Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bridging the Gap

"The actor's job is finding work. The fringe benefit of our job is getting to act." ~Samuel L. Jackson

Phew!  It has been months since I've blogged and I have no real excuse except that I had such a darn good time this summer doing "Guys and Dolls"--and since then have been struggling to get to whatever the next thing is.  But first things first.

There is nothing grander than getting to play one of your dream parts.  I've had that opportunity several times in the past few years and no one recognizes my dumb luck more than I do!  This summer, in my debut season at Maine State Music Theatre, I got to play probably the greatest comic lead in musical theatre--Nathan Detroit.

With Charis Leos, "Guys and Dolls"
The production was a joy, a sellout, a rapturous time in a beautiful place with wonderful artists!  My biggest advantage was playing opposite MSMT's resident character actress, the superb Charis Leos as Miss Adelaide. Charis and I are kindred spirits: we share a powerful work ethic, and similar (and shameless) comedic instincts.  Our partnership on stage was sheer alchemy and I loved working with her.  Getting to do Nathan as I always envisioned him--thanks to the freedom offered me by my director, DJ Salisbury--was so rewarding.

James Beaman is a lovable Nathan Detroit - a small time gangster with a big heart, an ironic sense of humor, and a wily knack for survival. Feckless as his character is, Beaman is so engaging that one understands why Adelaide is smitten, and he delivers the vocal goods in his two numbers, especially the duet "Sue Me." ~BroadwayWorld



As is the way of this crazy roller coaster career, I returned in the dead of summer to New York City and the slow time before audition season begins.  And it has been slooooowww.  As of this writing I've been back almost seven weeks and have had maybe a half dozen auditions.  And thus far, the next part has not appeared.  So what do you do?  You seek out other ways to be creative and generate income.

I was fortunate in having an opportunity come to me this summer, when Matthew Corozine Studio, where I have studied acting, invited me to become an Artist in Residence.  MCS has expanded their space on 36th Street into a second studio and I have the opportunity to create workshops and to coach actors in this new space.  This fall I will present my first ever four week immersion course in Shakespeare text work, "Decoding Shakespeare."  This class will give actors the tools for breaking down Shakespeare's language--learning to work with blank verse, rhetorical forms, and archaic words to create powerful, clear acting choices. 

Decoding Shakespeare, Thursdays 6-8PM, October 19 & 26, November 2 & 9
Matthew Corozine Studio, 357 West 36th Street, Suite 203

For information and to enroll, go to the MCS site via this link.

I am excited to launch this new venture!  I have also begun the creative work of directing a debut cabaret act for talented singer and actress, Sierra Rein.  Sierra will premiere this show in early 2018.  Stay tuned for more on this project!

Directing, coaching, teaching... these are all creative areas that I love to work in and I hope to find more and more balance between these and my acting career, to create more flow and continuity for earning and for advancing my voice as an artist.  Next time I blog, I hope to be able share the next great part that awaits me!








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Good Old Reliable

New York is a center, a world's fair, and a den of thieves, and a house of miracles. ~Frank Loesser

I have been blessed in my career, especially the past decade, to be granted opportunities to play dream parts.  An actor's path is an uncertain one, and while we have aspirations, and obsessions with great roles, we sometimes chase them for years and years, hoping that a producer will give us our shot before we 'age out' of some of these gems.  And some of them just pass us by.


Oh, how lucky I have been to get to do John Adams in "1776," and Thénardier in "Les Misérables," Max in "The Sound of Music," Lord Evelyn in "Anything Goes" and Albin in "La Cage Aux Folles." The wish list is not exhausted... and this summer--lo and behold!--I get to do another of those dream parts, Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls!"

No one can doubt that this show is one of the most perfect musical comedies ever written, with a superb book by Abe Burrows based on Damon Runyon stories, and a sparkling score by the great Frank Loesser.  Nathan Detroit and his fiancé of 14 years, Adelaide, are one of the most beloved theatre couples of all time.  


