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Entries in Off-Broadway (342)

Thursday
Jul282016

Call Answered: Cast of Charles Busch's "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse

Bucks County cast for "The Divine Sister," from left to right: Erin Maguire, Alison Fraser, Charles Busch, Jonathan Walker, Jennifer Van Dyck, and Julie Halston, Photo Credit: Joan MarcusIt has been five years since Charles Busch's The Divine Sister ran Off-Broadway. I saw that production at least 4-5 times. I LOVED the show. It was so funny, so well written, and 100% entertaining! Now, most of the original New York cast (Charles Busch, Julie Halston, Alison Fraser, Jennifer Van Dyck, and Jonathan Walker) is reviving the show at Bucks County Playhouse, with the addition of newcomer Erin Maguire. 

In a spoof on Hollywood's "nun movies," The Divine Sister tells the story of The Convent at St. Veronica’s of Pittsburgh which is in desperate need a new school. Mother Superior is determined to get it built no matter what, but first she must deal with a host of colorful, hilarious characters that stand in her way.

The Divine Sister plays at Bucks County Playhouse (70 South Main Street New Hope, PA 18938) through August 13! Click here for tickets!

Charles Busch as "Mother Superior" in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus1. It's been five years since your NYC run of The Divine Sister. Now, you are remounting the show at Bucks County Playhouse from July 22-August 13. What made now the right time to revive the show? What excites you about bringing it to Bucks County Playhouse?

Charles Busch: Since childhood I've been fascinated by theatre history and there is something magical about appearing in a theatre where many years great performers have played. The Bucks County Playhouse has that great tradition. I love looking at the old posters of the many productions that has been on that stage starring the likes of Kay Francis, Shirley Booth and so many others.

Jennifer Van Dyck: We had a delirious time making this play and the run was an extraordinary journey. When Alex Fraser and Robin Goodman asked us to do this revival, Jonathan and I looked at each other and giggled. Absolutely, we thought. But what are the chances that the whole cast could return? It is a complete delight to be back together again as a company, with the wonderful edition of Erin Maguire. Bucks County is where, in my senior year in high school (Princeton, NJ), I received the only award I’ve ever received for acting. My school brought a production of The Importance of Being Earnest and I played "Gwendolyn." This year I returned in May to be a judge for the very same ongoing festival of high school performers. Full circle! Now I get to play on this very same stage, all these many years later.

Alison Fraser and Julie Halston in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus2. How have these past five years of life/living changed the way you relate to your character? Or do you relate the same?

Charles Busch: I've always enjoyed having the opportunity to revisit an old play of mine. I like to think experience onstage and off have made me a better actor. In my first few plays I lacked the discipline and skill to maintain a role for a long run. It's easy in a stylized comedy to get broader and broader as time goes by. For the past ten or fifteen years I've made a concerted effort to simplify and get more truthful as the run continues without sacrificing any laughs. That's the great challenge. I like to think my closing night performance is my best. Therefore having the chance years later to revisit the role is a way of starting with everything I've discovered in the past and building from there.

Alison Fraser: Hmmm. Some same, some different. I still have the highest regard for Charle Busch's hilarious, thrilling and surprisingly deep script, and getting to revisit the stellar material with four brilliant members of the original cast is an absolute joy.

As for the differences?

1) Our new "Agnes," Erin Maguire, is a delight who brings a fresh perspective to all the scenes we have together, so that is exciting to explore.  

2) The world, tragically, has become a much darker place in the last five years, so pointing a gun at the face of people I love, even though we know it's just a play, fills me with a mild bit of revulsion.

3) "Domino's" fabulous black leather corset/miniskirt fits a wee bit more snug these days. Even international Catholic hit- women have to count their calories....

Julie Halston in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus3. What has been the best part about being back together as a cast? Is the dynamic the same or has it changed at all?

Julie Halston: The best part of all being together again is how we also enjoy each other's company. And I'm personally loving living with Charles again - we haven't done it in a long time and we are really having such a great time - we really DO work well together. We are loving the beautiful area and everyone is helpful smart and fun!!

Jennifer Van Dyck: We laugh our heads off. Rehearsals have been ridiculous since we have to hold ourselves together to get through certain scenes. The difference is that we’re not creating the show from scratch, so there’s not sheer panic. There’s some panic of course (the stage is so much larger: How will I make the quick changes from "Mrs. Levinson" to "Timothy" and back again in time???).

4. What is the funniest thing to happen so far during the rehearsal period?

Julie Halston: The funniest thing that happened is that we lost our rental car at The Giant supermarket and the only way I could finally find it was to push the PANIC BUTTON on the key - it was out of a MARX BROTHERS movie. but we had to get back to rehearsal on time!!!

Jennifer Van Dyck: The fart circle at the top of scene five had to be re-timed because there is more space and it takes longer to get into place from off-stage. Then you add in the sound effects and we could not hold ourselves together during rehearsal. I’m not in that scene, but the whole room went up for grabs.

Jennifer Van Dyck and Jonathan Walker in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus5. What is one thing you missed most about the show that you are now looking forward to revisiting?

Jennifer Van Dyck: Laughter, sweat, panic, delirium - all in 90 minutes. Although this time round we’ve added an intermission, so we may have time to catch our breath in the middle (and Bucks County can serve refreshments to the audience).

Jonathan Walker: I love the flow of the show. It’s such an almost perfect play, so complete with no added "fat" from beginning to end. It’s a wicked good ride that’s over before you know it and so much happens during the course of the story. I can’t wait to get that feeling of that wonderful roller coaster. And of course, working, playing and hanging out with this extraordinary cast, creative team and crew at such a wonderful theater. The best.

6. What have you learned about yourselves from starring in this show? This can be about you as a person, your craft, your relationships to each other, etc...

Jennifer Van Dyck: I love the range of silliness that Charles has written for each of us. Precision is key, as in all comedy, but this insists we work on all cylinders: physical, vocal, emotional. I love the challenge of going back and forth between "Mrs. Levinson" and "Timothy."

Erin Maguire and Charles Busch in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus7. The Divine Sister tells the story of The Convent at St. Veronica’s of Pittsburgh which is in desperate need a new school. Mother Superior is determined to get it built no matter what. When has there been a time in your life when you wanted something so bad that you went after it and got it no matter what?

Erin Maguire: Ironically, I saw The Divine Sister during its run at Soho playhouse. I LOVED it. And I turned to my friend who brought me and said "I want to work with these people. I want to do this show." From that point, I kept my eye on what this nutty troupe was up to. Then I had the opportunity to work with Charles and Carl on Bunnicula, followed by a show at the 92nd Street Y called Here's to the Girls. Then when the opportunity arose to be in The Divine Sister, I jumped at it. It took a few years, but I landed here in Bucks County with the original cast about 5/6 years after I said I would! I guess "The Secret" really does
work!

8. Over the past five years, our world has endured a lot of troubling times. With a comedic show like The Divine Sister, how do you continue to find the laughter and humor during such troubling times?

Jennifer Van Dyck: At times like this, it is even more important to find reasons to laugh and enjoy being in the company of others. The world is not a silly place these days, but it is essential to find little corners of silliness and reasons to giggle, snort and guffaw.

Erin Maguire, Alison Fraser, Charles Busch, and Julie Halston in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus9. The Divine Sister pays homage to almost every "nun-movie" ever made. Of the films you pay tribute to, which one(s) do you wish you could have starred in yourselves?

Erin Maguire: Of all the films we spoof, I would most like to star in The Sound of Music. I grew up with this show. Who doesn't love The Sound of Music??? But even as a kid, I was more of an "Elsa" than a "Maria!" So this is the closest I get to being a precious ingenue!

Alison Fraser: Oh this is a slam dunk. My nun film preferences run toward the dark tales, which isn't surprising considering the disturbed "Sister Walburga's" demeanor. I was never a Trouble with Angels/The Sound of Music type. Instead I was drawn to The Nun's Story, The Song of Bernadette, and my all time favorite, the florid uber melodramatic ecclesiastic epic Black Narcissus. And of course the best role in that one is "Sister Ruth," the sex obsessed nun who has a crisis of faith followed by horrible consequences. Fun!

Jonathan Walker and Erin Maguire in "The Divine Sister" at Bucks County Playhouse, Photo Credit: Joan Marcus10. 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?

Jonathan Walker: I’d love to increase the percentage/interest rate in my savings account! I remember the days when there actually used to be a decent return on one's deposit!!! Lol.

Sunday
Jan312016

Call Redialed: Telly Leung: Songs For You, Allegiance, Inspirational Broadway

Tell Leung, Photo Credit: Leon Le PhotograpyIn 2012 I got to interview Telly Leung while he was starring on Broadway in the revival of Stephen Schwartz's Godspell. At that time, he was already tapped to originate the role of "Sammy Kimura" in the pre-Broadway run of Allegiance. Well, four years later, Telly has come home to the Great White Way in Allegiance which also stars Lea Salonga and George Takei! Allegiance plays at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) through February 14! Click here for tickets!

In addition to Allegiance, Telly recently released his second solo CD Songs for You featuring classic songs from the worlds of Pop, Jazz, R&B, and Broadway, featuring the songs by Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Oleta Adams, Mama Cass Elliot, John Denver, Des’ree, Stephen Sondheim and Schwartz as well as Jerry Herman. Click to purchase on Amazon and iTunes!

If this wasn't enough, Telly is also taking part in Inspirational Broadway at B.B. Kings (237 West 42nd Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue) in NYC on Monday, February 15 at 7:30pm. The one night only concert features theatre’s biggest names singing Broadway, Gospel, Pop, and Rock classics with a stirring and spiritual twist. In addition to Telly, the evening will feature Broadway Inspirational Voices founder Michael McElroy, Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton), Tony-nominee Joshua Henry (Violet), Chad Kimball (Memphis), Eden Espinosa (Wicked), Jarrod Spector (Beautiful), Adam Pascal (Rent), and Marcus Paul James (Motown). Click here for tickets!

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

1. This past November, you released your long awaited second CD, Songs For You, featuring classic songs from the worlds of Pop, Jazz, R&B, and Broadway done with a new and innovative twist. What made now the right time to record this CD? What do each of these songs represent for you? This has been an incredibly fulfilling and emotional year for me, with one of my biggest childhood dreams coming true: originating a leading role in a Broadway show from its first creative inception - and taking it from reading to workshop to out-of-town to Broadway. ​Allegiance has been such a gift, and a dream-come-true. I could not have done it alone, and I wanted to find a musical way to express the overwhelming feeing of GRATITUDE I had for all the people in my life (professionally and personally) that helped me along the way. Each song on the album has a special dedication to someone in my life - and it was my musical, creative way of saying, "thank you."

2. One of my favorite songs on the CD is the mash-up of "I Am What I Am" and "I Have Nothing." First of all, how did you decide these two songs would work so well as a mash-up? Secondly, what do remember about the moment in your life when you said to the world, "I Am What I Am?" and Thirdly, in regards to "I Have Nothing," when was there a time in your life when you felt you had nothing? I am a HUGE fan of two things - Broadway and Whitney Houston! I grew up listening to her on the radio, and that was the iconic voice that inspired me to sing. ​As a Broadway fan, I've always loved "I Am What I Am" (and "Albin" is a dream role of mine. I still got a couple of years to grow into it!). "I Have Nothing" is a love song, but those first iconic lyrics in the verse have a double meaning when paired with a "coming out" song like "I Am What I Am." "Share my life, take me for what I am...'cuz I'll never change all my colors for you."

I was inspired to do this very Glee-style mashup when I was in London for a Glee fan convention - and met so many young kids who were in that fragile time in their lives when they were figuring out WHO they were. A show like Glee, and the camaraderie that comes from making music with others (like they do in that famous choir room), was what helped these young people come out of their own "closets" and find themselves. I was blown away by these "Gleeks," and that's why this song is dedicated to them on the album.

Those two songs definitely resonate with me, and seeing those kids made me think about my own "coming out" experience. I found the courage to finally be unapologetic about who I am when I met my partner of 11 years. Having that love and support from him gave me that strength. The lyric, "I have nothing, nothing, nothing - if I don't have you", has never been more true.

3. I also enjoy "New York State of Mind." What are your favorite things to do in NYC? It might sound VERY obvious, but one of my favorite things to do in NYC is see a Broadway show. There's only one Broadway - and it's in NYC. It's my home - in so many ways.

4. You also cover Stephen Schwartz's "Dreamscape." When you need some Telly time, what's your "Dreamscape?" I am lucky that my job requires that I am constantly stimulated creatively. As a professional artist, my synapses and creative juices are constantly firing. For many people like me, who are working artists, it's important to find time to shut that off. So, my "dreamscape" often comes in the form of being a vegetable, on my couch, and watching some mindless TV.

5. Another song I love is "Second Chances" from Allegiance. What is an example of a time you gave someone a second chance and when were you given a second chance? To me, that song is about having faith that life is constantly filled with opportunities for redemption and forgiveness. We are all human and we all do things we regret. We say things we don't mean. We hurt the ones we love when we don't intend to do that. It may feel like those actions are irreversible, but the power of love and forgiveness is what allows us to grow and change for the better.

My parents had a hard time with me choosing a life in show biz. Like most traditional Chinese immigrant parents, they wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer - something "practical" that gave me financial security. ​They discouraged theatre and arts when I was younger - and I held a lot of resentment to them about that. When I was in high school, I'd take after school jobs and defiantly pay for my own acting and voice lessons, and not tell them about shows I was doing, because I didn't want them to be a part of this life that they didn't support. I shut them out. I was young, and didn't understand that it didn't come from a place of them not wanting me to be happy and fulfilled, but rather their concern about the ability to make a living in a very competitive profession. Eventually, my parents and I met each other in the middle. They let me pursue my dreams, and I let go of that resentment and lack of support and allowed them to partake in this other life I led. Now, they are very supportive, and we are very close.

Telly Leung in "Allegiance"6. Speaking of Allegiance, you are once again starring alongside Lea Salonga, with whom you made your Broadway debut alongside in 2002 in Flower Drum Song. What was your reunion like? What do you remember most about working with her in that show? What's it like to work with her now? Lea is family to me. She has always been a "big sister" to me, ever since Flower Drum Song. To get to play her little brother now is a "no acting required" job, and I feel like audiences that see our characters "Kei" and "Sammy" in Allegiance are also getting a peek at our off-stage relationship as Lea and Telly. It's always a joy to work with her, and hang with her on and off stage. She's been a "big sister" to me in every way. She's definitely had the responsibilities of carrying a show (with her dynamic turn as "Kim"), and she definitely helped me with sage advice about how to do that as "Sammy" in Allegiance. She is my rock on stage, and I couldn't have done this without her. Truly.

7. It was recently announced that Allegiance would be closing on Broadway, February 14. What is it like the night you come to work to find out the show is closing? How do you get out there and give it your all? What has been the most heart-felt thing to happen to you so far during the run of Allegiance? What will you miss most about starring in this show? We all found about the closing right after a Wednesday matinee performance. My dear friend and fellow cast mate Marcus Choi (who made his B'way debut with me in Flower Drum Song in 2002) went on for the first time as "Frankie" - and everyone was on a congratulatory high to experience his debut in that role! The whole building was full of pride and joy for Marcus. Then, we got the dreaded announcement that there was an impromptu "company meeting." Everyone in the business knows that "company meeting" means "you're getting your closing notice." We all went from "high" to "low" very quickly.

Telly Leung, Photo Credit: Leon Le PhotographyIt was a bitter-sweet announcement. Of course, there is a part of me that is very sad the show is closing on 2/14. But, I'm trying to maintain perspective about the whole thing. I've worked on the show for six years - and there were so many nay-sayers along the way that said, "A musical about the Japanese-American internment? That will NEVER happen on Broadway." We proved all the nay-sayers wrong, and it DID happen. I am incredibly proud of this show, and I know that it is a moving and powerful experience for those lucky audience members that do get a chance to see this show in it's limited Broadway incarnation.

As a Broadway fan, there have been many shows that I LOVE and respect that have had short runs on Broadway - Merrily We Roll Along, Scottsboro Boys, The Visit, and Title Of Show are just a few that come to mind. All of those shows are huge, artistic and creative success stories - regardless of the commercial success. I count Allegiance as one of those shows.

As for "giving it our all" after the announcement - there is no pulling back or giving less than your 100% when you are in a show with George Takei, who is giving 110% at age 78! His dedication to telling this story is relentless, and he is the heart of our company. He is the glue that holds us all together. The closing notice only ignited the fire of urgency to get this story out to as many people as possible before 2/14, and that fire is spreading and it's contagious in our company. We may be closing early, but we are going to to out with our heads held high, and giving it our all!

What I'll miss? The cast and the bonds and friendships created by this show. I started a tradition at the Longacre called "Bar Telly." At the end of a long week, I open up my dressing room after the final show, and I stock my room with booze, drinks and snacks for the cast. Everyone crams into my tiny room, and we all have a drink before we leave the building, to celebrate another week together. I will miss "Bar Telly" and all the good times we had there.

8. With Allegiance closing, this will give you some time to actually go see some Broadway shows. What do you want to see? Of current, what shows would you like to go into? Because Allegiance has Wednesday nights off, I've actually gotten to see quite a bit of theater! I still haven't seen Color Purple and I'm dying to see this version! I loved the original, and it's one of my favorite shows. I can't wait to see this revival and what they've done with it.

As for shows I'd love to do - I'd love to be in Hamilton one day. That show blew me away, and Lin's writing is a powerhouse achievement for our genre. As an actor of color, I'm thrilled that something on Broadway is TRULY color-blind when it comes to casting. The show looks like it will have a very long run on Broadway - with productions nationally an internationally for decades to come - so I'm keeping fingers crossed that I get my "shot" at being part of that incredible show! Werq Werq!

9. The night after Allegiance closes, you will be singing at B.B. Kings in NYC as part of Inspirational Broadway, an evening of music lead by Broadway Inspirational Voices founder Michael McElroy. How did you become involved with Broadway Inspirational Voices? What does being part of this group do for you? ​I'm not officially a member of Broadway Inspirational Voices, but I'm definitely a friend, fan and supporter of the choir since so many members of my Broadway family are part of the organization. One of my dearest friends is my Rent-colleague Michael McElroy, who is the founder. What he has done with the choir is remarkable. Not only does he build community within the Broadway network, but he's expanded that sense of community outside of the B'way community by using the choir to do music outreach to young students. He does all of this with the power of music and it's ability to bring people together and lift spirits.

I wanted to produce an evening of music to raise some awareness and dollars for their outreach program. Michael and I picked up the phone and we called our friends to come and sing with us - and these folks have generously donated their time and talents to this ONE NIGHT ONLY event at BB KING's! Audiences can expect to hear their favorite Broadway and Pop songs - everything from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim to The Beatles - done with Broadway Inspirational Voice's unique and soulful twist.

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 every day? MY DIET! The eating schedule of a Broadway performer is so tricky and strange because we can't eat too much before a show, and we are starving AFTER a show, but shouldn't eat too much before bed. It's always a challenge to try and strike that balance between eating excessively and not giving your body enough fuel. ​

Telly Leung, Photo Credit: Matthew MurphyMore on Telly:

Telly Leung made his Broadway debut in the 2002 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song opposite Lea Salonga, followed by the Roundabout Theater Company revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Pacific Overtures. Telly starred in the final Broadway cast of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent, which was filmed for DVD release. In the 2011 revival of Godspell, his version of "All Good Gifts" was praised as "magnificent" by New York Magazine, "superb" by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and "a standout" by Bloomberg News.

On Fox TV’s Glee, Telly was featured as a member of the Dalton Academy "Warblers" opposite Darren Criss. When he recreated his portrayal of "Angel" in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl – directed by Neil Patrick Harris – he was called "vibrant" by The Los Angeles Times, "stunning" by the Orange County Register and praised for his "sweet, clear tenor" by Variety. Telly also originated the role of "Boq" in the Chicago production of the smash hit Wicked and has performed in concert and shows at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Hippodrome in London, Birdland Jazz Club and 54 Below in New York, Paper Mill Playhouse, Philadelphia Theater Company, Ford’s Theater, and more.

He served as producer for the short film Grind, starring Anthony Rapp (If/ThenRent), Claire Coffee (Grimm, The West Wing) and Pasha Pellosie (The Carrie Diaries). The movie, which won honors at film festivals around the country, is available to stream at GrindShortFilm.com. The soundtrack is available on Yellow Sound Label. Telly is also the co-producer of the touring concert series Broadway Back Together, a reunion of major headliners who have performed on Broadway together, sharing an evening of personal backstage anecdotes and show-stopping music.

Friday
Jan152016

Call Redialed: John Epperson: An Evening with Lypsinka's Maid at Feinstein's/54 Below

John EppersonI first spoke with John Epperson, a.k.a. Lypsinka! last summer when he was gearing up to present LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury he had to cancel the run of the show. Now, he's all healed up and taking the stage at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from January 20-23 in a new show An Evening with Lypsinka's Maid!

In this rare cabaret appearance, we get to meet the face and man behind Lypsinka with an evening of light-hearted standards and lesser-known theatre songs. He will tell anecdotes about some of the famous and infamous he's encountered along his show biz journey. Click here for tickets!

For more on John as Lypsinka be sure to follow on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

For more on Feinstein's/54 Below visit http://54below.com and follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

Lypsinka, Caricature by Stefano Imbert1. It's great to catch up with you John! Last time we spoke, you were about to do LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, but due to an injury you were not able to do the run of the show. When you injured yourself, were you ever afraid that you might not perform again? I was very afraid at first that I might not be able to play the piano again. What happened was I had the flu that was going around NYC late April/early May, 2015. I was on my way to my doctor for the second time that week! I was walking because his office is only 9 blocks away. I said to myself, "At least you can stand up straight and try to look like you're not sick." So I held my head and chest up, and the next thing I knew I was toppling forward because I had stepped in a sidewalk pothole almost exactly the shape and size of my shoe, and I wasn't looking down. I fell on several parts of my body and had various injuries, including bad swelling of my left hand. I didn't break a bone, I sprained a ligament, which can be worse. It took a long time to heal.

2. Now you are performing a very special show at Feinstein's/54 Below from January 20-23 entitled An Evening With Lypsinka's Maid. What made you want to reveal the man behind the persona for this show? Lypsinka first became successful in the 1980s and ever since then people think I can't do anything else. But I also play the piano and sing. And I can actually talk and tell a story! So I want people to know that I am multi-talented and not a guy who ONLY lip-synchs in a dress! This is also one of the selfish reasons I was recently in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.

3. What do you think will surprise fans most about this show? The above! And that I am a vulnerable human like everyone.

John Epperson, Photo Credit: Walter McBride4. What is the hardest part about being "Lypsinka's maid"? Keeping track of all the bits and pieces.

5. What is one story you can share with us that won't be in the show? I know a hilarious story about Nancy Reagan, but maybe I shouldn't say it. Maybe it isn't true! But it sure is funny.

6. If Lypsinka were to come to this show, how do you think she would like it? She would like it through a martini haze.

7. You are a classically trained pianist, which you will be playing during this show. What initially made you want to become a pianist? Let's clarify. I won't be playing classical music in this show. My older sisters studied piano and I would watch them and listen to them. One day I just sat down and did it. My mother was impressed and took me to my sisters' formidable teacher. I took to it and blossomed. As I look back, I realize one of the reasons I loved it was, it gave me an identity. It also gave me escape. And later it gave me real adventure and a way to finance my Lypsinka career.

Lypsinka backstage at "Once Upon A Mattress"8. What does playing the piano give you that performing as Lypsinka does not? The Lypsinka lip-synched performances are "cold and artificial" in nature which is part of their appeal. Playing the piano and singing is a "warmer" experience.

9. If you had to do it over again, would you have gone the same route you went? There are some days, some moments, where I think I would not have. But hindsight is 20/20. There are some moments when I regret not having more formal training for musical theatre, which my niece is getting now. On the other hand, by not having formal training, and by not pursuing a traditional career, perhaps I created something unique.

10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called "One Percent Better" where through my own fitness regime, I am inspiring people to improve their life by One Percent everyday. If you could improve your life by One Percent Everyday, what would you improve? I always try to be kinder to people, even though I know some people are not always kind to me. NYC is not known for its kindness, but there are pockets of it. (I am not always successful, admittedly.) I also try to be generous as much as I can be. Not always with money, but in other ways. Now, as for my own fitness regime, it's not going to get done while I sit at this computer answering your questions! Thank you!

John EppersonMore on John:

John Epperson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a long way from the exciting worlds in which LYPSINKA travels: movies (Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Darren Aronofsky’s Black SwanWigstock: The MovieAngels In AmericaKinsey,Another Gay MovieAnother Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, andDragtime; George Michael’s video Too Funky, PBS’s The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearestand Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs); fashion (appearing in the Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles shows of haute couture designer Thierry Mugler, modeling for Valentino, Pauline Trigere, Barneys New York, and launching lines of cosmetics for Prescriptives, MAC, and Isabella Rossellini); advertisements (The Gap, LA Eyeworks, Naya Spring Water, Ilford Film); theater, including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!The Fabulous Lypsinka ShowLypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-SynchedLypsinka! A Day In The Life (New York Theater Workshop, two Drama Desk nominations, including Most Unique Theatrical Experience; revived in 1993 Off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-SynchingLypsinka Must Be Destroyed!Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (2001 Drama Desk nomination, Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award win for Outstanding Non-Resident Production / Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Best Sound Design and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for Best Solo Performance); and special events (such as Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, on Broadway with Bette Midler, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and London’s Meltdown Festival curated by Morrissey).

LypsinkaFormerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theatre, John’s theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet of the Dolls and Dial "M" For Model at La Mama ETC. The year 1999 brought Epperson’s dramatic stage debut in Messages for Gary at The New York Fringe Festival. In 2004 John appeared Off-Broadway in The Roaring Girle with The Foundry Theatre. The same year he was the subject of a stage festival at DC’s Studio Theatre, which included his autobiographical piece John Epperson: Show TrashAs I Lay Lip-Synching, and his play, My Deah: Medea for Dummies, the Medea tale set in The New South. Also in 2004 Epperson played "The Stepmother" in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater. The play My Deah opened in an Obie Award-winning production Off-Broadway in October 2006 and is now published and licensed by Samuel French. His acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, toured to California, Florida and Washington, D.C.

LypsinkaLypsinka launched the 2007 Spring collection of MAC Cosmetics centered around the Barbie doll. Epperson’s version of James Kirkwood’s infamous play Legends! was produced at Studio Theatre in DC, Summer 2010. In 2014 in New York City, John devoted himself to a unique challenge for a solo performer by performing three of his shows in repertory under the umbrella title LYPSINKA! THE TRILOGY. John and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo bookPersona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. John has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York TimesThe Washington Post and Interview and The Daily Beast.

Wednesday
Dec302015

Call Redialed: Andrew Goffman: The Accidental Pervert

In 2011, Andrew Goffman, Charles Messina, and I sat down for an exciting interview about The Accidental Pervert. Four years later, Andrew and I got hard once again about this hilarious and heartfelt show. The Accidental Pervert tells the story of a boy’s journey into manhood after discovering his dad’s X-rated video tapes hidden in a bedroom closet. The Accidental Pervert is a show about youth, growing up, and becoming mature.

The Accidental Pervert, continues to play at The Thirteenth Street Repertory Company every Friday and Saturday at 7pm (50 West 13th Street, between 5th & 6th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on The Accidental Pervert be sure to visit http://theaccidentalpervert.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"1. The Accidental Pervert is now in its 8th year! As the lone performer in the show, how do you keep the show fresh for you after eight years? That’s the beauty of live theater, it's always different. Every new audience is seeing it for the first time, so their energy and enthusiasm makes it fresh for me every night I hit that stage. As a performer, I feed off of that energy. What also keeps it fresh, for both me and the many audiences that see The Accidental Pervert more than once, is that it is interactive. So it's never the same show twice! Plus Charles Messina my director, and I are always adding new elements to the show. We continue to use The Accidental Pervert’s long run as our own comedy laboratory, to experiment with new concepts and ideas. It's still fun for us, and that fun definitely translates to the audience.

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"2. Looking back on eight years of the show, what are some of the crazy things that have happened to you while on stage? Great question, Adam! The Pervert team reminisce about so many funny things all the time. We’re like, "Remember when the bachelorette with the short shorts came up on stage during the show and started dancing." And then one of us chimes in with "Yeah but what about the time the lazy boy chair broke in the middle of the show," or when your high school crush is actually there in the audience yelling out "Andrew, it’s not too late to hook up with me!!!" We’ve experienced nearly everything there is to experience in theater over these past eight years. From people fainting in the aisle, to firemen in full gear, wielding axes, breaking through the theater door mid-show, yelling "Where’s the fire?"

Yet every time, no matter what crazy thing is experienced, I always make it part of the show. This is the very thing that prompted Charles and I to start working on a book about this whole crazy Pervert journey. In the book, we tell it all.

All the behind the scenes stuff, and the zaniness of live theater, from oddball technical problems, to leaking ceilings over head while I’m performing, to drunken audience members who've had to be escorted out during the show, BY ME no less. Just like it should be. We once had a show where the entire audience, didn't speak English! I guess they were there to watch me twerk or something. I hear twerking is a universal gesture, kinda like waving hello to someone.

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"3. What has been some of the funniest audience interactions you've had during these eight years? My all time favorite audience interaction was this: One night a woman in the audience was reacting, out loud, to every other line coming out of my mouth. She was making these loud, shocked sounds and saying stuff like, "Oh," "Oh my," "Oh my Gosh." Like she was watching a movie in her living room or something. Commenting on every little thing like no one else was in the audience but her. Then when the show was over, she came up to me, and said, "I’m going to Israel next week, I will pray for you at the Wailing Wall." I just smiled and thanked her. Hey after all, a blessing is a blessing. And I probably need all of them I can get. It’s comforting to know that somewhere out there there is a woman wailing away for me.

4. How have you grown in this role over the past eight years? I'm much more comfortable now than eight years ago. When I started The Accidental Pervert, I was attached to the script, getting to know the lines, making sure I don’t miss a beat. At first, I wasn’t fully comfortable venturing away from the actual lines. But now, that’s what I do best. That’s what makes the show so special for both our audiences and me. My ability to interact with the audience, change up moment to moment, and improv - that all has become such an instrumental part of the play. Eight years ago I couldn’t imagine doing the show with it, now I can’t imagine doing the show without it!

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"5. The Accidental Pervert is directed by Charles Messina. Has he checked in over the past eight years and if so, have you made adjustments to the show? What is it like to make changes after the show has been up and running? Charles has been at every show! Yes, every single show. The man has no weekends. He’s the best director a guy can ask for. We are fully committed to making The Accidental Pervert the best it can be. It's a one man show, but really it's a two man show. Crew members and staff have come and gone, but Charles and I have been there from day one, and continue to be. We never take anything for granted. We meet and share notes and are constantly thinking of ways to make it funnier, tighter, better. That process still continues, even eight years later.

6. The Accidental Pervert tells the uproarious and yet poignant story of a boy’s journey into manhood after discovering his dad’s X-rated video tapes hidden in a bedroom closet. For other men who have had a similar experience, what do they tell you after the show? They tell me this is as much their story as it is mine. That means a lot to me. They relate to it. And that’s because the theme is universal. Not just for men, but women have told me the same thing. One woman even told me about her first masturbatory experience in which she was intimate with a towel. Then she proceeded to show me how she did it. The Accidental Pervert brings the sexes together, in more ways than one. If you’re human, you can relate.  I’m saying stuff that other people have gone through, but don’t talk about. That’s why so many people enjoy the show. It’s cathartic, relatable, and universal.

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"7. If this story took place today, what magazines and porn stars would be featured in the show? It probably wouldn’t be magazines, it would be websites. The Internet has changed the game and has made porn much more accessible to the masses than it was when I was growing up. We've actually had a few porn stars come to see the show. They shall remain nameless, (in order to save their reputation). I actually don't know a lot of the more modern porn stars, so I'm not sure who would be in a current version of this story. I do know this though - there would not be any VHS tapes in the show - I can tell you that!

8. For someone who hasn't seen this show, why should they come see The Accidental Pervert? They should come see The Accidental Pervert because it’s real, it’s relatable and most importantly, it’s funny. People from all countries, continents, races, genders, and sexuality enjoy The Pervert. Beyond being entertaining, it also is a coming of age story about growing up, sexual discovery, relationships and maturity. We've all been there, so we are all in this together.

Andrew Goffman and Whoopi Goldberg9. If you were to leave The Accidental Pervert, what celebrity or celebrities would you cast as your replacement? Seth Rogan, Will Ferrell, Kevin James, Jim Carrey, Kevin Hart, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Adam Sandler, Louise CK, Chris Rock, Daniel Tosh, Bill Burr, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Zach Galifianakis, or maybe even as a stretch, Amy Schumer! They would be perfect perverts! Lovable, yet they have that edge.

10. The Accidental Pervert has also had productions open internationally. What was the moment like when you first got approached for an international production? Now what is it like to see these productions? Do they translate as well overseas as it does here? The first licensing deal came as a total surprise because it wasn't something we had ever considered. Now, fast forward many years, we currently have the show playing in 10 different countries and counting! Who would’ve thought that eight years ago! The international tours and runs with international celebrities playing the role of The Pervert have been very successful and the show translates extremely well into other languages. We’ve had a Swedish Pervert, an Argentinian Pervert, an Irish Pervert, a Dutch Pervert, a Panamanian Pervert. The list goes on. It’s so cool! I always find it fascinating to see how similar all the productions have been, with basically the same look and feel. Each country stays very true to the script and the set design that we use in New York City for the last eight years. I think it’s safe to say that this New York Pervert is honored and very thankful.

Andrew Goffman in "The Accidental Pervert"More on Andrew:

Andrew Goffman began his career as a stand up comedian, playing New York City clubs including Carolines, Catch A Rising Star, The Comic Strip, Stand Up New York, Boston Comedy Club, The Comedy Cellar, Rascals and later headlining internationally including Canada’s renown chain of comedy clubs, Yuk Yuks. His intense theatrical training started with mentor JoAnna Beckson, known for her specialty in teaching comedians the art of acting, as he studied with his fellow class mates Kevin James, Rock Rubin, Dave Attell and Ray Romano. Andrew made his Off-Broadway debut in the hit comedy Grandma Sylvia's Funeral, where he played in a lead role for more than a year. On the big screen, Goffman has appeared in such films as The First Wives Club with Beth Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn, iMurders with William Forsythe, and The Stand-In with Kelly Ripa.

Wednesday
Dec162015

Call Redialed: Jeremy Kushnier: Shear Madness

Jeremy KushnierI first met Jeremy Kushnier a few years ago when I got to interview the cast of Bucks County's production of Rocky Horror. Prior to Rocky Horror, I saw Jeremy go on in the most recent Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was then that I was like, wow what a voice!

I'm so excited to catch up with Jeremy as he is keeping audiences guessing as to whodunit in America's longest running comedy, Shear Madness, which has descended on New York City, playing at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets and follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at http://nyc.shearmadness.com!

For more on Jeremy be sure to visit http://jeremykushnier.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram!

1. Last time we spoke you were starring in Bucks County's production of Rocky Horror. Now you are starring in, Shear Madness, America's longest running comedy. What is the most exciting part about being in a whodunit show? I love the idea that you really have to be present at every moment because you never know what is going to happen. Also the challenge of convincing an audience that it wasn’t you is a lot of fun!

2. What do you relate to most about your character "Eddie Lawrence"? I think the poor guy is very misunderstood. It's a challenge in daily life to change peoples perception of you and that's something I think "Eddie" is doing through this play. It's definitely something I try to do in life.

From left to right: Jordan Ahnquist, Lynne Wintersteller, Jeremy Kushnier, and Kate Middleton in "Shear Madness", Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg3. Shear Madness is a very audience interactive show, where the audience helps figure out who the killer is. What challenges do you face as an actor with this nightly change in the script? What do you enjoy most about this kind of audience interaction? I think the idea of keeping the show fresh and staying on top of how you interact with the audience while still making it seem of the cuff. There's a fine line of looking like you know too well what you’re doing and it looking completely improvised that we try to tread. It's all a challenge. We like to say that the audience is our 7th company member and they just happen to have no idea their lines or the play in general, and that makes it a bit of a challenge as well.

4. Since Shear Madness is heavily based upon audience participation, what has been the craziest thing to happen so far? We never say audience participation we say audience interaction because truly you can be as involved or uninvolved as you like. Audience participation makes a lot of people run for the hills, me included. The craziest thing for me is how much that New York audiences want to be involved. Our audiences have been on it and super excited to be a part.

Kate Middleton and Jeremy Kushnier in "Shear Madness", Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg5. One of my favorite games growing up was "Clue." I loved figuring out who killed who, in what room, and with what weapon. Shear Madness is very similar. If you were to be the star of "Clue," who would you kill, with what weapon, and in what room? Probably Mr Green (cause I love Michael McKean) in the Library with the revolver.

6. If Shear Madness were to merge with Rocky Horror, who and how would "Riff Raff," who you played, commit murder? He would definitely convince "Magenta" to do it for him or just sing really high and loud till they took their own lives.

7. Since Shear Madness is a whodunit, what mystery in your life are you still trying to solve? How to make the perfect martini.

8. In addition to theatre, you also have released two solo albums. What do you get from making music that you don't get from your theatrical ventures? I like the idea of having total control over the end product. It's very cathartic for me to write my own music. You know we don’t always get to be as artistically involved as we'd like to be in our own lives. So writing music gives me that outlet.

Jeremy Kushnier as "Eddie" in "Shear Madness"9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Shut up and do your job." Honestly. I was in rehearsals for Footloose and I called a good friend and mentor because I was very scared that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I was feeling nervous. I had never been the lead of a big show like this let alone on Broadway and I started to doubt myself. He just reminded me that I had been acting for over a decade at that point and I knew what I was doing. And that nothing about where I was or what I was doing was any different than what I had done before. And to shut up and do my job.

10. What theatre stars inspire you today? I think anyone who does this as a career is inspiring to me. There are so many people in the theater that are a complete wonder to me every day. But the people that inspire me the most are the ones that love the theater so much that they glow even when they speak of it. My girlfriend Robin Abramson is one of those people. She is an amazing actress and has inspired me to love the theater again. She receives such a genuine joy from theater that it is contagious to be around her. One of my favorite things to do on the planet now is to go and sit in a theater with her and enjoy the fact that we live in the center of the universe when it comes to theater.

Jeremy KushnierMore on Jeremy:

Jeremy Kushnier most recently portrayed "Iago" to critical acclaim in Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of Othello. He was nominated for a 2015 Drama Desk Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of "Leo Szillard" in the musical Atomic. On Broadway he covered "Jesus," "Judas" and "Pilate" in the most recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar, played "Tommy Devito" in Jersey Boys, "Ren" in Footloose and "Roger" in Rent. National tours include "Radames" in Aida and "The Doctors" in Next to Normal, "Tommy Devito" in the Chicago, Las Vegas, and Toronto companies of Jersey Boys. His most recent TV credits include Person of Interest, The Good Wife and the series finale of Nurse Jackie. Jeremy has released two independent albums of all original music.