Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2014 Interview with Kate Pazakis

Belting songstress Kate Pazakis was recently named executive producer of Rockwell Table and Stage in Hollywood. In our chat she talks about her past successes and gives us a glimpse of her big plans for Rockwell's immediate future.

Kate, you have an amazing voice and have become known as one of the theatre's best kept secrets. How do you react to that? Tell me a few of the shows you have been involved with.

I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing.' Wow, I just proved that I am a true theater nerd. My most recent show was South Pacfic directed by the incredible Bartlett Sher. I was a replacement for Head Nurse, Lt. Genevieve Marshall. Other favorite shows include: Jerry Springer the Opera at Carnegie hall starring Harvey Keitel as Jerry and Best Little Whorehouse at the August Wilson starring Jennifer Hudson. I have done a ton of commercials and voice over work...South Park with Bobby Lopez being one of my favorite jobs ever. Mostly I am know for hosting/producing late night cabaret shows in NYC. For 7 years I hosted Mostly Sondheim at the Duplex in Greenwich Village from 11pm - 4am. Brandon Cutrell and I started that back in 2003. Good times. Good people.

Cabaret is daunting, but is one of the few places where a good singer can hone his (her) craft. There are only so many stage roles to go around, so what can a singer do? I feel tremendous sorrow for singers today considering the state that the music business is in. Talk about that if you would.

I found being a young character actress in NYC there were not a lot of roles out there for me. Accidentally I ended up in a piano bar one night and fell in love with it. Cabaret allowed me to create pieces and develop shows and characters. It should be a place where people work on new material, comic timing, acting and confidence. I highly encourage people to create, create, create. Write yourself a vehicle. Don't sit back and wait to fit into somebody else's vision.

How did you become involved at Rockwell? What brought about the position of executive producer?

I had heard about Rockwell when I was still living in NYC. When I arrived in Los Angeles three years ago I found myself at a show. Immediately I was overtaken with joy. I knew that I had found my place. It is a venue where NYC transplants, The Bway Community and colorful artists gather to do shows or have drinks after hours. Shortly after arriving I was asked to produce a monthly series called Broadway Barre. Soon I found myself in a couple of shows and producing more shows like Rocky Horror. When the position opened and was offered to me, I was thrilled. It is without a doubt: my dream job.

What is your specific vision for the club?

First and Foremost: Community. Every time someone walks into Rockwell Table & Stage I want them to have a unique theatrical experience. Every night of the week we are doing something different. We are currently creating new works that will go up in the fall and even added late night programming. On Monday nights we have Broadway themed evenings followed by Open Mic Piano Bar, Tuesdays we have a show called Harbor Party where the band dresses up like Sailors and sings your favorite Yacht Rock. Every Wednesday we have a residency with Jeff Goldblum! Thursdays - Comedy, Friday and Saturday right now we are doing a concert version of Jagged Little Pill with a cast of 16 incredible singers.

What kinds of performers will be singing at Rockwell in the near future?

Jeff Goldblum every Wednesday, Molly Ringwald, Maria Bamford. Other exciting people that I can announce in just a couple of weeks!

I heard your plans involve musical theatre as well as cabaret for the space. (Is this an expansion) On the idea of the recent Baz Luhrman staging? Tell us more!

I am VERY interested in doing fully produced musicals at Rockwell. I am currently securing the rights for a show that I am VERY passionate about to start in January.

Will you also be performing at Rockwell? Let's hope this position will not take you away from your career as singer/actress.

I do emcee a lot of the shows still. Luckily, I work a lot commercially. My passion is leaning more towards producing now. However: No matter how many times I have attempted to retire from performing, somehow it always comes back.

Who are your musical idols in show business? Young or old. Dead or alive. Who influenced you the most?

Musical Idols: how much time do you have?? Sophie Tucker and Cyndi Lauper. Most of all: Bette Midler. I love her fire and sass. Her journey is inspiring and unique. I love smart, passionate people that make things happen!

Anything else you care to add?

My goal is to help people see that cabaret is no longer a woman sitting on a stool in a gilttery top talking about moving to NYC. It is fresh, new, cutting edge and hip. Beat boxers, Rock albums uniquely molded to tell a story, musical improvisation. There are no limits.

