Kelly McCormick wears many hats – and wigs! PTC’s Fantine (in both this production and our 2007 production of Les Misérables) is blogging about her Salt Lake City experience for BroadwayWorld.com. Take a look at her latest blog entry about her personal wig (and hair) experiences, and about PTC’s fantastic resident Hair & Makeup Designer Amanda French.
KELLY McCORMICK* (Fantine) is honored to return to PTC, where she appeared as Fantine in the 2007 production of Les Misérables. National Tours: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Truly Scrumptious); Les Misérables (Factory Girl, Fantine u/s). Off-Broadway: The Extraordinary Ordinary; Her Song. Other favorites: Guys and Dolls (Sarah Brown, opposite Kevin Vortmann – North Shore Music Theatre); Hello! My Baby (Frances Gold – Goodspeed); Heidi in [title of show] and Babe Williams in The Pajama Game (Arizona Theatre Company); 1776 (Martha Jefferson – Pittsburgh CLO); Pal Joey (Linda – Prince Music Theatre); Children of Eden (Ford’s Theatre). Kelly holds her M.M. (Voice) and M.F.A. (Drama) from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and has appeared as a featured soloist with the Cincinnati and Omaha Symphony Orchestras. Love and gratitude to Chuck and Karen. For JCB.
AMANDA FRENCH (Hair and Makeup Designer) has been a Makeup and Hair Designer for over 20 years. She has worked for The Utah Shakespeare Festival, The Utah Opera, Egyptian Theatre Company and the University of Texas at Austin. She is a contributing writer in the tenth edition of Stage Makeup by Corson, Glavan and Norcross, and her work can also be seen in The Costume Technician’s Handbook by Ingham and Covey, and Wig Making and Styling: A Complete Guide for Theatre and Film by Ruskai and Lowery. She attended the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where she studied with Hair and Makeup Designer Lenna Kaleva. She is a member of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and a current University of Utah instructor of wigs and makeup.
In a world that has changed so much – even in my (relatively) short lifetime – it always brings warmth to my heart to hear of the random act of kindness. Did I give away my age? The heartbreaking simple deed from a stranger that makes your day just a bit brighter, the gracious gesture from your next door neighbor, or the unexpected surprise given by a loved one are all things that hit the heart. You know, that little elbow jab to the heart that makes you want to grab your chest and whimper in feelings? Of course, you won’t see me break down emotionally… not in public, no, never. Not me. Nope, you are mistaken, that wasn’t me.
Well, not too long ago, a stranger asked me if I needed help pushing my 300-pound scooter up-hill after tens of cars passed me by without a second look. After I had broken down, picked up my belongings that scattered across busy Highland Drive, and found my new sunglasses bent from the disaster, it was heartwarming to hear her voice of willing help.
There’s something about Les Misérables that always brings out Utah audiences. Last time Les Misérables came to Pioneer Theatre, the show ran several weeks longer than scheduled. I think it’s that soul-grabbing feeling. It’s that tale of a reformed brute taking in a stranger’s child as his own. And the fact that it’s a classic doesn’t hurt, either, I bet.
The combination of my recent scooter tragedy and re-watching Les Misérables led me to this topic. What random acts of kindness has the cast experienced? Here are some elbow-jab-to-the-heart tales, accompanied by everyone’s very best “Strength of Jean Valjean” pose.
MAGGIE SCOTT/Young Cosette
“On one of the very first days of rehearsals for this play, we ran out of gas about half-way down the canyon…. We had to pull over and started running down the road to see if anyone would help us. And this couple pulled over who had just come back from skiing in Park City. They pulled over, let us in their car and they drove us down to meet our carpool so we could come down to rehearsal. It was really cool.”
Neil Simon based the character of Felix on his older brother, Danny Simon. “Danny Simon was a comedy writer, who together with his brother, Neil Simon, wrote for such classic 1950s television series as “Your Show of Shows” (1950). It was Danny who mentored his younger sibling and nicknamed him “Doc.” They worked together in radio in the late 1940s and then in television, a period of their lives chronicled in Neil Simon‘s 1993 play, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor.””
While the names of the sisters – Cecily and Gwendolyn – are the same as the female leads in Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Neil Simon claimed in interviews that it was unconscious and the coincidence didn’t occur to him until years later.
Walter Matthau, who played Oscar in both the original Broadway play and the movie, asked the play’s author, Neil Simon, if he could play Felix instead. This was because Matthau thought Oscar’s personality was too similar to his own and the role would be too easy; whereas playing the persnickety Felix would be a real acting challenge. Simon replied, “Walter, go and be an actor in somebody else’s play. Please be Oscar in mine.” Matthau finally agreed to it.
So the film was done in 1968, and Neil Simon wrote that, too. There were a few changes made, a few scenes added outside of the 8-room NYC apartment.
In one such sequence, Oscar misses the high point of a baseball game he’s writing about because Felix calls him (at work) to tell him not to spoil his appetite for dinner on frankfurters. This scene, and it’s pivotal “triple play” that happens in the background (unbeknownst to Oscar), was filmed at Shea Stadium before a regularly scheduled contest between the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates on June 27, 1967. Originally, Roberto Clemente was supposed to hit into the triple play. However, the fleet-footed Pirate kept beating the throw to first base. After several takes, Clemente slowed so much he appeared to be walking. Bill Mazeroski, a more lead-footed athlete, was offered the part instead.
During one scene, a sports radio program playing in the background reports an item about a baseball trade involving a player named Hank Moonjean. Hank Moonjean was actually the assistant director on this film.
Monica Evans (who played Cecily Pigeon) and Carole Shelley (who played Gwendolyn Pigeon) also reprise their roles in Disney’s The AristoCats as a pair of English geese on a walking tour of France. (Carole Shelley also has played roles on Broadway like Madame Morrible in Wicked, and Grandma in Billy Elliot, to name just a couple out of a whole bunch.)
Then, the TV series:
Early episodes from the first season were titled “Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.” Simon objected to this, having nothing to do with the television series, and not wanting to leave the impression left that he did, not knowing the quality of the television scripts. (He did continue to receive a ‘Based on the Play created by’ credit.)
During the first season (1970-71), the show was filmed in the same apartment as the one in the 1968 movie in single camera format with a laugh track. Beginning with the second season, the show was filmed in a studio in three camera format before a live audience.
In one episode, characters from the show walk down the street in New York City and encounter playwright ‘Neil Simon’.
Felix and Murray (the cop) played together in a band that specialized in 1930s music which was called “The Sophisticatos.” In one episode, the band played country and western music and went by the name “Red River Unger and his Saddle Sores.”
And now the Couple are at PTC–and, they can also be seen on Youtube, for a few secs:
The article in the magazine lets us know that Mark is a straight-shooter: “Ask him a question, get a straight answer!”
Jeff Talbott recently wrote a play called The Submission that received rave reviews, critical acclaim, and the 2011 Laurents/Hatcher Award for best new play. Thematically, The Submission is a little bit similar to the last play PTC produced, Clybourne Park, in that it’s about race relations and things we do (and don’t) talk about these days.
Here’s a photo from the show’s off-Broadway production, which starred Jonathan Groff (of Tony-nominated Broadway and Glee fame) and Rutina Wesley (whom fans of HBO’s True Blood will recognize immediately).
We’d like to introduce to you Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon, Oscar and Felix’s flirty, frolicsome British neighbors. Here’s a little clip of the adorable duo before they take flight:
The Sisters Pigeon (“You don’t spell it like ‘Walter Pidgeon,’ you spell it like ‘coo-coo pigeon!’”) don’t descend on Oscar and Felix’s eight-room apartment until Act II of the show. That means that actors Amy Bodnar and Helen Anker have a lot of time outside of rehearsal to descend on Salt Lake! We caught up with them for a few minutes between The Copper Onion and mastering the Park City slopes.
PTC: Have you worked on Neil Simon before? If so, when and where?
Helen (who is originally from England): I was lucky enough to play Peggy Olson, an American role, in the recent Broadway production of Promises, Promises. It was directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford, who I had worked with in the UK before, so it was a wonderful introduction to living and working in NYC. I also had the pleasure of meeting Neil Simon—he was very involved in the rehearsal process!
