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Posts Tagged ‘Les Miserables’

I had the privilege of sitting down with Chip Zien on October 16, 2010 after seeing his show “The History of War” in NYMF, which also starred fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Max Von Essen. My first introduction to Chip was watching him on “All My Children” when he played gossip reporter “Donald Steele,” and from that moment on I was hooked. I then got to meet Chip after seeing him in the Broadway production of “The Boys From Syracuse” in 2002. He was so nice and now to have the opportunity to sit down with him personally for an interview with “Adaumbelle’s Quest” is a real honor!

Chip Zien is an award winning actor who has delighted audiences worldwide in theatre, film, and television! Chip created the roles “The Baker” in Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine’s “Into The Woods” as well as the role of “Mendel” in William Finn’s “Falsettos.” His many other Broadway credits include “In Trousers,” “March of the Falsettos,” “Falsettoland,” “The Country Girl,” the revival of “Les Miserables,” “Grand Hotel,” “The Boys From Syracuse,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “All Over Town,” and “The Suicide.” Off-Broadway and regionally, Chip has entertained audiences in “Merrily We Roll Along” (L.A. Drama-Logue Award), “Anonymous,” “An Imaginary Life,” “Isn’t It Romantic” (Drama Desk Nomination), “Split,” “Moonchildren,” “Hot L Baltimore,” “Kaddish,” “A New Brain” (Drama Desk Nomination), “Diamonds,” “Real Life Funnies,” and “Tuscaloosa’s Calling Me.”

Chip has also written several shows for the stage. His one-man show “Death in Ashtabula,” “Travels With My Discontent” (a new musical written with Deborah Abramson, et al), and most recently “The History of War” which was presented at NYMF this past fall.

When not on stage or sometimes at the same time, Chip has been a fixture on television. In addition to being the announcer on “The Caroline Rhea Show,” Chip has appeared in numerous television shows such as “Lipstick Jungle,” “Rescue Me,” “CSI,” “Law and Order,” “Cheers,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Thirty-Something,” “Judging Amy,” “Cosby,” “The Cagney and Lacey Movies,” “Chips”, “Son of the Beach,” “Madigan Men,” “Wings,” “All My Children,” “Almost Perfect,” “Now and Again,” “Deadline,” “Shell Game,” “Love, Sidney,” “Reggie.”

Chip has also lit up the big screen in “The Siege,” “Howard The Duck” (the voice of Howard), “United 93,” “Snake Eyes,” “Breakfast of Champions,” “Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle,” “Grace Quigley,” “So Fine,” “Hello Again,” “House of God,” “and “The Rose.”

Currently, Chip is reworking “The History of War” for future production. Stay tuned to “Adaumbelle’s Quest” to find out when that will be!

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como. I always thought I’d grow up to be like Frank Sinatra, I thought Dean Martin was the greatest actor I’d ever seen, and I wanted to host a variety show like Perry Como. When I first came to NY, it was really my goal to just sing and host a variety show. Danny Kaye was a big influence on me as well…his songs were the first ones I really learned.

2. Who’s the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Geoffrey Rush. I would have liked to work with Sinatra. You know early on in my career, I was very friendly with Henry Winkler and I was very jealous of Henry because he got to meet Sinatra and I never did. Of course, I would have also loved to work with Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau. I’ve said “Hi” to Angela Lansbury, but never worked with her, though I would love to. I’d like to work with all these wonderful actors in my show (“The History Of War”).

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? I was motoring down two paths when I graduated college…one was to be a lawyer and one was performing. I grew up in Milwaukee and as much as you could have a stage mother in Milwaukee, mine was one. She would enter me in these tiny tot talent shows and I would always sing in them. I’d sing “Down Yonder Someone Beckons To Me” and be dressed up like a cowboy with six shooters and a cowboy hat and at the end of the song I would pull my guns out and shoot off caps. So, I was always singing and be in shows, but performing seemed like an odd thing to do as a profession. A lot of my family were lawyers, so my real plan was to go to college, be a history major, go to law school and then be a lawyer or work on a political campaign. I actually ran a guy’s campaign my first year out of college and he lost by 1/2 a percentage point and if he had won, I would have gone to Georgetown Law School at night and work on his staff during the day and then my life would have changed. The reason I ended up acting, not only because I had been doing it my whole life through college, but because my step-sister was running a theatre in Chicago and somebody got sick, this was right after that campaign ended and I had to wait until January to start law school, so my sister said why don’t you come down here and you could play “Little Chap” in “Stop The World.” We are doing these three shows in this repertory theater and after a few months there the theatre burned to the ground, so a bunch of us got in a car and drove to New York and I got work right away in “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.” The rest as they say is history.

