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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Actor (81)

Friday
Dec192014

Call Answered: Elli "The King of Broadway": Chanukah at The Metropolitan Room

Elli "The King of Broadway""Call Me Adam" chats with Elli, "The King of Broadway" about his 2nd annual Chanukah show at The Metropolitan Room (34 West 22nd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenue) on December 21 (9:30pm) and December 22 (7pm). We also discuss his Jewish upbringing and the role religion has played throughout his life and career! Click here for tickets to Elli's show Chanukah!

For more on Elli be sure to visit http://www.broadwaykingdom.com and follow him on Twitter!

1. On December 21 and 22, the 6th & 7th nights of the Jewish Holiday Chanukah, you are presenting your 2nd annual Chanukah at The Metropolitan Room. What initially made you want to do a Chanukah show? The lack of any other Jewish programming during the month of December. There are sometimes shows that include a Chanukah song or two, or claim to be Chanukah shows and the content mostly has the "I’m jealous of all the other holidays this month that seem better than mine" vibe to them. It’s always been my belief that we Jews have a rich heritage and Chanukah is an important part of it. Something to 'kvell' about!

2. What made you want to make this an annual show? That’s easy, we got an amazing reception to last year’s show but since Chanukah fell out so close to Thanksgiving there were a lot of people out of town that wanted to come but couldn’t. Plus, the whole cast had so much fun doing, it we all wanted to do it again! Hopefully for many years to come!

3. What can audiences expect from this show and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Chanukah at The Metropolitan Room? A singularly genuine and unique celebration of Chanukah with traditional songs the audience can sing along to and some new songs from around the Globe they’ve never heard before. There will be songs in English, Hebrew, Yiddish and even Ladino from the Sephardic Jewish heritage. Songs from the liturgy and songs from Broadway. And, I throw in some facts about Chanukah in case people aren’t aware. I hope they’ll leave asking, "Will there be a show for Purim as well?"(We’re working on it!)

4. What do you enjoy most about performing at The Metropolitan Room? What do they offer you that another venue does not? Bernie Furshpan! No one else has a Bernie! He’s totally on board with my ideas and has even gone out of his way to make sure the Club has Kosher Wine for those who keep Kosher. We will also have Latkes and Sufganiot (Donuts) at the shows. The Metropolitan Room has a wonderful vibe to it and with all the new upgrades that JoAnne has made to the venue it’s just a great place to perform.

The ghost of Pavarotti5. What do you love most about celebrating Chanukah in NYC? Menorahs and Jews everywhere. There are also dozens of Kosher eateries and Chanukah parties to attend. You could be out at a different Chanukah event every night of Chanukah (except Shabbos of course).

6. You are known as "The King of Broadway." How did you get this title? It’s quite a story but the short of it is before I moved from Miami to NYC I was doing Karaoke in a Lesbian Sports Bar. I came to NYC for an Audition and brought back a Karaoke CD from The Producers which was on Broadway at the time. There's a song in the show called "The King Of Broadway." I sang it, and afterwards the Karaoke Hostess said, "That was Elli - The King Of Broadway" and it stuck. A few months later I decided to make a web site and searched for that name AND NO ONE OWNED IT! I immediately grabbed it and have had it ever since. So - I got the moniker singing Showtunes in a Lesbian Sports Bar in Ft Lauderdale – you can’t make stuff like that up - and now that's how people refer to me! It’s pretty cool.

7. You are also one of the founding members of Improvodox, a Jewish Improv Group. What made you want to start your own Improv group instead of just joining one of the many groups already out there? I’ve been performing and teaching Improv for over 30 years. During the 15 years I taught at Jewish Day Schools in L.A. & Miami Beach I used it quite successfully as a teaching tool. When I moved to NYC I heard about a young lady wanting to start a Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant) improv group because all the groups she’d been in performed on Friday nights, she was looking for 5 other people to join. I auditioned and was chosen as one of the founders.

