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Entries in The Golden Girls (9)

Friday
Jul282017

Call Answered: Alaska: "On Golden Girls" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

AlaskaThank you for being a friend! I love The Golden Girls, so anytime someone has a show about them or in praise of them, I'm checking it out. I am thrilled that RuPaul's Drag Race Season 5 favorite, Alaska, & I got to fly to Miami, eat cheesecake, & discuss her upcoming show On Golden Girls, with her sidekick Handsome Jeremy.

On Golden Girls takes you on a musical journey of story and song, diving deep into the lake known as The Golden Girls. Drawing upon their vast knowledge and worship of the Girls of Gold, Alaska and Jeremy will explore the songs featured within the seven seasons of the hit TV classic, while offering their own unique analysis and perspective on all things Golden.

On Golden Girls will play The Laurie Beechman Theatre (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside the basement of the West Bank Cafe) from August 3-13. Click here for tickets!

For more on Alaska visit http://alaskathunderfuck.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

1. The story of your creation goes something like "After your spaceship crashed in the Matanuska Valley, a remote part of south-central Alaska, the U.S. government recovered an emaciated… make that an emancipated alien" which turned out to be you. As your spaceship was going down, what was going through your mind? What was it like when you were rescued? How did surviving the crash change you? The reason the space ship crash landed was because I ran the air conditioner, heater, cappuccino maker, and hair straightener all at once. As I crashed down, I was grateful that I was wearing cute underwear.

2. You are known for being one of the final three contestants on Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race. What is the one lesson you learned from Ru herself that you will carry with you? RuPaul works hard and has a sense of humor.  But she also doesn't take any shit and will throw a fit when it's necessary.

3. This August, you will be returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre with your side kick Handsome Jeremy in your new show On Golden Girls, a musical journey of story and song, diving deep into the lake known as The Golden Girls. Drawing upon your vast knowledge and worship of the Girls of Gold, you and Handsome Jeremy will explore the songs featured within the seven seasons of the hit TV classic, while offering your own unique analysis and perspective on all things Golden. First, what was it about The Golden Girls that made you want to create a show with the sitcom as its backdrop? I'm not a religious person, but if I had to choose a religion, it would be The Golden Girls. I study the scriptures daily, and I can point you to an episode that will shed light upon any problem you may be experiencing in life. Jeremy and I have bonded a lot over the show, and so we found it natural to do a show born out of our obsession.

4. How did you and Handsome Jeremy come to work together? What is the best part about this partnership? We met in Psychology class in my freshman year of college. The best part of our partnership is the friendship I've found in Jeremy. He is the kindest and most honest, open-hearted person I know and we are family.

Alaska5. Which "Golden Girl" are you? I'm tall with a deep voice, so I'm "Dorothy." But I also have flights of self-centered insanity, like "Blanche." So I'm a "Dorothy" with a "Blanche" rising.

6. Were you nervous to create a show centered around one of the most beloved TV shows of all time? What do you think die hard Golden Girls fans will think of the show? I'm certain the die hard Golden Girls fans will love it. It's the fair-weather, casual Golden Girls observers I'm worried about. They may have no idea what the hell we're talking about. I suggest a binge watching session before coming to our show.

7. I have seen several Golden Girls parody shows, but none have explored the musical numbers before. What song was the most was the hardest to fit in? A lot of the times when there are songs on the show, they usually only last for like 20 seconds. So that's challenging -- but we're going to try to do our best to cram as many of them in as we can.

Alaska8. What do you feel is something you know about The Golden Girls that the average super fan would not know? People like to pretend there was a feud or friction between Betty White and Bea Arthur, but that's not really how it was. They all ate lunch together every day. And Estelle Getty would write her lines all over the fake fruit on the table or various props so that she could remember them.

9. If you could have cheesecake with the The Golden Girls, what flavor cheesecake would you have? What problem would you ask them to solve for you? I would have to have some vegan, dairy free chocolate cheesecake with Coconut Bliss ice cream. I would love to hear the girls' perspectives on social media. I'd love to see "Blanche" on Tinder and "Dorothy" on Twitter.

10. If you never made out of the Matanuska Valley and the only form of entertainment you had was to watch five episodes of The Golden Girls on a loop, which five episodes would you want to be on there? "A Little Romance;" "Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself;" "Dorothy's New Friend;" "All Bets Off;" "The Case of the Libertine Belle."