This very prolific gal has some exciting plans for this popular Hollywood nightspot. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

2014 Interview with the Jubers

Hope Juber and Laurence Juber  chat about their latest stage endeavor Without Annette. Hope co-penned the play with Jeff Doucette, and it is set to open at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks Thursday July 10. Her husband Laurence serves as producer.

Written by Steve Peterson

Hope, you grew up in Los Angeles and started acting in television and then writing for television, which is legendary for very long hours.  How did you get involved in theatre and where did you find the time?

I have always loved theatre, and got my degree in theatre before I went into television. In the 80s, I created a comedy rock band called The Housewives that my father, Sherwood Schwartz loved.  He was looking to create a musical based on his show Gilligans Island and, as I was married to a talented musician, he asked me to write the score with Laurence and the magic of live theatre just pulled me back in. There is nothing like it.  I’d answer the second part of the question, but I have run out of time.

Do you find that writing for theatre is different than writing for TV?

Very different in the inherent limitations of stage and blocking, but good writing is still good writing.

Without Annette is comedy improv.  What is the role of a writer in improv?

Hope: Without Annette is actually a scripted play set in an improv class.  This allows a unique opportunity to blend the two.  The exercises within the class can be improvised, and the actors must improvise from their characters point of view. As a writer, I find improvisation immensely helpful.  It encourages left turns in the brain, and keeps you receptive to ideas. I was taking an improvisation workshop with Jeff Doucette.  He is an amazing improvisor and a seriously wonderful character actor.  As I was looking around at all the individuals in the class, it occurred to me that it was a very fertile ground for a play, as each of us had our own unique reason for being there.

Laurence:  There was a lot of work that went into finding the right cast and then running an improv workshop to develop a ‘group mind’.  Without Annette has a dynamic that is comparable to big band jazz, where a tight ensemble performs structured arrangements with room for improvised riffs. Its one of the things I found so compelling about this piece.

Laurence, what are the duties of a producer in theatre?  What artistic input does the producer have?

Its not particularly glamorous - a lot of spreadsheets, check writing, phone calls, emails and figuring out advertising/marketing angles. We are very lucky to have The Whitefire as our neighborhood theatre, so that was an easy call to make. There are a lot of details and deadlines. My job artistically is to help it come to life - I wanted to see this particular work on its feet.

What are the challenges of producing a show like Without Annette?

Its double cast (one role is triple cast), so there are 23 available performers in the company and 2 stage managers. Gabrieal Griego is co-producing which takes some of the load from me. Its less complicated than doing a musical plus we have a minimal set, so the logistics are manageable. Its configured to move in and out of the theatre one night a week, so the focus is on the piece and the finely-drawn characters.

As a musician, have you been called on to add music to the production?

Music and comedy are natural bedfellows. Im playing the musical interludes live and also doing a pre-show mini-concert, so I recommend arriving early. I have concert commitments, but fortunately Ill only miss one Annette show during the run. Hope and I also wrote a couple of songs for the improv show finale of the play.

Is there life in the theatre for you after Annette?

Hope:  I will continue to write, create and produce.  I am always working on something. I have recently rewritten my musical Its The Housewives! for a 4 person cast, and I would love to see that up soon.

Laurence:  There are ongoing discussions about our other musicals and I expect to continue to work creatively in theatre.

Openings: July 10th and July 17th at 8pm (show is double-cast with two opening nights)
Runs: Thursdays – July 10th through October 2nd (Dark Sept. 25th). 
Tickets: Thursday performances - $34. 
Buy Tickets: www.plays411.com or (323) 960-5773.  
Venue:  Whitefire Theatre  13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423

Thursday, June 5, 2014

2014 Interview with Composer Michael Patrick Walker

Musician/composer/lyricist Michael Patrick Walker is world premiering a new musical Dog and Pony at the Old Globe in San Diego. Walker is best known as one of the composers of the hit musical Altar Boyz. He was nominated for a 2005 Lucille Lortel Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical and for two 2005 Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and for Best Lyrics for Altar Boyz. The show also won the 2005 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. In our chat he talks in depth about Dog and Pony and working with the cast and creative team at the Old Globe.

What an interesting title! What is Dog and Pony about?

