Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Letter 2011

It is that time of year again, my annual holiday letter. I hope that as you read this you are making plans not only for a warm and festive season but also for what I hope will be a successful and joyous 2012.

2011 was, for me, a year of several firsts. The project that launched my year was the Off-Broadway premiere of "The Road To Qatar!", an original musical by David Krane and Stephen Cole. This was my first time originating a role in a new show and I got to play one of the leads! We presented the show at the York Theatre Company and it was, in every way, a love-in for the company, creative team and crew from the very first moment. We just had a blast putting this kooky show together and we all loved working with each other. Unfortunately the press blasted the show pretty badly and it did not go on to have the life it deserved. But we did get to record an original cast album on Jay Records. This was another first for me, and the recording session yielded what I think is an album that's really fun and captures the spirit of the piece. I don't need to tell you how thrilling it was to see my photo in the booklet and to see my name on all those tracks! Click here to visit and read the great customer reviews for the CD.

Following "The Road To Qatar!" I did a showcase with Musicals Tonight of an obscure English musical from 1916--"Theodore and Co." by Ivor Novello and Jerome Kern, playing the randy aristocrat Lord Wye. Great cast of people and much fun. And the best thing that came of it was a friendship with my co-star Amy Arbizzani, a terrific performer and even more terrific person.

Summer brought the opportunity to play another randy aristocrat, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, in the classic "Anything Goes," which I performed at Merry Go Round Playhouse in upstate New York. Evelyn is one of the great character parts of the musical theatre repertoire and I was lucky to get to play it opposite the super talented Julie Cardia as Reno Sweeney. It was also my first production at Merry Go Round and I look forward to returning there in the future.

In August I did my third Bootleg Shakespeare production with Taffety Punk Theatre Co. at the Folger Theatre in DC, playing Hubert in "King John." These one night only collaborations are such a thrill to do--the acting equivalent of bungee jumping--and I loved playing again with Marcus Kyd, Lise Bruneau and their stellar company.

As summer wrapped up, I went to St. Louis to play the conniving Henri Labisse in "Victor/Victoria" at Stages St. Louis.
This was my first show at the theatre in 14 years and it was great to reconnect with the folks there and do a show that is rarely revived. It was a scrumptious art deco production and I had fun twirling my mustache and speaking in a French accent as thick as gruyere cheese.

I don't think any actor I know could complain about a year in which he played five very different and delightful roles. As often happens in this business, I returned to New York in October and faced a very uncertain future. Finances are tight, auditions few, and it can be difficult to keep a happy face. But I continue to put myself out there. I am trying to initiate some potentially exciting original projects, I am studying new skills, among them doing voice work for animation. I taught my Audition Intensive workshop for the second year at Goodspeed Musicals and am seeking more opportunities to coach and teach. And of course, the dream of finally working on Broadway continues to simmer just below the surface. For most of us, it is a matter of hanging in there, isn't it? And so, as 2012 quickly approaches, I am writing, shopping a project around that I plan to direct, and keeping my hat in the ring whenever and wherever I can. I hope that you will hang in there too and continue to follow your dreams, whatever they may be.

Best wishes to you and yours for a warm and beautiful holiday season and all the best for the new year to come.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"The Road To Qatar!" Original Cast CD Released!

I am delighted to report that the Original Cast CD of the York Theatre Company's production of "The Road To Qatar!" has officially hit the stores. The album was produced by John Yap and Jay Records and is currently available for purchase and download. I am so thrilled to have made my first album--a real milestone for a music theatre actor-- and couldn't be prouder of the entire "Qatar" family, and especially our writers David Krane and Stephen Cole, who oversaw the recording and production of their 'baby' with a meticulous and loving eye. The recording truly captures the zany spirit of the show and I think you will agree that it brings back the spirit of classic musical comedy!

I encourage you to visit Amazon. com to read the rave customer reviews for the CD, which have been amazingly gratifying to enjoy.
While the album is available for download on itunes, I recommend buying the CD, which contains Stephen Cole's wonderful liner notes, original production photos, and the libretto for the show. It is my hope that this recording will be an important step toward the continuing life of "The Road To Qatar!"

Having completed the very pleasurable run of "Victor/Victoria" at Stages St. Louis, I am back 'at liberty' in New York, making the rounds and pursuing auditions. I am delighted to announce that I will be returning to Goodspeed Musicals next month to teach the second Goodspeed Musical Theatre Audition Intensive, along with my teaching partner Molly Tynes, and special guests, choreographer Kelli Barclay, head of the University of Michigan theatre program Brent Wagner, and Goodspeed musical director Michael O'Flaherty. Last year's Intensive was enormously successful and our students have gone on to gain admission to some of the finest conservatory training programs here and abroad. For more information on the program, visit Goodspeed's website.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Victor/Victoria Is a Hit!



