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Posts Tagged ‘“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”’

On February 7, 2011, I attended Ryan Scott Oliver’s sold-out “Songbook Release Concert” at Joe’s Pub. Ryan Scott Oliver is one of today’s rising songwriters/composers and tonight the performers he had really demonstrated why Ryan is on the rise.

Ryan has his own way of writing music and that is what makes Ryan’s music so great! With songs about love, hope, fear, and loss, Ryan doesn’t try to be the next anybody, he just tries to be himself. He’s fortunate because he achieves it! Ryan also  knows how to choose the right performers to sing his music. He assembled quite a roster of rising theatre performers to help bring his music to life!

Adam & Lindsay Mendez

Starting off the night was Lindsay Mendez, Alex Brightman, Jay Armstrong Johnson and Grace Wall singing “The Ballad of Sara Berry” from Ryan’s musical “35MM.” This song is about a girl who is feeling the pressure from her family to be crowned prom queen, forcing her to resort to many different tactics to win, including murder. Lindsay used her skilled vocals to take the audience through the many emotions and events running through Sara Berry leading to the ultimate win…but to find out what that ultimate win is, you’ll have listen to the song for that!

Continuing on the high that was left by Lindsay, was Grace Wall who sang “A Hypochondriac’s Song” about a girl who is plagued by her fear of death, she struggles through everyday life as she strives to find a man who will put up with her crazy phobias from Ryan’s musical “Out Of My Head.” Grace’s beautiful voice shined as she brought this girls fear and hopes to life. Alex Brightman was the next performer to dazzle the audience. He was on fire belting the crazy out of “Lost Boy” from Ryan’s musical “Darling.” “Lost Boy” is a new take on “Peter Pan” where Peter recounts the hardships in his life that made him feel as if he doesn’t belong. I’m not even sure Alex needed a microphone tonight, but it just added to the vocal power that radiated from Alex and mesmerized the audience.

Next up was “Crayon Girl” from Ryan’s musical “Out Of My Head.” Sung by Jessica Hershberg, “Crayon Girl” is about an artist who struggles to translate her visions onto paper and starts to question whether or not she should continue her career as an artist due to the negativity she receives from her mother. Jessica scored big with this song allowing the audience to really feel everything “Crayon Girl” was going through. (On a personal note: This song reminds me I should ask more often “Was there ever at time a you thought about quitting and if so what career would you choose?)

Andrew Keenan-Bolger & Adam

Taking the stage right after Jessica was Andrew Keenan-Bolger who sang “Stupid Boys,” a song Ryan wrote about a guy who is anxiously waiting for his love interest to call, but while waiting, this man proclaims that boys are stupid; however when he realizes his “Special Someone” isn’t going to call, the guy recognizes that he, in fact, is the stupid one. This song should be released as a single, it’s so identifiable. I know many people, myself included, who have been in this exact situation. Through his voice, Andrew brilliantly displayed the emotions of anticipation, hope, excitement, disappointment, and ultimately realization of what that this guy was feeling.

Katie Thompson

I’m not quite sure the audience was ready for what happened next, but the phenomenal brilliance that is Katie Thompson took the stage. If it were possible to dazzle an audience beyond captivation, then Katie Thompson did just that when she took Ryan’s song “To Do” (about a hopeful romantic who vows to move forward after a series of unrequited loves) and not only reworked the arrangements, but riffed the roof right off of Joe’s Pub. In all my years of seeing people sing, I have never seen the talent and skill that is Katie Thompson’s musical talent and vocal ability.  She is one of a kind and Ryan is genius for having her perform it like only Katie can do!

Following Katie, were Jay Armstron Johnson and Alex Brightman who sang “Halfway,” a song written by Ryan about two lovers who live on opposite coasts meet each other in the middle of the country, their anticipation building as the separate road trips progress. Through their body language and voices, Jay and Alex really took the audience on this road trip allowing us to believe they were really lovers coming to meet.

Ryan definitely delighted me on many levels with tonight’s show, but one of my many favorite moments came when Lindsay Mendez performed “Make Me A Picture Of The Sun” (A setting of Emily Dickinson’s classic poem) because Ryan introduced this song by saying the arrangements and music were influenced by “Sooner or Later” from the motion picture “Dick Tracy,” which happens to be one of my favorite songs sung by Madonna. Lindsay’s voice guided the words perfectly, making this song just as beautiful as Lindsay’s voice.

Grace Wall came back to the stage and sang “On Monday” from Ryan’s musical “35MM.” “On Monday” is about a fast-moving girl who learns that the greatest love takes the greatest while. Once again, another brilliant song by Ryan that should be released as a single because so many people I know, including myself, get so excited when we find someone we really like and want to rush it along, but have to remember to stop and let love take it’s course. Grace did just that…she let the audience stop and enjoy her voice while she led us down this path of inspiration.

Continuing on the path of inspiration was Colin Donnell singing “What It’s Worth” from Ryan’s musical “Out Of My Head.” “What It’s Worth” is about a man who proclaims that when you love someone, you sometimes need to go through the painful process of letting them go. Colin’s vocal skills definitely brought together the emotions of love and loss, allowing his voice to guide him and the audience through this painful process. (I bet if I asked this character, If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be, he would answer the love he let go).

Jeff Hiller

Bringing the evening to a comedic halt was none other than Jeff Hiller (who many of you will remember Jeff’s grand comedic moments as “John Quincy Adams” in Broadway’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”). When Jeff enters a room or walks out on stage, there is no doubt that laughter will be close behind and tonight did not disappoint. Jeff sang “The Plane (is Going Down)” a song by Ryan Scott Oliver about a man who is forced to face his fear of flying when he is asked to go on a business trip. A common fear amongst people, Ryan has very smartly taken a serious subject and turned into a song that allows one to share it in a light and fun way. Leave it to Jeff Hiller to bring the light and fun to it. From his vocal inflection to his facial expressions to his body language, Jeff had the sold-out crowd in stitches! When I interviewed Jeff last October he mentioned in his interview that he was taking voice lessons…well let me tell you, those voice lessons have clearly paid off because Jeff’s voice was in FINE SHAPE! I hope Jeff does more concerts so more people can hear just how great of singer he is!

Bringing back the serious, but with much hope was Krysta Rodriguez who sang “The View From Here” from Ryan’s musical “Darling.” “The View From Here” has 16-year-old Ursula Morgan sitting on her windowsill, reflecting on her neglected childhood and hopes for a better future. Krysta’s voice is gorgeous and she knows how to use it bringing the much needed emotion to this sad, but uplifting song.

Ryan totally surprised the audience when he premiered a new song “Agnes” which is about a boy named Jasper who journeys through the Afterlife intent on rescuing his recently deceased best friend Agnes. In this song, he is attempting to persuade the three-headed guard dog Cerberus to allow him passage. To premiere this song, Ryan brought Alex Brightman back to the stage, which was a wise choice because Alex has the stellar vocal talents to communicate Ryan’s musical message.

Closing the night was Eric Michael Krop, Grace Wall, Katie Gassert, Michael Lowney, and Geoff Kidwell singing “Odyssey,” a multi-genre song about a soldier who abandons a defeated, war-torn land, returning home to the comfort of his lover. Eric Michael Krop was the perfect choice for this song as his vocal skills cross many genres (which he demonstrates well on his EP “Run“) and perfectly showed the wariness of soldier’s fight coupled with the excitement of coming home to his lover.

What made tonight so special for me, personally, was the fact that out of the 16 performers singing, I have been fortunate to interview almost half of them for “Adaumbelle’s Quest” (the songwriter/composer himself Ryan Scott Oliver, Jeff Hilller, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Lindsay Mendez, Eric Michael-Krop, and Katie Thompson). It was a huge delight for me to see my fellow participants strut their stuff and belt out their songs, but it was also great to be introduced to many other talented performers including Alex Brightman, Colin Donnell, Jessica Hecksberg, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Krysta Rodriguez, and Grace Wall.

The next time Ryan Scott Oliver has a concert, I highly suggest checking it out because not only will you hear enjoyable music, but you will be treated to a host of talent on the rise who will be entertaining us for years to come!

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I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with the very funny and personable Jeff Hiller on September 28 after seeing him in the new hit Broadway show “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” With stupendously impeccable comedic timing both on and off-stage, Jeff Hiller is definitely one of the next rising stars you must go see!

As a member of UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade), Jeff honed his comedic skills which he has bestowed upon theatre, film, and television audiences. Theatre audiences have had the pleasure of seeing Jeff’s talent in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (both Public Theater versions), “Silence!, The Children” (NYMF Award Winner), the original cast of “Awesome 80’s Prom,” and “Showgirls”…at UCB. His film credits include “Morning Glory,” “Ghost Town,” and “Adam.” Television viewers watched Jeff in such hit shows as “Ugly Betty,” “30 Rock,” “Late Night,” “Guiding Light,” “Boiling Points,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “The P.A.,” “Starved,” and numerous commercials! Jeff is currently dazzling audiences nightly in the new Broadway hit “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” If you want to see comic royalty, then I highly suggest you click here for tickets and go see Jeff in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson!” For much more on Jeff, be sure to visit: http://www.hillertime.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? I would say Henry Thomas, the guy who played “Elliott” in ET, because that was one of the first movies I ever saw and I remember being like this is so cool…”I can do that better.”

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? This is always the question people are like, just one?? I haven’t worked with a ton of people so there are about one zillion people I’d love to work with, but I do have a soft spot for David Hyde Pierce and Jennifer Coolidge and I’d love to work in a Christopher Guest movie.

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? Well before I was an actor, I was a social worker working with homeless youth, so I’d probably doing that.

4. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? Of course I try to go indie, but I would do Starbucks Venti Ice Coffee with 2 Splenda and some Skim Milk (I’m watching my girlish figure…hehehe). I also like Joe (on 13th Street) where they give you a card if you get buy five, get your 6th free.

5. Favorite play/musical? I love “A New Brain” by William Finn. My favorite play is “August Osage County.”

6. Favorite ride at an amusement park? I’m a swinger, I like the swings ’cause my feet dangle.

7. Favorite skin care product? I actually don’t do much for my skin, but I really like this new Redkin for men thickening spray because it makes seem like I’m less bald.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer-briefs during the day and boxers at night.

9. Favorite website? YouTube.com and EW.com. I need my entertainment fix.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman of course. Why is it that we are always friends with big women. I think the three of us (you, me, and Wonder Woman) would have a great time out having drinks.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Career wise it’s “Just say yes to everything” and non-career wise it’s “Love more than judge.”

12. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I can wiggle my ears and I can make it look like I’m threading string through my lip and then make it look like I’m pulling my lip to make it move, into Elvis lips.

13. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? I have been studying with Matt Farnesworth and when I am in my voice lesson, I can sing an A!  But usually just a G – an F if I’m feeling safe.  If its before noon, just an E, and if its before 9 AM I sing Bea Arthur.  I don’t know the lowest note, because let’s face it, no one cares about the lowest note you can sing.

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I attended the 2010 Drama Desk Awards and it was very exciting, especially when fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Jan Maxwell won for Best Actress in a Play for “The Royal Family.” It was so exciting to be there in person when she won and then to be able to personally congratulate Jan after the show was that much more exciting! I also got to meet Brooke Sheilds who was kind, gracious, and absolutely stunning. Before the evening got underway I got to hang out with fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Tom D’Angora who’s show “NEWSical the Musical” was nominated for “Best Musical Revue”, but unfortunately didn’t win. We still had a wonderful time as always!

To find out who won awards check out the list of winners below…

Outstanding Play: John Logan, “Red”

Outstanding Musical: “Memphis”

Outstanding Revival of a Play: “A View from the Bridge” & “Fences”

Outstanding Revival of a Musical: “La Cage Aux Folles”

Outstanding Actor in a Play: Liev Schreiber, “A View from the Bridge”

Outstanding Actress in a Play: fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Jan Maxwell, “The Royal Family”

Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Douglas Hodge, “La Cage Aux Folles”

Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Montego Glover, “Memphis” & Catherine Zeta-Jones, “A Little Night Music”

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play: Santino Fontana, “Brighton Beach Memoirs”

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play: Viola Davis, “Fences”

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Christopher Fitzgerald, “Finian’s Rainbow”

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical: Katie Finneran, “Promises Promises”

Outstanding Director of a Play: Michael Grandage, “Red”

Outstanding Director of a Musical: Michael Mayer, “American Idiot”

Outstanding Choreography: Twyla Tharp, “Come Fly Away”

Outstanding Music: David Bryan, “Memphis”

Outstanding Lyrics: John Kander & Fred Ebb, “The Scottsboro Boys”

Outstanding Book of a Musical: Alex Timbers, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

Outstanding Orchestrations: Daryl Waters & David Bryan, “Memphis”

Outstanding Musical Revue: “Sondheim on Sondheim”

Outstanding Music in a Play: Branford Marsalis, “Fences”

Outstanding Set Design: Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch, & Basil Twist: “The Addams Family”

Outstanding Costume Design: Matthew Wright, “La Cage Aux Folles”

Outstanding Lighting Design: Neil Austin, “Red”

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical: Acme Sound Partners, “Ragtime”

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play: Fitz Patton, “When the Rain Stops Falling”

Outstanding Solo Performance: Jim Brochu, “Zero Hour”

Unique Theatrical Experience: “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”

Outstanding Ensemble Performance: “Circle Mirror Transformation” & “The Tempermentals”

Special Awards:

To the cast, creative team, and producers of Horton Foote’s epic “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” “We salute the breadth of  vision which inspired exceptional direction, performances, sets, lighting, costumes, music, and sound that made it the theatrical event of this season.”

To Jerry Herman, “For enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exhuberant music and heartfelt lyrics for more than half a century.”

To Godlight Theatre Company for “consistent originality and excellence in dramatizing modern literature, and especially for the vibrant theatricality of its innovate productions.”

To Ma-Yi Theater Company for “more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian-American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theater.”

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