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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Off-Broadway (275)

Monday
Jun162014

Call Answered: Em Grosland: The Anthem Interview

Em Grosland"Call Me Adam" chats with Em Grosland about starring in The Anthem, directed, choreographed, and designed by Rachel Klein. The Anthem is a new rollicking sci-fi musical about a revolt of the young against an evil state. Lovingly inspired by Ayn Rand's classic novella "Anthem," the show features expansive aerial movement and a circus environment.

The Anthem plays at the Culture Project's Lynn Redgrave Theater in NYC (45 Bleecker) through July 6. Click here for tickets and follow the show at http://www.theanthemmusical.com and on Facebook and Twitter!

For more on Em be sure to visit http://www.emgrosland.com and follow Em on Twitter!

1. What attracted you to The Anthem? The director. Rachel Klein. Her artistic vision is so clear and her creative voice is incredibly unique.

2. In the show, you have a lot of physical movement/acting. What do you like about this kind of performance? I don’t have to go to the gym!

3. Your role has you interacting with the audience the most out of everyone in the cast. What do you enjoy about this interaction and what are some challenges? I know it sounds silly, but by the end of the show there are always a handful of audience members with whom I feel I have really connected. From "Hermes’s" point of view, they are his new friends.

Rachel Klein, Director, Choreographer, and Designer of "The Anthem"4. The show is directed by Rachel Klein, who typically combines dance, circus movements, musical theatre, and other performance art together. What have you learned from working with her? As I said above, Rachel Klein has a very unique creative voice. Her work is immediately recognizable. As an artist, latching onto a specific point of view is scary because you are letting go of all the other possibilities. You are putting yourself in the vulnerable place where people can love your work or hate it. She seemingly does this without fear. I believe that is because every choice she makes comes from a genuine and honest expression of herself. Rachel is a genius and I can’t wait to watch her cover Broadway with black leather and pink glitter! 

Cast of "The Anthem"5. What is the best part about performing with this cast which include Randy Jones from The Village People, Jenna Leigh Green from Broadway's Wicked, and Jason Gotay from Broadway's Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, Ashley Kate Adams from Broadway's La Cage Aux Folles, and Remy Zaken from Broadway's Spring Awakening? They are all truly wonderful people and extremely professional artists. Randy is one of the sweetest people I know. Knowing what he and the rest of the Village people did for the visibility and acceptance of gay people in this industry is awe inspiring. Plus during sound check one day, we all sang YMCA with him…it was awesome. When Jenna first sang her big 11 o’clock number in rehearsals, the whole room was in awed silence…audiences do the same every night. Jason is incredibly friendly with everyone…and damn can that boy sing! Ashley has become our event planner of the group. She is extremely generous and even offered up her home for our Tony’s viewing party. And Remy is one of the hardest working people I’ve met. She is always willing to go that extra mile to make each moment happen. And her adlibs are perfection.

But for as awesome as they are, the ensemble members of this show are my heroes. Their physical strength will blow you away. And their "Yes, and…" attitude has been so inspiring for me.

Cast of "The Anthem"6. What is your favorite part of the show? I have SO many favorite parts of the show! But today I will pick Remy’s new "Hamlet" adlib that she does with the "Executioner’s" severed head. You will have to come see the show to know what the heck I’m talking about.

7. Did you prepare differently for this show than you have for previous shows? I play two very distinct characters in this one. So one of my main challenges was figuring out how to separate them physically, vocally, and emotionally.

8. The show has a futuristic theme to it, what do you think about when you think about the future? What do you imagine life or theatre will be like? I think we are on our way to a world where our differences are our strengths. This business is starting to reflect the true diversity of our world. We have a ways to go, but Broadway is becoming more open-minded about casting. Things that exist without question in our world (multiracial families, transpeople, powerful dynamic women, etc.) are beginning to weave themselves into the theatrical canon. 

Cast of "The Anthem"9. What do you identify most with about this show? What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? Honestly, I hope the audience feels like they were just part of a big crazy party.  We are all having so much fun onstage, and that seems to be infectious for our audiences. I hope that everyone’s sides hurt from laughing so much. I know mine do.

10. Since this show is titled The Anthem, what is your personal anthem? Hmm? Lately I’ve been singing Mika’s Grace Kelly a lot in the shower. Does that count?

Em Grosland in "The Anthem"More on Em:

Off-Broadway: Eve Ensler’s Emotional Creature. National Tour: Danny Who/The Grinch...Regional: Prince/The Little Prince (CFRT), Linus/YAGMCB (California Theatre Center), Tom Thumb/Barnum (Totempole Playhouse), Ring Cycle (LA Opera), Gypsy and Big (Stages St. Louis), Mo/Cowgirls (Florida Studio Theatre), and Peter/Peter Pan (Candlelight Pavilion). TV: L&O SVU; "Comic Perversion."

Thursday
Jun122014

Call Answered: Donna Lynne Champlin: ValueVille NYMF 2014

Donna Lynne Champlin, Photo Credit: Laura Marie DuncanCall Me Adam chats with OBIE and Drama Desk award winning actress Donna Lynne Champlin about making her directorial debut with the 2014 NYMF show of Rowen Casey's Valueville which will play from July 7-13 at PTC Performance Space (555 West 42nd Street). Click here for tickets!

For more on Donna be sure to visit http://www.donnalynnechamplin.com! 

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I honestly don’t remember. I think it was always in my bones. My first memory of anything "show biz" was when my mom took me to audit my first tap class. I was three years old, sitting on my mom’s lap, watching a class from the side of the dance studio. A bunch of little girls were doing their routine which included a cute finger wag and the lyrics "Don’t forget your tap shoes!" and I went completely ballistic. Normally a very calm kid (according to my Mom) she immediately took me outside to find out what was wrong. Apparently, I was SO indignant that she had taken me to dance class unprepared as the song CLEARLY stated "DON’T FORGET your tap shoes" (of which I had none) that I had flown into an absolute rage. After my mom stopped laughing, we picked up a pair of tap shoes on the way home and that was the beginning of the end, I guess.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Ooh. That’s a long list but I am a huge Randy Newman fan and I was absolutely devastated that I was not available to audition for the FAUST they’re doing at the ENCORES! Off Center Series this July. My audition book is wall-to-wall Randy Newman, and pretty much my whole wedding "score" (ceremony, cocktail hour and reception) was 75% his stuff. I think he’s an absolute genius, both as a musician and a story-teller and I would love to just be in the same room to watch him work.

