Monday, October 17, 2016

2016 Interview with Sam Anderson

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present a special Los Angeles engagement of Edward Albee’s The Play about The Baby, which opened Friday, September 16. Each week we will spotlight a member of the cast or creative team of the play.

This week the spotlight is on award-winning actor, director Sam Anderson, a veteran member of the Road and co-artistic director.

What character do you play and how does he serve Albee’s vision?
I play MAN. I drive and guide the evening’s “entertainment,” all designed to get the other 3 characters down to the raw truth as I see it.

What is it like to do an Albee play?
It’s an amazing and bittersweet experience. Albee pushes the actor to the limits, and it’s like going to a master class every time we do it. Having him pass away on the day of our opening was something I’m still trying to process, but every time we perform it, I hope we are honoring him and doing him proud.

What is the message of The Play About the Baby?
I believe this piece has so much to do with innocence and experience and how people deal with loss, how each of us has our own “reality,” our own way of seeing the world, and how blind we are, how stuck in certain areas or ways of thinking, how the past affects the present, and how we mourn it once it passes.

What have you done to prepare?
Tough question. I read his wonderful biography by Mel Gussow. I thought a lot about vaudeville, and the theatre of cruelty, and I remembered from an interview that Albee said all of his plays in one way or another were about parenting.

What are audiences taking away?

It’s been so gratifying to listen to people discuss the show after, and like the cast, to accept you are not going to get all the answers wrapped up in a neat little bow, but there’s something to take away from it for every single person. I also love hearing the feedback that above all, audiences are really entertained by it and fascinated with it. I applaud their willingness to take it on its own terms.

2016 Interview with Scott Rognlien

Scott Rognlien (Adaptor/Director/Producer) will have a world premiere of his latest work, VONNEGUT, USA running October 14 – November 20, at the Atwater Village Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.  The work is an adaptation of five Vonnegut short stories presented as one continuous 90 minute piece. Members of The Next Arena, a theatre company founded by Scott and friends, are performing in and producing the six week run.  

Scott’s work as a director has been seen in Chicago, England, Central Oregon, and Los Angeles.  With The Next Arena, Scott directed No Exit, We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, The Angry Guy in the Pink Hat and the critically acclaimed Von Bach.  Also with TNA, he adapted and performed Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading for the stage.  Scott is the Artistic Director and a founding member of The Next Arena, and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Performance Studies Department.

Written by Steve Peterson

How and when did you first become interested in Performance Art?

I studied at Northwestern University in their Performance Studies department.  Early on I adapted an excerpt from TS Eliot's The Wasteland and was instantly hooked on interpretive forms of performance.  There were so many directions one could go with this style of performance that I became fascinated with finding new ways to tell live stories that went beyond what I had been taught about traditional theatre.

It’s a lot of work starting a theatre company.  What was the reason or purpose of starting The Next Arena?  How did you go about finding members interested in joining a new company with an eclectic mission?

Mostly it was friends that were actors and writers that I knew from college that wanted to start the company.  Like most young artists in LA, we were all looking for creative work to do while we were waiting for the phone to ring.  By doing plays, we were able to choose our own material and do the work exactly how we wanted.  The level of control with theatre is great as it's relatively inexpensive and it's a wonderful collaborative effort.  We started creating our own material early on and that became our main goal as we got better at producing shows.  This way we could develop a production all the way from top to bottom.

What was it about Kurt Vonnegut’s writing or short stories that caught your attention?

I think it’s Vonneguts’s  narrative voice that attracted me most of all.  His themes and characters are wonderful and capture a great picture of humanity, but the way he tells the story has always been my favorite part.  He commentates.  He jumps around in time. Sometimes he even shows up in the stories himself.  I always feel like this tall, lanky fella decided to sit down and personally tell me stories.  It's a very intimate experience to read his stories.

 How did you go about developing the piece?

Once I found the 5 stories I wanted to use in the piece, I set about putting them together in various ways over the course of a number of drafts.  I would have readings with our company members where they would give me notes and suggestions.  We also had an informal stage reading of one of the more recent drafts where audience members weighed in on the piece.  These stages of development were integral to helping me figure out how to tell the stories in a cohesive and streamlined way.

