Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2015 Interview - Brett Ryback

Actor Brett Ryback, no stranger to LA stages, will recreate the role he originated in New York in Murder for Two at the Geffen Playhouse opening June 3. In our chat he talks about his part in the show and other theatrical favorites.

Explain briefly about the musical. 

Murder for Two is a two person murder mystery, where one guy plays the wanna-be detective, and the other guy plays all the suspects, and the both play the piano.

How did it get started? If I remember correctly, you first started off-Broadway, ran a while and then returned after a brief absence due to overwhelming popularity?

That’s correct. We began at Second Stage Uptown, had an extended, sold-out run, and then transferred after a brief hiatus to New World Stages for a commercial run. All told, the show ran about a year in New York, before hitting the road in a tour.

How many characters do you get to play?

I, thankfully, must only inhabit one character – Marcus, the ambitious young cop.

What style of music is utilized in the show?

It’s mostly a mix of old cabaret/vaudeville style songs, with extremely clever lyrics, and tuneful melodies. But there are couple little nuggets of other styles as well.

Talk about your co-star, your director and the writers/composers.

Jeff Blumenkrantz is a crazy genius. He’s a genius because of all the amazing work he’s done to carve out each and every character he plays so that you really believe you’re watching 13 different people on stage. And he’s crazy, because anyone would have to be a little crazy to do what he does. Scott Schwartz did a wonderful job of orchestrating a very carefully crafted play to look completely spontaneous and chaotic. He also added layers of theatricality and comedy that allows the audience to feel in on the whole joke. Our writers Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair are two of the most unique and gifted young writers currently working. I jived completely with their love for slapstick and word-play. And their ability to craft a smart, hilarious, and completely unexpected song is truly one-of-a-kind.

What is the most favorite role you have played to date? Why?

My most favorite role to date would probably be playing Scripps in the Ahmanson’s production of The History Boys. The role was fantastic, and well-suited for me, but more than that I think it was the production that I loved. It was the first major regional show I did in Los Angeles, and the cast of boys were all up-and-coming in our own way, so there was a lot of camaraderie. The play is a gorgeously written play about growing up, finding out who you are, who you’ll be. We had a fabulous director, and incomparable cast. And to play the Ahmanson theatre night after night is truly an actor’s gift. It was an experience I will never forget and will always cherish.

Who is your favorite composer of all time? Why?

This is a tough one to answer. I love so many composers for so many different reasons. Are we talking musical theatre? Are we talking classical? Are we talking pop/rock? If it’s musical theatre, I think I’ll have to go with the old stand-by Stephen Sondheim. It’s cliché at this point, of course, but he had a profound effect on me as a young writer growing up. His use of texture, motif, and color was like nothing I’d ever heard before.

Is there a mentor or one person who has stimulated you more than any other in your career choices?

There are many. If I had to choose one person it would be a man named Ray Jivoff. He is the education director at the Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee, WI. I knew him as an acting colleague, a director, an educator, a boss. He gave me my first job as a composer. He taught me how to collaborate, and to create shows from nothing. He was the first person to see something greater in me than even I saw in myself. And surprisingly, he’s done this for other people, too! He’s a cherished part of Milwaukee theatre, and I will always be forever grateful to him.

Do you prefer musicals to drama, or both equally? Why?

Equally. They are different styles. It’s like doing a Neil Simon play or a Shakespeare play. Musicals, I feel, are tougher than dramas. Dramas look a little closer to real life than musicals do and so musicals take a little extra care and thought to let the audience in. But what would life be with out variety?

Anything you care to add?

Jeff and I often want to share – for people who know nothing about Murder for Two – that while it is a vaudeville style, murder mystery comedy, what most people leave with is the sense of what’s possible with two actors, one set, and minimal props. It is, almost more than anything else, a love letter to the theatre. 