Dog and Pony is the story of Mags and Andy and their work/spouse relationship. They write movies together and have been very successful at it - largely because they click on almost every level - they finish each others' sentences, they are excited and inspired by each other and they know each other - heart and mind - better than anyone else in their lives. It is a musical comedy to be sure and a lot of fun, but it is also about a complicated, real relationship between these two characters and how that relationship affects them and the other people in their lives. As the show begins, we know Mags and Andy no longer work together but as we see the last year in their relationship play out in flashbacks, we see the how, the why and the missed opportunities and then deal with the question of whether they can or will or should work together, be friends again or neither.  

     What kind of music have you composed for it? 

My main goal is always to write music and lyrics that fit the story, the characters and the moment. For me, all those elements are married to one another - and since the lyrics and music often come at the same time, whatever moment I'm composing for in the show dictates what I write.  Dog and Pony has 9 main characters (played by a cast of 5) and I've gotten to know them very well over the few years of writing the show. The style of the score is roughly in the "contemporary musical theatre" category - vague though that term is. There are elements of pop, rock, traditional musical theatre and more in the score but it's not pastiche in that I think the score sounds "of a piece".  As for the lyrics, it is very much an extension of the speaking rhythms and cadences of the characters and the dialogue. I think it all comes together nicely to do what a musical should (and must) do - tell the story and entertain while being both challenging enough and accessible enough to the audience. 
Has it required challenges greater than those you've experienced before?
I wouldn't say "greater than", but there are always challenges. Writing a musical - especially one not based on any source material - is a major challenge. You always have those moments where you have to cut or change something you really, really liked, but it's not right for the show. And as a show evolves over time, things that were exactly right are suddenly in that "cut or change" category a year later.  Beyond that, the small size of the cast is both part of what makes the show unique and fun and a challenge when it comes to writing the score.  Both in terms of structuring the show so there is variety for the audience and in finding things that these characters would all sing about together. There is no "bring on the ensemble and do a big 'Shipoopi'-esque dance number" - even if we wanted to and could, that's not our show.

How has it been working with Rick Elice? Have you found your collaborations fruitful? 
Rick has been a fantastic collaborator and I've enjoyed writing the show with him immensely. What's been especially rewarding and beneficial is that, while we each have our own elements to write (Rick, the book and me, the music and lyrics), we're both the kind of writers who insist on getting together and talking out new or changing moments and working them out together first. From a tiny beat to the entire arc of the show's story, we'll talk it through, bounce ideas off each other and come up with something we're both on board with and excited by. That is key to creating and writing a show where the lyrical voices and the speaking voices of the characters are in line with each other. There's also a lot that Rick and I have in common that makes us click in that personal/professional way that makes a collaboration spark. We're different ages, we grew up in very different situations (him in New York City, I in rural Pennsylvania) and many other differences, but somehow we ended up as pretty similar people in the ways that matter and make us strong collaborators.
 Talk a little about the cast and creative team.
The cast and creative team for our premiere production is fantastic and it's been a tremendous bit of luck (and a lot of planning!) to have them all on board and bringing the show to life.  Our director, Roger Rees, brings a sensibility and creativity that is crucial to the show - especially as the Globe staging is in the round which, for a musical comedy, is a particularly difficult challenge.  Thankfully, Roger and the designers have met it beautifully and I'm thrilled how well the show works in this setting.  

The cast - Nicole Parker, Jon Patrick Walker, Heidi Blickenstaff, Beth Leavel and Eric William Morris - are all creative, hard-working, thinking actors which is exactly what you want and need putting a brand new musical on its feet for the first time. There is no frame of reference or "in the past we've done it this way" guideline. It's the kind of things that is very exciting to work on and to do, but you need the right actors who are ready and willing and able to take on that kind of challenge - thankfully, we have that in spades!  I can't say enough good things about what they brought to the table and how much that work is paying off and I'm extremely proud of and pleased with all of them.  

There are many other people on the team who are huge part of the show, but I'd be remiss if I didn't give special mention to the brilliant Larry Hochman, my orchestrator for the show.  The value and importance of how he takes the time to understand the entire show and what I'm going for with the score before expanding and making it come alive in three musical dimensions is huge!  
What is your favorite musical of all time? Why is it your favorite? 
It's really hard to pick one - especially with so many shows, from the classics to the brand new, being so amazing. The best I can do is telling you about my favorite TWO musicals of all time in terms of the shows that had the most personal and creative influence on me. In no particular order, they are Sondheim's Into the Woods and Bill Finn's Falsettos. Both of these writers and shows, in different ways, are the epitome of what I strive for in terms of story-telling through music and lyrics. My style is different from both of them, but I was and am deeply influenced by their work.  So many wonderful melodies and turns of lyrical phrase - plus the story and themes of these specific shows speak to me and resonate with me very deeply.

 What is a favorite of the ones you've penned?  

Well, now we really are dealing with a Sophie's Choice situation!  I love each of "my children" equally of course - and each in different ways.  Right now I'm particularly focused on Dog and Pony as we premiere and hone it so it's definitely foremost in my mind, but if I picked one over the others, I'm afraid I'd have nightmares where characters from my shows did unspeakable things to me!

I understand you have a new CD Out of Context. Tell us about it.
 Like every composer, I have a my trunk songs (songs that have been cut from shows during the writing process), and I've wanted to do an album of them for a while now, but I wasn't sure how to present songs from different shows when my lyrics tend to be very specific to the situation.  When I finally had some time to devote to really making it happen, I pitched the idea to Michael Croiter at Yellow Sound Label and he literally said "let's do it" immediately.  So I began to sift through my trunk, my stand-alone songs and other random tidbits that, for the most part, have never been recorded while trying to figure out how to present them out of context from the shows and moments for which they were originally written.  Once I embraced the phrase  and idea of "out of context", the album really started to come together - but not without a lot of help from many of my friends and colleagues - actors and musicians who jumped on board as readily and with as much excitement as the Label.  

The final product is a CD I'm immensely proud of and has amazing performance of 13 songs by Kelli O'Hara, Andy Karl, Telly Leung and Michael Arden, Lisa Howard, Anne L. Nathan, Cheyenne Jackson, Rachel York, Andy Mientus, Noah Galvin, Kate Wetherhead, Peter Friedman, Jim Stanek, Kerry O'Malley and Natalie Venetia Belcon.  Twelve of the thirteen tracks have never been recorded before, but I couldn't resist ending the CD with a re-imagined version of "I Believe" from Altar Boyz.  That show and that song meant and mean so much to it and to have Cheyenne Jackson record it - well, the chance was too good to pass up.  It's a completely different take on the song so while it's still true to the original meaning, it is still "out of context". The CD is available on Amazon and on iTunes!
Anything else you care to mention?
All I'd add is that, if you're looking for a new, original musical that's funny, moving and being performed by a fantastic group of actors, then please head over to The Old Globe and catch Dog and Pony - playing until at least June 29th...and possibly beyond!

Dog and Pony plays at the Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego through June 29.

and for more on Michael Patrick Walker, visit:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

2014 Interview - French Stewart

Actor French Stewart will repeat his role as Buster Keaton in Stoneface, written by his wife Vanessa Claire Stewart, at the Pasadena Playhouse beginning June 3. The play will costar Daisy Eagan. Stewart, best known to TV audiences for 3rd Rock from the Sun, the middle and other sitcoms is a wonderful dramatic actor, and as Buster Keaton in Stoneface, which sold out houses for months at Sacred Fools Theatre in 2012, he just shines.

Tell us about Stoneface, what it tells about Buster Keaton's life and what this role means to you.

The main thing that we wanted to do was to show him, the best and the worst, just bumps and all, his actual life. We spent a lot of time with his family. They were worried that it would just be another version of...just Buster Keaton.

Who does his family consist of at this point?

Grandchildren; it's sort of an extended bunch...they're very protective and we've gotten to be very close with them. We didn't move away from any of the hard parts about his life, but we were fair about them. That's all they (family) really wanted. I had always wanted to play Buster Keaton, and my wife (Vanessa Claire Stewart) is a wonderful playwright.

And she also plays a wonderful Keely Smith (in her Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara) too.

And she's the shyest person you've ever met. She just bangs out a great work of art. (we laugh) I was worried that I was just too old to do the tricks, and she said "Well, play the drum's metal part" and then she just wrote it for me. It's been a wonderful thing and taking it from the Sacred Fools, which is our sort of little home theatre...

It was brilliant there. I loved the whole execution of the play. Watching it was like watching a silent movie; it was so beautifully done.

Thank you so much. Taking it to Pasadena, we want to...

Let's talk about that later. First, I want you to tell me more about the challenges of creating Buster Keaton., his personal life as well as his career.
The challenge for me is that...we wanted the show to be full of...(pause) There's a lot of physical danger in it; we do a lot of physical stuff. When we drop the house, you know, if I'm not in the right spot...I actually get pounded into the ground. It's an actual threat, and we're going to drop a much bigger house at Pasadena. We wanted to take physical chances and emotional chances and just lay it all out there. It's very physically demanding, and this is the first time I'll have to be doing two of them in a day.

OK, how will it translate to the bigger venue of the Pasadena Playhouse stage?  

The theatre is so dramatically different, and so much larger, so it's got to change. We want to keep the handmade charm of the smaller show and just blow it up for a larger venue.

Has Vanessa made any changes to the script?

Yeah. There were certain things we wanted to tighten up, We've got a new cast member, Daisy Eagan; she's just wonderful. We're just trying to do a better version of it. Clean up some things in the script that weren't working, and we'll have a chance to clean up certain acting things that weren't working...

Can you mention any changes without giving too much away?

A lot of it has been in language nuance. We've also added another scene where you get to see a younger Buster Keaton act his best. We felt like we leaned pretty heavy on his hardest, and we really wanted to be able to see him at his best. We've also added a little bit more Chaplin stuff. But, most of it's nuance.

Is this your greatest role to date?

I feel like it is. I feel like it's the one that's most important to me. On TV, I'm mostly going to be just a goofball. That's fine...but on stage people know me differently. I'm able to do anything. The role is a good use of me and my physicality, and I get to show some emotional range.

How do you feel about Voice Lessons?

It might be my favorite. It's such a weird little punk song. (laughs) An hour and fifteen minutes of just mayhem. I think it's Laurie Metcalf at her best. It's so great to play straight man to Laurie Metcalf.

Your reactions to her were priceless.

(laughs) I'm really proud of it. It's one of those things we've never quite figured out what to do with. You can't really take it to Broadway. Off-Broadway, maybe.

It would work Off-Broadway!

Nobody's ever complained about a show being too short. I sure haven't. I like to go in, sit down and have an hour fifteen of just craziness and then go have some drinks. It says what it says; it's not King Lear. Every now and then we pull it out. We tried to do it a couple of months ago, but because of schedules...Laurie's doing Broadway... anyway, I just love that show. It's my friends' favorite.

I saw you do The Nerd a few years back at the Colony. But that's closer to the schtic you've done on television, don't you think?

It was clearly kind of a big house commercial thing. That play is what it is. I remember seeing it when I was young and thinking it was delightful. But then the first thing you realize about doing it, is that it's really dated.
And you have to embrace that. If you don't embrace the fact that you're showing a snapshot of time in the theatre, then you're going to kill yourself, because you're going to try to make something relevant that might not be. It was really just a matter of recreating a snapshot, big dopey fun.

Talk a little about 3rd Rock.

I have a lot of gratitude for having had that in my life. It was really joyous from beginning to end. A lot of theatre people getting together and cranking out a one-act play every week. Just like smart/stupid. You do plays and then you get this show and suddenly you're going on Oprah! and meeting the President and going on The Tonight Show. It changes your life and...it's given me everything.

You worked with some great people. John Lithgow!

The main thing was that Lithgow is such a gentleman.I only saw him get angry maybe once; the rest of the time it was just steady, steady, steady. If your leader is steady, you're fine. It's the same thing in Mom. 

Anna Faris is a nice person and she leads by just doing her job well. She and Allison Janney got along great; no girl on girl violence! (we laugh) It's been very joyful and it's going to be nice to come back again. If you ever get the chance to work with someone like Chuck Lorre (producer), he understands the venue; he knows how to do it. He's very efficient. It's been  like going back to college in  a way; you learn somebody else's way of doing things and you grow by it. It's fun. It's been nice. I've got a ten-month old baby and I want to be in town. I've always found what I want in the theatre and occasionally I can find it on TV. I've always made my living doing that and I'm very grateful.

Stoneface. What are the plans? To take it on the road?

Yeah. My wife and I are invested in it. We're building it. We'll own the set; we'll own the design. Our plan is to move it maybe off-Broadway and then Broadway. Just build it and make it as big as possible. I'm usually pretty honest with myself...what I'm in, whether it's pretty good or not. This one I just feel it. I'm very proud of it. The sharper and finer we can get it, the better it will be.

Catch the very talented French Stewart in the performance of his career as Buster Keaton in Stoneface at the Pasadena Playhouse June 3 - 29!


Saturday, May 31, 2014

2014 Interview with Eric McCormack

Eric McCormack is best known for his Emmy-winning portrayal of Will Truman in NBC's hit sitcom Will and Grace and for his latest TNT crime drama Perception. He has also appeared on Broadway and is an avid musician. On June 1 he will join Joan Ryan in her new show On the Edge at Catalina Jazz Club. In our chat he talks about Joan Ryan, the show and his musical career.

Many folks do not realize that Eric McCormack can sing. Did music come first in your professional development? If not, how important was it to you?

I did my first musical in 4th grade, as Huck Finn. By 11th grade I was starring in Godspell and Pippin and pretending to be “Che” in Evita in my bedroom. Singing has always been a huge part of me.

What are your musical tastes?

Schizophrenic, to say the least. When I was 16, I’d ping pong between AC/DC and Barry Manilow without any sense of irony. If we’re karaoke-ing, I’m as likely to do Aerosmith as I am Sweeney Todd. 

Do you have a favorite singer? Composer? Broadway show?

How much time ya got? Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Billy Joel, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry, Burton Cummings, Elvis Costello; they're the singers I emulate to this day. Show-wise, I love Little Shop and Big River, Avenue Q and Spring Awakening. And I’m still waiting for that Frank n’ Furter offer… if they don’t give it to Neil Patrick Harris first.

Well, they did, but I'd still love to see you do that. What are you performing on June 1? If a surprise, just a tease…

I always take advantage of opportunities like this to do songs on my Bucket List. As soon as Joan called, I said, “Let’s do “Suddenly Seymour”!” I’ll never get to play the role, but I love that song.  Joanie wanted me to do something solo, too. Last fall, I did a musical show of my own in LA called The Concert I Never Gave (except for, like, 2000 times in my bedroom), is a sadly accurate title. It was a really fun evening of songs I’ve always wanted to do and stories from the last 15 crazy years of my life. The last song in the show is one Burton Cummings made famous (in Canada, at least) called “Dream of a Child”, which is as good a song as I’ve ever heard about growing up and making your dreams come true. I’m doing that one for Joanie’s audience.

What is your association to Joan Ryan?

Our kids go to the same school, and we met singing at a couple of the fundraisers. She’s an amazing performer and I can’t wait to see this fancy award-winning show of hers!

Photo: Okay, so here we go... all my Los Angeles friends please come along... and especially those noisy  Broadway Knights...  Joanie's back, and better than ever... Joan Ryan...  And with Eric McCormack (star of Will and Grace) .. he also of my hometown Toronto - nice connection.   Check out his new TV series Perception.  JUNE 1st on your calendars...

Friday, May 30, 2014

2014 Interview - Joan Ryan

2013 BWW Award winner for Best Female Cabaret Artist, Joan Ryan will perform her acclaimed night club show On the Edge on  Sunday June 1 at Catalina Jazz Club with special guest star Eric McCormack. The show will benefit The Trevor Project. In our chat, Ryan discusses the show, her music and theatrical career.
Joan, you have had a wonderful singing career in LA for many years. Talk about this in detail, including shows you have done.

Thank you. You know, I love Los Angeles theater and I've been pretty lucky to get to do some wonderful roles. My  first show in Los Angeles was in  Angry Housewives. I played Jetta,  a mousy housewife who joins a punk band whose breakout number is  "Eat Your Fu@$#NG Cornflakes" while throwing cornflakes on the audience. Then I got to do Niteclub Confidential with Scott Bakula,  where I  played a mousy club singer, who turns into a gutsy star.  There was certainly  a pattern. Then, one of my favorite roles, Audrey in  Little Shop Of Horrors, Joseph and the ..…Footloose and so many more.  I love roles where I really get to sing and that have lots of heart. It was also very exciting to get to do  Leonard Bernstien's " The Mass" at the Hollywood Bowl, and of course, Judy Denmark/Ginger Del Marco in Ruthless!

Let's expand on Ruthless, if you would.

Ruthless was the catalyst to jumpstart my career and visibility.
 It was also a very exciting experience to be in that kind of  a cult hit with such a fantastic cast and director. But, boy, was it a demanding role.I will never forget that when the director Joel Paley told me I had the role, he said "Don't come crying to me when you see how hard it is"!  The original LA cast is ready for a reunion,  and we can all still fit in the costumes, except Lindsay Ridgeway who played Tina..she is taller than me! Both Ruthless and Angry Housewives led to television roles. Angry Housewives led to my role as Tina Pallodrino on Saved By The Bell (my first tv series) and Ruthless to a two year stint as everyone's favorite psychiatrist, Kathleen Houghton on The Young And The Restless. I also loved that I got to record the Ruthless album. That was a thrill.

You have won numerous awards, including BWW's Favorite Female Cabaret Artist for 20013. How does that feel?

Amazing…grateful and I'm  really happy! This show was a real stretch for me, and I put  my trust in Andrew MacBean, my director, to go in a very different direction. It wasn't a safe direction for me, certainly not in my comfort zone, for sure,  so it was great to see that it paid off with our reviews and awards. So yes, did I say AMAZING!!!

How was performing at 54 Below? Was that your very first New York experience?

May I say here and now, I absolutely love and treasure New York. I don't mean to sound trite, but the minute I step off the plane in New York, I am immediately happy. I have felt that ever since I was a little girl, when my mom would take me to see Broadway shows every year. I have always felt that I belonged more on the East Coast than the West, and I now find myself going back and forth between the two cities way more often. 
54 Below was a fantastic experience. I love the room and the people that run it. It was so exciting!It was scary at first, because coming from LA, I wasn't sure how my show would be received, but after I sang my opening number, my fears were put to rest. The audience was so smart and got every musical reference. I had a ball and can't wait to go back.

Tell me about the film that you are in that was recently released.

The film is called Hot Guys With Guns and was a fantastic experience to do. Hot Guys is a really funny heist movie a la Moonlighting or Lethal Weapon. The difference is that the leads are gay.I got to play Patricia, the overbearing,oversexed,  coke snorting, ecstacy loving mom to one of the leads, Brian McArdle. Totally inappropriate, totally fun. I loved our director, Doug Spearman. He really gave us a lot of room and was known to let the camera keep rolling more than once  to see what we would do. It was sure hard not to laugh as we were shooting.

Tell our readers a little about the Joan Ryan Show that they will see on June 1 at Catalina.

First and foremost, it's a really entertaining one!  It's autobiographical and yet, it has so many relatable themes. It tells a story, from beginning to end. We have chosen every song for the story, not the other way around. As I said, very different than what I'm used to! There are parts of the show that I am not really sure what's going to happen, so it keeps me on my toes. 
And let's talk about Eric McCormack! He is so talented, sings great and is so funny.  I am really thrilled to have him in the show.  I am also very honored to be raising money for The Trevor Project with this evening. It's an organization that is doing amazing work.

Who are your favorite singers?

 There are so  many. Bernadette Peters, Joni Mitchell, Betty Buckley, Billy Joel, Linda Rondstadt and Pink, to name a few.  I am a self professed Beltaholic, but I am in treatment

Favorite composers?

Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Schwartz, Bernstein, Jason Robert Brown…the usual!

Favorite Broadway musical?

My mom has four kids and whenever we  ask her who her favorite is, she says "Whoever I'm with at the time"  That's pretty much how I feel about Broadway musicals.  Good ones, anyway. It's so hard to choose. Little Night Music, Aida, Sunday in the Park, Sweet Charity,West Side Story,  the list is endless!

 Do you have a mentor or mentors who have meant a lot to you over the years?

I've been blessed to have worked with so many talented directors. And I learn so much from all of them. Michael Chapman, directed my very first club act in the 80s, and what I've learned from him I use to this day. Joel Paley, Andrew MacBean, Doug Spearman the list goes on and on.
What is your very favorite kind of music? Why?
 Well, show tunes, of course! Because they make me feel, make me sing, make me happy.

Photo: Okay, so here we go... all my Los Angeles friends please come along... and especially those noisy  Broadway Knights...  Joanie's back, and better than ever... Joan Ryan...  And with Eric McCormack (star of Will and Grace) .. he also of my hometown Toronto - nice connection.   Check out his new TV series Perception.  JUNE 1st on your calendars...