Thursday, November 19, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Fun Facts About Disney's Newsies

©Disney.  Photo by Deen van Meer.
THE HISTORY
  • Newsies is inspired by the real-life “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” which began when newspaper publishers raised the price for newsies, charging a dime more per hundred papers.  
  • The strike was led by a charismatic young newsboy Kid Blink, who rallied orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long action against Pulitzer, Hearst and other powerful newspaper publishers.
  • Pulitzer did finally concede and agree to the exact deal that Harvey Fierstein’s book dramatizes.  As a result, not only were the boys considerably better off, it was in many ways the beginning of child labor movement.  

FROM BIG SCREEN TO BROADWAY
  • Based on the book Children of the City by David Nasaw.
  • Two screenwriters Bob Tzudicker and Noni White (Tarzan, 101 Dalmatians, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) fictionalized this story as a non-musical screenplay, which eventually turned into the film musical released in 1992.
  • Newsies was the most requested MTI title of any Disney film musical not yet adapted to the stage.
  • Though intended only as a pilot production before the title was licensed for regional, professional and amateur productions, Newsies’ Paper Mill Playhouse run engendered extraordinary interest from the media and public alike, sparking the transfer to Broadway.
  • Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman wrote six entirely new numbers for the stage, while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film. New songs include:
  • ‘The Bottom Line’ for Joseph Pulitzer
  • ‘That’s Rich’ and ‘Don’t Come A-Knocking’ for performers at Medda Larkin’s Bowery theatre
  • ‘Watch What Happens’ for Katherine, the reporter who first tells the newsies’ story to the world
  • ‘Brooklyn’s Here’ for the newsies who join in the struggle
  • ‘Something to Believe In’ for Jack and Katherine.
  • While Harvey Fierstein’s book keeps much of the movie’s plot, he realized that every good musical needs a great love story. Fierstein created a wholly new character, who serves as both a crusading reporter for the newsies and a love interest for the leading man.
  • The Broadway production was originally scheduled for limited 12-week run of 105 performances, however, due to popular demand, Newsies went on to run for 1,005 performances or two and half years.

AWARDS
Newsies was nominated for 23 major theatrical awards, and won:  
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Original Score – Alan Menken & Jack Feldman
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music – Alan Menken
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Choreography -- Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Score – Alan Menken

NEWSIES’ FANSIES
  • Newsies has a large group of dedicated fans, called Fansies, whose enthusiasm helped push the show to Broadway.
  • When the Broadway engagement of Newsies was announced, chatter on Twitter reached 14 million people
  • The official Newsies Facebook page reached 100,000 fans before the show opened on Broadway.

CHOREOGRAPHY
  • Christopher Gattelli’s Tony® award winning choreography steals the show each night with 31 backflips, and countless spins, leaps and tap steps.

SEIZE THE DAY
  • The 16 newspapers that feature in the dance break are torn in advance to separate down the middle easily and consistently.
  • 42 sheets of paper are danced on or torn during the riot sequence each night. These single-use sheets are either recycled or given to audience members during the performance.

KING OF NEW YORK
  • The Newsies’ newsboys each have two pairs of identical shoes—one for the majority of the performance, and a pair for this number with taps attached.
  • There are five microphones lining the edge of the stage, with three additional microphones attached to the Deli tables, so that all of the tap dancing is heard.

NEWSPAPERS
  • The antique Chandler & Price printing press used in the show was manufactured in the early 1900s and is 1200lbs of solid steel.  It is fully capable of printing, and an expert printer, who specializes in vintage machines, was brought in to train staff and actors in its intricate workings.  
  • There are approximately 150 newspapers used every performance, specifically printed with the headline “Trolley Strike Enters Third Week.”  These papers are carefully cared for, to avoid tearing, so they can be used for multiple performances.
  • The 11 newspaper bundles at the newsstand and in the fight scene are foam-filled with a paper outer layer, to avoid injury and reduce the amount of paper used in the show.
  • The 18 “Newsie Banner” bundles are composed of 300 pages of legal paper glued together and covered with contact paper to avoid tearing as they are tossed around the stage.

COSTUMES
  • Jess Goldstein has designed 150 costumes to evoke the NYC populace of 1899, from the poorest newsies to the richest publishing titan.
  • The actor with the most costume changes plays seven characters, including a cop, Nunzio the barber, a photographer and Governor Roosevelt.
  • The fastest full-body quick change is the character of Darcy switching to the Newsies character Jo Jo during “Carrying the Banner.” The change is 56 seconds and requires two dressers to assist.

SET
  • Tobin Ost’s imposing three level set rises over 24 feet high and features three completely automated towers. Built of steel and aluminum, it weighs seven and a half tons.
  • Separately or in unison, its three towers can move 14 feet up and down stage, revolve 350 degrees and re-configure to create – among the show’s many locations – tenement fire escapes, a theatre’s backstage and the Brooklyn Bridge.  
  • The cast climbs 75 steps to reach the set’s nine distinct playing areas.
  • The three towers move 40 times, traveling a cumulative 676.5 feet per performance, or more than 47 miles a year.

LIGHTING AND PROJECTION
  • Jeff Croiter’s constantly shifting lighting design uses a total of 672 instruments (304 conventional lights, 51 moving lights and 328 LED fixtures) to create a total of 468 lighting cues.
  • Sven Ortel’s projections (adapted by Daniel Brodie) create 12 projected looks throughout the show, with two projectors operating simultaneously to create a brighter image.
  • Using cutting edge technology, the projections are able to appear and disappear with the retractable projection screens, as well as maintain a steady image as the towers travel around the stage.