Murder for Two plays May 26 – July 5 at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Westwood. For tickets, visit: or call: 310.208.5454.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

2015 Interview - Kay Cole

Kay Cole is known for her award-winning work as an actor/dancer/singer in the original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, which garnered the Tony, Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk, and Theatre World awards –among others.  Other credits include:  director/choreographer: 22%, Love Songs, Spelling Bee, Rose Bowl Queens, Bark! No Strings, Desperate Writers (Off-B’way/LA), Flunky, The Dining Room, Nuncrackers, Judy’s Scary Little Christmas, Frog & Toad, A Chorus Line, choreographer: Hunger, Nightmare Alley, Atlanta, Great Expectations, Triumph of Love, Dancing at Lughnasa. Pasadena Playhouse: 110 in the Shade, Do I Hear A Waltz. Hollywood Bowl: Mame, Bernstein’s Mass, My Fair Lady, Music Man, Camelot, Reprise!, Three Penny Opera, City of Angels, Company, 20th Century, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Most Happy Fella. Other Los Angeles: Atlanta, Paint Your Wagon (Geffen); Grave White Way (Hudson Theatre); Dogeaters, Gaytino (Kirk Douglas Theatre); Six Dance Lessons (Falcon, Geffen, B’way); Snoopy, Blockheads (London West End). Film/TV: Country Rules, Santa Clause 3, Six Dance Lessons…  Website:

She is currently directing Group rep’s production of a new musical Love Again, book by Doug Haverty, music by Adryan Russ, and lyrics by Russ and Haverty..  With its stories unfolding everywhere from the Louvre to a hospital room, this trio of contemporary mini-musicals places each of its characters in challenging situations, adding up to one sure-to-be-entertaining world-premiere production.  

by Steve Peterson

When did you first get interested in performing – what spurred you on?

It was a play.  I was six years old and taking ballet class, when a director who was taking his daughter to class asked my mom if I would audition for his play.  I did and got the role in Me Candido.  It was a lead role and I was the only child. I started the show with a monologue. I knew this is where I wanted to be, even at six.  It felt like I was home.

How did your involvement with the original production of A Chorus Line come about?

I auditioned for the show because director Michael Bennett asked me to after seeing me in Sammy Cahn’s Words and Music on Broadway.

You recently attended the 40th Anniversary of A Chorus Line in New York City.   Tell us a little about the celebration.   

It was an absolutely amazing three days and nights of being celebrated by the brilliant Hamilton company and The Public Theatre.  To be honored in that way happens once in a lifetime if you’re lucky. There is a permanent plaque at the Newman Theatre honoring A Chorus Line and all of the original cast members.

When did you make the transition from performer to director, and how did that opportunity come about?

It happened naturally.  I transitioned by being a choreographer first, then wanting to expand my vision I began directing.  I have always loved plays and the language of theatre.  I was also with the Los Angeles Repertory Company for many years and had the opportunity to stretch my skills as an actress and director.
Have you had a mentor or mentors who have encouraged in some way or had an effect on you in some way?
So many people along the way…their care and guidance and love have always surrounded my artist’s spirit. But Tom O’Horgan was the director I felt molded my director's eye. I worked with Tom O’Horgan in Hair in Los Angeles at the Aquarius Theatre, and in New York on Broadway; and Jesus Christ Superstar in New York on Broadway (original company) and several shows at La Mama in New York.  Working with Tom on many shows taught me the value of risk and trusting your instincts.

Besides being a triple threat performer (actor/dancer/singer) and director, you have also written for the stage.   Can you tell us something about your writing?

It has been a secret dream of mine to be a writer.  That is where it all begins.  So being able to express your deepest feelings by creating on the blank page is a gift. I have always written poetry and children’s stories.  I had my first screenplay written with Brent Beerman optioned this year, and a play I wrote with partners Mark Salyer and Kirsten Moomey is scheduled to be produced next year. 
Do you have a favorite play or musical that you were in or directed (please include why it is a favorite)?

I adored directing The Dining Room, a play by A.R. Gurney, at the Victory Theatre in Burbank.  It was a great production with an amazing cast and the play spoke to my heart.

What were some other favorite theatre experiences as a performer, director and choreographer?

