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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in New York City (97)

Thursday
Jan222015

Call Answered: Todd Schroeder: Sam Harris' HAM: A Musical Memoir" at ARS NOVA

Todd Schroeder"Call Me Adam" chats with musical director, composer and performer Todd Schroeder about musically directing and performing in Sam Harris' HAM: A Musical Memoir, currently playing a three week limited engagement at ARS NOVA (511 West 54th Street) in NYC through January 24 only! Click here for tickets!

For more on Todd be sure to visit http://www.toddschroeder.net and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. You are currently musical directing and performing in Sam Harris' HAM: A Musical Memoir at Ars Nova in NYC through January 24. You have been working with Sam for over 20 years, but what made you want to work on this particular project? Yes, we have been performing together for many years. One of my favorite aspects of our collaboration is that each show, concert and project we do is an opportunity to try new things and continually challenge ourselves. I was particularly excited to work together on this project because besides musical directing and accompanying Sam, I also act during pivotal moments throughout the show. I play Sam’s father, his baseball coach and a few other voices in Sam’s head. His father has a monologue near the end of the show that presented great challenge and opportunity for me. Also, Sam and I wrote some original material for this show which added another enticement to sign on.

Sam Harris and Todd Schroeder in Sam Harris' "HAM: A Musical Memoir"2. Last year HAM: A Musical Memoir was performed at 54 Below for four shows only. What made now the right time to bring the show back to NYC, but for a limited 3 week run? Last year when we performed at 54 Below, the timing coincided with the release of his book, HAM. The show was a "liter-usical." Sam was at first going to just do book readings and signings in bookstores but we felt that there was an audience that would love to have an experience greater than only hearing him reading the stories from the book, and those shows integrated Sam singing songs that complemented the stories. Those shows were at 54 Below in January 2014, and were attended by our current producers of HAM, A Musical Memoir. They approached Sam about turning the book reading into a full-fledged theatrical production. After we finished the book tour, we quickly changed our focus to theatricalize the stories.

3. Out of all the venues in NYC, what made ARS NOVA the right venue for this run of the HAM: A Musical Memoir? It’s an intimate, warm setting with no obstructions. The sound travels beautifully in there and we use very little amplification. And the crew are all top notch. When I first saw the Ars Nova Theater, they were running a show called Jacuzzi. The set was all turned around in the theater. The seats were built up against a wall and they built a chalet that could accommodate a full-sized operating jacuzzi. But when I came back in January, the theater had been returned to its normal venue and then the beauty of Ars Nova really shined.

Sam Harris in Sam Harris' "HAM: A Musical Memoir"4. What do you identify most with about HAM: A Musical Memoir? At the core of HAM is the message of wanting to feel fulfilled, wanting to feel a sense of belonging and knowing that even if you have different ideas than the community around you, those differences should be celebrated. I grew up in a small town with a musical gift but most people who were like me had left town to pursue their dreams. I had no one to identify and share with. Fortunately, I had amazing support from my family and teachers.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing HAM: A Musical Memoir? I believe that Sam always thought he had to do more to belong or feel chosen. When really, what he needed to do was accept himself and all that made him who he is. Though his story is unique to Sam, and very entertaining, the message is universal. Sam and I wrote a few new songs for the show, of which the most poignant is one called "Broken Wing." The last line is "I’ve only got a broken wing, and it can’t keep me down." It says that we all have obstacles and reasons to doubt and fear our life’s journey. But they are not enough for us to give up. Our obstacles are only broken wings and they will heal and we will fly again.

Billy Porter6. What was the best part about having Billy Porter direct this show? I have known and respected Billy Porter for many years. We first performed together in L.A. many years ago and he was an amazing performer with an incredible voice. What I really love about Billy now, above and beyond his talent, is his confidence in who he is and what he shares. His enthusiasm is infectious and his acting ability is undeniable. (Hello, Tony Award!) He is a wonderful musician and he was the perfect fit to bring this book to life. Billy and Sam had worked together on Grease, and they even shared a dressing room. They have an understanding of each other both growing up in difficult environments and getting national attention from Star Search. Billy directed Sam in a way that only someone who has been there could. And Sam really trusted Billy. It was great to watch, laugh, cry and let the whole process evolve with this talented team.

7. In addition to musically producing HAM: A Musical Memoir, you have produced several of Sam's albums (including my all time favorite Revival). Is your process of musically directing Sam different for a live show than for an album? If so, how is it different? I have had the privilege of producing on Sam’s last five albums and even wrote "Don’t Let the World Step On Your Soul" that was featured on Revival. It’s so great to be in the studio with Sam. His range and control and passion are so unique and combined are the reason he has been called "one of the greatest voices of our time." There is a difference in musical directing and producing Sam live rather than in the studio. When we are doing a show, it’s about choosing the right key, placement and pacing so that he can perform night after night. When we are in the studio, it’s about letting it fly and capturing all the passion and emotion in every note and syllable. It’s about feeling the same sense of awe after listening to it over and over. Then we know we have it.

Todd Schroeder8. What do you think the secret is to your over two-decade collaboration with Sam? What have been some of your favorite moments working together? Sam and I met in November of 1992. I had just moved to L.A. and was musical directing a Christmas benefit concert and Sam was the headliner. I had watched Sam when he was on Star Search and of course, thought he was amazing. So I was very excited when I got the call to work with him. I remember the day we first met. I went to his place to rehearse. We started working on "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It was instant magic. We both connected emotionally, musically and by the end of the rehearsal, he said "I have to work with someone until New Year’s and then I would like you to be my musical director for the rest of my life." Well, that was 22 years ago. We have had many favorite moments working together. Carnegie Hall, twice. We performed at the White House. Probably my most favorite was when we performed on The Oprah Winfrey Show right after 9/11. It was her first live broadcast and we were brought in for what she called "Healing America Through Music." It featured BeBe and Cece Winans, Donnie McClurkin, Denyce Graves and Sam and myself. It was truly awesome. And Oprah is the real deal.