Amy: Years ago, in Los Angeles, I was in a production of The Goodbye Girl. I was part of a trio singing a song called “Too Good to Be Bad” where I was in a huge hamburger costume with a giant pickle on my head. The other two girls were a giant milkshake and a box of french fries.
PTC: What’s your favorite part of doing comedy?
Helen: Well, the dancing hamburger and I just appreciate doing something that makes people laugh and forget their problems for a minute or two. Simple answer, but true.
PTC: You two are (mostly) onstage together, and work off of each other really well. In fact, one could say that the title The Odd Couple could apply to the Pigeon sisters as well. How have you bonded during this process?
Helen: We have had a great deal of time to get to know each other, as we’ve not been needed in the rehearsal room as much as the guys, and we have found that we have many things in common.
Amy: we played the same role in Trevor Nunn’s Oklahoma! Helen in London’s West End, and me on Broadway! I even wore Helen’s costumes and we both understudied the lead role of Laurey.
Helen: Our real life sisters have the same birthday, and our birthdays are the same numerically, but reversed (in England we write our date of birth day, month, year). Our commonalities have made us fast friends.
PTC: If you two found yourselves on a double date with Oscar and Felix, who would get whom?
Both agree: We think Gwen and Cecily are still looking for their dream dates at “Slenderama.”
PTC: What sorts of activities have you done outside of rehearsal – gotten to see any SLC sites?
Helen: We have just about mastered the Trax, and visited the various shopping malls, and the Broadway movie theatre.
Amy: Last day off we hired a car and visited the beautiful Park City area, and saw the Olympic Park, such wonderful views and we loved Main Street.
As you see from the photos, Amy and Helen mastered the slopes—not bad for beginners!
Artistic Director Karen Azenberg and Managing Director Chris Lino talk about the results of our annual Audience Survey.
“One of the annual rites of the theatre season at PTC is our audience survey, a tradition that dates back more than thirty years to Keith Engar’s tenure as Artistic Director. For all those years we’ve been asking our patrons to give us their reactions to musicals and plays we’re considering for the following season.
“Almost as interesting as the survey results themselves are the questions our patrons ask in the comments section, and in letters and e-mails to us.
“We’re putting the finishing touches on our 2013-14 season, which we’ll announce in the next few weeks, but we thought we’d take a moment to answer some of the commonly asked questions we receive from patrons:
With all the new musicals that have just come out on Broadway, why don’t you do more new musicals, rather than revivals of old musicals?
“We’re always on the lookout for new musicals, and in the past few years we have produced the Utah premieres of a number of new musicals— Ragtime, The Light in the Piazza, Next to Normal, and In the Heights—which we thought our audiences would enjoy. There are several other fabulous new musicals—Once and Newsies are examples—that we will produce as soon as we can get the rights.
“At the same time, there are some musicals—the “blockbuster” musicals like Wicked and The Lion King—for which the rights are simply not available, and won’t be available for professional regional theatres for many years. Generally, if a show is still running on Broadway and the national tours of those shows are out, the rights to those shows will not be granted to regional theatres like PTC. Bear in mind that when PTC produced Les Misérables in 2007, we were the first theatre in the country to be given the rights to produce that musical—and that was more than twenty years after it opened on Broadway.
“Finally, to be blunt about it, every year there are a number of musicals which open on Broadway which we just don’t think are very good. Sometimes those shows have great titles and marketing hooks (we won’t mention any names, but you passionate musical lovers may be able to guess what shows we’re talking about), but they just don’t measure up. I (Karen speaking here) see every musical and play on Broadway every year because I’m a Tony voter, and every time I walk into a theatre on Broadway I’m hoping I’ll be blown away, but it doesn’t always happen. It costs PTC between $600,000 and $1 million to produce a musical, so before we invest those kinds of dollars in producing a show we have to really believe in that show.”
Why produce a musical like Fiddler on the Roof when you’ve done it before and so many other theatres in Utah have produced it recently?
“OK, we’ll take some of the suspense away: we’re not doing Fiddler next year, even though it was the most requested musical on this year’s survey.
“But this does raise a very challenging question for us. There are a relatively small number of musicals that are generally regarded as masterpieces of the musical theatre form—Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, (add your own favorite to the list). And, when you include community theatres, high school productions, and Ward productions, there are a lot of theatres in Utah, and they love to produce these musicals.
“But if we only did musicals that no one else produced, we’d be limiting ourselves to most of the Stephen Sondheim catalogue (no offense, Mr. Sondheim!) and a few other interesting but fairly obscure titles. And, like the classics of Shakespeare, we happen to think that great musicals are worth revisiting, not every year but what we’ll call generationally—that is, roughly twenty years apart, when a new generation of theatergoers will be experiencing these shows for the first time.
“And, at the risk of sounding egotistical, we do believe that we can produce these shows at the highest professional levels—at our best, as good as you’d see on Broadway—and we think there is value in that.”
Clybourne Park was fantastic. My friends and I loved it and have been talking about it for weeks! Why don’t you do more challenging new theatre like that, rather than the safe, conservative theatre that is done by a lot of other theatres in town?
Clybourne Park was disgusting! Why do you do shows like that when your audience doesn’t enjoy them? The night we were there the theatre was only half full, and many people, like us, left at intermission.
“Well, of course, these two questions answer each other to a certain extent. In Salt Lake City, as in New York and everywhere in the world that theatre is produced, musicals and comedies draw larger audiences than challenging new work. But a significant portion of our audience—let’s say, unscientifically, from our box office results 60% of our season patrons— crave challenging new work and would like to see more of it. And there’s another theatre audience out there, generally younger, who only comes when we do this kind of work. They find our older shows boring, and if we don’t reach out to them with some of our programming choices we’re going to find ourselves with no audience in twenty years.
“At the same time, to our audience members who wish we would do more challenging work, you have to recognize, as we do, that the audiences for those shows are smaller than for other types of work we do. It would be nice if every show we did had a huge and inexhaustible audience, but it just isn’t so. The 500 people a night who came to Clybourne Park are all very well and good, but if we didn’t produce a few shows that drew 800-900 people a night, we’d be in serious trouble pretty fast.
“And, in the final analysis, a season of nothing but uplifting and pleasant musicals would get pretty bland very fast, just as a season of nothing but serious, topical and thought-provoking dramas would be pretty overbearing and, frankly, exhausting—for us and for our audience.
“We’re just like you: we like to laugh, we like to hum the tunes as we leave the theatre, but we also like, from time to time, to be challenged. And so we try to tread a very careful line in mixing up our season offerings.”
You say you’re committed to classics, but that seems to mean only Shakespeare and the occasional Tennessee Williams. Why don’t you ever do other classics—Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw or, on the American side, Albee, Miller and O’Neill?
“That’s a fair criticism. We should mix up our classic offerings, and we’ll look to do that in coming seasons.”
And, speaking of Shakespeare, when you do Shakespeare, why don’t you do it in the period Shakespeare intended, rather than trying to show us how clever the director is by setting it in different periods?
“This is a tricky question to answer, because in fact in Shakespeare’s day he produced all his plays in Elizabethan costumes, no matter where and when the play was set, with men playing the women’s roles, because those were the conventions of the time, and what his audiences expected.
“We think the legitimate criticism behind this question is, “If the setting you choose for a Shakespeare play doesn’t improve our enjoyment and/or understanding of the play, then the production hasn’t succeeded.” That is a good point, but we’ve both seen Shakespeare productions set in different periods that worked marvelously well, and others that didn’t, and we’ve seen Shakespeare productions in Elizabethan settings that worked marvelously well, and others that didn’t.
‘We agree that the setting and period for Shakespeare should increase the audience’s enjoyment of the piece, not distract or detract from it, but we don’t agree that only productions set in Elizabethan periods can do that.”
Thank you for all your feedback, and watch for an announcement of another fantastic season of theatre that explores the breadth of human experience!
I’m happy to post this very special gift from our current cast member, Erika Rose.
“I interviewed my grandmother back in December about being the first Black family on her block in 1956. I interviewed her for over 40 minutes, but I’ve condensed it down to the 15 minutes that centers, most closely, around Clybourne Park…This is my thank you. I am thankful for this show, this experience and all the beautiful, complicated, flawed people who came before us. Feel free to share it…I’m proud of her story and there’s something so powerful about it coming from her lips. It might not be revelatory. We’ve heard this story before, but it’s from her mouth.”
Thank you, Erika, for this very special gift.
See and hear Erika’s grandmother’s story of “blockbusting” in Washington D.C. in 1956, just a couple of years before the story in Clybourne Park begins.
ERIKA ROSE* (Francine/Lena) Regional: Black Mary in Gem of the Ocean at Hangar Theatre; Salima in Ruined at Philadelphia Theater Company; Hawa in In Darfur at Theater J (2011 Outstanding Lead Actress, Helen Hayes Award); Pretty Fire at The African Continuum Theater; The Bluest Eye at Theater Alliance; Lenny & Lou and The Mineola Twins at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company; The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing at The Shakespeare Theatre; The Book Club Play and Pippin at Round House Theatre; Barrio Grrrl!, Knuffle Bunny and The Brand New Kid (The Kennedy Center). www.erikarose.info
We chatted recently with Tarah Flanagan, who plays Betsy in the first act of Clybourne Park and Lindsey in the second. (Both characters are pregnant, so, really, she’s always acting for two!) Here are some insights from behind the scenes of that house at 406 Clybourne Street.
Pioneer Theatre Company: You play two very different characters in Act 1 and Act 2. What was it like to shift between the two, and what similarities do they have (if, in fact, there are any)?
Tarah Flanagan: It’s exciting and really gratifying to have the opportunity to play two different characters. In many ways the two acts of Clybourne Park are like two different plays, but my approach to the work is the same. In crafting each character, I take all my cues from Bruce Norris’ text. Both of my characters (Betsy and Lindsey) are pregnant so there is a certain amount of similarity in my physical work. With 50 years separating act one and act two, the differences in social attitudes with regards to pregnancy and women in general, are striking. Both Betsy and Lindsey struggle to communicate with those around them. Betsy is a deaf person and is kept on the sidelines for most of act one—only rarely directly engaged in conversation. Lindsey is very actively involved in act two, though in her own way, she is unable to “hear” what other people are saying; particularly when their opinions conflict with her own.
PTC: In Act 1, your character is deaf. You are very believable in the role; do you have real life experience with the deaf community?
TF: I don’t have any direct experience with the deaf community. In preparing for this play I spoke with a friend whose parents are deaf. As a relatively young woman in 1959, the character Betsy most likely grew up learning to read lips and oralize, but she and her husband Steve have also learned to sign. To suit the needs of our production, we have made certain modifications from what might be strictly accurate. For example, I based Betsy’s vocal and speech patterns on those of deaf individuals who do a lot of public speaking, though she presumably does not. We also chose to have Betsy and the hearing character, Steve, speak and sign simultaneously rather than signing first and then speaking.
TF: I remember seeing the original London production of Dancing at Lughnasa. It was the first time I experienced a production in which the characters were fully fleshed out, wonderfully nuanced, and alive. The actors exhibited no visibly self-conscious awareness that they were performing. They were technically excellent, but there was no visible technique. They were not showing off; they were totally inhabiting their world. As a result, I didn’t have an intellectual appreciation of the production, but instead was completely carried away by it.
TARAH FLANAGAN* (Betsy/Lindsey) is delighted to be returning to Pioneer Theatre Company where she was last seen as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Recent credits include: Emma in The Language Archive and Annie in The 13th of Paris at the Public Theatre of Maine, Poppy in Noises Off at the Fulton Theatre, Joan in St. Joan and Adriana in Comedy of Errors at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. She is a company member at the Great River Shakespeare Festival where she has appeared as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Ariel in The Tempest. Tarah will appear in the upcoming series Darwin, directed by Carrie Preston. She attended PCPA-Theaterfest, Webster University (BFA), and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival-UA (MFA). Tarah is a proud member of AEA.
What if the walls of certain rooms could serve as records of the lives that played out within them? What if you were to somehow observe the record those walls made of the conversations of one family in 1959, and then compare it with conversations had within the same walls, say, fifty years later? This is exactly the premise Bruce Norris plays with in his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner, Clybourne Park.
The intermission that separates acts one and two of the play represent a fifty-year span, and while the setting of each act remains the same, the characters that occupy it and the general well-being of that setting change in the ways only fifty years’ time could. But the conversations that take place within those walls remain eerily the same.
In act one, the family members selling the house, Bev and Russ, have a conversation about the word “Neapolitan” meaning not only a delicious ice cream combination but also a resident of Naples, Italy. After a heated debate that draws in a visitor as well as Bev’s “friend” Francine (who actually works for Bev) over what citizens of certain cities are called, Bev comes to the (perhaps purposely) oblivious conclusion that, “It’s nice, in a way, to know we all have our place.”
And hence the discussion that is at the crux of Clybourne Park—are we all, essentially, still segregated?—and the discussion we hope will continue between the living room walls of audience members. To spark more of that discussion, Pioneer Theatre Company is hosting a free panel discussion on Thursday, February 21, 2013, entitled “The Price of Change: Neighborhood Identity in Clybourne Park and Salt Lake City.” Spearheaded by the dramaturgical team of our production of Clybourne Park, Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell and Martine Kei Green-Rogers, and including community members ______, the panel invites guests for a free discussion of the themes brought up in Clybourne Park; themes of race, gender and generations against the background of where we all chose to live—or, where we don’t.The Utah premiere of Clybourne Park opens at Pioneer Theatre Company Friday, February 15th. More show info can be found here. Tickets can be purchased here, or by calling the PTC Box Office at 801-581-6961.
Lorraine Hansberry was only 29 years old when her play A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by an African American female to arrive on Broadway, was produced. The play is based on her family’s legal battle against restrictive land covenants, a battle her father Carl Hansberry took all the way to the Supreme Court (and won) in 1940, in order to be able to live in the area of Chicago they chose despite the color of their skin.
Fifty years after A Raisin in the Sun, a playwright by the name of Bruce Norris took a silent, but ever present character from Hansberry’s play—the house in which Lena Younger longs to live—and wrote another play about it. Clybourne Park, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, explores the not-so-black-and-white lives of the families connected to the house in 1959 as well as in 2009.
Pioneer Theatre Company presents A Raisin in the Sun as context for its upcoming production of Clybourne Park. Each play is about race, gender, generations, and about neighborhoods changing and growing, crumbling and being rebuilt—living and dying, wordlessly reflecting the state of the world in which they exist, while speaking volumes about the generations that oversee them.
The staged reading of A Raisin in the Sun is free and open to the public. Tickets to Clybourne Park, running Feb. 15 through March 2, can be purchased here.
See the rest of the free events surrounding Clybourne Park here.
Watching the show during the student matinee changes from time period to time period, but one thing remains constant: No matter who’s in the show or what it’s about, those actors on the main stage are full-on rock stars.
I slipped into the back of the orchestra section about 10 minutes before show ended after Wednesday’s matinee, just as Scrooge was heading out into the streets after his life-changing evening of spiritual (in the sense of actually being SPIRITS) visitors. The energy in the room seemed palpable. The buzz and hum from the audience was entirely appropriate, as the nearly thousand kids from the area cheered for Scrooge to fulfill his potential this Christmas. And the actors were giving that hum and buzz right back to them.
There are 7 kids, from ages 7 to 13, in this cast. And they were certainly receiving lots of peer cheer.
Seeing Scrooge walk out into the audience and toss handfuls of candy with his youthful compatriots affected me particularly strongly this time. The recipients were certainly more grateful than usual, so perhaps that was part of it, but I’m sure it was something else causing my eyes, oddly, to well up at his gesture.
I stayed for the talk-back, and here are some highlights of what I heard (please forgive any paraphrasing of student questions and actor answers).
Moderator: Chris Lino, PTC Managing Director
Student Question: How long does it take to build these elaborate sets and costumes?
Chris: We put together the design team for this show in the spring, and in this case the set and costume designers are both PTC resident designers. So they’ve been working on it since then, about 9 months ago. But the actual building of all this only began about a month, month and a half ago – there were 2 shows in the season prior to this one, so those had to be built plus they were taking up some of the space the set team builds on. And in the case of the Costume shop, they had to wait until the actors were cast before they could start working on costumes, so they’d know everyone’s sizes. So it’s a very, very labor-intensive process. And the actors only get into their costumes for the first time about a week before the show opens.
Fynn White (ensemble member and Scrooge at 12): Uhhh…
Chris: Well, maybe we should ask everyone what their audition process was like?
Fynn: Well, they had auditions all day long, from like 9 in the morning till like 7 at night, so there were a lot of people who auditioned, maybe like hundreds. And at that first audition we sang, and then there was a callback where we sang songs specifically for a character, that Karen told us to prepare, and I think we also read lines from the play.
Gerry: OK, but, this isn’t what happens. Like, really, this NEVER happens. But, how I got in this show was…Lenny called me up and asked if I wanted to be in the show. And I said yep. [This is actually the second production of Christmas Carol The Musical in which Gerry has played the Ghost of Christmas Present. The last time he did it was in the original Madison Square Garden production with stars like Tim Curry, Jim Dale and F. Murray Abraham.]
Lenny: Lots of times you get your next job by doing well at the last one. Karen [Azenberg, PTC Artistic Director and Director and Choreographer of this show] said to me, “Who do you know?” and I told her Gerry.
Chris: The very best audition is to do well in the show you’re in – And by doing well in your current job not only do we mean with the acting, but by being a good company member: showing up on time for rehearsal, being easy to work with, and being prepared and utterly professional in every way.
Jamie Jackson (Ebenezer Scrooge): This is something to emphasize. I think lots of magazines and TV shows seem to suggest that stars who behave poorly get famous and get a lot of work, but that’s just a big mistake. Be committed, be professional. That’s part of the job, and people who don’t really do not get cast next time.
Student Question: How many times do you do the play and how much are tickets?
Chris: I love answering this question! The show runs through Dec. 15 and we have shows Monday through Saturday, and 2 shows on Saturday. Tickets range from $38 to $59, but, for you guys who are in school, if you want to come back and see the show with your families, you can get tickets half-priced if you come on a Monday or Tuesday night.
Student Question: This is for Jamie and Gerry, what’s it like in Abundance & Charity, it’s kind of a strange scene with girls popping out of Christmas presents and everything…
Gerry and Jamie together: It’s the best job ever. Couldn’t be happier. It’s the best. (No, seriously, it’s the best!)
Jamie: The best part is that we all get along really well. These girls do it all, too, they sing, dance, act, and have these vibrant wonderful personalities – we feel lucky.
Chris: Maybe you’d get different answers if you asked the girls what it was like doing the scene with Jamie and Gerry…
Ephie Aardema, Ghost of Christmas Past and dancer: Well, I’m in the one box 2 people share, so I’m sitting there huddled up with Jessica [Azenberg, ensemble] for what seems like a really, really long time. And we make each other laugh. It’s funny to watch us getting into the box, too, it’s pushed up against the back wall before the number so there’s like this much room…[Ephie stands and demos the frightening feat of climbing into her box each night, to much laughter]
Student Question: Whose idea was it to pass out candy canes to the audience at the end?
General agreement: It was Karen’s, the director’s idea.
Question-asker: THANK YOU!!!
Student Question: What do you do pre-show to prepare for your roles?
Maggie Scott (10-year-old Ensemble member): I do some voice warm-ups but also have time to get into my costume and then hair and makeup, but then I just kind of play around in my dressing room…[laughter from cast]
Jamie: For the dancers, and there are a lot of dancers and can I just say, WOW, our dancers? [huge applause] You know, we do 8 shows a week, and so the dancers have to make sure they warm up, stretch, and get ready before every show. I used to do a vocal warm up and other warm ups, getting in character and so forth, when I was young. But now, I just feel like I have to be ready. I just have to get here and be ready all the time.
Chris: Everyone’s different, especially in this show – Justin, why don’t you talk about your prep?
Justin Ivie (Old Joe/Ghost of Jacob Marley): Sure, so before every show we—the whole cast—we’re called a half an hour before the curtain. And we sign in, and that’s just so that Stage management knows that we’re all here, we’re all accounted for, and we have time to get ready. But, with all the makeup that I have to put on, I make sure I get here about a half hour before that, even, to get ready. And it pretty much takes that whole time to get all the makeup on. Personally, I’m the kind of actor who likes to have time to do a warm up, vocally or to get into character, so I kind of miss that time. But I’ve found that while I’m doing the makeup, and sort of watching the transformation, is a really good time to get into character. Just staring at my face as it changes and thinking about the character puts me in the right mindset before the show.
Student Question: Have you guys bonded doing this show?
All the kids at once: Yes! Totally!
Christian: I like to mess with some people in the cast…like Laura…[he shoots Laura Hall, who plays Emily, a mischievous glance, and she reciprocates] but, I think some other people in the cast would be, if I were to mess with them, they’d just be like SHUT IT! Get outta here! [laughs from all] No, I love everyone in the cast, I really do.
Chris: So you love everyone, but maybe are scared of some of them, too?
Christian: Scrooge scares the crap outta me.
Jamie, in character as Scrooge: SHUT UP!
[lots of laughter all around]
Student Question: What’s it like working with all the younger people:
Kevin Early, Bob Cratchit:
I’ll take that one. It’s great. I started doing this you know when I was about 5 years old and I just know that the director has enough work keeping all the adults in line, so it’s good to me to help. I feel like we help them improve, and learn about this craft, and we can be role models for them. And let me just say, these guys are SO focused. And we’re all having so much fun. Everyone wants a good experience for them so they’ll continue to do it.
Lenny: Yes, I have never worked with kids this on it before. They’re great.
Kevin: Just before the show, actually, one of the little girls got sick—you might have noticed an extra plate at the Cratchit table, or maybe not because these guys stepped right up and didn’t miss a beat.
Anson Bagley, who plays Tiny Tim: I’m 9, and no, memorizing wasn’t too hard; Karen really helped me a lot. In rehearsal, she would always tell me which lines I had before each scene, to kinda prep me, so she made things a lot easier.
Student Question: Does doing the show cheer you up?
Everyone: Yes [general agreement about the uplifting nature of the show]
Kevin: The audience helps with that, too.
Jamie: You were such a great audience, and you know, it’s important to know how to be an audience member. When you listen and respond like you guys were doing today, you actually get more out of the show – more out of us – you get more back. It’s like surfing, you know, when you have great waves you can get more speed and get farther out and go farther, at a show, the audience are like good waves. We surf right out to you based on your reactions.
Student Question: Do you get starstuck, Gerry, working with people like Patti LuPone?
Gerry: Not anymore, I used to, and Patti is fantastic, of course. But I’ve worked with a lot of stars, so I’m really lucky, but one thing I’ve learned is that you have to have respect for everybody. People can be very talented and never get famous, sometimes it just doesn’t happen that you get famous, but I’ve worked with so many talented people all over the place and I respect all of them.
Student Question: This is for Keala…are you Polynesian?
Keala Settle (Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Mops, and others) : Yeah, girl!
Student Question: [after sharing a moment of solidarity with Keala] What sort of struggles have you found in the business?
Keala: You know, the only struggle you will ever have in this business is if you’re not okay with yourself. I took a break from the biz for about a year and a half and now I’m back, and as soon as I stopped trying to be a Claudia Shiffer-looking clone of every actress out there, as soon as I put away the Dexatrim and the Phenergan and was okay with myself, that’s when I started enjoying it again. And it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, green or orange you have to okay with you to work in this business.
Chris: So, I think we have time for just one more question…
Student Question: [with much trepidation and many giggles] Is Fynn single?
Fynn looks around as if he can’t believe what he’s hearing, and he gets some pleasant ribbing from his cast members. Chris’ response is, “Well, I guess I let it go just one question too far.” And the students were on their way once again.
PTC’s Student Matinee Program is supported in part by the Salt Lake County Zoo Arts and Parks Fund, The Simmons Family Foundation, The Meldrum Foundation Endowment, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and the George Q. Morris Foundation.