AlaskaMore on Alaska:

After her spaceship crashed in the Matanuska Valley, a remote part of south-central Alaska, the U.S. government recovered an emaciated…make that an emancipated alien, or that’s how the story goes. Alaska went on to become one of the final three contestants on the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race on Logo.  In October 2013, she starred in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at The Woodlawn Theater in San Antonio.

Thursday
May112017

Call Answered: Haley Swindal: "Golden Girl" at Feinstein's/54 Below

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Lance RaeI'm so glad Will Nunziata introduced me to Broadway powerhouse Haley Swindal. Her vocals are unreal and I can already tell she's going to blow the roof off of Feinstein's/54 Below when she returns with her new show Golden Girl.

Golden Girl is a brand-new concert event celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. With influences ranging from Rosemary Clooney to Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Haley puts her own stamp on songs that made these great dames stars. Haley will knock-out-of-the-park standards such as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River," all with fresh arrangements by musical director to the stars Tedd Firth (Michael Feinstein, Ana Gasteyer, Brian Stokes Mitchell). Conceived and directed by Will Nunziata (concert director for Tony Award winner Lillias White), this is an evening that will have you laughing, crying, and tapping your feet all within a matter of minutes, and a true showbiz event where a brand-new star is born.

Golden Girl plays Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) on Tuesday, May 30 at 7pm and Tuesday, June 6 at 9:30pm! Click here for tickets! 

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

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

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki Harkness1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer (other than Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand)? Singing was always in me. From the time I could walk, I was singing down the halls and driving my parents crazy. It was never a choice for me - it was in my blood, which is very funny because no one else in my immediate family is in the arts at all! I used to stand at the top of the stairs in our house and pretend to be "Eva Peron." My brother thought I was nuts (he still does). When I was about eight years old, I remember my mom took me to see a production of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing, and I remember thinking, WOW, I want to do that!

2. This May/June you return to Feinstein's/54 Below with your brand-new show Golden Girl, celebrating the music of an era that her heart and soul were born in – The Golden Age. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Feinstein's/54 Below? I always said I only want to come back with these shows when I have something to add, something to share, a story to tell. The two times I have played here have marked major events in my life: my Broadway debut for the first one, and getting married the second one. Those first shows were similar, but were both kind of about where I came from and what its taught me.

This show is something entirely different. First of all, not only have I done a lot more great roles, I have more importantly lived a lot more of life. I am married to an amazing guy, and I'm a stepmom to two awesome teenagers. I also have a new boss, who is eleven months old, my amazing daughter - Lily George Tantleff.

This show is really a concert meets one-woman show. I do everything from singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" as Judy, Liza, Patti, Billie Burke, and Bernadette Peters to stripping down to the bottom of my soul with some amazing torch songs.

I am thrilled to be back because this is a whole new side of me, a whole new journey, and I hope one that might surprise and excite people.

Director Will Nunziata3. Golden Girl is directed by Will Nunziata. Will, primarily known as a singer with his brother Anthony Nunziata, has been making quite a name for himself as a director over the past several years. What was it about Will's style/vision that made you say, "He is whom I want to direct my show."? Will has been on my radar for a very long time. We first met in Michael Feinstein's apartment about four years ago, where Michael had a bunch of young folks over to talk about the future of the Great American Songbook and how the torch would be passed to our generation.

I followed him as he created amazing shows for Cady Huffman, Lillias White, and other incredible divas. It was Will that came up with the vision for this show. His concepts and his ideas are brilliant. The way he is able to bring out things in me and get me to burst out of my comfort zone is unreal. He gravitates I think towards strong women - women who can't really be put in any particular kind of stereotypical, run of the mill box. He takes their strength and what makes them unique and turns it into something brilliant. His concepts, his vision, and his ability to communicate, nurture, and bring out the best in those he directs is incredible. He is and will continue to be one of the greatest directors of our generation.

Haley Swindal4. What is about this time in music that makes your heart a flutter? I often sit around and wonder, what will our generation be listening to when they are eighty? The generation ahead of us has the Beatles, Carole King, Carly Simon. When we were younger, we had Whitney, Celine. But will this generation be turning on Britney Spears? Eminem? Single Ladies? 

What I love about the Great American Songbook is so many songs are literally transcendent of time. How many of us have been madly in love and connected to the lyrics of "Night and Day," "Whether near to me or far, it's no matter darling where you, are I think of you." How many of us have been heartbroken and can relate to Frank Sinatra alone in a bar at 3AM singing "One for My Baby," "It's quarter to three, There's no one in the place 'cept you and me, So set 'em' up Joe."

I fell in love with my husband when he sang, "I only have eyes for you" badly (but endearingly) in my ear. These songs are masterpieces that capture the complexity of love and what it is to be human. As I grow older, I connect with them even more.

5. According to press notes, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand were some of your influences. What was it about these entertainers that made you go, "Yes! I want to be like them."? Judy Garland always said "Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else." What I think I loved - and continue to love - about these women besides their other-wordly vocals is that they were/are originals. They were unabashedly and unapologetically themselves. Their sound was distinctive, the way they approached their art was distinctive, and what they have given us is something no one else can ever come to close to because it is so uniquely them.

Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole, Cady Huffman, and Bernadette Peters are some of these women on the Broadway stage. 

The women I admire can transform themselves into incredible roles onstage, but, as human beings, they are unapologetically strong, which isn't always easy as a woman in this business. Onstage, they can be heartbreakingly vulnerable. It's an amazing duality, to be strong and vulnerable at the same time, and one that I admire. I think, so much of this business is how we fit. Fit someone else's vision, fit someone else's vocal styles, even fit someone else's costume. These women somehow transcend that. As for me, I guess I've just grown tired of trying to fit into a box. I'm a brassy blonde broad who has packed a lot of life into my first thirty years. That's my truth.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff6. What songs that you are performing do you think will surprise people to hear from you? There's one where I'm lying on a piano....

7. A few songs you will be performing are "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Don’t Rain on My Parade," and "Cry Me A River." Let's play with these song titles. When have you said to yourself, "Come Rain or Come Shine," I'm going to do this? HA! For better or for worse, all the time! "Come Rain or Come Shine," I guess probably in my love life in the past. Wanting so desperately to be loved, perhaps by someone incapable of loving...but trying to convince them.

"Cry Me a River" is realizing I'm going to be okay whether or not this person loves me. That the only person I need to live and be fulfilled is me.

"Don't Rain On My Parade" is a celebration of what it means to spill out everything you have, no matter what the cost might be, because you don't want to spend the rest of your life wondering "what if?" To me, this applies to choosing to creae solo shows, and challenging myself, and also following my heart in other ways.

8. When did you think, oh please, "Don't Rain on My Parade"? HA that was Will. I was thrilled. At first, I thought, really? But, then I realized why not, it's my truth? It's part of a medley, which I think has a really neat arc.

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: The New York Times9. What event has caused you to cry like a river? I think the sadness of that song is realizing that sometimes love is not enough. The tragedy of still being madly in love with someone but the strength to put your well-being first and not allow that person to destroy you. I was there once. It took a long while, but I figured it out, and my life is richer for it. And I can sing one hell of a torch song!

10. Since this show is celebrating The Golden Age, what, age or age bracket has been your "Golden Age" so far? Why has it been so rich? Oh my goodness, NOW! I am just entering my thirties, young enough to still know what's fun, and old enough to know better. Just kidding! Undoubtedly though, meeting and marrying my husband and becoming a mother changed everything for me. I remember leaving my first Broadway performance and crying when I got home because I had been so tunnel-visioned that I had no one to share it with. Any part of my life other than work was completely absent. That changed. My daughter is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me and has put everything else in perspective. If I don't get anything else right in this life, I somehow built a perfect little human, and, to me, that alone is enough! 

11. I know the show's title, "Golden Girl," is for the Golden Age of music, but we are going to take this to the Golden Girls themselves. If you had to describe yourself as one of the Golden Girls who would you be? I'm still obsessed with that show! My best friend and I used to spend all weekend watching Golden Girls marathons (she's "Sophia" re-incarnated!) As for me, I look at the world through "Rose"-colored glasses for sure, but I definitely am flirty and fun like "Blanche."

Haley Swindal, Photo Credit: Takako Suki HarknessMore on Haley:

Haley has appeared on Broadway and on tour with Jekyll and HydeWhite ChristmasJesus Christ Superstar opposite Ted Neeley, and at Lincoln Center in The Secret Garden. She has performed in concert at Carnegie Hall alongside the great standards vocalist Steve Tyrell, acclaimed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, and under the baton of Steven Reineke with the New York Pops. She won a New York Emmy for her appearance on Kids on Deck and recently appeared in the film Walt Before Mickey.

Thursday
Sep222016

Call Answered: Nick Brennan: Thank You For Being A Friend: A Golden Girls Musical Parody

Nick BrennanWith a second Golden Girls show about to start performances, this theatre season only gets better! It was a golden opportunity, with cheesecake in hand, talking to Nick Brennan about his hilarious Off-Broadway show Thank You For Being A Friend: A Golden Girls Musical Parody, which is returning for an amazing 4th engagement!

I saw the last incarnation of this show in 2014 at The Laurie Beechman Theatre and had a terrific time! I'm beyond excited for this show's new run as it also features two of my favorite actors Charles Baron and Joshua Warr. The laughter ensues for the full 90 minutes and I can't wait to see how this new cast interprets our beloved "Girls!"

Thank You For Being A Friend: A Golden Girls Musical Parody is about 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. Singing, dancing and hilarity ensues!

Thank You For Being A Friend: A Golden Girls Musical Parody will play every Sunday at NYC's Cutting Room (44 East 32 Street between Lexington and Park) from September 25-November 20. Click here for tickets!

For more on Thank You For Being A Friend be sure to visit http://thegoldengirlsmusical.com and follow the show on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!

2014 Cast of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre"Blanchette," "Dorthea," and "Sophie" from the 2014 run of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre1. This fall, your show, Thank You For Being A Friend, A Golden Girls Musical Parody, will be returning for it's 4th limited run, but this time playing at The Cutting Room. What are you looking forward to about this run of the show? I'm most excited about some new songs we've written for this run.  I think they are really funny. Plus to see audience members play "THE ULTIMATE GOLDEN GIRLS TRIVIA CHALLENGE", this fun game show we've created before the show starts.

2. What initially made you want to write a Golden Girls parody as a musical? When did you go, "This would make for a great musical?" Did the idea come while you were watching the show? If so, during which episode did it come? We wrote a 10 min skit for a benefit that was taking place at a bar in midtown and the audience ate up every second of it. For the next two weeks I'd run into people who saw it and they all wanted to know if it was a show....six months later it was.

3. How do you feel the show has grown with each new run? It's just gotten funnier. The audience is your true teacher. They've helped us realized where the major laughs are and where they aren't.

2014 Cast of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre"Roz," "Dorthea," and "Blanchette" from the 2014 run of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre4. I know two of the actors in this run, Charles Baron and Joshua Warr. Both really great actors and guys! But, what do you like most about this cast? Why did you cast each guy in their respective roles of "Dorthea," "Blanchette," "Roz," and "Sophie"? Well Charles just had "Dorothea's" voice down from day one. I knew the audience would love that in him. Josh has a naturally flirtatious vibe that I thought would be great for "Blanchette," and Michael Valvo who plays "Sophie" is just a great performer....All 5 feet of him.

5. I saw the 2014 run of Thank You For Being A Friend at The Laurie Beechman Theatre. What a fun time I had! Now, I loved it because it was like reliving so many of my favorite "Golden Girl" moments. But, for someone who has never seen or heard about The Golden Girls (is that even possible??), why should they come see this show? Not having any previous knowledge, how do you think this show will still appeal to them? You know, I think it could. I think it's fun and colorful and is a bit of 1980's blast from the past. The last run at the Beechman we had all kinds of audience members who had fun but had no prior knowledge of The Golden Girls.

"Dorthea" from the 2014 run of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre"Roz" from the 2014 run of "Thank For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre6. If you had to choose five episodes of The Golden Girls to watch on a repetitive loop, which episodes would you choose? Well, I always gravitate to the ones where the girls are competing with each other or where it's focusing on them interacting with each other. The Competition, when all the girls compete in a bowling tournament...The Actor, all three girls are dating a TV actor who comes to Miami to star in a production of Picnic...The Artist, when "Blanche," "Rose," and "Dorothy" are posing for a famous sculptor...Ladies of the Night, when the girls get thrown in jail after being mistaken for prostitutes...and Grab that Dough, when the girls travel to Los Angeles to appear on a game show.

7. What's your favorite cheesecake? D) all of the above.

8. In 2009, I had the honor of getting to interview Rue McClanahan. If you could have interviewed Rue, what would you have wanted to ask her? I would have loved to ask her to tell stories about working on Maude or Mamma's Family. I love behind the curtain/backstage stories like that.

"Blanchette" from the 2014 run of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre"Sophie" from the 2014 run of "Thank You For Being A Friend" at The Laurie Beechman Theatre9. There was an ad that came through my Facebook feed to order a mug with the following: "Live like Rose, Dress like Blanche, Think like Dorothy, and Speak like Sophia." If you had to live by these sayings, how would you "Live like Rose, Dress like Blanche, Think like Dorothy, and Speak like Sophia"? Staying positive is how I would live like "Rose," wearing fabulous nightgowns every night is how I would dress like "Blanche," always learning new things is how I would think like "Dorothy," and telling the hard truth is how I'd talk like "Sophia."

10. Which Golden Girl are you most like? I think like most people I'm a combination of all of them which is what makes the show so appealing.

Wednesday
Sep072016

Call Answered: Jonathan Rockefeller: That Golden Girls Show!

Jonathan RockefellerJonathan Rockefeller and "The Girls", Photo Credit: Alexie HayI am one of the biggest Golden Girls fans out there. I've seen every episode at least a dozen times, can recite lines left and right, and even incorporated my own little tribute to "The Girls" in my stand-up comedy routine that I used to do. And getting to interview original Golden Girl Rue McClanahan in 2009, was beyond a dream come true (Thank You Michael J. La Rue). Needless to say, when I heard that a Golden Girls parody was coming Off-Broadway, starring puppets no less, it was a no brainer that I HAD to talk to the show's creator! As luck would have it, I was granted an interview with Jonathan Rockefeller, creator of That Golden Girls Show! - Puppet Parody which will be playing DR2 Theatre this fall.

Set in that sassy Miami house in 1985, That Golden Girls Show! is a brand new show that parodies classic Golden Girls moments - with puppets! Get set for an evening of cheesecake, laughter, jazzercise, shoulder pads, sex, and the elegant art of the quick-witted put down. That Golden Girls Show! will play DR2 Theatre (103 East 15th Street) in NYC's Union Square from September 19-December 11. Click here for tickets!

For more on That Golden Girls Show! be sure to visit http://www.thatgoldengirlsshow.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram!

1. This fall, your new show, That Golden Girls Show! - Puppet Parody will be making it's NYC debut! This show pays homage/makes fun of classic Golden Girls moments with puppets. What was the moment you were watching The Golden Girls and went "This would make a great parody show and you know what would make it even more funny, is having the characters as puppets"? I originally wanted to do a web series with puppets which was set in a retirement home with a few scripts I had been playing around with for a while. I have always been a fan of The Golden Girls, and eventually I ended up ditching the web series and focusing on a stand-up routine with the Golden Girls characters delivering a lot of the punchlines. In its short run it was a hit! So then it became an interesting challenge to construct a full scale show that played with the conventions, recurring lines, recurring themes and storylines (and there are many) within The Golden Girls itself, while being reverent to the original material. The original writing was so incredibly clever and witty and the performances were faultless, so the bar is set high to play with characters that everyone knows and loves…and try to make it more funny than it already is.

2. It's been almost 10 years since I've taken John Tartaglia's puppetry class and in that class I learned a lot about puppets/puppetry. Do you feel the characters will be able to get away with more being puppets as opposed to if this show was just actors? Oh absolutely. The great thing about using puppets in this show is they can have costume changes in seconds – how could you not include at least four costume changes for "Blanche Deveraux" for example. "Dorothy’s" sarcastic "death stare" is even more vicously hilarious coming from the eyes of a puppet and we’re able to stretch the physicality of the puppets more than you could with just an actor. In short, everyone is much more forgiving of a puppet than they are of a person.

The Golden GirlsRose Nylund3. There are so many classic moments from The Golden Girls. A few episodes I consider classics are The Murder Mystery Weekend, when Blanche's brother visits/gets married, Henny Penny, Dorothy's lesbian friend falls for Rose, when Blanche goes back to visit Grammy's Plantation, Blanche's niece comes for a visit, and Rose dreams the girls get their heads frozen, plus so many more! How did you narrow down the classic moments to just 90 minutes? A real challenge indeed! Don’t forget other infamous sequences like their stint in jail before meeting Burt Renyolds or "Dorothy’s" birthday at Mr Ha-Ha’s. It’s so endearing that fans of the series can recite their favorite episodes – but a challenge I had to face as well. Rather than opting for a singular episode I approached the script as more of a Golden Girls mix-tape. There are a lot of familiar scenarios which continue to recur in the series, and in this context they have been re-appropriated into a singular overarching story with a story thread for each character. However – don’t be surprised if nun costumes, Henny Penny and mother-daughter talent shows don’t pop up in some online videos soon.

4. What will die hard fans of the The Golden Girls love about That Golden Girls Show!? An earlier Golden Girls tribute show I worked on is now playing in Canada and the consistent feedback was that the real essence and integrity of the show was maintained – while it was being parodied. Die-hard fans are going to love a lot of the innuendoes and references to episodes they know and love, while the less familiar will be introduced to four incredible characters that have enchanted audiences for more than 30 years.

Dorothy ZbornakSophia Petrillo5. For someone who has never seen or heard about The Golden Girls (is that even possible??), why should they come see this show? Not having any previous knowledge, how do you think this show will still appeal to them? This is a show that appeals to everyone with a sense of humor. What was clever about the original show was its voice and how it tackled topical and interesting subjects – with a healthy dose of laughter and cheesecake. I think it would be impossible to watch this show and not go home and watch re-runs.

6. If you had to choose five episodes of The Golden Girls to watch on a repetitive loop, which episodes would you choose? To choose from so many! I always enjoyed when "Rose" and "Blanche" hit the boards – whether practicing tap dancing in the house "The Operation" or when all of them don those great costumes in "Henny Penny – Straight No Chaser."

The sequence I think I love the most is in "A Piece of Cake" when "Dorothy" celebrates her birthday at Mr Ha-Ha’s – and she loathes every minute of it up until a kid grants her birthday wish with a pie in Mr Ha-Ha’s face. I adore the "Dorothy" and "Blanche's" rivalry that arises in "Journey to the Centre of Attention" when they both vie for attention at the Rusty Anchor.

"Old Friends" is a beautifully written episode that demonstrates just how much heart the television series had. "Sophia" befriends someone at the pier who has Alzheimer’s. I think it tackles such heavy issues in such a caring and delicate manner.

Blanche DevereauxRue McClanahan7. In 2009, I had the honor of getting to interview Rue McClanahan. If you could have interviewed Rue, what would you have wanted to ask her? I’d have loved to talk to Rue about all the many roles she had in her life. I’d be interested about how much of herself went into each role, and how much did she create herself as a performer. Rue of course kept all her Golden Girls wardrobe – and I’d love to find out if she possibly found an occasion to wear so many shoulder pads!

8. There was an ad that came through my Facebook feed to order a mug with the following: "Live like Rose, Dress like Blanche, Think like Dorothy, and Speak like Sophia." If you had to live by these sayings, how would you "Live like Rose, Dress like Blanche, Think like Dorothy, and Speak like Sophia"? I think I very much follow this mantra, Live like "Rose" intuitively. As a creator, a writer, an artist; I’m eternally optimistic and in a way live in my own little creative world. Dressing like "Blanche" is about knowing your best assets and putting your best foot forward. Thinking like "Dorothy" is about being analytical and sincere with a level-head. I would however like to have a few more zingers like "Sophia," but I’d like to think I speak my mind.

9. If you had to live your life according to The Golden Girls, what are five lessons you learned from watching the show?

  1.  You’re a very lucky person if you can count your best friends on one hand.
  2. Cheesecake is one of the greatest desserts (my Grandmother also taught me that one).
  3. It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
  4. What you think are flaws can be your greatest strengths.
  5. The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.

10. Which Golden Girl are you most like? It’s a coin toss – I don’t know if I should be telling someone to "go to sleep and pray for brains" or praying for myself.

Jonathan Rockefeller and "The Girls", Photo Credit: Alexie HayMore on Jonathan:

Jonathan Rockefeller is the co-founder of Rockefeller Productions, a company that combines film, theatre, animation, puppetry and television. He also devotes time to philanthropic work furthering childhood literacy and appreciation of the arts. Last year, Jonathan was selected as a "Men of Influence" by Men’s Style Australia for his work in children’s theater and literacy.

The U.S. production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, based on the much beloved children’s book by Eric Carle, garnered a Drama Desk and an Off-Broadway Alliance nomination and still plays to sold-out houses in NYC. The original production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show debuted to a sell-out season at the Sydney Festival January 2015, and will continue to tour Australia and New Zealand through 2017. Beyond the stage, Jonathan and Eric Carle Studios teamed up to produce and direct an animated version of 10 Little Rubber Ducks based on Mr. Carle’s book of the same name and narrated by Bernadette Peters, that debuted at the UK’s Bath Film Festival in December.

Prior to his work with Eric Carle, Jonathan co-wrote and produced the puppet-parody Thank You for Being a Friend which has been licensed for further productions worldwide. Other projects include the documentary Road to Pride Rock: The Making of the Lion King and the screenplay Coming of Age developed with Screen New South Wales and the Dungog Film Festival’s In the Raw program.

Accolades include a Cannes Lion nomination, multiple Clio and Media Awards, High Commendations at Australian Cinematographer’s Guild [ASC], Best Television Current Affairs at the National Media Awards for an unvarnished documentary about life on the street in Boy from the Blue Room, and "Best Unproduced Screenplay" at the Aus MTV Awards for Satisfaction, a satirical tale of becoming an assistant on the "world’s most expensive perfume commercial."

By complete coincidence, Jonathan was a protégé of Baz Luhrmann, with a career that began during film school. At age 17, he convinced his formidable mentor to take him on as an apprentice by literally sitting in a gutter outside Baz’s house with an ambitious cardboard sign declaring "Bazmark or Bust." Jonathan worked with Baz on the US production of La Boheme and the Chanel No 5 commercial featuring Nicole Kidman. A book inspired by his time working under Baz Luhmrann is currently being competed.

Sunday
Jan102016

Call Answered: Jason B. Schmidt in Bea Arthur: Astral Dame at The Laurie Beechman Theatre

I am a huge Golden Girls fan. So when I was approached to interview Jason B. Schmidt about his one-man show, errr, one-woman show, Bea Arthur: Astral Dame, I was thankful for being a friend!

In Bea Arthur: Astral Dame, Jason B. Schmidt stars as the Tony and Emmy Award-winning star of Maude, Mame and The Golden Girls performing some of Bea's signature numbers along with a few surprises as only Bea can deliver, including a special duet of "Bosom Buddies" with award winning comedian Marti Gould Cummngs. Bea Arthur: Astral Dame will be returning to The Laurie Beechman Theatre on Saturday, January 30 at 7pm (407 West 42nd Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue, inside West Bank Cafe). Click here for tickets!

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

Jason B. Schmidt as "Bea Arthur"1. You are returning to The Laurie Beechman Theatre with Bea Arthur: Astral Dame in which you perform some of Bea's signature numbers. When did you become a fan of Bea Arthur? I've had a general respect for her for as long as I can remember - watching The Golden Girls as a kid/teen/adult. My true fanatic status came in the early 2000's when a friend gave me the recording of Bea's one woman show On Broadway, Just Between Friends. I fell madly in love with her story-telling...and her.

Bea Arthur as "Dorothy Zbornak" on "The Golden Girls"2. What was the moment that made you go, "I want to create a show paying homage to Bea Arthur?" In 2010, I was doing Thank You for Being a Friend: The Musical with SpinCycle, playing the Dorothy-type role. We were asked to do a promo event at Therapy, and the host, Lavinia Draper (aka Susan Campanaro...who played our Sophia-type) asked us to bring a solo number. I knew I HAD to do something from Bea's Broadway show. So I found a track for "It Never Was You" (one of my absolute favorites). Now, I can't say that exactly killed the Therapy crowd, but it certainly sparked the idea in my mind, "What if Bea got to come back one more time?" On that show (Thank You For Being A Friend) I also met my dear friend Amy Anders Corcoran who was our choreographer. And I knew I wanted to work with her again. We've stayed close over the years since, and she really pushed me to write this show, then agreed to direct, and brought on our first big producer, Robert W. Schneider.

Bea Arthur "On Broadway: Just Between Friends"3. Bea had quite an extensive career between Broadway and Television. How did you decide which numbers you wanted to include in this show? Like all good things in my life, it came from a list. I wrote out the must-haves, the probably's and then the hmmm-mayybes. I culled most of it from her Broadway show, but filled in from the internet, interviews, etc.

4. Bea Arthur is very well known and revered, especially in the gay community. When you decided to create a show about Bea and play her, did you have any hesitancy in doing so? If so, how did you overcome the hesitancy? There certainly was a voice saying, "well, they'll expect to see A, Bea, and C," but I allowed that to guide me rather than hold me back. I set out to write a show about Bea that I would want to see, and Amy and Rob guided and pushed me when I felt doubt. Thank goodness.

Jason B. Schmidt as "Bea Arthur" in "Bea Arthur: Astral Dame"5. Where do you draw line between playing Bea Arthur as everyone knows her and making Bea your own? I feel that my portrayal of the Bea-type in Thank You For Being A Friend was much MUCH more of a caricature because that's what the show called for - high camp - which I LOVE. I knew, though, that that was not what I would be creating for this show. I needed to dial that back, because I wanted this to be a loving homage, rather than an over-the-top send up. So I did my best to add mannerisms, vocal affectations and speech patterns that I learned from watching her, and then allowed those to meld with my own performance style. Amy was genius in helping me combine the two. And Rob pushed back when I got to be too Jason and not enough Bea. Honestly, that is still a challenge for me, and something I constantly work on, in preparing for the show. It's tinkering with a recipe until it tastes just right. Lamb, anyone? ;)

6. At this show, will be special guest Marti Gould Cummings. What is it about Marti's performance style that made you want him to be your special guest? I feel that a larger-than-life, big broad Broadway-type is the perfect accompaniment to Bea's grounded, dead pan style. All my guests have embodied this, and been friends of mine. I really trust and respect Marti and I know (hope) her fans will also enjoy what I have created, and likewise, I know Bea's fans, and my fans, either already love Marti, or will, once they see her in my show. We've known each other for years and years, so it was an easy call to make. Hey, if I can't get Liza, Marti's next on the list!

7. If Bea herself came to see this show, what do you think her reaction would be? A raised eyebrow and a knowing glance that would be emblazoned onto my corneas and heart for the rest of my life. I think she'd chortle...or cut me.

Bea Arthur as "Maude"8. If "Maude" and "Dorothy" were to compete in Celebrity DeathMatch, who do you think would win and why? I think "Maude" is more cutthroat and would most likely wind up the victor, unless "Dorothy" could suffocate her with a tricked out cowl.

9. What is something about Bea Arthur that we might not know? The jury is still out for me, but I saw an interview where she flat out denies being in the Marines, but meanwhile, the Internet vehemently disagrees. There's pictures and everything. So, there's still a bit of mystery there. To her, at least in that interview, she went directly to dramatic school in NYC, and did not join the Marines. The pictures though. I want to believe her. I'm so torn.

Also, she had two adopted sons with Gene Saks. I love that they adopted.

Jason B. Schmidt in "Bea Arthur: Astral Dame"10. What are your top: Golden Girl episodes? Maude episodes? and favorite Bea Arthur Broadway shows?

Golden Girls: "Chicken Little," "The Rusty Anchor," "Chronic Fatigue."

Maude: Her 1st appearance on All in the Family. OMG. I want to LIVE in that episode! But I don't want to get the flu. "The Slumlords!" "Maude" and "Walter" are accused of being slumlords. Hilarious. And still relevant. "The Abortion." I know, I know, but the way she and "Walter" LOVE each other in that episode...I die. Falling asleep in church. "I'M UP I'M UP!"

Bea on Broadway: Just Between Friends, Mame, A Mother's Kisses (I should've put this under little known facts: this was to be her big LEAD starring vehicle by the guys who wrote Pajama Game, but it closed in Baltimore… but if you want to hear her big number from it, come to my show!!)

BONUS QUESTION:

11. If you could star in a re-launch of The Golden Girls as "Dorothy Zbornak," how would you stylize "Dorothy" today...from personality to clothing? Interesting. Well, I certainly agree that she invented Resting Bitch Face, so we could start there. I think she'd have to take current isms and twist them, like "I'm just sayin." "Well, I'm just sayin...you're an imbecile." or "YOLO." "YOLO? How about HELL NO. Get out." Though I'd have to make nice with the next Norman Lear to get new jokes written. This speaks to personality though. I just read an article about basically not giving a f*ck but still being polite. That's what I would re-invigorate into "Dorothy," including her style (which would still have to be Fabulous Diva Librarian Glitter Marm-realness). I think there was always something beautiful about her no-nonsense attitude, and I think that's something today's audiences still connect with: HELL NO, but thank you very much for offering...GET OUT <eyebrow raise>.

Jason B. SchmidtMore Jason B:

Jason B. Schmidt is a NYC based actor, Bea Arthur aficionado, voice over talent and half of the musical comedy sensation The Parodivas! In addition to his extensive Off-Broadway, Off-Off and Regional credits, Jason B. has also traveled the US starring in numerous productions. Previously Jason B. starred in Dog Opera by Constance Congdon which he also co-produced at The Little Times Square theatre opposite his performing and producing partner Darlene Rae Heller. He is proud to have been one of the dynamic ensemble cast of Momentum Rep’s It’s Only Life, the theatrical revue of John Bucchino’s best musical numbers, featuring Mr. Bucchino at the piano. Other favorite credits include the German transvestite assassin "Friedrich" in Hit Girls: An Ass Kicking Musical in Heels as well as "Dorothea" in The Golden Girls Parody, Thank You For Being a Friend: The Musical at The Kraine Theater. He also flaunted his "perfect comic timing" Off-Broadway in The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever! Jason’s voice over talents can be heard in The Red Dead Redemption by Rockstar Games. His comedy music duo The Parodivas have headlined Off-Broadway, in comedy clubs and all over NYC including The Triad, 54 Below, Gotham, The Chain and more! Jason B. has a BFA in Acting from Adelphi University.