9. You are also the founder of the Todd Schroeder Young Artist Grant, which presents scholarships to graduating high school students wanting to pursue careers in the arts. This grant has been in existence for 20 years now. What made you want to start this grant?  What is it like to meet the winners of the grant? How do their stories inspire you at this point in your career? I grew up in the small town of Sonora, California, in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in Northern California. My mom was a social worker and a financial aid director at the local college. So growing up, I was always told how important it is to give back and support your community. In 1995, I was musical directing for Rita Coolidge and decided to do a concert in my hometown to raise money to present a scholarship at my high school. Rita came up to perform and a few of my other friends did too. It was a success. I thought it was going to be a one-time thing but so many people were excited about it, I went back the following year and did it again. Here we are twenty years later and it really is an honor. Other performers in the past twenty years have included Sam Harris, Jason Alexander, David Burnham, Jordan Hill, Kevin Fisher, Mark Espinoza and a bunch of other talented friends who have all generously donated their time and talent.

We have given over 45 scholarships to graduating high school seniors that want to pursue their dream in singing, acting, playing an instrument, dancing, drawing, directing and even stage managing. The concerts are in the spring and I present the scholarship and a trophy right before the students graduate. Many have gone on to become music teachers and one even started a scholarship because of how he felt when he received mine. Their success stories inspire me constantly and remind me that when you throw a pebble in the water, you never know where the ripples will find shore.

10. In 2013, BroadwayWorld named you "Musical Director of the Year." What did this honor mean to you? It is so wonderful and important to be recognized for hard work. I love what I get to do and the many people I get to work with. I know that not everyone gets to wake up and do what they love to do for a living and I assure you, there are days that are tougher than others but at the end of it, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my gift, my joy and my passion for what I do.

11. How do you want to be remembered? I try to bring passion, enthusiasm and joy to everything I do. Playing piano, acting, singing, golfing, drinking tequila…For me, these are the elements for a full and happy life. If those qualities could be associated with me, and shared, I would like that very much. I am fortunate to have two beautiful daughters that have taken on those qualities (of course, with the exception of the tequila!).

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. What is the best advice you've ever received? I think it would have been a "teaching joke" told by my mother. She often asked, "How do you eat an elephant?" and then without waiting for an answer, said, "One bite at a time." Sometimes, reaching the finish line can be daunting and very overwhelming. It is important to remember that the only way to get there is one step at a time. It’s easier if you focus on what’s in front of you and when you accomplish that, then you can go on. I try and share this advice wherever I can.

Todd Schroeder13. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I would have loved to have worked with the late Eva Cassidy. Her voice had so many textures and I would have loved to have explored with her. Such a loss. I would like to work with Audra McDonald. She is glorious and also a Californian. And Hugh Jackman. My wife is an Aussie and I would score big points working with him!!

14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would split myself into two identical beings. It’s so wonderful to be on stage every night performing here in New York, but I miss my family in L.A. That superpower would enable me to simultaneously experience the best of both worlds.

15. If you could create a signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be? The "Frog in Your Throat." I musical direct several shows for Universal Studios Japan located in Osaka. For the past two years, I have show directed the "Frog Choir," part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Experience at USJ. That magic world and wonderful show commands a cocktail of equal stature.

1 oz tequila

1 oz triple sec

1 1/2 oz sweet and sour mix

1/2 oz Midori® melon liqueur

2 oz lemon lime soda

Combine tequila, lemon lime soda, triple sec, and sweet & sour mix over ice. Finish off by slowly pouring the Midori melon liquour over the drink for a colorful mixing effect.

Todd SchroederMore on Todd:

Todd has released six original albums and has written a number of original musicals, including Braveheart, The Empower Pack, Unbeatable and Longing4Love.com. For over a decade, he’s served as the vocal director for Disney’s Aladdin, A Musical Spectacular, and vocal director for Universal Studio Japan’s Wicked, as well as a number of live performance shows at their Osaka park. He also regularly teaches a Masterclass entitled Auditioning for Today’s Musical Theater across the US, as well as internationally. He has collaborated with a coterie of distinguished performers, including Angela Lansbury, Jason Alexander, Joan Ryan and Sam Harris, as well as many others. He’s also appeared on TV, acting as musical director on a number of talk shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and The Late Late Show. And, he’s performed at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall to The White House, and with The Boston Pops, Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Tuesday
Jan202015

Call Answered: SpazCandy Conference Call with Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte

Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, Photo Credit: Laura SpectorDesigned by Laura Spector"Call Me Adam" chats with Broadway's Becca Ayers and producer Bradley Dean Whyte about collaborating on their new album Spazcandy, which is out now on Amazon and iTunes! We also premiere their music video for "Map of Your Brain" at the end of the interview!

Click to purchase Spazcandy: Amazon and iTunes!

For more on Becca Ayers be sure to visit https://beccaayers.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter!

For more on Bradley Dean Whyte be sure to visit http://www.listentobradley.com and follow him on Twitter!

For more on Spazcandy visit http://www.SpazCandy.com!

Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, Photo Credit: Laura Spector1. You recently released your newest album Spazcandy, a collection of original pop songs. How did you two come to work together initially? 

Becca Ayers: Bradley and I had both spent time in Kansas City, on various theatrical endeavors, and met thru a mutual connection in New York. We felt an instant kinship and started collaborating immediately. We also hiked, texted potential band names back and forth obsessively, went to see bands like "The Ditty Bops," and improvised new verses to "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas ad nauseam. Bradley later moved to Thailand, but our connection was so strong that we continued to collaborate, and he produced my first solo EP Lovesick. When he moved back to the states, I started going to Texas to collaborate with him in person again, and between the internet and finally being in the same room together again, Spazcandy was born. It was great to be in Texas with him this last time around, because it was only the second time that we actually played together live-the first being in Austin-and it was so cool to see how people wanted to dance with their pants to our music. I really hope we can tour some day, even if in short spurts. We have such chemistry onstage together that is born out of our mutual theatrical and improvisational backgrounds, mixed with our intense need to continue to try to supercede each others’ ridiculousness by "stage pestering" each other between harmonies.

We're so lucky to have gotten some awesome old friends to play on this album, such as Bryan Crook, who is not only a masterful reed player whose had a permanent chair in The Book Of Mormon orchestra since the beginning, and was also nominated for a Tony for the Motown orchestrations, among countless other projects. I'm lucky to be surrounded by such talented renaissance men.

Bradley Dean Whyte: I met Becca in Kansas City at a UMKC theatre department party back in 1996 but she doesn't remember. This was back when I used to play Sarah McClachlan songs on the guitar, cry on my yoga mat and drink herbal tea. I certainly wasn't ready for Becca. Becca's not really someone you can "get ready" for anyway. She's a constant surprise. Like, have you ever seen two pictures of her with the same expression? No you have not. But I digress. We reconnected in New York around 2004 through a friend and we quickly tapped into each other's musical funny bone, and haven't stopped since.

Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, Photo Credit: Laura Spector2. After some time apart, you reconnected and created Spazcandy. What was it like to get back in touch and how long after did you decide to make a new album together?

Becca Ayers: We're always thinking of ideas and I like that we push and inspire each other. Bradley is always finding new ways to challenge himself and grow his work. He brings something very special out in me.

Bradley Dean Whyte: I was very lucky to be able to work in person with Becca for two visits during 2014. It's always great to play with her. We stay in touch when we're not in the same town; Skype makes things easier but we're always talking about making albums. That's why she came to visit to begin with. Making things together is an indivisible part of the friendship. So I think it started when we met and it just keeps going…we're in talks for the next one already!

Designed by Chadwick and Spector3. What made you want to call the album Spazcandy? What made you want to give this album more of a pop feel as opposed to the folk/pop feel of your previous album Lovesick?

Becca Ayers: We called it Spazcandy because we know how bad sugar is for you, so we thought we would try our hand at replacing it with the natural high of an album full of ear-candy. We pushed the pop more because we wanted something that was intelligent, yet accessible to a wider audience, that you might find in the soundtrack for Girls or Orange Is The New Black, or that "Indie" film that stars the girl with the pink flats and the yellow polka dotted dress who looks like St. Vincent with no makeup. We'd like to follow in the footsteps of Pomplamoose or Okay, Go; creative, indie writers who are always thinking of new ways to stretch themselves, yet are still capable of producing a Christmas jingle for a car commercial.

Bradley Dean Whyte: I have a strong affinity for the late 60s/early 70s "Golden Age of Bubblegum Pop":  Monkees, Jackson 5, and those old mail-order, As-Seen-On-TV, K-Tel compilation albums. But I also love 80s and 90s brainy alternative music like They Might Be Giants and The B-52s, Beatlesque power pop like Jellyfish and Badfinger. So, I don't know who came up with it, but the name just seemed to fit the schizophrenic genre-hopping that occurs from track to track. Nilsson is also a big influence on me personally and I think I'm always trying to play with opposites in each song the way he did…between the highs and lows, the happy and sad, the juxtaposition of nice palatable melodies and gnarly imagery in the lyrics. Vinnie Zummo who plays lead guitar on a few tracks understands this. Check out his guitar voices on "WaterSlide" and "Never Forget Your Technicolour Voodoo" or his soloing on "Dark Night Of The Soul" and you'll hear what I mean.

Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, Photo Credit: Laura Spector4. How do you feel you've grown as artists with Spazcandy?

Becca Ayers: I feel like I’ve become more trusting, as an artist, with Spazcandy. The more I work with Bradley, the more I respect and trust his talent. Releasing the album has also given me the opportunity to flex my live performance muscle in regards to my own music. For one show, I openend for our band with a solo set on the guitar. Performing my own material terrifies me much more than acting in a show, because there is no one to blame but myself if it sucks, and "selling" my own material has always been an unnatural challenge for me. Hiding behind a character while someone else picks out my clothes and does my hair is much less vulnerable.

Bradley Dean Whyte: I think I'm best working with Becca. This album reminded me of that. To me, the songs we composed together, I think, are the most interesting ones. Also, it's great to have real drumming on the album. I learned a lot about how to work with real drummers. Keith Matthews does some great drumming on SpazCandy. So does Anton Fig and Dan Gluszak. This process was a constant reminder that the best things come from collaborations. I could do it alone if I had to but it just wouldn't be as good!

Bradley Dean Whyte and Becca Ayers, Photo Credit: Laura Spector5. What should make fans excited about Spazcandy?

Becca Ayers: For me, the most exciting thing about Spazcandy for audiences is that it’s danceable and happy-inducing without compromising thought-provoking undertones. The first track on the album that Bradley wrote; "Bait And Switch" is brilliantly exisitential. It's one that you can listen to over and over and keep learning from, and that's my favorite kind of song.

Bradley Dean Whyte: I know everyone says this but "It's something different!" But, truly, this is different. Like, I'm really proud of how this record is somehow completely weird and completely pop at the same time.   Not an easy thing to achieve. I think fans will enjoy all the different colors. Dan Gluszak, who mixed the album, remarked how each song is an entirely different musical statement. There's variety there, for sure. Also, there's two kinds of psych music in the world. The kind you have to be on drugs to enjoy and then there's the kind that just makes you just feel like you're on drugs. I prefer the latter. I think SpazCandy is that kind of music. Something to give people a sober acid-tinged high.

6. Since the album is called Spazcandy, what is your favorite kind of candy to go spazztic over?

Becca Ayers: Nerds.

Bradley Dean Whyte: Okay, I'm gluten-free these days and sometimes sugar free…for chunks of time…when I'm feeling ambitious. And my wife Laura makes an amazing shake in the Cuisinart from cacao nibs, almond milk, ice and bananas…You know what? Never mind. That's bullshit. I do love that snack. But, let's be honest, we just had Christmas and I ate a lot of crap. The best thing was probably those little Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Squares with Mint Filling. I'd like to get some more right now actually. Hold on. Be right back.

Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte in the recording studio, Photo Credit: Laura Spector7. What is your favorite part of the creative process in making an album?

Becca Ayers: "Imagine that I am on stage - under a watchtower of punishing light - and in the haze is your face bathed in shadow - and what’s beyond you is hidden from sight - and somebody right now is yawning - and watching me like a tv - and I’ve been frantically piling up sandbags against the floodwaters of fatigue and insecurity - and suddenly I hear my guitar singing - and so I just start singing along - and somewhere in my chest, all the noise just gets crushed by the song - yeah, imagine that I’m at your mercy - imagine that you are at mine - oh, pretend I’ve been standing here watching you watching me all this time - now imagine that you are the weather in the tiny snow globe of this song - and I am the Statue Of Liberty; one inch long - and here I am at my most hungry - and here I am at my full - and here I am waving a red cape, locking eyes with a bull - just imagine that I am on stage - under a watchtower of punishing light - and in the haze is your face bathed in shadow - and what’s beyond you is hidden from sight" -Ani Difranco

Bradley Dean Whyte: Working with so many great people, co-writing with others, emailing parts to one another. Becca and I enjoyed a lot of help on SpazCandy. Anton Fig played drums for me a long time ago on the song "Bound To Find" which I wrote with country singer-songwriter Joe Thompson and I'm glad to finally have a finished recording. Keith Matthews, an acquaintance from my childhood, randomly contacted me and we've been collaborating ever since. Annie Van Bergen, someone I met on Facebook, once sent me a poem and it became the verses for "Dark Night Of The Soul". The amazing Bryan Crook played horns for us. Folk singer/songwriter Meghan Cary shared a song with me years ago and encouraged me to expand on it, and "Last Cigarette" was written. Dave Ulrich, a classmate from my college days, wrote "Let It Go Down" with me during a Christmas break over a decade ago.

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

Becca Ayers: "In your heart, if something feels wrong, don’t do it. If it feels right, knock yourself out." Allison Mondiser - Hair woman extraordinaire for Miss Saigon in Toronto, Canada.

Bradley Dean Whyte: Anton Fig told me once, when I was freaking about how long it was taking me to record stuff at home, said "Don't worry. It'll take as long as it takes…" And that was that. I try to remember that time is only a self-imposed relationship to desire. That said, I'm still keenly aware that I will die someday and it's important to get shit done. I haven't discussed death with Anton but maybe he's got some insight there too.

Bradley Dean Whyte and Becca Ayers performing9. What have you learned about yourselves from working together?

Becca Ayers: Stop overthinking and go with your gut and stop overthinking your gut and what that means and how you can tell if it’s your gut talking or not; you'll never know so what's the point of thinking about it?

Bradley Dean Whyte: I've learned that Becca is in better cardiovascular shape than me. Man, a song starts, and off she goes. She's amazing. I've also learned that I should keep comparing myself to her because, while it's unhealthy, it's good motivation for me to sing in tune and keep a journal.

10. How do you want to be remembered?

Becca Ayers: I would like to be remembered as someone who helped people. I want to be an advocate for change and equality. I want to be a different voice; an alternative option. I would like to be an example of someone who carved out a life that she wanted, not one that society expected of her. I’m still trying to figure out what that life is, but I know that it probably doesn’t involve having children and it may not even involve having a permanent significant other, which I am coming to think is another belief that has been societally engrained. All I know so far is that family is important. Be it blood relatives or chosen family. I want to empower myself and my loves as a means to empower others.

Bradley Dean Whyte: It's way too early to ask that question. And not too early in the day or anything, I mean…just way too early in my career.  Besides, it seems the whole world is on the path to fame of some sort.  Literally everyone. So it's possible that no one will be remembered that we'll all just get lost and blend in with each other. I'm not sure what I mean by that but it makes emotional sense to me when I say it. "No one will be remembered." See, doesn't that feel good?

BONUS QUESTIONS:

Bradley Dean Whyte and Becca Ayers, Photo Credit: Laura Spector11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Becca Ayers: The power to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, and to make others do the same.

Bradley Dean Whyte: First off, I have to say that I think this whole superpower fantasy appeals to a person's desire to control things. And I work so hard trying to accept that I don't control anything that it's hard for me to enjoy entertaining a power that is seriously awesome. Like flying or invisibility. So my imagination insists on a compromise; I resort to allowing myself to fantasize about one of those tortured-soul superpowers. Like the kind that David Banner struggles with. Or Sam Beckett (not the playwright but the Quantum Leap guy). So, okay, get this: whenever I'm in a dangerous situation, I have the freakish ability to explode into countless pieces of bio-debris, randomly spreading in all surrounding directions. Then, when the dust settles, I re-materialize in the location where the farthest piece of me has landed. I can't control where, or in what direction, but it's just enough to cause a diversion and get away. And I'm always naked when I come out of it, so that's a bit of a problem too. I can't control when it's going to happen either, so I just sorta try to stay out of trouble. Some days I think it'd be easier to just get punched in the face than to have to use my superpower. I'm sorry, but it's the best I've got.

12. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be?

Becca Ayers: The Super Duper Becca Boost - 1 Tablespoon of  Agent Cooper Copper Protein, lemonade, 4 Sprees, Daisies.

Bradley Dean Whyte: Waking Dream. Made with Ginger, Caffeine and Absinth. Not the 20th century kind, but the 100-year old mythological Absinth…the kind that makes you see fairies. The Ginger and Caffeine is there to help people stay alert and centered while they hallucinate.

Bradley Dean Whyte and Becca Ayers, Photo Credit: Laura SpectorMore on Becca and Bradley:

We are Becca Ayers and Bradley Dean Whyte, musically kindred spirits. Many moons ago, we made sweet, sweet music together in New York. We’d hike, drink tea and write music. Then Bradley moved to Thailand and it seemed the collaboration was finished. However, because of the new-fangled technology that the kids are calling "the internets," we were able to continue making music. Sweet, sweet music. Bradley co-wrote and produced Lovesick with Becca from the jungles of northern Thailand just before releasing his first home-made studio record, The Emperor’s New Tea.

Today, Bradley resides in Houston, Texas. When Becca came to visit from NYC this past winter, we rekindled our musical shenanigans and we were all, "this sh*t’s for real, yo. Time to make some… SpAzCaNdY."

We have that certain complex, volatile relationship that the fans just love: Bradley annoys Becca, but Becca annoys Bradley even more.

For most of our lives, we have been lucky enough to earn our living in the performing arts — creating theatre, music, recordings, and teaching. Becca continues to perform in NYC and has spent the last 7 years working on Broadway (Avenue Q, Les Miserables, South Pacific, and Addam’s Family, where she had the diverse opportunity to perform alongside Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, and Brooke Shields). Bradley began his career as an actor, performing with regional theaters and Shakespeare festivals. Over the last 10 years, he has written and produced music for regional theaters, international children's cartoons and educational CDs, he has been a contributor for NPR's The Next Big Thing and, in 2011, he released his debut LP Emperor's New Tea.

"Map of your Brain" Music Video:

Map Of Your Brain (Explicit) - The Perfectly Violent Dream With Becca Ayers from Bradley Dean Whyte on Vimeo.

More from Spazcandy:

Friday
Jan162015

Call Answered: DISENCHANTED! Conference Call with Dennis T. Giacino and Fiely A. Matias

Dennis T. GiacinoFiely A. Matias"Call Me Adam" chats with Fiely A. Matias and Dennis T. Giacino, the director and book/composer/lyricist of the new Off-Broadway musical comedy DISENCHANTED! which is currently playing a limited run in NYC at the Theatre at St. Clements (423 West 46th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue) through January 25 only! Click here for tickets!

DISENCHANTED! tells the story of the original fairytale princesses and how they are none too happy with the exploitation they’ve suffered in today’s films, books and dolls. 

For more on DISENCHANTED! be sure to visit http://www.disenchantedmusical.com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. Your newest show, DISENCHANTED! is currently running Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements through January 25. DISENCHANTED! What made you want to write and direct a musical comedy from the point of view of the Disney Princesses?

Fiely A. Matias: The idea for DISENCHANTED! popped into Dennis' mind several years ago while the two of us were performing Asian Sings The Blues on an international tour.

Dennis T. Giacino: I used to be a history teacher in the 80s and would, each year, tell the story of Pocahontas to 7th and 8th graders. I loved regaling the students with stories of this rough-and-tumble, 10 year old, Powhatan tyke from the pretty pinewoods of Appalachia. When the Disney animated film, Pocahontas, was released in 1995, and I saw their rendition of a more adult, deer pelt lingerie-wearing, somewhat voluptuous woman with long flowing hair, make-up, and leaves following her everywhere, the thought occurred to me:  What would the 10-year-old tomboy from history think of today's sexier, more adult pop culture version?! And a song was born! The show, featuring a band of pissed-off princesses singing out against today's obsession with dainty royals, wasn't far behind!

Fiely A. Matias: DISENCHANTED! is written from the point of view of the original fairytale princesses - the same public domain well that Disney went to for their films. Our princesses are portrayed as strong, real women commenting on today's helpless damsel in distress princesses with big saucer-like eyes and waistlines smaller than their own necks! It's a loving poke, a friendly skewering of the Princess Complex perpetuated by Disney, Toddlers & Tiaras, Barbie dolls, MTV, etc. We wanted to write and direct the show because there's so much gold to mine in real women telling the truth about living supposedly happily ever after! In our show, happily ever after ain't it's cracked up to be!

Cast of "DISENCHANTED!"2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing DISENCHANTED!?

Dennis T. Giacino: Laughter!

Fiely A. Matias: And some truth. Audiences love the ribald comedy, the improvisation, the belting-their-faces-off funny women, and the message of DISENCHANTED!

Dennis T. Giacino: In DISENCHANTED!, every comedy song re-tells, in a riotous, hilarious way, each of the princess stories while hinting at a bigger picture. The message hidden in each of the songs is that happily ever after is self-acceptance; being perfectly you - not what today's entertainment tells you how to be.

Fiely A. Matias: Audiences are enjoying both the comedy and the message!  We've been sold out the entire run!  It's been an amazing NYC experience for us and the show!

Lulu Picart, Becky Gulsvig, Michelle Knight, Jen Bechter, Soara-Joye Ross and Alison Burns in "DISENCHANTED!"3. What has been the best part about having this cast bring DISENCHANTED! to life? 

Fiely A. Matias: Well, you really need six Carol Burnetts up on that stage in DISENCHANTED! They need to have great comic timing and sing their faces off. This cast does not disappoint!

Dennis T. Giacino: It's also been a treat to have two of our original Orlando actors in this Off Broadway production. Along with Lulu Picart (Mulan, Pocahontas, Princess Badroulbadour), it's been so great to have Michelle Knight (Snow White) continue her journey with the show. She brings amazing vocals, great leadership, and a keen sense of wonderful 'straight-man' comedy to the show. We're having such fun watching the NYC audiences love these performances!

4. What have you enjoyed most about this run of DISENCHANTED! and what are your plans for the show after this run is over?

Fiely A. Matias: We are loving watching an audience lose themselves in laughter! Having an Off-Broadway show has been a dream of ours since our Asian Sings The Blues days back in the 90s. It's been great realizing that dream! We went from a one-man cabaret act in Asian to a full-on Off-Broadway musical comedy with DISENCHANTED! - it makes all those years in which I rolled around the stage in a skimpy 12-year-old's one-piece bathing suit singing love-songs-gone-wrong worth it! :)

Dennis T. Giacino: We're in a limited engagement with DISENCHANTED! now. Our hope, due to the sold out houses, raves, and such positive audience reaction, is that the show transfers to a larger Off-Broadway space this year. That would be very exciting!

Cast of "DISENCHANTED!"5. Since DISENCHANTED! is from the point of view of the Disney princesses, which Disney princess have you always wanted to be and why?

Dennis T. Giacino: I'm totally Snow White! I could make fun, off-color jokes about 7 men and waiting for my prince to come but suffice it to say, I just love the idea of dying and coming back to life! Who doesn't want that?!

Fiely A. Matias: I'm all about Pocahontas! I've always been a "just around the river bend" kinda guy plus, come on, she has hair great hair! For a balding 40-something, that's a dream come true!

Dennis T. Giacino: I definitely prefer our empowered princesses, though. There's really nothing like a strong, belting actress who can be mega-funny while she sings her face off!

Fiely A. Matias: Amen. Now that's a super-power!

6. Let's go back in time for a moment. In 2001, I saw your NYC Fringe show Asian Sings The Blues. I still remember the fun I had at that show from Fiely's performance to Dennis' songs. Looking back, what did you like about performing/working on that show? How did you first come to work together and what has made you want to continue this collaboration?

Fiely A. Matias: We've been collaborating for 23 years now! We started a small theater company in Corvallis, Oregon low those many years ago. We were having troubles affording the licensing fees for Neil Simon plays and Sondheim musicals so we started writing our own shows.

Dennis T. Giacino: Wait - hold up! Let's be clear here. Fiely came to me 23 years ago and said, "Licensing fees and actors are expensive. Write me a one-man show." My reaction was, "Okay - you sing a little off-key, all you do is chat about yourself, and you always wish to be the center of attention. You're a cabaret act!" And I wrote Asian Sings The Blues!

Fiely A. Matias: Okay, okay. That's all true! I dream that we will end up in some dive bar in our old age singing songs from Asian - those really were such fun times! What a great way to retire - as a cheesy lounge act!

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

Dennis T. Giacino: That's easy. As a young teenager, I played a song I wrote for Tommy West, a country music singer/producer - I think he worked with Jim Croce. When I finished the song, Tommy imparted this nugget of wisdom: "I love the melody and the lyrics. Make sure that every song you ever write tells a compelling story. It's got to have a beginning, middle and end."

Many of today's pop songs (and some theater songs) have forgotten that. I'm forever grateful to Tommy West for that advice! It has informed every song I've written since - Asian Sings The Blues and DISENCHANTED! Best advice ever.

Dennis T. Giacino and Fiely A. Matias8. How do you want to be remembered?

Dennis T. Giacino: I feel like my purpose in life is to skewer different genres of entertainment - to show how silly live performance can be. Whether it's the Disney princess films, game shows, sitcoms, or the self-centered, semi-talented cabaret performer. I love to lampoon them all. My fave, of course, is spoofing the put-upon accompanist in a lounge act. I'm known as "Scary Manilow" in Asian Sings The Blues. That'd be cool to be remembered for that. Or being the "Princess Whisperer." The guy who brought to life all these strong fairy tale women who gave our ol' buddy Walt the what for!

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Dennis T. Giacino: I've often thought that I'd like to be able to read minds. But I can already kind of do that - I'm a bit psychic, y'know.

Fiely A. Matias: Okay, what am I thinking right now?

Dennis T. Giacino: That you don't have an answer to the super-power question.

Fiely A. Matias: Wow! You're like Kreskin at the keys!

Dennis T. Giacino: I knew you were going to say that.

Dennis T. GiacinoMore on Dennis:

Dennis T. Giacino,  a New York City native, has created musicals that have toured throughout the USA, Canada and internationally. Giacino’s works have been featured in prestigious by-invitation-only festivals in NYC, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Orlando, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver BC, Halifax, Montreal, Sydney AUS, Singapore, and Prague. His musicals have received numerous awards including: NJ Playwrights Contest (2010 Winner! -DISENCHANTED!); "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best of Orlando 2011" (Orlando Weekly, Orlando Sentinel, Watermark - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Festival); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theater Festival); "Best of Fest" awards (San Francisco, Saskatoon AB and Orlando International Fringe Theater Festivals).

Fiely A. MatiasMore on Fiely:

Fiely A. Matias has directed productions of DISENCHANTED! in Orlando (2011, 2012, 2013), Los Angeles (2012), San Francisco Bay Area (2013), Missouri (2012), Tampa (2014) as well as the original New York City workshop (2009) and staged reading (2012). He has directed musical works by Dennis T. Giacino (author/composer, DISENCHANTED!) for over 20 years, including over 20 International Fringe Theater Festival productions. His awards include "Best National Show" (DailyCityNews - DISENCHANTED!); "Best Musical" & "Best Comedy" (USA National GLBT Theatre Festival), "Best Comedy" (Ottawa Fringe Theatre Festival), "Producer’s Award" (Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival) and "Best of Fest" at the Orlando, San Francisco, and Saskatoon Fringe Theater festivals. Fiely is a proud member of AEA and SDC.

Monday
Jan122015

Call Answered: Frankie J. Grande 54 Below: Jan 20 and 21

Frankie J. Grande"Call Me Adam" chats with Frankie J. Grande about his return engagement to 54 Below on January 20 and 21. We also talk about him starring on CBS' Big Brother, Broadway's Rock of Ages, staying grounded, and his sister Ariana Grande! Click here for tickets to Frankie's show at 54 Below!

For more on Frankie be sure to visit http://www.frankiejgrande.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram!

1. You are returning to 54 Below for two new shows on January 20 and 21. What excites you about your return? So much has happened to me in the last year, I am so looking forward to performing this updated show for both my original Frankie fans, and for my new ones.

2. What do you love most about performing at 54 Below that made you want to come back? The sound!!!! It’s one of the greatest rooms for a vocalist to perform in, I cannot wait to get up there and sing my face off!

3. For someone who has never seen you perform, why would you tell them to come see you? You should come see my show because it will be like no other show you’ve seen at 54 Below. It will be constantly entertaining, full of heart, have a digital component, and be covered in sparkles - just like me!

4. For fans who have attended your previous shows, what can they get excited for with this new show (other than it's new)? There will be Big Brother and Rock Of Ages elements added to this version of the show!

Frankie J. Grande5. According to press notes, you are going to be doing some of your incredible impressions. When did you first realize you liked to imitate people and who are some of your favorite impressions? After the first Lord of the Rings movie I went home and just immediately began speaking like "Smeagol"/"Gollum," and I was completely shocked and obsessed with my ability to do so. So, I began to discover other impersonations that I was good at, but still none of them are as exciting to me as "Smeagol"/"Gollum."

6. You are finishing up your run in Broadway's Rock of Ages, which closes January 18. What made you want to be part of the show's final weeks? Being a part of the Rock of Ages Broadway company has been a long time dream, having the honor of taking the final bow with this incredible cast makes it even more of a dream come true.

Frankie J. Grande "Rock of Ages"7. You spent a season in the Big Brother house. Since you will be talking about this in your upcoming 54 Below show, what can you tell us about your experience on Big Brother that you will not be mentioning in your at 54 Below? Would you want to be on another show like Big Brother again? As you may have seen on Big Brother, I hold NOTHING back - so, there will be nothing I will be holding back at my 54 Below show. However, I will say that it was an incredibly fun, rewarding, and challenging experience that I am extremely proud of.

Absolutely I’d love to do another reality TV competition - sign me up for Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice!

8. With all your success how do you stay grounded in an industry that has lead others down darker roads? Luckily, my path toward celebrity has been extremely linear. One thing has lead to another, and I have worked extremely diligently along the way. This was not an overnight success, and I think that helps keeping me grounded.

Frankie and Ariana Grande9. You and your sister both work in the industry of show business, but each on your own path within the industry. While each of you are following your own dreams, do you feel you have a stronger connection with each other because you are both in show business or do you feel your relationship would be the same regardless of both working in the same industry? I think the fact that we both work in the same industry does make us closer as we have such similar passions and interests, and jobs! We often go to each other for career advice, but that probably wouldn’t happen if I had chosen to be a doctor (as I thought I might all those years ago in college!).

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Be true to yourself.

11. What have you learned about yourself from your varied career (singer, actor, producer, host, social media mogul, etc)? I succeed when I think less and live more. My inner joy is infectious and when I can share that with the world as much as possible, without holding back, I am at my happiest and the world responds positively!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

Frankie J. Grande and Madonna #RebelHeart12. How do you want to be remembered? I would like to be remembered for being unapologetically myself, and for inspiring others to follow in my foot steps.

13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I would like to be an airbender so that I could fly around the world. I travel a lot. It would make things a lot easier.

14. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what would the ingredients be? The Go Grande Or Go Home; it would be filled with glitter, rainbows, sparkles, and served on fire.

Frankie J. GrandeMore on Frankie:

Frankie J. Grande is currently starring in Rock of Ages on Broadway, after spending a season in the Big Brother house! He is a performer, producer, host, YouTube star and social media mogul. Frankie has a rich history in the theater as he has performed in Mamma Mia! on Broadway, produced Hamlet starring Jude Law, and produced and co-directed Brooke Shields’ one woman show at Feinstein’s. He was honored with the title of Mr. Broadway in 2007.

Friday
Jan092015

Call Answered: Bojana Novakovic: The Blind Date Project

Bojana Novakovic, Photo Credit: Keiran Photograph"Call Me Adam" chats with Australian Film Institute award winning actress Bojana Novakovic about the New York premiere of her show The Blind Date Project which will run from January 7-17 at Parkside Lounge on New York's Lower East Side (317 East Houston Street). We also discuss the creation of her theatre company in Australia, Ride On Theatre, and many other details of her life and career. Click here for tickets!

The Blind Date Project is an event to which everyone can relate – a blind date between two people who have never met and who are desperately in need of connection. Each night a different performer joins Bojana for an entirely improvised, intensely personal interaction–including karaoke numbers–in front of a crowd of willing participants. The guest stars range from Saturday Night Live writers to stars from Netflix's Orange is the New Black and ABC's Desperate Housewives.

The special guest stars announced so far is as follows:

 1/8 – Fred Weller at 9pm

1/9 – Laverne Cox at 7pm/Reggie Watts at 10pm

1/10 – Larisa Oleynik at 7pm/Pablo Schreiber at 10pm.

For more on Bojana be sure to follow her on Twitter!

"The Blind Date Project" montage, Photo Credit: Keiran Photograph1. From January 7-17, you will be starring in the New York premiere of The Blind Date Project, which you co-created with Mark Winter. How did you and Mark come to work on this project? What has been the best part about working with Mark on this project? The show was a happy accident. It started out of necessity. I had been commissioned by two major theatre companies in Australia to write a play for Tanya to direct and me to perform in. What I wrote turned into a 90 minute monologue with songs. I had not been on stage in two years so I was terrified. To ease the stress, I asked a friend, Thomas Henning (an astounding writer) to create a small work with me which I could perform in the evenings while rehearsing the big show.

I told him we could not have a script because I already had too many lines to learn. So we had to make it improvised. I told him I needed to sing in it, but I couldn’t learn any new songs. So we set it in a Karaoke Bar. I told him it had to be a two hander, because anything more was too complicated. We agreed that a date was the best kind of two-hander to create conflict from. We agreed that we wanted a different performer every night, and that he would direct it via text messages and phone calls.

We started structuring it and then Thomas went to Mexico to try a rare hallucinogen, so Mark – who is a mutual friend - came on board to officially create the piece with me and direct it. We worked on it for three weeks and then put it in front of an audience for ten days. The rest is history…

When Mark came on board, the essence of the show was born. He brought questions to the table which ultimately made the show relevant. "The idea is fun, and the form is different, but why does it matter?" The Blind Date Project exists today as an amalgamation of the initial idea (and all its fun gimmicks) and the exploration of those questions Mark asked.

We were hungry for danger and truth. We wanted to create an immediate theatre - entertaining and frightening for both audiences and performers - a work that bonds us. All of us have been in love, or sought it out. Thus, we decided to explore what it means to search for intimacy in an age where loneliness is an epidemic and internet-dating is a billion dollar industry. We sought to celebrate the unattractive and embarrassing aspects of being desperately in need. To explore the most humiliating impulses in us all: seeking approval, seeking love, saying too much, not saying enough, struggling to impress.

The best part about working on it with Mark is that he is relentlessly honest, generous and a rare creative mind. I learned a lot from him and continue to do so. And most importantly, he is now one of my closest friends in the world.

And although Mark and I created it, the work of Thomas, Tanya and Scott has been instrumental in getting the piece to where it is at. Every director brings something new, and the piece keeps evolving.

2. What excites you about having this show make it's New York premiere? Apart from the idea of going to Little Frankie’s every night for post-show debriefs (which is a regular The Blind Date Project activity) - I am excited because I think audiences are going to eat this up in NY. Everyone who has seen it has told us we have to bring it here. The style of the show – the uncontrolled, vigorous, unpredictable nature of it, the risk factor, the fact it lies somewhere between comedy, performance art, improv and theatre and that it explores all those things humans don’t really want to talk about – make it belong in NYC. It does not fit in a genre or a style. And the perfect home for anything without a categorized identity – is in New York. Also NYC has a very particular dating culture and outlook on love. I’m excited to explore that in real time, in a real place, in real ways. The show is immediate. Just like New York.

3. The Blind Date Project is being presented at Parkside Lounge in NYC's Lower East Side. What makes Parkside Lounge the perfect spot for the run of this show? It’s intimate, unpretentious and classy. It’s one of those places in NY that is still untouched by hipsters or investment bankers – the kind of place that gave NY its reputation in the first place. The space this show happens in is crucial to the experience of it - and the moment Vallejo and I walked into the Parkside Lounge, we knew it was the one.

"The Blind Date Project", Photo Credit: Keiran Photograph4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing The Blind Date Project? An unexpected desire to go out and get laid or never have sex again. Honestly – I can’t answer this questions – it’s completely up to them.

5. During the run of this show, each night a different guest star will be your character's blind date, making the evening an entirely improvised evening. What do you enjoy most about improv versus having a definitive script you need to work from? I just want to clarify that this is not "improv" as one might expect. It is not theatre sports, nor a comedy act. There is no working towards a joke or gag. We are creating an experience where the danger of performing without scripts lends itself to the reality of what is being explored: fear of facing the unknown and revealing far more than we would care to admit. Mistakes are inevitable and welcome and the comedy comes from what’s real.

My greatest enjoyment in this show is that it puts you front and center with the source of your own creativity. I get frustrated having to be in "a zone" (or pretend I am in a zone) from which I am "ready" to perform (for example, say the same thing again and again whether nightly on stage or take by take on set). With this show you have no choice. You are in a zone, whether you like it or not. You are blindly stepping out on a ledge with someone, using your imagination, bouncing off their imagination and all the while exploring the most talked about subject in the history of time – LOVE. Just like love, you have to listen, make offers, participate in the immediate present and be willing to fall flat on your face. You have to relinquish ego and control. That is the kind of "zone" I like to act from.

6. What excites you about working with a rotating cast of co-stars and what makes you nervous? The excitement and terror are one and the same. Like love – the best thing about it is the worst thing about it – and that’s that you have no idea what the fuck is going to happen. I don’t even know who is coming night to night. I have hardly any control over anything. I am so fucking excited I can’t even answer this question properly.

7. The Blind Date Project is being directed by Scott Rodgers. How did you decide Scott would be the right fit to direct this project and what has been the best part about working with him as a director? I saw a film Scott directed and after meeting him I knew he was the right guy to entrust this to. From the film I could see he understood comedy, subtlety, romance and narrative. As a person he is passionate and creative, while calm and nurturing. The director of this show has the story and the actors in the palm of his hand, so all those qualities are necessary. You can’t just be a good story-teller or a good person. You have to be both. And Scott certainly is. We are blessed to have found him!

Bojana Novakovic, Photo Credit: Keiran Photograph8. In 2003, you created Ride On Theatre in Australia, with one of The Blind Date Project's collaborators Tanya Goldberg. What made you and Tanya want to start your own theatre company and what has been the best part about having your own theatre company? We started it because we wanted to make work which we wanted to see, but were not seeing, in Sydney theatre. And we also wanted to play roles (we weren’t getting) and tell the stories (we weren’t hearing) that compelled us. We decided to create those opportunities for ourselves. The best part of having our own company is that we can do what we want. And we support each other in our creative choices, even if we chose not to work on the same projects. Of course the other irreplaceable gift is that I get to work and argue with one of my closest friends in the world – a woman I admire greatly, and learn from on a daily basis!

9. You have had quite are career between the stage, film and television. What do get from your theatrical endeavors that you do not get from your film/television career? Firstly there is the creative control of making my own work or participating in the works of others that I believe in. This includes collaborations like The Blind Date Project. There is a satisfaction in being able to serve a vision – which I stand behind 100%. I can be very impatient with (while also very grateful for) pretentious, superficial "creative" visions that challenge no one and say nothing new, but that actors seem to have to endure in order to make a living.

And then there is the immediacy of the experience in theatre. The presence of the audience (who really want to be there) and post show human interaction. You know if people like it, you know if they hate it! Theatre might reach less people, but the connection you make with the audience exceeds any I have experienced with screen work.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Don’t Google yourself. Don’t Google the guy you like. Don’t Google his girlfriend.

11. How do you want to be remembered? Hopefully as a little taller and a little less bossy than I actually am.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. If you could have any super power which one would you choose? Flight.

13. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? It would be a smoothie called The Nutter. The ingredients would be top secret so I cannot tell you. But you could choose the flavor form cashew, almond, hazelnut or pecan.

Bojana NovakovicMore on Bojana:

Bojana Novakovic (Creator/Performer) is an actor, writer and producer. Born in Serbia, she moved to Australia when she was seven. She graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2002. Her international film credits include Edge of Darkness with Mel Gibson, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil, and Generation Um opposite Keanu Reeves. Recently on the FOX series Rake with Greg Kinnear, she’s about to appear in Shameless opposite W. H. Macey. Bojana has also starred in The Hallow, Burning Man, Solo, The Monkey’s Mask, Strange Fits of Passion, Thunderstruck, Blackrock, The Little Death, Charlie’s Country, The King is Dead, and Not Suitable for Children. She is an Australian Film Institute Award recipient and has earned numerous nominations for AFI, Critics Circle and Australian Subscription Television Awards. Bojana has a repertoire of theatrical performances and has worked with Australia’s most prestigious companies - Melbourne Theatre Co., Sydney Theatre Co. and Malthouse Theatre. She is a co-founder of Ride On Theatre. Fake Porno, which she adapted, directed and produced, earned three Green Room Award nominations and her original play - The Story of Mary MacLane - By Herself was published by Currency press in 2012. Other credits include Criminology, EldoradoWoyzekFemale of The Species and Romeo and Juliet.