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Entries in Off-Broadway (331)


Call Redialed: Melissa Ritz: Bombshell of Rhythm: The Life and Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton

I was first introduced to Melissa Ritz and "Bombshell" in 2014 by my friend Ethan Paulini who told me about this show his friend Melissa was doing about the life of Ina Ray Hutton. I was unfamiliar with Ina Ray Hutton at the time, but after some research, I found her life and career to be fascinating. As a bandleader, Ina Ray broke barriers by being the first female bandleader to conduct both an all-girl big band and several male big bands in the 1930s/40s. She was also the first woman to have her own TV show on KTLA, later to be picked up for national airing on NBC.

The production I saw last year at the United Solo Festival was terrific, from the story to Melissa's performance (click here for my previous interview and review). So, when Michael Alexander of Two Sheps That Pass told me this show was coming back and was going to be at the SoHo Playhouse, I had to talk to Melissa again to find out what's changed and how the show has grown. We had a great time catching up as you'll be able to tell from the interview below. I was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to go see this run of Bombshell and let me tell you, it's even better than last year! Melissa has taken Ina to new levels and the show flows even better than it did.

Bombshell of Rhythm: The Life and Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton will play at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street) through August 30! Click here for tickets!

For more on Melissa and Bombshell be sure to visit and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Melissa Ritz as Ina Ray Hutton1. After a sold-out run in the 2014 United Solo Festival, in which you won the 2014 Best Emerging Actress award, you are returning to the stage with Bombshell, though re-titled Bombshell of Rhythm: The Life & Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton. What made you want to bring the show back to the stage and what made now the right time to do that? It’s too good a story to perform for such a short run! And after 4 years of working on it, I wanted more! Ha! I feel like this story has a bigger life in it than a festival run, and the fact that it sold out at United Solo four times fueled the fire inside of me. There’s been an exciting buzz around the show and it’s almost taken on a life of its own. Shortly after my United Solo run, I performed Bombshell at the East Meadow Public Library where I discovered that the activities director who booked me, had an aunt who played in the horn section of Ina’s band in the 30’s! I also took the show out to Hollywood where I met with a former Rockette who performed with Ina’s in the 40’s, and taught Ina’s sister how to tap dance. Connecting with these individuals from NY to LA has kept my motor runnin’, and given me the drive to find more life in sharing Ina’s story.

Now has always been why I’ve done my show. I’m trying to live in the now and do what I can to keep Ina’s story on the stage. The now has continued to move the show forward and so far, has brought me to the SoHo opportunity that came out of doing my show in Las Vegas. More details about that below...keep reading!

2. Why did you decide to retitle the show Bombshell of Rhythm: The Life & Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton from it's original title Journey of a Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story? I’ve always gone back and forth between "Journey of a Bombshell" and "Bombshell of Rhythm," the latter being Ina’s nickname in the media. I initially decided to go with "Journey" because I felt like that’s the story I wanted to tell...a start-to-finish story of Ina’s life, but "Bombshell of Rhythm" is a more active. It lends itself to musicality in the title. The tag line of "The Life and Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton" tips the audience off that there’s mystery to the story...and that’s alluring. There’s something private happening in this woman’s successful public life. It’s an enticing selling point, don’t cha think?

The real Ina Ray Hutton3. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Bombshell of Rhythm: The Life & Secrets of Ina Ray Hutton, what would that reason be? For the history! The history of one woman’s struggle for respect and acceptance in the male-dominated world of jazz music in the 1930’s and 40’s, and her struggle to be taken seriously when she had her own TV show on NBC in the 1950’s. Equality for women in the work place has definitely come a long way, but it was a rough start at the beginning...especially for women musicians on brass instruments. Although Ina didn’t play a musical instrument, she went through the same heartaches that her all-girl band did for the 5 years they were together.