At left, in green, as Rusty, in NSMT's "Guys and Dolls"
I had the opportunity to do an enormously successful "Guys and Dolls" at my hometown theatre, North Shore Music Theatre, about five years ago, playing Rusty Charlie ('But look at Epitaph, he wins it by a half') and understudying the roles of Benny Southstreet and Nathan.  Under the wonderful direction of Mark Martino, with choreography by Michael Lichtefeld, I learned so much about this great piece by rehearsing three roles in it... and I became utterly enamored with the lovable wheeler dealer that is Nathan Detroit.


I've doggedly pursued the part every time I've seen the show being produced and at last, my time has come.  I will be reunited with director DJ Salisbury, with whom I did "Les Mis" in Orlando and "Buddy" at Gateway and Ogunquit, as well as a reading of the new musical, "Bodice."  This will also mark my debut at Maine State Music Theatre and I am truly blessed to work at this esteemed summer theatre in beautiful Maine.


Sam Levene and Vivien Blaine in "Guys and Dolls"
I am finishing up a rollicking run of "Baskerville" at Cape Fear Regional Theatre and have not yet started my work on Nathan, but I do know that I will be drawing as much inspiration as I can from the role's originator, Sam Levene.  So many great actors have done the role, including the great Nathan Lane (who took his stage name from the part!), but being a purist, I am fascinated by going back to the start, and learning all I can from the guy who was in the studio with the creators as they crafted this truly wonderful character.  Levene did a few Hollywood films, and these give a sense of his streetwise, New York persona.  I will be studying these, and all the wonderful recordings of "Guys and Dolls," as I steep myself in this role of roles!  Stay tuned for more when rehearsals begin in Brunswick in June!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Elementary, My Dear Watson

In recent years, playwrights have gotten very clever at adapting classic stories to be performed by a small handful of performers on a malleable set, with a minimum of stagecraft—relying on the imaginations of the actors and their director to create the world of the story and the people that inhabit it.  This is the essence of storytelling, of course, and the essence of theatre that Shakespeare and his troupe embodied on the bare outdoor stages of Elizabethan England:





Pieces like The 39 Steps, Around the World in Eighty Days and the like bring adventure, suspense and tour de force acting challenges to the stage, and Ken Ludwig, one of our masters of comedy, has created his own take on a classic for five actors.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is perhaps the best known of the beloved Sherlock Holmes mysteries—a bizarre tale of ghoulish legends, spooky moors, and a shape shifting villain who keeps the great detective and his sidekick Dr. Watson ever guessing as they seek to solve the case of the spectral hound.  It’s a story that has been adapted dozens of times on film and television with great actors like Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and Peter Cushing playing the eccentric sleuth Holmes.


In Ludwig’s Baskerville, three actors portray all the colorful characters that flit in and out of Holmes’ and Watson’s orbit, from familiar constants like Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade, to the cockney urchins, train conductors, cab drivers, and merchants of Victorian London, to the sinister rogue’s gallery of vivid personalities that inhabit the moors of Devonshire.  As Actor One, I have 14 of these folks to create, using all the vocal and physical tools in my arsenal to transform, sometimes before the audience’s eyes, and what a treat for an actor!

Terry-Thomas
Mr. Peabody
As always, I turn to the great character actors, and even cartoon characters, of the past for inspiration in crafting my roles.  With so many distinct personas to create--sometimes with lightning fast speed--finding a voice and a physical shape, and walk, and gestures is the challenge and stealing from the best is fair game in my book!





Maggie Smith
Gabby Hayes
For example, among my list of characters is the bookish and erudite Dr. Mortimer, who consults Holmes and Watson and introduces the central mystery in Baskerville.  For him, I've used that professorial cartoon dog, Mr. Peabody, as my model.  For Stapleton, the story's villain, who is masquerading as a harmless butterfly collector, I'm doing a straight up impression of the great Terry-Thomas, best known for such films as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."  His exaggerated British accent and gangly 'hail-fellow-well-met' eccentricity work well for Stapleton and I think will get laughs.  Other cameos I have to perform are the randy Lucy, the wife of message office proprietor Mr. Wilson--for her I am stealing the wry affectation of Maggie Smith (particularly in "Evil Under the Sun"); for the old country farmer who offers a warning on the moors, I am borrowing from Old West character man Gabby Hayes, who was famous for whistling out lines like, "There's gold in them thar hills!"



Obviously, Baskerville is a feast of fun for a ham character actor, and I am so enjoying being part of this ensemble and working with our ingenious director, Sam French.  The show explodes onto the splendid Cape Fear Regional Theatre stage April 6 and runs through the 23rd!  Shakespeare's birthday, in fact.  Seems significant, my dear Watson!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Euripidean Winter

Company of Ivanov and director Inés Braun (back row, second from left)
Last fall, I had the good fortune to be recommended to a Master's Thesis Director at Columbia.  I went in and read for Argentinian director Inés Braun for her project of Chekhov's Ivanov.  Not only did Inés and I recognize kindred spirits in each other, but we have become good friends.  That's why it's such a gift for me to be free as the new year begins to work on her final project at Columbia.




"Hercules Fighting Death to Save Alcestis," Frederick Leighton


Euripides' Alkestis was controversial and innovative in its time, neither a tragedy nor a comedy, a story of myth and moral conflict.  Admetos, King of Pherae, after a scuffle with the Gods, is doomed to die unless someone else dies for him.  Denied by his father Pheres, whom I play, and his mother, Admetos' wife, Alkestis, makes the supreme sacrifice. Enter Herakles, who, out of friendship to Admetos, enters the Underworld, defeating Death and bringing back Alkestis from the other side.
In a powerful translation by poet Ann Carson, our production will incorporate live music and

the vision of an international design and producing team.  We run at the Connelly Theatre from February 15-18.  For more information and tickets click here



My training is in classical theatre and its my first love.  Fortunate as I am in a thriving musical theatre career, I still hanker after chances to do Shakespeare and other classic texts.  I am honored to work with Inés again and to be part of her artistic vision. For more on the lady and her work at Columbia, give this profile a read.

Friday, December 2, 2016

2016: High Highs and Low Lows

It's hard to believe, but another year is coming to a close--and it's been a very challenging one for all of us.  The pressures of a tense and acrimonious election, and the seismic effect of its outcome, have left many of us feeling drained, stressed and worried about the future. The highs and lows of life in New York and the vagaries of a career in theatre have made it a bit of a roller coaster ride for me on these fronts as well.  But, at the risk of sounding trite, in my profession, and in life itself, the show must go on.  We have to pull our shoulders back, lift our eyes to the horizon and stride forward with as much positivity and optimism as we can muster.

There's a great lyric in "Me and My Girl" that seems apropos to the current climate:


Julie Kleiner and Matt Loehr in "Me and My Girl"
So if we're alive
If there's a bother you want to survive
Just you take it on the chin
Turn on a little grin
And smile...

Doing this bubble of a show at this time is both a welcome distraction from the cares of the world and a challenge.  Sometimes I've had to ask myself, what's the point of tap dancing and silly songs and this old fashioned little farce?  The answer of course is that people need to laugh right now.  They need to come together and have some fun.  And boy, are we providing that here at Maltz Jupiter Theatre!  "Me and My Girl" has been great fun to do; I have a treat of a cameo role and have been enjoying being a part of this truly elegant production.  Our leading man, Matt Loehr, is so multi-faceted and so skilled that he has really inspired us all.  And his leading lady, Julie Kleiner, brings the heart.  Together, they are unbeatable! The run is selling like hotcakes and it's a great way to launch the holiday season.
 
With Giselle Wolf and Brad Fryman in "A Wilder Christmas"
This time of year, I always take a look back at the year past, and the work I have been lucky enough to do.  2016 began with an extension week of "A Wilder Christmas," the evening of Thornton Wilder one-acts that made a real hit Off Broadway at Peccadillo Theatre Company.  
I then escaped the winter chill and returned to wonderful Riverside Theatre to play Rudolph, the headwaiter, in "Hello, Dolly!".  Brilliant director James Brennan invited me to be in my fourth production with him ("Me and My Girl" makes five!). 


With Karen L. Robu in "Nice Work"
The spring brought a difficult dry spell and I weathered the New York grind as best I could.  The light on the horizon was getting to do Cookie McGee in "Nice Work If You Can Get It" again with director Larry Raben and choreographer Peggy Hickey at Music Theatre Wichita.  I was thrilled to win the 2016 IRNE Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for the show at Ogunquit Playhouse and what a treat to do the part again.  MTW artistic director Wayne Bryan invited me also to play Cogsworth in "Beauty and the Beast" for him, so this was a very exciting debut season for me in Wichita.  For it, I was honored with the Mary Jane Teall Theatre Award as Guest Artist.  Cookie's been a lucky guy for me!

Talbot, "Henry VI, Part 1"
Late summer brought me my shot of Shakespeare for the year, when I joined my friends at Taffety Punk Theatre Company as we exploded onto the Folger Theatre stage in DC with "Henry VI, Part One."  This was my sixth of these all-in-one-day theatrical feats with these amazing artists, and a chance to revisit the role of Talbot, which I played almost a decade ago at Alabama Shakespeare Festival.


With King Arthur and the Knights, "Spamalot" at NSMT







With the coming of autumn I got to watch the leaves change in my hometown of Beverly, MA in my very first "Spamalot" since the first national tour closed in 2009.  Playing Sir Robin again and in the town where it all began for me was a truly special experience.  Great production, great people, and great time with my Mom and other friends and family.

And a few weeks later, it was off to Florida to do 'The Lambeth Walk!'  I have been enormously fortunate this season and am grateful for the collaborations with artists familiar and new, and to do wonderful new parts and revisit some of my favorites.  In the middle of all of this, I wrote the third draft of a full length screenplay, had a reading in New York of it, and thanks to generous contributors to a GoFundMe campaign, was able to send the script to LA for analysis by amazing script readers at Coverage, Ink.  Their encouragement and insight, and a new connection with a literary agent, have spurred me on to the fourth, and I hope, last rewrite, and perhaps my 'baby' will soon go out into the movie world and find a way of coming to fruition as a feature film!  To begin a new creative path as a writer while pursuing my acting work would be a great adventure I would welcome happily.

What 2017 will bring remains to be seen, for us all.  To you and yours, my best wishes for a healthy and happy holiday season and a New Year that will hopefully bring to us all new purpose, greater understanding and good will between all people.  And many new and fulfilling creative journeys!  


Thursday, October 27, 2016

True Brit



Me and My Girl is a show that isn't too familiar to me, but the more I study it the more I become infatuated with it.  A jaunty British musical from the 30s, it's the tale of a self assured Cockney who finds out he's the heir to an earldom- and until he proves himself a gentleman the stuffy aristocrats he's sudden kin to will not legitimize his claim.  The music by Noel Gay is inspired by English Music Hall traditions, the comedy is screwball-meets-Downton Abbey, and I am delighted to be a part of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre production which goes into rehearsal soon. 

It truly is awesome to be making another regional theatre debut this season, but many of the artists I will be working with are colleagues from numerous shows--particularly director James Brennan!  This will be my fifth production with him, and my second this year.  As with Crazy For You, Jimmy starred in Me and My Girl on Broadway, and brings with him all the essence of the original along with his trademark finesse; it's always a pleasure to be directed by someone who knows a show inside and out.

This is also going to be my third British character this season, after Cogsworth in Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Sir Robin in Spamalot. Herbert Parchester is the trusted family solicitor at the country estate of Hareford, and except when he is carried away by song, he is the very model of a buttoned up English gentleman.  When he finds himself taking a shine to Cockney Earl, Bill Snibson, he also starts peppering his speech with Cockney slang and doing the Lambeth Walk.

John Williams
It's such a fun part, and I am looking forward to crafting a lovable character in Parchester.  As always, when tossing ideas around, I am reminded of great character men of the past, and the elegant Hollywood actor John Williams immediately sprang to mind. You'll remember him as the wily detective in "Dial M For Murder" and Audrey Hepburn's chauffeur father in "Sabrina." Understated, bemused, Williams's performances always feel authentic because he was authentic-- always with a smart mustache and a neat suit, he's a great model for my family solicitor.

With Giselle Wolf in "The Long Christmas Dinner"


And in my own efforts toward authenticity in this English of English shows, I went to my dear friend Giselle for some coaching on my accent.  Giselle is a British trained actress who performed on the BBC and in the West End, a Londoner, and who has the highest standards--she lent her very critical ear, and has kept me sounding 'true Brit' as I learn my text! Giselle and I performed A Wilder Christmas together last season and became fast friends.

Me and My Girl opens at Maltz Jupiter Theatre on December 1 and runs until December 18. For more information and tickets visit the website.



Friday, September 2, 2016

You Can Go Home Again

North Shore Music Theatre--Then and Now
In my last post, I shared the 'second chances' the 2016 season has offered me, opportunities to reprise roles I've had success in in the past.  No role has brought me more success than that of Sir Robin in Monty Python's Spamalot.  



Joining the First National tour of this Tony Award-winning Best Musical in the winter of 2007 was an incredible step up for me; over the course of 22 months and 682 performances I got to not only see much of North America, but to perform alongside stars I had considered idols as I was coming up in the profession: Gary Beach, Richard Chamberlain.  Being part of such a successful show in such a key role brought me a confidence I had never known before. The tour also was my first attempt at blogging and social media, and I blogged the entire tour weekly!  To visit my adventures on the road as Sir Robin, click here.  

George Rose in "Peter Pan"
Oddly, since the tour closed in 2009, I have not to date had the chance to play Robin again, despite numerous attempts to reprise the part at regional theaters around the country.  So, to return to the role this fall at North Shore Music Theatre has an even deeper significance for me.  Beverly, Massachusetts is the town where I grew up, and North Shore Music Theatre was always the hometown theatre.  My father, Don Beaman, as a set designer created scenery there when NSMT was part of the old summer stock circuit.  As a kid, already smitten with the stage, I went there on field trips.  The show I most remember seeing was Peter Pan starring Tovah Feldshuh, with George Rose as Captain Hook.  Rose made such an impression on me I can still see him in my mind's eye in his flamboyant costume and high heeled, buckled shoes, preening and rolling his 'r's-- implanting a dream to one day play that foppish villain myself.


As Max, with Jacquelynne Fontaine as Elsa
Ironically, in the six years I lived in Boston after college, working as a professional actor, I was never hired at North Shore.  I always wanted to work there, of course--there's nothing like being the hometown boy!  But it didn't happen until a few years ago.  My first show at NSMT happened in 2012, playing Rusty Charlie in an award winning Guys and Dolls.  The following season, director James Brennan offered me a bucket list role--Max in The Sound of Music, which truly was a remarkable production; the Independent Reviewers of New England nominated me for the IRNE Award for my performance.  

So, to say I am excited to be back in Beverly and performing in the round again at NSMT is an understatement.  My Mom lives a mile and a half from the theatre, and I have nieces and a nephew in town, and lifelong friends all around.  I will get to enjoy the transition into my favorite season in New England, the early autumn.  Nothing like sitting down to a steaming bowl of real deal clam chowder, in a cozy sweater, with a view of the water!!  If you will be in the North Shore area, come and have a belly laugh with the crazy knights of the roundtable in Monty Python's Spamalot at North Shore Music Theatre, September 27-October 9!