PRODUCTION STAFF
On tour, there are 175 people directly involved with the show in each city:
  • 33 Cast members – including 5 “swings”
  • 3 Stage Managers
  • 2 Company Managers
  • 11 Musicians – 6 touring; 6 local
  • 1 Conductor
  • Road crew:
  • 4 Carpenters – Head Carp, Automation, Fly, Deck
  • 2 Props
  • 3 Electricians – Head/Board Op, Deck/Projections, Lead Spot Op
  • 2 Sound
  • 1 Wardrobe
  • 1 Hair/Makeup
  • Local crew: 60 people for the load-in and nearly 70 for the load-out in each city
  • For the running of the show: 2 Deck Carpenters, 3 Fly Carpenters, 2 Props, 4 Electricians (2 Deck, 2 Spot Ops), 2 Sound, 7 Wardrobe, 1 Hair/Makeup

Newsies – North American Tour Fun Facts (October 18, 2014)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Fun Facts about Pippin

 Take a look at King Charlemagne, John Rubinstein.
He starred in the title role of PIPPIN in 1972.

•    There are 6 yoga balls used in the show.
•    The acrobats usually spend an entire hour warming up before a performance.
•    There are 15 hula-hoops used throughout the show.
•    There are 4 gym mats used in the show. 2 of them are for warm-ups before curtain.
•    Diane Paulus sang "With You" at her brother's wedding.
•    This isn't Andrea Martin’s first Stephen Schwartz musical. In 1972, she did Godspell in Toronto. Guess who else was in the cast? Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, and Martin Short.
•    PIPPIN was originally called PIPPIN, PIPPIN
•    The curtain drop at the top of the show is 26 feet high.
•    7 feather fans are used in the entire show.
•    There are 17 acrobatic tricks in Magic to Do.
•    Gypsy Snider, who created all the circus elements, said "The life of an acrobat is how far we go to be extraordinary."
•    The Manson Trio is named after Charles Manson. Bob Fosse was very interested in Manson.
•    Stephen Schwartz was only 24 years old when he wrote the show.
•    Stephen Schwartz saw “Glory” as a commentary on the Vietnam War, happening during PIPPIN’s creation.
•    The Leading Player and Charles Manson have something in common. Charismatic, cult Leaders.
•    There are 10 swords used during “War is a Science”
•    Take a look at King Charlemagne, John Rubinstein. He starred in the title role of PIPPIN in 1972.
•    Take a look at Fastrada, Sabrina Harper. She was part of the Broadway Revival cast having also played Berthe and Catherine!
•    Pippin’s name, historically speaking, is actually spelled Pipen. Stephen Schwartz changed it so it wouldn’t be misperceived as an adaptation of the Steinbeck novel, “The Short Reign of Pepin IV”. They liked the word “Pippin” because it suggested the slang meaning of “pip” – something nifty.
•    It took about five and a half years for Pippin to grow- from the college version of PIPPIN at Carnegie Mellon to Broadway.
•    Pippin had try-outs in early fall 1972 in Washington D.C. It opened at the Imperial Theatre in NYC on October 23, 1972 and ran until 1977.
•    Bob Fosse had seen Ben Vereen perform in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and asked Ben to audition for PIPPIN. They were so impressed by Ben’s audition that they combined several small roles into the one role of Leading Player.
•    Hal Prince was approached to direct the show at one point.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Bringing Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella to Broadway

One of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved scores was not written for the stage, but for television: Cinderella. First aired on CBS in 1957, with a young Julie Andrews in the title role, it features such classic songs as “Ten Minutes Ago,” “In My Own Little Corner,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?,” among others. “Rodgers and Hammerstein tapped into a timelessness in their score that has made people revisit it time and time again,” says Ted Chapin, president of organization that bears the songwriters’ names, “ it’s been remade twice for television; it’s been done in the theater in various ways.” And now, it’s made its way to Broadway and a national tour.

Chapin asked Robyn Goodman, whose credits include the Tony Award-winning musicals Avenue Q and In the Heights, if she wanted to produce a new version of Cinderella.  A fan of the Lesley Anne Warren version, she said yes, but with a caveat; Goodman told Chapin she would only do the show if Cinderella “can save the Prince as much as he saves her. She’s gotta be a more active character.”  Chapin agreed and Goodman hired playwright Douglas Carter Beane, writer of cheeky comedies like The Little Dog Laughed and the hit stage version of the cult film Xanadu, to adapt the book. In addition to making Cinderella more active, Beane wanted to make the Prince less an ideal and more of a human being. “He needs somebody in his life to show him the right way,” explains Beane.

While many critics have commented on how Beane’s humorous script is revisionist, the playwright says he went back to the original source, Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale, for inspiration. It was a thinly veiled satire of French politics, says Beane: “The court was overwhelmed with ridicule and sarcasm and Cinderella was kind, and brought kindness to the court.” Also, in the original version, Cinderella met the Prince several times and “actually saved the Prince from the viciousness of the court.” And, finally, in the original story, “one of the evil stepsisters, turned out to be okay; she helped Cinderella and even had a boyfriend,” says Beane. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein second couple.’ Will Parker and Ado Annie, right there!”