My favorite performance……..when I portrayed Madame Thenardier opposite Gary Beach in Les Miserables at the Shubert Theatre in Century City. Favorite show I have directed #2….No Strings…for Reprise starring Scott Bakula. Favorite choreography….Assassins at LATC in downtown LA……Favorite experience #1….choreographing the film of Six Dance Lessons... in Budapest for 3 months. Favorite experience #2 … choreographing Snoopy on London’s West End…..I adore London…I am anxious to get back.

What’s special about this new musical Love Again?

It is a sweetheart of a musical like The Apple Tree – 3 plays in one celebrating love.

What’s up next for you?

I am directing a web series that I am also producing with my producing partner Myrl Schreibman.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention about you or the production of Love Again?

Just to thank GRT, Doug Haverty, Adryan Russ, and all the wonderful collaborators and actors who have made Love Again a beautiful production. 

Love Again plays May 15 – June 28.  Fridays & Saturdays 8PMSunday Matinees 2PMAges 13+Admission: $25Buy Tickets/Info: or (818) 763-5990.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015 Interview - The Pink Lady

Jackie Goldberg is preparing to launch her Senior Star Search, a contest for talented senior performers in LA. There will be auditions later in May for a contest that will be held downtown in July. Winners will receive prizes including new headshots and chances to appear on local stages.
Interview here - June!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Great News: The Return of Deaf West's Spring Awakening to the Wallis Annenberg

Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (“The Wallis”), Deaf West Theatre and Cody Lassen have announced Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning best musical, has a limited 22-performance engagement Thursday, May 21 to Sunday, June 7, 2015 in the Bram Goldsmith Theater. 

Deaf West Theatre Artistic Director David J. Kurs explains that their production illuminates the divide between deaf children and their hearing parents who do not share their world. “The play is all about the fraught relationship between parent and child, about navigating the world without strong guidance.  The inability of the characters in Spring Awakening to connect to and communicate with their parents is similar to the experience of many deaf children.” 

This innovative and acclaimed production, which enjoyed a sold-out engagement at downtown L.A.’s Rosenthal Theatre last fall, is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language and spoken English, by a cast of 27.  An extraordinary creative team, including director Michael Arden, choreographer Spencer Liff, and musical director Jared Stein (first National Tour of Spring Awakening; Broadway productions of American Idiot and Hair), have reinvented the groundbreaking musical about lost innocence and the struggles of youth in true Deaf West style.

The Los Angeles Times said that Deaf West Theatre’s Spring Awakening is “an emotional triumph,” and that “Awakening awakens us to the dormant possibilities of this musical, with all the goose-bumps and teardrops to prove it.”

Spring Awakening, with book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik, is directed by Arden and choreographed by Liff.  Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial 1891 expressionist play of the same name and featuring an electrifying pop/rock score, Spring Awakening follows the lives of a group of adolescents as they navigate their journey from adolescence to adulthood in a fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll. 

Arden,who plays Patrick on the FX series “Anger Management,” recently originated the title role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Paper Mill Playhouse and La Jolla Playhouse and previously appeared in Deaf West productions of Big River on Broadway and Pippin at the Mark Taper Forum. Liff is an Emmy-nominee for his work on FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and choreographed the current Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

F. Kathleen Foley said in The Los Angeles Times, “It's hard to enumerate all the ways in which Deaf West's Awakening is so very, very good.  The signing in this production does more than simply translate; it ennobles.”

“Spencer Liff's choreography incorporates signing and movement into perfectly coordinated sequences that seem completely organic to the narrative, while music director Jared Stein exploits the show's young singers to spine-tingling effect. Yet the real star of the evening is director Michael Arden, whose staging involves a mind-bogglingly intricate meld of the show's many disparate elements.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Interview with Young Reed Shannon

Actor Reed Shannon is currently on tour with Motown the Musical playing Young Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. In our chat he talks about preparing for these roles and his young theatre life so far.

Unbelievable! You are playing Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson when they were young like you. How difficult is it for you to differenciate between the 3 boys? What do you have to do physically and mentally to portray them? Did you watch tapes or listen to CDs to get the voices just right? I know Jackson performed young but I'm not sure about Little Stevie Wonder.

I have been playing the roles of Little Berry Gordy, Little Stevie Wonder, and Little Michael Jackson since April of 2014, which has been an awesome experience! I watched and still watch YouTube videos about each of these icons. I do not have videos of Mr. Gordy as a child, but I have spent some time with him and have read about him, and he has told me how Stevie and Michael were as kids. For the Stevie role I close my eyes and imagine not being able to see, and really use my sense of hearing every time I perform, and for the Michael Jackson role, I put myself in the mind set of auditioning as a younger child and really trying to show Mr. Gordy that I can perform for the whole world!

Did you know about these people before you became involved in this show? Had you heard Stevie Wonder sing? I'm sure you heard Michael Jackson. Talks about this.

I listened to young and older Michael Jackson before I was cast in Motown, and just a little bit of Stevie Wonder. Since landing the role, I have tried to listen to everything I can that each of them has written and produced! I believe their music has such a great message that if people take it in, it could change the world and help some of the problems in society.

What songs do you perform in Motown?

“Hey Joe (Black Like Me)”, “I Got the Feeling”,“Who’s Loving You”,“The Love You Save”,“ABC”
“I Want You Back”, and “I’ll Be There”.

How old are you? What is your experience onstage before Motown? Be specific!

Fourteen. I was trained to sing, act, and dance at NC Theatre Conservatory and my biggest roles were Gavroche in Les Miserables (regionally), and I was a work house boy in !Oliver, and also I performed as Sonny in In the Heights, and as the Youngest Tommy in The Who’s Tommy. I also had roles at my charter school in Peter Pan, School House Rock, and I was Mr. Bill the Candy Store owner and got to sing Candy Man (like Sammy Davis, Jr.), in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Which character is the hardest for you to play? Which is the easiest? Why?

The Stevie Wonder is the easiest to play, since there are just a few lines, and it is mostly acting, and the Little MJ role is the hardest, because there is so much precision dancing and singing at the same time.

Are you looking forward to playing LA? Are you from here or just visiting? Will you have time to see Disneyland while you are in town? I hope so.

I am from the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, and we are super excited to be in LA with Motown the Musical at the Pantages of Hollywood! This is really a highlight of our 14-15 months on this first national tour! I am not sure if I will go to Disneyland, because we only have Mondays off from the theatre, and I am going to visit high schools and will be exploring opportunities for my future in show business! I do look forward to seeing and experiencing as much of LA as possible!

How do you prepare before each show? Do you do something special before you go onstage besides vocal warmup?

I always try to get a 45 minute nap, then drink some tea with honey, get something healthy to eat like a salad, maybe play some jokes on my parents or cast mates, then put some good motivation music in my ears!

Tell me about working with this cast and crew. Do you all get along well?

Traveling around the country with Motown has really become a second family for me. Everyone is really professional and they have fun too! With me and Leon being the only two teenagers in the tour company, we learn a lot about life everyday…I really like to shadow the crew and management when I can during the four shows each week that I do not perform in.

Who is your favorite singer/dancer/performer of all time? Why?

Tori Kelly and Ariana Grande are two of my favorites, because I love their singing, their style, and they have very distinct personalities!

Are you schooling with a tutor while you are on the road? How do you like that? What is your favorite subject? Why?

Yes, I am an eighth grade home schooled student. I have an A average in the Calvert Education Curriculum. My cast mate and class mate is Leon Outlaw, Jr., in the seventh grade, and we have Ms. Melissa Waters, who is our traveling tour teacher and wrangler while the show is going on. My favorite subjects are history, and reading, and I am liking math a lot more too! It is so cool to be traveling all over America and seeing and experiencing some of the sites and subjects that I have been learning about in school.

Anything else you want to add?

Follow me on Instagram @ reed.shannon, visit, and like Reed Shannon on facebook!! I want everybody, people that have come to see Motown, my family, my community in North Carolina, my church, and the Motown company and creative team, to know how thankful I am for the encouragement and support they have given me over the past year and a half. Being in the cast of the first national tour of Motown the Musical has been a dream come true, and meeting and working with Mr. Berry Gordy, the casting agents, producers, the cast and crew has taught me so much that I will be able to use forever!

Catch  the amazingly talented Reed Shannon at the Pantages in Motown the Musical starting Tuesday April 28!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 Interview with Mary Jo Catlett

Everybody's favorite character actress/singer/ comedienne from stage, TV and film Mary Jo Catlett will appear in S.T.A.G.E on May 9 at 7: 30 pm at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. This year's show is entitled To Broadway from Hollywood...with Love.

What are you doing in the show this year?

I'm singing a Doris Day song "It's Magic".

How many shows have you done? Have you been with S.T.A.G.E. since its initiation?

Yes, I've been with S.T.A.G.E. from the start but missed a few along the way.

Talk a bit about David Galligan and how it is to work with him. You keep coming back, so he must be doing something right.

David and I don't always agree with the concept but the end result is worth it. He is one of my best friends.

Do you have a favorite show from the past? Which one? 

It's kind of a draw between the "high" lady ("Smokin Reefer") and those wild and crazy Nuns.

Oh, yes! I loved those nuns. Have you been doing your one-woman show as of late? Would love to see it here.

Nope. It's sort of in limbo.

Well, I hope you resurrect it. Is there a stage role that you performed that remains a favorite?

Many. I'd love especially to resurrect Something's Afoot. I also loved playing Ms. Tweed. (original) and also Mama Rose, but too long in the tooth now.

Any role you would love to play that you haven't?

Every actor has one or two of these; some passed me by. I would love to have played Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress; or mine would be Lady M in the Scottish play in an all Senior, hum? How old would Polonius have to be?? We'd wheel him behind the curtain!

Funny stuff! For you, what is the greatest highlight of doing a S.T.A.G.E. show?

I really love being a part of this show and laughing with Carole Cook and seeing Patricia Morison and the glorious Dale Kristien. I really think PBS is missing a bet in not televising it. It would also make a great documentary for an enterprising young film maker.

Don't miss the deliciously warm and amusing Mary Jo Catlett and a bevy of other celebrities including Greg Louganis in this year's S.T.A.G.E. on May 9 at the Saban Theatre! 

Louganis will take part in an extraordinary presentation of original costumes featured in classic Broadway productions. Acclaimed actress Susan Claassen, whose one-woman show “A Conversation with Edith Head” has won awards across the country, will narrate the costume cavalcade in character. Joining Louganis will be his husband Johnny Chaillot-Louganis, Broadway veterans Haviland Stillwell (“Les Miserable,” “Fiddler on the Roof”) and Craig Ramsay (“Mama Mia!,” “Bounce”) and his celebrity hairstylist/TV personality husband Brandon Liberati, TV stars Noah Bean (“12 Monkeys”), Lyndsy Fonseca (“Nikita”) and others. Florence Henderson will perform a Dan Mojica number in a tribute to the late choreographer, as well.

Stars of cinema, Broadway and television scheduled to also appear in the concert include: Obba Babatunde, Adrienne Baron, Susanne Blakeslee, Carole Cook, James Darren, Nancy Dussault, David Engel, Julie Garnye, Thea Gill, Jason Graae, Bill A. Jones, Sally Kellerman, Jon Maher, James C. Mulligan, Patricia Morison, Robert Morse, Scott Nevins, Kevin Odekirk, Jake Simpson, Sally Struthers, Donna Theodore, Leah Thompson, Lisa Vroman and Adam Wylie.

Begun in 1984, STAGE is the longest-running annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world. To date, STAGE has raised more than $5 million for HIV/AIDS organizations in the Southland. David Galligan has directed every production of STAGE and returns this year for the 31st time. Brad Ellis will make his first appearance as Musical Director.

For tickets and detailed information, visit:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

2015 Interview with Emrhys Cooper

In the new TV series Person of Interest on December 16 of last year, actor Emrhys Cooper made quite a splash. (picture below) Now it's time to talk about 2015 and what it holds in store for this versatile actor/performer. First up is the release in Asia of his film Kushuthara made in Butan.

interview - soon!