4. What’s your most embarrassing on-stage moment? I’ve had a few…but one of the worst was when I was doing “Grand Hotel” and I took over for Michael Jeter, who was fantastic. My wife was a dancer in the NYC Ballet and now she teaches at the School of American Ballet and she said to me, you know when you kick your leg up to do those big fan kicks, you’re leg is just not going anywhere. She said what really makes it terrible is that you keep looking at it. So don’t look at your leg, look up instead. I was determined to be a better dancer, so when I went on stage that night I looked up and fell backwards on my head (like doing a back flip) and everyone on stage just gasped. The first thought I had was I hope that I’m still standing, and that everyone else had fallen and turned upside down, so I was momentarily convinced that I was okay and the rest of the cast had fallen. Eventually the cast was hysterical laughing and dancing around me. Another time in “Into The Woods,” the fog machines wouldn’t turn off. The stage became so filled up that we couldn’t see anything and we all had to grope our ways out of the stage door onto 45th Street. We stood on the street hysterically laughing. The orchestra was stuck in the pit, the actors are out on the street, and the audience was trying to get out. Oh that night was a complete disaster. I’ve had a bunch of them…

5. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? It was actually from James Lapine who said to me: “Stay focused on what you are doing. Just do your job. Don’t project too far ahead. Try not worry.” It’s the old cliche of “Staying in the moment.” My mom told me years ago when I was at camp, which I think she heard someone had said to James Cagney (I played all the great female roles in summer camp shows, I was “Lola” in “Damn Yankees,” I was “Liza Doolittle” in “My Fair Lady”), “You know you’re wandering all over the place. Stand still until you have a reason to move.” Wynn Handman, a great acting teacher in New York once said to me “Go to LA and make lots of money, then come back here and I’ll fix you.”

6. What’s your proudest moment? The birth of my children is probably the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. I also have to say driving by the Martin-Beck Theatre (now the Hirschfeld) when the big boot from “Into The Woods” went up on the marquee. I stood on the corner with Joanna Gleason and I never thought this would happen to me. We stood there together and thought “Wow, this was awesome.” It was this realization that something I wanted to do my whole life had happened and it happened at a very high level which I probably would have never imagined. One of the really cool things was when we taped that show for “Great Performances,” I had a moment with Sondheim after it was over, and we had a really great audience that night. It was one of those audiences who knew every line in the show and Sondheim said to me, “This is as good as it can get” and I just started to cry.

7. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? Not really, but I think the one thing that is different is that I build my own computers. I’m technically pretty sophisticated. I was president of my high school AV squad and I mean old school when you had to thread the 16mm film. As the years have gone by, I was thinking, the things that interested me when I was 12 are the same things that interest me today. I’m also really good at Photoshop…I think it’s the 8th wonder of the world. It’s amazing what you can do. I’m also an excellent Yo-Yoist. I can do really complicated Yo-Yo tricks and that is because there was a Yo-Yo champion in “Grand Hotel” who used to practice back stage.

8. Favorite play/musical? My favorite musical is “Sweeney Todd.” My favorite play I’m stumped on, but I would have to say “Death of a Salesman.” I would love to do that show. I’m old enough to do it. I know they are doing it again, but it’s not with me. Me: Well that’s a mistake. Chip: I also love “Waiting for Godot.” The army scenes in this show are kind of modeled after “Waiting for Godot” at least in my head.

9. Favorite website? I’m a political junkie. I would say The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and I sneak onto some of the theatrical websites.

10. Mary or Rhoda? Mary.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I used to have a recurring dream where I would drink coffee around a camp fire with John Wayne and he would say “Kid, it’s gonna be okay.” Then that dream mutated to Jack Gilford as I got older. It’s kind of really funny because they are opposite ends of the spectrum. I crossed paths with John Wayne at one moment in my career because at one point we had the same agent, obviously it was late in his career and early in mine, and I was sitting in a lobby across from John Wayne and I thought to myself “Wow, this is really the yin and yang of show business right here.” I said, “Hi” and he said, “Hi, how are you doing kid?”