In writing the new script, Beane says “it was all about tone. I knew that an audience, coming to see the show had to have a good time. And, they have seen so much; they have seen Wicked, they have seen Shrek, they have seen Fractured Fairy Tales. All these things have happened since this television version.” Beane says he knew “I had to have a little snark to it and I took inspiration from Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics. He was using contemporary colloquial speech in these situations. ‘Why would a fella want a girl like her?’”

Since Rodgers and Hammerstein had only written songs for a 90 minute television musical, Beane scoured their catalogue for material which could fill out the score for a full-length stage version. He sat down with The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein, and circled any lyric he thought might fit: “I found lyrics that corresponded to the story I was telling and prayed that Richard Rodgers had written music for it!” Working closely with Bruce Pomahac, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization’s music director, Beane found several little-known gems; among them, “Me, Who am I?,” a cut song from Me and Juliet, which was given to Prince Topher, and “There’s Music in You,” from the film Main Street to Broadway, which the Fairy Godmother sings.

Director Mark Brokaw says he was immediately taken by Douglas Carter Beane’s approach to the material: “The first thing I thought was that Doug had done a fantastic job of taking the traditional story of Cinderella that everybody knows and keeping to the heart of it, but upending our expectations of who the characters were and how the story unraveled.” Brokaw has created a lavish production, where Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother magically transform from rags to ball gowns, not once, but twice, aided by William Ivey Long’s Tony Award-winning costume design. The result not only delights children, but adults, he says: “There really is something in it to appeal to everyone.”

And, after over a year on Broadway, and with a national tour booked for close to two years, producer Robyn Goodman thinks this melding of superb traditional songwriting and a playful new script has found a sweet spot for contemporary family audiences: “I want those mothers out there to know that it is the classic Cinderella; the glass slipper is there and he has to find her, and the Fairy Godmother and the Wicked Stepmother are there. It just has a slight modern spin on it, so that girls feel that princesses can save the world; that they are proactive, they’re compassionate and that the basic theme of the show is kindness.”

 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Creating the magical world of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

How do you create a magical world for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella? William Ivey Long, who won the Tony Award for his costumes for the show, says you have to think of it as a period piece: “It’s a fairy tale. In fact, that’s the period: fairy tale.” Long has designed 330 sumptuous period costumes for Cinderella, which is presented in Anna Louizos’ equally sumptuous forest-inspired setting. “The scale of this show is big, because it’s a grand fairy tale,” says Louizos. “This is not story-theater. It’s a Broadway show.”

Both designers say they had long discussions with director Mark Brokaw for this contemporary telling of the traditional story, which features Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic songs with a cheeky new script by playwright Douglas Carter Beane. “Mark wanted to create a whole new world that was unique to this production,” says Louizos. “Nature was very important; the thought that we would see Cinderella in the forest became a prominent component of the design.”

Louizos says she and Brokaw sifted through a lot of visual material to share their emotional response to this version of Cinderella. “There was this image that Mark kept going back to; one of the first things he showed me – I think it was from a fashion shoot – a photograph of chandeliers hanging in a forest.” In addition, Louizos says they were both struck by another photo: “There were these depictions of a home, but the ceiling was gone and you could see the trees and vines were creeping into the house.”

So, Louizos quite literally brought Cinderella into the woods. Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters live in a cottage, both surrounded by and invaded by the forest. “You can always sense nature around the house,” she says, “even the vines are crawling up and covering up some of the wallpaper.” When the scene shifts to the Prince’s palace: “It’s a more majestic depiction of nature. The trees that form the arches are kind of a silvery brown. I wanted to give it a slight metallic feel, or a shimmery feel to it.” And, of course, there are chandeliers in Louizos’ forest castle, just like the picture which served as inspiration.

William Ivey Long’s costumes – which reference medieval knights, the Flemish painter Breughel, and the French court of Catherine de Medici – are also inspired by nature. One of the main colors he uses is leaf green. “The whole world of Cinderella takes place in the forest,” he says, showing ink costume sketches in his Tribeca studio. “There are dragons, and, of course, going and collecting mushrooms. And when you start with the forest, that means everything’s growing, and flora and fauna, and so, by extension, butterflies and moths.”

Of course, butterflies and moths transform from caterpillars, and transformation is a big theme in Cinderella. Long has designed jaw-dropping costume changes in both acts, where Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother go from rags to ball gowns in the blink of an eye, right in front of the audience. How are these changes accomplished? Long won’t say: “I would have to kill you, if I told you,” he laughs, but he shows his initial sketches of how Cinderella’s costume morphs: “The idea is that all the changing is done by a magic wand spinning her around. So, I tried to include the spinning in all these sketches, so you constantly saw movement. And doesn’t that sort of look like you’re whipping up a merengue?”

Anna Louizos, of course, with the help of smoke and lights, has a pumpkin transform into a carriage. And her forest constantly shifts and reconstitutes itself into new settings. She says the basic idea of putting Cinderella in a world filled with moving trees has captivated audiences. “There’s something so breathtaking about seeing nature onstage,” she explains. “You can go outside the door of the theater and there’s nature, but somehow when you put it onstage, it creates a different visceral response in audience members.”

And, Louizos adds, she thinks this version of Cinderella is a fairy tale that will appeal to everyone: “We approached it as any other brand new musical. It’s not a children’s show; it’s a Broadway show that adults should be able to appreciate and enjoy and be entertained just as much as children would.”

Friday, July 31, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Linda Boston

Linda Boston
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our fourth and final entry is from Linda Boston, who plays the Professional Woman.
Challenges build integrity, while integrity builds fortitude.  Is there any chance of it all building character?

Well, that's a spiritual concept that must be seen intuitively to be recognized externally.  In my life, cancer, Alzheimers, relocations in and out of state, marriage, child birth, mortality and divorce lumped themselves together.  Unfortunately at the same time.  And when your anguish is tied to and with those you love, you question all of what 'challenges' are supposed to build.  However, I know love is MAAT which is the Kemetic, Dogon or Egyptian word for creativity. There is no destruction in the midst of creativity regardless of the challenge; other than what is rectified through the process of balance and harmony.  And then, even in that, there is no destruction, only correction.  It's simply the processes of change.  And the only thing constant is the change.

Our family was raised in Chicago.  Knowing that two of my aunts and other friends and family members had passed on via their challenges with breast, uterine and other cancers, my sister Lorna boston had been working at MCI Telecommunications for eight years when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.   Additionally, our mother began showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. Yes, 1985 began the race toward the test.  Lorna endured three years of chemotherapy and nine surgeries.   At that time I was living in Detroit but I would go to help care for her as her marriage was dissolving.  Trials and stress led to her unemployment and divorce, but it also grew her into the world of self-employment via the music industry.  She formed her own band and began working in Chicago's well known music establishment, Lonie Walker's Underground Wonderbar, where she is still employed today and hosting the Tuesday Night Pro Jam.  Simultaneously, our older brother, Lamonte was a major music influence to us both and was a integral part of the Wonderbar fabric, as well, known as LB's Machine, which made a major impact throughout Chicago's Rhythm & Blues community.  Ironically, he was diagnosed with Lymphatic Leukemia in 1994.

You can bet, much had been happening.  In 1988 I moved our mother, Pearline Boston to my home in Detroit to manage her care. I married, gave birth to a daughter Aziza Gilbert, divorced and learned of the beauty, inspiration and strength in-home hospice can and will provide. Our mother made her transition in 1998 and my intuitive awakening became clearer.  'Purpose' was in the process of revelation so incidentally, her passing encouraged me to start a non-profit 501c3 organization called PEER Inc. (www.peerincredible.org).  Then, after a long hard fight and several moments of remission, a virus further complicated our brother's immune system and he made his spiritual transition in 2007.

There was more to come.  2008 to 2011, I had severe health challenges myself.  One battle, in particular, brought me to the ebb of my own transitional mortality.  Had stress caused dis-ease?  No doubt, my past, present and future purpose had become evident?

WHAT AN AWAKENING!!!

Yes, we ARE spirits having human experiences.  And though we may leave this earthen realm...as ancestors, we really go no where.  This is just a training ground for the next phase.  Now, more than ever, it is encouraging for me to surround myself with those who fervently seek the need to know and heal themselves from ALL diagnosis', by changing their diets, aligning themselves holistically and meditating spiritually and metaphysically. 

You may ask, "Why....when the doctor knows best?"

Well, you can bet I realized something was going on, making the picture much bigger, greater, grander than the past pains, wars and challenges anyone in my family had been through, and music was a healing tool for all of us.  Most importantly for my brother and sister.  Our mother and father planted in us, the seeds of healing embedded in creativity.  In fact, the songs I've written on my CD "Permission: The Power Of Being" reflect the spiritual walk I've been on.  Through each and every challenge, to religious independence, onto metaphysical enlightenment...a paradigm shift, if you will, has taken place.  Now, I seek the need to see myself as being part of the whole...incapsulated with past, present, future, earthen and cosmic realities.  I now know I have the chance and choice to manifest my own intentions.   And through my very own imagination, I WANT and WILL, to share in a process that manifests YOUR healing as well, regardless of the challenge. 

In the words of master physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, "....we're all connected to each other biologically, to earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically....".   To over-stand and maybe even inner-stand my walk and connection to the Creator Of All Things, visit PEER's satellite division at www.stompministries.com.  There, you will see why and how I choose to KNOW LOVE IS MAAT...MAAT IS ETERNAL... and we have the power to heal the land, ourselves and each other...holistically. 

Join me, won't you?  Ase.

LINDA BOSTON (Professional Woman) - Multi-talented performer with theater, film, music credits and a long run with MTM. Her theater accomplishments include “Crowns,” “Sophisticated Ladies” and the award-winning one-woman-show “Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley: The Naked Truth.” (www.lindaboston.com).  As a singer-songwriter and requested vocalist, she's sung before Pres. Bill Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, requested opening vocalist at the 2006 Detroit Mayoral Inauguration and much more. “Boston’s chops carry the set. Serve this one with moonlight and good conversation,” says Ambassador Magazine about her music CD, Permission: The Power Of Being. She’s heard in local, regional and national commercials, has over 20 supporting film credits, been recognized by the San Diego Black, Uptown and New Harvest Film Festivals, and has worked with performance greats including Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, Bencio Del Toro, Anthony Mackie, Whitney Houston, Tamala Mann and Pearl Cleage. Her 501c3 nonprofit, PEER Inc. (www.peerincredible.org), collaborates with organizations helping individuals develop their creative experiences. Linda says: “For everlasting change to come, KNOW we are all connected as ONE.” Thanks GFour, for connecting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Judy Blue

Judy Blue
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our third entry is from Judy Blue, starring as the Soap Star.

