His West End credits include Million Dollar Quartet and The Witches of Eastwick.

Kathie Lee GiffordMore on Kathie Lee:

Kathie Lee Gifford has enjoyed a diverse and successful four-decade career as a television host, actress, singer, playwright, songwriter and author. Though best known for her 15 years on Regis and Kathie Lee (11 Emmy nominations), and currently acting as the three time Emmy-winning co-host of the fourth hour of the Today Show with Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee has always pursued projects which inspire and challenge her.

In 2013, Kathie Lee launched her podcast, Kathie Lee & Company, with Podcast One. Each week, Kathie Lee is joined by a friend from the world of TV, film, music, sports and news for a special one-on-one conversation.

Kathie Lee made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Putting it Together in 2000, then originated the role of "Marta Dunhill" in Rupert Holmes' Thumbs and played "Miss Hannigan" in a record-breaking run of Annie at Madison Square Garden. In 2005 her first musical Under The Bridge (book and lyrics, contributing composer) opened off Broadway. In November of 2012, her musical, Scandalous (book/lyrics) opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater and received a Tony nomination.

She is the NY Times best-selling author of many books including, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg-Life and Other Calamities, Party Animals, and The Legend of Messy M’Cheany. Her ninth book, The Three Gifts, was released in November 2012 with proceeds going to Childhelp. She currently writes a weekly article for the NY Daily News with Hoda Kotb.

Kathie Lee devotes much of her time to the Association to Benefit Children, which spawned the Cody Foundation. The resources from the Association continue to support Cody House and Cassidy’s Place. Cody House provides a transitional home for infants and children who have severe disabilities and serious medical problems. Named for Kathie Lee's daughter, Cassidy’s Place, is the home of the Association to Benefit Children’s (ABC) national children advocacy.

Monday
Feb062017

Call Answered: Carmen Cusack: If You Knew My Story: Live at Feinstein's/54 Below

Carmen CusackI was first introduced to the talent's of Carmen Cusack during her Tony-nominated turn in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's Tony-nominated Broadway musical Bright Star. I was blown away by Carmen's performance and that voice! I could listen to Carmen sing all night if I had the chance to and now with the release of her debut CD (on Broadway Records), If You Knew My StoryLive at Feinstein's/54 Below, I can!

Come find out the tales behind Carmen's story in our interview below!

Carmen will be returning to Feinstein's/54 Below for four performances only March 8 at 9:30pm, and March 14, 15, 16 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

Purchase Carmen's CD at Broadway Records, iTunes, or Amazon!

For more on Carmen be sure to visit http://www.carmencusack.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Last year you released your debut CD as part of the Live at Feinstein's/54 Below series. As if the pressure of making your concert debut at Feinstein's/54 Below wasn't enough, you decided to record the show and make into a live album. What made you decide to make your concert debut also your CD debut? I was asked to perform four shows for Feinstein's/54 Below and along with that request they asked if they could record it as a possible live album venture. I agreed to it because I felt I had nothing to lose. They took the best bits of the show and mixed it nicely and gave me full control over the content. I love LIVE recordings. They are raw and beautifully imperfect which is far more interesting to me. I'm a bit of a perfectionist to a fault and this allowed me to let go a little and embrace the organic nature of the evening.

2. Were you nervous knowing the show was being recorded? If so, how did you keep yourself calm? I was nervous the first five minutes of the first night. I then noticed that everyone was having fun so I decided to. I didn't really even think about the recording of it. I was too much in the moment with the audience to be bothered about that.

Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"3. For fans who have seen you in Bright Star and your many other theatrical productions, what do you think will delight them about this album and what will surprise them? Well, I sang some songs I hadn't sang in a while! Roles I had played in the past, like "Christine" in PHANTOM and "Fantine" in LES MIZ and of course "Elphaba"...showing a bit more strings to my vocal bow. I also gave some background regarding the writing process I witnessed working with Steve Martin and Edie Brickell as well as some stories that never made the Broadway version of BRIGHT STAR. There were some hauntingly beautiful songs that had to be cut from BIGHT STAR that I wanted to showcase as well. These anecdotes did seem to intrigue (if not shock) some folks. Ha!

4. The album cover is a picture of you as a young girl. When you look at that picture now, what goes through your mind about that time in your life? How much space I had. How big everything felt. Catching lizards and picking blackberries with Grandpa and running with my dog. Good times.

5. The title of your debut album is If You Knew My Story. We'll know your story from listening to this album, so what is something we don't know about your story? Ha! Well there's still a lot more story to tell. I plan on telling more on my next set of shows at Feinstein's/54 below this March and of course when I release my original album. Nothing but stories in those songs!

Katie Rose Clarke and Carmen Cusack at Feinstein's/54 BelowCarmen Cusack as "Elphaba" and Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"6. Another song you perform on the album is "Strong is the Heart." What has been the hardest thing your heart has had to endure that you need it's strength? Allowing someone in. To learn how to love and be loved.

7. You also perform "For Good" from Wicked with Katie Rose Clarke, which you two starred together in on the First National Tour. What was the best part about reuniting with her? What is one funny story you can tell us that happened between the two of you during your run together? She is a Texas girl and most of my schooling was in Texas so we got each other straight off the bat. She is so soulful and real. Love her. We got caught in a whiteout in Cleveland taking her puppy to emergency vet. We couldn't drive any further so we had to walk another mile in waist deep snow holding on to each other and the puppy for dear life. Sadly, the puppy didn't make it. His name was Roadie. : (  (Sorry this story wasn't funny).

Carmen Cusack and Edie Brickell opening night of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star", Photo Credit: Walter McBrideCarmen Cusack8. You also duet with Edie Brickell on "Sun Is Gonna Shine" from Bright Star, for which you received a Tony nomination for. What was the best part about performing with Edie? In your bio, you say playing "Alice Murphy" was the role of your dreams. Why was this role held in such high esteem for you as compared to other roles you've played? I love Edie. Her smile and energy is so infectious and calming and then she opens her mouth and this voice comes out that is like a warm breeze. She is the best! I knew as soon as I read the script that I was to play "Alice Murphy." It was that simple. Also creating the role as a debut was another big selling point.

9. One of your patter pieces on the album is titled "Anything could happen and probably will." What is something that you hope will still happen for you? The next thing I'd like to happen as soon as possible is to get my original album out. Maybe next time we can talk about that! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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? I want to be one percent every day more thankful for the love in my life.

Carmen CusackMore on Carmen:

An actress and singer whose career spans the world, Carmen Cusack made her Tony-nominated Broadway debut as "Alice Murphy" in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s BRIGHT STAR. In addition, she has graced the stage in some of theatre’s most renowned roles, including PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s "Christine," LES MISERABLES’ "Fantine," WICKED’s "Elphaba," SOUTH PACIFIC’s "Nellie Forbush," and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE’s "Dot/Marie." In January 2017, Carmen starred in the world premiere of Karen Siff Exhorn’s DO THIS, a one-woman play at Gulfshore Playhouse. Possessing a versatile vocal range, she has also been featured in numerous concerts, recordings and cabarets. Her Live at Feinstein's/54 Below album entitled "If You Knew My Story" is now available, and she will return to the cabaret stage at Feinstein’s/54 Below for a series of four shows in March 2017.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Carmen’s childhood included stops throughout the Southeastern and Central United States. At a young age, she was enticed into singing by a sweet tooth. She had sung for youth chapel many times; however, her church’s pastor asked her to sing "Amazing Grace" for the adult chapel – with the promise that she could have the first choice from a box of chocolates as her reward. Intrigued by the deal, Carmen decided that chocolate was enough motivation to overcome her shyness. She approached the podium for her song, and when the pastor asked if she would like the pianist to accompany her, the five-year-old Carmen replied "No thanks… she might mess up!" Even as a child, she was already a self-declared perfectionist. Her singing debut was a success and a sign of things to come.

Carmen Cusack as "Elphaba" in the First National Tour of "Wicked"A passion for singing and acting continued to be fostered over the years and led her to the University of North Texas, where she studied in the Performing Arts. Among the genres in which she trained were opera, ballet, jazz and tap, and her early creative influences included Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Sandi Patty, Aretha Franklin, and Meryl Streep. After completing her education, Carmen accepted a job on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship that changed the course of her future. Jean Ann Ryan Productions offered her a contract, and she sang her way around the world. Eventually, she landed in Manchester, United Kingdom, where she attained her breakthrough opportunity – the chance to appear in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as "Christine Daae."

Shortly thereafter, another milestone in Carmen’s career arrived in the form of her West End debut in London. Starring as "Fantine" in LES MISERABLES, she earned her first bow in Europe’s most prestigious theatre district. A diverse career continued to flourish in Europe, with opportunities ranging from Original West End Casts (THE SECRET GARDEN and PERSONALS) to innovative workshops to the futuristic, interactive SAUCY JACK & THE SPACE VIXENS. One part which Carmen particularly enjoyed playing was OVER THE RAINBOW’s "Eva Cassidy," as she had always admired Ms. Cassidy’s music.

In late 2006, a path paved in emerald green led Carmen back to the U.S., as she returned to her native country to take on one of musical theatre’s most demanding roles – WICKED’s "Elphaba." She initially joined the Chicago company as the stand-by for the role, and a year later, the show’s producers asked her to lead the U.S. National Tour as the company’s principal "Elphaba." As the "Wicked Witch of the West," Carmen paired with Katie Rose Clarke as "Glinda" to become one of the blockbuster’s beloved duos, and the Green Girl became a cherished credit in her career.

Carmen Cusack as "Nellie Forbush" in "South Pacific"Following her run as "Elphaba," Carmen once again demonstrated her artistic versatility by stepping into the role of "Ensign Nellie Forbush" to launch the Lincoln Center’s North American Tour of SOUTH PACIFIC. Besides providing her the chance to embody one of theatre’s timeless roles, SOUTH PACIFIC also presented the opportunity to work with Bartlett Sher, one of the industry’s most esteemed directors. Critical acclaim followed her around the country, and the show grew to become her one of her favorite productions.

Two challenging roles in strong regional theatres arrived next, with the Chicago Shakespeare Company providing the opportunity to play "Dot" and "Marie" in its production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater offering the role of "Mother" in RAGTIME. Both presented unique opportunities for Carmen to add her touch to these respected parts.

Carmen Cusack and Paul Alexander Nolan in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"The opportunity to create the role of her dreams arrived in BRIGHT STAR, and Carmen was reminded of how stimulating the creative process can be. Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s folk musical offered the perfect blend of music genre, intense acting, and extensive collaboration. Originating the role of "Alice Murphy" during the show’s development in the Powerhouse Theater workshop, she subsequently brought "Alice" to life in the show’s runs at the Old Globe in San Diego and Kennedy Center in Washington DC prior to the Broadway opening. She earned critical acclaim and amassed an array of award nominations – including the Tony Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Drama League Awards, and Theatre World Awards.

Most recently, Carmen appeared in New York City Center’s gala concert of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and FOR THE RECORD – SCORSESE: AMERICAN CRIME REQUIEM in Los Angeles.

Sunday
Feb052017

Call Me Adam: Dimo Hyun Jun Kim: Interview at Theatre at St. Clement's

Dimo Hyun Jun KimI love a good psycho thriller, but there aren't many musical psycho thrillers, so I was quite intrigued when I found out about Interview, a new psycho musical thriller, produced and directed by Dimo Hyun Jun Kim.

In Interview, a seemingly innocuous job interview for a writer’s apprentice quickly turns sinister when the true motives of the interviewee, "Matt," are revealed. Unveiling the myriad pieces of haunting evidence kept hidden for the past 10 years, the interviewer, "Dr. Eugene Harper," and the interviewee now have to investigate a murder mystery to find the true killer of a young girl whose corpse was found floating on a lake. The twist – while there are two people in the room, there are seven different personalities to be probed. The intoxicating question of what is real and what is not will quickly drive the audience to the brink of insanity.

Interview will play at the Theatre at St. Clement's (423 West 46th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) through March 5! Click here for tickets!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a director/producer? I was born in South Korea, and at age four I watched my very first musical, Cats, at the Seoul Arts Center. The following year, my parents brought me back to the theatre to see a Korean adaptation of Cats. Even at a tender age, I realized that the original musical was a phantasmagorical spectacle and theatre was where I belonged.

By age nine, I had decided to create my very own musical. The producer, Do-yoon Seol, allowed me to watch Cats gratis daily after noticing my enthusiasm for the show. As recorded in my diary, I watched Cats eighty-six times. When the tour ended, I knew every line by heart and understood how music, dance, verse, costume, scenery, and orchestra fit together. And from that very moment, I longed to be a great director despite my parents’ disagreement.

2. When did you decide to start your own theatre company? What has been the best part about this venture and what challenges did you face in creating it? I founded DIMO KIM MUSICAL THEATRE FACTORY in 2015 to produce COMFORT WOMEN: A New Musical. I had numerous challenges trying to create everything from ground zero, with no connections or networks in NYC. I had to learn how radio signal works, and how to deal with insurance, payroll, the IRS...it wasn't easy. However, it was amazingly rewarding to solve one issue at a time and put together a show.

3. After making its world premiere in Seoul, Korea and sold-out runs in Kyoto & Tokyo, you are now bringing Interview, an original psycho musical thriller to NYC for a limited run. What made now the right time bring the show to NYC? After producing two original shows in New York, I had the urge to bring a show that was successful in Korea to NYC audience members. Coincidentally, Suro Kim, who was the producer of Green Card: A New Musical, also wanted to bring a hit show from Korea to the US. That's how it all started.

4. What do you hope NY audiences will embrace most about this show? Psycho thriller musicals aren't too common in New York City but it is a very popular genre in Korea and Japan. I really want the audiences to see how one actor, Josh Bardier, plays six different roles at the same time - it is absolutely amazing.

Josh Bardier, Adam Dietlein and Erin Kommor, rehearsing "Interview"5. Why did you want to produce & direct this show? I wanted to show NYC audiences the high quality of Korean-born musicals. Also, because the show deals with domestic abuse and mental health issues, I wanted to approach the story as sensitive as I could - and I believed I could.

6. Interview tells the story of a psychologist, a criminal defendant & a legal system that would stop at nothing to gain an alleged killer's confession, even if it means driving the accused to the brink of insanity. When has there been a time in your life when you have been pushed over the emotional edge? When I was producing/directing Comfort Women, I received numerous calls from far-right Japanese people threatening to harm me - that gave me serious anxiety issues.

7. In Interview, a famous psychologist & author call a temp agency for an apprenticeship. The perfect candidate appears at his door. Witty, studious & eager to please, "Matt Sinclair" quickly makes an impression with "Dr. Eugene Harper." All is not as it appears, however & what starts as an interview, quickly turns sinister as the author's true motives are revealed. When have you been in a situation where something appeared to be one thing and it quickly turned into something completely different? When I was preparing for Green Card: A New Musical, I had a meeting with a sponsor - he looked like a total gangster. But he turned out to be the nicest person ever! I was pretty surprised. :)

Dimo Hyun Jun Kim8. Over the past 20 years, South Korea has become the third biggest market for musical theatre, after New York & London. As a producer, what has been the best part about the growth of musical theatre in South Korea and what changes do you feel still need to made there? When I turned 15, I began questioning why new musicals were always made in English and never made in our native Korean tongue. Something was missing from the industry. At 16-years-old, I tried to compose and direct a musical by myself, in vain. Three months of work and savings was lost. I decided to pitch my proposal to many Korean producers, who were kind, but they told me without further explanation that "no new musical will ever start in Korea." This was not an acceptable answer to me therefore I decided to go to New York City to make musicals. I presumed if I make a name in the city that is Marshall McLuhan’s proverbial "global village," licenses to play my musicals could always be sent back home.

New York indeed has a great theatre district, but when I arrived here in 2010 I found a dilapidated local Asian theatre community that seemed in a state of infancy. I realized quickly that there was a lack of Korean and more generally, pan Asiatic representation, both in the creative teams and in the roles offered in Broadway, Off-Broadway, and even regional theater productions. As a result, since my arrival in the United States six years ago, I have worked hard to create more opportunities for Asian casts and creative teams to find a voice in the large plethora of the enchanted world of theatre and theatrical artistry. My ultimate goal is to become one of a few directors to lead the Asian theatre community to a new recognition on the world stage.

9. 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? I wanna sleep one percent more every day. This will give me the energy to put on a better show every single day!

Dimo Hyun Jun KimMore on Dimo:

Dimo Hyun Jun Kim is a theatre director from Seoul, South Korea, Chairman of Dimo Kim Musical Theatre Factory LLC & Theatre Department Chair of Born Star Training Center NYC. Dimo made his Off-Broadway debut with Comfort Women: A New Musical, nominated for Best Off-Broadway Musical by BroadwayWorld & the first all-Asian Off-Broadway cast to be led by an East Asian national. Other Off-Broadway shows include Green Card: A New Musical & Innermind. Selected credits include Richard III, See What I Wanna See, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, West Side Story, Advice to the Players, The Cherry Orchard, Godspell, The Upper Lip, Finding My Way Back Home, Promenade, Life is A Dream, West Side Ballad, Our Town, Art, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Spring is Arising & Jesus Christ Superstar. In June, Dimo will be producing the Asian Musical Theatre Festival in Lincoln Center.