Tuesday May 18, 2010

Now Appearing in Gypsy!

Sorry for the long delay since my last post - I've been busy rehearsing for my opening of Gypsy at Hillbarn Theater in Foster City!

I'm playing the role of Miss Cratchitt in Act I and Renee in Act II, and having a blast! I haven't been on stage at Hillbarn since I appeared as Minnie Fae in Hello Dolly several years ago.  It's a great production with an amazing cast and crew!

Annmarie Martin is amazing as Mama Rose and inspiring to me as an actress. When I have my scenes with her, I feel a passion and character connection that forces me to be perfectly on my game and in the scene.  She's a total pro - literally! Not to mention an incredibly nice person who does some amazing knitting and crochette. Oh, and she's an avid Sharks fan - check her out singing the Canadian and American national anthems in the Shark tank!

Every actor I'm sharing the Hillbarn stage with are taking the production very seriously - always in character, hair & makeup always done as designed, costumes kept nice, and engaged in the scene - even if they don't even have any lines.

And the crew.... first of all, it's the first time I've ever been on a show with an entirely female run crew! [1] Yay, women techies! They are super organized - everything just runs smoothly. Sets are where they need to be and props are always in the right place.  Thank you, Joey, Rosie, Haley, Aya, and Andrea!

Beyond the run crew, the orchestra is spot on; the sound guy, Steven, monitors the levels perfectly throughout the show; sets are repaired as needed by our fantastic set designer/builder, Lee Basham; gorgeous costumes from Shannon & Mae; lovely hair-dos from Dee & Kathleen; and things run smoothly thanks to producer Lee Foster!

If you get a chance, please come see the show - we've been selling out nearly every night, so buy your tickets sooner than later! Let them know you're coming to see me. It's a wonderful production - you won't be disappointed!

[1] Nick, our fill-in techie, is not a woman and still really awesome!

Friday Jan 15, 2010

TADA Presents Godspell!

We were lucky enough to catch one of the final dress rehearsals for TADA!'s musical, Godspell! TADA!'s group of "Blue Plaid Players" put on an annual production to raise money for the performing arts at Presentation High School in San Jose.  This year's cast is full of teachers and alums from the school, along with a few parents and just happy actors. With such a motley collection, you might think the performance would be subpar - but it wasn't!

I had originally thought they had brought in ringers for Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas, but Chris Cozart (Jesus) and Eric Buell (John the Baptist/Judas) are both teachers from Presentation! Who knew the halls of this Catholic girl's school was holding so much talent!

I loved the costumes, by Diana DieBold, which were very eclectic and reminiscent of the Original production of Godspell in 1970.  Director Jim Houle took the usual liberties with the script by updating a few scenes. One demonstrates the pitfalls of greed with a recent flash back to the housing debacle, and the prodigal son was retold with ... Star Wars characters!  Great lighting from Heather Kenyon, too.

Other standout performers included Kristen Gradwohl, Kris Heiser, Dave Coldren, Scott King... well, and everyone else in the cast! If you get a chance to catch this show, it opens on January 16th and runs through January 24th.

Tuesday Dec 22, 2009

Sun Carolers do it again!

The Sun Carolers did it again this year, touring the campus and delighting our fellow employees!  This year was different, though - it was caught on video!

The first, video by Bruce Kerr & audio by Jack SwartzThe 12 Bugs of Christmas!

These other two were recorded by Deirdre Straughan and feature "I'll Be Home For Christmas", "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year" (ala Hallelujah chorus), "Carol of the Bells", "Jingle Bells", "Hanukah, Oh, Hanukah" (partial), and "Let it Snow". Enjoy!


Friday Oct 30, 2009

Sebastian Maniscalco at the San Jose Improv!

My friends and I caught Sebastian Maniscalco last night at the San Jose Imrov.  The host was very cute & funny, though the opening act was a bit of a groaner. I'm sure that his jokes about women were quite funny with just his guy friends, but in a mixed crowd they did not go over well, though I did enjoy his 90s alternative rock quoting hobo bit.

Now, the main act - he was hilarious! Maniscalco started out with a great tribute to Michael Jackson - he'd obviously also just watched This is It!  He moved on to talking about how cool Prince is, and as a huge Prince fan, I couldn't possibly disagree. :-)

Maniscaclo did a nice long set and our server made sure our whistles never went dry by keeping our beer glasses full.

If you're looking for a fun night out this weekend, check out Sebastian Maniscalco at the San Jose Improv, but be prepared to pay out the nose for drinks.


Michael Jackson's This is It!

Wednesday night, my friends and I went to the Century Cinemas 16 on Shoreline to catch Michael Jackson's "This is It".  I can only say that it was so much better than I expected, and I was amazed at what they were able to put together, considering this was clearly not a planned film.

I've always loved Michael Jackson - I think anyone born before 1990 was a fan at least at one point in their lives. True, I lost interest in him as he got more and more out there, but always appreciated his incredible talent. I even found that his more recent albums would grow on me, as their tracks would come up on my iPod's random shuffle.  I expected him to just fade off with other aging rock stars, but never to die so suddenly of a drug overdose.

This movie was a touching glimpse at what this tour could've been. We start off with the announcement by Michael of his last tour, and quickly move into watching hundreds of amazing dancers hoping to make one of the few spots as an "MJ principal dancer". After getting their slot, each of the dancers takes a moment to reflect on camera how much it means to them to work with Michael and what an influence he's been on dancing - each of us in the audience relates and knowing how the story ends, our hearts just start to break a little.

Many of the numbers are a cut-together of several different rehearsals, which shows us all what a professional and perfectionist Michael was. The dance sequences continue with no breaks, even though you can tell it was cut-together due to the different outfits he is wearing.  Really, if nothing else, the editors for this movie deserve an Academy Award.

I will admit that Michael's taste in clothing did seem to actually be getting more eccentric. I mean, glittery gold pants? as rehearsal clothes? He also had some new funky expression of shoulder pads that seemed more appropriate for Dracula than a pop star, but I guess being a pop star gives you more leeway in your wardrobe than the rest of us have.

It was clear that everyone working with him on the tour were amazingly talented, had great visions for the concert, and were "yes men", which may have been Michael's undoing. Sometimes you need a good friend to tell you that you are going off the deep end, or that you shouldn't be doing things like taking surgical grade anesthetics to go to sleep...

One thing that so impressed me is that Michael Jackson is a true performer. There was absolutely no lip syncing going on. Even in rehearsals, he was in full voice (though sometimes he openly worried about losing his voice). He knew every word to every song he's ever sung, and was constantly working on ways to freshen up the classics while not taking away from anyone's memory of how the song should be. Every dance step was done with passion, integrity and focus - never marked. Modern day "singers" should watch this and be ashamed of themselves.

Michael Jackson had planned on incorporating aerialists, "pole dancing experts", a new 3D Thriller sequence, never before seen lighting and pyrotechnics, and amazing costumes. None of that will ever see a real audience. This movie is a wonderful glimpse at what was and what could've been. I understand it is a limited time release, so go catch it now while you can.


Tuesday Aug 04, 2009

Enjoying revival of Floradora!

We caught a fun "staged reading" of the nearly lost light opera, Floradora, this weekend. The original book was by Owen Hall, with lyrics by E. Boyd-Jones and Paul Rubens (\*not\* Pee-wee Herman), and music by Leslie Stuart.

This show was originally put on at the Lyric Theatre in London on 11 November 1899.  The show is about an imaginary Philippine island, Floradora, and a very sought after perfume that carries the same name.  Like many of the light operas popular at this time, the plot revolves around hidden identities, lost loves, nearly lost loves, and the making of new love connections.

While there was no single source for a score and libretto, Neil Midkiff and Mark Kenig scoured everything they could find on the show in the British Library, the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library as well as private collections, to come up with this new version. I can imagine that this was a bit like archeology and I think they did an amazing job!

The show pokes fun at the wealthy aristocrats, Americans, Phrenology (the popular pseudoscience about discerning personality traits from the bumps on one's head)  and the Royal Aquarium (which never actually housed any living fish...).

This was a lovely show. The cast of characters all had wonderful voices that carried easily in the Mountain View Center for the Performing Art's second stage, and the orchestra was a delight to listen to.  I was happy for the supertitles all the same, as the unmiced voices were sometimes difficult to understand when the singer's back was turned to you (the theater is nearly "in the round", with three audience seating areas).

We were forewarned at the top of the show that the traditional performances of this would've included a cast of up to 90 people. As the theater was quite small, the ensemble carried many roles (including being both Philippine island natives to leftover English d├ębutantes). This was handled in quite an entertaining way - if the women had on a flower lei, she was a native. Carrying a parasol? An English deb.

My English husband did note at one point that you would never say: "a perfume at a shilling and three halfpence a bottle", but rather: "a perfume at a shilling and thrupence ha'penny" :-)

Myself, I had to wonder if the authors may have intended the chorus to have a West Country accent, as the opening number seemed to attempt to rhyme Floradora with "...we adore her".  (this opinion comes from listening to things like bananer, instead of banana... around my house :-)

The show was a bit on the long side, though, I enjoyed every song, so I can see why it was difficult to make cuts. If this were to go on the main stage at the Lyric Theatre, they may want to consider cutting "Willie Was a Play Boy", which was the only number that I noticed did not progress the plot (though it was very cute and sung well, so I can see an argument for keeping it as well).

There were only two (sold out) performances of this, but keep your eyes peeled for this to maybe one day appear as a fully staged production. It is an outstanding light opera with classic tales that does deserve to be told again.

Sunday Jul 12, 2009

WVLO's My Fair Lady was Fantastic!

A group of us went to Saratoga to check out West Valley Light Opera's most recent production of My Fair Lady, written by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

Doug Baird did an outstanding  job with direction, as even with the minimalist sets, I was brought back to turn of the 20th century England.  While I expected to be jarred by the dreadful English accents, instead I found myself delighted at how I could really imagine all of these actors being from England.  Okay, my husband, who is actually English, said they weren't perfect, but on the other hand he did not find them jarring (and his father was born within the sound of Bow bells, so he knows a Cockney accent when he hears one).

Without even looking at the program, I could tell the wigs were the wonderful work of Ms Rande Harris, as the styles were spot on for the period.  Most impressive were the costumes and hats for the day at the races (Ascot), a fantastic job from Carol Clever and her long list of assistants (I'm pretty sure I recognized the handy work of Linda McKee and Richard Gaetono in there somewhere).

While there wasn't a ton of dancing, Jillian Toby-Cummings, as choreographer, did a good job getting everyone to go from street buskers from London, to Lords and Ladies at the ball.

Jade Shoejaee was fantastic and believable as Eliza Doolittle, changing her accent from a thick Cockney to a very intelligible East End lilt.  Linda McKee, as Mrs. Pearce, delighted us with her varied expressions, humorous dialog and constant costume changes.  Chris Blake had me laughing, uncontrollably, as Professor Zoltan Karpathy (the only actual English bloke in the cast... playing the Hungarian).

The Cockney quartet, (Chris Blake, Earl Masuda, Matt Tipton, and Peter Vigil) were lovely (or should I say, loverly?), and the ensemble was perfectly in tune for each scene, effortlessly taking the audience from the streets of London to the races at Ascot.  Speaking of Ascot, Kady Blake's delightful "slow walk" during that scene had me in stitches.

TJ Paganini, along with the other servants at the Higgins Estate, were top notch.  I also really enjoyed the leading gentleman, Kevin Kirby as Henry Higgins, and John Musgrave as Colonel Pickering.  Really, the entire cast was wonderful.

The show was essentially sold out on Friday night, and all of the matinees are as well, so I highly recommend you buy your tickets in advance (though I understand there are often no-shows, so you can always take a chance and show up at the theater directly).

The show is three hours long, but you would never notice, as it just keeps you laughing and humming along the entire time.

Monday Mar 16, 2009

Bat Boy: The Musical!

This was quite a theater filled weekend for me, as I ventured off to see my second show of the weekend on Sunday (after a fast paced and fun bike ride) at Foothill College to see Bat Boy, The Musical!

Now, I was, I must admit, a regular follower of the Bat Boy saga, as chronicled by the Weekly World News at cash registers in supermarkets throughout the 1990s. I never actually made a purchase of that tabloid (probably why they are no longer published, as I'm sure I wasn't alone), but could not resist being drawn to the bizarre chronicals of the supposed Bat Boy. Was he good? Was he evil? Or simply misunderstood? It is a question Foothill has attempted to answer.

My friend and I enjoyed every minute of this musical experience that while never taking itself too seriously, still managed to get us to feel for Bat Boy (or Edgar, as they called him).  Robert Brewer was amazing as the Bat Boy - hanging upside down and integrating every strange character ticks that made you truly believe he was a mutant person.  His singing was beautiful and so powerful.

I've seen Tim Reynolds in many productions down in Saratoga, but never have I seen him show such depth and dynamic growth. Truly a pleasure to watch.

Many actors and actresses played several characters - switching with ease from male to female characters, delighting the audience. One of the best at this was my friend, Mike Rhone, who had us laughing uncontrollably. His portrayal of Pan was bar none!

Other standout performances were from Lisa-Marie Newton, playing the mother character Meredith, and Kateri McRae as Shelley.

The harmonies were fantastic, voices blending in such amazing ways!  The ensemble took their role very seriuosly, never broke character and really built the mood.

There's only one more weekend left - this Thursday through Saturday. Check it out!

Sheherezade: 2008 Year in Review - Fun!

Three of us went to San Francisco to catch The Playwrights' Center of San Francisco's "2008 Sheeherezade: Year in Review", a collection of very short plays - each about 8-12 minutes.  This was my first time in this cute little theater (hidden in the basement of another theater space). My friend Philip Goleman was featured in these shows, and was quite a delight.  All of the actors were very good, and they covered social issues such as Gay Marriage in California all the way to the fires that devastated Big Sur this past summer.  I did need to explain a few of them to our visitor from across the Atlantic Ocean... For example, he did not understand the motivation short play, "I Do!" about a lesbian couple contemplating getting married before the November 2008 election..."just in case", because such unions are perfectly legal in the UK.

My favorites were "How I Phelps for You", "Woman in a Box", and "Big Love: The Bigfoot Musical!"

Over all the shows were fast paced, thought provoking and/or very funny. This is their big fund raiser show, so show up, have a glass of wine and bid on some silent auctions.

Oh, and Phil was fabulous!

Thursday Oct 16, 2008

Look for me in Babes of Hollywood!

So, I got an email (well, several, actually) from my friend Doug this week about a fund raising show he is producing at his daughter's high school, Presentation High School. They are doing Babes in Hollywood: The Music of Garland and Rooney.  I was taking a break from performing, but, as always, after a couple months off, I start reading the audition announcements again... I saw a lot of great shows, but they either conflicted too much with ski season, or my grandmother's birthday, or upcoming friend's wedding, etc. Then I looked at this show - we get a break from rehearsal for Thanksgiving and Winter break, and perform in early January. So, I decided on Tuesday that I'd audition on Wednesday.

That didn't give me much time to prepare, but I quickly updated my resume, grabbed a head shot, listened to the few Garland tracks I have on my iPod a few times, and ran through my traditional audition song, "Turn Back O' Man" (Godspell), a few times. The ending was rusty, I haven't been making it to the Sun Singers rehearsals or my voice lessons, so I just sang it on the way down in the car and hoped the notes would be there...

It was quite a comfortable audition environment, with the director & producer on stage with me and the piano player, making it a bit easier to focus and not think about all the other auditioners sitting in the house. I was nervous, but I have sung "Turn Back O' Man" hundreds of times (it was my "go-to" audition piece long before I ever played the role of Sonia in Godspell, even though I didn't use it as an audition piece for Godspell, so it was just luck I got that part).  It all came back and I hit the high ending note - all in my chest/belt voice!

Then the director asked me, just like he'd asked everyone else, to sing Garland's "Over the Rainbow", that's when I got really nervous! What key would it be in? Where will my break be in this song? Will this stupid cold I just can't seem to get rid of screw this up?  Do I sing it hopefully like in Wizard of OZ or despondently like the tracks of Garland on my iPod? I did have to bounce between my head & chest voice, but I think it went okay. I went for the despondent ending.

The dance audition was all simple things, like pivot-turns and grapevines, so I actually did well.  As I was leaving, I asked the director when we would hear about casting decisions, and he simply told me I was cast and he'd see me at the first rehearsal. I can't wait!

Thursday May 08, 2008

Last Chance: Valerie in Best Little W\*\*\*\*house in Texas!

Hi everyone!

We're down to our last three performances for Best Little W\*\*\*\*house in Texas with Actor's Theatre Center in th Historic Hoover Theater in San Jose. Reviews have been great, but audiences have been small. Thank you so much for all of you who have already come out to support us! Tonight, tomorrow & Saturday night (all 8PM curtain)

This is the toughest acting role I've ever had - my character, Shy, is not your typical happy-go-lucky musical role, but a woman with a shattered past that was so tragic and difficult that life as a "working girl" was seen as a big step up. This show is so much more dynamic that most other ones I've seen - there are sad and touching moments, right along with amazingly hilarious ones and upbeat dance numbers!

This is based on a true story, right down to the wig-wearing, over the top, "consumer activist" television star - that will have you rolling in the aisles.

I am so proud to be working with everyone of the actors on this stage - everyone is top notch (many of whom you've seen before with me or in shows we've gone to see together).

The Palo Alto Daily quite liked us:
http://www.paloaltodailynews.com/article/2008-5-2-brothel-musical
(actresses are mislabeled - I haven't gone blond! :-)

Folks on Artsopolis enjoyed it, too:
http://www.artsopolis.com/event/detail/29869

Theater info:
http://theatrecenter.biz/id126.html

You can buy tickets online or at the door.

C'mon down! A good time to be had by all!

Friday Apr 25, 2008

ATC's Best Little W'house in Texas is honkey tonkin' along!

So we had a fantastic opening weekend for ATC's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, even though I was sick.  I'm just now starting to feel a bit better, so I'm really excited about this weekend.  The show is really great, if I do say so myself :-)  Everyone who has come has had nothing but nice things to say.  I can't get the music out of my head, which is probably a good thing - it will help me keep the harmonies straight.  This show is never done, which is odd, because it has such a touching story, fantastic songs and so much more depth than a normal cheesy musical.

Y'all come back now, ya hear! 

Tuesday Apr 15, 2008

first rehearsal on stage....

Last night we got to use the actual stage for the first time for ATC's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In some places, the stage is MUCH bigger ...in others, smaller than what we practiced with. That's what adding props and set pieces does to a little theater group ;)  The stage is much wider, and now we have access to the stage and the platforms that are between the orchestra pit and the rest of the audience.  Spacing was an interesting challenge last night, so we spent a lot of time last night fixing the big dance numbers. I only whacked one person with my tamborine last night... unfortunately I got poor Heidi more than once. I promise I'll be much more careful tonight!

Tonight we should have a few more of our costumes - I'll get a chance to try out my velcro tear off denim overalls (how else do you take off overalls over cowboy boots when you have 15 seconds to change?!?!)  I never thought I'd be wearing tear off clothing for a show... :-)

Band sounds great!

We had our Sitzprobe (sit and sing) last night with the band for ATC's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and they sounded fantastic! The slide guitar and violin add depth we just weren't getting with the piano fill in rehearsal, and the bass and drums will definitely help us feel the beat as we dance and sing (at the same time ;).  Yesterday morning and afternoon, we got most of the set put together, so tonight we'll actually be on stage! and with the band! I'm very excited! We won't be running with costumes until at least Wednesday, which I'm a bit nervous about, as I have a few very fast changes (including one that occurs onstage!).  I'm sure it will be fine. Linda has reminded me several times that we often didn't have our costumes until opening night at the Gaslighter, and we somehow survived and still put on outstanding shows.  This will be no exception! This is one of the most challenging roles I've ever had - I'm not used to musicals having such great depth, and I've certainly never covered so many emotions in one show.

[VABF: Oops! I wrote this yesterday, but didn't post it! oops!]
 

Saturday Apr 12, 2008

ATC Last Rehearsal before moving to the theater!

We had an interesting landmark in our evolution towards opening night of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas - we did a full run through, choreographed the bows (because, yes, there is more dancing! yay!) and completed our very last rehearsal in the rehearsal space. Sunday we load into the theater, do our sit-sing, then we'll just have to run, run, run the show from top to bottom til we're ready to open.  I'm really happy with where we all are. Most of our costumes and hair pieces are in, everything is choreographed and blocked, and everyone is off book.  Sure, there were a few forgotten lines here and there last night, but that's the beauty of live theater. :-)  I'm so excited about getting into the actual theater so we can really understand where our entrances and exists are, and we'll have so much more space!  I helped base paint some of the sets last week, and I have a feeling that Stephen Watham is going to outdo himself again!

We're opening April 19. Make sure you get your tickets now! Actors Theatre Center performs in the historic Hoover Middle School theater in San Jose (right across from the Egyptian museum). It's a short run, and you definitely don't wan to miss out.

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Valerie's former weblog. The new one can be found at http://bubbva.blogspot.com/

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