3. You are making your directorial debut in ValueVille, the NYMF show running from July 7-13. What made you decide that now and this show was the right time to make your directorial debut? In all honesty, people have been asking me to direct for years and I’ve always said "no" for various reasons but I just couldn’t say "no" to ValueVille. Long story short: I was a judge for the NYMF 2014 season and ValueVille was my #1 pick of the season. I just found it to be so incredibly funny and insightful, but also very different from most of the scripts I see submitted to NYMF. On paper it’s got that rare quality of being both very commercial while also being artistically and intellectually satisfying. The best way to describe Valueville is that it’s like NO EXIT meets A CHORUS LINE. Cool, right? Anyway, I submitted my notes and suggested dramaturgical fixes along with my rankings, like I do with all the shows and about three weeks later NYMF called me to say that the writer of ValueVille (Rowen Casey) had liked my notes so much, he wanted me to direct it. After a few phone calls with RC (who lives in CA) we both decided to take the NYMF plunge together and I have to say (knock wood, toi toi toi, etc), so far so good.

4. What made you want to shift some of your career focus to directing? Again, a big part of my decision was the piece itself. It’s not so much that I’ve had a burning desire to direct (quite the opposite). But I just really believe in ValueVille immensely as a new musical and directing it (after some serious soul searching) was something I genuinely wanted to do. I’d never felt that before about a directing opportunity so I decided to go with my gut on this one and say "yes" for once.

Also, having done numerous NYMF shows as an actor, "celebrity judge," etc, I felt confident that this festival was the perfect place for me to debut directorially. Knowing the NYMF staff already to be such incredibly competent, intelligent and kind people, I knew that if I ran into "first-time" directorial issues or had to ask really basic questions, that I would be helped and encouraged in my process and not treated like an ignorant newbie. I’m looking at this whole thing as a chance to learn everything I can about being a director in the safest environment possible, which for me is NYMF. That way, if directing is something I want to pursue more of in the future, I will be able to go further outside my comfort zone theatre-wise and have the confidence that I will already know experientially what is expected of me especially in pre-production.

And not for nothing, having done many NYMF shows over the years I know exactly who is the best design, management and artistic people team-wise and I have to say, I’m 100% confident that I’ve succeeded in surrounding myself with THE best people NYC has to offer. My main hope (besides their talents making ValueVille the very best it can be) is that their brilliance will also make up for any unforeseeable directorial deficiencies I might have.

NaTasha Yvette Williams as "Sharonda" in "ValueVille"5. What excites you about directing and what makes you nervous? At first I was so excited about the idea of having more control over the process. As an actor, you’re pretty much the lowest man on the totem pole and I always imagined being a director was way more satisfying in the decision-making department. Ironically, I’m already learning that the control you gain in overall aesthetic, you lose once the show is onstage. I’m so used to having control as an actor ON stage, that I totally forgot that the director has NO control once you’re in a run. So…I’m excited about having conceptual control and I’m really excited about our fantastic cast and working with all of them in rehearsals. But I am admittedly absolutely terrified of that first performance where I will most likely be sitting helplessly in the audience, muttering every single line in the show like an escaped mental patient.

6. What are you looking forward to most about working with the cast of "ValueVille"? Oh man. We have SUCH a stellar group of actors. So smart. So talented. I can’t WAIT to see how they lift the script and score off the page. I can’t wait for their ideas. I can’t wait to be surprised by them, and honestly, I can’t wait for them to answer some problems that I haven’t solved yet. I think all of my favorite directors I’ve worked with at some point in the rehearsal process have said "I don’t know" in the room and as an actor, I always trust those directors the most. Because if you come into the rehearsal process with all the answers, then your actors are just puppets. But if you leave room for them to come up with their own answers to legitimate problems you haven’t solved, it always ends up a more organic, collaborative and bottom line, better show in the end.

7. What do you think it will be like to be part of NYMF as a director as opposed to a performer? Already in pre-production, I am learning SUPER fast just how much work and thought and preparation happens before that first day of rehearsal when the actors start their process. I always suspected there’d been a few phone calls, maybe a meeting or two before the first day of rehearsal amongst the designers and artistic team, but now I know first hand that the first day of rehearsal is actually the middle of the process for everyone else involved. I think my experience as a director already (even though as an actor, I have always had a tremendous respect for absolutely everyone involved in putting up a show) has greatly deepened my appreciation for exactly WHAT everyone else does off stage. General Managers, Casting Directors, Production Managers, Stage Managers, Designers, etc…being a director has brought me literally into everyone else’s off stage process and it’s been a truly humbling adventure thus far. I thank God every day for this amazing collection of people who’ve agreed to work on ValueVille with me.

8. What's the best advice you've ever received? Never be a second rate version of someone else. Always be a first-rate version of yourself.

9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? That perfection is impossible, which is what makes it the best thing to strive for.

10. Favorite skin care product? L’Oreal Active Daily Moisturizer. I swear by it. That and lots of water.

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? These days? The ability to be in at least three places at once. Definitely.  

Donna Lynne Champlin, Photo Credit: Laura Marie DuncanMore on Donna:

A native of Rochester, New York, OBIE and Drama Desk award winner Donna Lynne Champlin has been performing since her very first tap solo in a local variety show at the age of four. Her childhood was a veritable whirlwind of lessons, community theatre productions, and national and international competitions in voice, piano, flute, theatre and dance. Having had the good fortune in her career to use these varied talents, she has deservedly earned the reputation for being a proverbial "quadruple threat."

