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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Transport Group (5)

Tuesday
Jan032012

LaQuet Sharnell: Lysistrata Jones Interview

I first interviewed LaQuet Sharnell in 2010 while she was dancing up a storm in Broadway's "Memphis." Since that time she has starred in regional productions of "The Wiz" and "Bring It On," starred in the Transport Group's Off-Broadway production of "Lysistrata Jones" as "Myrrhine," and performed in "Bobby Cronin and Friends" at Don't Tell Mama as well as Neal B's "Broadway Belts" on New Year's Eve.

Currently LaQuet is reprising her role of "Myrrhine" in the Broadway transfer of "Lysistrata Jones" at the Walter Kerr Theatre in NYC (219 West 48th Street). Click here for tickets and here for my review of "Lysistrata Jones."

For more on LaQuet be sure to visit http://laquetsharnell.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. What attracted you to "Lysistrata Jones"? I think what was most interesting about the show was my role. HA! When I auditioned for the show I was curious about how this character, "Myrrhine," could go from a Stepford wife in training to a "ghetto" girl by the 2nd act. So I was anxious to fall into this character and make some fun acting choices, and also see how I could make that transition happen so that the audience would feel depth and buy her transformation.

2. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing "Lysistrata Jones"? A smile! Our show doesn't take itself seriously...AT ALL! We're a fun and loving High School Musical for grown ups.

3. What do you identify the most with your character "Myrrhine"? How do you sustain your big, beautiful, and soulfully powerful voice for your solo "Don't Judge a Book By It's Cover"? Her unbelievable fight to not be a stereotype. I was always the black girl in the suburbs so I grew up being called an Oreo by my Caucasian friends but really they just wanted me to act "ghetto." I am grateful to Douglas Carter Beane for writing a character with no pretense....well at least in my case. :)

Thank you for calling my voice big and beautiful. I maintain and sustain by staying in vocal lessons with the AMAZING Mary Walkley, @floridasings on twitter, and lots of rest. When your a belter you have to learn the functions of your voice and make sure it is strong. What I do in the show is what I can healthily do 8 times a week. But as I continue to work on myself as a performer I am positive I'll grow my chops as a singer for future shows. I'm obsessed with improvement and staying true to what is on the pages all the while finding the fun in it to perform. If I do these things then I'll be doing my job of performing honestly for each and every audience.

4. What has it been like to be part of a show that started Off-Broadway and now is on Broadway? Its been a HUGE learning experience. I've been working in the city for 7 years. Which isn't a long time but isn't a short time either. I pride myself on listening, watching, and always taking mental notes on each show I do. With this I have learned how preparation is key. With out it you're nothing. We all know getting a show to Broadway is no easy task. Our creative team made sure to get the best of the best for this production and I'm so grateful to be in the middle of a project that started in a small venue and made it to the big stage, and I love that I was able to see this and learn from it.

5. What is your favorite part of the preview/rehearsal period in a show? My favorite part of previews/rehearsal is being done with it. I never have enjoyed rehearsals but what I am learning as I get older, perhaps even wiser, is that you have to have a moment to truly work out kinks. Previews/rehearsal is perfect for that! With out this process you could go onstage and look crazy. Sometimes previews and rehearsals can be intimating, but "Lysistrata Jones" was able to keep a productive schedule while still allowing for the creative spirit to thrive.

6. Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? I do most of my warming up and practicing at home. I get really self-conscious when I know people are around. I know that my girlfriend and I have reached a new level because I can practice around her and not warm up in the bathroom with the door closed :) (omg I just blushed thinking about her!)

7. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned that confidence, focus, preparation, love, and dedication is everything. Being a former competitive cheerleader, I learned how to use all those tools on a daily basis. We were getting ourselves ready for huge competitions. Now being a performer, I basically look at being onstage every night as a National Championships. Using the audience as my "judging table" I want that table to look at my performance and not only enjoy themselves but "score me highly." I want to win. Performing has given me drive like nothing else could.

8. You also have your own theatre company, Step Theater Company. What made you want to start your own theater company? What have you gotten out of this endeavor? I wanted to have a place to allow new and upcoming performers, directors, composers, playwrights, and talent to have their new and original works heard. I began the journey with Bobby Cronin, David Alpert, Andrew Turtletaub, and Trey Tatum. I am most confident to say that we all learned how difficult it can be to do what we do but also how rewarding it can be. For me, as an aspiring producer, I learned that there is a formula to making the creation process an easy one for the creative team and the performer. Every time I do a show now I can see and hear, whether I'm in the conversation or not, the wheels turning on how to make the show a better one.

9. You have performed in several of Bobby Cronin's concerts, especially with Jenn Furman. What attracts you to Bobby's music and what is it about his music that speaks to you so much? You and Jenn have some fierce chemistry on stage. What is the best part about performing with Jenn? "You Deserve Better" is such a fun song. Jenn Furman is such a talented woman and every time we sing it I remember how fun it can be to share in each others talent. She feels like family and I think that's why we perform well together.

Bobby Cronin's music.....I feel like I can write a book on why he is awesome and why I am so attracted to his music. To be a composer and lyricist you have to be unafraid to share in some truly happy moments as well as dark moments. Bobby writes from his heart and I perform from my heart. This combination makes for an unstoppable team. I always say if you trust what's on the page you can't help but get the laugh, make the audience cry, or make them just stop. I so trust what he puts on the page and I believe it so much that it's effortless to perform. The man is a force to be reckoned with. I'm so honored to say I know him and to have performed his work. I know this quote wasn't about Bobby but when I hear it I think of him, "The very place where safety lies for us is the thing that seems most dangerous. And that is having the courage to let people really into what life has done to us." Barbara Cook.

Bobby just gets it and I thank him for it.

10. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Know your worth and value!" Kecia Lewis Evans told me this and at the time I didn't understand nor appreciate it. Now I'm hearing her words in my ears louder than ever. I'm so thankful for most all my veteran performers words of wisdom. They all have taught me and continue to teach me so much. But Kecia especially is like a performing Mother to me.

BONUS QUESTION:

11. Favorite way to spend your day off? My favorite way to have a day off is to watch TV all day while eating the most amount of junk food I can put into my body. Then when my lady gets off work I continue this process with her and it just makes for the perfect day off! :-) I'm actually looking forward to a day off now. 

Monday
Nov142011

Julia Murney

Julia Murney is an award winning performer who has crossed over the genres of theatre, television, and music. Julia was last seen on Broadway in "Wicked" as "Elphaba" after playing the role on the national tour where she won an Acclaim Award. Her other theatrical credits include "Lennon," Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party" (Drama Desk Nomination), "The Vagina Monologues," "A Class Act," "Saved," "Crimes of the Heart," "First Lady Suite," and "Time and Again" (Lucille Lortel Nomination). Julia has performed at regional theatre across the country: Signature, Williamstown, Reprise! LA, Sacramento Music Circus, NCT, Lyric, Rubicon and Goodspeed and has performed in concerts at Joe’s Pub, Feinstein’s, The Kennedy Center, Caramoor, Town Hall, and Birdland as well as with the Philly, Cincinnati, and Boston Pops.

On television, Julia has been featured on such hits shows as "30 Rock," "Sex and the City," "Brothers and Sisters," "Ed," "NYPD Blue," and all three "Law & Orders." Musically, Julia can be heard on the original cast recordings of Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party," "A Class Act," and the Grammy nominated Actor's Fund Benefit of "Hair." Julia also released her debut solo recording "I'm Not Waiting."

Now Julia can be seen in the Transport Group's production of Michael John LaChuisa's "Queen of the Mist" (click here for my review) starring Two-Time Tony Award Nominee Mary Testa along with Andrew Samonsky, Theresa McCarthy, Tally Sessions, Stanley Bahorek, and DC Anderson. "Queen of the Mist" plays at The Gym at Judson in NYC through November 20 (243 Thompson Street at Washington Square Park South)! Click here for tickets!

 For more on Julia be sure to visit http://www.juliamurney.com!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I started singing in my junior high choir, so props to miss Morris at i.s. 44, and then my parents forced me to go to summer camp and it happened to be stagedoor manor, where I did my first show, so props to all the theatre mad campers who showed me the twisted path to musicals.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Don't make me choose! Stephen Sondheim. Graciella Daniele. Norbert Leo Butz. Cast members from Sesame Street. Christopher Ashley. I could go on, but those are truly the first that sprang to mind.

3. What attracted you to "Queen of the Mist" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? What do you like about performing with the Transport Group? First and foremost, to get to do a new musical with Michael John LaChiusa-that's a massive draw. I hope the audiences are moved to think about life and the living of it-which sounds really heavy but not as much when you see the show.

Jack Cummings (the director) is incredibly giving and kind, and he assembles amazing groups to work with.

4. What do you love most about performing with this cast and what do you love most about your song "Break Down The Door"? It is a joy to get to be a ballast for Mary Testa, who is working her patootie off in this show. Break Down The Door is just fun and silly and I get to sing hooty, which is, well, a hoot.

5. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show? Where is your favorite place to rehearse/practice on your own? When you're dealing with a new piece, I love the part where you watch it take its final shape...the shaping and molding is very exciting. 

I pretty much practice at home, but if I can be alone on a body of water, I'll practice there.

6. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned how to find energy when I am positive that I have none. 

7. You recorded "West" for Scott Alan's "Keys" album. How did you and Scott find each other? What do you llike about Scott and his music? I think I first got to know him when I recorded demos for his musical 'Piece.' 

He seems to have his finger on the pulse of what a lot of young people want to hear-I have lost count of how many young people have told me how much they love his stuff. I sound very old when I keep saying young people.

8. What was the best part about playing "Elphaba" in "Wicked" (both on tour and Broaway)? What attracted you to that role? I suppose the best part was getting to be a part of the massive movement that has become that show. What a joy to be in a hit that constantly moves people.

I was scared to pieces of doing that role, which in a twisted masochistic way is totally attractive. And I got to be a green rock star.

9. What did it mean to you to release your debut solo recording "I'm Not Waiting"? How did you come up with the title and song selection? What do you get from performing your own music that you don't get from performing in a show? I loved making the album, which would have been impossible without the guidance of Kurt Deutsch, Joel Moss and Andrew Lippa. We did it very quickly and still i would not have done anything different.

The title came from a song Lippa wrote for me on the occasion of my first solo show-there was no question it would go on the album, and the title just seemed right.

It's simultaneously freeing and scary to just be yourself without a character to hide behind...mostly i love getting to jam with a band and sing all kinds of stuff that I wouldn't have a chance to otherwise.

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

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Don't make me choose...Stephen Sondheim, Graciella Daniele, Norbert Leo Butz...

BONUS QUESTIONS:

12. Favorite way to stay in shape? Pilates, walking, spinning. Favorite way to spend your day off? In sweats, with my dog, at the lake.

13. Favorite skin care product? Estee Lauder. Favorite kind of shoes? Whatever they're rocking at DSW.

14. Favorite website? CNN. Dlisted. Yes, both.

15. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman, with her invisible airplane and her damned tiny little waist.

Sunday
Oct092011

Andrew Samonsky

Photo Credit: Laura Marie DuncanAndrew Samonsky is another rising performer who made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award Winning Revivial of Lincoln Center's "South Pacific" alongside Tony Award Winner Kelli O'Hara! Andrew then went on to star in the out of town try-out of "Little Miss Sunshine" at the La Jolla Playhouse in California and this past summer Andrew starred in world premier musical "Tales of the City" at ACT in San Francisco based upon the books by Armistead Maupin. "Tales of the City" had a book by Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty ("Avenue Q"), direction by Jason Moore ("Avenue Q" and "Shrek the Musical"), and music by the pop stars Jake Shears and John Garden of the Scissor Sisters. Prior to "South Pacific," Andrew was performing around the country in the National Tour of Disney's "On The Record" as well as in regional productions of "Falsettos" (opposite Malcom Gets and Jason Alexander), "White Christmas" (Denver Center), "Shenandoah" with Scott Bakula (Ford's Theater), "tick, tick...BOOM!" (LA Premiere), "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Into The Woods," "Forever Plaid," and "Once Upon A Mattress." Andrew has also appeared on CBS' "The Guiding Light" and has been a guest soloist in concerts around the country, including many of award winning composer's Bobby Cronin!

Andrew can next be seen in the Transport Group's production of "Queen of the Mist," by 5-time Tony Award Nominee Michael John LaChiusa and starring Two-Time Tony Award Nominee Mary Testa. According to press notes, "Queen of the Mist" is based upon the true story of Anna Edson Taylor, who, in 1901 at the age of 63, set out to be the first woman to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel of her own design. Navigating both the treacherous Falls and a fickle public with a ravenous appetite for sensationalism, this unconventional heroine vies for her legacy in a world clamoring with swindling managers, assassins, revolutionaries, moralizing family, anarchists and activists. Convinced that there is greatness in her and determined not to live as ordinary, she sets out to battle her fear and tempt her fate." "Queen of the Mist" will run from October 18-November 20 at The Gym at Judson (243 Thomspon Street at Washington Square Park). Click here for tickets!

For much more on Andrew be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? As a kid, I used to take voice lessons for fun from a friend of the family, Linda Ottsen. I never practiced and, even more, did not like singing in public. I was a pretty shy kid. But after my first year of college, I was still at a loss for what do with my life. Linda wrote me a beautiful letter encouraging me to pursue a singing career and the rest is history. She has been my biggest supporter and I always credit her with my career. Thank you Linda!

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Well, there are a ridiculous amount of talented people I would be honored to work with. I wish I could say Danny Burstein, but we did "South Pacific" together. I am in awe of that man. But, I think the best part about our business is going to a new job, meeting the people you don't know, and discovering all this talent you can't believe you never knew about. However, if Kate Winslet wanted to do a musical with me, I wouldn't say no.

3. What attracted you to "Queen of the Mist" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing it? What attracted me to QUEEN OF THE MIST was the fact that Michael John LaChiusa wrote it. I mean, he wrote the whole thing: the book, the music, and the lyrics. It's remarkable. Even better, I can safely say it's the best piece of musical theater I have ever worked on. It is the story of Anna Edson Taylor, who in 1901 became the first person to go over Niagara Falls and live. Wild, right? But the musical is a powerfully profound story of her decision to risk everything to find her place in the world. I hope everyone has the chance to come see it and be as moved as I was when we workshopped it last year.

4. What is your favorite part of the rehearsal/preview period in a show and where is your favorite place to practice/rehearse on your own? I think that first preview where you get the show in front of a live audience is pretty special. To finally see how an audience reacts to all that rehearsal you've been doing is exciting and terrifying. And then to know that you get to come to come to rehearsal the next day and continue to improve the show and "test" it again. I mean, we do this for the audience. If they don't love it, we haven't done our jobs. But I'm hoping people are really gonna fall in love with QUEEN OF THE MIST. My favorite place to practice is in the bathroom. Always the best acoustics!

5. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Well, as I said earlier, I was a pretty shy kid, and it took theater to crack the shell. Being an actor and an artist is an incredible journey of self exploration and life exploration. It opens you up to the world in every direction. I would hope it's made me very open minded and curious about everything. And working as an actor has made me a very grateful and very humble person, knowing how many other talented people there are on this planet.

6. Favorite way to spend your day off? A trip to the dog park with my Boston Terrier Louie!

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Hitting the weights at the gym. I really need to do more cardio. And stretch!

8. Boxers or Briefs? Briefs, always.

9. Favorite website? newyorktimes.com or espn.com

10. "Glinda" or "Elphaba"? Fiyero? But I like Elphaba's songs best. The end of Act I is one of the most thrilling in musical theater, right?

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Never try to be what you think they want you be. Be yourself. You are always more than enough.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I would dream about my grandfathers. They both died when I was one, and would love to spend some more time with them.

13. What was the best part about being in "South Pacific" and in the out of town try outs of "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Tales of the City"? "South Pacific" was one of those once in a lifetime experiences. The best part about it was simply everything. There wasn't one piece of that production that wasn't exceptional, but the friends I made in that show are most special. "Little Miss Sunshine" was special because it was the first brand spanking new musical I've ever worked on. And to have it be a James Lapine/William Finn musical was pretty insane! "Tales of the City" was an awesome production with a lot of fuel behind it!

14. You have performed in several of Bobby Cronin's concerts over the years, singing with Kate Pazakis on "Come Here Boy." What is the best part about working with Kate and Bobby and what is about Bobby's music that speaks to you? It is always a treat to sing Bobby's music. There are two songs, "Come Here Boy" and "8:01," both which are from the same show, and they are both wonderful songs.  It's his ability to tell the story (literal and emotional) in the song that makes him so good. And Kate is the perfect partner!

Sunday
Mar202011

Bob Stillman

Bob Stillman is a two-time Tony Award Nominee whose talents range from acting to composing to singing. Bob's first nomination came for the Broadway show "Dirty Blonde" where he was nominated for his acting, composing, and onstage piano playing while his second nomination came as one of the songwriters for Broadway's "Urban Cowboy." His other Broadway credits include "Grey Gardens" with two-time Tony Award Winner & fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Christine Ebersole and "Kiss of the Spiderwomen" starring Vanessa Williams. Off-Broadway, Bob has delighted audiences in "The Last Session," "Saturn Returns" at the Public Theatre, and "Hello Again" at Lincoln Center (in which he is currently starring, this time with the Transport Group).

In addition to theater, Bob lit up kids' faces (and their parents') in Nickelodeon's "Allegra's Window" as "Reed." He also released his debut CD "Come Down Angel," which was selected as one of radioio.com Acoustic channel host Zoe Montana's "Essientals." Bob has performed his music at such NYC venues as Joe's Pub, The Cutting Room, Ars Nova, The Zipper Factory, and Elaine's.

Bob can currently be seen in the Transport Group's production of "Hello Again" along with Max Von Essen, Elizabeth Stanley, Alexandra Silber, Alan Campbell, Blake Daniel, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Johnathan Hammond, Rachel Bay Jones, and Robert Lenzi at 52 Mercer Street, 4th Floor in NYC through April 3. For much more on Bob be sure to visit http://www.bobstillman.com.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I guess it was just the experience, as a kid, of feeling people shut up and listen when I sang. You can really feel it, and when you're that age, your antennae are out for signs of where your power lies.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Ooh, one person, huh? Can I cheat here and list a few? There's nobody better than Brian D'Arcy James, so.....but I'd also love to work with Patrick Stewart (the most generous actor I've ever seen) and Jan Maxwell (such warmth and such a sense of humor) and Edie Falco (such ferocious honesty).

3. What attracted you to "Hello Again"? Duh, the sex! No, seriously: I covered three of the roles in the original production, so I'm very familiar with the score. I don't know of anyone, other than Sondheim, who can musicalize a scene the way Michael John can. You know, set up a musical structure that both functions as a song and tracks the emotional reality of what's  happening between the characters from second to second. It's just dazzling. For people who have this peculiar, particular ability to act while singing, it's an absolute feast.

4. What do you get from performing/writing your own music that you don't get from performing in a theatrical show? Hmm, there's a good question. I guess it's the simple statement, "I made this." You don't get that when you're performing somebody else's work. Of course, that cuts both ways: when you're doing your own stuff, there's really no place to hide, whereas in someone else's material you're kind of off the hook, y'know? Some piece of you can always say, "Hey, if you don't like this, don't look at me---I didn't write it!!"

5. What's the best advice you've ever received? "When you must, you better."

6. Favorite place to practice/rehearse on your own? I've recently discovered the joys of practicing the piano on my 88-key weighted-action Casio keyboard, with headphones...It's amazing how much more you get done when you don't have to worry about bothering the neighbors! I played Beethoven in a production of "33 Variations" this summer, and I had to learn the Fugue from the Diabelli Variations. There was no WAY I would have mastered it if I hadn't been able to practice with the headphones on until 2 or 3 in the morning.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Denial.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer-briefs. I'm very indecisive.

9. Favorite website? Well, I have to say I'm a big fan of engrish.com. It's a site that collects photos of hilariously-translated signs from foreign countries. I mean, an entree translated as "Grilled Chicken Ass"....a wall sign translated as "Dying Right Here Is Strictly Prohibited"....what's better than that? But then, recently I've discovered damnyouautocorrect.com, which posts screenshots of text conversations in which the phone's spell-checker has twisted what the person meant to say in the most hilarious ways. You should check it out, it's HOURS of fun.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? WonderMan. He's a superhero who's in touch with his inner superheroine.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I do a lot of digital photography, imaging  and graphic design. The image on my CD cover, for example, is a black-and-white photo I shot using film, then colorized in Photoshop and incorporated into the cover design. I also love to restore old damaged photos, and I've gotten quite good at it. 

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? You know who shows up a lot in my dreams? Joni Mitchell! She's always totally intimidating. Paging Dr. Freud...

Sunday
Mar062011

Elizabeth Stanley

Elizabeth Stanley is an actress on the rise! She was nominated for a Kevin Kline Award for her performance in "Amadeus" at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. On Broadway, Elizabeth has delighted audiences in John Water's "Cry-Baby," the Tony-Award Winning Revival of "Company," and most recently jamming with the boys in smash-hit "Million Dollar Quartet" (along with Tony Award Winner & fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Levi Kreis). Elizabeth has performed regionally across the country at Pioneer Theatre Company, O’Neill Festival, La Jolla Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. She also skated around the world on the first national tour of "Xanadu" (along with fellow "Adaumbelle's Quest" participant Max Von Essen) In addition to theatre, Elizabeth has guest-starred on such hit shows as “Fringe,” and “The Chappelle Show,” as well as “PBS Great Performances” (‘April’ in Company). Now Elizabeth and Max can be seen in the Transport Group's HOT, SEDUCTIVE new show "Hello Again" at 52 Mercer Street through April 3!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? The sense of family and belonging that I felt when I was finally amongst other artists is what drew me in initially. The encouragement of teachers and family is what encouraged me to pursue it for a career.

2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Gosh, that's tricky to just pick ONE! um....Victoria Clark is a mentor of mine, and I would really love to share the stage with her.

3. What attracted you to "Hello Again”? The SCORE of course!!

4. What is the best advice you've ever received? Floss your teeth! Keeps you healthy! :)

5. Favorite place to practice/rehearse on your own? At home or if I'm just studying silently, I enjoy any sunny spot I can find -- love the lawn at Bryant Park.

6. Favorite way to stay in shape? Bikram Yoga--Yes, I like torturing myself in a smelly 100 degree room. Yes, I might be a bit crazy....

7. Favorite way to spend your day off? Hiking somewhere outside the city. I find nature very rejuvenating.

8. Favorite skin care product? Burt's Bees Chapstick. It's like a candycane, a toothbrush, and moisturizer all in one pocket-sized-tube! 

9. Favorite website? dailyom.com

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? WW totes.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? hmmm... I don't think so...

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? One of the guys from “ACE of Cakes...” that way I'd have eye candy, and sugary snacks at the same time. Win.Win.