I would also love to dream about having dinner with Bill and Hillary or President Obama. I liked to dream about being at some of those big meetings they have, like health care. Those dreams can be exciting because you can’t be at them in real life.

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With the voice of a goddess, it’s no wonder Liz McCartney is a Bistro Award Winner for her one woman show “Rosemary and Time, a musical tribute to Rosemary Clooney.” Liz has been a fixture on Broadway starring in the Tony Award winning revival of “South Pacific,” “Mamma Mia,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Taboo,” “Dance of the Vampires,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” and “Les Miserables.” Audiences around the country have also been dazzled by the talent that is Liz McCartney. Her regional credits include “Working” at the Asolo Repertory Theatre with new material added by Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Souvenir” at George Street Playhouse, and “Pirates!” at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Currently, Liz can be seen lighting up the stage in “Nighttime Traffic” as part of the NYMF festival in NYC through October 10. For much more on Liz, be sure to visit http://www.lizmccartney.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? I always knew I wanted to perform. I am the youngest of four children and percentage-wise most performers are the youngest in their family.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Lowest I don’t know, highest, I have a whistle tone, so I don’t think really counts, but highest on stage was an “E” in “Phantom” and “Dance Of The Vampires.”

3. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? I worked with George Hearn twice, so I think the only other person is, Angela Lansbury.

4. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? It would have to be something creative, designing, or writing.

5. Do you have any rituals that you must do before a show? How do you decompress after a show? No pre-show rituals, after I watch the food network or “Law and Order.”

6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I don’t consider any of my talents strange or unusual…I bake , I sew, I write music, I draw…

7. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? Starbucks…Dunkin Donuts has started tasting funny over the years.

8. Favorite skin care product? Skyn…it’s from Iceland

9. Favorite website? YouTube…I’m a YouTube junkie!

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman all the way.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Never try and guess what they want…and never use an audition for practice! Oh yes, and this one is the MOST IMPORTANT…Always be nice to the monitor, you never know who they’re friends with.

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Antonio Banderas…during Zorro…the first one, I didn’t like the sequel when he got his hair straightened!

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Max von Essen is one of those performers who has it all…the voice, the talent, and most of all the personality. When Max von Essen sings, you never want it to end and when he’s on stage, he’s the focal point of the action. Starting his career off with a boom, he was a back-up singer on tour with the one and only Liza Minnelli and his star has continued to shine brightly. On Broadway, Max has starred in both the original and revival of “Les Miserables,” “Dance of The Vampires” starring Michael Crawford, and the 2000 revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He also starred in “Jerry Springer: The Opera” at Carnegie Hall, “Finian’s Rainbow” at the Irish Repertory Theatre, and “The Fantasticks” at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. Max has been in regional productions of “The Baker’s Wife” at the Paper Mill Playhouse and “Mame” at The Kennedy Center. Other theatre credits includes productions of “Girl Crazy,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Dorian,” “Pirates of Penzance,” “My Fair Lady,” “Hair,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” When Max is not performing in a show, he’s dedicating his time to many charities close to his heart including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and The Matthew Shephard Foundation. Currently, Max is skating around the country in the national tour of “Xanadu” as Sonny Malone, so be sure to check him out when he rolls into your town. For more on Max, be sure to check out his website http://www.maxvonessen.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? All my teachers (and old movie musicals!!!)

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Haha, my range? Well, I’m a baritone so I have like a low G and then I can sing up to an A above middle C. But I have an odd falsetto and have played “Mary Sunshine” in “Chicago” and “Tremont” in “Jerry Springer The Opera,” so I’ve had to go up another octave and sing high A’s and B’s in the soprano range.

3. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Oh god, there are so many! I’d love to work on broadway with Brian D’Arcy James in something and in a movie someday with Meryl Streep. I mean, could you imagine?

4. What’s the best advice someone ever gave you? “Follow your bliss.” An older friend told me that when I was a teenager, and it guides me constantly.

5. What is your proudest moment? That is such a difficult question. My proudest moment is simply every time I feel like I’m living my life as a decent human being. That may seem cliché but it’s true. It’s not about booking the next big job or anything for me, but at this point in my life, I just strive to be a good friend, son, brother and uncle.

