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Entries in Broadway (356)

Sunday
Mar052017

Call Answered: Michael Xavier: Sunset Boulevard on Broadway

Michael Xavier"With One Look" I fell in love with two-time Olivier Award actor Michael Xavier after seeing him in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, starring as "Joe Gillis," opposite Glenn Close's "Norma Desmond." Michael is giving a dynamic performance whose character portrayal of "Joe" is very real and down-to-earth. My favorite "Joe" moment in Sunset Boulevard, without giving too much away, was when "Joe" stood up for himself/what he believes in and took control of his life. That is kind of person I always strive to be (even if I don't achieve it every time).

I was beyond excited when I called and Michael answered. Make sure you catch Michael's performance in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard at The Palace Theatre (47th & Broadway) through June 25th only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Michael be sure to visit http://www.michaelxavier.co.uk and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

For more on Sunset Boulevard visit http://sunsetboulevardthemusical.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I don't remember who or what inspired me but my earliest memory was at around six years old I went up to my Mother and said "Mum I want to be an actor." She replied with "Go on then, do some acting for me." Surprised and embarrassed I said "No way!" Here response; "Well you'll never make an actor then." She assumed my shyness equated to poor acting ability but she's come to realise I really meant it!

2. You are making your Broadway debut in the revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close. Most people are just excited to have a Broadway debut at all in their career, but yours is starring alongside one of our nations most revered actresses. What were the first thoughts that went through your head when you found out you got the role of "Joe Gillis"? Well, initially I knew I was auditioning to play opposite Glenn in London's West End so it never even occurred to me that we would end up here on Broadway! When I landed the role I thought "WOW! Not only do I get to play this fabulous role and sing this amazing Andrew Lloyd Webber score with a 52-piece orchestra (English National Opera Orchestra) but I get to act opposite the legend that is Glenn Close!" It didn't sink in until the first day of rehearsals just how wonderful this whole experience was going to be.

Michael Xavier and Glenn Close in "Sunset Boulevard"3. What do you relate to most about "Joe"? What is one characteristic of his that you are glad you don't possess yourself? How do you feel your struggle to achieve success as an actor is similar to "Joe's" climb as a writer? Joe's willingness to please is something I can relate to. I can be a people pleaser and as I've gone through life I've realised it's an exhausting quality as not everyone is going to love you or what you do. I'm glad I don't possess Joe's characteristic of "selling out" and settling for an "easy life" but ultimately an unhappy one. I'd rather struggle and be happy in myself than be a kept man! Anyone who has ever worked in the creative industry knows success is often achieved through a struggle but it's how you cope with the knock-backs. Being able to stand back up after a defeat is an important quality in this business and in life. I feel it's the times that I've struggled that have made me a better actor.

4. I saw Sunset Boulevard a few weeks ago and was very impressed by it. You really held your own throughout the show. There is a moment in the show when "Joe" hears some harsh criticism about the script he is pitching to Paramount, however, the person critiquing is unaware of "Joe's" presence. Has there ever been a time in your life when you overheard someone saying something about you and they had no idea you were nearby? If so, what did you feel in that moment and after looking back on it, what did you take away from that experience? Thank you. Wow, that's a great question. This business can be tough at times and yes I've experienced many things being said about me but not in direct earshot. Lots of rumours and gossip fly about so I tend to try and filter out the noise but it really hurts when you hear something negative about you (especially when it's from someone you would call a friend). You have to thicken your skin and ride the storm if you want to stay in this business. There have been so many times I've wanted to quit! If you can ride the low times, the highs are incredible!

Glenn Close and Michael Xavier in "Sunset Boulevard"5. I secretly applauded "Joe"when he walked out on "Norma Desmond" after becoming fed up with the charade as it's also starting to affect his own career. When have you walked away from something that you thought might help you, but turns out was only holding you back? What opened up for you after this walk out? I always trust my gut instinct. My mantra has become "follow the character, not the money." When I've turned down auditions or job offers that I didn't really believe were right, it's always ended up being for the best as a better job comes up.

In life, sometimes if people are holding you back it's good to let them go. If they don't want to support you they shouldn't get a seat at your table.

6. Another favorite "Joe" moment, which I'm coining as your "Joe-dropping" (instead of jaw-dropping) scene in the show is your pool scene. How do you keep that chiseled body? Have you had a wardrobe malfunction yet? Does the attention you get from that scene ever get to be too much? Joe-dropping! Haha! I like that! Well thank you for the compliment.

I have a very strict diet that I stick to and I work out six days a week. It's all very dull but if I ate what I wanted there wouldn't be much water left in that pool! I had a day when I took off my trunks (back to the audience for those who haven't seen it) but then I couldn't find the strap to my robe and spent most of the song trying to cover myself up. Hilarious and terrifying in equal measure!

Hmmm, does the attention get too much? Well, I don't like it when people are taken out of the story so it's great that as the narrator I have the opportunity to gesture a kind of "sure I sold out" shoulder shrug which tends to break the ice of "how do I respond to this?" At stage door I'd much rather hear "I loved your performance of a difficult character to play" but it's flattering to get "loved the swimming pool scene!"

Glenn Close and Michael Xavier7. What have you learned about acting or life from working with Glenn Close? What is funniest thing to have between you and Glenn either during rehearsal, the show, or off-stage? I've learned so much from working with Glenn! Professionally; How to find the truth in every second, not just moment. How to trust yourself. How to enjoy the audience as a collaborator and not something to be afraid of.

In life: Just enjoy every moment! Glenn makes me laugh a LOT. We're always giggling away about something or other. On stage we're always both very professional but off-stage I'm always teasing her about not being very good or moving her quick change items for laughs! She loves/hates me for it!

Michael Xavier, Glenn Close, Siobhan Dillon, and Fred Johanson on opening night of "Sunset Boulevard"8. You recently posted a picture on your Instagram from Sunset Boulevard's opening night. You said this was your favorite picture from that night. What made that your favorite picture? When you look at that picture now, what memories go through your head? It was my favourite (excuse my British spelling of the word) photo of the night because a door was opened and a breeze of freezing cold air whizzed through the carpet and we all reacted so naturally to it. It wasn't posed, it was real, fun and happy. The memory of a great night. One of the best nights of my life!

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Being able to relax about the future. I'm a worrier and I need to chill out by ten percent every day, not one!

Michael XavierMore on Michael:

West End & UK productions include starring roles in Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close (Won Best Actor BWW UK Award), Love Story (Olivier award nomination – Best Actor In A Musical), Into The Woods (Olivier award nomination – Best Supporting Performance In A Musical), Shakespeare’s The Wars of the RosesShow BoatPhantom of the OperaAssassinsThe Pajama GameSpamalot!My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Pageant, Soho Cinders, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly!, Wonderful Town, Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia!, Miss Saigon and The Mikado. TV/Film roles include: Never Let Go and Gnomeland.

Friday
Mar032017

Call Redialed: Mrs. Smith: While My Guitar Gently Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge

Mrs. Smith and The RageI first came to know Mrs. Smith when her Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! decended upon New York City. It was that show that made me fall in love with Mrs. Smith. I'm so excited that we have now had the chance to reunite to talk about her new concert, starring in a GUCCI Eyewear ad, and being crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life."

Mrs. Smith & her band The Rage will be presenting their show While My Guitar Shrieks at (le) Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street) on Tuesday, March 7 at 7pm. While My Guitar Gently Shrieks will sonically delve into the traumatic life events that have made Mrs. Smith the guitar virtuoso she is today. From her Little House on the Prairie-style childhood to her kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band, Mrs. Smith will leave no stone unturned and no note unplayed. Featuring the music of ABBA, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Sia, and Metallica, among others. Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith be sure to visit http://www.worldofsmith.com and follow her on Facebook, Instgram, and YouTube!

1. It's so great to catch up! Last time we spoke, you were premiering your Off-Broadway show BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR! Now, you have switched gears, formed a band, and started doing concerts. What made you want to go this route? When it comes to the guitar, no other instrument gives such clear voice to the Grief and Rage. I never planned on becoming a guitar goddess! Last summer in Provincetown I started performing with my guitar on the sidewalk and it changed my life. The initial impulse behind this "sidewalk guitar show" was survival. I'd lost my entire fortune because of Brexit—my accountant couldn't explain why that was exactly but I was destitute. I found myself living in a mule shed behind the house of a local comedian named Ryan Landry. (A new low). The rent was due on this mule shed and so I took to the street! I was shocked at how the people gathered, huge crowds of them, clogging the streets and blocking traffic to see me "shred" on my guitar. I thought, "we might have something here..."

2. You recently were crowned the winner of "Shred for Your Life" at Webster Hall. What did it mean to you to win this contest? How did this help validate your path of music? The winning of this contest was coming off of my "sidewalk guitar shred" concerts in Provincetown so my "chops" were sharp. Even so, I was terrified. I almost left before the concert even began! There were so many tremendous players in a variety of styles and tones and all so much younger than me. I did make use of Geritol XL for some added energy and the judges determined that was not a performance-enhancing drug (it's b-vitamins). I battled it out over three excruciating rounds and just when I felt like my fingers were going to fall off I emerged the "Queen of Shred." It was definitely validating and helped me have the confidence to start this band and put this new show together. Around the same time a video of me playing in the East Village went viral on Guitar World and got 1.2 million views and then guitar companies started sending me equipment to review and I eventually wound up in this ad for GUCCI.