Ah, the story.  I am so grateful for here and now.  I feel like the luckiest person.  My breast cancer in 2011 could be removed with a lumpectomy and controlled with radiation and (seemingly) endless medication.  All around me are other women who have gone through a similar experience and those women who are forced to embrace a much deeper battle.  

I remember the daily fear of not knowing, and the happiness and sweet smile of my surgeon, Dr. Jeruss, when she reassures me that my surgery was successful and I can begin to feel normal again without the worry.  I will never forget the friend who called and simply said, “well, … you’re in the club.”  Gee, that’s exactly how it feels.  Now there is a responsibility to myself and to others to do what I can to keep the disease from returning.  And a responsibility to pass on the information that is flooding to me, that has taken me out of denial. I am ready to find the answer for my nieces, their children, my friends and their children – I am not ready to welcome any more women into this club.   We have better places to be.

JUDY BLUE (Soap Star) is once again delighted to be a part of this celebration of women with this incredible company.  She is proud to have been a part of the Chicago company of Menopause, the Musical for over 2 years and a veteran of many adventurous MTM tours.  Some of Judy's credits include: Gary, and The Way West (Steppenwolf Theatre); Talking Pictures/Blind Date, Frank's Home, House/Garden, and A Little Night Music (Goodman Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and Winter's Tale (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); I Am Going to Change the World, Grande Hysterie, and Liquid Moon (Chicago Dramatists). Most recently having directed a well-received production of Mia McCullough’s Impenetrable at Clockwise Theatre she is currently narrating the audio book series of The Sleuth Sisters.  Favorite musical roles have included the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Edith Piaf in Piaf and Eva Peron in Evita.  Other theatre's include: Writers Theatre, Collaboraction, Theatre At the Center, Dallas Theater Center, B Street Theatre, Syzygy, NY Henry Street, Arkansas Rep, Theatre Three and Stagewest. TV/Film includes: Chicago PD, Breakfast with Joe, The Onion, and Hollywood Jerome. An Actors' Equity member for almost three decades, she is also a member and served on the board of SAG-AFTRA. She is an associate of The Shakespeare Project of Chicago, Chicago Dramatists and Syzygy Theatre of L.A.   Love to the Girlie Girls.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Megan Cavanagh

Megan Cavanagh
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our second entry is from Megan Cavanagh, the Earth Mother, remembered fondly as Marla Hooch in A League of Our Own.

January 24, 2014 I had a routine mammogram and a 9mm node was discovered. I had a biopsy and was told I wouldn’t hear the results till Tuesday at the earliest,  so when my phone rang at 8am Monday morning I knew it probably wasn’t good news. And I was right -  “invasive carcinoma,” was the diagnosis. My head reeled. I was on tour with Menopause the Musical in Springfield, IL and I started to google what “invasive carcinoma” meant.

I returned home and met with my surgeon, Kristi Funk at Pink Lotus (she sounds like a rock star) and she explained that given the size of the node I was probably Stage I ILC (Invasive Lobular Carcinoma) and wouldn’t have to undergo chemotherapy just radiation, but we would have to go in and get the lump out and get it looked at under the microscope to see what we were dealing with.  After a MRI five more nodes were found and I was scheduled for surgery March 3rd.

I had a partial mastectomy and four lymph nodes removed from under my left arm.  Three of the four lymph nodes tested positive for cancer so I was back under the knife a week later to remove seven more lymph nodes - which, thankfully, all came back negative. But those blasted three positive nodes meant I was going to have to endure chemotherapy. I was now Stage II ILC. 

I had four chemotherapy sessions every three weeks, and lost all my hair everywhere, then thirty radiation treatments. The radiation was intense but I got through it without a rash. During my treatments I discovered a cancer support center called WeSpark, in Woodland Hills, CA. Finding this place helped me so much! I joined an in-treatment support group and had a harp lesson. I got Reiki and acupuncture for free. I did mindful meditation and hypnotherapy.  WeSpark is my new best friend and when I’m home between tours I race right back there to join my post treatment support group. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having this kind of support when you are facing something as daunting as cancer.

The day after my last radiation treatment, I was on a flight to the east coast to attend my nephew’s wedding and then join a new Menopause the Musical tour. I was bald and worried that I wouldn’t have the energy, but with the support of my spouse and the cast and crew I did it — followed by forty-eight more shows!

I now am dealing with lymphodemia of the left breast. I undergo physical therapy two to three times a week and have to wear a device to help (the liquid that the lymph nodes would normally take care of) drain properly, along with a compression shirt.
I also have to take Tamoxifen for five years. This drug inhibits the estrogen production in my body, as my cancer feeds on estrogen, but it also majorly increases hot flashes and night sweats. While traveling on tour I single-handedly steam up the van windows near me and I have totally become my Earth Mother character - dripping and dropping!!

October 23, 2010 my sister, Mary Cay, died from brain cancer (gliablastoma). I miss her every day and I’m grateful that my cancer could show myself and my family that a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t necessarily mean death. My living through this has made me so much more alive - living each day and loving my life. Thanks to my immediate family, my WeSpark Family and my Menopause the Musical G4 family for being so supportive. 

