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!

Monday, April 6, 2015

news - James Darren

Actor/singer James Darren will appear in S.T.A.G.E. this year on May 9 at the Saban Theatre.

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Interview with Emanuel Loarca

Written by Steve Peterson

Actor/director Emanuel Loarca, founder of Akabal Theatre, is the creator and director behind the play Under My Skin running March 26th – April 23rd at the Macha Theatre in WeHo, Thursdays at 8PM with a pre-show in the lobby starting at 7:30pm. 

You’ve performed in more than 90 plays as an actor.  How did you get started directing?  What was the first play you directed?

When I was 18, I met the late Alba Oms, my beloved acting teacher and director whom I studied with for several years at the Puerto Rican Travelling Theatre.  She mentored me and showed me the ropes. 

The first play I directed professionally was Blood Wedding at Teatro el Puente in Brooklyn, New York. It was there that I learned the importance of community.  I was so inspired by those kids who came from difficult backgrounds and challenges.  They showed me that you can do anything you put your minds to.

Tell us about Akabal, the theatre company you founded.  

As an actor, I got tired of the stereotype, one-dimensional characters I would get called in for.    I wanted to tell stories that could empower our American Latino Community and also help me develop my craft and I wanted a place to create original works that would be poignant and funny and always celebrating the human spirit.   The name Akabal comes from the Mayan.  It is a sign that means knowledge from the past enlightens the future. 

What was the genesis of this play? Where did the idea come from?  How did you find the source material?

Several years ago, I was sitting in the Village at the Ed Gould Plaza (Los Angeles LGBT Center) when I came up with the concept for Under My Skin.  Originally, I wrote it as a one-act, with the idea that I would one day develop it into a full length play that I could direct.   In 2014, Akabal Theatre, the company I founded, was given the opportunity to produce the play at the One City One Pride Festival with the proviso that besides the topic of love, the play would also address marriage equality for disenfranchised communities; I wanted to make the play about the human experience and not about sexual choices or the sexual act.  I called in favors from international writer- friends of mine, and they responded with poignant pieces.  From those pieces I learned about the challenges culture, religion and traditions have in the lives of people who love differently. 

What is the play about?

While at a wedding, six characters share their personal experiences, based on real life stories about being different, being rejected, and just wanting to be loved unconditionally.  This drama explores with humor what lives under the skin of survivors of intolerance, homophobia, and transphobia enhanced with song, and movement celebrating the joy of culture, unbreakable faith and the power of self-acceptance.  The play is performed in English and Spanish with subtitles in both languages. 

“Under My Skin” was the only theatre piece invited to perform at the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.  How did it go?

It went amazingly well.   It was standing room only.  The Akabal creative team and cast felt so honored to have the opportunity to share our voices, our stories with a different audience, in a different language.  The play was followed by a Q & A.  It was such a beautiful night!

What would like to see as a result of someone seeing “Under My Skin”? 

I hope everyone has a great time and that the play makes them think and challenges old information, and brings communities together with more compassion and understanding.

Is there something else coming up for you---something you’re preparing to direct, or as an actor an upcoming appearance in film, TV, or theatre?

Yes, I am set to direct “Unbreaking” a short film about the complicated relationship between a father and his son.   I am also working on a script for a TV pilot series drama; based on the life of a theater director who is working on a play with similar themes as Under My Skin, which force him to confront issues in his own life

Is there anything else you want us to know about you, Akabal, or this play?  

Everyone involved in the Akabal Theatre production of Under My Skin is thankful for all the love and support from friends and followers.  This is what fuels us to continue to create original works of and for social awareness.

Tickets: $25.  Seniors/Students/Groups: $20.  Mature material.  Ages 18+.  Buy Tickets/Info: or (917) 689-4567.   The play is being performed in association with Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2015 Interview - Dan DeLuca Tours with Newsies

        Actor/singer Dan DeLuca has many regional stage credits that include Danny in Stephen Schwartz's Snapshots (Goodspeed), Lucas in The Addams Family (Muny), and Gabe in Next to Normal (Weston Playhouse). New York credits include: Cain/Japheth in Children of Eden (CAP21), plus various concerts/new works at 54 Below, Joe's Pub & Radio City. DeLuca will begin performances at the Pantages in the first national tour of Newsies as Jack Kelly on March 24. In our chat he tells us just how much Newsies means to him.              

             I understand you were born in 1992, the year the film Newsies came out. Put all of this into perspective for me, how you feel about that and how you felt about the film as a kid. Did you ever think that someday you would be playing the role of Jack Kelly?

I have to be honest, I never actually saw the film until I was in high school. I am a very proud Disney freak but my parents never bought me the VHS so I never had any exposure to it. However, when I finally saw the film, I imagined myself playing the role of Racetrack (Max Casella’s role in the film). I dreamed of standing on tables and singing King of New York, not riding a horse in a cowboy hat. Now I’m 22 and Captain (or cowboy) Jack Kelly is a much better fit.

              How challenging a role is Jack to play onstage? Is it as difficult or more so than others you have tackled? If so, in what way?

I think Jack Kelly is one of the most difficult male tracks in musical theater. I wore a Fitbit on my ankle one night and I burn over 900 calories every time I do the show. It’s the best marathon ever. It’s extremely vocally and physically demanding. Lots of high notes to sing, lots of speeches to get the guys riled up, lots of punching and lots of getting punched. It’s an adventure every night and I am having the time of my life.