What was the biggest challenge bringing this project to fruition?

There were many challenges in trying to connect 5 different stories into one continuous piece of theatre, but the biggest challenge for me as the adaptor was to live up to Kurt's visions and words.  I had to write some original dialog and sequences to connect the worlds of the stories and I tried to emulate his style as best I could.  It's a big, unique voice to live up to and I always hoped he would be happy with the final result.

What do you want the audience 'take away’ to be?

I hope that those who haven't read much, if any, Vonnegut will be motivated to go out and read more of his work.  His messages and themes are so timeless and wise and so beautifully human.  This play in particular highlights stories of progress, both industrial and social.  The 1950s and early 60s were a time of great change in America.  I hope audience members come away with an appreciation for the ups and downs of that time, and how it affected humans at a very basic level.  These themes still resonate today.

VONNEGUT, USA runs October 14 – November 20 at Atwater Village Theatre. For tickets and information or call  323-805-9355                                                                                                         

Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 Interview with Ana Isabel O

"The Aye" is adapted from Ana Isabel Ordonez’s "The Extraordinary Love Story of Aye Aye and Fedor." The choreography comes together in a sparkling fusion of music, dance and narration which was performed last week Friday October 7 in Cape Town South Africa by the Jazz Dance Theatre with Sifiso Kweyama as choreographer. The shows honored Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in celebration of his 85th birthday, and with the opening choreography for the annual Peace Conference in Cape Town. This was the world premiere of the show. The book has been translated into four languages and has graced the shelves of the Beijing and Frankfurt book fairs. The dance theatre version was seen for the first time by South African audiences. The Aye is quite simply a magical show, featuring a fantastic set, a superb jazz-rock score, inspired choreography and mischievous masks hand made in South Africa by La Carla Masks. Before the event author Ana Isabel O discussed elements of the show for our readers. She offers an in depth description of the CDs of the show that include narration and music. She also expresses her beautiful feelings about Palestine and Nelson Mandela's cry for freedom there.

Explain the story briefly and how it has been adapted to the stage.

The dance theatre extravaganza depicts a beautiful and magical love story between two threatened animals, a lemur Aye Aye and a white lion Fedor--each of whom define the term "opposites attract" in a fantastic universe called the Musical Forest. The narrative is enhanced and fleshed-out via weighty, emotive roles for the dancers.

The Story/Ballet is magical; just imagine : midnight. Not a sound in the jungle. Suddenly an explosion of music and lights reveals a larger-than-life wildlife experience. Lights tear across the bush landscape catching the darting image of an animal reaching a unique place, the Musical Forest. It is a special moment when all animals in the story are reunited, finally free. They have escaped from a zoo with the courageous help of a lemur, Aye Aye, inspired by her love for Fedor who bravely reunites all animals who are now allowed to celebrate who they are. The story has a happy ending, thanks to the courage and quick thinking of Aye Aye and Fedor. In this set they and the other animals of the Musical Forest emerge, dancing to express their unique abilities and special traits. All the animals begin to reveal themselves and their wisdom. It is the contemplation of this gift that keeps these animals deep in thought.

In future events you will find the same book adapted by the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York with choreographer Virginie Mécène.

Are you excited about the prospect of seeing these sweet adorable stories come to life?

I'm happy and contented with what life gives me. This show is cause for inner celebration; I’m in the process of re-wiring my brain and seeing different outcomes from different situations or portrayals from the past. These children’s stories are important for me; they’re like my secret place, my secret garden where I'm secure and safe; I can be there only with whom I trust, the objects of my interest are many like fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and the parts of animals, the physical universe, the essence, the universal ideas connected. Every performance is exciting to me, but I'm a shy person. I prefer my secret garden; it’s simple, joyful like a playground.

When the background for the show was recorded, 2 CDs were made: one, narration and the other, music. Talk first about the narration-who was chosen to narrate - tell me about his background in the arts, what he accomplished or brought to the stories and how satisfied you are with the results.

The narration was recorded in New York City. I chose Dean Bowman; he's my dear friend. I love what he does and who he is inside and out. A real pro! He's amazing, known and praised worldwide for his angelic voice. He began singing in church and has worked in both gospel and jazz styles. Dean regularly performs all around the world. I believe my tale and ballet captures Dean in an intimate performance that showcases his smooth, honey voice and winning delivery. His narration of my love tale/poetry never sounds phony or forced and the tale itself exemplifies directly such an authenticity. I want to say that the love story of two threatened animals is a wonderful tool I use to express feelings. It conveys functions, pattern, pulse, rhyme and structure. Using a simple language one can show the way beings bond and express emotion and encourage imagination as well as story-telling. I want to see what the dancers can express with their bodies, and the music I believe is wonderful.

The narration is essential, like singing has many surprising benefits for children and audiences. However, the meaning of music or dance is not dependent on language. The first response to music is through the movement of the body. Like singing, on children’s stories, narration is an aerobic exercise and that Dean can do, man he can do it very well! On my work at the kids school in Mitchell's Plain Township I have observed that reading and singing together improve children's behavior. It helps them bond – whatever the song or languages are. They can express their feelings of joy or excitement, of being scared or proud. Musical activity involves many different parts of the brain, so narration and listening (which involves music and language) help develop these areas. To me the importance is on movement and dance. Watching children and adults listen to music is a crucial part of assessing their understanding and tolerance, and we see at such times a foot keeping time or hands dancing or sometimes a look of quiet wonder. By communicating freely with voice, face, and body Dean expresses ideas with confidence, empathizes with others with his beautiful voice, people from different cultures and backgrounds. Voice, music and dance help us to become more imaginative, self-aware and collaborative global citizens. Sounds like I'm satisfied, right? (laughing)

Now do the same with the music. Who composed the music, what it is like, how it varies in composition and style from section to section, and whether you are happy with it.

The music was composed by Dutch pianist Michiel Braam. The definitive recorded version is performed by eBraam which includes drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch, guitarists Pieter Douma and Jorg Lehnardt, and harpist Ulrike von Meyer.

I had the opportunity to work with the composer many years ago for my "Touch of Noir" project and the Bad Big City Band we formed for it. I recalled that good moment and requested him to compose the music to be used solely for my project and for ballet. I own the copyright of that music and the cds are released on my label; they cannot be released or reissued elsewhere. Michiel is the Director of the Jazz Pop Music and Dance Department in Niemejen, Netherlands. An absolute maverick on the piano and in his compositions, he's frequently seen in jazz festivals and jazz clubs the world round. The Aye album features his eBraam performing Braam's own jazz-rock compositions written specially for my ballet: "Introduction," "Aye Aye At Work." "Small Meets Big," "Prison vs Dreamy Freedom," "Restful Peaceful," "Bad Weather," "Enclosure To Enclosure," "Escape," "Happy March," and "Love". Braam manages to inject his infectious skill and enthusiasm into the sequences to make every track fresh and cheerful. Each one is given a nice tempo treatment in a breezy ride from start to finish. Dean adds his share of the soothsayer's touch to the whole endeavor, and his work is surely a highlight of it all.

The music was recorded, edited, mixed and mastered by Sebastiaan van Bijleveld for Galloway Studio in Niemejen, Netherlands.

Will the narrator be seen on a screen or will it just be his voice that is heard?

Not this time and not for the Martha Graham either. You know?... the cd is out...may be in the future...I’m thinking on a performance in Arabic. I love that language. It’s not new stuff. I lived some months in Marrakech with a man I fell in love with a very well known chefBernard Guilhaudin ex chef Tour d'Argent, but at that moment he was working at a Palace called la Mamounia. We traveled all around Maroc even to the dessert close to Ourzazate. I love Arabian culture. They were long time mixed with the Spanish culture until the Inquisition… well that’s another story...anyway I never forgot how enchanting were the sounds early in the mornings and those odours in the zouk, the dance and poetry; so many beautiful things that later I found again in Palestine where lives the most spiritual person, a beautiful soul and great professional in his area; so yeah, I’m thinking on doing something magic but it has to be unique so I need time to brew in my head. Isn't it interesting all of this? Nelson Mandela always said that South Africa's freedom will always be incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians. That’s very important to me.

I have approached Jeanette Bougrab, who I really admire a lot, saw her in Helsinki and we had this idea for Monseigneur; it couldn't happen with her but I hope other ideas come true either with her or with other persons. I was also approached by Richard Attias and associates; we lost touch in December. I'm not very good keeping up with people; I kind of drive my camel alone (laugh loud). The museum of Monseigneur Tutu needs benefactors. I hope all come true. Though France is my country, the place where I could be what I am now, the country that gave me everything, I consider myself a woman without roots and that my friend is fabulous because I belong to other galaxies. I think wherever I can carry joy and a compassionate heart, things can work out. When I find lies and manipulations I just turn my back. I have no time for negativity in my life. The Musical Forest has only positive vibes, babe! (cracking laughter here)

The presentation of “The Aye Show” in honor of Desmond Tutu’s 85th Birthday on October 7 was sold out and a huge success. There will be an encore appearance to celebrate Unsung Heroes Day November 15. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 Interview with Barrett Foa

Stage and TV star Barrett Foa will be performing Sunday October 16 at Catalina Jazz Club in Right This Way, Your Table's Waiting, a part of the special event CABARET is alive and well and living in LOS ANGELES, directed by David Galligan.

What are you going to be performing in the benefit?

Dianne (Fraser) asked me to reprise my One-Man "One Day More" from LES MIS. I'm always excited when I get to perform that piece. I struck gold with that one - it gets a standing ovation every time. Actually, I performed it for the first time at a benefit exactly one year ago. Happy birthday, One-Man "One Day More"!

I reviewed you recently in An Evening of Classic Broadway and loved "One More Day" from Les Mis. You made a comical three-ring circus out of this which was so pleasurable to watch. You are so good with creating character voices ... fast. Did doing Buyer & Cellar help you hone this ability or have you been doing voices all your life?

Don! Your review was so so kind. "And then there's Barrett Foa...." I'll never forget that. ​Thank you! I've been doing voices​ ever since I was young. i'm from New York City, and both my parents worked long hours, so we had a Honduran house keeper/nanny named Maria Lopez. In Honduras, many people point to objects across a room with their lips. I picked up on that from a very early age, and did her voice. I remember my parents being in stitches.

BUYER & CELLAR was such a fun challenge and was certainly a confidence booster in terms of my voices and impressions. I watched hours and hours of Barbra's movies and YouTube interviews. James Brolin, too. But of the 7 characters in that play, it was the voice of Sharon (Barbra's house manager) that was the most difficult to nail down (Was she from Long Island? Did she smoke? Was she a British ice queen?). She kept changing, but I found her in the end.

Also, I'm excited to get into the voice over world. I just started the ball rolling on that front, so look out for my voice in an upcoming cartoon somewhere!

What's up with NCIS Los Angeles? Can you give us a sneak preview of what's going to happen in your eighth season?

Our ​Season 8 two hour premiere event had fantastic numbers - partially due to our new night: Sundays at 8pm which I think is perfect for us. ​We managed to carry that momentum into the next week as well, so we are over the moon and so is CBS. I think the show has at least another 2 or 3 years in it, which I am excited about. A decade of my life?! WOW. This year, our second in command, R. Scott Gemmill, was promoted to showrunner. He really gets the tone of the show and adds so much humor. (Plus, he writes really well for my character, Eric Beale! Hahah.) We are about to shoot a great episode where Eric (the resident computer geek) gets sent into the field - gun and all - he's such a goofball and gets so nervous which is really fun to play against legends like LL Cool J and Linda Hunt.

What is your favorite stage role?

​I played Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN a few summers ago at Connecticut Rep, and I just don't know what musical is better written than that one. I've played a dancing teen three times in that show, and was finally "mature" enough (ahem) to play Harold. Marian was played by one of my best friends, Courtney Balan (now the standby for all three roles in FALSETTOS on Broadway), which made it that much more special. She and I played Hope Harcourt and Billy Crocker in ANYTHING GOES​ back at The University of Michigan. (Celia Keenan-Bolger was Erma, Alex Gemignani was Moonface, and Todd Buonopane was Eli Whitney. - What a cast!) Bad guys are also fun - I played Mordred in CAMELOT three times. BUYER & CELLAR was pretty fulfilling, and Princeton/Rod in AVENUE Q is certainly up there as well. It's the ones that are the hardest... the ones that scare you and make you sweat, that become the faves. They teach you something and stretch you and show you what you're capable of.

Is there a part you yearn to play? If so, which one? Why?

What? Oh. Well, I haven't really thought about it, but here's a quick list off the top of my head. Hahah​

​Musicals:​ King George in HAMILTON, Seymour in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS​, Hedwig in HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, Shakespeare in SOMETHING ROTTEN, Emcee in CABARET, Billy Flynn in CHICAGO
Plays: Thomas in VENUS IN FUR, Black Stache in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, Rodolfo in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, Max in LEND ME A TENOR (played him at Interlochen Arts Camp - need to get another crack - who doesn't love a farce?)

Do you like musicals better than plays? If so, why?

Musicals are my first love. We "get" each other. I know how to tackle them. I got my BFA in Musical Theatre at The University of Michigan​. But more and more, plays are piquing my interest. Especially after getting more comfortable on camera without bursting into song. NCIS: LA has shot 175 episodes, and I've been in every one. It's unbelievable. It's been such a great learning experience crossing pollinating all these techniques to other media. I bring musical comedy into my character on the show, and I bring some grounded realism to my acting on stage. It's all mutually beneficial.

Do you have a favorite composer? Who? Why?

​Jason Robert Brown just does something to me. He understands what I understand. Musically and lyrically. It's astounding. How does he know? ​ Lin-Manuel clearly has his finger on the pulse. So proud of EGOT winner Bobby Lopez going on to MORMON and FROZEN after AVENUE Q.

What's on the horizon? Any chance you will go back to New York in the near future, perhaps at the season break?

​I love recharging my batteries every summer, so I'm always looking for the right play or musical to fit into my hiatus, and CBS has been flexible and cooperative with us - so I am grateful.

I've also taken matters into my own hands, and created my one man cabaret, GRIN AND BARRETT. We played to sold out houses in LA at Rockwell, and in NYC at 54 Below last spring.​ I'm excited to bring it back to Rockwell and hopefully The Wallis in Beverly Hills in early 2017. I'm also talking to Jim Caruso at Birdland in NYC for a February date, so keep your eyes peeled, LA and NYC - and then beyond. It's a very fun show. And certainly not your grandma's cabaret. I bite off a lot. Again, that's how you grow, right?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016 Interview with Rebecca Wisocky

Stage, film and TV actress Rebecca Wisocky, best known for the Lifetime series Devious Maids, is currently onstage at the Geffen in Barbecue. In our chat she discusses the play, Devious Maids and other theatrical interests.

What is all the hype over Barbecue?

Our audiences have been very enthusiastic. I think people have been excited to see a play that is both incredibly funny and sneakily scathing. It asks you by the end to think about how you are complicit in perceiving and perpetuating bullshit in our society. Among other things.

Tell us about your role.

I don’t want to give too much away, because there are some wonderful surprises in the play that really take your breath away. But, I play Barbara O’Mallery. She is a pathologically brilliant addict. Among other things…

Did it require any special research or intense preparation?

I did a lot of reading about memoirs and some of the controversies surrounding them. We all watched a lot of Intervention. But really, the process of rehearsing a play is hopefully about creating a new mini universe with a group of interested and interesting people led by a great curator. We have that and then some with this cast and with Colman Domingo as our director. Everyone is very funny and has been so generous with their personal experiences relating to perception, race, addiction, family, fame, lies. That degree of frankness and generosity and capacity to really listen and really hear are reflected in the ensemble work in Barbecue. I’m proud to be a member of this cast.

Talk about your role in Devious Maids.

Playing Evelyn Powell for the last 4 years has been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Sadly we were just canceled after four successful seasons. I will miss the cast and company of actors and crew who have truly become family. It was a great privilege to work on a role for such a long period of time with smart and funny writers who allowed the character to evolve. And, in Tom Irwin I enjoyed one of the most satisfying work partnerships I think I’ll ever have.

This show is so campy and naughty. Do you think that is why it is so popular?

It is campy and naughty. But it’s also satirical at its heart. We were able to entertain with all the delicious elements of a soap and slip in some jabs at the ironies that are magnified in a place of extremes like Beverly Hills.

Do you have a favorite playwright or play? If so, why this one or this person?

Well, I’m wild about Robert O’Hara at the moment obviously. He is not afraid to take on big uncomfortable ideas in bold theatrical fashion. He doesn’t tie it up in a bow or a neat linear narrative. Barbecue is a play that you’ll want to chew on for a while and discuss over dinner. Maybe some barbecue and Jack Daniels. I like that.

From your standpoint, is comedy harder to play than drama? Explain your answer.

I think if you’re doing it right, there’s a bit of both in everything.

Is there a role that you yearn to play as an actress? If so, which one? May be onstage or in film.

A lot of my favorite playwrights are working in TV right now. There are so many exciting people making really good television. I’m obsessed with Donald Glover’s Atlanta. I’d also love to do a period piece. But, ultimately I’m just happy to continue to work and meet new people and have challenging experiences. That’s what I yearn for.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Barbecue?

Well, I obviously believe in the power of satire to address larger issues. And I believe in the theatre as a place of catharsis where minds can open and people can feel emboldened to relate to one another in new ways. It’s a shared experience that’s a little bit religion and a little bit team sport. Come see us and have a great conversation afterward.

Barbecue plays in the Gil Cates Theater of the Geffen Playhouse until October 16. Visit:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

2016 Director Andre Barron

The Road Theatre on Magnolia is proud to present "the exclusive Los Angeles engagement" of Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby, which begins previews Tuesday September 13 and opens Friday, September 16. 

Andre Barron will direct The Play About the Baby. Andre’s direction of the critically acclaimed The Other Place at the Road garnered him a BWW Award nomination for Best Director of a Play (Local) in 2015. Barron shares his thoughts with us about Albee's message and the challenges of directing the play.

What makes Albee’s play extra special from your perspective?

I am having an extraordinary time with my cast uncovering all the mysteries of Mr. Albee's incredible language. He has built quite a landscape of ideas and content for an audience to feast upon.

Tell us about the play.

The play is very dense… very funny and ultimately heartbreaking. The biggest mysteries of the play are there when the right questions are asked. Once that door has been opened you ask the next set of questions and another door appears. Every scene stands on the shoulder of the last scene. His voice is so distinct and certain. Almost summoning or challenging you to follow him through the trajectory of the story and step up to the plate. The play, I suspect, is somewhat autobiographical in nature. How does one find one's identity in this world? Mr. Albee was adopted as an infant and never knew his birth parents. The story centers around a mysterious older couple who come to "steal the baby" of a younger couple who are in love with a newborn.

Who is in the cast?

I have an amazing cast in Sam Anderson, Allison Blaize, Taylor Gilbert and Philip Orazio. They are all so gifted and very brave actors to tackle this subject matter.

What are your challenges?

I am hoping to be not only fair to every character but to find some redemption along the way. Like all good plays there are no clear villains or heroes. People can make terrible mistakes in life …real wounds that lead to real scars.

What will audiences take away from The Play about the Baby?

Where is the healing and redemption in a psychic wound? Can we go back and right the wrong? How do we author and co-author each other’s stories and why? 

The Road on Magnolia is located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd inside the NoHo Senior Arts Colony. There is ample street parking. For performance schedule and tickets, go to:


Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 Interview with Isa Briones

ISA BRIONES was born Isabella Camille Briones in London, England. Her parents, Jon Jon Briones and Megan Johnson Briones are both actors and singers, and her younger brother, Teo Briones is also an actor. She began modeling in New York at the age of 3, and started acting when her family moved to Los Angeles in 2006. She is best known for her role in the film Takers, playing Matt Dillon's daughter. Isa is entering her senior year of high school, and is excited to be making her professional theater debut in this production of Next to Normal. School theater credits include: Velma in Hairspray, Brooke in Legally Blonde and Abigail in The Crucible. TV and film: “Takers,” “Cutthroat”, “Lonely Boy”.

Isa is currently playing the role of ‘Natalie’ in Next To Normal, a contemporary rock musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, featuring a live five-piece band. Next to Normal explores how one suburban household is torn apart by mental illness and fights to stay together. Next to Normal, a guest production at The Pico Playhouse, runs August 19 – September 25, and is produced by Triage Productions and SRO Productions.

by Steve Peterson

You were born into a musical theater family and grew up surrounded by performers, what was that life like as small child?

Being brought up in that world of performers was truly an amazing experience. It was definitely not your usual childhood but that’s what made it so great. My fondest memories are trick-or-treating backstage during Miss Saigon around the dressing rooms and birthdays surrounded by the cast and all the amazing countries I was fortunate enough to visit. I was immersed in this world of people pursuing their dreams and that really inspired me to do the same.

Did you happen to travel with your parents when they were on the road doing a show? If so, was there a country, city or town you liked exploring or have pleasant memories of that you would visit again, and why?

I was born in London when my dad was closing the original West End production of Miss Saigon and I was there for all of the Saigon tours my parents did after my birth: Asian, US, and UK. One place that I would love to visit soon is the Philippines. Almost all of my family on my dad’s side lives there and I haven’t seen them in over ten years. I was so young the last time I visited so my memories are just short flashes here and there of the beautiful beaches and playing with my cousins.

When did you first consider becoming a performer?

I think performing has pretty much always been a part of me.  I remember performing one-man reenactments of Miss Saigon for my grandmother on her fireplace or dancing to Gwen Stefani in our hotel in the Philippines. However, I didn’t start professionally acting until we settled down in LA when I was eight and I pursued film and TV.  But I think I decided to really commit to pursuing musical theater two summers ago when my dad was living in London doing the West End revival of Miss Saigon. I got to see so much fantastic theater and I had such an emotional response to watching the shows, not because they told emotional stories but because I couldn’t help but think of what it would be like if I was up there on stage. That made me realize how urgent my need to perform was.

Was or is there a teacher or coach, or someone who encouraged you along the way whom you might call a mentor. 

It’s cheesy but my parents have been my coaches my whole life. I only recently started taking voice lessons with a teacher, before that it was always my mom. Everything I know about singing, acting, and life is because of her. She’s a truly amazing woman because she puts our family first and works so hard to make sure we have every opportunity possible and on top of that, she’s unbelievably talented. And my Dad is such an inspiration too because he came from a very poor area in Manila, Philippines. The fact that he was even able to get out of that situation at all is impressive, but to know he achieved that solely on his talent is a huge inspiration. He has worked so hard for so long to get to where he is now, making his Broadway debut at 50. They are both such hardworking, dedicated people that inspire me every single day.

Tell us a bit about your character, Natalie.   What you do you feel the character is there to communicate through song and text to the audience?

Natalie is a teenaged girl whose entire life has revolved around her mother. It has made her feel “invisible”, as the song says. Her mother’s inability to let go of her son leaves Natalie feeling unloved, motivating her to throw herself into anything that will distract from her pain. Most of what you hear come out of Natalie’s mouth is snarky comments calling everyone out but as you see later in the show, deep down, she’s just a girl who needs her parents; she needs her mom. That basic, universal need for love and family is what makes Natalie such a relatable character.

Is there anything you’d like us to know about your experience with NEXT TO NORMAL, whether it is the musical itself or the creative process, and/or people involved?

The thing that is so great about the show is how real it is. The story doesn’t end with some sugar coated happy ending because that’s just not how life goes. It so perfectly follows every character’s journey from chaos to a very realistic, bittersweet resolution. And even though the play is specifically centered on mental illness it’s a story about family, which makes it so relatable to any audience. We’ve got such a great cast and a fantastic director, Thomas James O’Leary.  That has made this experience so great.

Do have a favorite musical or play that you’d like to be in?

Well, my old answer to this question used to be Next to Normal!  I guess I have to find a new answer. Shows I would love to do one day are definitely In the Heights and Spring Awakening, with Nina and Wendla, respectively, as my top dream roles.

Next to Normal, garnered three 2009 Tony Awards, and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. August 19 – September 25, 2016. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets: $32 – 36.99. 

 For tickets:
Information: or 310-204-4440
The Pico Playhouse, 10508 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles