Monday, December 28, 2015

Hello, Rudy!

2015 gets Wilder-- and Wilder... 

With Giselle Wolf in "The Long Christmas Dinner"
As our run of "A Wilder Christmas" progresses, audiences and critics alike are praising the production and it is extremely gratifying.  These two Thornton Wilder one acts are challenging pieces that not only break many theatrical conventions but also present powerful ideas that shake our habitual perceptions of life and living.  It's really inspiring to see the way people are being touched by our work.  As of this writing, the production has been extended through January 10!

"Miniature masterpieces, at once poetic and profound, and I doubt you’ll ever see either one done better."
~The Wall Street Journal

In an interesting turn of events, Santa brought me an early Christmas present in the form of my first role of 2016, ironically in a show based upon--yes--a play by Thornton Wilder!  "Hello, Dolly!," one of the most iconic and beloved classics of American musical theatre, is based on Wilder's "The Matchmaker."  Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach, Florida is producing "Hello Dolly!" and has invited me to play the delicious cameo part of Rudolph, the majordomo of the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant.  This is something of a full circle moment for me, as this time last year I was rehearsing "Crazy For You" at Riverside; I am delighted by the prospect of returning to beautiful sunny Vero and working again with one of my favorite directors, James Brennan, with whom this will be my fourth production.

David Hurst, center, as Rudolph in the film of "Hello, Dolly!"
My history with Jerry Herman has been a happy one.  I have done three productions of "La Cage Aux Folles"--twice as a Cagelle, and then as Albin, opposite Maxwell Caulfield at Ogunquit Playhouse.  I also played Lindsay Woolsey in "Mame," starring Louise Pitre, at Goodspeed Opera House.  "Hello, Dolly!" is arguably Herman's most beloved and well known show and Rudolph is one of the best cameo parts in the musical theatre repertoire.  The role was immortalized in the film version by David Hurst.  Hurst was a German-born actor and a Jew who escaped Nazi Germany as a child via the Kindertransport and settled in Ireland, where he became an actor; eventually he came to Broadway in the original production of "Camelot," playing Merlin opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews.  His turn as Rudolph in "Hello, Dolly!" is what he is best known for, and he's delightful in the part.

As always, I am inspired by the character men of the past and the traditions that make shows like "Hello, Dolly!" perennial classics that audiences love.  The show runs March 8-27 on Riverside's Stark Stage.  It will be fun to be a part of this show as a way to 'gallop' into the new year, as it were!  More on this, and other things simmering for 2016, to come.  Have a safe and happy New Year!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Annual Holiday Letter 2015

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
~Hal Borland

With Drew Nellessen in "Crazy For You"
My year began in the warm and sunny embrace of lovely Vero Beach, Florida where I romped gleefully through the role of Bela Zangler in the Gershwin musical "Crazy For You." Riverside Theatre is a superb venue, producing terrific work under the auspices of Artistic Director Allen Cornell, and I was reunited with two of my favorite collaborators, director Jimmy Brennan and musical director Ken Clifton, and introduced to the wonderful choreographer Deanna Dys.  Truly, I'd return to Riverside at the drop of a hat.

With Sally Struthers
I returned to wintry NYC and embarked upon an arduous audition season, coming close but no cigar to so many plum jobs, including two exciting tours.  Just as I was beginning to lose heart I was given the chance to audition for another Gershwin romp, "Nice Work If You Can Get It," a co-production of The Gateway and Ogunquit Playhouse.  Director Larry Raben and choreographer Peggy Hickey invited me to play the shamelessly fabulous comic lead of Cookie McGee.  I strapped on tap shoes for the first time in a quarter century, and had the gift of co-starring with the irrepressible Sally Struthers, with whom I have become good friends; we enjoyed a summer full of laughter and SRO audiences giving standing ovations. I even got to meet the show's author, Tony winner Joe DiPietro, who embraced our production in the most gratifying way.

With Eve Plumb
With Brenda Vaccaro

Actually, 2015 seemed to be my year for working with 1970s TV and film legends-- stars of three of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and an Oscar nominee!   In addition to dear Sally, "Nice Work" also gave me the thrill of working with guest stars Valerie Harper and Brenda Vaccaro, and "Crazy For You" guest starred Eve Plumb, known to all as Jan Brady.  Strong, vibrant women all.  Many 'pinch me' moments this year.

With Valerie Harper
Between the Gateway and Ogunquit runs, I had the unexpected joy of being invited to play a  great part in a workshop of a powerful new musical by Marcus Gardley and Justin Ellington, "Loving v. Virginia," at New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theatre season at Vassar College.  Director Patricia McGregor is an inspiring leader and a great collaborator and I immersed myself eagerly in the process of developing this fascinating new work in a company of simply thrilling actors.

This fall, I made my film debut in a small role which I shot last spring.  "Till We Meet Again," created by and starring my two beautiful friends Linnea Larsdotter and Johan Matton, had a rapturous reception on the festival circuit, garnering numerous awards, and was given its premiere at the Long Beach International Film Festival.  I'm proud of my friends, of the film, and my cameo in it.

"Ivanov" Cast, Crew and Director Inés Braun
As the leaves turned color and that autumn snap came to the air, I found myself hot on the audition trail once more, and landed a place in the great ensemble cast for "A Wilder Christmas," two one act plays by Thornton Wilder at Peccadillo Theatre Company, in residence at the Theatre at St. Clement's.  Simultaneously, I played Lebedev in Chekhov's "Ivanov," at Columbia University, for MFA directing candidate Inés Braun.  Doing double duty on these challenging pieces has been enormously gratifying and has also proven to be a blessing in the wake of the sudden death of my younger sister, Clea.  The work is a place to put all those feelings and to find communion with my fellow artists and the audience.

Right, as Roderick in "The Long Christmas Dinner"

Finally, 2015 marked two milestones.  My fiftieth birthday, and my twenty-fifth year in the acting profession.  Overwhelming in many ways, but also a source of pride and accomplishment.  I am grateful to subsist in this most difficult but exciting of cities, and to be free to pursue my craft and my dreams.  Oh, Broadway... perhaps 2016 will bring us together.  Wishing you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons full of love and a new year full of possibilities!