Rabbi Elli8. You have spent your career both performing and being a Hassidic Orthodox Rabbi/Cantor. When did you decide to stop performing in theatrical shows to pursue your Rabbinical/Cantorial passion? What was it like to not perform in theatrical shows after becoming a Rabbi/Cantor? What made you want to return to your theatrical performing? I have been performing since I was 5 in one form or another starting with the role of "The Arab Shepherd Boy" in Milk & Honey at the local JCC to playing "Arab" in West Side Story at the Temple (I see a weird pattern there) and many different roles in High School as well. I had always planned on becoming a Cantor, our Temple’s Cantor was like a 2nd father to me. I was his assistant (teaching Bar Mitzvah students for him) from age 11 on. During High School I became more religious and decided to go to the Chabad Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, NJ to study to become a Rabbi as well. During my years in Yeshiva I performed in Holiday programs all over the NE. After I graduated I moved to Miami Beach, FL and began teaching/performing to a Jewish Day School audience of 20 5th graders daily while still leading services at different Shuls in S. Florida. So in truth I never really ever stopped performing. After raising a family and trying new careers after many years, my life took an unexpected left hand turn, and during the tumult I was at a friend’s Birthday party and there was Karaoke. I was pushed to go up and sing, which I did and was asked by the host to start coming to his Karaoke nights in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. One thing led to another and I gained quite a following. I decided to start travelling to NYC to audition for Musical Theatre and – well, I already told you above how I got my moniker… and here I am! BTW, I’m still teaching as I’ve happily become the Rabbi to many entertainers in NYC.

Elli "The King of Broadway"9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Pursue your heart’s desire and dream big dreams for little dreams have no magic.

10. What have you learned about yourself from your varied careers? I learn something new every day. It’s a process and I can achieve any goal I set.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I already have my super power, it was given to me in high school by my classmates, they called me "Super Jew!"

12. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Life Savers aren’t Kosher these days, but for a short while when I was in my 20’s they were and without a doubt Wild Cherry was my favorite.

13. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be? Of course it would be called "The King’s Brew." It has Fresca as the base but it’s still under development. I’ll let you know when it’s ready! For Chanukah I’m drinking Redd's Apple Ale as a compliment to the homemade applesauce I made for the homemade Latkes!

Elli "The King of Broadway"More on Elli:

Elli began his theatrical career in Los Angeles under the direction of the famous That Little Old Wine Maker ME! James Rawley & Rawley's best friend, Lee Strasberg. Some of the many varied roles he inhabited were "Jud" in Oklahoma, "The Tin Man" in the The Wizard of Oz, "A-rab" in West Side Story, "Charlie Davenport" in Annie Get Your Gun, "Kralahome" in The King & I, "Nicely-Nicely" in Guys & Dolls and of course, the part he was born to play but never has, "Tevye" in Fiddler on the Roof. He has also appeared in such favorites as Arsenic & Old Lace, Julius Caesar, Up the Down Staircase and Our Town, to name a few. Elli's unique look and moldable image, added to the myriad of languages & accents he has perfected, lends itself to the diverse roles he plays.

For a while, Elli changed directions and lived his childhood dream of becoming a Hassidic Orthodox Rabbi & Cantor, leading religious services and teaching in Synagogues throughout the U.S. and Canada. He is now reviving his dream of taking his place on "The Great White Way," by lending his rich, multi-accented and multi-character voice to several children's audio tapes, radio and TV commercials, both in the U.S. and England.

In 2002, Elli appeared as a "Hassidic Jew" (big surprise) in the film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, filmed on location in Miami, Florida; in 2003, he worked on the Indy film, Once Upon A Wedding (now on DVD) as a "Barfly" and in 2003, he performed the role of the "Papa" in The Jazz Singer, which played South and Central Florida.

Currently working on his third one-man show, Elli has become quite popular and well known on the Florida, New York and California Karaoke circuits and is lovingly referred to as "The King of Broadway." Since moving to NYC in 2004, he has been seen in commercials, promo spots for VH1's Metal Month, as featured background in several movies and been on stage at Birdland in Times Square, the Duplex and Marie's Crisis in the Village and onstage at the Triad, doing his stand-up comedy. Elli is currently in a pilot for Comedy Central and is a founding member of Improvodox, a Jewish Improv Group.

Monday
Dec012014

Call Answered: Payson Lewis: Out of the Woods

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: Alex Dean"Call Me Adam" chats with rising singer and actor Payson Lewis about his cover of Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods" with Rumer Willis, Sam Smith's "Stay With Me," his break up with Janel Parrish, his fans, staying in shape, and many other aspects of his life and career!

For more on Payson be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, and Patreon!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a singer/actor? It's tough to say. I've always had a passion for performance; musical and theatrical. But I never would have had the courage to pursue that passion as a career without the love and support of my family. My mom, dad, and brother have always believed in me, even when I have had my own doubts. I couldn't do it without them.

2. Your latest single is a cover of Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods" with Rumer Willis. What made you want to cover this particular Taylor Swift song and how did you decide to team up with Rumer Willis? Well, first of all I love the song and, like everyone else, all of Taylor's new record. But this song in particular really spoke to me. When we first started working on it, Ru and I had some "interesting" stuff going on with our relationships...and that's what "Out of the Woods" is all about; Getting through all the stuff that bogs down relationships and that can make you lose sight of the person that you're in the relationship with. But, all that stuff...just trees.

3. What was the best part about working with Rumer? Rumer has become one of my closest friends and working with someone that you genuinely care about and respect is so fulfilling. That and the "onesie parties" we have at her place! Oh, and have you heard her sing?! INCREDIBLE. So, basically there are lots of best parts!

Payson Lewis and Rumer Willis, Photo Credit: Kenton Chen 4. Your cover of "Out of the Woods" has over 44,000 views so far on YouTube. What does it mean to you to have that kind of response to this song? It means so much to me that people have enjoyed it enough to share and spread the word about the video. But more than just the number of views, I am BLOWN AWAY by the overwhelmingly positive response it has gotten. I have loved hearing from people who liked the song. It's been really fun getting to interact with people from all over the world who share my love of music and have enjoyed my version of this song.

5. In addition to Taylor Swift, you have covered Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." What do you like most about getting to put your own spin on these popular songs? Do you know if the artists you have been covering ever get to hear your version? If so, what has their feedback been? What's great about music is that it is so deeply personal. There are an infinite number of ways to sing a song. Every single person's version is going to be a little different. I just love taking a song that means one thing to someone and sharing with the world what it means to me. Because in turn, my version will mean something else to someone else.  It's never ending and beautiful!

As for the original artist hearing them, I'm not too sure. I was able to send my cover of "Out of the Woods to Jack Antonoff (who co-wrote the song with Taylor) through a mutual songwriting friend. I never heard any feedback. I'm hoping it's because he was just too blown away! :)

6. When you start releasing your own original music, what genre do you think you most likely will want to be part of? I am working on some original music and I really hope to share some of it soon. I think my music is safely in pop territory but avoids being bubblegum. It's "genuine pop," if that makes sense.

7. Who do you hope to get to work with during your career? Wow. That's an incredibly difficult question to answer. There are so many people that I would LOVE to work with. I'm honestly overwhelmed thinking about it. Off the top of my head though, how about Pharrell musically and PT Anderson theatrically.

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: David Muller8. You have a campaign going to encourage fans to help you create music videos with various incentives depending on how much they contribute. From just $1 to $100 or more, fans can be part of your creative process. In creating this campaign, how did you decide on what the incentives would be? What is it like to have fans be part of your creative process? What is their reaction to getting to be involved in this way? To be honest, I'm new to using patreon. But I am incredibly excited about being able to interact with the people who really love my music and want to be more involved. I just thought about what I would want if I were contributing to a musician that I truly supported. I really can't wait to get more involved with all the fans who want to be a part of the creative process!

9. The music industry is vastly different today. What do you find the most exciting aspect to be of the industry today and what are the biggest struggles you face? I think that the most exciting thing about the music industry today is also the thing that all of us have struggled with most. There's no roadmap for success in this industry anymore. We're all just trying to find our way, which is very hard, but very rewarding and exciting.

10. Speaking of struggles, your year-long relationship with Janel Parrish recently ended. In times of adversity, how do you bounce back on your feet? Ah yes. The breakup. I don't want to get too into the details, but we had a really good run and a lot of happy times. Unfortunately, those times had to come to an end. It was VERY difficult for me but luckily I am surrounded by amazing friends and family. They were there for me above and beyond what I ever could have expected. I am very lucky to have each and every one of them and they are almost exclusively responsible for getting me back on my feet.

Payson Lewis on ABC's "Revenge"11. In addition to music, you are also an actor, performing in film, television, and on stage. What do you get from acting that you do not get from music? The two pursuits offer, to me, a creative outlet and a path to the emotions of the audience. I am a very empathetic person. I feel everything around me. That's what I love about music and acting. I don't know though if I can separate what one gives me that the other doesn't. I just think both feed my need to emote and share deep feelings and storytelling with everyone who wants to come along for the ride.

12. What's the best advice you've ever received? My dad always told me to do something every day that improves you and the world around you. It's simple. But it's how I try to live my life. One day at a time. Always trying to make it better and be better than the day before.

13. What have you learned about yourself from being a singer/actor? I guess I've just learned how there isn't anything else I could ever see myself doing. Growing up I had more "sensible" plans for what I was going to do with my life. But I know now that this is what I was put on this earth to do. Once I figured that out, I was free to find out the things about me that drive that sole purpose.

14. How do you want to be remembered? First and foremost, I just want to be remembered for being a good person. I don't think there is anything more important to being good to the people around you. I also hope to uplift and inspire some people along the way.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

15. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I don't know that it's that super, but I would love to not need to sleep. There's just too much I want to do on a daily basis to fit into 16 waking hours. I could really use those pesky 8 hours of sleep for other stuff if I didn't need to, you know, sleep or whatever!

16. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Brussell sprouts. I don't think people would eat me if I were a Brussell sprout flavored lifesaver. Even though I do LOVE Brussel sprouts...a candy flavor version just sounds weird. I'm all about self-preservation.

17. Favorite way to stay in shape? I HATE working out. But to stay in shape I force myself to do a little regimen of push-ups and sit-ups. 10 minutes a day. It's just enough to keep me looking alright.

18. Boxers or Briefs? Both. I don't discriminate against any underwear. I'm an equal opportunity underwearer!

Payson Lewis, Photo Credit: Theo & JulietMore on Payson:

Payson Lewis is an actor and singer originally from Philadelphia, PA. He graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music. While at USC he was a member of the 3-time ICCA champion a cappella group, the SoCal VoCals. Since graduating, Payson has pursued a career in music and on TV with appearances on Revenge (ABC), How I Met Your Mother (CBS), Rules of Engagement (CBS), Love Bites (NBC), VicTORIous (Nickelodeon), and was a Top-4 Finalist on The Sing-Off (NBC).

In addition to other recent TV appearances, he's been seen in a number of notable LA Theater productions including Glory|Struck productions' Bare as "Peter" (BroadwayWorld Award Winner: Best Leading Actor in a Musical) and as "Rocky Horror" in The Rocky Horror Show. He's also been seen every weekend for the last two years in the hit "For The Record" series at Rockwell and, more recently, DBA Hollywood with the likes of Tracie Thoms, Barrett Foa, Steve Kazee, Janel Parrish, and Rumer Willis.

Payson has most recently started a YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/paysonlewis) which will focus on music; both original and covers. Twitter and Instagram: @paysonlewis

Sunday
Nov302014

Call Answered: John Kevin Jones: Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House

Kevin Jones rehearsing Summoners Ensemble Theatre "A Christmas Carol", Photo Credit: Joey Stocks"Call Me Adam" chats with actor John Kevin Jones about the return engagement of Summoners Ensemble Theatre's production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House in NYC (29 East 4th Street) which will play from December 11-28. Click here for tickets!

For more on Kevin follow him on Twitter!

1. From December 11-28, you are presenting a return engagement of Summoners Ensemble Theatre A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House. This is your 3rd year staging this show, the second at the Merchant House. What initially made you want to stage this show at the Merchant House? When my co-adapter, Rhonda Dodd, and I were developing the production in 2011 we showed the piece in different settings – from performing for invited friends in the Loewe Room at the Dramatists Guild to parties in Victorian Homes in Hartford and matchbox apartments in Manhattan. The fit inside a Victorian home really added a feeling of history coming alive. Performing a 19th Century story in a 19th Century home – it takes us back to that time but also shows us how much in common we have with the people who lived then and how truly relevant this story still is for all of us.

2. Out of all the Christmas shows out there, why did you chose A Christmas Carol? I had done a lot of really wonderful productions regionally but some of the more over-produced ones tended to lose the real heart of the story. Dickens himself read an edited text at the holidays in great halls, people stood on line for days to get tickets. I read this performance text of his and immediately saw how challenging it would be as an actor to move from character to character in such high stakes situations. And honestly, I’m moved by the story. Which for me is so much more than a tale of a bad man who goes from being stingy and mean to being generous and gregarious. Scrooge was a nice boy, who came from a nice family but he faced terrible hardships in a world that valued material gain above all else, and that hardened him – this is really a story of how a man returns to his true self. I think deep down we’re all empathetic giving people, this little fiction unlocks that reality in us – maybe for a moment, maybe for longer. It has something to say, and I discovered I wanted to say it.

Kevin Jones performing "A Christmas Carol" at NYC's Merchant's House Museum 20133. What excites you about this upcoming return engagement? Being in the Merchant’s House is a wonderful thing all by itself. You can feel the history all around you and the opportunity to share this story from the same time period and become a part of the history of the house is humbling. It’s an honor, really.

4. What made you want Rhonda Dodd to be the show's director? What has been the best part about working together? Rhonda and I worked on adapting the script together so it seemed a no-brainer that she would come on to direct. She’s my best cheerleader and my worst critic – and that combination is truly the best thing about working together.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House? I would love for everyone to see a bit of themselves in Scrooge. I certainly have, and it has changed my perspective in some personally profound ways. Maybe the audiences will realize how they may have closed their hearts to the world and their own potential for doing good in it.

I hope what I offer rekindles their understanding that doing good for others is really doing good for yourself and for your entire community. And it feels good! The studied nonchalance and detachment of our modern age be damned!

Kevin Jones performing "A Christmas Carol" at NYC's Merchant's House Museum 20136. What makes your version of A Christmas Carol different from other, previous staged, versions? I don’t have any bells and whistles, just my voice (or voices in this case – I do 20 different characters), a table, and chair. Dickens words are so powerful on their own. I’ve had many people come to me after seeing the show saying that they’d never really heard the story before. That’s the biggest compliment, to make something so careworn feel fresh and new.

7. Since A Christmas Carol at the Merchant House is being presented during the holiday season, what is your favorite part about spending the holidays in NYC? I usually spend the holidays at my family’s home in Oklahoma (Rhonda is coincidentally from Oklahoma too) but this year my father and brother are coming to stay with me – so that’s my favorite part of this holiday season in NYC, spending time with my family and being a tourist with them in my own city.

rehearsing Summoners Ensemble Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" at Merchant's House Museum. Photo Credit: Joey Stocks8. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My family moved around a lot and we landed in New Jersey for a while. The high school was doing The Music Man and my elementary school music teacher chose me and some other boys to audition for the show - they were looking for young children to play "Winthrop" and his friends. I got cast as a friend and when I told my mother I know she was glad I was doing something that would get me involved with other kids – moving around so much had made me painfully shy and making friends was difficult for me.

The day came for the first rehearsal and I told my mother I didn’t think I should do the show, I was afraid of going and meeting new people, afraid of being teased at the high school by a lot of kids that knew a lot more about this stuff than me. She told me that I had obligated myself to doing it and I would have to honor my commitments. The next day I got home from school, got my script and score and went to the car. When I became concerned that we would be late I honked the horn several times and yelled out the car window, "Hurry mother! They told me I cannot be late!" So I have my mother and the amazing group of kids in that first show to thank for being bitten by the bug. I’ve always been very grateful for that.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Theater is all important, and not important at all.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That being vulnerable is a strength.

11. How do you want to be remembered? I prefer to focus on the now, but I hope that those who know me will remember me for how much I love to laugh.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I’d like to be invisible whenever I wished. Think how much I’d save on plane fare.

13. If you could be any original flavor Life Saver, which one would you be? Cherry….of course.

14. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would you put in it? Jonesin’ –  1 shot tequila, pomegranate juice and a lime – really cold. Satisfying, but leaves you wanting more.

Kevin JonesMore on Kevin:

John Kevin Jones is a member of Actors’ Equity, The Dramatist Guild of America, and is the Executive Director of Summoners Ensemble Theatre. New York credits include the 2013 holiday season's successful presentation of A Christmas Carol at the Merchant’s House, Nothing But Trash at Theater for the New City, Jeffrey (opposite Bryan Batt) at Lincoln Center, The Winter’s Tale and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, both with Hipgnosis Theatre. Regional: American Stage in St. Pete, Florida (The Pavilion), Arkansas Rep. (Othello), Kentucky Rep. (The RivalsAll My SonsComedy of Errors), Memphis’ Playhouse on the Square (Angels in AmericaLast Night of BallyhooGross Indecency). Directing credits include A Lie of the MindRevenge of the Space Pandas, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Kevin received his BA in Theater, Performance from the University of South Florida and his MFA in Theater, Directing from the University of Memphis.

Thursday
Nov202014

Call Answered: Behind-The-Scenes Rehearsal Facetime Interview with Anthony Nunziata for 54 Below solo debut

"Call Me Adam" went behind-the-scenes with recording artist Anthony Nunziata as he prepares for his debut solo concert at 54 Below in NYC. Anthony let us into his rehearsal studio, where he and musical director Tedd Firth, were busy at work preparing for this big night.

Anthony will be making his solo concert debut at 54 Below on Friday, November 28 at 9:30pm with Tedd Firth - Piano/Musical Director/Arranger, Tom Hubbard - Bass, and Sherrie Maricle - Drums. Click here for tickets!

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

Behind-The-Scenes Facetime video interview with Anthony Nunziata and Tedd Firth:

Monday
Nov102014

Call Answered: Facetime Interview with the cast of Signal Failure Spencer Cowan and Sasha Ellen

"Call Me Adam" went behind-the-scenes of the SoHo Playhouse in NYC to speak with the cast of Signal Failure, Sasha Ellen (who also wrote the play) and Spencer Cowan (from PBS' Downton Abbey). Signal Failure tells the story of a girl and (kind-of) stalker guys’ journey through life, love and the London Underground, until a newspaper column brings them together! Signal Failure plays at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) in NYC through November 16. Click here for tickets!

For more on Signal Failure follow the show on Facebook and on Twitter follow Spencer Cowan @actspencercowan and Sasha Ellen @SashaKEllen!

Interview with Spencer Cowan and Sasha Ellen: