I saw a lot of musicals in the last three months so sitting down and going through programs and notes to select this talented new group of Scene Stealers – performers who stole the show and our hearts – was challenging but so much fun. Congratulations to all the scene stealers, which you’ll meet here and from all of 2010.
Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Jessica Ball as Cinderella and Matthew Schleigh as Prince Christopher singing “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” in Cinderella at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia.
You could see the passion and twinkle in their eyes when Jessica and Matt sang this beautiful romantic song by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It made me smile and reminded me how lucky I was to find a new love this year, and how much I adore the Rodgers and Hammerstein score of Cinderella.
Jessica and Matthew: Our duet, “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” occurs just after Cinderella and Prince Christopher have met at the ball. We sneak away to the gardens and end up discovering that we have fallen in love at first sight. In this version of Cinderella, Christopher musters up the courage to tell Cindy that he thinks he loves her. Being astonished at the speed to which he has fallen, he searches for the words to explain why he loves her. Cinderella is so surprised and disbelieving that this amazing wish can come true – that she doesn’t respond because she is afraid to break the spell. Only after Chris kisses her does she start to believe that this could be real. She shares his sentiments and feelings by singing the second verse of the song.
As luck or fate would have it, we are dating in real life. (Yes, you may all say, “aww”. Don’t think it’s not mentioned in our bios, because it is…), so it goes without saying we very much relate to this song. How many couples get to fall in love with each other night after night? It’s really not as voyeuristic as it sounds. This is our fourth time acting opposite each other professionally, but the first time as a couple. It’s a blessing to perform this song and the entire play together, especially during the holiday season. (Jess is asking for real glass slippers and a puppy. Matt wants a sword – a prince needs a sword…). Matt will be performing in Perseus Bayou at Imagination Stage while promoting his band The Tryads and Jess is optimistically seeking work.
Jeff Breslow as Vernon Hines singing “Think Of The Time I Saved” in The Pajama Game at Rockville Musical Theatre.
I have always loved the role of Hines, and Jeff Breslow was hysterical as the obsessed and manic pajama factory manager. I don’t know how he kept from laughing when he was singing this song. It was so nice watching this local director get a chance to show the newbies in the cast how to sell a song. Watching Jeff enjoying himself so much made me and the audience cheer after he finished the song.
Jeff: Vernon Hines is the floor manager at Sleep Tite, a company in the Midwest that produces pajamas. His job is to ensure all the factory workers operate at maximum efficiency and the way he chooses to accomplish this is by, stopwatch in hand, timing everything in sight. Unfortunately, this obsession with speed has bled over into his personal life and, for Vernon, in terms of making the most effective use of time, there is little difference between when the workday begins and when it ends.
The song is about how Vernon lives his life in the most time-efficient manner possible. Quite literally, Vernon sleeps, shaves, eats and contemplates his own demise, so that he can accomplish everything in the least amount of time. As an actor, it’s kind of a strange song to perform. After all, here’s a guy who really needs to stop and ‘smell the roses’. If you actually focus on the lyrics, this character is describing how he’s such a slave to his obsession that he’s willing to go through life with a wrinkled suit and a rotten shave, subsisting on a glue-like porridge and planning his own funeral. That being said, while Vernon’s choices for his daily routine aren’t the ones I would make for myself, he is someone who’s really passionate about what he does and it infuses a sense of energy and purpose in his life that I expect many people wish they had for themselves. Of course, what really makes the song special is that it has witty lyrics, catchy music, and the blocking director Michael Kharfen provided was so clever, it was an absolute blast to perform each night!
My next project is to return to the other side of the proscenium and direct Kiss Me, Kate for Rockville Musical Theatre in Fall 2011. It’s my first show since I directed A New Brain at Kensington, and while it’s always a challenge to follow up on a successful production, I’m working with a great team, the newly updated script (from the Broadway revival in 2000), and, of course, the wonderful Cole Porter music that’s made the show a classic. Everybody involved is very excited (in fact, we’re already scheduling production meetings), so I’m really looking forward to it.
Ryan Burke as William Barfee and Maggie Donovan as Olive Ostrovsky singing “Second” in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Montgomery College.
I love this show and Ryan and Maggie were endearing when they sang “Second” in this joyous production that was so well directed by Danny Tippett. This is the first production where I really wanted Mr. Barfee (or is it Bar-Fay) to win. Because of their heartwarming performance in “Second”, I gained more respect for Olive and felt that it was OK to actually like the crazy speller with ‘The Magic Foot’.
Ryan: I played the charismatically awkward character, William Barfee. He is 11 years old and has high hopes to end up in the science world. While being slightly on the eccentric and rude side, he also has a loving and friendly side shown as the show progresses. He has a severe allergy to peanuts which leads to his confrontation with the pompous Chip Tolentino, another speller in the show. In the end, he becomes friends with the runner up speller, Olive Ostrovsky.
Maggie: My character Olive Ostrovky is a gawky and insecure young girl who is attending the Putnam County Spelling Bee for the first time. She is a seemingly simple and sweet character but as the show develops the audience is exposed to her troubled family life and deep sadness. Olive attends the Bee alone, as her mother is in an Ashram in India and her father is late and coming from work. Without even a single friend besides her oversized dictionary, she tends to keep to herself, quietly waiting for her turn to be called. As the show progresses though, Olive begins to break out of her shell as she gets closer to winning the Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Ryan: In the “Second” scene, Olive and William are neck and neck spelling words on the list, one after another, until someone gets one incorrect; similar to that of a sudden death round. The song begins when William silently spells “Astrobleme” and Olive has her inner monologue moment of song talking about how this is her moment and she won’t lose. Once her moment ends, it’s my turn to sing about how no one really likes me because of how strange I am, and how if I win, people will like me. However, Olive mis-spells ‘Elenguescence” and gives William the chance to win it all. He contemplates and as the song progresses Olive and William move into this fanciful Pas de deux ballet while the rest of the cast sings quietly under the music. After the dance, the song continues to the big moment when Olive belts about her dream winning, and William belts about how he doesn’t know if he should let her win, due to their new found friendship. The song then ends with William winning due to Olive letting him know that it was okay. The cast rejoices at William’s gain of pride.
Maggie: The scene stealing duet, “Second” exposes her new found confidence and a newly formed friendship with her competitor William Barfee or “Barf” as she calls him. Barf in mid spelling of his [final] word stops and looks at his hurt friend and invites her to dance as the two spellers share a moment in the Pas de deux. Spinning in the air and fluttering across the stage you see the budding connection between these two prepubescent and awkward children, who you can’t help but love. Beaming with happiness, Olive realizes that she is content with coming in second because making a friend means more to her than winning. Barf wins the 25th Annual Spelling Bee but Olive wins the gift of friendship.
Ryan: I can easily relate to this song/character because in Elementary School, I was him. I had some friends, but was always considered the nerd or the weirdo. But there was always one person who I could always count on, Amanda Donaldson. And I tried to imagine if this were her and I back then, what would I have done? Lose my only friend who liked me for me, or win the Bee for popularity?
Maggie: This song was one of my favorites to perform because I could really relate to the working hard and wanting so badly to be recognized for my dedication. Just like Olive – I have come to realize that winning and recognition is not everything but being happy and doing what you love is. Olive loved to spell just as I love to perform. We are both a bit shy at times and have an inner nerd but more importantly we both have an extreme passion and love for what we do best.
Ryan: I am actually going to audition for The Last Five Years at Kensington Arts Theatre on Tuesday.Being one of my favorites, I really hope to be a part of it. But other than that hope, nothing is set for me on stage yet.
Maggie: I’m not currently participating in any shows at the moment – but I will be attending the University of Maryland in January where I will be pursuing my B.A. in theatre. I will be auditioning as soon as I can so hopefully you will see me back on the stage soon!
George Dvorsky as Daddy Warbucks singing “Something Was Missing” in Annie at Olney Theatre Center.
I have been a fan of George Dvorsky’s for many years and when I sat in the Olney Theatre and heard his gorgeous rendition of “Something Was Missing”, I was realized how composer Charles Strouse brilliantly captured Daddy Warbucks’ love for Annie in this simple and heart-felt song.
George: Daddy Warbucks is a no nonsense, ruthless, business man and business is basically all he cares about. Having been brought up poor in NYC, when both of his parents died before he was 10 years old, he made a vow to be rich. So all he knows for a way to survive is making billions of dollars. And that’s what he did. No time for personal relationships or letting anyone get close when you’ve got a multi-Billion dollar corporation to take care of.
He takes advice from his secretary Grace to choose an orphan to spend Christmas with. A little red head named Annie is who Grace chooses and she basically melts Warbucks’ heart with her charm, truth, and optimism.
In the second act of the show, after hiring Eliot Ness to trace the locket Annie’s parents left with her, they discover that there’s no way they can find her parents. So Warbucks wants to adopt her. And in making this decision he sings “Something Was Missing” describing how even though he has billions and basically ANYTHING he wants, he realizes that this little girl is changing his life and allowing his tender heart to break through the hard shell he’s acquired over the years.
It’s a gorgeous song and I remember hearing it on the original cast album when I was in High School. While everyone was flipping out over “Tomorrow” and “Something Was Missing” always struck me as THE song. Its lyric and sentiment are really powerful. No matter how much STUFF you have, if you have no one to share it with, what’s the use of it? I look forward to singing it every night. It just speaks to me and apparently to the audience too, which is wonderful to hear.
As soon as we close here at the Olney, I’m heading to Boca Raton to reunite with Sally Mayes for another production of Pete N Keely. Sally and I did the show ten years ago off-Broadway and we can’t wait to do it again.
Josh Doyle as Amos Hart singing “Mister Cellophane” in Chicago at Kensington Arts Theatre.
When Josh Doyle sang the bittersweet “Mr. Cellophane”, you just wanted to put your arms around him, give him a bear hug, and say, “I know you’re here”. He didn’t make Amos this pathetic nebbish as so many other actors have done – but made him more loveable and strong. I loved when audience members shouted “Aww” when he finished. When he turned around and walked away – it brought back memories of watching Chaplin twirling his cane – looking in the camera with a frown – as if to say, “Well f—k it! I’ll survive!” Josh’s performance had ‘hart’.
Josh: Amos is the put-upon husband of Roxy Hart, the focal “Merry murderess” of the show. He takes on the role of scapegoat at first, and then fumbles through the plot acting mostly as a tool for Roxy and Billy Flynn, her smooth lawyer. He is the innocent, naïve everyman in the sleazy world of Chicago. I think the simplicity and honesty of Amos is what appeals to audiences and makes him very, very fun to play. Amos enters and leaves the show playing the same role, but a little wiser. I actually think he learns more than any other character, which is pretty ironic.
Roxy has just fabricated a pregnancy to gain the media’s sympathy. Amos assumes the child is his, but nobody will listen to him. Amos sings about his history of being ignored and stepped on.
This is a very funny AND heartbreaking song. That’s what I love about it. Amos relates, directly to the audience, his struggle with being unnoticed and unremarkable. He makes a decision in the middle to stand up for himself. I think one of the most telling aspects of “Mr. Cellophane” is its format. It starts out as quiet and intimate then begins to surge, only to end with Amos apologizing for even singing. This is Amos summed up perfectly. How it relates to me? Well, it sums me up pretty well, too. Sorry.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and focusing on my “day job.” I’m also looking forward to being a theatre-goer and supporting my friends and this awesome theatre community. It may be a while before I hit the stage again. Though I doubt anyone will even notice.
Parker Drown as Rudolph and Mikey Cafarelli as Hermey singing “We’re A Couple Of Misfits” in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer at Adventure Theatre.
I was called a misfit or the Yiddish word “bandit” (pronounced “bandeet”) so many times when I was growing up that I related instantly to Parker and Mikey’s personal dilemmas and to their song “We’re A Couple of Misfits”. And Parker and Mikey were simply adorable when they sang it. The two little kids sitting to the right of me were beaming and the little boy next to me said “It’s so nice to make a new friend. Rudolph’s going to be OK”.
It’s been one heck of a (sleigh) ride this year for Parker Drown. First, he won raves from all the local critics and received the Helen Hayes Award for his heart-breaking performance as Angel in Keegan Theatre’s production of RENT. Then he danced his heart out in Toby’s production of Hairspray and now he gets to play a red-nosed reindeer.
Mikey: I play Hermey, the elf who wants to be a dentist instead of a toy maker like all the other elves in Christmasville.
Parker: Well, I play the one and only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer…a lovable reindeer with an unfortunate birth defect. (enough said).
Mikey: At this point in the show, Hermey just ran away after being made fun of because of his interest in dentistry and lack of interest in toy making. He then runs into Rudolph who just got made fun of because of his shiny red nose, and they become quick friends because they see that they’re in the same boat. Even though they don’t “fit in” with the norms of Christmasville, they realize that they’re both unique, and they don’t need to necessarily fit in with everyone else.
Parker: Before this song, Rudolph is in the midst of the most trying and eventful year of his life. Not only was he born that spring and had to immediately learn to tap dance, but he was also cast out by all of the citizens of Christmasville, and his one true love has been taken away from him by her not-so-nice dad. (Which in my opinion…should put ALL of them on the naughty list that year and if I were Santa I would have given myself coal…I’m just saying…I hold no grudges.)
Mikey: The misfits in the show are silly things like a reindeer with a red nose, an elf that wants to be a dentist, a pistol that shoots jelly, and a Jack-in-a Box named Charlie. But it seems to me that in reality, the misfits are actually us. Most (if not all) people go through a phase in their life where they feel like they don’t quite fit in because of one thing or another, and you just gotta go with it. Eventually, everyone finds his or her own place in the world. All this from a children’s TV special turned play!
Parker: Hermey the Elf, another outcast from Christmasville, has just appeared and they discover that they are both misfits. So they will be independent self-sufficient misfits… together. The song is them embracing their defects and deciding that being a misfit is fine by them. As for me relating to the song I have always tried to embrace and appreciate my quirks and I went to Syracuse University so I love snow and am used to it…and after last winter, I’m always prepared!
Mikey: As far as what’s up next for me, I got nothing… yet! I’m fairly optimistic that something will come up, and am actually excited for upcoming auditions and opportunities that will arise!
Parker: Up next for me is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at The Olney Theatre Center followed by Speech and Debate at Rep Stage.
Michael Mainwaring as Jean Valjean singing “Bring Him Home” in Les Miserables at Act Two @ Levine.
This is Michael’s second Scene Stealer honor. Michael’s performance as Jean Valjean was more subtler than any other actor I have seen play him, but when he got his hands on “Bring Him Home”, Michael’s gorgeous tenor rang through Georgetown Prep’s Figge Theatre and brought tears and applause from the appreciative audience. It was moving and powerful and simply beautiful.
Michael: Jean Valjean is a man convicted of robbery for stealing bread to help his sister’s starving son. He was in prison for 19 years and then, after his release on probation, he changed his identity and lived another life. He adopted Cossette as his child after promising Fantine (Cosette’s mother who dies) that he will care for and protect her child until he dies.
The men of the town are engaged in a rebellion against injustice – a cause that mirrors Valjean’s entire life. Resting and wounded after the battle, Valjean overhears Marius professing his love for Cosette. Valjean is moved and prays to God that Marius will return from the war safely, even offering to substitute his own life for Marius so that Marius can be with Cossette.
In this song, Valjean reveals that Marius is like a son to him. Valjean always wanted a family of his own, but because of his imprisonment, he was unable to achieve that dream. Since I’m only 16, it was hard to relate to that aspect of the character, considering I don’t have a child and I don’t know what that feels like. However, I imagined that having a child was just like the dreams I have both for my own life and for the world I am growing up in, and I imagined what it would be like if those dreams were unreachable. In the reprise of the song, Valjean summarizes his life of self-sacrifice singing, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” We should all aspire to such a love.
Stacey Mastrian as Mabel and Ben Lurye as Frederic singing “Stay, Fred’ric, Stay!” in The Pirates of Penzance at The Washington Savoyards.
When Stacy and Ben sang their divine harmonies and ‘Fal, la, la, la, Fal, la, la, la-s’ in this powerful and lush duet , it was heaven on the high seas. It was some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard on the stage.
Stacey: Mabel is the eldest daughter in General Stanley’s family of wards and is a mother figure to the numerous other girls. In the first act, she and Frederick fall in love and mean to be married.
Ben: I played Frederic, a boy who has just been released from his indentures on a pirate ship. Although I was loyal to my fellow pirates and their King, I hated the evil things we did, and once I was free to leave, I devoted myself to destroying them. However, things are complicated when I find out that I was duty-bound to serve the pirates not through my twenty-first year, but through my twenty-first birthday, and seeing as how I was born in a leap year on February 29th, I’ve only had five real birthdays…and am therefore obligated to serve the Pirate King for another sixty years or so.
Stacey: This duet is in the second act: Frederick has just revealed to me that he must leave me forever in order to rejoin the pirates, his former comrades. I am, as one can imagine, quite upset!
Ben: “Stay, Frederic, Stay!” takes place right after I’ve found out about my birthday situation. I’ve fallen in love with Mabel, and now I have to explain to her that although I want to be with her, I must instead leave and return to the pirates.
Stacey: I try to reason with Frederick to stay, plead, beg…. Mabel’s reaction is natural for one in love who is about to lose her beloved. I have experience heartbreak in love and also recently lost a family member, which brings this type of emotion to the surface easily for me.
In the end, Frederick says he will come back for me, and we rejoice in our love — although the ridiculous part is that we will be in our 80s at that point, which is what makes this a comedy!
Ben: To Frederic, this is the ultimate sacrifice. The subtitle to The Pirates of Penzance is “The Slave of Duty,” and that is exactly what Frederic is: unflinchingly loyal to the duties he is assigned, no matter how difficult it might be for him personally. This isn’t a choice for him between staying with Mabel and rejoining the pirates…he knows exactly what he’s going to do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t painful for him, though. I tried to liken it to really tough decisions I’ve had to make in my life (although I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite this absurd!) and it really helped me with the honesty of the moment.
Stacey: This month and next I am in Venice in order to sing the role of the “Soprano Solo” and to cover “La sua Compagna,” the principal female role, at Teatro La Fenice.
Ben: Next, I’ll be performing as King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Bel Cantanti Opera and then I’ll be doing Joseph at Olney Theatre in the spring, playing Simeon.
Hollis Resnik as Old Lady singing “I Am Easily Assimilated” in Candide at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall.
DC Theatre were fortunate to see Hollis Resnik’s powerful performance as Margaret Johnson in Arena Stage’s The Light in the Piazza, and now she has DC audiences roaring as the ‘one buttock’ Old Lady in Candide. If you want to know why Hollis Resnik has a mantle or two filled with Jefferson Awards for her performances in Chicago, come and see what she does when she performs “I Am Easily Assimilated”. It was miraculous. Hollis can do it all!
Hollis: I play the OLD LADY, the only principal character without a name…although later I am called “Your Majesty”.
My back-story is one of riches to rags, but I am a survivor of the highest order. I will “assimilate” into any situation to remain alive, as I am one who loves life! Even under the most duress – the Old Lady would choose to remain alive.
After a particular crime….the Old Lady, Candide, and Cunegonde go on the lam and travel to Cadiz. She warns the young lovers it is important to fit in and not attract attention… to conform. Hence she sings “I am Easily Assimilated” – gathering them and the rest of the ensemble into a joyful party of dance and song as they attempt to fit in to their new surroundings.
I think the Old lady has a point of view, once again, of survival – a “When in Rome..” sort of thing. In order to stay alive she will stoop to going along with the crowd in order to keep a roof over her head and food on the table. Although this point of view does NOT detract from her inner strength – many others would have given up – whereas she would never do that. She is cunning, crooked, but out of necessity. As I say later.. “necessity has no law.”
Well I would love to come back to DC! It’s a great theatre town – very warm and welcoming. I have had great experiences here both at Arena Stage in The Light in the Piazza and in Candide at the Shakespeare Theatre! I will be going back to Chicago after our run here. We’ll see what happens!
David B. Reynolds as Scrooge singing “Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today” in A Christmas Carol at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Baltimore.
In 1998, I saw David perform the role of Scrooge in the Columbia, MD Toby’s in-the-round production of A Christmas Carol, and I was so glad that he was asked to reprise the role at Toby’s Baltimore on the proscenium stage. David is an emotional singer and actor and his performance of his ‘11:00 number’ in the show – “Yesterday, Tomorrow and Today” -was a tour de force – full of power, elation, regret, and hope from the former Bah-Humbug-er.
David: I am very flattered that you chose my performance as one of your Musical Scene Stealers! I owe everyone who works so hard on this production my thanks and gratitude. This truly is one of the tightest knit casts I have worked with and I am very proud of them – as well as the production team who has stayed even after press week to continue to problem-solve and to maintain the integrity of the show as a whole.
“Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today” comes at the end of the Christmas Future sequence of the show when Scrooge is shown his own gravestone by the Ghost of Christmas Future played by the multi-talented Deb Buonaccorsi. Scrooge collapses down center stage and begins singing his song of atonement. The song begins by Scrooge realizing that he has wasted so much time and spirit on the things that don’t matter in life and that have caused the slow corrosion of his soul. He then begins to see how his life could be and that with time – how he can spend the remainder of his life being a positive influence on the people around him. Christmas Future performs an interpretive dance behind Scrooge mirroring his feelings. Towards the end of the number, the characters of Tiny Tim and the Smythe girl reach out to Scrooge and take his hand, helping him to his feet and to his humanity.
I play the number as honestly as I can, really focusing on the lyrics and trying to picture images from the rest of the show when Scrooge is singing about wasted time. I think the audience can relate to the number because of its universal appeal. Who hasn’t wasted time and energy in their past? Who hasn’t wanted to apologize to someone they cannot, or regretted lost opportunities? I think they feel that if Scrooge is given a second chance, they too might have renewed hope in their own lives. I love the role of Scrooge because he really runs the gamut of emotions, from anger and rage at the holiday season to total elation at the simple joy of being alive and well. The only trouble I sometimes have during the show is keeping the emotion just below the surface – because it would be so easy for me to actually break down during the course of this character’s cathartic journey.
What’s next for me in the theatre scene? I am currently playing Mayor of Whoville and Wickersham #3 in Columbia Center for the Theatrical Arts’ Seussical, the Musical and I will be reprising my role of Otto Frank this spring in The Diary of Anne Frank for CCTA.
Lyndsay Rini as Eponine singing “On My Own” in Les Miserables at Act Two @ Levine.
I was introduced to Lyndsay Rini at Musical Theater Center’s production of The Stephen Schwartz Project and I what I saw was a young singer/actress with incredible vocal talent and energy. Since that night, I have seen Lyndsay in RENT at Theatre Lab where she was the soloist in “Seasons of Love”. When I found out that Lyndsay was playing Eponine in Les Misérables, I was not only thrilled for her, but also for the audience who would be able to hear her sing this powerful and heart-wrenching song. Lyndsay didn’t disappoint, and the audience went crazy!
Lyndsay: I was just 8 years old when I first saw a professional production of Les Misérables. I fell in love with this show and especially the character of Eponine. I admired her strength and yet, she was so vulnerable. Every girl has felt that same way at some point in her life and I was no exception. I left the show that day and just knew I had to perform as Eponine on stage one day. I listened to the recording of the show over and over and started singing “On My Own” at home. I was hooked.
A few years later, when I was 12, I auditioned for a production of Les Misérables school edition at The Theater Lab, which was my first time working with Jane Pesci-Townsend. I wanted to be Eponine but I looked too young and Jane cast me as the little boy Gavroche. I confessed to her that I had no idea how to play a ten-year old boy living during the French Revolution. Jane told me to, “Stop bitching, and take a risk.” She instructed me to practice my boy walk everywhere I went, because she said I walked like a girl. I practiced, and studied my younger brother’s walk until it was “Jane approved.” After the show, when I took my hat off and let my long hair fall past my shoulders for the bow, I couldn’t help but smile to see that some people were shocked that,yes, Gavroche was played by a girl. Jane forever influenced the way I perform and the way I watch a performance or sing a song. I can’t play boys anymore.
At age 16 (I just turned 17 this month) I got my chance to play Eponine, the second time around for me , but my first performance at Act Two @ Levine (School of Music). Eponine is such a deep character full of emotion. It’s easy to relate to her struggle to survive and find love.
“On My Own” is a beautiful song capturing the longing we all feel to just be loved and to love. I sing this song at a point in the show after the revolutionaries are gathered at the barricades braced to fight and in all likelihood, die for freedom. Eponine, disguised as a boy joins the revolutionaries. Marius sends Eponine away; he asks her to deliver a letter to Cosette, which tells Cosette of his fear of dying in battle, but to pray for him, and that he loves her. It hurts Eponine to watch as Marius falls blindly in love with another girl seemingly oblivious to Eponine’s affections and wanting nothing more than to be her friend. Eponine feels hopeless and utterly alone, and breaks out into song.
At its heart, the song is about unrequited love. She is dirt poor and lives on the streets relying on her guile to survive. Her parents are evil and loveless. And Marius, the one man she loves not only doesn’t return her love, but in a cruel twist of faith, falls head over heals in love with Cosette, the poor girl her parents abused. Life doesn’t seem fair. She dreams of being with Marius. She knows that it is pathetic, imagining that Marius is hers when in reality he is not, but it is the only time she is truly happy.
I relate to the song by remembering a love triangle I was in a few years ago. The boy I liked, liked someone else, who liked him back. I basically took this scenario, and raised the stakes, changing the like to love–a love so strong that I would sacrifice anything, even risk my life, for Marius. For “love”, I thought about my family and my boyfriend. I thought about what it might feel like to be “on my own” without their love in my life and it brought me to tears.
For right now, I’m getting ready for college auditions, and rehearsing for a musical cabaret in March with C*mpani, a new performing group with Act Two @ The Levine School of Music. In the Spring, if we can work out the logistics, I am hoping to co-produce, co-direct and perform in a musical cabaret at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, MD to benefit AIDS research. Over the Winter break from high school, I plan to take master classes with professionals at the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City. I am also continuing my voice and dance training locally and, as always, looking for the next audition and opportunity to perform. I am not done with Eponine and remain hopeful I’ll get a shot some day to sing “On My Own” on Broadway.
June Schreiner as Ado Annie singing “I Cain’t Say No!” in Oklahoma! at Arena Stage.
When June walked onto the Fichandler stage and sang “I Caint Say No”, she wrapped her arms around the audience and never let go. They laughed at her and with her, and fell in love with her Ado Annie. It was no surprise to me that she could do this – because I have experienced June stealing many scenes and shows in community theatres around the DC area. Watching June work her magic on the Arena Stage audience was one of the happiest nights I have had in the theatre. I was sitting in front of her very proud parents. I’m still smiling.
June: Right before my number, Ado Annie is off on a rendezvous with the peddler Ali Hakim. She leaves him for a minute to visit Laurey and Aunt Eller, her second family. Laurey is trying to remind Ado about Will and shoots off the song by telling her “Well, you can’t just go around kissing every man that asks you, didn’t anybody ever tell you that?” To which Ado sings her explanation.
Ado Annie is an incredibly brave girl for being so honest with herself. In her song, she is bluntly telling herself and her best friend, Laurey, that she simply can’t say no! And she’s aware that it’s a problem but she knows she’s not ready to solve it yet. Her body has just begin to shout at her, and she’s not going to stop listening to it till she has a real understanding of everything that she feels and wants. I am honestly in awe of Ado for being able to completely tell the truth all the time. I can relate to the feelings that she has but I definitely show more hesitation, stemming from rational thinking that she lacks.
I feel a deep connection to Ado. She’s enthusiastic, energetic, optimistic and curious all in the same ways that I am in real life. Although I’m not as overeager as Ado Annie could be described as, I definitely understand all her motivation.
From “Oklahoma!’s showstoppers June Schreiner and Cody Williams”. Read the complete interview with June and Cody here.
Jenna Sokolowski as Lily St. Regis, along with Channez McQuay as Miss Hannigan and Bobby Smith as Rooster singing “Easy Street” in Annie at Olney Theatre Center.
This is the only trio to ever make my Scene Stealers list, so 3 Hats off to Channez, Bobby and especially the always surprising Jenna for tearing up the stage, spreading so much cheer, kicking up a storm, and having a great time performing “Easy Street”. It was deliciously devilish!
Jenna: Lily St. Regis, very simply, is Rooster’s arm candy. Who is Rooster, you ask? The villain. In a musical, villains tend to get the best lines and some pretty amazing songs, too. “Easy Street” is an over-the-top statement of Rooster’s idea that the world is his for the taking.
Rooster storms into the orphanage hoping to con his own sister (Miss Hannigan, another villain) into lending him a few bucks but ends up slowly realizing that maybe Annie could be the key to a bigger get-rich-quick scheme. He’s spent each moment of his days looking for one all-encompassing scam that could make him not only rich, but also set for life. Rooster believes strongly that the chances of this kind of scam happening are high. This confidence is probably how he won Lily’s heart.
The only way I could approach Lily was if we made her smarter than she appears. I like the idea that her flooziness is partly an act – that she’s conning Rooster into believing she’s more of a ditz than she is – how else could she be so good at improvising and at playing the role of Annie’s mother? I think she has plans to run away with the entire wad of money that she and Rooster are going to steal from Warbucks. At the same time, who in their right mind would think they could con the world’s richest man out of a whopping 50,000 bucks? She’s also got a lot of moxy!
“Easy Street” is a wonderful combination of the inner workings of criminal minds, sleaziness, and naïve excitement. If you listen to the brass, you can hear the clarity of their idea cutting through… yet their plan is somewhat muddled by their enthusiasm. The trumpet growls, the sax slides all over the place, the drums are rat-a-tat-tatting a march that pulls and pushes at the tempo. It sounds like a song you might hear streaming out of a bar in downtown New Orleans.
Something else I love about this song are the vocal arrangements – music director Chris Youstra, well-known for shaking things up, put me an octave above Bobby (usually Rooster and Lily sing in the same octave or Lily sings harmony with Hannigan). This gives us three distinctly separate voices trying to come together for one common scheme.
It’s an incredibly fun song to dance to as well. Tara Jean Vallee, our ridiculously talented choreographer, gave us plenty of freedom in discovering character-building moves in addition to tightly synchronizing our steps. Our motivation to move comes from a place deep within us – we’re so tired of being poor, but we’re not broken. It’s truly a musical moment – we can’t help but break into song and dance at the prospect of finally slipping through a crack in the system and living the life of a movie star.
While Annie is ultimately about achieving success through a positive outlook and believing in one’s dreams, “Easy Street” lends a balance to that optimism. It’s a dark contrast to hopeful songs like “Tomorrow” or “New Deal for Christmas.” The current recession has been compared to The Great Depression on many accounts. While we have to believe that we can get ourselves out of this, the realities many Americans are facing are less than hopeful.
Next up for me is The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center in March and Pygmalion at Everyman Theatre in May.
Jennifer Strand as Fraulein Schneider singing ‘What Would You Do?” in Cabaret at The Arlington Players.
Jennifer Stand was the star in The Arlington Players’ Cabaret. Her passionate performance as Fraulein Schneider ignited the stage every time she walked out. A powerful singer and intense actress, Jennifer’s rendition “What Would You Do”? was heart-wrenching and full of pain. It was mesmerizing.
Jennifer: First of all, thank so much for your praise and recognition of my portrayal of Fraulein Schneider. It is quite an honor. Never married, Fraulein Schneider is the ultimate musical theatre survivor and optimist in 1930s Berlin. Her entire story can be woven from the lyrics in her opening song, “Who Cares, So What” to her closing song, “What Would You Do?” She was born into money and as a child had a good life (with a maid, no less). She had a potential lover who was turned off by her chubbiness (dumpy and fat to be precise!). So, at the top of the show, she has only her rooming house and her spunk and pride to keep her going, because she knows only too well that life goes on, with or without her.
Then her life gets turned upside down when one of her renters, Herr Schultz, takes an ‘interest’ in her, and when they get busted by the floozy whore, Fraulein Kost, for possible illicit activities, they find themselves unexpectedly engaged to be married! Wow – but having been on her own her entire life, she is reluctant to give in, but gets caught up in the emotion and giddiness of it all and is about to take a wonderful leap in her life . . . until . . . the undercurrent of the political climate slaps her back to reality. This is a reality neither of her making nor of her liking, but one she has to endure. So, she’s spunky, she takes advantage of every situation she can, she gets by – and trusts only herself. She throws away her last chance to experience love and companionship, giving in to the pressure of her peers. And she knows she’s lost much more than that. Not a tragic character in the true sense of the word, but a victim, and certainly poignant. I loved playing her!
On the song “What Would You Do?”:
Fraulein Schneider, the day after her extraordinary engagement party to Herr Schultz, makes the decision of her lifetime and breaks off the engagement to Herr Schultz. She must return the beautiful cut crystal fruit bowl that Sally [Bowles] and Clifford [Bradshaw], the other more “famous” couple in this show, gave them as an engagement present. Cliff admonishes her that she doesn’t HAVE to do this, and she defensively spells out the rationalization behind her decision by asking for their advice, and then showing them that being as carefree as her young friends, is not an option for her. This IS her life – like it or not, and she MUST live it.
Fraulein Schneider is desperate for someone to understand her side. She knows there is something very wrong with her choice, but in the end she can’t overcome her basic drive to survive. This song epitomizes the many crossroads that we all have to maneuver around, making small and large decisions that affect the rest of our life’s journey. For Fraulein Schneider, one road gives her the last chance for happiness in a mostly unhappy life. And the other road is “safe,” and will let her continue her lusterless existence. So, her decision is to survive like she’s always survived – trusting in only herself. The stakes are too high, yet she searches for understanding and somehow forgiveness. Funny, she’s asking forgiveness from the wrong source. It’s Fraulein Schneider who has to forgive Fraulein Schneider. And that’s where it ends. We’ll never know the rest of her story.
How do I relate? While, it’s not a subject I start a conversation with. I, like everyone else, yearn for compassion and understanding from others who would judge my actions. Not that I’m consciously seeking it out, but don’t we all continually look for approval and confirmation? That, and forgiveness. Luckily, I don’t have to sing about it!
That scene was the hardest one for me in the show. Such emotion, buried just beneath the skin. I had to be true to her and believe that her choice was the right one. At the very end of the scene, she knows the truth when she says, “I regret . . . everything.” Then exits.
Jorge Thomson as The Tin Woodsman singing “If I Only Had A Heart” in The Wizard of Oz at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School.
Jorge Thomson’s Tin Woodsman was charming, full of heart, and endearing, and as the lyrics said – ‘tender, gentle, and awful sentimental’. You couldn’t help but love Jorge from his first request for his oil can – to his sad goodbye to Dorothy (when she’s about to click those red shows and return to Kansas). Jorge’s dancing and singing were sweet and graceful. It was a lovely performance and a real crowd-pleaser.
Jorge: The Tin Woodsman accompanies Dorothy to the Emerald City because he wants to get a heart from The Wizard. It’s funny because, in many ways, I find him to be the closest in personality to me of all the characters in shows I have played. We are both caring, loyal, and good listeners. We are all-around nice guys who will make you smile.
Dorothy, Scarecrow and Toto have just oiled me after I had been rusted in the forest. I haven’t talked to anybody in a long time so I just decide tell my life story of how I became Tin Woodsman. In my song, I express how much I desperately want a heart. The song is a lot of fun because it shows a transformation. Although The Tin Woodsman hasn’t walked for a while and he rusts up and is very stiff but by the end he is able to soften and move really well.
Unlike Dorothy’s other friends, The Tin Woodsman was originally human. He went through a violent transformation and now wanted to be able to love. Unlike his other friends – he was getting the heart for more than personal reasons, for he once loved a Munchkin maiden. When I put on the costume I thought to myself what it’s like is to become this character, to have these weaknesses of rusting and clanking around. Once I realized the Tin Wooodsman’s physicality and played around in the costume – my reactions just came naturally. Jack Haley, the original Tin Woodsman, said in an interview that he chose to speak softly, the way he used to read stories to his children. I took his advice but I thought of how I interact with my many nieces and nephews as inspiration.
The song “If I Only Had A Heart” is the exact same melody as The Scarecrow’s and The Lion’s (”If I Only Had a Brain” and “If I Only Had The Nerve”), so I looked to the lyrics to see what made it different. Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics, is a genius. My favorite lyric is “Oh I may be presuming that I could be kind of human.” The Tinman accepts he’s not going to be normal again so he just wants to be able to fit in. And being with Dorothy, Scarecrow, and Lion he does – and is forever grateful to them.
I am not going to be performing anytime soon as I am getting ready for college auditions. I hope to major in acting or musical theater. I am going to take some time focusing on my technique, taking acting, voice, and dance classes.
Recently, I have had the pleasure of watching two Tony Award winners perform in The Kennedy Center Concert Hall with The NSO Pops, and my favorite Broadway performer Norm Lewis in the Terrace Theatre as part of the Barbara Cook Spotlight series.
Jennifer Holiday singing “I Am Changing” at The NSO Pops. On November 27, 2010.
Her waist may be 1/3 of what it was in 1982 when she ‘conquered’ Broadway, belting “And I Am Telling You” as the fierce Effie in Dreamgirls , but that voice is 100% of what it was when she won her Tony for her role as Effie. She brought the audience to it’s feet when she belted the hell out of that song at The NSO Pops. And although I was thrilled by that performance, it was her singing of my favorite song from Dreamgirls – “I Am Changing” that was the highlight of the night.
Before she sang the song, Jennifer bravely confessed to the audience that she was a “bad girl’ in the past – missing concerts, engagements, and asked them, “You wonder why I never worked on Broadway after Dreamgirls? I was impossible to be with, and after several marriages, I had to change, and I have.” And pointing to Marvin Hamlisch she recalled how he resurrected her career – calling her and saying, “I want you to come do some concerts with me – but you better SHOW UP! “And ladies and gentlemen- I have never missed one of those concert since. Thank you Marvin from the bottom of my heart!” And then she barreled into “I Am Changing”, and what a difference it was, hearing Jennifer sing it knowing that indeed there was some ‘changing’ going on in her life. It was mesmerizing!
Norm Lewis singing “We Live On Borrowed Time” at The Barbara Cook Spotlight cabaret performance series on December 10, 2010.
I am a big fan of both Norm Lewis and composer David Friedman, and when Norm sang this very emotional song – I welled up with tears. Norm said it was his favorite song, and for me it’s my favorite song by David Friedman. When Norm’s velvety voice rang out throughout The Terrace Theatre, it reminded me how important every moment is in our lives. I haven’t been able to get the melody and it’s poignant message out of my head since I heard Norm sing it.
Listen to Norm sing “We Live On Borrowed Time” accompanied by David Friedman on the piano.
Idina Menzel singing “Defying Gravity” at The NSO Pops on October 29, 2010.
I’ve heard many actresses and singers take a stab at singing the emotional “Defying Gravity” – Elphaba’s high-soaring song from Wicked. But when the original Broadway and Tony Award-winning green witch Idina Menzel sang it so passionately – nailing all the high notes with ease, it brought back memories of sitting in The Gershwin Theatre and hearing that magnificent voice thrill me and that audience – and watching the audience jump up and give her a standing ovation at the end of the first act. Here, history repeated itself.
More of this year’s Scene Stealers: