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Entries in Stephen Sondheim (4)

Thursday
Dec222011

Claybourne Elder

Claybourne Elder is another one of our next generation actors who's on the rise! He's thrilled to be making his Broadway debut in "Bonnie & Clyde" as "Buck Barrow," after originating the role in La Jolla Playhouse and Asolo Rep. Claybourne's other theatrical credits include rave reviews in Moises Kaufman's adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "One Arm," at Tectonic Project/New Group and Stephen Sondheim's "Road Show" at the Public Theatre where Claybourne originated the role of "Hollis." Regionally, Claybourne starred in the US premiere of Matlby and Shire's "Take Flight" as "Charles Lindbergh" at McCarter and as "Wolf/Cinderella's Prince" in Moises Kaufman's revival of "Into The Woods" at Kansas City Rep.

Claybourne Elder and Jeremy Jordan, Photo Credit: Nathan JohnsonMelissa Van Der Schyff, Claybourne Elder, Jeremy Jordan, and Laura Osnes, Photo Credit: Nathan JohnsonYou can currently catch Claybourne in "Bonnie & Clyde" at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in NYC (236 West 45th Street). In the role of "Buck," Claybourne brings much heart and sexiness to the show as well as a terrific singing voice! Click here for tickets!

For more on Claybourne be sure to visit http://www.claybourneelder.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Well, I played the violin my whole childhood until a teacher told me that my hands were too big to really be a great violinist. I was pretty heartbroken but that was the year I did my first play.

2. Who is the one or more than one person that you have not worked with that you would like to? There are so many! Walter Bobby definitely, Neil Patrick Harris, Moises Kaufman (I've already worked with him but I always want to work with him again).

3. What attracted you to "Bonnie & Clyde" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I think the best thing we can hope for as performers is that someone is changed in some way by our show. I was attracted to Bonnie and Clyde, and my character "Buck" because I felt like his story has such an amazing arch. It asks the question: What makes a seemingly moral person do bad things? 

4. What is it about your character "Buck" that you identify most with? Buck always follows his heart and wants to do what is right to take care of the people he loves. I'm not sure I always want to do what's right, haha, but I really identify with his need to care for people. I think he would have been a great father.

5. What does it mean to you to be making your Broadway debut in "Bonnie & Clyde"? It's amazing. I try to stop and take inventory on this experience as much as possible because it is the fruition of years and years of work. Opening night was an amazing celebration. My whole family came out, it was a great way to say thank you to them for all the voice lessons and driving me to play practice :)

6. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? Previews are by far the best part of rehearsals for me. I love getting response for the audience in the evening and then coming in to rehearse during the day based on their reaction. I also feel like its the best time for the audience to experience the show for themselves before anyone else has told them how to feel about it. When I was working on "One Arm" we did A LOT of work during the preview period on the ordering of scenes. I never left the stage so I never had the chance to go backstage and look at my script to see what would happen next. There were definitely times when I would finish a scene and think to myself 'I have no idea whats going to happen next, but I know that someone is going to come out and start talking to me and I'm going to have to talk back at them' We often joked that we would never call 'line' because we'd forgotten, but we would call for a 'scene.'

7. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? You have to really know yourself and be comfortable with yourself. To really be daring in the choices you make on stage, you have to be ready to fall on your face. I can't tell you how many terrible jokes I've made in rehearsals in my life, but if you don't weed through the really terrible ones, then you never find the gems.

8. What was it like to perform at in the "80th Birthday Celebration of Stephen Sondheim"? It was amazing! Working on "Road Show" with Sondheim was my first job in the city and so it was great to give back to him in some way. My favorite part was singing selections from "Pacific Overtures" with B.D. Wong because I don't suppose I'll get another opportunity to sing that show with a full orchestra, haha. When I came in that day for my sound check, I walked off stage when I finished and ran into someone (literally) on the stairs and I was halfway up to my dressing room when I realized it was Catherine Zeta Jones! She's remarkably glamorous. The absolute highlight of the evening was sitting backstage next to Angela Lansbury in her robe and slippies listening to Len Cariou sing "Sweeney Todd." She was incredibly sweet and got really emotional when he started singing. It was really touching.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Be well rounded. My freshman year of college I had a mentor who urged me to always explore and not just bury my head in the theatre all the time. So I got a job working for a Non-Profit that set up English schools in communities around the world and took off time from school to work in China and Russia. People questioned why I was wasting my youth as a performer, but the real life and struggles I saw while working with those people changed my life. In many ways those experiences have informed me as an artist and actor.

10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My dog Diogi (pronounced like D.O.G.). He's always happy. I wonder what he would do if he was in a dream land where he could do anything he wanted. He would probably go open the refrigerator and eat all the almond butter.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Favorite way to stay in shape? Going to the movies, reading, playing in the park with Diogi. I like to run outside when it's warm or do yoga with Melissa van der Schyff who plays my wife in "Bonnie & Clyde."

12. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer briefs.

13. Favorite website? www.bbc.com. I don't know why I rely on the British for my news, but I do. I just like the format of their website.

14. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? Well, Julia Murney, an Elphaba, lives in my building and makes the best brownies in the world, so I would say Elphaba.

Monday
Nov142011

Julia Murney

Julia Murney is an award winning performer who has crossed over the genres of theatre, television, and music. Julia was last seen on Broadway in "Wicked" as "Elphaba" after playing the role on the national tour where she won an Acclaim Award. Her other theatrical credits include "Lennon," Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party" (Drama Desk Nomination), "The Vagina Monologues," "A Class Act," "Saved," "Crimes of the Heart," "First Lady Suite," and "Time and Again" (Lucille Lortel Nomination). Julia has performed at regional theatre across the country: Signature, Williamstown, Reprise! LA, Sacramento Music Circus, NCT, Lyric, Rubicon and Goodspeed and has performed in concerts at Joe’s Pub, Feinstein’s, The Kennedy Center, Caramoor, Town Hall, and Birdland as well as with the Philly, Cincinnati, and Boston Pops.

On television, Julia has been featured on such hits shows as "30 Rock," "Sex and the City," "Brothers and Sisters," "Ed," "NYPD Blue," and all three "Law & Orders." Musically, Julia can be heard on the original cast recordings of Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party," "A Class Act," and the Grammy nominated Actor's Fund Benefit of "Hair." Julia also released her debut solo recording "I'm Not Waiting."

Now Julia can be seen in the Transport Group's production of Michael John LaChuisa's "Queen of the Mist" (click here for my review) starring Two-Time Tony Award Nominee Mary Testa along with Andrew Samonsky, Theresa McCarthy, Tally Sessions, Stanley Bahorek, and DC Anderson. "Queen of the Mist" plays at The Gym at Judson in NYC through November 20 (243 Thompson Street at Washington Square Park South)! Click here for tickets!

 For more on Julia be sure to visit http://www.juliamurney.com!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I started singing in my junior high choir, so props to miss Morris at i.s. 44, and then my parents forced me to go to summer camp and it happened to be stagedoor manor, where I did my first show, so props to all the theatre mad campers who showed me the twisted path to musicals.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Don't make me choose! Stephen Sondheim. Graciella Daniele. Norbert Leo Butz. Cast members from Sesame Street. Christopher Ashley. I could go on, but those are truly the first that sprang to mind.

3. What attracted you to "Queen of the Mist" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? What do you like about performing with the Transport Group? First and foremost, to get to do a new musical with Michael John LaChiusa-that's a massive draw. I hope the audiences are moved to think about life and the living of it-which sounds really heavy but not as much when you see the show.

Jack Cummings (the director) is incredibly giving and kind, and he assembles amazing groups to work with.

4. What do you love most about performing with this cast and what do you love most about your song "Break Down The Door"? It is a joy to get to be a ballast for Mary Testa, who is working her patootie off in this show. Break Down The Door is just fun and silly and I get to sing hooty, which is, well, a hoot.

5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? When you're dealing with a new piece, I love the part where you watch it take its final shape...the shaping and molding is very exciting. 

I pretty much practice at home, but if I can be alone on a body of water, I'll practice there.

6. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned how to find energy when I am positive that I have none. 

7. You recorded "West" for Scott Alan's "Keys" album. How did you and Scott find each other? What do you llike about Scott and his music? I think I first got to know him when I recorded demos for his musical 'Piece.' 

He seems to have his finger on the pulse of what a lot of young people want to hear-I have lost count of how many young people have told me how much they love his stuff. I sound very old when I keep saying young people.

8. What was the best part about playing "Elphaba" in "Wicked" (both on tour and Broaway)? What attracted you to that role? I suppose the best part was getting to be a part of the massive movement that has become that show. What a joy to be in a hit that constantly moves people.

I was scared to pieces of doing that role, which in a twisted masochistic way is totally attractive. And I got to be a green rock star.

9. What did it mean to you to release your debut solo recording "I'm Not Waiting"? How did you come up with the title and song selection? What do you get from performing your own music that you don't get from performing in a show? I loved making the album, which would have been impossible without the guidance of Kurt Deutsch, Joel Moss and Andrew Lippa. We did it very quickly and still i would not have done anything different.

The title came from a song Lippa wrote for me on the occasion of my first solo show-there was no question it would go on the album, and the title just seemed right.

It's simultaneously freeing and scary to just be yourself without a character to hide behind...mostly i love getting to jam with a band and sing all kinds of stuff that I wouldn't have a chance to otherwise.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Recycle.

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Don't make me choose...Stephen Sondheim, Graciella Daniele, Norbert Leo Butz...

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to stay in shape? Pilates, walking, spinning. Favorite way to spend your day off? In sweats, with my dog, at the lake.

13. Favorite skin care product? Estee Lauder. Favorite kind of shoes? Whatever they're rocking at DSW.

14. Favorite website? CNN. Dlisted. Yes, both.

15. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman, with her invisible airplane and her damned tiny little waist.

Tuesday
Sep062011

Sally Wilfert

Sally Wilfert is another rising performer! I was first introduced to Sally and her amazing vocals this past May when she performed in fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Joel Waggoner's "Songbook Series" at Lincoln Center. Sally's voice is powerful, soulful, and controlled! She can raise the roof with her belt or give that emotional tone just the right whisper. Her Broadway credits include "Assassins," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and Disney's "King David." Off-Broadway, Sally has delighted audiences in "See Rock City," "Make Me a Song: The Music of William Finn," "The Mistress Cycle" and "The Prince & The Pauper." Her other NY credits include "West Side Story Suite" (NYCB Lincoln Center), Carnegie Hall productions of "South Pacific," "Sondheim Tribute," and Cole Porter's "Jubilee." Sally has also toured the country in the National Tour of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and in regional productions of "Les Miserables," Marry Me a Little," "Make Me A Song," "The Last Five Years," "Elegies," "Enchanted April," and "Amadeus." On television, Sally has lit up the screen in "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Loving," "Sondheim: A Tribute," and "South Pacific."

Sally can next be seen in Singing OnStage Productions' "Side By Side By Sondheim" at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC at 7:00pm on September 13 & 15 along with fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Barbara Walsh as well as Paul Anthony Stewart and Kate Wetherhead. The Laurie Beechman Theatre is located at 407 West 42nd Street (between 9th & 10th Avenue). Tickets are $20 + $15 food or drink minimum. For tickets call 212-695-6909!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I would have to say that it all started with music, which was a big part of my family growing up in Ohio. I started playing piano at age 5, in middle school discovered that I had a singing voice, and by high school it was clear that there was a performer inside of me. All I knew was that when I was on a stage and connected to an audience I felt most at home. So anyone and everyone from that point onward inspired me to be who I am today.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? I would love to sing and share the stage with Barbara Cook.

3. What attracted you to "Side by Side by Sondheim" and how has Stephen Sondheim influenced you as a performer? Well, Richard Biever and I have been friends for many years....and he is one of the most passionate theatre people I know! So when he asked me to be a part of the fundraiser for his amazing new theatre company (I love their mission statement), and that we would be doing "Side by Side" I said....hmmm....let me think...."YES!!!!"

When I discovered Sondheim on my path as a young actor, he, quite frankly, changed my life. I learned through his music what it meant to truly be an actor who sings and interprets a song. And that both the music and the text require equal attention. Once that clicked, I was obsessed - and I have never approached music in the same way again. And to have been able to work with him? Crazy dream come true.

4. If you could perform in any Sondheim show, which would you choose? Merrily We Roll Along What do you like most about performing his music? What I like most about performing Sondheim music, is that I discover something new every time I live inside his material. I experience one revelation after another about myself, the music, and about life....It is beyond rewarding.

5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? I love to rehearse. The "process" is my favorite part of a show.....it is where you get to make big mistakes and big discoveries while tapping into a character of a song. And also where you have an opportunity to collaborate with other wonderful artists, like I will be doing in "Side by Side." Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? My favorite place to rehearse is in my living room of my apartment. My neighbors love me!

6. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Oh wow, I have learned a lot about myself from being a performer! The biggest one I have learned is to stay in the moment and listen. Life can sweep me away, and I can get overwhelmed with "burning my candle at both ends" (which I have done since I was a kid). But if I can just stay in the moment and really listen to the situation or what my instincts are saying, then I can make a decision and move on.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Classes at the gym....just mixing it up all the time. I do anything from Spinning to Tabata. Oh, and I am also obsessed with Physique 57!

8. Favorite skin care product? Aveda hydrating lotion. Favorite kind of shoes? anything comfy that has a heel.

9. Favorite website? I'd have to say YouTube.

10. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? Probably Elphaba - I'm strong-willed and I love to wear black!

BONUS QUESTION:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Don't listen while you sing.

Wednesday
May252011

Howard McGillin

Howard McGillin, Sally Mayes Photo Credit: Carol RoseggTony Award nominee and Theatre World Award Winner Howard McGillin holds the record as the longest running "Phantom" in "The Phantom of The Opera," playing the role for 2,544 performances! With one of the biggest male voices out there, Howard delighted thousands of audiences during his run in "Phantom." His other Broadway credits include "Kiss of The Spider Woman," "She Loves Me," "The Secret Garden," "Sunday in the Park with George," "Anything Goes" (Tony & Drama Desk nomination), and "Drood" (Tony and Drama Desk Nomination, as well as Theatre World Award). Off-Broadway audiences saw Howard shine in "As Thousands Cheer," "La Boheme" (Drama Desk nomination), and Encores' "Where's Charlie?" Howard toured the US in "Peter Pan" and regionally been seen in Stephen Sondheim's "Bounce" at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for which he received a Helen Hayes nomination. In addition to the US, Howard took London by storm when he starred in "Mack and Mabel" and "Anything Goes." His film credits include "Swan Princess" and "The South Park Movie." Howard has also released a collection of love songs with his debut CD "Where Time Stands Still."

David Burnham, Howard McGillin, Photo Credit: Carol RoseggBilly Stritch, Lillias White, Howard McGillin, David Burnham, Sally Mayes, Rachel York, Photo Credit: Carol RoseggHoward can currently be seen in Rubicon Theatre Company's production of "The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman" at 59E59 Theaters in NYC (59 East 59th Street) along with Billy Stritch, Lillias White, Sally Mayes, David Burnham, and Rachel York. For tickets click here and for much more on Howard be sure to visit http://www.howardmcgillin.com

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I guess Richard Kiley was a huge early idol of mine. He was an actor who also happened to sing (beautifully, I might add). When I first got the theatre bug back in high school, I played cast albums over and over, and MAN OF LA MANCHA was one of them. I became a huge fan of Kiley's then. Years later, when I was doing the Lincoln Center revival of ANYTHING GOES, he came backstage and told me he wanted his son (who was an actor) to see me in the show. I was hugely flattered.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Jimmy Stewart. Too late, I'm afraid.

3. What attracted you to "The Best Is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman"? A job in town so I don't have to go out on the road. No, seriously, I love the music, and to work with David Zippel and Billy Stritch was a huge plus.

4. What was it like for you to perform "The Phantom" for so many years and what was your favorite part of the show? I really loved the experience (I guess I'd have to in order to keep at it that long). I've done several long runs on Broadway, and it takes a certain kind of stamina to sustain energy and interest over the course of time. Of course, nothing ever came close to the Phantom run--nothing's ever run that long! While some days you think you're not going to be able to get the energy up for a performance, once the curtain is up, something carries you through. Knowing the audience is seeing it for the first time is a big help. In terms of my favorite part of the show to perform, I'd have to say the final scene in the Phantom's lair is enormously satisfying to play. The show really builds beautifully to that scene, and it's a huge catharsis.

5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? I love rehearsals. The chance to explore and build a performance with a creative team of directors, choreographers and actors is like nothing else. Especially in cases where the director sets the tone of exploration and freedom to make really bad choices. That's the only way you can really find something unique and satisfying all around.

6. Favorite place to practice/rehearse on my own? My living room, with the iPod on the stereo. I clear the coffee table out of the way and "dance around the living room!"

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? I love ride my bike, and thanks for the reminder. I've got to get back on it now that the weather's finally nice enough.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Too personal.

9. Favorite website? Facebook, although I'm really terrible about keeping up with it.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? I have no idea what you're talking about.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? 

1. If  you can do anything else with your life, do that, because a life in show biz is just too damned hard. Guess I didn't listen.

2. Listen.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Wonder Woman.