MEGAN CAVANAGH (Earth Mother) is most recognized  as Marla Hooch, from the Penny Marshall movie, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. Other film credits include: Mel Brooks’  ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (Broomhilde) and (Essie) DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT. She starred with Tim Allen and Kirstie Ally in FOR RICHER OR POORER (Levinia Yoder).  She also starred with Christina Ricci in Disney’s remake of THAT DARN CAT (Lu). Megan voiced Judy Neutron in The Academy Award Nominated Animated Feature JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS, and she also had the pleasure of doing the Nickelodeon TV series. Other Cartoon voices are: Queen Luna on the Nickelodeon animated series, WINX CLUB, Slog on TAK AND THE POWER OF JUJU, and Amy Poehler’s animated series THE MIGHTY B, where Megan played Hillary Higgenbottom (Bessie’s Mom).  Other TV credits include: Recurring character Trudy (who married Al on the last episode) on HOME IMPROVEMENT.  Guest Starring on FRIENDS, WILL & GRACE, JUST SHOOT ME, WEST WING, ER, ROSEANNE and many others. Megan did eight episodes with Betty White and Bob Newhart in his series, BOB.  She has performed in MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL® Since 2004 as Earth Mother and Iowa Housewife in San Francisco and Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Noted Regional Credits include: Blithe Spirit (Madame Arcati), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Pseudolus), Jubilee (Queen/Butch), High Spi its (Madam Arcati). Megan is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association Since 1987. MeganCavanagh.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Teri Adams

Teri Adams
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our first entry is from Teri Adams, who plays the Iowa housewife.

Cancer. I hate that word. The fact is, the word cancer strikes a terrifying chord with everyone, and most especially if you've watched it decimate your family. Everyone on my Mother's side had had a cancer diagnosis, three out of five dying from the disease, and my paternal aunt died of breast cancer at 31. I knew all too well about my family history. Cancer had been up close and personal.

I had just turned 40, gotten married and was enjoying a particularly busy time in my career on stage. And then my doctor called. My cancer was discovered after a routine mammogram came back abnormal, resulting in a biopsy that revealed DCIS—a noninvasive, early form of breast cancer. It was good news, I was told.  "If you're going to get cancer," my doctor said, "this is the type that is easiest to treat." I breathed a little easier and met with the surgeon who would perform the lumpectomy. My surgeon, the first of many, as well as my Oncologist were the same two women who had treated my Mother five years earlier. I was all scheduled to have the same surgery that had successfully removed my mom's tumor, when the doctor decided on a last minute scan. The technology involved, she explained, hadn't even been available when my mom was sick. That decision may have saved my life. The MRI discovered that I had several other spots in my right breast, and after biopsy, they told me that I would need a mastectomy. At that point, based on all of the information, as well as my family history, it didn't take very long for my doctors and I to decide to remove both breasts. On July 1st, 2008, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. While in surgery, doctors discovered that the cancer had micro-metastasized, and my sentinel node biopsy revealed invasive cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage IIA ER-/PR-, HER2+ breast cancer, and after that things got complicated. As the diagnosis changed, so did the treatment plan.

I went through a year of chemotherapy with docetaxel (Taxotere), carboplatin and trastuzumab (Herceptin). I was also treated for iron-deficiency anemia, and over the next few years I underwent multiple surgeries due to infections and other complications. There were too many bumps in the road to count. So many scopes and scans. So many needles. So much of my time for so long was spent inside the walls of the Cancer Center or in the hospital. Five years after my initial diagnosis, I’d had 12 surgeries—the last one to remove a small mass on my kidney.

During treatment I was extremely tired, lost all but a tiny cap of my hair, and suffered from blood loss, resulting in severe anemia. There were countless sutchers, dressings and drains. And there was pain. But the body is an amazing thing, and after everything mine has been through, I'm starting to appreciate it in a much deeper way.

Through it all, I made a point to be an active participant in the development of my treatment plan. I did a lot of online research and discovered that although there is useful stuff out there, contradictory information can get confusing and even cause more anxiety than peace of mind. I finally had to trust my medical team and started carrying a notebook with me to write down any questions I had, so I could later ask my doctor.

My family was my backbone, and my husband was an amazing caregiver. They were there for me every step of the way. I also had support from a local organization that offered support groups, exercise classes, nutritional information and even help finding bras and wigs. Having support from women who understand your journey and are living proof that you can survive is beyond measure.

The emotional impact, however, was a bit harder to handle. I felt like I was being pushed and pulled this way and that, from appointment to appointment, for different tests and treatments. It was easier to just go with the flow than to stop and digest how I was really feeling. I realize now that I dealt with the emotions more after the fact than in the middle of it all. Now, as I look back over that time, I am just now starting to fully appreciate and understand everything I went through and what it all means.

It’s been an incredibly long road, but I’ve officially graduated from doctor visits every three months to an annual checkup with my oncologist. Although I’m still processing everything, I’ve come to realize that my cancer diagnosis helped me put a lot of things into perspective. I try to not sweat the small stuff, to be kinder to myself and others, and to accept that I cannot control everything.

My scars make me beautiful. They remind me every day that I am a survivor. Cancer isn't as strong as I am. I realize now that I am stronger than I ever knew.