How is the stage version of Newsies similar to the film?

It still has the plot line and songs that everyone knows and loves.. You still get “Seize the Day” and "Santa Fe", they are just more flushed out for the stage. 

            How is the musical different from the film?

There are quite a handful of differences, as one should expect. Harvey Fierstein cut the Bill Pullman character (Denton) from the film and created a new character for the stage named Katherine, a sassy and sophisticated reporter who writes about the Newsies’ strike and serves as a love interest for Jack Kelly.  Alan Menken and Jack Feldman added a number of catchy and smart songs that won them the 2012 Tony Award for Best Score. I’ve met many fans of the movie who have come to see the show and they have not been disappointed.

Describe working with this creative team - the composers, the director, choreographer. I understand we are about to see some of the best dancing onstage EVER. Talk a little about that.

Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, Harvey Fierstein, Jeff Calhoun, and Chris Gatelli…no wonder the show is a hit. Each one of those men is just as talented, smart, loving and supportive as the next. 

The score is out of this world. On my day off, I find myself singing the songs in the shower and I get mad at Alan and Jack because the score is so catchy and I deserve a day off (laughing). I have never had a composer make such a tremendous impact on my life as Alan Menken. Not a day has gone by in my life when I have not either hummed or sung one of his songs out loud. Jack Feldman and I also share the stupidest sense of humor and we can entertain each other for hours texting dumb jokes. Jack also wrote the songs for A Goofy Movie, which makes him one of the coolest guys ever. 

Harvey is also one of the sweetest men on the planet. He treated me like an old friend the second we met. I have seen him in countless Broadway shows and movies and think he is one of the most talented people in the business and, it’s a dream come true getting to work with him. 

I met Jeff Calhoun two years ago and he has been so supportive of me getting this role, and I can’t thank him enough. He’s been so great about letting me explore and play as Jack. Every time he comes to see the show, we’ll have a new discussion about the character and it continues to help me grow. 

Poor Chris Gatelli had to work with my “dance” skills. I've never worked with a choreographer who caters so much to his dancers. He is one of those talented forces of nature with a heart of gold. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat. 

     Are you looking forward to LA audiences? 

I am thrilled to be opening this show in LA. It will be so nice to sit down and really explore the city. I don’t know what to expect but I have a feeling I’m really going to enjoy it.

      What fun story can you tell me about working in Newsies on the road? An embarrassing moment or something that can only happen onstage.

There is a new story everyday. The set is made up of 3 giant towers that move all over the stage. If they malfunction, it results in me improving a whole new scene (which is an adventure for everyone involved) until stage management can get them back on track. Lyrics have been forgotten and I’ve fallen on my butt and face a number of times. The list goes on...

The performance schedule for Newsies is Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm. There are previews March 24 and 25 and opening Night is Thursday, March 26 at 8 pm. The show runs through April 19. Newsies is recommended for ages 6 and up.
For tickets or more information about the Los Angeles engagement of Newsies, please visit: 

(photo credit: Deen van Meer)

2015 Interview with Brady Schwind, Director of Carrie the Musical

What has been your greatest challenge in directing Carrie The Musical?

The biggest challenge to directing this production of Carrie is our environmental staging which is at once intimate and epic - putting the actors and very complicated special effects only feet away from audience members. It's rather like creating a two hour 'close-up' magic trick - you can't hit any false notes - either in the slight of hand of the effects, or in the honesty of the performances.The audience will be right there for everything.

More specifically, the technical challenges of the show are enormous. We've got 300 lighting cues, illusions, water, blood, complicated sound effects.  Integrating those elements takes enormous logistic planning. The tone of the piece has to be just right to work -- horror relies on thrills and unexpected surprises, but the story also demands humor, and emotional honesty.  Balancing those elements is a careful science. 

Explain how the changes in the script affect your work on the piece.

I've luckily had Lawrence Cohen, the original book writer, at my disposal in creating this production, and he has been incredibly supportive of our vision for this piece, and open to tweaks to the script that work for 'this' concept of the musical. That collaboration works much as it does on any re-imagined production; Larry and I talk about new ideas for a certain scene; he creates wonderful new lines which we explore in the rehearsal room, and then we hone in together to create what will ultimately work best in performance.  

How vastly different is this piece from the original Carrie?

Larry, Michael and Dean already did a drastic re-write to the musical before it opened Off Broadway in 2012 at MCC.  We are starting with the template of that revision and are making tweaks for our re-imagining. But audiences familiar with that production can expect quite a bit of new dialogue, a new scene involving Margaret in a parent-teacher conference at Carrie's high school, and musical verses in "Do Me a Favor" and "The Destruction" that are restored from the original Broadway mounting.

What is your cast contributing?

They are sensational!  Fearless and true. Misty Cotton who plays Margaret is one of Los Angeles's finest singing actresses; Emily Lopez who plays Carrie is a real find: she was living in Vermont at the time of our casting for this production, and won the role after submitting two sensational audition videos.  And for the younger roles, we are blessed with some of the best new talent in Los Angeles. It has been a joy to give so many kids right out of school their first professional contracts.  

What do you wish audiences to take away?

I want them to be thrilled and moved and above all else, I want them to have fun. Theatre should be a visceral experience.

Remember Carrie will perform in La Mirada at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, March 12 - April 5!