Friday, February 26, 2010

Stage Rush TV: Episode 2

Talking points: 

We had an awesome amount of comments last week. I loved responding to everyone. Please keep them coming this week. In addition, please ask me any questions you’d like me to address or throw out any topics you’d like me to discuss in next week’s episode. I’m taking your suggestions and I’d love for you guys to contribute to the topics list next week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review: A View From The Bridge

Pardon the cliché, but today reminded me why in rushing, the early bird gets the worm. Sure, it’d be nice to sleep in a little longer and it would definitely be better to stay indoors another hour on a drizzly day, all to show up at the box office right before it opens and chance your luck. But taking the question of  “am I going to get a ticket?” out of the equation is far more worth it. These are the choices I made when I rushed A View From The Bridge. 

Just like A Steady Rain, which boasted two huge Hollywood names, people are coming out in droves to see Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber in this revival of the Arthur Miller play. Last week, it sold 102 percent of its tickets! Being that there are only six weeks left to the production’s run and I was well aware of the demand for this show, I decided to be very cautious with this rush. I’m honestly shocked that Bridge has a rush policy at all, with the rate they’re selling. It’s a general rush that goes on sale when the box office opens for $26.50 a piece, up to two tickets.

I arrived at the Cort Theatre at 8:30 a.m. and was the third person in line. The Cort has a nice, large overhang that sheltered us from the rain. Once 9 a.m. hit, the rush line grew fast, eventually adding up to about 30 people. I could tell the rushers that were beyond tenth in line were getting antsy as to whether they would be getting a seat. People even began querying the front section of the line, asking who was purchasing tickets for the matinee or the evening show. It was then that I was content with my decision to get there early, because I knew I was getting a ticket and didn’t have to worry. It was a comforting thought, and made for a very easy rush. The payoff was even larger when I got my ticket, which was for a front row orchestra seat on the aisle of the center section. I thought it was a mistake at first! The idea of seeing Johansson and Schreiber perform that close was incredibly exciting. It turns out, the front row of the Cort is extremely close to the stage, which is also quite high. But luckily, the actors stand further upstage for most of the show, so they were visible. I didn’t need a giraffe neck like I thought, after all. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Understudy Hall: ‘Phantom’’s Jeremy Stolle drives his BMW all over the Majestic

We’ve all done it. We’ve taken our seats in a Broadway theater, opened our Playbills in anticipation of the rising curtain, and groaned when that little slip of paper has fallen out and floated to our feet. The disappointment sets in: one of the lead actors is being understudied. It’s a common occurrence, yet rarely are the stories of these underdogs of Broadway told. We’ve all seen incredible understudies, as well as mediocre ones. But the truth is that without them, the show couldn’t go on. And don’t kid yourself for a second—they know exactly what the audience is thinking of them. Understudy Hall is a series spotlighting some of Broadway’s greatest pinch hitters. Now let’s kick off the series with an actor who is always on call to play one of the most coveted roles in Broadway history. 

Jeremy Stolle has gone months at a time without playing the Phantom or Raoul, the two leads he has understudied in The Phantom of the Opera since he joined the company in October 2007. Most nights, he plays the operatic Passarino in the musical’s haunted Opera Populaire. But during the week of February 15, while the regular Phantom, John Cudia, was on vacation, the 33-year-old California native went on as the tortured genius during the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening performances. Given that the 22-year-old Broadway mainstay sold over 90 percent of its tickets that week, the excitement of the packed, cheering house should sustain Stolle for the next few months, in case it’s that long till he next dons the mask. 

You’re making your Broadway debut understudying the Phantom and Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera. How does that make you feel?
That feels amazing. I started acting at 15. I wasn’t into musicals whatsoever, and everybody has their one show that they find and they really like, and Phantom was mine. At 15, I really wanted to play the Phantom of the Opera. Ninety-five years later, I’m here as the Phantom of the Opera. I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t even speak for a good half hour when I got the hiring call. Every day I come to work loving to be here. When it comes to playing the Phantom, I walk down the street with just a little bit of pride about that. 

What does it feel like when you’re in your moment as the Phantom, whether it’s in your favorite scene or taking your final bow?
It feels amazing for me, because I’ve worked really hard at this part. It’s not an easy part. People have ideas about the role, like, “Oh, you’re only on stage for 30 minutes.” It is 30 minutes of full-out sprints. It’s one of the hardest things ever. 

Give me a brief history of your background.
I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I taught high school for two years; I was a substitute. I taught math, English, and choir. Then I decided that with two bags and a plane ticket, I’d move to New York. 

What is the longest period you’ve gone without performing the role of the Phantom or Raoul?
I’ve never counted, but months at a time. It really depends on the leads. Our leads aren’t flakey at all. We go on occasionally, on their vacations and their sick days. I do get to go on as the Phantom every so often, but I also rehearse the role at the theater during the day a lot. So I’ll have run Phantom six times within a three-month period during rehearsals and then I’ll have done it once at an actual performance. That is to make sure it’s fresh. 

***VIDEO AFTER THE JUMP: Jeremy Stolle unlocks the mystery of the Phantom's never-seen full mask***

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stage Rush TV: Episode 1

After a year, I finally come from behind the curtain, much like Oz, and get in front of the video camera (eek!). I present to you the first episode of Stage Rush TV! Every week, I’ll cover any shows or events I’ve been to, weigh in on the week’s Broadway news, and discuss any theater-related topics whirling around in my brain. 

Please excuse the first-time-in-front-of-the-camera nerves. I promise people, I will get better. I’ll also make these videos shorter; we wouldn’t want The Lion King to close before the video ends. 

Talking points: 
  • How I fell hard for Broadway
  • Attending the All About Me press conference
  • Seeing Phantom of the Opera and my upcoming Q&A with Phantom understudy Jeremy Stolle
  • The media goes spoiler-crazy with Next Fall
  • Jersey Boys sells a shockingly-low number of tickets (for them) 

Please leave your thoughts, retorts, agreements, and disagreements in the comments section—all are welcome! This way, we can actually turn this into a discussion, rather than just my big head floating on the screen jabbering. In addition, please email me, tweet me, or leave a comment letting me know if there are any topics you’d like me to address in the next episode.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knee-jerk reaction: ‘Hair’ cast 2.0 announcement

The second Broadway revival cast of Hair was announced today, and the news has fans rolling in the mud—some in joy and others in frustration. The new lead actors announced include Kyle Riabko, Ace Young, and Diana DeGarmo; the latter two have appeared as finalists on American Idol. 

The casting of Young and DeGarmo was known as of February 7, when BroadwayGirlNYC announced the casting scoop. Since, fans have filled message boards and Twitter with concerns on stunt casting and whether it is good for a show’s sales or if it just cheapens its artistic value. 

Riabko will take over for Gavin Creel as Claude, Young for Will Swenson as Berger, and DeGarmo for Caissie Levy as Sheila. The rest of the casting can be seen at 

The Odd Couple: Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein unite in theatrical harmony

When Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein walked into the journalist-filled private room of the Red Eye Grill for their press conference last night, there was a gasp from the crowd. I’m positive it was due to the hulking presence of Ms. Everage, who appears easily over six-feet tall, and the stark contrast to her companion, the rather diminutive Mr. Feinstein. These two entertainers, varying in many ways than merely the physical, were there to promote their Broadway show, All About Me, which begins previews this Sunday. 

“I’m not at all sure what I’m here for,” Everage said in her innocent, elderly coo. “People say to me, ‘Edna, what kind of show are you going to do?’ and I say, ‘I never divulge and I never think about what I’m going to do until the minute before I step onto the stage.’” 

“I can vouch for that,” Feinstein deadpanned. 

This mismatched pair—Feinstein, the pianist/cabaret owner/music archivist, and Dame Edna, the cross-dressing alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries—will open a musical-comedy review on March 18, complete with dance numbers and duets at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. It was publicized that the performers had intended on unveiling separate, solo shows this same Broadway season, but decided to join forces due to lack of theater availability.

***VIDEO AFTER JUMP: Dame Edna heckles an innocent waitress who gets too close***

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hey Finian, shut up and sing!

When I make a playlist, I mix in songs from Broadway musicals right in there with my circa-1995 soft rock. To me, they’re no different, and just as motivating while cleaning the apartment or working out. So when I’m in the groove, there’s nothing more irritating than when dialogue interrupts the music. 

The cast recording of Finian’s Rainbow is going to annoy me to no end. The album for the excellent, gone-way-too-soon show was released yesterday, and today I downloaded three songs from it (I loved the show as a whole, but didn’t want the entire album). “How Are Things In Glocca Morra,” “Look To The Rainbow,” and Old Devil Moon” all have introductory dialogue leading into the music. I’m sure the majority of the tracks have incorporated dialogue—perhaps someone can let me know if I’m right or wrong in the comments section below. 

Why did the producers at PS Classics (the label that released the album) do this?? Dialogue in cast recordings toss a distracting wrench in the continuity of the album’s flow. And in Finian’s case, there’s more than just continuity problems.