Donna graduated with high honors from the prestigious Musical Theatre Program at Carnegie Mellon University. She also received intensive training in Shakespeare and Chekhov at Oxford University on the Advanced Acting Scholarship and The Vira I. Heinz Grant to study abroad. While still in college, she received her Equity card playing "Dorothy" in The Wizard of Oz with the celebrated Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.

Donna Lynne Champlin in Broadway's "Hollywood Arms"Donna made her New York Debut at Carnegie Hall in a concert version of Very Warm for May in the title role under the direction of acclaimed conductor John McGlinn, and her Broadway debut followed in James Joyce’s The Dead, in the role of "Mary Jane." In her next Broadway turn, she earned enthusiastic reviews as the delightfully eccentric "Honoria Glossop" in the Alan Ayckbourn/Andrew Lloyd Webber musical By Jeeves. Next came the opportunity to work with Carol Burnett and Hal Prince in Hollywood Arms – the dramatization of Carol’s biography. National reviewers proclaimed Donna a "show-stopping star in the making" and described her performance as "brilliant", "a triumph", and "a tour de force."

In 2006 Donna played "Pirelli" (and the accordion, flute and piano) in the groundbreaking Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd where critics characterized her performance as both "hilarious" and "superb." In May of 2009, she joined the Broadway company of Billy Elliot as the principle female dancer, "Lesley."

Donna Lynne Champlin in Prospect Theatre's "Working, the Musical"In 2013 she won a Drama Desk Award for her Off-Broadway performance in as "Woman #3" in Working, The Musical at the Prospect Theatre. Her performance as "Cora Flood" in the production of The Dark At The Top of the Stairs, hailed by the NY press as "perfection," "brilliant" and "a privilege to watch," earned her the prestigious 2007 OBIE award.

Since winning the OBIE, Donna went on to win other acting accolades for her Off Broadway work such as the NYMF Award for "Outstanding Performance" in not one but three productions namely as "Gracie" in Flight of the Lawnchair Man in 2006, "Kate" in the daring and brave new musical about child abuse, Love Jerry in 2008 and as "Jane Austen" in the innovative take on a beloved classic Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Other Off-Broadway appearances include Bury The Dead, First Lady Suite, My Life With Albertine, The Audience, Reunion, and City Center Encores! Bloomer Girl. National Tour roles include what critics called "a high octane performance" as legendary hoofer "Ruby Keeler" in the national tour of Jolson.

Donna Lynne Champlin in "Simply Sondheim"No stranger to concert work, Donna has starred as "Daisy" in The City Center Encores! Production of Bloomergirl. She has received rave notices for her many concerts with the Town Hall Series, played "Sophie" in Master Class opposite Edie Falco at the Broadhurst produced by the Metropolitan Opera (the MET), performed alongside the legendary Len Cariou in the Simply Sondheim inaugural concert celebrating the opening of the new Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, and has sung in concert with some of the most illustrious orchestras in the world including the London Symphony and the Rochester Philharmonic.

Throughout her career, Donna has received numerous awards besides the OBIE and the Drama Desk, including the prestigious Princess Grace Award from The Princess Grace Foundation, the Presidential Scholar in the Arts Grant from The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, The Anna Sosenko Trust, The Charlie Willard Memorial Grant and the title of National Tap Dance Champion for four consecutive years from the Dance Educators of America.

Her film credits include My Father's WillThe AuditionThe Dark Half, By Jeeves, and Sweet Surrender.  TV credits include a 2013 CBS pilot Mother’s DayLaw And OrderLaw and Order SVU, The Annual Tony Awards on CBS, The View (guest star), The Rosie O'Donnell Show, and Regis and Kelly and as "Emily Dickinson" of the PBS Voices and Visions series. 

Her self-produced solo debut CD Old Friends was voted "One of the Best Ten Albums of 2009" and critics have hailed it as "brilliant," "a masterpiece" and "breath taking." She can also be heard on many cast albums including Sweeney Todd, By Jeeves, 3hree, Albertine, Reunion as well as Our Heart Sings, The Lady and the Slipper, and Have a Heart (as well as many voice-overs).

Donna also continues to perform her critically acclaimed one-woman show Finishing The Hat in NYC (most recently SRO at both ARS NOVA and BIRDLAND) and across the country, along with teaching acting master classes at many prestigious colleges such as Carnegie Mellon University, Hartt and NYU.

Of particular importance to Donna is her regular participation in many benefits for two of her favorite charitable organizations, BCEFA, the MDA and The Actors’ Fund.

Donna Lynne Champlin "Finishing The Hat"Offstage, Donna’s life is as colorful and as versatile as the characters she brings to life onstage. In addition to being an accomplished performer, writer, stand-up comedienne, pianist, composer, musical director and choreographer, she enjoys an eclectic array of hobbies and special interests including metaphysics, mystic history and philosophy. She is currently working on two books, a humorous non-fiction book inspired by her (mis)adventures in the theatre and the other a "how-to of comedy." Donna lives in New York City with her husband, actor Andrew Arrow (www.andrewarrow.net) and her son, Charlie.

Wednesday
Jun042014

Call Answered: Conference Call with the cast and creatives of 50 Shades of F****d Up

Call Me Adam chats with the cast and creatives of the new Off-Broadway musical 50 Shades of F****d Up (The other unauthorized parody). We talk about their attraction to the show, the freedom this show has given them, their vulnerabilities, S&M, and the most unusual places they've ever had sex.

50 Shades of F****d Up plays at Sophie's in NYC (318 West 53rd Street, between 8th & 9th Ave) through June 7! Click here for tickets! Follow 50 Shades at http://www.50shadesfdup.com and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

THE CAST:

Ben McHugh and Jenna Dallacco in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch1. Who or what inspired you to become performers?

Ben McHugh ("Christian Grey"): I actually fell in to performing by default. I applied to be the lighting operator for my high school production of GREASE and ended up playing "Danny Zuko." I was downright awful as I had never performed on stage before but absolutely loved it and the social side of rehearsing and performing. I guess the bug bit because I haven't stopped since. I celebrated my 20th year as an actor since beginning in community theater in 2013.