4. What made you want to mount this run of the show at the SoHo Playhouse? The Universe intervened on this one, and I love how it came to fruition! Earlier in the year, I took my show to the LA and Las Vegas Fringe Festivals. I like to meet with my audience after each show to thank them for coming, and at one of the Vegas shows, a woman came up to me with a business card and said, "My son runs the SoHo Playhouse in NYC and I think your show should go there next. I’ve contacted him and he’s expecting your call." And then she quietly left. When I returned to NYC, I made an appointment with her son, artistic director Darren Lee Cole. We talked about my show and at the end of the meeting he said something to the effect of, "Well, if Mom liked it, it’s good enough for me!" The timing couldn’t have been better and that’s how Bombshell came back to NYC. It’s also how I came to rework the title of my show...I’ve gotta give credit to Darren on helping me out with that. It just goes to show that you never know who’s in your audience, and what the impact of one show can have on the shelf life of a production. Of course I wanted to do my show in NYC again, I just didn’t know where it would have fit. Turns out that going to Las Vegas to do my show was a gamble that paid off!

Melissa Ritz as "Ina Ray Hutton"5. I recently saw this production and thought it was even more fun than last year. I felt you have found more substance with Ina Ray Hutton than last time around. How do you feel the show has grown since last year's run? I’ve performed it about 20 times since you last saw the show. I’ve had time to really understand the characters off paper and I’ve had time to develop Ina’s relationships with the characters in her life. I’ve had time to physically connect to each character and respond to the energy of the audience, so I feel more connected.

6. You play every character in this show. What do you like best about jumping from role to role as opposed to playing one character throughout the entire show? I enjoy the acting challenge of turning-on-a-dime. I’ve allowed myself time to react as a one character to what’s been said by another character, even though it’s only me on stage. It’s just fun to create different dynamic levels within each character and push myself out of my comfort zone.

7. Now that you've performed this show several times around the country since last year's run, what is something new you've learned about Ina Ray Hutton and how you relate to her? I’ve had the opportunity to connect with her family members and that’s made me feel more connected to her life off stage, which I believe affects one’s behavior on stage. There was more darkness to Ina’s life than I knew about when I first performed the show. For example, I discovered that Ina had a drinking dependency later in life. I was saddened to hear that. I incorporated that into the show just recently by adding a small flask to my costume. Ina drinks from it when she’s pressured about her past. These moments were already written into the script, so it was easy to add in the physical behavior of drinking from the flask. I connected through this part of Ina’s life from the outside. I was a cocktail waitress in a major Las Vegas casino for a number of years. I saw the negative affects of drinking and some of the reasons people choose to drink...along with the masking techniques people use to hide this behavior.

I also feel more connected to Ina’s strength. I’ve been living in NYC for almost two years and to survive in this city—and in the entertainment business--you’ve gotta toughen up!

The real Ina Ray Hutton8. Julie Kline has directed all the runs of this show. How did you first come to work with her and what has been the best part about collaborating together? I am so grateful to Julie Kline. Julie and I have been working together for about 18 months on the development of the script and the promotion of the show. I first came to know Julie and her work from the United Solo Theater Festival. I was volunteering at the festival and had the luxury of watching as many solo shows as I wanted. Julie directed Erin Layton’s solo-show Magdalene, and I was completely captivated. I wanted that style of storytelling to happen with Ina’s story, so I basically stalked Julie on Facebook, (thank you social media!) and invited her out to breakfast to pitch my show to her. She loved Ina’s story as much as I did and we went from there. Julie helped me develop the script and I have to say that I’m happy that she was open to collaborating with me, because she respected Ina’s strength as much as I did, and was always aware of keeping that theme throughout the script. There have been so many wonderful parts of the collaboration process and if you’re asking me to mention the best part, I would have to say communication. She’s an excellent listener and she gives excellent feedback and notes. If a director/developer and an actor/writer can’t communicate, you’re doomed!

9. I feel Bombshell of Rhythm is a great show for everyone, but especially women! I have my reasons as to why I feel this show is particularly great for women, but why do you think Ina Ray Hutton's story would resonate more with women than men? I feel like women can identify with Ina’s desire of wanting her voice to be heard and valued...especially in the workplace. Ina struggled for equality throughout her career and I think this resonates with a lot of women. She worked hard for economic, social, and cultural equality, to name a few. She didn’t take "no" for an answer. Her drive and tenacity allowed her to have a career in entertainment.

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it, and what ingredients would you put in it? For hot summer days in NYC, I’d create the Bangin’ Bomb: Grapefruit sangria infused with mashed ginger over crushed ice with a light chili-sugar rim!

Melissa RitzMore on Melissa:

As an Army "brat," Melissa grew up all over the U.S. and in Germany. She joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, where she analyzed body fluid in hospital laboratories in Texas, Ohio, Colorado, and Germany. She also worked at the Ataturk International Airport for the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. One of the highlights of her time in the military was the year she spent traveling the globe as a vocalist and dancer with "Tops in Blue," a division of Air Force Entertainment. This tour took her to over 20 countries and almost every state in the Union. After earning the rank of Staff Sergeant, she was honorably discharged and moved to Las Vegas, where she worked as a cocktail waitress at the South Point Casino. In the spring of 2009, she became a certified Bikram Yoga instructor, and taught in Las Vegas for 4 years. She also received a BA in Dance and MFA in Theatre Performance, both from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She relocated to NYC in 2013 to pursue her acting career, focusing on her one woman show. When she’s not sweatin’ it out in the hot room, you can find her tapping at Steps dance studio.


Call Answered: Gary Waldman: What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical at The Triad

Growing up, I was very fortunate to spend many a Christmas vacations from school up in the Catskills with my family. From Kutsher's to The Fallsview to The Nevele, I was lucky enough to have this special time with my family peddle boating, playing golf, arcade games, dinners together and best of all seeing legends just starting out from Jerry Seinfeld to Penn & Teller in the hotel nightclubs. I can still vividly see my grandparents laughing hysterically as we all watched Jerry Seinfeld perform. Looking back, I see what a special time this was for me and my family.

When Penny Landau of Maya PR suggested I interview Gary Waldman (writer, director, composer/lyricist), I was more than happy to go back to this wonderful time in my life and talk to the guy who's show What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical is playing The Triad in NYC, chronicling his 35+ year career, beginning in the early 70's at Nan Acres Bungalows in South Fallsburg, NY & continuing through, well, today, with a personal tribute to growing up in the Catskills from a Baby-Boomer’s perspective.

What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical will run from August 1-September 6 at The Triad (158 West 72nd Street (bet. Amsterdam & Columbus). Click here for tickets!

For more on What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical be sure to visit and follow the show on Facebook!

1. Your show, What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical, is going to be making it's NY Off-Broadway debut this August at The Triad on NYC's Upper West Side. What are you looking forward to about bringing this show to NYC? Wow. Where does one begin? The excitement of knowing your hard work and determination paid off well enough to bring your life's story to the theater capitol of the world (and my home town) is humbly surreal.

2. What made you want to write a show about growing up in the Catskills? It's actually a cool story...I was running a theater in Florida last year and we needed a "place-filler" to generate income over the summer (off-season in Florida) so I decided to throw together what was basically to be a nightclub act to run for just a few nights. It's the one thing in my 44-year career (I started singing at six) that I had never done. I was trained classically, sang in a rock band from my teens through my early 20's and from then on worked pretty much exclusively in the musical theater as a performer, director and producer...I had pretty much never gone onstage as myself. Being a musical theater person, I decided I needed a through line and since growing up spending my summers in the Catskills (where I also first began performing) left such an indelible mark on me I figured that was the best route to go. Turns out what I had scripted for myself bored me onstage and I began ad-libbing all of my dialogue. After the first or second show, we realized it wasn't a nightclub act at all...with a little honing, we had a musical! And the audience loved it, we got ravishing reviews and wound up stretching those "couple of nights" into over six weeks...only to be forced to close when "high season" came upon us and our musical theater series was opening...thereby bumping "...Fallsburg" out of the building.

3. What do you enjoy most about working with this cast? There are no words...but I'll create a few thousand. I'm up there with the absolute BEST people I know from the cast to the band to the crew. Chelsea Lee Wheatley and Elijah Word are hands-down the two best young singers I know, Jonathan Eisele the best dancer I know...and we've all worked together in several shows over the past few years...from the time they were, truly, kids. They call me Grandpa and I love it! Our music director, Jon Delfin toured the country with me for nearly seven years with the show, Paved With Gold and we first met when I went to him for a coaching session when I was 16 years old! Sheesh! Has it really been five years already? LOL

4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical? Easy one! For all who didn't experience the magic of the Catskills, especially as a kid...let's hope they see for real why those of us who did have an almost "cult-like" camaraderie.

5. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see What I Learned In Fallsburg - the Hip, New Catskills Musical, what would that reason be? It's such a sweet show with such a talented cast and positive, often very funny message. And the music is the best "stuff" in my shopping bag from a 40+-year career.

Gary Waldman in "Sounds of Simon"6. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Me. With tremendous support from my parents who just let me go where life took me...never pushing, never discouraging. So many of us "kids with good voice" are either pushed to the brink of madness or stifled by our parents. Mine did the perfect job.

7. What's the best advice you've ever received? Take more out of life than it takes out of you.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That I'm a little crazy. I call it a disease LOL. There cannot be a less financially rewarding, professional-level career than musical theater. But if you have "the disease" you just don't care. You can never imagine doing anything else.

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Printing money by twitching my nose like on Bewitched.

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I would call it "The Movement" part Manischewitz, two parts prune juice.

Gary WaldmanMore on Gary:

Gary Waldman is known nationally as a producer, stage director, composer-lyricist & performer with a 35+ year professional career that has led him down virtually every path imaginable. He has been performing as a singer-actor in musical productions and in-concert since he was all of six-years-old...and yes, in the Catskills. As a performer, Gary was once best known for creating the lead role of "Izzie Jacobson" in the 7-year National Tour of Paved with Gold where he received ravishing reviews nation-wide and generated an enormous following. Paved With Gold was adapted for two-performers from the hit 1984-1986 off-Broadway musical, The Golden Land by Moishe Rosenfeld and Zalmen Mlotek and the music and dialogue was about 70% in Yiddish…a language he knew virtually nothing of as a 4th-generation-American, "Jewish kid from Queens"…it took about 18 months to learn the role and to speak and sing the language of his ancestors…a skill he has been called upon to coach scores of other performers in the 20+ years since.

Gary Waldman in "The Last Session"He began his professional producing career at the age of 23, wrote his first professionally produced musical, Meet Me at the Pitkin at 29 and began directing at 31. His 2005 production and re-conception of the Broadway musical, The Life ran for an unprecedented 8-month, sold-out run in Palm Beach County in 2004-2005 and garnered 19  Award Nominations, including 4 for Waldman himself. He made his off-Broadway debut in 2000 producing, directing and performing in Sophie, Totie & Belle. The show ran in several productions in south Florida, suburban NY and NJ in the years prior until his 1999 production in Fort Lauderdale caught the interested of New York investors who moved the Florida production directly to New York. 

Gary conceived and directed seven professionally produced and touring musicals, writing the original music, lyrics and full librettos to Snowbirds, Bungalow Bunnies, Meet Me at the Pitkin, and Midlife Madness and the concept and unique arrangements to I Write the Songs, Hey! Big Spender and The Sounds of Simon, the latter of which was first produced as an intimate 5-person "review-sical" in Palm Beach County in 2005 and was revived and re-conceived in June 2013 as a full-fledged musical complete with developed characters and an ensemble of singer/dancers (for a cast ranging from 12-16). The newly conceptualized Sounds of Simon ran for the entire summer of 2013 at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, and then served as the premiere production of his new facility, Delray Square Performing Arts running through the end of April, 2014 for a total packed run of almost a full year.

Gary Waldman with Lainie Kazan & Mike BurstynMost recently, Gary fulfilled a 25-year dream of playing the lead role of "Charlie Anderson" in the south Florida revival of the classic music Shenandoah. He also starred in the title/lead roles in extended runs of Jesting With Danny Kaye, The Last Session, Hey! Big Spender, the 2013 production of Bungalow Bunnies and every production of The Sounds of Simon to unanimous raves. As a businessman, Gary has produced hundreds of professional theatrical runs, national tours, and operated five venues. He has worked with countless celebrities, politicians and luminaries including: Judy Collins, Leslie Uggams, Eli Wallach & Anne Jackson, Marilyn Michaels, Bruce Adler, Mal Z. Lawrence, Mike Burstyn, Yitzhak Perlman, The Israeli Philharmonic, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, Mayor Ed Koch, Donna Hanover Giuliani, Theodore Bikel among countless others, and is proud to have produced and managed his dear friend, the legendary singer/actress LAINIE KAZAN from 1995-1997.


Call Answered: Shonali Bhowmik: Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets

When I was a junior in college I interned in the promotions department at the radio station Mix 98.5 in Boston. One of the jobs of the interns, if they chose to accept it, (and who wouldn't for $50 per event) was to dress up as the station's mascot, The Mix Moose. Well, my first day at my internship, I had the opportunity to go to a local CVS with the station dressed as The Mix Moose. I accepted that challenge and got into costume. Well, after the event, I was walking down the first aid aisle of CVS, and maybe it was because I couldn't see or because the shoes of the moose were too big or I wasn't used to walking around in such a big costume, I'm not sure, but as I'm walking down the aisle, I trip over my feet and fall into the shelving units of medicine, knocking everything down. I was so embarrassed that I got up as quickly as possible and ran to the back storage area and got out of the costume.

Needless to say, when Heidi Vanderlee of Shark Party Media reached out to me about doing an interview with Shonali Bhowmik about Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, which is set in a CVS, I had no choice, but to say yes, as the setting of the show alone brought me right back to that laughable moment in my life. It was great getting to talk with Shonali about Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets as well all the other projects she has going on!

Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, a show about working at CVS, mass surveillance, technology, social media and our romanticism of it all, will play in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival on August 8 & 9 at Access Theater Black Box (380 Broadway). Click here for tickets!

For more on Shonali be sure to visit and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube!

1. After winning the 2015 Downtown Urban Theater Audience Award, your show, Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets is now playing in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival on August 8 & 9. What excites you about having Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets in the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival? BBHP had one performance in the 2015 DUTF Festival which was an overwhelming success but after it was said and done, we (cast and crew) knew we had to perform again, when and where was the question. To get the opportunity to perform the play again only two months after the first performance within a new festival dedicated to showcasing the work of South Asian artists is exactly the way I had hoped it would work out. I don't get to see enough Desi artists perform and I don't get to perform BBHP enough. South Asian International Performing Arts Festival solves both of those issues.

2. What initially made you want to write this show? The show is based on a visceral reaction I had to being in a CVS drugstore near my apartment last year. My heart started pounding when I realized that there were no more people actually working in the drugstore. There were only self express checkout stations. The inevitability of it all, in terms of corporate interests eventually replacing all people with computers made me so sad.

The cast of "Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets"3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets? I felt the need to formulate a story albeit a comedy which is a plea that we should all be especially aware of what our dependence on technology is doing to us. We aren't talking to each other and pretty soon we won't be working with each other. My hope is that we will find it in ourselves to stop this fast track to nowhere or at least slow it down.

4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, what would that reason be? To catch a performance by a brilliant all star comedic ensemble (especially rising stars Katina Corrao and Christian Felix) before they are too big to be seen in a small room again.

Shonali Bhowmik5. In addition to Bed Bugs and Hot Pockets, you have your web series Shayla Hates Celebrities, your latest short film, Sardines Out of A Can, which won best romantic comedy short at the Bare Bones International Film Fest 2014, you co-host your own podcast series called We Don’t Even Know, and you have your own independent record label called Little Lamb Recordings. First off all, when do you find the time to sleep? Secondly, what do you enjoy most about working in all these different mediums? How does each medium cater to all the components that make you a performer? It's true I do way too much stuff and I don't get enough sleep. Often I say to myself "What the hell are you doing? No one can be good at all those things." But when I turn the "hater" voice off, I realize I am just being me. If my work turns out mediocre so be it and I look towards getting better. I am honestly of the mind that if I never try, then I would be much worse off.

I am at my core a musician. I play for myself as much as I play for an audience. Music has been my first form of therapy. But now I have some additional modes of therapy. Each medium of art I work within is an extension of that feeling in that they each provide some sort of catharsis for me. Music, comedy, film, theater, are all different modes of communication used to bring a community together, to relate, to relax and to force us to think. In the most simplistic terms, I like being in a community and I ain't ashamed of that.

6. Who or what inspired you to become a performer/writer? I have been singing and performing for my parents before I could read, and I started to read at a young age. Literally I went to Disney World in FL as a little kid and I couldn't stop singing "It's a Small World After All" for 8 hours straight in the car on our drive home to TN. I guess you could say Walt Disney was my inspiration.

Shonali Bhowmik singing7. What's the best advice you've ever received? Been told this by a number of creative friends: "You can never be original only authentic." Remembering this has prevented me from throwing away some of my best work.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer/writer? I have way too much to share as you can see in this interview. I also love to learn.

9. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Laser vision - besides it looking so cool to have lasers shooting out of your eye sockets, wouldn't it be amazing to look up into the sky with a loved one and explain to them exactly what is happening on Pluto?

10. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it, and what ingredients would you put in it? Shonuff Shonali (on the rocks) - mainly because this is sure to be good. 

1) sliced Ginger - effervescent, reduces nausea and inflammation

2) whiskey - drinker's choice as to which whiskey, preferably one with the essence of chocolate, cinnamon and honey.

3) sliced jalapeño - small thing with an explosive fiery taste - also used in lots of Indian cooking

May be diluted with water or ginger ale for lightweights.

Shonali BhowmikMore on Shonali:

Shonali Bhowmik is a musician, actress, comedienne, filmmaker and writer. She is currently working on her web series Shayla Hates Celebrities, which features Wyatt Cenac, Eliot Glazer, Har Mar Superstar, and more. Her latest short film, Sardines Out of A Can, recently screened in 6 cities across the globe including Madrid, Spain, and won best romantic comedy short at the Bare Bones International Film Fest 2014. She currently co-hosts her own podcast series called We Don’t Even Know, and has her own independent record label called Little Lamb Recordings. She is a member of the popular comedy collective Variety Shac, and has worked with the likes of Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler and Ed Helm. She has also created television pilots for the Adult Swim and IFC networks. In addition, Shonali was the host of the Shac’s popular Upright Citizen’s Brigade live show. After releasing five albums with her rock n’ roll outfits, Tigers & Monkeys and Ultrababyfat, Shonali recently released her first solo full length release 100 Oaks Revival. She is one of the leaders of Ultrababyfat, who were featured David Cross’ tour DVD Let America Laugh. Shonali was composer for original music for the MTV television series How’s Your News (Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Exec. Prod).


Call Answered: Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR!

In one of my most heart-wrenching interviews yet, "Call Me Adam" chats with Mrs. Smith about her missing cat Carlyle, who went missing about two years ago when he ran out of his hotel room in Poland. Mrs. Smith and I discuss how the mounting of her new Off-Broadway show, Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR will hopefully help reunite Mrs. Smith with her beloved cat Carlyle. This is one CATastrophic interview!

Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR will run through September 20 at the 47th Street Theatre in NYC (304 West 47th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR be sure to visit and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Your show, Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR is making it's Off-Broadway premiere through September 20 at 47th Street Theatre in NYC. What excites you about having Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR make it's Off-Broadway debut? The chance to have the message about my missing cat Carlyle put into musical theatrical form and spread to a larger audience. The key thing here is this Carlyle Message and Off-Broadway will allow us to reach some important demographics such as Key Influencers, Opinion Leaders, Belief Shapers, and Mind Melders. Beyond that, performing gives me a chance to channel the Grief and the Rage.

2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR? Elevated. All senses electrified and tuned into finding Carlyle.

Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR!3. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR, what would that reason be? How often do you see a real-life person (me) singing and dancing to save their own life?? Usually people in these plays are pretending to be someone else but in this case I'm me and at every performance I'm walking a tightrope stretched between two extremes: Broadway Glory and Emotional Oblivion.

4. Your cat, Carlyle has been missing for two years now. When did you first realize Carlyle was missing? What were some of your first thoughts that went through your head when you realized he was missing? We were in the only five-star, boutique hotel in Warsaw (Carlyle loves Poland, don't ask me why), and I received a frantic phone call from a diplomat friend who had committed an egregious utensil-based social blunder at a State Dinner and we were trying to fashion a response when the room service cart arrived and the door was ajar for all but a millisecond. I usually take great pains to secure Carlyle in his Kitty Condo when we are in this hotel and room service arrives because that cat adores Poland so much he'll run right out to explore it (don't ask me why!!!). In a flash of tuxedo he was gone and my life has been absolute torment ever since. My first thought when he vanished was, "GET THAT CAT!!!"

Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR!5. How do you feel the mounting of Mrs. Smith's BROADWAY CAT-TACULAR Off-Broadway show will possibly help find Carlyle? I hired an economist formerly of Google (and RAND Corporation -- he was let go from both but for personal not professional reasons), and he did an Influence Scan of all forms of comms: online, television, film product placement, print, etc. He ran this study three times because he was GOBSMACKED by his findings. Off-Broadway is the best mode of comms for this message not because of its literal reach (the distribution model is DISMAL and financials are HORRENDOUS) but because all these hip kids and cool cats and fancy fellows who are into Off-Bway. That what this guy told me anyway.

6. How do you think you'll be able to find the strength to go out on stage every night singing and dancing with a happy face and surrounded by some hot dancers, knowing that Carlyle is out there in the world lost and afraid? These are not mutually exclusive. The Carlyle Message is my engine and knowing that this audience has come to hear about my cat and our life together and be part of this cause: it lifts me up! Sometimes I'm so lifted up I am outside my body and then I get a crick in my neck and have to go get one of those $30 massages in the East Village.

Mrs. Smith and her Broadway Boys (Brandon and Kenny)7. What is it like to continuously look for Carlyle and still not able to find him? How do you get through each day without him? Everyone has a best pal, I hope anyway. Just imagine if that buddy you chat with everyday who understands you like no other, that friend with whom you shared so many wonderful experiences, imagine if they went missing. You would never stop searching to have that person back in your life. He's my best friend!!!

8. Do you ever picture in your mind the reuniting of you and Carlyle? If so, what is that reunion like? I had this vision during a Shamanic Journey the other day. Here is what was unfolded to me...I'm in my dressing room putting on my stage makeup and final preparations for the evening's performance...I sense a presence behind me on the fainting couch reserved for VIP visitors....Do I hear soft purring...??! I slowly turn around and as plain as day there is Carlyle sitting contentedly on my fainting couch his paws tucked underneath him like the little gentleman he is. He has not changed one bit. We sit there for a full minute regarding one another a smile stretched across my face. The stage manager calls places over the intercom. I fetch Carlyle's portable Kitty Condo, open the door, and he gracefully scoots inside and we quietly sneak out the stage door. I catch a taxi cab to JFK and book the presidential suite in the only five-star, boutique hotel in Warsaw.

Mrs. Smith and Carlyle9. How has this experience made you stronger? From an aerobic point of view Act I is like one of those torturous exercise programs the young people seem to like these days. It's non-stop costume changes, props, puppets, dancing, singing. I think my director is trying to kill me! Cross-fitter's if you want to really get in shape try Act I of my show!!

10. What is the best advice you've ever received for dealing with this vacancy in your life? Never stop believing.


11. If you could have any super power to bring Carlyle back, which one would you choose? Well my Pet Psychic Sylvia Cleo has second sight so I don't need that. My Shaman isn't literally psychokinetic although I have seen dust particles float in strange patterns around her. I guess the best I can hope for is a syndicated television show on a major network or subscription-based streaming service to really beef up this distribution model. I think that would do the trick. Do you know anyone at Netflix?

12. If you could create a signature drink in honor of Carlyle, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I'd call it a "Meow Mixer" and it would be grapefruit juice, liquid Benadryl (I have these nasal allergy things), lemon juice, and honey and then use that to chase a mood stabilizer.

Mrs. SmithMore on Mrs. Smith:

Mrs. Smith is a woman of many passions. Her distinctive blend of comedic performance art has been seen from coast to coast, including: 54 Below, American Repertory Theatre/Oberon, Ars Nova, Dixon Place, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Upright Citizens Brigade and NBC’s hit reality competition America’s Got Talent.

She has also performed at her share of fairly depressing dive bars, cabarets, and condo complex community rooms. Two and a half years ago, her beloved cat Carlyle went missing. If you have ANY information on his whereabouts, PLZ CONTACT HER IMMEDIATELY! @SmithCatMrs


Call Answered: John Epperson: LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET

John Epperson as Lypsinka

UPDATE: Due to an inury sustained by John Epperson, the run of LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET has been cancelled!

"Call Me Adam" chats with John Epperson, a.k.a. LYPSINKA! herself about the return of his smash hit show LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, which will play at The Connelly Theater (220 East Fourth Street) from July 22 through September 12! Click here for tickets!

This award-winning revue features some of Lypsinka's greatest bits. Using a soundtrack created from films, musicals, and concert recordings, the supreme archivist of irony showcases the modern challenge of being overly-blessed with femininity, ego and celebrity. The return engagement of LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET will feature additional special material which will change weekly during the eight-week run.

For more on Lypsinka be sure to visit and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. After sold-out performances last Fall, this summer you are returning to the stage with LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET from July 22-September 12 at The Connelly Theatre in NYC's East Village. What made you want to bring this show back so quickly? There are several reasons. One is simply that the show was popular; and another is that the theatre was available and the stage there is a great "frame" for "The Goddess of Showbiz," Lypsinka. Thirdly, my friend, the famed costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane missed the show last Fall/Winter, and he offered to step in a s a producer on this encore engagement.

2. What do you enjoy most about performing this show? The reaction of the audience is almost always enormously rewarding.

3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET? I want them to say, "Gee, that was so much more than I expected it to be."

John Epperson as Lypsinka4. In creating this show, what was it like to go back through your career to pick out which moments you wanted to include? The primary impetus was simply to make the audience laugh, so that was first in my mind. Secondly, there’s some subtext in the show to chew on. I always try to give the audience member something to ponder.

5. Were there any moments that you wanted to include that you didn't get to? I think one of the best sequences I ever came up with was using THE THIRD MOVEMENT (ELEGY) OF THE BARTOK CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA as underscoring, and putting sound bites on top of that. But that sequence doesn’t work out of context.

"THE BOXED SET" does contain sequences from a show called "LYPSINKA MUST BE DESTROYED" that I only performed once, in San Francisco in 1996 for two months.  I should perform it in New York someday, it has some wild stuff in it. You can see some of it on YouTube.

6. What's it like for you to perform a show of all your "greatest hits"? It’s fun. A lot of hard work! It’s physically demanding, but it always has been. I’m grateful that I can still so it, and that the public wants to experience it.

John Epperson as Lypsinka7. In addition to performing your biggest hits, during this limited run, you are also incorporating new material every week. What excites you about this weekly change in material? It’s fun to give myself a challenge, and the audience always enjoys being in on something new.

8. Going back a bit to the beginning of your career, how did you come up with LYPSINKA? I wanted to do a drag performance that was rooted in a tradition. I wanted to poke fun at that tradition and at the same time raise it up high. I chose lip-synching partly out of fear. I was intimidated by the professional scene in New York at the time, and by lip-synching in female costume, I could hide behind the makeup and someone else’s voice. But I got over that fear long ago.

9. What has been the best part about performing as LYPSINKA? When I did my first Off-Broadway show for almost 12 months in 1988/89, I could feel myself growing as a private person. I had a lot of damage to get through.

10. What was the greatest hurdle you overcame as LYPSINKA? It pleases me that because of my reputation, some people don’t see me as a "drag queen," a term I personally loathe. Of course, there are some who still use that term to describe me.


John Epperson as Lypsinka11. What's the best advice you've ever received? The actor Roddy McDowall once said to me, "Don’t ever give up."

12. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Well, in addition to what I mentioned before, I have also learned that I did the right thing for myself by leaving Mississippi. But it must have been heart-breaking for my parents that I wanted to lead an unconventional life.

13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To leap over all the baby stroller, and dog leashes and cell phone users in a single bound.

14. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I don’t know much about drinking and cocktails. I like fine red wine and Blue Label Chimay Ale. I also like fine chocolates. So, if anyone wants to send anything to The Connelly Theater this summer, now they know what to send!

15. As LYPSINKA, what's your favorite skin care product? I use Kiehl’s moisturizer, and if I can’t get that I will use L'OREAL.

John Epperson as LypsinkaMore 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 Swan, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels In America, Kinsey, Another Gay Movie, Another Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, and Dragtime; George Michael’s video Too Funky, PBS’s The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearest and 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 Show, Lypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-Synched, Lypsinka! 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-Synching, Lypsinka 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).

John Epperson as 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 Trash, As 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.

Illustration by Stefano ImbertLypsinka 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 book Persona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. John has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York Times, The Washington Post and Interview and The Daily Beast.