TERI ADAMS (Iowa Housewife) has been with Menopause The Musical®! since 2006, where she first played IH at The American Heartland Theatre in her hometown, Kansas City, where it ran for 5 months. Since then, she has joined the MTM national touring company, and although still based out of KC, she has performed this role on numerous tours and sit-down productions across the country. Regional credits include Ruthless!, Blues In The Night, Dirty Blonde, Baby, Lend Me A Tenor, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and the World Premiere of Gregg Coffin’s Rightnextto Me. Teri most recently appeared in MTM, as well as Church Basement Ladies (The Last Potluck Supper) at The Merry Go Round Playhouse (NY) for the Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival. Thanks to my G4 family and my actual family, and thank you all for supporting live theatre.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Spotlight: 'You will never know what you can achieve if you don’t try'


2015 finalist Drayton Maclean Mayers
2015 #JimmyAwards finalist Drayton Maclean Mayers from the The Orpheum Theatre-Memphis High School Musical Theatre Awards in Memphis, TN performs "Beautiful City" from "Godspell"
Posted by National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Saturday, July 18, 2015


Maclean Mayers recently returned home from the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City, where he was named a finalist in the lead actor's category -- one of the top three in a pool of 26 male performers. Maclean wrote about his experience for us in this guest entry for Main and Beale.

First and foremost I want to say that I am still completely humbled by this entire experience. To be honest the last two years of my life have been a complete whirlwind for me, and I never would’ve dreamt any of the things I’ve been able to take part in. To be able to call myself a “two-time” winner at the Orpheum’s High School Musical Theatre Awards almost seems selfish to think.

I say that because I firmly believe that any of the gentlemen nominated this year and also the year before could’ve won. It’s amazing to see the talent grow each year on both the Memphis level and also on the national stage as well. While I did love my experience at last year’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards, I must admit that it was a bit difficult for me. I was a “Big Fish” in an even bigger pond, excuse the musical theatre pun. The talent on the national level amazed me. It got to a point that for a while I didn’t believe that I belonged there. However, the amazing people I met while I was in New York convinced me that maybe I could make a career out of performing on stage. With the chance to go back this year I returned confident in who I was as a performer and also as a person. Nothing though prepared me for what lay ahead.

I think my success this year is credited to the fact that this was my “second” time at the NHSMTAs. I understood what our directors and what our coaches expected out of us all. I knew that I needed to preserve my voice throughout the week to make sure that I was fully prepared for the judges the Sunday before the show. It was all these little things that really benefited me in the long run.

When Erica Peninger and myself, along with the amazing Lindsay Krosnes, our chaperone, arrived in New York, I was already eager to get to rehearsal. I wanted to see all the kids that I would be spending the week with. Were they as good as last year’s group? Who were the standouts of the group? A million questions rushed through my brain as we pulled up to New York University’s Founders Hall, our home for the week.

The thing I was sure of though was that I wanted to finally meet the two other Edward Blooms, the character I was also nominated for. I wanted to pick their brains on what they thought of the character and the show Big Fish itself. My wish was granted right as soon as I opened the door to my dorm for the week. My roommate was in fact one of the other Edward Blooms, how lucky am I! Ben, my roommate, turned out to be an amazing guy and it was really a lot of fun to talk about Big Fish to someone that really knew the show. I eventually did meet the third Edward Bloom who was just as amazing and nice as Ben was. After meeting all the other nominees we all began our walk to NYU’s Tisch School to begin our first rehearsal!

After a quick pizza dinner all the nominees filed into the theatre for introductions. It was exciting to see all the other nominees and who they played. Along with the three Bloom boys there was also a handful of Mary Poppins, an eccentric Gomez, a whole array of Sutton Foster characters and many more.  Once everyone was finished we began our first vocal rehearsal! The opening number is always a fun song because our music director literally writes in every current Broadway show and then some! After a busy day I fell asleep eager for what the rest of the week laid ahead.

I won’t go over each day specifically, but they all started with our personal yogi for the week, Ross Rayburn. Once we had all found our inner Zen, the days were filled with medley rehearsals and coaching time with current and past Broadway performers. Of course, the three Bloom boys were put into the same medley -- I mean why not? The other guys in my medley were also extremely nice. There was a Jean Valjean, a J. Pierpont Finch and also Flick from the musical Violet. After a few rehearsals together we all became brothers in music. We practiced together, ate together, and hung out with each other. 

When I wasn’t in medley rehearsal I was preparing my solo for the judges with my coach, current Broadway actor Telly Leung. What was funny about the ordeal was that my solo was “Beautiful City” from Godspell. Telly was a part of the cast for the revival of Godspell! At first I was a little nervous -- to be singing a song that he was so familiar with, it was a little intimidating  -- but after his guidance and help I felt prepared for the judges that Sunday.

After performing for the judges I felt confident that I had done my best. By that point in the week it did not matter to me if I was chosen as a finalist our not.  I was already so proud at everything that all the nominees were able to produce this week. Keisha and Van Kaplan, the NHSMTA director, were both shocked that we had accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. We were the first group ever in the history of the awards to fully finish with rehearsals early. The opening number was finished and polished, along with the closing number. The medleys were the best that they’d ever seen. It’s safe to say that all 52 nominees were amped for the ceremony at the Minskoff Theatre.

Fast-forward to the second act of the show. After what was an amazing first act of the show everyone was back in their dressy blacks, ready for the announcement of who was to become the three finalists. As the names began to be called I was shocked to hear Michael Cerveris call MY NAME! I had been picked to be a finalist at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards! After the applause finally died down all the finalist were directed backstage to prepare for our solos. One by one we all went, everything singing their souls out. I am so glad that I wasn’t a judge this year because it seems as though it would’ve been impossible.

While I didn’t win that night I took so much out of the experience. I met 51 amazingly talented people who all had a heart of gold. Without my friends I would not have had such an amazing experience. I also learned that I can accomplish anything that I put my heart into. I think that is something that everyone can apply to in his or her own life. Don’t do something because you are scared to do it, because you will never know what you can achieve if you don’t try.


Maclean Mayers is a 2015 graduate of Germantown High School and will be attending Emerson College in Boston, majoring in journalism and theatre this fall. Click here to see more videos from the NHSMTA.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Broadway Buzz: How Detroit Became Hitsville U.S.A.

Julius Thomas III as Berry Gordy (center right) & Cast.
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour. (C) Joan Marcus, 2015
On January 12, 1959, Berry Gordy Jr. obtained a loan of $800 from his family and founded an enterprise he called Motown. He set up his Detroit headquarters in a modest house emblazoned with an immodest sign, “Hitsville U.S.A.” The slogan was premature, but prophetic. The company had its first hit record in 1960, and between 1961 and 1971 landed 163 singles in Billboard magazine’s top 20, including 28 songs that reached No. 1.

Gordy discovered, developed, and launched the careers of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Diana Ross and the The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, and Marvin Gaye – to name just a few – and Motown became the most successful business owned and operated by an African American in the United States.

What Gordy accomplished had ramifications far beyond the world of music. Now his legacy is celebrated in Motown the Musical. “Berry Gordy is the Steve Jobs of the music field,” says Doug Morris, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment and co-producer of the show. “He’s the No. 1 creative executive in the history of the industry, an amazing American success story who changed the culture of the country.”

Although Motown was home mostly to black artists, Gordy envisioned the music as “the sound of young America” – and by that he meant Americans of all colors and ethnicities. He started Motown just before the civil rights movement was in full flower, when neighborhoods throughout the country remained segregated and music by black artists was mostly relegated to black radio stations.

But Gordy “endeavored to reach across the racial divide with music that could touch all people,” as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame acknowledged. And so he did. Motown’s success didn’t happen by wishful thinking, and it didn’t happen by magic. A brilliant entrepreneur with impeccable artistic taste, Gordy signed the best singers, hired the best musicians, the best songwriters, the best producers, and the best staff to “create, make and sell” irresistible songs with universal appeal.

It began, of course, with the sound, a thrilling amalgamation of gospel, blues, jazz, doo wop, and country. “I may not have always known what I was looking for exactly, but when I found it I knew it,” Gordy has said. The instrumentation was unique, incorporating distinctive bass lines with everything from tambourines to saxophones to drums to three or four guitar lines, to orchestral strings. “Long before there were electronic synthesizers, I was looking for new ways to create different sound effects. We would try anything to get a unique percussion sound: two blocks of wood slapped together, striking little mallets on glass ashtrays, shaking jars of dried peas – anything. I might see a producer dragging in bike chains or getting a whole group of people stomping on the floor.” 

In the early ’60s, when Motown was evolving and beginning to hit its stride, radio play was crucial to a song’s success. And to that point, white pop radio stations had only sporadically embraced recordings by black artists. Gordy recognized that he needed an experienced, respected, well-connected point man who could infiltrate and shatter the      color line of the airwaves, and in 1960 he brought on Barney Ales as vice president of distribution and sales. Ales had been a branch manager at Capitol records in Detroit, then had his own record distributorship, and had relationships with disc jockeys and stations, black and white, all around the metropolitan area.

“My feeling, long before I went to Motown, was that music was music,” says Ales. “I never considered Motown a black company. It was owned by a black guy and had black artists, but it wasn’t a black company. It was a record company. And it was easy to sell the sound because people liked the sound.”

Robin Seymour, Detroit’s most popular radio personality of that era, was perhaps the only white disc jockey in the city to feature black music on his shows in the ’50s, prior to the founding of Motown. “When Berry Gordy came along, I started playing his records,” says Seymour. “Some of the sponsors hated the music, but they had kids and their kids thought it was the greatest music ever. The sponsors were getting results, so they were happy. The music really took off. Being a Detroit company, they started getting noticed and became part of the city. And then the music spread all over the country.”       

In those days, according to Seymour and Ales, radio stations on the East and West Coasts would not play a new record until it had been a hit in Detroit or Chicago or Cleveland. “The record had to be pretty high on the charts before a song was played in New York, regardless of whether the singer was black or white,” says Ales. “Later in the ’60s, when Motown had made it big, that changed. Stations would play a new record by a new artist.”
 
Seymour adds, “White disc jockeys around the country were eager to get and play this music. We communicated with each other. If I had a record I really liked, I’d call a disc jockey, say, in Boston on the big station there, and say, ‘You’ve got to hear this record.’ And he’d call the distributor to get a copy. Because the disc jockeys wanted to be connected with records and artists and songs that became hits, so they could say, ‘First introduced on our show.’”  

Motown’s artists not only became a staple on mainstream white radio stations, but the top venues around the world. Success bred success, the result of outstanding product and strong marketing and promotion. “What happened with Motown wasn’t natural,” says Ales. “People think Motown was lucky, but that wasn’t true. We worked at it. For instance, I signed a deal with Columbia Record Club, a mail order club that had a lot of prestige. No other black company ever had a deal with them for an entire label. So we were seen as a major record company as opposed to a company that just had hit records.”

 Motown gradually became part of the fabric of America. “Music really makes the world vibrate,” says Morris. “And when multi-cultures vibrate together, it’s a great thing. That’s what Berry Gordy made happen. His music changed the world.”


Come share in the celebration of the Motown hit parade this July 14-19. live on our stage. Find more information at orpheum-memphis.com/motown.