Jenna Dallacco ("Anastasia Steele"): There many performers whom I look up to and inspire my work with their talent, but I can't say that these people have influenced my decision to be a performer. It's just always been what I've done and been called to do.

Cedric Leiba, Jr. ("Grey's Global"/"Jose"/"Inner Goddess"): Artists like Madonna, Michael Jackson along with musicals and music themed shows like the Mickey Mouse Club.

Krista DeMille ("Kate"/"Grey's Global Duo"/Dance Captain): Applauase and seemingly unconditional approval at age 5.

Hiroyuki Matsuura (Drums/Percussion): Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea were a few of my biggest influences of my early music life. I can't deny that the Japanese comic/TV series/movie called Ashita no Joe and the TV series, Fame inspired me a lot too.

Krista DeMille and Cedric Leiba, Jr. in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to?

Ben: Ian McKellen.

Jenna: Gah! Dream List (in no particular order): I would love to work with Paul Gemignani, Darko Tresnjak, Alex Timbers, Stafford Arima, Rachel Chavkin, Dave Malloy, RuPaul, to name a few!

Cedric: Marc Anthony, JLO, Ricky Martin and Audra McDonald.

Krista: Daniel Davis is the greatest American actor at this point - our Mark Rylance on this side of the pond. The ironic part is that he is most known as the butler on The Nanny with Fran Drescher, but the nitty gritty is he is our finest American classical actor, and then some. I adore his work and can't wait to work with him!!!!

Hiroyuki: Claude Debussy, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. I know they are dead. Sting, Buika, Jon Mayor, Erikah Badu, Seiji Kameda, Herbie Hancock, D'Angelo...I can't stop!!!

Ben McHugh and Jenna Dallacco in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch3. What made you want to audition for "50 Shades of F****d Up?

Ben: I never auditioned. Tricia Brouk (Writer/Director) whom I worked with in 2012 on TOKIO CONFIDENTIAL called me out of the blue February 2013 and asked me how I would feel about being semi naked on stage and simulating "comedic" sex scenes for the presentation of a new work she was putting together. My daughter was only 9 months old at that point and I was enjoying the couch potato lifestyle of a stay-at-home father who wasn't exercising. I literally asked her how long i had to get in shape before the show was going to be presented as I was pinching my belly fat! lol.

Jenna: I felt really connected to both the music and book as soon as I heard and read them, respectively. I knew it was a project I wanted to be a part of.

Cedric: Being able to sing and perform Andrew Sotomayor's music.

Krista: I saw it in its first incarnation and laughed my ass off.

Hiroyuki: I didn't audition. Andrew Sotomayor called me.

Krista DeMille, Jenna Dallacco, Cedric Leiba, Jr. in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch4. What has been the best part about performing together?

Ben: I'm so proud of the team we have together. I've had the benefit of working on this show on and off now for 12 months and it was like dusting off an old coat for me. But Jenna, Cedric and Krista had the better part of a week to get it all down. They worked so hard and I'm really proud of all their achievements. I think they're amazing!

Jenna: I haven't worked with anyone in the cast, band, or creative team so meeting so many new amazing people has been wonderful. I love the great synergy we four cast members have. I also feel very supported as a person and actor onstage with them. This show is so fun and fulfilling to perform with them. Plus they're really good looking.

Cedric: Being able to truly have fun and act a fool on stage!

Krista: The level of incredibleness of my fellow cast members...wow. I love to listen to them!

5. What makes Sophie's the perfect place for this run of the show?

Ben: Sophie's is a great venue as it's intimate and has an almost "red room of pain" quality to it which is absolutely perfect for the nature of this show. If the audience wanted to, they could actually reach out and touch us. The VIP seats are "crotch-cam!" Oh and you can drink!

Jenna: I like the size of the house for this show.

Cedirc: The intimacy.

Krista: A, Sophie herself is an incredible woman and NYC businessperson! B, what's more fun than seeing a well crafted show in an intimate environment, C, audience quote: "you don't have to drink to enjoy this show," but it sure is fun too!

Tricia Brouk (Writer/Director/Choreographer) and Andrew David Sotomayor (Composer/Lyricist/Musical Director)6. What did you learn about musical theatre from working with Andrew David Sotomayor and Tricia Brouk?

Ben: That working a brand new musical can be brutal but also exhilarating! I love the fact that both of them are not precious about their work and are prepared to cut anything that doesn't further the story. I always tell the story of how they abruptly cut this beautiful ballad between Christian and Anastasia towards the end of the show, because it dragged the tempo down and made them "too human" which is what they were trying to avoid. I'm hoping that if the show ever gets recorded to CD that its a bonus track.

Jenna: I learned a whole lot about how to walk the fine line of parody and comedy. I loved collaborating with Andrew on his music, incorporating the pop sensibility while giving nods to other singers and writers. Tricia really taught me how to inhabit this world she created for me to play in. I love her insight and intelligence.

Cedric: I was reminded through this show that I really LOVE doing musicals.

Krista: Tricia and Andrew bring a high level of craft to a universal subject with a sweet dose of irreverence. Their willingness to not be serious brings a seriousness to the subject. It's so much fun.

Hiroyuki: Musical theater people are nice, cheerful, and filthy.

Jenna Dallacco and Ben McHugh in in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch7. Since this show uses S&M as it's back drop, dealing with issues of power, how do you feel acting in this show has empowered you as both a performer and person?

Ben: This show has allowed me to take risks like I've never done before. I still get nervous about the semi nude aspect and parts of the more provocative nature of the show, but its definitely something I'm proud of. I also haven't tackled comedy of this style before which has been really exciting and different.

Jenna: Separately from the S&M, I feel I have been empowered from taking on such a large role. I also feel empowered in a way by the silly and "ugly" comic things I have to do. Because it's different from the standard MT roles, it takes some guts to do the portrayed sex and be as goofy as I get. And it's empowering.

Cedric: As an actor you have to be completely vulnerable. This show forces you to have to go there and not look back!

Krista: This show has empowered me in its mandate for truthfulness combined with the necessity for bold choices. Yes, that's always the case in acting, but this show seems to accentuate that necessity. Enjoying myself is key! As in my personal life :)

Krista DeMille, Jenna Dallacco, Cedric Leiba, Jr. in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch8. What experiences have you had with S&M, if any? If you have tried S&M, what are your favorite activities?

Ben: I was tied up once - didn't like it. Ha!

Cedric: Never tried S&M.

Krista: S&M....I used to be a personal trainer and was once approached by someone to be their Dom. I entertained the idea and interviewed with them because I do have a latent knack for bossiness. I didn't take that particular position, but I definitely like to play with sharing power in the beaudoir.

Cedric Leiba, Jr., Jenna Dallacco, Ben McHugh in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch9. What's the most unusual place you've ever had sex?

Ben: Back of a car while a taxi pulled up behind me, which then took something like 5 minutes to drop the passenger off. We basically stayed there pretending nothing was going on!

Cedric: I'm still a virgin.

Krista: I can't fess up to the most unusual place, I might get in trouble.

10. What is it like to reveal yourselves so vulnerably with this show?

Ben: It's a very liberating show. A great non-stop ride of silliness which is what I really enjoy performing. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up as I have to wake at 5:30am every morning to work out before my daughter gets up. Vanity is a bitch!

Cedric: Freeing.

Krista: Revealing one's vulnerability is always elating and transformational; I feel grateful for the opportunity.

Tricia BroukTHE CREATIVES:

1. Who or what inspired you to write this show?

Tricia Brouk (Writer/Director/Choreographer):  Someone told me I'd be great at directing a parody about this material. I waited for a writer to come on board. I'm very impatient, so I wrote it myself. Then I asked Andrew, who I'd worked with before, if he'd be interested in arranging music for it. He said yes, but asked if he could try writing a song for it first. When he sent me the opening song, it blew me away. "Ordinary Girl" is fantastic and two weeks later, he had the entire show written. He and I work extremely fast.

Andrew David Sotomayor (Composer/Lyricist/Musical Director):  Tricia had actually asked me to arrange music for the script originally written around pop songs. I thought the script was hilarious and asked if she's give me a shot at creating original music and lyrics for it. I wrote "Ordinary Girl," and played it for her. She graciously invited me to complete the score.

Andrew David Sotomayor2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to?

Tricia: Tina Fey, Tim Curry, Helen Mirren, Jimmy Fallon.

Andrew: In no particular order: Stephen Oremus, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, and Stephen Flaherty. I'm continuously inspired by their respective contributions to musical theatre, the fact that they're all named Stephen is an amazing coincidence.

3. What has been the best part working with this group?

Tricia: The best part has been seeing their work ethic and trust in the material. We had very little time to rehearse, so they were thrown in and they all had to bring it. I loved seeing each and everyone of them step into the role fully. Bold choices turn me on. Even if they are not the right choices, they are still appreciated.

Andrew: Beyond their ridiculous talent, the best part of working with this group is the respect they have for their craft and for the material. They worked so hard and took the rehearsal process so seriously, and thusly took being bold and sexy and outrageous with the utmost level of intensity. It was inspiring to see them build these larger than life and zany characters and then unleash them in front of an audience. It was honestly thrilling.

4. What makes Sophie's the perfect place for this run of the show?

Tricia: Sophie's is a sexy space that allows the audience to see our show up close and personal.

Andrew: Sophie's is perfect to house the show because it has a great balance of distance and intimacy. The performances are far enough away that you can watch the whole show as an observer, but close enough that the fun is always in your face no matter where you're sitting.

Jenna Dallacco and Ben McHugh in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch5. Since this show uses S&M as it's back drop, dealing with issues of power, how do you feel writing/directing/choreographing this show has empowered you as both a performer and person?

Tricia: When I read the book, I was very offended, as a woman. Why would a young girl with a bright future allow a rich, powerful man to smack her around in the bedroom? Why is this book so wildly popular? I wanted to parody the book and also honor E.L. James, but it was extremely important to me that I show the power of "Anastasia" in the end. She does come to her senses and realize that she has to say no. She loves him, but wants more. She finally says no more. Well until the next book, but our parody only deals with book one.

Andrew: Working on this show has definitely given me permission as an artist to be aware of my limits and not be afraid to articulate what I'm comfortable with. Conversely, it has made me realize that power is relative and being in control and relinquishing control can both be equally creatively satisfying in completely different ways. Also, I'm not so shy about writing nasty words in lyrics anymore.

Ben McHugh, Jenna Dallacco, Cedric Leiba, Jr. in "50 Shades of F****d Up" Photo Credit: Victor Tortch6. What experiences have you had with S&M, if any? If you have tried S&M, what are your favorite activities?

Tricia: I love the idea of a ball gag, but I'm claustrophobic.

Andrew: I've never tried S&M, but since we're being honest about it, I can see why people find tying someone up hot.

7. What's the most unusual place you've ever had sex?

Tricia: Wouldn't you want to know!

Andrew: The projection room above the auditorium. Wait...that wasn't me...that was "Regina George" in Mean Girls.

8. What is it like to reveal yourselves so vulnerably with this show?

Tricia: Writing dirty sophomoric humor came very naturally to me. Writing about sex was not a big deal. Choreographing the sex was very important to me. I wanted to go up to the line, but never cross it. There's no nudity or graphic anything. The sex is acrobatic and hilarious. In, my humble twelve year old boy humor, opinion.

Andrew: It's equal parts terrifying and liberating. Hearing the audience react makes me feel proud of what we accomplished, but at the same time I'm so hyper aware of how naughty we are and sometimes I think about what my Mom would say. But who am I trying to kid, she'd probably love it.

BIOS:

Ben McHughMore on Ben:

Ben has appeared in the National Tours of MAMMA MIA!(Sam/Bill cover),HAIRSPRAY (Corny). New York theatre credits include TOKIO CONFIDENTIAL (Ralph), THE SECRET GARDEN (Dr. Neville Archer), TITANIC (Swing), BROADWAY VARIETEASE and JEKYLL & HYDE (J&H cover). International credits include THE PRODUCERS (Lead Tenor), GREASE (Vince), PIRATES OF PENZANCE and SHOUT! THE LEGEND OF THE WILD ONE. Ben has been a regular guest entertainer with Princess Cruises & P&O Cruises Australia and was seen by over eighty million viewers when he sang the New Zealand National Anthem at Sydney Olympic Park for the 2005 Rugby Union Bledisloe Cup. www.benmchugh.com

Jenna DallaccoMore on Jenna:

Jenna is beyond thrilled to be a part of this unauthorized original musical! Select NYC credits: AMERICA'S SWEETHEART (Musicals Tonight!), MARRY HARRY (NYMF '13), CRUEL SHOES (NYMF '12), QUEEN ESTHER (title role, Kaufman Center). Industry readings and workshops: WHISKEYLAND!, THE LAST DAYS OF GOTHAM, and SINGLE GIRL SITCOM. Regional: OLIVER!(Westchester Broadway Theatre), Heidi in [title of show] (Sandbox Theatre), and the regional premiere of MARRY HARRY (American Theatre Group). Cabaret: BROADWAY BALLYHOO (Feinstein's at the Regency), TOO LEGIT TO QUIT(Laurie Beechman Theatre), BROADWAY BY THE YEAR (Town Hall), and BROADWAY TODAY! (Kirkland Performing Arts Center). Jenna holds a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from NYU Steinhardt and is a proud member of Actor's Equity.

Krista DeMilleMore on Krista:

Graduated from the Tom Todoroff Conservatory and is thrilled to join the cast of 50 SHADES OF F****D UP! She’s had the pleasure of working with Tricia and Andrew in EROTIC BROADWAY/VINTAGE VARIETY, as well as assisting Tricia on EVE'S TURN. Recent theater credits include ROMANCE by Neil LaBute and her own original play H2O MANIFESTO for which she is a six-time grant recipient. Krista has enjoyed working with Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Dapolito, Ralph Lemon, Eun Me Ahn, Shadow Box Players, Nicholas Leichter, San Gorgonio Ballet, NJ Ballet, and many more, touring nationally and internationally. She is a professional Class V whitewater river guide and is in preproduction for a feature film slated to shoot on the Colorado River with Gothic Manor Productions.

Cedric Leiba, Jr.More on Cedric:

Cedric attended Stetson University receiving a B.M. in Vocal Performance. Beginning his professional career performing in reputable regional theaters, he then pursued a M.M. in Musical Theater from The Boston Conservatory. Upon graduating, Cedric toured nationally with MISS SAIGON (Ensemble), RENT (Angel) and GO DIEGO GO LIVE! (Diego). He then relocated to NYC and made his debut leading the cast of The Public Theatre's world premiere hip-hop musical, KINGDOM (Juan). He later reprised that role at The Old Globe Theatre. Other NYC Theatre credits include: YELLOW BRICK ROAD(Mountain Lion) - LUCILLE LORTEL, THE HAPPY ENBALMER (Tenzing) - NYMF, CARIDAD (Vittorio Vidal, 2013 HOLA award Outstanding Performance by a Featured Male Actor and an Audelco Nomination)-New Haarlem Arts Theatre and NEON BABY (Juanito Xtravaganza) - Pregones Theatre. Film credits include: MILLIE AND THE LORDS, ELLIOT LOVES and LAST NIGHT AT ANGELO'S.

Hiroyuki MatsuuraMore on Hiroyuki:

Originally from Tokyo. Matsu started playing music in his infancy and concentrated on the drums and percussion in high school. While majoring in accounting in collage, he began working as a musician. After performing with some of the best musicians in Japan, he relocated to New York City. He enrolled the jazz performance study at City College of New York and started working professionally. Matsu has worked with the finest musicians in NYC and beyond, including Grammy, Tony, Obie winners/nominees, such as Hector "Maximo" Rodriguez (Spanish Harlem Orchestra), Liz Swados. He has shared the stage with the Roots, and Corey Glover (Living Colour). His recorded performances has been featured in a major film, the Oranges and Sony's "R&B Christmas Hits" in 2013 which also features R&B legends such as Destiny's Child and Aretha Franklin. Performing more than 260 shows per year, he has played music at: Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Blue Note New York, Beacon Theater, the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a freelance musician, he plays various styles of music and keeps pushing musical and cultural boundaries. www.matsusound.com

Tricia BroukMore on Tricia:

Tricia's 50 SHADES OF F****D UP, A MUSICAL PARODY, has also been adapted for the screen. She choreographs BLACK BOX for ABC, starring Kelly Reilly, directed by Simon Curtis. She was recently described as "slick and earnest" in the New Yorker in regard to her newest musical, COMMITTED that had a sold out run at The West End Theater in NYC. Tricia choreographed John Turturro's feature film ROMANCE AND CIGARETTES where she received a Golden Thumb award from Roger Ebert. She wrote, directed, choreographed and dances in ROLLING IN THE RING OF FIRE, a short film. Her choreography can also be seen in Dennis Leary's RESCUE ME starring Steve Pasquale and in Lasse Hallstrom's THE HOAX, starring Richard Gere. Her choreography is also featured in Capitol One Commercials and on the Travel Channel. Her work has been recently seen at Joe's Pub, BC Beat and Stage 72 in New York City, where she directs and choreographs BROADWAY VARIETEASE.

She choreographed the Off-Broadway ZOMBIES: A MUSICAL as well as directed/choreographed I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE! BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL and POPESICAL!, which played the Lyric Theater in LA. She directed/choreographed EROTIC BROADWAY;VINTAGE VARIETY and FRANKIE AND DEBBIE LIVE AT THE MARTINI LOUNGE, and the Off Broadway TOKIO CONFIDENTIAL at Atlantic Stage 2.