3. How did it come about for you to be featured in the GUCCI eyewear ad? I was playing guitar in Tomkins Square Park in the East Village this Fall and was spotted by fashion "it girl" Petra Collins. We were inspired by one another. She asked if I would be willing to wander into a GUCCI dreamscape with her and of course I said yes. I was whisked away to Budapest, Hungary, dressed up in gorgeous GUCCI clothes and sunglasses it was ultra-glamorous. You can look at stills from the shoot and read about Petra's inspiration here and here and here.

Mrs. Smith4. What do you like about performing in a band as opposed to a theatrical show? I love both, but for me right now, the band brings something raw and immediate to the live experience that feels relevant. People are raw right now, they're an exposed nerve because of what's happening in the world. (I've always felt like an exposed nerve so I'm used to it.) Along with my stage productions, I have done appearances at stand-up comedy venues where I perform impromptu stories, tone poems, and guitar solos. These appearances were stripped down and unfiltered and thrilling to me. I wanted to take that experience and elevate it a bit and that's what this new show is about, for now anyway. At first I was insecure about not having lots of costume changes and props and puppets. But when the show premiered to a sold-out crowd at Joe's Pub several audience members said they enjoyed the focused simplicity of the piece. I will also say, theatrical productions are a thrill to do but they are expensive and logistically complex. I like being able to book this show almost anywhere very easily and doing it in rock clubs and cabaret spaces means I can keep ticket prices accessible. And finally, it's just really really fun being a rock star!

5. For fans of your theatrical endeavors, what will surprise them about seeing you perform in concert? It's unfiltered Smith. I don't leave the stage, I don't change costumes, I don't relent from the top of the show until the finale. I go on a complete journey from my traumatic childhood in upstate New York to my life in high society to my kidnapping at the hands of a Norwegian Death Metal band and emergence as a guitar goddess. All of these realities are reflected through sound, music, storytelling and, of course, dumb show. The audience uses their imagination to draw the pictures. One song takes place in complete darkness with just the band playing and haunting voices from my past intruding on the loudspeaker! At first, I hired a video designer (who lives in Bushwick) to make elaborate video projections out of these voices but then realized how much more powerful to let the audience dream what the faces of these tormentors look like! That Bushwick videographer spent 10,000 hours working on those projections but we never used them--of course I still paid him! The surprise and delight is re-living these trauma's and triumph's with me. Isn't that what all entertainment is all about?

Mrs. Smith in an ad for GUCCI6. What was the hardest part about learning guitar? How do you feel learning to play guitar helped you grow as an artist? My father had taught me a few chords on a folk guitar when I was a little girl. Everyone could see I showed great promise but his alcoholic dissolution got in the way of my lessons. Then in the '90s I was kidnapped and held for ransom by a Norwegian Death Metal band. This was barely covered in the press because Patty Hearst completely stole my moment. I was kept in a closet for 90 days and there was a guitar in there. I had to learn to play it to survive. I ended up taking over the band and we won the Eurovision contest. I played the guitar when I appeared on America's Got Talent many years ago and it has been featured in my stage shows but I've never given myself so fully to the instrument until now and it's catapulted me into a new adventure.

7. You will be playing songs from quite a range of musical influences: ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Taylor Swift, Sia, and Metallica. How did these artists inspire your musical taste? What is the common thread of all these artists that make them fit into your concert? I have a passion for all of these songs because they reflect some element of my story. I've become known as a "shred guitar goddess" and the show definitely includes that but the guitar is such a diverse instrument! You can have an acoustic song that is so soulful and tender and then an electric guitar solo that soars like a valkyrie! And this band is so talented and skilled they can play literally anything so we zig-zag from rock and roll to country to pop to disco to jazz. It's like turning the knob on an old radio through all the styles of music.

Mrs. Smith8. Let's take this contest in a different direction. What is something you want to shred from your life? I insist on less fear. I know that seems radical, everyone is fearful of everything right now, especially in our little artistic corners of the world. But I want to create art and a life for myself without fear as the engine! That might mean finally taking the plunge and creating a Senior-Match.com profile and trying an internet coffee date. (I'd sworn off human love but is that just fear ruling me?) It might mean finding a way to finally tour Japan with my one-woman shred guitar opera. Of course, I don't want to strip out the terror, I need that, I think we all do. But fear and terror are two totally different energies as everybody knows.

9. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Can I work to make it .0001% better? 1% seems like setting the bar really high. (I'm so exhausted from self-improvement.) Your readers should look into The Miracle Morning, I just started it myself and I'm committing to try it for 30 days and see if it works.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is an electric guitar virtuoso, philanthropist, and cat lover who has captured the public imagination with her unbridled creative expression in the face of a life filled with grief and rage. With an improbable life-tale that includes a lonesome childhood of privilege, 14 marriages, and show biz stardom and obscurity, Mrs. Smith is a 20th Century creature who has burst through to the internet age to become a sensation.

Mrs. Smith is the 2016 winner of the "Shred for Your Life" contest held at Webster Hall and was a featured performer at the Guitar Gods Festival in Miami opening up for guitar legends Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. A video of her shredding on the streets of the East Village was shared by Guitar World Magazine and garnered 1.2 million views. Her unique blend of musical performance comedy has been featured on NBC's America's Got Talent, PBS Television as well as Joe's Pub, American Repertory Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. She has also been seen at Feinstein's/54 Below, First Avenue, Webster Hall, Ars Nova, The Laurie Beechman Theater, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Bell House, Union Hall, and the legendary Bushwig Festival, among many others.

Mrs. Smith's Broadway Cat-tacular! wow'ed audiences Off-Broadway and was hailed by the New York Post as "Purrfect!" Mrs. Smith's performance described as "Off its meds" by the Boston Globe, "Luminous" by Gay City News and "Oddly poignant..." by the New York Times

Wednesday
Mar012017

Call Redialed: Karen Mason: It's About Time CD + Birdland Concert

Karen Mason, Photo Credit: Bill WestmorelandIt's About Time Karen Mason & I did a new interview. It's been two years, almost to the day, since our last interview together. At that time we spoke about Karen's month-long residency at Don't Tell Mama doing her show Mason at Mama's. In that interview we went back in time with Karen. Now, we are looking to the future while staying in the present, and using the past to show how Karen became the woman and singer she is!

Karen's newest CD, It's About Time is a mixture of timeless standards ("I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "Just in Time"), theatre classics ("Everything’s Coming Up Roses," "Somewhere/The Impossible Dream"), and a few original tunes ("It's About Time"), along with a homage to Judy Garland ("The Man That Got Away," "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" and the iconic "Over the Rainbow"). Click to purchase Karen's album on iTunes and Amazon!

Karen will celebrate the release of It's About Time with a return to Birdland Jazz NYC (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, March 6 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

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

1. I'm so excited we are doing this new interview, especially since it’s about something you do BEST...and that's sing and make beautiful music. You are about to release your latest album It’s About Time. What made now the right time to release this album? Thanks, Adam! You have been so good to me…and I do love making music! Well, it is about time to release this new CD because it has been nine years since my last CD. I said to Paul (my husband and producer, Paul Rolnick) that we need to take advantage of the time we have….and keep making music! Music speaks to my soul. And honestly, I love recording!

2. The title song on the album, "It’s About Time,"  written by your husband, Paul Rolnick, as an honor to the passing of marriage equality and then as a celebration of your friend’s marriage. What are some things in your life you feel "It’s About Time" for? Standing up for what I truly believe is more important than ever! I am a middle child…and not much of a trouble maker, always the pacifier. And then I get older…and suddenly I am becoming more fearless! I feel that we must stand up for our brothers and sisters who need our support and well, it is about time I spoke up! The song, "It’s About Time," distills the subject of marriage equality down to its truth…which is love! We cannot deny love…not now, not ever!

Karen Mason and her husband Paul Rolnick3. One song you sing on It’s About Time is "Just In Time," with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden/Adolph Green. What is something that happened "Just in Time" to you, either in your personal life or career? I met my husband, Paul, a year after I found out I was losing my best friend and music director, Brian Lasser to AIDS. Brian died two years later, and those years were really difficult….on Brian and on all of us and Paul stayed with me through it. We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary (and have been together 26 years). Ah…the universe!

4. You also sing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. When did "Everything Come Up Roses" for you? The first night I went on in Sunset Boulevard, I was scared to death!! Also, very, very excited to be going onstage with this herculean role!! I made it through the show without missing a beat or line or entrance! With the help of that extraordinary cast, I think everything did come up roses for me that night!

5. You also perform "The Impossible Dream." What is one dream you had you thought would never come true? What is one dream you are still hoping comes true? Hmmm, dreams are so private! I can tell you the one that did come true….but I can’t tell you the one that I am still hoping for. Cuz I am a little superstitious about that! One dream I had that I wondered if would ever come true would be singing at Carnegie Hall. And it came true when I was asked to sing with The New York Pops! I have a picture of me on that stage with Skitch Henderson…and a HUGE grin on my face! Of course, wearing a beaded gown for the show! I sang "This Nearly Was Mine." It was so much fun! And so special to sing in a hall that heard the voices of so many talents I admired.

Karen Mason as "Ma" in "Chasing Rainbows"6. You were recently in the Broadway-bound musical Chasing Rainbows and you are including a few selections to honor Judy Garland. How did Judy Garland influence you/your music style? What rainbows are you chasing these days? I was thrilled to include a few Garland songs on the CD! A few years ago I got a chance to do a symphony concert of Garland music…and it was perfect joy for me! All those amazing arrangements…God, I loved every minute!! I am a Garland fan. Judy Garland sang and told stories that speak to my heart. Something about the timbre of her voice, and her ability to sound like she was speaking just to my soul……perfect! And if you are going to steal…steal from the very very best, right? What rainbows am I still chasing? I am not sure if they are all rainbows…but I still have a lot to say and sing! And many more stories to tell!

7. One of the Judy Garland songs you included on this album was "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." What are a few happy moments in your life when you heart went Zing!? When Paul told me he loved me. On the phone, cuz we are both shy…and my heart was about to explode!! So I told him too..and I think his heart went "Zing" too. You would have to ask him….but I think it would be safe to say that it probably did.

Karen Mason in Broadway's "Wonderland"8. You also record "Finding Wonderland" from the Broadway show Wonderland, a song about finding ourselves and finding our truths? What is something you recently found out about yourself and what is one truth you have not revealed about yourself in a previous interview? I recently found out I am stronger than I have always thought. One truth that I have not revealed is that I hate being called "Dear" by someone I don’t know. If it is someone I know and love, it is good. But someone who doesn’t know me at all? Goes right up my back!

9. Finally, you close the album with a very special song, Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay," but it's using the track your first musical director/friend Brian Lasser recorded. Sadly Brian passed away in 1992, but how great that you get to "sing" with him again. What was this experience like for you? What do you miss most about Brian? Oh Adam, this was such a beautiful gift Paul gave me! To be able to sing with Brian again? Amazing! And because I knew it was going to be so amazing, I kept putting it off for years. Paul asked me about it about 10 years ago….and I kept deflecting. As I got older, I got more fearless (always a struggle for me!)…and finally said YES! And it was amazing and natural and…..home.

Karen Mason and her longtime friend/collaborator Brian Lasser10. This album is a mixture of timeless standards, theatre classics, and a few original tunes. What songs didn't make the cut for this CD, hence saying, it wasn't time to share these songs? We have enough cuts for a few CDs….so that is the plan! We will be releasing a new CD within a year….and then keep ‘em coming! Some of the songs on the next one may be: "He Touched Me," "Time" by Barry Kleinbort….and I would love to do a new Christmas CD (and this time IN the studio!).

11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I would love to improve my relationship with the gym! Once I am there, I am fine, but getting there??? Seems like miles! And honestly, Adam, a way to improve my own life every day is to continue to try to find ways to be better to others.

Karen MasonMore on Karen:

Karen Mason has starred on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Television, and in the recording studio. She’s been praised for her "fierce emotion" by The New York Times, her "innate comic ability" by Playbill and her "delightful instrument" by the Daily News. Karen has been called "immensely appealing" by The Chicago Tribune, "a towering talent" by TheaterMania and "a dynamic performer" by Time Out New York. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Mason has a powerful voice and rich resonance you associate with Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand. She can sing slow and smoky or fast and punchy with an innate sense of humor. Mason is a poet of the vocal chords."

Karen is a twelve-time MAC Award winner – most recently "Show of the Year" and "Celebrity Artist" in 2016 – and has won the MAC Award for Major Female Vocalist of the Year for six consecutive years. She has also won the 2006 Nightlife Award for Major Female Vocalist and has three Bistro Awards.

Karen Mason as "Norma Desmond" in Sunset "Boulevard"Karen most recently garnered rave reviews starring as "The Queen of Hearts" in Wonderland on Broadway. She originated the role of "Tanya" on Broadway in ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and was awarded a 2002 Drama Desk nomination as Best Actress. Her other leading roles include "Norma Desmond" in Sunset Boulevard, which she performed to critical acclaim and standing ovations on Broadway and in Los Angeles for three years; "Velma von Tussel" in the final Broadway company of Hairspray; "Monotony" singer, "Mazeppa" in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway; "Rosalie" in Carnival (another Drama Desk nomination); plus featured roles in Broadway’s Torch Song Trilogy; and Play Me A Country Song.

She won the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance in And the World Goes ‘Round, and starred Off-Broadway in her own show Karen Mason Sings Broadway, Beatles and Brian. Her television appearances include the hit dramas Ed and Law & Order: SVU while film credits include Sleeping Dogs Lie and A Chorus Line.

Karen MasonIn regional theatre, she starred in the 1st National Tour of A Christmas Story as "Miss Shields," in the world premiere of the stage production of White Christmas (playing the Rosemary Clooney role at St. Louis Muni Opera), Side by Side by Sondheim (Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida), Gypsy (Sundance Theatre in California), the world premiere of One Tough Cookie (Apple Tree Theatre in Chicago), Heartbeats (Goodspeed Opera House) and Company (Huntington Theatre in Boston). Karen starred in the one-woman musical about Dorothy Parker You Might As Well Live.

Karen has headlined Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Feinstein's at the Regency, Rainbow & Stars, the Algonquin, Arci' Place, The Supper Club and The Ballroom in NYC; The Cinegrill and the UCLA/ASCAP Concert Series in Los Angeles; The Plush Room in San Francisco; and Davenport’s in Chicago.

Karen MasonShe has shared concert stages with Michael Feinstein, Jerry Herman, Chita Rivera, Luciano Pavarotti, Rosemary Clooney, Liza Minnelli, and John Kander & Fred Ebb, among others. Karen has given concerts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Brazil, Scotland, Tokyo and Osaka. Her starring symphonic performances include The Long Beach Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Michael Berkowitz, the Philly Pops with Peter Nero, The New York Pops with Skitch Henderson, the Oklahoma Philharmonic with Joel Levine, the premier performance of The Chicagoland Pops, the Indianapolis Philharmonic, and the St. Louis Symphony with John McDaniel.

Her highly acclaimed recordings include her 2009 MAC Award-winning Right Here/Right Now, 2005’s The Sweetest of Nights, the MAC Award-winning When The Sun Comes Out, as well as three other CDs: Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!, recorded live at the West Bank Café; Better Days, featuring songs by her longtime composer/arranger Brian Lasser (including the 1998 Emmy Award-winning song "Hold Me"); and Not So Simply Broadway. Karen has been featured on the original cast CD of Wonderland; Jeffrey (Varese Sarabande), the studio cast recording of Wonderful Town (JAY Records), the original cast album of And The World Goes Round (RCA Victor), The Child In Me, Vol. 1 (Harbinger Records), and Lost in Boston II (Varese Sarabande).

Tuesday
Feb282017

Call Answered: Matt Cox: PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic

Matt CoxI've never read nore seen a Harry Potter book/movie, but I'm a big fan of magic/fantasy and am very intrigued by the Harry Potter phenomenon we live among. When I heard about Matt Cox's show PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic (which has recently been extended until June), I cast a spell for him to answer my call and voila, this interview ensued.

Some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people.

PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic plays in the heart of NYC's theatre district at the Elektra Theater (300 West 43rd Street) every Friday (7:30pm), Saturday (3pm & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3pm) through June 25th! Click here for tickets!

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

For more on PUFFS visit http://www.puffstheplay.com and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. Your show, PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic moved to the Elektra Theater after a triumphant, sold-out run at The PIT last summer. What excites you most about moving this show to the Elektra Theatre, located in the heart of midtown? So, a bit further removed from that now, but the most exciting thing that has certainly happened is that our reach to new audience members has been much larger. Not only just due to more seating, but with a midtown location, we're a bit more likely to be stumbled upon which is great!

Along with that, we have been able to dedicate a bit more of the space to the show, including some decor in the theater itself (we've got some floating candles!) and the lobby, which we've decorated with various posters for other wizard themed shows.

2. What did you learn from the run at The PIT that helped inform this bigger run? I will be forever grateful for the run of the show at The PIT, and the many things we learned. We also did a workshop at the University of Florida back in May of 2016, as well, which was very helpful to the story. At the PIT, I was able to make changes from show to show just to try new ideas out/figure out better ways of doing what we were already doing.

It left us with a script with humor that had so many different versions tried that I believe we have the best possible versions in the current iteration. And it was just a lot of fun, and has kept the show fun.

Puffs also has a certain playfulness when it is at it's best, which was definitely something that was developed running at the PIT.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning3. PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, is alternate narrative of the Harry Potter series so to speak. What was it about the Harry Potter that made you go, "I want to write my own version of this series?" What did you identify most with about the Harry Potter saga? I was of the lucky age of people that ended up growing up alongside the books, and alongside Harry. So, the characters continued to stay relevant throughout my adolescence. It was also just very influential to my developing love of storytelling.

The idea for Puffs manifested while I was on a train, and it was more of a: Wow! It really would have been terrible to be another kid at that school during those seven years. Then it was a quick skip to the idea that the story would focus on "The Puffs," who pop culture has always deemed the not so great house. (Less so in recent years, which is great!) I had to look it up immediately, and was surprised no one had done it, and figured I should go ahead and do it.

4. When did you become interested in magic? What was it about magic that drew you in? I have always been a fan of Fantasy books, movies, and whatnot, so that kind of magic has always been very interesting/magical to me. I don't have a particularly deep interest in magic-magic but if someone is very good at it, then I am certainly impressed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning5. In PUFFS or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic, "some people are born with the capacity to do great things. Some people change the world. Some people rise from humble beginnings to defeat the forces of darkness in the face of insurmountable odds. PUFFS is the story of the people who sit in class next to those people." If you could name people or events in your life that describe each of these scenarios, who or what would be assigned to each phrase? The idea is that that pretty much applies to almost everybody. The crux of the play is that ultimately, most of us don't get to be the "Harry's" in life. But there's something to celebrate about the heroic victories of normal existence. So we are all the people who sit next to those people in the grand scheme of it.

6. As the writer of this show, did you grow up feeling as though you were living in other people's shadows never shining for yourself? If so, when did you shine your own spotlight? I definitely put some of my own school experiences into the show, as I was definitely not one of the "cool" kids growing up. Not sure when that stopped, I think I just stopped necessarily caring too much about it, and focused more on the things I enjoyed.

Cast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter CanningCast of PUFFS, Photo Credit: Hunter Canning7. Which Harry Potter character best describes you? I believe we all should strive for the wisdom of "The Headmaster." So I'd hope him. "Ms. Granger" is another good one.

8. If you could cast a spell today, what spell would you conjure up? Like most people, I can only assume, it would be the spell that turns stairs into slides.

9. Aside from Harry Potter characters, who are some of your other favorite magicians from stage or screen? I'll always be a Gandalf man. (Not a conjurer of cheap tricks).

Matt CoxMore on Matt:

Matt Cox is a New York City-based playwright, actor, improviser, sometimes comic book retail associate, and probably/maybe one day, novelist. His plays include Puffs Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years At A Certain School Of Magic & MagicAdult Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Madness of Captain Dread, and the 3-part epic Kapow-i GoGo. He authored the radio play El Hombre Bovino for WNYC’s The Greene Space, and contributed to The Flea Theater’s The Mysteries. His work has been produced at The Peoples Improv Theater, The Tank, and The Flea Theater, among other places. His acting credits include: Kapow-i GoGo (The PIT), Blogologues (Lively Productions), The Mysteries (Flea Theater), Sarah Flood in Salem Mass (Flea Theater), and Restoration Comedy (Flea Theater). Matt has studied at The Upright Citizens Brigade, The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and Tarleton State University.

Saturday
Feb252017

Call Answered: Lexie Braverman: Dark Vanilla Jungle

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler PhotographyA few years ago I interviewed Laura Abbott about her play I Am Not I, chronicling the story of a girl struggling with gender dysphoria. When Laura gushed about a show her friend Lexie Braverman was starring in called Dark Vanilla Jungle, my ears perked up and I knew I wanted to delve deep into this story.

Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. "Andrea's" yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth, will you listen?

Presented by Brave Artist CollectiveDark Vanilla Jungle will play a limited run at The Flamboyan Theater at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center (107 Suffolk Street) from March 14-26. Click here for tickets!

For more on Lexie be sure to visit http://lexiebraverman.com and follow her on Twitter!

For more on Dark Vanilla Jungle visit http://darkvanillajunglenyc.com and follow them on Facebook!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mom. She introduced me to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Spencer Tracey, Vivian Leigh, and Maximillion Schell, Hamlet, Ordinary People, you name it. I know I love the arts in every way because of her. Also -- I auditioned to be the "Cowardly Lion" in the Wizard of Oz and that was my first role when I was 11. I have wanted to act ever since. My dad also bought me a tool belt when I was about four, and I put on a show fixing everything in the kitchen and my dad taped it all. I felt completely myself and comfortable in front of other people, way more than I did being alone.

2. This March you will be making your NYC debut in Dark Vanilla Jungle, a show you starred in this past summer in London's Camden Fringe Festival. What excites you most about making your NYC acting debut in this show? I am the most excited to be in NYC because it is exactly that, New York City. Also I'll be able to reach a wider audience. This play is something special. It's raw, gruesome, beautiful, and tragic. I think more people should get to see it, especially with a fear-mongering sexual predator in the White House.

3. Why did you want to be in this show initially? This play is something people are afraid to talk about or see. I wanted to show people that "Andrea's" story needs to be told and not silenced. Also, I had never been in a one-woman show before and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to challenge myself mentally and physically, which this play does, it's like running a damn marathon.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher4. What do you relate to most about your character "Andrea" and what is one characteristic of hers you are glad you don't possess? I relate mostly to her child-like innocence and naivety. She reverts back to being this kid because it's the only time in her life she really felt like she knew who she was. It's easier then to let other people take care of you, and you over-trust unskilled people to watch out for you. One characteristic of hers that I do not have is "Andrea's" suffering. I thank God every day I do not have that in my life. It's become a part of her and you can see how it leaches on to every aspect of her life.

5. Since this summer's run, do you feel your portrayal of "Andrea" will be altered in anyway, now that you have lived in her skin for a time? You know what I do. I don't think it'll be drastically different but I definitely think it will be more at ease and I'll be more comfortable. That piece stays with you, but it's in a drawer you only open when you need it. It's very tough and intense, so you need to be careful or you'll be overwhelmed. I'll be working with a new director who is brilliant and beautiful. Sybille Bruun, and I cannot wait to see what she helps us find.

Lexie Braverman in "Dark Vanilla Jungle", Photo Credit: Tiphaine Betscher6. Dark Vanilla Jungle is about a young girl just trying to stay alive amidst an act of violence that alters her existence and everyone she touches. What is an event in your life that altered your existence? An event that altered my existence was finding out about my parents' divorce from my sister over a Skype conversation (because I was in grad school in England at the time). She was so far away, and so clear on my computer screen at the same time. It was a nightmare and completely out of the blue. I remember going right to the window because I couldn't breathe and I leaned out and just tried to suck in as much air as I could. A lot changed for me after that.

7. In Dark Vanilla Jungle Andreas yearning for love and a family takes her to the darkest of places and she just wants to tell you the truth. What is the darkest place you've ever gone to and how did you get back to the light? Yikes! Darkest I've ever personally gone to? I'm afraid I can't answer that one. Unless I can pay you by the hour, I'm afraid that answer is for my therapist and her therapy dog. I can say that I've played characters that torture, kill, and poison for love and I've found good reasons (as those characters) to do all those things. When I'm on stage, everything is justified for me, no matter what. It's not that simple in real life.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Leslie Hassler Photography8. Vanilla is my favorite flavor in the world. Vanilla coke, vanilla coffee, vanilla tea, vanilla anything is just delicious. What is your favorite thing to add vanilla too? YUM Cinnamon. I love mixing vanilla with cinnamon specifically in coffee. Heaven for sure. One of my favorite spices and also my best friend's name.

9. Dark Vanilla Jungle is being presented by the Brave Artist Collective, which you helped co-found. What do you get from running this theatre company as opposed to just being an actress? It's nuts. I never thought I would be on that side of the coin. We are just getting started, this being our NYC debut season of Dark Vanilla and my dear co-founder's play Junebug (also running at the Flamboyan--shameless plug!). It is insanely hard and my production hat, although brand new, is already taking a bit of a beating. There is so much responsibility and you feel like everything that goes wrong is your fault. What I've realized though is that I cannot do this alone. As an actor and now a co-founder, I must surround myself with people that I love and support and they love and support me right back. Being an actress is hard enough, why do I do this to myself? Same reason I get rejected all the time, because I can't get enough.

10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? That's so awesome! I want to improve my self-talk one percent better every day. I'm reading Amy Poehler's book Yes Please currently and I already adore it. She talks about the little demon voice inside of you that says you're not thin enough, or you're too Jewish, or your hair would look way better straight, or you're not funny enough and that you will always have that voice but you have to work on talking to it, calming it down, and controlling it. My self-talk, my own head, I would love to improve that each day. Once I stop caring what other people think I'll be able to conquer the world. First I have to destroy this little demon though, then I'll work on everyone else.

Lexie Braverman, Photo Credit: Samantha Leonetti PhotographyMore on Lexie:

Lexie Braverman is a critically acclaimed actor born and raised in Philadelphia. Classically trained in Shakespeare, she has performed theatrically everywhere from London to Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Ithaca College and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Her first role was the "Cowardly Lion" at day-camp in the Wizard of Oz when she was 11, because her hair was so big and her voice was so low. She went on to graduate from Ithaca College, performing in fantastically reviewed Underground productions like Boys’ Life by Harold Korder and Fat Pig by Neil Lebute. After graduating with her BA, she found her love of Shakespeare and Chekhov when she attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s MA program overseas. After graduating from the Old Vic, she was lucky enough to work with the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, and the American Shakespeare Center. She recently finished the 2016 Actors’ Renaissance season at the American Shakespeare Center performing five plays, in three months, with 12 actors, and no directors. That season changed her life.

In her off time Lexie volunteers at dog shelters and helps socialize them. She is also a movie quoting expert, no one can out quote her.