So, it's official. Audience and critics alike are enjoying our production of "Victor/Victoria" at Stages St. Louis:

It's all wrapped up like a tune-filled souffle that's light and delicious and completely engaging and enjoyable. ~Broadway World

We have settled in for the few remaining weeks of our run here, and everyone at Stages is delighted with the way our production is bringing their 25th Anniversary Season to a glittering close. I am having fun with my extended cameo as Henri Labisse, and am scanning the horizon for the next performing opportunity. St. Louis is graced by several top notch professional theatres. Along with Stages, there is the Rep Theatre of St. Louis, which produces a full season of nationally recognized plays and musicals, including new works which have gone on to Broadway; and every summer, Forest Park comes to life with the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, performing on a massive stage outdoors in a beautiful natural bowl for thousands of spectators. I had the great pleasure of playing Casca in "Julius Caesar" in 2006 at the festival and am looking forward to auditioning for their 2012 offering, "Othello." These theatres have been very welcoming and I have had the pleasure of meeting members of their artistic staffs and sharing my work with them. I look forward to returning to St. Louis very soon!

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Victor/Victoria" Production Week!


We are launching into tech week here in St. Louis as we prepare to open Stages' ambitious and glitzy production of "Victor/Victoria," the jewel in the crown of their 25th Anniversary season. I must say, the rehearsal process has been a great pleasure; director Michael Hamilton's meticulous approach has yielded a show that already has polish and great style. Adding the costumes, lights, scenery and other elements will take us all to that next level. They have pulled out all the stops at the theatre to make this a lavish and opulent production, stretching the limits of the intimate space to the maximum to create the art deco world of 1934 Paris. For a sneak peek at rehearsals and a look at some of the designs, visit the Stages St. Louis website and click on the video in the lower right corner of the main page.

I am greatly enjoying my role as the conniving weasel, Henri Labisse. Inspired by the comic masterpieces of creator Blake Edwards, I am doing more than a little homage to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, with a French accent thicker than gruyere cheese! Labisse gets his comeuppance for trying to foil the plans of Victoria and her fairy godfather Toddy by getting completely beat up during the course of the show. By the time the finale rolls around, I have two bandaged hands, a broken nose, a limp, and a head bandage. Being the one genuinely sour note in a show full of sweetness and glamour is a real treat and I'm having lots of fun. In case you don't remember Labisse from the film of "Victor/Victoria," here is a link to the scene in which Julie Andrews auditions for him at Chez Lui. Labisse is played here by veteran character actor and Blake Edwards favorite Peter Arne.

Reviews and production photos to come! "Victor/Victoria," which is already selling like mad, runs through October 9.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Le Jazz Hot

There are some movies that become not just favorites, but ingrained parts of my life. "Victor/Victoria" is one such. When the film was released I was a freshman in college, and I saw it for the first time with my Mom. We fell in love instantly with the movie and when the credits rolled at the end we just stayed in our seats and watched it through again. It's a perfect thing, a gleaming, multi-faceted gem. Meticulously and joyously directed by Blake Edwards, it features Julie Andrews, James Garner, Leslie Ann Warren and Robert Preston in some of the best performances of their careers. Of course, you know the story: a down-on-her-luck soprano in the Paris winter of 1934 is adopted by a struggling cabaret singer who has the brilliant idea of passing her off as Europe's greatest female impersonator. Against a background of luscious art deco sets and costumes, this romantic comedy sizzles and tickles... a truly satisfying experience. By now I know every line and every frame of the film. Michael Hamilton, the director of our production of the stage musical here at Stages St. Louis, also has a special connection to the movie, which resonated for him as much as it did for me back in 1982, with its message of acceptance and freedom of sexuality and gender. Michael intends to not only put on a glitzy and entertaining show; he also intends to make sure that the heart of the story is there too.

Blake Edwards always intended to make a stage musical of his film but it took many years before it made its Broadway debut in the mid-90s. By then, unfortunately, Julie Andrews' formidable singing powers were beginning to wane, and it was this show that caused the vocal damage which resulted in the botched throat surgery which robbed Ms. Andrews, and all of us, of her glorious voice. The show was plagued with problems... Henry Mancini passed away before completing the score, which was brought to the finish line by Frank Wildhorn, with somewhat mixed results... the press was rather hard on the show, and the Tony Awards gave it only one nod--a sentimental nomination for Julie Andrews, which she, in solidarity with a production she felt deserved better recognition, declined. Nevertheless, I was there, with my Mom, at opening night, and I can tell you that the charm of the story, the wit of Blake Edwards' direction, and the grace and style of Ms. Andrews all made for a lovely evening in the theatre. I am delighted to be a part of a revival of the show which promises to be gorgeously mounted and full of heart and high comedy.

My history with the score of "Victor/Victoria" goes even further. Back in 2002, toward the end of my career as a cabaret performer, I created a revue of the songs of Leslie Bricusse which borrowed its title from the central ballad of "Victor/Victoria," "Crazy World."
Awarded the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs MAC Award for Revue of the Year, the show, which starred lovely singer Goldie Dver and me, featured songs from all of Bricusse's scores, and we had great fun plucking some of the best songs from "Victor/Victoria" out of context and using them in innovative ways; songs like "Gay Paree," "Paris By Night," "Paris Makes Me Horny," and "Living in the Shadows." It's been really gratifying to express my love of this material, and being a part of this production of the musical is a rare and wonderful opportunity. We began rehearsals this week and I can tell you we have an energetic and gifted cast, and the design plans for the production are ambitious and beautiful. It's gonna be good!

Friday, July 29, 2011






Greetings friends! I hope you are enjoying your summer. Summertime can either be a busy time or a big slump for an actor, depending on what kind of summer theatre one has lined up for oneself. My summer is a mix of both. After the delight of making my Merry-Go-Round Playhouse debut in "Anything Goes," I returned home to enjoy some extended time off, during one of the slower times of the year for auditions, and I have taken advantage of the time to visit family and reconnect with friends.

Next week I will have the pleasure of doing my third Bootleg Shakespeare collaboration with the innovative Taffety Punk Theatre Company. This time it is "The Life and Death of King John," and I get to play the really powerful role of Hubert, a man who starts out as the henchman of a corrupt monarch and who find his moral center and his humanity by enduring a brutal ordeal. In true Bootleg fashion, this amazing company of actors will gather at 10AM on Monday, August 1 and spend the day staging the play, giving one performance for a packed audience. It is an electrifying experience for all that makes Shakespeare come alive in a way most people never imagined possible. For a look at this year's video preview, showing moments from last year's "Two Noble Kinsmen" click here.

A few weeks later, I will head out to St. Louis to begin rehearsals for "Victor/Victoria," the rarely produced musical based on the fabulous Blake Edwards film of the same name , which just happens to be one of my all time favorite movies. The musical marked the return to Broadway of the great Julie Andrews back in the mid-nineties, and I had the pleasure of seeing the opening night performance. The show is being produced by Stages St. Louis, where I had a wonderful romp playing the role of Jerry/Daphne in the musical of "Some Like It Hot," "Sugar." I am delighted to have the opportunity to return to the theatre to celebrate their 25th Anniversary Season. My role of the scheming Henri Labisse is a delicious character turn for me, a conniving and pretentious little man with an absurd French accent. I am looking forward to this art deco confection of a show, and of course I will blog about the process, so stay tuned!

And finally, I have been told that the final cast album mix of "The Road To Qatar!" is complete and is ready to be released along with a beautiful full color booklet including show photos, and notes and lyrics by Stephen Cole. I am told that it sounds great and I am both nervous and excited about hearing my first ever cast album. If you are one of those geeks who has to be one of the first to add this show to your collection, you can keep track of the release of it at the Jay Records website. And of course, I will eventually be putting tracks from the CD on my website's media page. It's a real joy to know that this fun show will have a continued life through this recording. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed performing and recording it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Full Circle


The leads highlight the playhouse stage with astonishing charisma, comic timing and vocal talent...Beaman hits his own comedic stride as the cliche-confused Englishman with a deeply buried wild side.

Wrapping things up here at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, where our hit production of "Anything Goes" will close on June 22nd. It has been such a pleasure to work here and I look forward to coming back in future seasons! I look to the horizon now and to my next creative endeavors, which include "Victor/Victoria" at Stages St. Louis, and an exciting return to Shakespeare and the great theatre town of Washington, D.C. in a play that started my journey as a classical actor.

The year was 1978, and my Dad was working in the theatre department at Boston University. The graduating class was going to perform Shakespeare's "King John" and the director, who was also the head of the acting program, wanted a young boy to play the pivotal role of Prince Arthur. I was already a pretty precocious little actor, and I auditioned along with a few other faculty brats and won the part. To this day, I can remember everything about the process of rehearsing and performing that play. It was a dream come true to a 12 year old who had already decided he would be the next Laurence Olivier. Arthur is the best of Shakespeare's roles for a child actor and he plays several very dramatic scenes, one in which he manages to talk his jailer, Hubert, out of putting his eyes out with hot irons at the behest of the King; and there is a gripping death scene, in which Arthur leaps from a tall wall and perishes in his attempt. I can say without hesitation that playing Arthur on the Boston University Theatre stage was the catalyst for a passion for fine acting and for Shakespeare that has carried me through the last 30-plus years in my work as an actor.

This summer, I will return to "King John" as Arthur's would-be assassin, Hubert de Burgh, in the next of Taffety Punk Theatre Company's Bootleg Shakespeare productions to be performed at DC's Folger Theatre. I have written before about the great work my friends Marcus Kyd and Lise Bruneau have been doing with their company, and I related the story of the Bootleg series, but for those who don't know... Bootleg Shakespeare is a one day theatrical event. Weeks in advance, director Lise Bruneau assigns roles in the selected play to both company members and actors in the extended Taffety Punk family; the actors do their text work and memorize their lines, and then show up the morning of the scheduled performance for a day of rehearsal, which really is comprised of rudimentary staging and the sorting out of entrances, exits, a few props and bits of business, including any fight sequences or dances. Then the play is presented free of charge to a packed audience. It is a spontaneous and thrilling experience for everyone and a true test of the actor's ability to jump right in and make it work! I have done two of these and am delighted to be asked back to do another.

Hubert is a great character. Based on an historic figure, legend has it that Hubert was covertly enlisted by the usurping King John to eliminate the true heir to the throne, the young Prince Arthur.
In Shakespeare's play, while acting as the young boy's jailor, Hubert becomes attached to the child and when the time comes for him to carry out the execution, he finds he can't go through with it and spares Arthur's life. He lies to the King, putting him off with news that Arthur is dead until he can find a way to free the prince and return him to his mother and the King of France, who are at war with John. Tragically, Arthur takes it on himself to try and escape and dies in his attempt, and the devastated Hubert joins the fight to bring down the usurping King John. A wonderful journey for an actor--to go from hardened mercenary to noble hero in the course of the play. I look forward to savoring every moment of my one night run!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Gypsy in Me


Lord Evelyn is one of those thankless roles, the stuffed-shirt Englishman, but Beaman gradually soars with it to comic heights, eventually tearing his shirt open and doing a Douglas Fairbanks set of leaps, waving a big sword and singing "The Gypsy in Me." ~SYRACUSE.COM

I am not certain I agree with this reviewer that Evelyn is a thankless role, but I will say that the part presents some seductive traps for the actor. It would be all too easy to put on a funny accent and a bunch of tics and mannerisms and call it a day with this thinly written caricature of an Englishman. Adam Godley, in his Tony-nominated turn in the role in the current Broadway revival, circumvents this by giving a somewhat understated performance, by being actually British, and by being so funny looking (tall, gangly, with a long face and outrageously large ears). In my case, I saw Evelyn as being as iconic a figure in this classic show as the brassy Reno, or the gangster Moonface Martin in his signature disguise as a Christian missionary, so I knew he had to fit in with the writers' conception of a foppish Englishman. But the challenge to me was to make the character attractive enough and lovable enough that the audience would accept that he winds up with Reno, the leading lady of the piece.

My first instinct was to drawn upon the qualities of British actors who I saw as personifying the type of English archetype Lord Evelyn represents. First actor who came to mind was the great Terry-Thomas, whose gap-toothed grin and over-articulated speech made him one of the most popular comedic actors of the '50s and '60s.
This was a good starting place, but even though Terry-Thomas made a career out of being a womanzing 'bounder' I still wanted to evoke a slightly more refined quality. For this I looked to ultra suave and elegant English actor Ronald Colman, whose thin mustache and gentle ways gave him a profound dignity in films like "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "A Double Life." Toying with these two icons as inspiration, I found a way to give Evelyn the guffawing laugh and absurd upper crust accent, but also provide him with a refinement befitting his station and an understated sex appeal that would get Reno's attention.
My last film icon inspiration informed Evelyn's private fantasies of who he'd prefer to be--the swashbuckling rake Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I had two opportunities to expose Evelyn's secret yearning to be a man of panache--one is the scene where Evelyn is alone in his underwear in his stateroom fencing with himself in the mirror; the other is his big Act Two number, "The Gypsy in Me," where he lets his hair down and finally declares his passion for Reno. By incorporating all these inspirations, I was able, I hope, to make Evelyn more than a stock character, a man of propriety who secretly wants to be a part of the modern world of jazz and fun that was the early 1930s. The other notable quality I drew from the script was the fact that, unlike any of the other characters in the story, Evelyn has no agenda. He is guileless and rather innocent, while Billy employs tricks and deceptions to steal Hope away for himself, while Reno schemes with Moonface to break up the engagement, and while Hope herself carries on a secret amour with Billy as her mother manipulates her into a loveless marriage with the wealthy but hapless Evelyn. I think that the sweet innocence I bring to Evelyn gives the audience one more reason to fall for him.

"Anything Goes" is a classic of the musical theatre. As a classically trained actor, I know that when I approach a character from a Shakespeare play that has been done many thousands of times over the past 400 years, it is my duty not only to give the audience some of the qualities they expect from the character and his story, but also to infuse him with new life and a sense of freshness. This is part of the fun of being an interpretive artist. The material has stood the test of time, so how do I bring myself and my own imagination into play in bringing the character to life? My hope is that while the audience gets to enjoy the familiar tunes and outrageous gags of this iconic musical, they may also make some discoveries they didn't expect along the way. We have just over two more weeks to romp about on the S.S. American. More to come!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bon Voyage!


Summer stock is one of the enduring institutions of show business. Anywhere you find sun and water and vacation homes in America, you might just find a little hard working theatre presenting a breakneck season of light entertainment, mostly musical comedies, for your delectation. It has been a few years since I have done true stock, which usually these days refers to the seemingly impossible task of mounting an elaborate musical in less than two weeks, sometimes even in one, thus allowing the venue to pack a full slate of shows into the all too brief summer season. Merry Go Round Playhouse has been a part of the summer landscape in the lovely Finger Lakes district of upstate New York since the early 1970s, and has been run by Artistic Director Ed Sayles for 30 years. The theatre itself is housed in an old building that once housed a carousel, nestled in a bucolic setting in a local public park. Having endured and evolved over the years, and with major recent upgrades to the theatre facility, Merry Go Round is well established, and continues to grow under Ed's direction. The theatre is creating a new festival of musical theatre which will be performed in four venues in the region, presenting and developing new shows, in addition to their mainstage series. Ed is directing our opening production of "Anything Goes" and it is clear that this man has great affection for, and vast knowledge of, the tradition of music theatre.

"Anything Goes," which is currently enjoying a splendid Broadway revival, is perhaps Cole Porter's most beloved and enduring musical (with "Kiss Me, Kate" a close second).
A bubble of a show, it follows the hijinks of a group of vivid characters as they make their way across the pond from New York to London on an ocean liner. The show is a feast of Porter classics including "I Get a Kick Out Of You," "It's Delovely," "Easy To Love," and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow." In short, it is a delicious little gem that audiences just love. Our cast is made up of seasoned veterans and an ensemble of young performers either still in college or just out of it--summer stock has always been a training ground and a starting place for talented kids and Merry Go Round offers that in spades. I have the pleasure of playing the quintessential dorky Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, who is fascinated by all things American and who is continuously attempting to pepper his conversation with American slang, and getting it hopelessly wrong! He ends up marrying the brassy nightclub chanteuse Reno Sweeney, a role created for the legendary Ethel Merman, and here being served up with style and sass by the wondrous Julie Cardia. I could not ask for a more delightful leading lady.

I will be blogging throughout my stay here in Auburn, and will of course offer photos and reviews as they become available. Meantime, if you find yourself in the Syracuse/Ithaca/Finger Lakes region, come on over and set sail with us and "Anything Goes!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011






Summer is an important time for performers, especially those of us who do musical theatre. It is high season for reputable companies who produce full slates of musicals, which means lots of jobs, and the months of February and March are hectic and jam packed with auditions of all sorts. As of this writing, I am fortunate to have lined up a couple terrific roles to play, and am still out there hustling to fill the remaining slots in my summer season. While one never knows how things might change as the weeks progress, as of now I can announce two delightful opportunities that are on my horizon.

While I was performing "The Road to Qatar!" at the York, I was fortunate to meet the producer of Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, a reputable summer theatre located in the Finger Lakes district of upstate New York. My work impressed him and I was delighted to audition for the role of Sir Evelyn in "Anything Goes." Evelyn is a 'veddy, veddy British' chap who is making a transatlantic trip to marry his American fiancee when he finds himself in love with the brassy Reno Sweeney. It's a delightful part in a true classic of the American musical theatre (which is currently having a revival on Broadway). I am thrilled also to be doing the show with my "Road to Qatar" cast mate Bruce Warren, who will be playing the rascally Moonface Martin. On a humorous side note: I did play Sir Evelyn once before... in 7th grade in the junior high school musical!! It will be nice to play it again...

The middle of the summer is still uncertain but at the end of August I am slated to go out to Stages St. Louis to perform in the last offering of their 25th Anniversary Season. I had the pleasure of playing the wonderful role of Jerry in the musical version of "Some Like It Hot," "Sugar," back in 1997 at Stages, and I am tickled to be returning to do the stage version of one of my all time favorite movies, "Victor/Victoria." I have a long history with this movie, having seen it for the first time in my college years. It has since remained one of my top ten favorite films--a polished gem with some of the best performances ever given by its stars Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, James Garner and Leslie Ann Warren. When it was announced as a Broadway musical in the 90s, I immediately snatched up opening night tickets and took my Mom (who is equally as obsessed with the movie)--a truly memorable night and the only time I have seen the great Julie Andrews on stage. In the Stages production, I will get to play the oily bad guy of the piece, Henri Labisse, owner of the sketchy gay nightclub Chez Lui. Labisse is a comic character turn in the great tradition of the films of Blake Edwards, the creator of "Victor/Victoria." He is a nasty little man who attempts to expose the toast of Paris, 'Victor,' a drag performer who is in reality a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. The character has elements of both Inspector Clouseau of the "Pink Panther" films and his exasperated boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus. I adore playing villains, and this one will be a real treat, with a thick French accent to boot.

As of this writing, I am finishing up my brief stint as the randy Lord Wye in the Musicals Tonight! concert staging of Ivor Novello's obscure "Theodore and Co.". It has been such fun playing this absurd little English musical from 1916 and I have been fortunate to work with an endlessly fun group of performers on this one (I am pictured here with my vivacious counterpart, Amy Arbizanni, as Mrs. Blissett). The audiences that come to these concert readings, presented by the indefatigable Mel Miller, are populated by people who are passionate about discovering lost musical theatre gems, and we have enjoyed introducing them to this spirited romp through World War I era London. If you haven't seen it yet, you have until March 27 to get there and check it out!

New York continues to be cold and wet, but spring is on the way! I hope that your summer plans are taking shape and that you will have as much fun as it looks like I am going to have.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011






Every blessed one of you feels better for that burst of laughter.
~Ivor Novello

The day after I complete my run with The Road to Qatar!--a completely brand-spanking-new show--I will start rehearsals for a concert staging of a very old and now forgotten musical comedy called Theodore and Company. The organization responsible for reviving this obscure British operetta is Musicals Tonight, an Obie Award winning company that is dedicated to bringing to life "neglected" musicals at affordable ticket prices. Now in their 13th year, Musicals Tonight has revived over 50 musicals in a manner similar to the Musicals in Mufti series at the York Theatre Company.

I am intrigued and excited about exploring this English musical, which was something of a hit in London in 1916, during the Great War. It ran over 500 performances, alongside such popular frothy offerings as Chu Chin Chow (theatre queens will recall Auntie Mame and Vera Charles reminiscing about their time in the chorus of that show!), at a time when audiences were hungry for escapist entertainment.
The music was written by Ivor Novello, a British stage and film actor who was sort of a precursor to the actor/writer/raconteur Noel Coward. Novello wrote the show in collaboration with a young Jerome Kern, who made his London debut with this piece. Theodore and Company is a rather naughty little jaunt concerning the indiscretions of the upper crust of British society. I will be playing the role of the Right Honorable George Wye, the 'Minister of Movies,' who is a bit of a philanderer, trying to use his position to bed attractive society wives.

Unfamiliar with the works of Ivor Novello, I did a little research and was tickled to find out that Jeremy Northam portrayed Novello in the film "Gosford Park", and recorded a few of his songs for the soundtrack--including one from Theodore and Company entitled, "What a Duke Should Be." You can hear this fun little song here. This ditty epitomizes the witty lyrics and jaunty style of the period. So, I am looking forward to this fun project! Updates and more information to come.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE ROAD TO QATAR! Critical Mass



"Drama critics are like eunuchs in a harem. They know how it's done because they see it done every night, but they can't do it themselves." ~Brendan Behan

Lately, I have had a persistent scene playing out in my mind from the brilliant film version of "Amadeus." It's late in the film, and Mozart, whose wife has left him and who is teetering between poverty, madness and illness, is conducting a performance of "Don Giovanni," the Commendatore Scene.
The scene reaches its amazing conclusion, with glorious voices and stage pyrotechnics, and in the silence that follows the last reverberating crash of the orchestra, there is a smattering of applause from the few members of the tiny audience. Mozart, sweating and weak, turns and helplessly acknowledges this meagre reception of his work. You see, Mozart, one of the greatest and now most revered composers who ever lived, was a critical and popular failure in his lifetime. And I guess this scene, and this fact, are haunting me of late as I grapple with the almost universal critical dismissal of "The Road to Qatar."

Being in a show--particularly in New York--that receives negative press is an excruciating experience for all involved. One has to proceed with performances of the show with the same commitment and energy that one employed before the reviews came out, and because many actors try to avoid reading reviews, whether favorable or not, one can't even mention them in the back stage life of the show. Other theatre people greet you with a slightly veiled pity, treating you somewhat as if you had a deadly disease but you don't know it yet... lots of forced smiles and questions like, "Are you having fun?". In short, the actor in a badly reviewed production has to put on a happy face and endure. This has been the modus operandi of all involved in our little production at the York, particularly our wonderful writers, David Krane and Stephen Cole, on whom the critics unleashed the lion's share of their vitriol. Despite the notices, these two men have persisted in a positive and optimistic attitude about the entire project, and all of us have followed suit. Truth is, while this is the first time I have been in a show that has met with this kind of critical disapproval, this has also been one of the most joyous and harmonious creative experiences I have ever been blessed with in my twenty years as a professional actor. Every single artist, crew member and production person has been a complete pleasure to work with and the talent and creativity of this group is something to be marveled at. And while we all hoped for a flood of positive press after our star studded, gleeful opening night, we have all turned to each other in support and in a spirit of fun to see this project through. I don't want you to think that all of our reviews have been negative; they haven't. Here's a positive squib from an online review:

"The musical moves at a swift pace, taking care never to lose the audience's attention as one-liners zip by, clever low-budget set pieces and props magically appear, and Muhammad Ali tap dances... James Beaman and Keith Gerchak, who play Michael and Jeffrey, respectively, bring comedic justice and sweet, natural voices to the lead writing team's self-incarnated characters."

--Matty Daley,

Does have the same impact as the New York Times or the Associated Press? Alas, perhaps not.

It is considered, for the most part, bad form for an artist to respond to criticism, to challenge an opinion or defend his or her work. I was, however, delighted to read recently that Judi Dench, not too long ago acknowledged as the greatest stage actor of all time, wrote to a critic in response to a negative notice, "You are an absolute shit." I guess you have to be Dame Judi to get away with that. There is a sort of unspoken rule about how artists should respond to criticism: if you want the free benefit of using positive notices to further the success of your work, you have to take the negative ones as sort of 'bad medicine.' The role of the dramatic critic has changed over the years. There was a time when critics were great men of letters who not only assessed the drama of their time in terms of its artistic and socio-cultural relevance, but who also did posterity a service by describing the live performances of actors pre-film or television, adding their own visceral responses to that work. For example, would we have a sense of the greatness of the 19th century tragedian Edmund Kean had his performances not been captured by William Hazlitt or described by the great poet Coleridge as "like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning?".
George Bernard Shaw, one of the greatest playwrights in the English language, also shaped theatrical trends and popular attitudes toward theatre with his dramatic criticism. It might be said that great critics like Kenneth Tynan, James Agate, and Alexander Woolcott (himself a frustrated actor) championed the careers of certain actors who went on to become acknowledged titans in the theatre, and that they fostered a lively interest in the art form by creating a social discourse about theatre; one that kept theatre patrons passionate about attending live performance.
Perhaps in our time theatre has become less relevant than it once was. The best assessment of the drama critics of today that I have read is by brilliant screen and stage dramatist Ronald Harwood: "The critics of today do not go in much for describing performances or telling you what it was like to be in the theatre on a particular night. They are more interested, it seems, in writing either a sort of lit crit, as though they were wanting to impress their university tutors, or, more often than not, writing snarling and sneering reviews in the hope of impressing their editors." However, with the proliferation of the internet, theatre reviews, whether positive or negative, are as accessible to the curious theatre patron as the click of a mouse. In New York, at least, this makes the words of the critic exceedingly powerful, resulting often in a devastating impact at the box office. It took a little of the sting out of our bad press when critics both here and abroad, impatient with the numerous delays of its opening, took it on themselves to bludgeon the Julie Taymor multi-million dollar behemoth, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" before it was officially 'open.' The criticisms leveled at this massive spectacle make our negative notices look like valentines. But ultimately, will such notices affect the box office at the Foxwoods Theatre? It's doubtful, since the show is playing to packed houses during its preview period and posting box office returns that recently beat the Broadway juggernaut, "Wicked." For a quirky little show like "The Road to Qatar" the impact has been somewhat more damaging.

Adversity can be the best teacher; it shows you what you're made of and tests your resolve and your ability to persist in your endeavors. It's difficult not to feel a little discouraged. As you can imagine, getting a leading role in a new show off or on Broadway is something of a feat, and to even get a new work on the boards is something that takes monumental amounts of moxie and the willingness to keep going despite seemingly insurmountable odds. So of course, everyone involved in "The Road to Qatar" has had high hopes that it would do great things for each of us in our careers. And, it still might! This is a fairly whimsical and unpredictable business. You just never know. And from my personal point of view, the critics have not killed this show, although bad press does hurt at the box office. It's the audiences we have had that have taught me the true value of our work. People have been truly enjoying our performances, and entering into the silly spirit of the production, with laughter, cheers and applause. Additionally, some of the greatest stars of the Broadway community have come out to see us and have showered us all with their praise and acknowledgment-- from director/choreographer Susan Stroman to legends like Chita Rivera and John Kander, we have received nothing but support. And what a thrill it has been for us to meet these amazing people. Just one of the incredible benefits of being a part of this production.

While I do have my moments of darkness, and do at times feel like poor Mozart facing the sound of one hand clapping, I haven't a single regret about this adventure. Being entrusted by the writers, director and producers of a new show with the responsibility of originating a leading role is something I have dreamed of for twenty years, and which I was blessed with on this show. I have had the good fortune of showing up for work each day with a cast of some of the dearest, most hilarious and multi-talented actors I have ever known, and I have been directed and choreographed and coached by some of the best in the business. I have been given the gift of returning to a New York stage for the first time in three years. I will also mark another milestone when I take part in recording an original cast album of "The Road to Qatar." The blessings far outweigh the troubles. Ultimately, I have learned about the power of believing in oneself and in the joy, creativity and hard work that give birth to any new project. Mr. Krane and Mr. Cole, both accomplished veterans of show business and fine artists, both singly and as a team, have set the tone: keep on keeping on, with optimism and good humor. I feel so blessed to be a part of their vision and will remember the glow of this experience long after the sting of a few catty reviews has long faded into memory. Come down to the York and make up your own mind about this funny fresh new musical, now playing through February 27!

Friday, February 4, 2011

THE ROAD TO QATAR! Up and Running!


After an intensive three week rehearsal period and a week of previews, our zany little show opened at the York. During previews, the authors made many changes to the piece, including the cutting of two musical numbers and 14 minutes off our running time. The result is a leaner, faster paced sprint of a show! All of us in the cast are feeling much more in command of our performances, and having such fun working together. Truly, from the York staff, to the creative team, to the writers, to my fellow performers, I have to say this has been one of the most pleasurable and harmonious collaborations I have been a part of to date. And our audiences seem to agree, if their laughter and cheers are any indication!

The opening night crowd was graced by some of Broadway's leading lights and living legends. In attendance were: Chita Rivera, Jo Sullivan Loesser, Celeste Holm, Marni Nixon, Beth Fowler, Danny Burstein, Judy Blazer... you can imagine the thrill I had walking out on to the little York stage and seeing these famous faces smiling back at me. Every theatre performer with an ounce of ambition wants to strut their stuff on a New York stage and show their work to the industry and the discerning New York audience. I can't overestimate how much this opportunity means to me.

Our opening night was further enhanced by the presentation to each of us of a spectacular caricature by the new Hirschfeld, "Squigs," a gift from producer Paul Burchett. As soon as I have a digital version, I will post this delightful piece of art! We were also informed by the writers that, following our last performances at the York, we will record THE ROAD TO QATAR as an original cast album. This is another experience I have yet to enjoy, and I, and the rest of the company, are over the moon about the prospect of preserving the show in a cast recording. As we raised cocktails together and enjoyed falafel, hummus and other Middle Eastern treats at our opening night party at a local Lebanese restaurant, I think we all felt a real sense of occasion. It takes so much to create a new show, never mind getting it produced in New York-- I feel blessed indeed to be along for the ride. Catch us in the wonderfully intimate York Theatre now through February 27!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

THE ROAD TO QATAR! Putting It Together...


Dear Readers:

My apologies for taking so long to update you on my doings, and the new show I am rehearsing at The York Theatre Company. We have been at work for just over two intense weeks, learning this complex and fast paced musical comedy. The process has been incredibly challenging; not for any other reason but that this is terrific material. It's smart, the lyrics are tricky and clever, the music is complex and there's a lot of it. I think this is most likely the most challenging musical theatre role I have attempted, in terms of the sheer amount of singing and the range it requires. But believe me, I am not complaining!

I have a really great feeling about THE ROAD TO QATAR!. The spirit of everyone involved is completely positive and playful, the cast is uniformly funny and great at spontaneous comedic work, our musical director David Caldwell and our choreographer Bob Richard are super fast and super talented and we are all banding together, under the nimble direction of Phillip George. This is also the first time I have gotten to create a role in a new show and work with the writers through the entire process. And these writers are so gifted, so thoroughly in mastery of their craft; Stephen Cole is equally as bright, clever and outrageous as a lyricist and as a book writer, and David Krane is simply a musical master, who is finally getting meolodies showcased in this big hearted autobiographical flight of fancy. He is also one of the best orchestrators in the business and his arrangements for our five piece band, I have no doubt, will be brilliant.

We launch into tech tomorrow and all the elements will start to be brought together. I look forward to sharing the fun in photos, etc as we gallop towards our first preview next week! Please come and see this great new show! Discounts abound on the internet and we play from January 25 through February 27. You can also participate in a 2 for 1 ticket program that includes all kinds of great Off-Broadway shows, especially ours. For photos from our recent press sneak peek, take a look at Playbill On Line.