Andrew David SotomayorMore on Andrew:

Previous credits include music directing CUTMAN: A BOXING MUSICAL, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, BROADWAY VARIETEASE, COUNTING SQUARES' WOYZECK, FRANKIE AND DEBBIE: LIVE AT THE MARTINI LOUNGE, I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, BINGO: THE WINNING MUSICAL, THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, the Honeck & Moss Productions of SOCIAL INTERCOURSE, FROM BOOK TO BROADWAY, SING ME A STORY, and the 2012 and 2013 Duplex Gala. As a composer he has provided music and lyrics for COMMITTED, his latest collaboration with Tricia Brouk, as well as scores for BENT, and the short films CUBA 1961: A LOVE STORY and TIMELESS. He is the recipient of a 2014 MAC Award for his original song "The Right Time."

Sunday
Jun012014

Call Answered: Polly McKie Interview

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: Kevin O'BrienI was first introduced to Polly McKie when I attended Sophie's Open Mic Spotlight Series in 2013 because my friends Ethan Paulini and Christopher Sidoli were being featured. It was in that moment, I fell in love with Polly's humor, charm, and talent! As a result of that evening, I got to do a limited run live interview show as part Sophie's Spotlight series. From my first show, Polly (and everyone at Sophie's) embraced me with open arms. I was made to feel at ease right away and that led to 8 weeks of more joy than I could have ever asked for. Like Polly mentions below, Mondays became my favorite night of the week! So, now, I am beyond excited to have been able to sit down with the talent that is Polly McKie and get inside her heart, soul, and mind!

For more on Polly be sure to visit http://www.pollymckie.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and YouTube!

Polly McKie and Kathryn Kates (from "Orange is the New Black) in Theater for the New City's production of "Dollface"1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh, it's hard to pinpoint exactly who or what.  I'm the youngest of five children so was always looking for attention! I was brought up with parents (both teachers) who love music and the theatre and I was taken to shows from as early as I can remember. The first big professional London production we saw was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was 7. I was always in every school production, starting with "Mary" in the Nativity when I was 5 and ending with the role that made me realize this was what I wanted to do as an adult, in my last year of school: "Meg Brockie" in Brigadoon. In between I worked with some wonderful professionals and it's only now, as an adult, that I realize what an honor it was to sing and act alongside Bill McCue (A famous Scottish talent) and go on tour to Orkney with a new musical called The Two Fiddlers by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

I'll never forget a particular trip to London when I was about 13 or 14. My dad had booked tickets for Follies and he told me what it was about and I thought it sounded boring. I went and it changed my life! I still get goosebumps when I think about it. Eartha Kitt sang "I'm Still Here" and I clapped so hard I thought I would burst. I bought the CD and became obsessed with Sondheim and wanted to sing all his songs. I still want to. And I often do.

Polly McKie in "Beauty and The Beast"2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Oh, so many! I want to work with actors who have passion and I always love working with experienced people I can learn from.

I love Meryl Streep (of course), Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. What links these women for me is how they come across as genuine (off camera and on). I can imagine sharing a joke with them. All three have a reputation for being fun on set. When Judi Dench and Maggie Smith work together they have a reputation for getting fits of the giggles. They also exude humility in spite of their phenomenal success. I firmly believe that's why their work is so consistently good. You see so many actors who become stars let it go to their head and they stop being relatable and that comes across in their acting. I wouldn't say no to a love scene with Colin Firth, George Clooney or my new obsession, Bryan Cranston.

Above all, famous or not, I want to work with people who take it seriously but are willing to have fun. People who are modest and care about the craft more than they care about the fame.

Polly McKie in City Hall Bermuda's production of "Cabaret"Polly McKie in "After The Circuit" at The Connelly Theatre in NYC3. You have performed in numerous stage productions both stateside and internationally. What do you like most about performing around the world? What similarities and differences do you notice between audiences and the theatre scenes in general as you travel? I love travel and seeing different cultures. Performing in such a variety of spaces with such culturally different audiences is fascinating. I recently went to see a friend in a Scottish play Off-Broadway at 59E59. Apparently the stage manager noted that evening that there must be a Scot in the audience because of things getting laughs that had not with all American audiences. Sometimes humor travels, but some jokes are very local too.

The thing about theatre, wherever you are in the world, is that people who love theatre LOVE it. And no matter how many movies and new technology we have, nothing beats live theatre. That is universal.

One very big difference I have noticed is that in the U.S. audiences will clap if a star name comes on stage and are often very quick to give a standing ovation. That does not often happen in the U.K.

Polly McKie in Lola's music video "Hate U 2"4. In addition to theatre, you have worked in film/television. What do you like about working in each medium? At first I thought I would not enjoy working in film and TV but I have really grown to love it. That said, I am grateful that my background and training is in the theatre. I do not think anything else matches the discipline we receive when learning Shakespeare or doing 8 shows a week. Most of the film actors I like and admire have theatrical backgrounds. And, of course, the medium is different, but I use the same basic principles in my acting. It all boils down to being believable and relatable. We can analyze acting forever (and we do!) but what matters is portraying something real and making people feel something. It's about being a human being and sharing that, no matter the medium.

Polly McKie as the voice of Disney's audio recording "Brave"5. You are the voice of Disney's audiobook Brave. What was it like when you found out you got the job and what is like knowing anytime someone listens to that book, they will be hearing your voice? Getting that job was a thrill. There are so many Irish and English people in New York and most people cannot place my Scottish dialect. So when this came up and they advertised that they wanted a real Scot to be the voice, I knew I had to try. On the day of the audition I was sick but, of course, I went. The waiting room was full of lots of Scottish people. It was a very strange experience. So often, I go in using my American accent for auditions but for this I could be 100% me. Ill as I was, I went in and did my best. I had no real voiceover experience but I had always been told I had a great voice and I know how to tell a story. I have 6 nephews and 4 nieces and I love reading to children. They are the best and most honest audience of all. I went into the sound booth for the audition with one page of copy and I imagined I was reading to one of my younger nieces. The casting director said "Great, now can you imagine you're reading to an older child?" I switched to an older nephew in my mind. I was in and out of the room in those 2 takes and then I put it out of my mind. My agent called me to tell me I had booked the gig and within a week I was in a recording booth with Disney execs in New York and taking direction from the head of Disney character voices online from L.A. I LOVED every minute of the experience. I think the children in my life who hear it are not overly impressed. It's just Aunt Polly reading a story. And that's what it should be.

Polly McKie hosting Sophie's Spotlight Series in NYC, Photo Credit: Dan Yaeger6. In addition to all of the work discussed above, you are also the host of Sophie's weekly Open Mic Spotlight Series in NYC. What do you enjoy most about this? What is it like to watch what could be tomorrow's musical theatre stars perform? I love Sophie's! Monday has become my favorite day of the week. I love hosting. I hear myself and think I am turning into my mother. I insult people and crack jokes. My style is very much like my mother. And, although the humor is biting, the audience knows that it is supportive. We have been labeled the most supportive Open Mic in NYC. I have been to open mics as a performer and I think that is the key. I understand the nerves and excitement that the singers have. I want to make them feel supported and important. Even if you are one singer out of 30, those 3 or 4 minutes that you have are like a Broadway debut for some of these young (or older) artists. There is a comedian who came and sat at the back for the first few weeks and just watched. Then one week he got up to sing and he said he felt safe and described me as being "A cross between a comedienne and a social worker." That is the biggest compliment. That we create a place that feels safe and fun for people to perform.

Polly McKie teaching The Actors Friend, Photo Credit: Vanessa Spica7. You have also started your own coaching classes and workshops for actors. What made you want to teach others? What have you learned from your students? I am from a family of teachers. And I have been a teacher for years. An actress and a teacher. Both are in my blood. My mother probably should have gone into acting and I think she would have but her mother died when she was 17 so she stayed with her father and went to teacher training college. Just as well she did or I might not exist! The two are so closely linked. Some of the greatest teachers are performers. They have to entertain and educate. And I think actors owe it to other actors to pass on what they know. I have had the chance to work with some wonderful teachers and I want to share what I know (even if it is how to learn from my mistakes!) Students always teach us as much as we teach them. There is that wonderful and famous lyric in The King and I

It's a very ancient saying,

But a true and honest thought,

That if you become a teacher, 

By your pupils you'll be taught.

I am far more likely to quote Sondheim but, in this case, this applies.

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: John Knox8. How do you feel living in New York City fosters your acting more as opposed to living somewhere else? I adore New York! It is the center of everything for me. I love London but I instantly felt at home in New York on my first visit. I knew there was a special connection. I love what the city has to offer  - everything! (well, apart from a good fish supper). I still pinch myself when I walk home past Grand Central and the Chrysler Building. I have lived here for almost six years and it still thrills me. I am surrounded by actors and singers. I am immersed in that life and I love it. I can spend what is a pretty average day going to an audition, walking past a celebrity on 14th street, going to see a friend in a play Off-Broadway or on Broadway, and sing at Sophie's. Of course, there are many days of just buying groceries and doing laundry but the first example is just as regular and that's a thrill. It feeds my soul!

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Be yourself and trust your gut.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Ah, Adam, I know you ask this question and I always wondered what I would answer. I think I do not want a super power. I want to be human.

Polly McKie, Photo Credit: Lauren SowaMore on Polly:

Polly was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest of five children. Her father submitted the birth notice "Suddenly as the result of an accident...." The newspaper refused to print it, so here it is for all to read now. A sense of humor is a prerequisite for being part of the McKie family. A family who is passionate about the Arts. Thanks to her parents (both teachers), she was lucky enough to be a regular visitor to the theatre: everything from local pantomimes to Shakespeare, Greek tragedy (her father is a classicist) to West End musicals (her mother writes and directs musicals for young children).

After graduating with an M.A. in Theatre and Philosophy, Polly continued her studies and earned her postgraduate certificate in drama education, deciding to take the sensible career path and work as a teacher. The desire to perform never left, though, and she performed in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd at The Theatre Royal in Glasgow, understudying "Mrs. Lovett" (still a dream role today).

In 2004 she moved to Bermuda where she was in several shows and was lucky enough to work with Martin Lowe (Tony award for Once) and Brian Kite (La Mirada, L.A.) in Cabaret. Her time working in The Beauty Queen of Leenane helped her come to the decision to move to New York and pursue her acting career full-time. At the end of the 2 week run, the rest of the cast was so happy that it was over. Polly wanted it to run forever.

Now based in New York, as an actress, she regularly employs her "American" voice, but she is proud to be the voice of the digital book of Disney's ​Brave.

Friday
May092014

Call Answered: Facetime interview with the cast of Thank You For Being A Friend: The Golden Girls Musical

Cast of "Thank You For Being A Friend: The Golden Girls Musical"Call Me Adam went on location to The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC to do a mood lighting interview with "Dorthea" and "Sophie" from the Off-Broadway musical comedy Thank You For Being A Friend: The Golden Girls Musical, which plays at The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street) through May 30. Click here for tickets!

Thank You For Being A Friend tells the story of four women over 60 ("Blanchette," the varicose-veined vixen; "Dorthea," the brainy ball-buster; "Roz," the lovable airhead; and "Sophie," the wisecracking spitfire) are spending their golden years together in a wicker-filled bungalow in Miami. But when gay pop superstar Ricky Martin moves next door, his loud outdoor sex parties keep the quartet of cheesecake-loving retirees awake. The solution pits the gays against the girls at the annual Shady Oaks Retirement Home Talent Show: if the women win, then no more sex parties; if the gays garner top prize, the sassy seniors must serve as the party's clean-up crew.

For more on Thank You For Being A Friend: The Golden Girls Musical be sure to visit http://www.goldengirlsthemusical.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Call Me Adam's Interview with "Dorthea" and "Sophie" from Thank You For Being A Friend: The Golden Girls Musical:

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