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Entries in Music (123)

Tuesday
Jan152013

LuLu: BB Kings NYC Debut Interview

Lulu's name is synonymous with rock and a whole lot of soul. She first burst onto the scene in the sixties at the tender age of 15, with the enduring mega-hit "Shout." Since then she has topped the charts in every decade (working with everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and The Beatles to Elton John, Sting, David Bowie and Paul McCartney) and also become an accomplished actress, in such notable works as the cult classic "To Sir With Love" and legendary guest appearances on the BBC comedy, Absolutely Fabulous.

From a young age, Lulu found inspiration in the R&B and soul records made by American artists. She was showcased in the 2003 Mike Figgis/Martin Scorsese documentary Red, White and Blues along with other British artists (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck) who were influenced by the genre. When she turned her hand to writing, her song "I Don't Wanna Fight" became a world-wide number one for Tina Turner and was nominated for both Grammy and Ivor Novello Awards. And who can forget the high-energy duet with Take That, lifting "Relight My Fire" to new heights and taking it to number 1 in the UK? While mentoring the hopefuls on American Idol, Lulu stopped the show with a powerhouse version of "To Sir With Love" - arranged by Barry Manilow - to a stunned audience of over 70 million. Never one to slow down, Lulu still regularly performs with her band throughout Europe. She enjoyed two successful sold-out tours of her "Here Come The Girls" show, which paired her with Anastacia and Chaka Kahn. Now she looks forward to bringing her unique brand of rock n' soul to the United States.

On February 16, 2013 at 8pm, LuLu, Britian's iconic singer, will make her NYC debut with a performance at B.B. Kings Blues Club & Grill (237 West 47th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue) backed by an All-Star Band, featuring Will Lee, Jimmy Vivino and Rich Pagano from The Fab Faux, plus Paul Shaffer. Click here for tickets!

For more on LuLu be sure to visit http://www.luluofficial.com and follow her on Facebook and YouTube!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My father inspired me to sing. He had such a good voice and where I come from (Glasgow), everybody could sing. We'd gather with family and friends and neighbors and everyone would share a drink and a song. My father walked around the house singing all of the time. When I was a baby, he would rock me to sleep and always with a song. His singing resonated so deeply in me, that practically before I could talk, I was singing in tune. And my parents encouraged me.

In terms of influences, my mother was very pro-American when it came to music. So, I grew up listening to American music. As a young girl, it was The Andy Williams Show, The Rosemary Clooney Show and singers like Theresa Brewer, Connie Francis and Brenda Lee. In my teen years, I discovered the blues and gospel music. I loved Ray Charles, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Without a doubt, American artists definitely made the biggest impression on me.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I've been so blessed in my career to work with so many amazing artists, but of course there are a few that I'd love to collaborate with now. I really like and would love to work with Cee-Lo Green and Bruno Mars. They are both the real-deal when it comes to innate, natural-born talent, as both song-writers and singers. I also would love to work with B.B. King and Steven Tyler.

3. You have been performing for four decades as a singer, writer, actress, and radio host. What have you learned about yourself from your varied career? That I will never stop learning. That I am a novice, even though I've been around for forty odd years. And that's kind of exciting. It pleases me that there's more, more to learn, ways to improve...it's not over.

4. What do you get from your acting career that you do not get from your singing career? I haven't acted much recently although I would love to do more because there is so much about it that I love. Acting terrifies me because it is quite challenging, but also very rewarding. For me as a singer, even though I perform quite often with other people, I am still "Lulu", an individual. But, acting lets me be part of an ensemble. I love the interaction and everything that goes into the process.

5. On February 16, 2013, you will be making your NYC debut at BB Kings. What excites you about this moment? Why do you think it took you so long to make your NYC debut? I'm excited for the opportunity to take a step back and return to what I love, which is singing and the blues. Since I was very young and first came into the music business, I've learned to be "an entertainer." But I am undoing some of the things that I've learned and I intend to be more inward, more focused and make it about the songs. I am looking forward to stripping it down a bit and having a very personal moment.

As for why it took me so long, I guess I've been finding my way to NYC all these years...it's a journey after all.  Or maybe I'm just slow (haha).

6. What can fans expect at this engagement? Well you'll just have to come and see. They can expect to see me singing some of the songs that I love most and honoring some of my favourite artists.

7. What are you looking forward to about performing at BB Kings? It's always a thrill to share the stage with such talented musicians, The Fab Faux and Paul Shaffer. And I am excited about changing speeds a bit. Change is good!

 

8. You have worked with some of the biggest legends in music including David Bowie, Elton John, and Paul McCartney. What did you learn from working with them? I learned that when you work with great people, you up your game - you have to rise to the occasion and if you study with a great master, you will learn.

9. One of the first songs you wrote, "I Don't Wanna Fight" (one of my personal favorites) was recorded by Tina Turner and used as the theme song for the film "What's Love Got To Do With It." What did it feel like to have one of your songs recorded by such a legend? That really blew my mind - especially when it become such a big hit for her...It was surreal. Wynonna Judd also recorded another song I wrote called "My Angel Is Here."

10. You started songwriting in the 1990s. What made you want to start writing your own music? What made then the right time to start doing this? What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing music and in recording an album? I started writing songs because my brother told me I had to! I had been out of the business for some time, about eight years, and he said to me, "if you want to get back in you've got to write" and so I did...we did, together. It was the right time because as with most things, necessity is the mother of invention. I really enjoy collaborating and to me that's the best part of the creative process; sharing ideas, really getting into it, finding inspiration.

11. In addition to your recording work and television ventures, you have also starred in several theatrical productions in Europe. What do you enjoy about performing in theatre? Do you have plans of making your Broadway debut? I have done quite a bit of theatre. I played "Ms. Adelaide" in Guys & Dolls, a National Theatre production directed by Richard Eyre, in the West End. It was absolutely thrilling to work with him. I've played "Peter Pan" in both the musical and the play. And there have been some others...Theatre is instant gratification. You go on, you perform and you get the reaction. You know if you were good or bad, if people liked you or didn't. Plus, I love being part of an ensemble. I have no immediate plans for Broadway, but I am certainly open to it.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to spend your day off? I love spending time with my grandchildren.

13. Favorite skin care product? I can't live without Time Bomb. Since I was in my early twenties I have tried to take very good care of my skin and I've put a lot of effort into it. When I hit my fifties, and the products I was using just weren't 'cutting it' I had to find something that worked. Time Bomb products are designed with ingredients that make a difference for my skin and they were created by an award-winning team. It's thrilling for me to have people tell me that it's made a difference for their skin too. It's a whole new string to my bow that I would never imagined.

A Look Back at LuLu's Career:

Monday
Dec172012

Maureen McGovern: 54 Below/A Long and Winding Road Interview

Maureen McGovern, celebrated as "The Stradivarius Voice," marks the 40th anniversary of the release of her #1 Oscar-winning International Gold Record, "The Morning After" from The Poseidon Adventure, which garnered her a Grammy Award nomination in 1973 for "Best New Artist." Maureen received her second Grammy Award nomination in 1998 for "Best Traditional Pop Vocal" for her solo piano/voice album, The Pleasure of His Company, with Emmy-winning, Grammy-nominated jazz pianist, Mike Renzi. She was also a featured guest artist on the Grammy Award-winning Songs from the Neighborhood: The Music of Mister Rogers. Her hits include "Can You Read My Mind" from Superman, the Oscar-winning "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno and "Different Worlds" from the TV series Angie. Other critically acclaimed recordings include tributes to George Gershwin, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Harold Arlen and Richard Rodgers. Her current PS Classics CD, A Long and Winding Road has been praised by The New York Times as "A captivating musical scrapbook from the 1960's to the early 70's. Ms. McGovern's vocal technique is second to none."

Maureen McGovern and Sutton Foster in Broadway's "Little Women, The Musical", Photo Credit: Paul KolnikMaureen McGovern as "Sister Angelina," the guitar-strumming nun in "Airplane!"In 2005, Maureen was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her role as 'Marmee' in Little Women, The Musical on Broadway. In 1981, she made her Broadway debut as 'Mabel' in The Pirates of Penzance, then went on to star as 'Luisa' in Nine with Raul Julia and as 'Polly Peachum' in Three Penny Opera with Sting. Maureen reprised her role as 'Marmee' in the 1st National Tour of Little Women, The Musical and starred as 'Mrs. Anna' in the Broadway revival National Tour of The King & I. Regionally, she has starred in ElegiesDear WorldThe Umbrellas of CherbourgThe Lion in WinterLetters from 'Nam and Of Thee I Sing-Let 'Em Eat Cake, among others. She is currently performing her IRNE Award-winning "Best Solo Performance" one-woman musical memoir Carry It On (co-written and created with director, Philip Himberg). Her feature films include the role of "Sister Angelina" the guitar-strumming nun in the classic comedy Airplane and Airplane II, The Sequel. Maureen also played the nightclub singer in The Towering Inferno and the role of 'Rachel' in Dreamworks' animated video/DVD Joseph: King of Dreams with Ben Affleck.

For 33 years, Maureen served the Muscular Dystrophy Association as volunteer, performer, Board Member, Shamrocks Against Dystrophy Chairperson and NYC Telethon Co-Host for 6 years. Maureen supports music therapy and has been an Artist Spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association since 2001.

Now the two-time Grammy Award nominated vocalist and actress will perform her acclaimed show "Home For The Holidays" in New York with an exclusive engagement at 54 Below from December 18 to 23. McGovern will present an evening featuring songs of the season, some unexpected, and some traditional "chestnuts." She will be joined by her longtime Musical Director Jeffrey Harris on piano and Jay Leonhart on bass. Click here for tickets!

For more on Maureen visit http://www.maureenmcgovern.com and follow her on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Good question. I grew up singing folk music and I thought I wanted to be either a pop singer or folk singer. I was inspired by all those great singers I watched and listened to from Dusty Springfield to Dionne Warwick to Barbra Streisand. Barbra was an idol of mine and I just devoured her early albums. I also loved the Beatles and Joni Mitchell, who's a goddess, as well as Judy Collins. All the big band musicians also influenced me since my dad listened to them, from Mel Torme to Jo Stafford to Ella Fitzgerald. My dad sang in a barbershop quartet and rehearsed around our dining room table every Tuesday night and music was always in my heart. It was in the 3rd grade that I knew I wanted to sing. I knew that was my life's mission.

Maureen McGovern with the Boston Pops2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I've been fortunate to work with so many people. I've worked with Mel Torme. We did several PBS specials and toured together, but we never got to record together. I would have liked to have done that. I've recorded with Placido Domingo, sang with Sting on stage in Three Penny Opera, and just got to sing at the Boston Pops with Brian Stokes Mitchell, which was wonderful. I would love to record with James Taylor and would have liked to have had the chance to record with Kenny Rankin.

3. You have a show coming up at 54 Below from December 18-23. What made you want to perform there? 54 Below actually asked me early on to do a show, but I was not available then, so they asked me if I would join them for their first holiday season and I was thrilled to do that. I have a holiday show that I do around the country, so I've taken that show and adapted it for NY. I have had many friends perform at 54 Below who absolutely loved it, so I'm very excited to make my debut there. 

4. What excites you about this upcoming engagement? Anytime I work in NY I love it, but especially during the holidays in NYC. It's such a beautiful time. I lived in NY for 18 years and miss it, so I need to get my NY fix, at least once a year.

Maureen McGovern at the RRazz Room in San Francisco, Photo Credit: Pat Johnson5. What do you get from performing your own concerts as opposed to starring in a Broadway show? They each kind of inform each other. My concerting informs the actor in me and the actor in me informs what I do on stage in concert. I think my cabaret work is the most intimate kind of performance I do, I also translate that to my concerts. The audience always feels as if I'm speaking to them one on one. Everything informs the other.

I love the extended family feeling of being in a theatrical show. As a solo performer, I was on the road for six years early on in my career without any break, just living on the road. To be in one place in a theatrical show and have this extended family was a joy. One thing I loved about touring with Little Women was the real sense of family. I had that on Broadway too with the show, but at the end of the day, everyone went home to their lives, where as on tour, we bonded together more as a family because we all were in one place.

6. Your latest CD is "A Long and Winding Road." How did you decide which songs you wanted to put on the CD and what have you enjoyed most about the road you've traveled in your career? One of my agents said to me, "Why don't you do a boomer album?" I thought, "I've been there done that. I did an album years ago called Baby I'm Yours, which was more of the over pop versions of songs by Burt Bacharach which I love, but I thought if I could find a hook/reason to do it, I would. My musical director Jeff Harris and I spent a summer where we went through about 400 songs from his youth and my youth and in listening to all this material, I was taken back to my folk singing youth. I was such a shy performer and I would quickly go from one song to the next without talking much in between (but now you can't shut me up) and these iconic singers/songwriters were such an influence on me. The music and what the music had to say was a real form of expression for me because it went along with what I had believed. So we just picked songs I loved by Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Laura Nyro, Jimmy Webb, James Taylor, and Randy Newman. I didn't want to make a museum record, I wanted to find what was relevant about these songs today and put my own take on them and show that the second half of The Great American Songbook is as equally as rich as the first. Making this album gave me a greater respect for the things that I loved as a kid because it's looking back on them as an adult and seeing the real craft of the songwriting rather than just loving what I was hearing.

My career life has always been highs and lows, there has never seem to have been a comfortable middle, which I guess keeps the artistic juices flowing. They say "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," so there are lessons and assertiveness I had to learn along the way and own what has happened, whether good or bad. That was my journey. The business end of show biz often times doesn't interest me, it's the actual stepping out on that stage and letting go of what has gone on in your life that day and that beautiful release on stage and conversation with the audience makes this all worth while. It's "The Air That I Breathe." I've always felt it not those with the most talent, but it's those that don't give up. You have to find it within yourself to believe in you more than anyone else ever will. None of us get through this life alone, I've always had mentors and people who were the glue that kept me together, so I'm very grateful to all them and what keeps me going. It propels me to give me the freedom to find my path.

7. What does the recognition and accolade of receiving two Grammy nominations and a gold record mean to you? The Grammy nominations were incredibly exciting, especially the second one. I'm grateful to "The Morning After" (for which I received my first Grammy nomination) until the day I die, but the album that went with it had nothing to do with me.

I come from doing folk music and highly personalized music and my first manager had me do mindless Top 40 and the lounge circuit. When the producer in Cleveland who produced "The Morning After," put the album together either picked the songs or had me pick from six terrible ones and I had to pick the best of the worst...hahaha. He would even try to appease me by putting some songs on there that I wrote, but by the time they got to vinyl they had absolutely no resemblance to what I wrote and by the time we got to the end of the album, which was way overproduced, I was the singer lost in the song. While I am very grateful for the opportunity I had with "The Morning After," it just wasn't me and it was somebody else's concept of what I should be. I was told, "I know you want to do that stuff, but you have to do this to get to that other stuff." My career just seemed to be getting farther and father away from what I wanted, so when we got to the end of this overproduced album, the producer wanted me to sing "Until It's Time For You To Go," which is a lovely song and I used to play it on just guitar, so I said let's get a guitarist and we'll do it on just vocal and guitar. He said, "Oh no, we couldn't do that, it would like we ran out of money." That was 1972.

I came off the road in 1975 and had no label for several years and then I had "Can You Read My Mind" from Superman and "Different Worlds" from TV's Angie and also did Airplane and then did Pirates of Penzance, which was a second wind of my career, but I decided to stop recording until I could do it on my own terms, however long that would take, and in 1986, Mike Renzi (a brilliant jazz pianist) and I went into a tiny little studio owned by Jerry Ragovoy, who gave it to us on the "if come," if a studio buys it fine and if not then just pay the engineer. So we paid the engineer and we went in there and did absolutely nothing but what we loved. We took the album to CBS Masterworks, who wanted to sign me, and I asked them to listen to the album at home over the weekend, away from the office, and it was strictly a piano/voice album, and on Monday I got a call that they loved it. We released "Another Woman In Love," which was just piano and vocal, and that's the album I feel was my first album. It was the album my heart was revealed on. It was me to the core of my soul. Reviewers and public alike really took to it. They wanted to know who this singer was; it certainly wasn't the same woman who sang "The Morning After."

So twelve years later, I was being asked, when are you going to do a follow up to "Another Woman In Love," so Mike Renzi and I went back into the studio again and recorded just what we loved. The album was "The Pleasure of His Company" and the joy for me/sweet revenge was this second album was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Traditional Pop Vocal," and again it was just piano and voice, nothing else. The label at the time initially balked at it, but I said, "Trust Me," and they did. I got my second Grammy nomination.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? You always have more strength, power, and determination than you think you have. You only lose that when you start to doubt. Life is always a learning curve.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? To really do what's from your heart. It will either work or it won't, but when it works, it really works.

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I've lost both my parents, my mother in 1981 and my dad in 2004. The older I get the more dreams I have about them, but they are good dreams. I had a dream about my mother right before Pirates of Penzance started. It was within in the first year after her death and I had a dream that I saw her one night at the foot of my bed in a rocking chair, just rocking comfortably. It was a turning point in my grief because I felt as though she was okay.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? One thing artists never get is enough sleep. One thing that is great is a pajama jammy day. I live on a river with the state park behind it, which is my little sanctuary. It's nice to just stay at home with my puppies reading or watching old movies. I just like to chill out. I go at such a fast pace and if I push my body too much, it will stop me. I always know when I've gone too far.

12. Favorite skin care products? I love Aveeno products, Lancome, Mac, and Clinique.

13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I think passion is a super power. I think everyone should cultivate that. Me: I like that. That's very different than what I normally get. Maureen: What do most people say? Me: Most people say to fly or the power to heal. Maureen: I think there's a difference between power and force and I go for power, not force.  

Monday
Dec032012

Walt Stepp: Siren's Heart/Skybox Interview

Photo Credit: Penny Landau/Maya PRWalt Stepp is writer/composer who writes thought-provoking and humorous shows and music. He once wrote a musical in which a Congressman's South American Songbird flings herself into the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., and unravels the whole knotty problem of a Watergate-like scenario. That was Dominoes: A Watergate Musical (1998). He had three plays produced at Altered Stages on 29th Street: Why We Shot Jack (2006), which re-tells the assassination from the point of view of Congressional conspirators; The View from K-Street Steakhouse (2007), which empathized with D.C. lobbyists who know that no amount of charm or cash alone can convince a Congressman, since ultimately, the party decides for its own mysterious reasons & Mark Twain's Blues, a play of Twainsongs (2008), wherein the author feels guilty about the ending of his masterpiece, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it was such a betrayal of his main characters. "Huck" & "Jim" come back to help him rewrite it. Last year, Only Love Will Do, a gay/straight romantic comedy, had an extended run at Theater For The New City. All the men in that show, straight or gay, circled around "Liz," played by Louisa Bradshaw. Siren's Heart was inspired by my friend Richard Geha's, As Marilyn Lay Dying. He soon found himself in the same paranoid narrative America has been reciting since her death in 1962 and went looking for another, more uplifting story about her. That's when Norma Jean as a "woman of a certain age" came to him. Not as the pretty teenager we all know, but as the more fulfilled person she always wanted to be.

Walt grew up on the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest; Gallup, New Mexico was the "Big Town" out there. Every Saturday, the BIA kids (Bureau of Indian Affairs) would go to town and see the new movies. Apart from Roy & Trigger, there were only two kinds: the Westerns (but horses and I didn't care for each other) and the Manhattan movie, which always opened with that Art Deco Skyline. It depicted a place far away where all the gleaming autos wore white-wall tires and everyone lived in gleaming white-wall apartments. It all said "Go East, Young man" and he did.

"Skybox", Photo Credit: Jonathan SlaffWalt has two shows running simultaneously, Siren's Heart: Norma Jean and Marilyn in Purgatory playing at The Actor's Temple (339 West 47th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) and Skybox playing at the Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between 9th & 10th Streets). Click here for tickets to Siren's Heart and click here for tickets to Skybox.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/composer? I'm first of all a songwriter, started in college when I discovered I could put any of the poems I was studying to music with just three chords. Actually, I'm a good singer - or a good imitator of Bing, Frank, Elvis, Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald. And the music is already in the poetry. "If you can say it, you can sing it," I discovered early on, and I still think my freshman version of Shakespeare's With a Hey and a Ho and a Hey Nonny O is a real contender.

When it came time to write SIREN'S HEART: Norma Jean & Marilyn in Purgatory, I realized I had a whole catalogue of songs that seemed made for the "Marilyn Who Might Have Been" story I wanted to write. The songs seemed to write the book. Three are by Yeats - "The Mask" is the sexiest ("It was the mask that first engaged your mind"), "Love is Blonde" (re-titled by Lissa Moira, our director) has been turned into a mean, gutsy blues by our star, Louisa Bradshaw, and our musical director, Gregory Nissen. Louisa also does a winning French version of Yeats's "Brown Penny" when talking about her affair with Yves Montand during the making of Let's Make Love. ("We used each other terribly - gloriously. I used him to seal my divorce from Arthur.")

Gerard Manley Hopkins' classic "Margaret are you grieving/over Goldengrove Unleaving" is the basis for a touching lullaby Marilyn sings for "the child I lost that September." Our new opener, "Looking at Her" is based on a story Truman Capote tells in Music for Chameleons about walking around Manhattan with Marilyn. Later, in his apartment, he notices she's been very quiet in his bedroom. "What are you doing in there?" he calls, and then he sees her gazing into the mirror. "Looking at her," she says.

A related song is "Norma Jean's Lament," beautifully choreographed by Don Garverick ("Oh God, I gotta be this goddess to them all (but I'm just this chunky chick from East L. A."). My own best song is a very torchy ballad she sings to Arthur Miller, "If You Could See Me As I Am." ("Once we were America's dream couple. And then we weren't," is the lead-in).

And Louisa's own "Shiksa Strip" ("I know it wasn't your decision/but I just love your circumcision") always gets a big hand.

Louisa Bradshaw as "Marilyn Monroe" in "Siren's Heart...Norma Jean/Marilyn in Purgatory", Photo Credit: Henry Joseph2. You currently have two shows running Off-Broadway. The first show is Siren's Heart...Norma Jean/Marilyn in Purgatory. What made you want to write this show? What is about Norma Jean/Marilyn's life that you identify most with? I didn't really want to write about Marilyn's real life on earth - too grim, too sad - and it's been done better by too many other writers. Then I came across an interesting story in Don Spoto's great biography of her - that the only time of Real Happiness in her life was during her only live performance before 17,000 GI's in Korea. "They treated me with a respect I'd never known. I was their 'girl next door.' " It 's a touching moment, but I couldn't find any other moment of unconditional happiness in her actual life. So I started looking in the next world, where I found her in purgatory - now a much happier, more fulfilled and less haunted woman - the person she always wanted to be. "It's like celestial rehab," she jokes. And now she wants to tell her worldwide fans how she's been faring. We always knew there was so much more to the beauty trapped beneath that golden mask.

3. The second show you have running is Skybox. How did you come up with the idea for this show? I was reading Nicholas Kristof's column about the inequality of wealth in America, and he spoke of "the skyboxification of America." Skybox! The idea came to me practically written: a plutocrat buys a baseball team and the accompanying luxury skybox - and immediately has an affair with his gorgeous personal assistant. After a while, I realized I was riffing on the flirty, father-daughter relationship Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa had on TV. I loved it; he'd always challenge her in some impossible way and she'd always rise to the challenge in some very witty way. Those two characters, played so well by Bill Tatum and Chelsey Clime, were inspired by Regis and Kelly. The trophy wife has turned out to be more than I was aware I'd written - such comic delivery - thanks to her being played by Rachel Daye Adams and directed by Lissa Moira. And the "staff" players Lissa cast - Maisha Azadi, Kenny Steven Fuentes and Steve Brustien - are wonderful too.

4. Siren's Heart started its life at Theater for the New City and Skybox currently plays there. What is it about Theater for the New City that you keep having your shows there? What does their venue offer that another one does not? The great thing about The Theater for the New City is that if you have a good script you can produce your own play - in the one place on earth that is flooded with great theatrical talent that is out of work. It's amazing how many excellent actors and designers we had to turn away on just this show.

Louisa Bradshaw as "Marilyn Monroe" in "Siren's Heart...Norma Jean/Marilyn in Purgatory", Photo Credit: Henry Joseph5. You have worked with Louisa Bradshaw (current star of Siren's Heart) and Lissa Moira (current director/dramaturg on both Siren's Heart and Skybox) on several of your shows. What do you enjoy most about working with them? What have you learned from them? There was no such problem on Siren's Heart because, having worked with them before at TNC on Only Love Will Do - (a gay male couple have dinner with a straight couple; they're still talking bout sex), I knew (or hoped) they'd be the director and actress for my Marilyn play. Lissa's directed so many plays - theatre's her life - I knew she'd contribute greatly to the work, and Louisa's so drop-dead gorgeous - well, that shouldn't matter when one is doing a play about Marilyn Monroe, but it helps. And I knew from the previous play what a fine actress and singer she is. I've watched her get even better and better in countless performances of the play. She and Lissa are both consummate professionals.

6. What was it like to grow up on the Navajo Reservation? Do you feel growing up there influenced your artistic style at all? If so, how? For me, growing up on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico was nothing out of the ordinary. I've never thought of how it might have shaped my art. Perhaps it made me more observant because as the "billegona" (white boy) in town, I was a bit of an outsider. But it was never a big issue between me and my Navajo buddies.

7. What have you learned about yourself from being a writer/composer? I'm a composer who writes "words-first," usually the words of a character, and I'm often surprised how it often brings out a side of myself (and the character's) I wasn't quite aware of before. "Looking at Her" led to music I hadn't written before, but when I start a song with a musical lick, I tend to repeat the music I've already done. The music's in the words for me.

8. What's the best advice you've ever received? When I started to make my way to New York, my Okie dad said, "Son, don't eat the chili in West Little Rock."

9. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? One can dream about anyone one wants while conscious and awake. Why would anyone want dream about someone while asleep? Ah, for a much deeper experience with the full panorama of emotion? Well, I can't tell you that.

Monday
Nov192012

Penny Fuller: 13 Things About Ed Carpolotti

Penny Fuller began her Broadway career starring in Neil Simon’s "Barefoot in the Park," and the original casts of "Cabaret," "Rex," and "Applause," for which she received a Tony Award nomination for the role of "Eve Harrington." Her television work garnered six Emmy nominations and an Emmy Award for ABC’s "The Elephant Man."

Her more recent Broadway appearances include Horton Foote’s "Dividing The Estate" and Neil Simon’s "The Dinner Party" (Tony nomination). Off-Broadway, she has been seen in "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," Nicky Silver’s "Beautiful Child" at the Vineyard, "Southern Comforts" at Primary Stages, and "Three Viewings and New England" at Manhattan Theatre Club. She has played a variety of roles in regional theater including "Amanda" in "The Glass Menagerie," "Arkadina" in "The Seagull," and "Claire" in "A Delicate Balance." She returned to musical theatre in William Finn’s "A New Brain" at Lincoln Center. Other musical credits include "A Little Night Music," "Do I Hear a Waltz?," and "Sail Away" in London. Since 2001 she has collaborated with composer, lyricist, and cabaret director Barry Kleinbort and has embarked on a new career phase as cabaret artist in New York clubs and theaters.

Now Penny and Barry are teaming up again for the New York City premiere of "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" at 59E59 Theaters. "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" tells the tale of newly widowed Virginia Carpolotti who gets some shocking news—her husband Ed left her in perilous debt to shady bankers, mobsters and embezzlers. Now an anonymous blackmailer wants a million dollars, or else!

"13 Things About Ed Carpolotti" will play at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenue) from December 4-30. Click here for tickets!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My great uncle, William David, who was a character actor on Broadway, first made the theater REAL to me. I adored Vivien Leigh in the movies and then discovered she acted on the stage as well. Consequently I was SERIOUS about it all, and I went to Northwestern University to study with a great and renowned teacher, Alvina Krause.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? It is impossible to name them all!!!! One who is now gone: Oskar Werner!!!

3. What attracted you to "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti"? I had done the play, THREE VIEWINGS by Jeffrey Hatcher in 1995. It was 3 monologues; mine was the third. I loved it; I asked Jeff back then if he would make it possible for me to do it separate from the other two. He tweaked it so that it stood alone. I never got to do it in that form. About a year ago I got the idea of musicalizing it. Again, I went to Jeff Hatcher; he said, "Go ahead."

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope it will be a complete and satisfying experience: a deep love story with humor and suspense, familiarity and a bit of inspiration.

Penny Fuller in "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti"5. What do you identify most with about your character "Virginia Carpolotti"? Oh, how I hope I can have the equanimity, sense of humor, and strength that Virginia has!!!!!

6. What excites you about performing at 59E59 Theaters? I love the sense of community there! The three theaters are teeming with different people and events; then everyone meets at the E Bar…like a big party…to celebrate being part of that special exchange and experience that happens in theater.

7. You have been working with Barry Kleinbort (who wrote the book/music/lyrics and is directing "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti") since 2001 when you started performing your cabaret act. What initially made you want to start a cabaret act? How did you come to work with Barry on this? What has been the best part about working together? What is it like to work with him on "13 Things About Ed Carpolotti"? "If you ask me I could write a book!!!!!!!" I remember right after 9/11 thinking: "Singing would be helpful." (I am not exactly sure what I even meant, but perhaps the experience of hearing, perhaps re-living musical memories or experiencing new ones might help heal). Then, I was asked by the musical director, David Gaines, if I would like to sing a song for a CD for "Jamie De Roy And Friends." Barry was the director. He later suggested we do a cabaret. Eight shows and years later…here we are. Last year I read Barry "13 Things…," and said: "Do you think this could be a musical?" I KNEW that if it could be, Barry would be the man to do it. I knew he would not corrupt the "integrity" of the piece: he would not just ADD music, but would "weave" music into it. To my mind he has done so. It is hard to believe that it was ever NOT a musical. Our working together on 8 cabaret shows has made us able to talk and work in "shorthand." We have similar theatrical ethics, taste, and history. We have been artistic associates at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Cabaret and Performance Conference, teaching together. Our collaboration has been a miraculous "accident!!!!"

8. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse on your own? I just love the rehearsal process in general: discovery and revelation. I guess I like to rehearse in my living room. Ask my neighbors!!!

9. You have been nominated for several Tony and Emmy Awards throughout your career as well as winning an Emmy Award for your work on ABC's "The Elephant Man." What does this recognition mean to you? When I think I haven’t done anything or enough…I remember that others didn’t think that!!!!!

10. You guest starred on "Melrose Place," one of my favorite shows in the 1990s. Looking back, what did you enjoy most about being on the show and getting to work Aaron Spelling and Daphne Zuniga? I was fortunate that I got to work lot for Aaron Spelling. He was a quiet giant!!! Regarding "Melrose Place" it was hard to "steal the baby" of such a famous character. People GLARED at me on the street!!!

11. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? This question seems to confound me. I suppose I have learned that one (that is, I) must be clear and specific in communication and I need to keep working on that!

12. What's the best advice you've ever received? From Mildred Natwick: when something goes wrong on stage DON’T TRY TO FIX IT OR SAVE THE SITUATION!!!! GET OFF!!!!!

13. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Hmmm...maybe Shakespeare? I am not sure as I don’t sleep that well anyway…anyone interesting might keep me up!!!!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

14. Favorite way to spend your day off? NOT DOING CHORES that haven’t gotten done! Feeling free to explore…the city, the museums, going to movies and concerts…just being free to take in and fill up again!!!

15. Favorite skin care product? Anything from Bella Schneider’s La Belle Salon in San Francisco!!!

16. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Save the world or just be a better person and artist.

Tuesday
Oct302012

T. Oliver Reid: Feinstein's Debut Interview

Last time I spoke to T. Oliver Reid he was getting ready to release his debut CD "Do I Love You." Since that time, "Do I Love You" has made its way into the world, delighting fans. He also enjoyed a run in Broadway's "Sister Act" alongside Raven Simone and Carolee Carmello.

Now, T. Oliver is starring in "Cotton Club Parade" at City Center from November 14-18 and making his Feinstein's debut with his new show "Drop Me Off In Harlem" from November 28-December 9 at 10:30pm (for just $20 and one drink, you'll get an hour of excellence). Click here for tickets to "Drop Me Off In Harlem!"

For more on T. Oliver be sure to visit http://www.toliverreid.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Last time we spoke, you were getting to release your debut CD "Do I Love You." What is it like now that the CD is out? It's kind of the same. When I was working on the CD that took up all of my time and now that I'm done with it, I'm really happy with the result and people have listened to it and love a lot of the songs and I apparently have a huge following in Korea. I'm working on putting a tour together there.

When I work on a project, I focus on it for as long as it takes to get it done and then once I'm done with it, I move onto the next project. Looking back, I do wish I got to spend a little more time on it, mainly with me getting to record the song a few times before making it the final cut, but I'm happy with what I have. The CD is doing well.

2. What has the reaction from fans and the industry been like for you? I have my 15,000 Korean followers. Overall, people have been very happy with the CD, especially my musical choices.

3. You also were in the Broadway production of "Sister Act." What was the best part about being in that the show? There were a lot of great parts. For me, since I was off-stage most nights, it gave me time to work on other projects. It was a wonderful cast. I really enjoyed working with Raven Simone. She's brilliant and amazingly talented and funny. She's everything you hope that generation of Hollywood/young starlet would be...she was hardworking and respectful. The cast was great. We had a really fun time! I love the message the show gave out.

4. Now, you are getting ready to perform in the Cotton Club Parade at City Center as part of an evening of Duke Ellington music and other great jazz composers. What excites you about these upcoming shows? I love this music. You get these amazing Duke Ellington songs as well as some Harold Arlen songs, which are some of the most beautiful music you'll ever hear, like "The Devil in Deep Blue Sea" plus we'll have the jazz band from Lincoln Center, so it's going to be quite an evening. The show is at that point in American history where the popular standard was really coming into its own and all these wonderful writers were writing music for The Cotton Club and Broadway so you get a lot of what was going on in New York at that time. It's going to be an amazing evening, a fast 90 minutes of great music.

T. Oliver Reid singing at the 23rd Cabaret Convention in NYC5. In late November, you will also be making your Feinstein's debut with "Drop Me Off in Harlem," an evening of music by Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington and Andy Razaf. What is it about this music and time in history that resonates with you? It's a time when so much was going on, a lot of good and still a lot strife in different places, so it's a point in New York, especially Harlem, where there was this entire renaissance of this black community and what was going on and integrating downtown NY and white NY into what they were doing, so again we had these white club owners who were bringing in the Dorothy Fields and Harold Arlen and the Gershwins were coming up to Harlem and doing music for all these clubs and putting their amazing songs on these black orchestras and performers for their audiences. They were just doing amazing things. While this was happening, let us not forget on Long Island there was an influx of white supremacy and they were standing up for what they believed, but in this little town in New York, especially in Harlem, most people looked at it as we're enjoying our lives, listening to jazz and it was one of the few times you'd get any number of races in one club and it was no longer considered downtown. It was very integrated and just about the music.

I was so fortunate to have so much free time during "Sister Act" to put this show together. I had the time to read a lot of novelists from the late 20s and early 30s and read many of the African American poets to see what they were doing and from there the show started to take shape. The original idea for the show was to an evening of Harold Arlen music at The Cotton Club, but, the more I read and the more I listened to the music of that time, it made want to do a broader show, so I decided to bring in Dorothy Fields and the Gershwins, and Duke Ellington.

I wanted to do a show that is racially based and it would still be a show about The Cotton Club, but the music each group would sing would be because of the color of their skin. So there would be very fair skinned women who would sing certain songs and darker skinned men would sing other songs and the funny guys would do certain things and divide it that way and show what each performer could do, not necessarily because of talent, but because of the color of their skin. Then I thought that would be off-putting to some people, so I kept thinking about what to do.

Then one day I found this picture about what Harlem was and I think it was 1933 and all the clubs were on the different streets, and I could make my show about a night of club hopping and what you'd hear and what you'd see and what you'd eat and drink and what time things would happen at the various clubs and then you would go from one club to the next and get a full evening of music. The show is really about a Saturday night in Harlem in 1934 and the journey you would take from the start of your evening to the end, early Sunday morning and where you go from there.

6. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing your show? I think with every show, I want them to come away with knowing a little bit more about me. This show is a lot more theatrical than my last show. My last show had a lot of humor and you get a lot of who I am as just Tim, but with this show you get that plus many more theatrical moments because of what the music is. Everything in the show is defined by the music to evolve. There will be a lot more me, a lot more fun, and a lot of songs that people don't know. There are also going to be a lot of songs that when the first note is played, you'll know it. It's a great mix of your favorites and some things that people should know.

7. What are you looking forward to about making your Feinstein's debut? Everything. When I got the idea for this show it was like somebody slapped me in the face. The more I worked on it and put it together, it's everything I want a show to be. It has the perfect arc and everything makes sense from the grouping of the songs to how we want them to flow. I'm adding a horns section, which will be fun.

The fact that I get to debut at Feinstein's before they close is really wonderful. I think I will be the last person to debut at Feinstein's. This show is a great venture to have right after coming off of The Cotton Club at City Center. There is so much great music!

8. You have also started your own blog Soapbox Doozies. What made you want to start your own blog? What do you like about this venture? Earlier this year I started writing a screenplay and after I finished that, I realized how much I liked writing. You know, I clearly have a lot of opinions on things, so I just started writing here and there and decided to post it on my website and if people want to read it that's fine. The first one was kind of hard-hitting and I wasn't sure if that's how I wanted to start things off, but I had the ideas on my mind, so I did it. As I told people, some will be very funny and others will be serious. The second entry was very funny, so it's a way for me to get stuff off of my chest and be creative in certain ways, even when I'm working on other things. I work best when I have like 6 projects happening at once.

Me: Can you talk about the screenplay at all?

T. Oliver: It's a friendship of 5 people, but one of them has died, so the story is told through flashbacks on what their lives were living in New York in the early 50s and how their friendships developed and how they all took care of each other over the years. It's based upon a friend of mine who died last year and he always had these great stories. I just thought somebody has to do a documentary because he knows so much about New York and was everywhere like at Judy Garland's Carnegie Hall concert. So I decided to write a story that was loosely based on him.

The film is about these socialite women and the gay men that were with them the whole time. At that time they would have been known as their escorts, but they were far more than just that, they were their friends and knew things about them their husbands or other women didn't know. To them, the gays were their true friends. That's the main storyline, but there are some side stories and lots of cameos.

9. In addition to your blog, upcoming show "Drop Me Off In Harlem" at Feinstein's, and the screenplay, are there other projects you'd like to talk about? I don't have anything set in stone, but I would like to start teaching master classes and teaching younger kids song preparation that focuses on the American Songbook.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To freeze time. I've definitely had moments I've wanted to hold on to for longer, from a few seconds more to hours. It would allow me to savior moments I've really enjoyed or it would allow me to take a stupid moment, say hold please, let it sink in and then press play and move on from there because I've allowed the moment to pass.