6. Favorite way to stay in shape? Eight shows a week. Other than that, I hardly work out. I hate it!!!!

7. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer Briefs. Although now that I mostly wear skinny jeans, I usually wear briefs. 🙂

8. Favorite skin care product? Haha, good old Cetaphil cleanser, Kiehl’s Eye Alert, and Mac Studio Fix! Must haves!

9. Favorite website? None that I can tell you about. Well, other than Facebook and Twitter. (I’m slightly obsessed).

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? SUPERMAN all the way!!!!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Books or Magazines? I love magazines. But I really should read books more. Grrrrr.

12. Favorite TV Show Theme Song? Easy…The Nanny!!!!! Love it!

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I had the fortunate experience of having a one on one interview with Autumn Hurlbert after seeing her in Bobby Cronin’s concert “Not The Same: The Music and Lyrics of Bobby Cronin” on Sunday, March 28. With a big beautiful voice and stage presence to go with it, Autumn not only has the talent, but she is gracious, personable, and full of energy. From starring in the first national tour of “Little Women” to regional productions of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Les Miserables,” and “Evita,” Autumn gained national attention as the runner up in MTV’s reality series “Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods.” Since then, she has continued entertaining audiences. She joined Broadway’s “Legally Blonde” until it closed in 2008, then starred in “Glimpses of the Moon” at the Algonquin Hotel, “On The Town” at Encores, “Beehive” at the Maltz Jupiter Theater in FL, and “A Contemporary American’s Guide to a Successful Marriage (c) 1959” (which also starred fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Lee Aaron Rosen) at the 2009 NYC International Fringe Festival. Autumn has a few projects in the works, so stay tuned to find out when they come about and in the meantime be sure to visit http://www.autumnhurlbert.com for more on Autumn.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? My dad because he was in a band when he was in college, but his dream of becoming a musician never came to fruition. He became a banker instead. My parents never pushed anything on me and just allowed me to explore the arts and it was very obvious very quickly that this is where I belonged. Growing up I loved Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters…all the curly haired girls.

1a. Is that where you get your big beautiful belt from, from loving Bette and Bernadette? You know where I get my big beautiful belt from, I had colic when I was a baby and my mom said I screamed every single day of the first year of my life. So I think I have a big voice because I got good training, screaming, as a baby.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? The lowest note I can sing is Low E below C, highest note I can belt is a high B flat or B, highest note I can sing is High F or G.

3. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Too many names to pick, but I would really, really, love to  work with is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He has such great energy. I’ve seen “In The Heights” a bunch of times and he’s so smart, humble, and really innovative. I think he’s really fabulous.

4. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Oh, I’ve never been asked a question like that. That’s scandalous! I would probably dream that Henry Krieger wrote a fierce song for me.

5. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I am able to stick objects in my nose. I can make a q-tip disappear into my nasal cavity. If I stick 2 things in my nose, I can make them hang from my nostrils. Actually, everybody can do that because if you cut your nose off your face you just have two holes and I found mine. It’s disgusting, I know, but I love freaking people out.

6. Favorite kind of sundae (ice cream flavor & toppings)? If I got a Sundae with lots of toppings it would be vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate and strawberries. If I had just plain ice cream my favorite flavor is mint chocolate chip all the way.

7. Favorite kind of shoes? All Shoes.

8. Favorite skin care product? Burt’s Bees when I’m not working and Origins when I’m employed.

9. Favorite website? Etsy.com or Apartment Therapy.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman. I was her for Halloween. Rope, cuffs, and starred undies included.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite quote? I have a lot of favorite quotes, but I will say “leap and the net will appear.”

12. Favorite play/musical? Play: “Lend Me A Tenor” or “August Osage County.” Musical: “Once on this Island.”

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In 2009, I was introduced to four amazingly gifted and talented singers/songwriters/composers: Scott Alan, Bobby Cronin, Katie Thompson, and Jonathan Reid Gealt, all of whom became “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participants. I have also been fortunate to attend a concert of each of their music.  Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending “The Music of Jonathan Reid Gealt” at The Canal Room. Jonathan’s music is sophisticated, contemporary, and at times quite humorous. He gathered some of the best musical theatre talent to sing his music tonight including the powerhouse vocals of Tituss Burgess (fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant), Natalie Weiss, Lauren Kennedy, Jeremy Jordan, Bridie Carroll, Quentin Earl Darrington, and Zak Resnick. These performers not only knew how to bring Jonathan’s music to life, but how to knock it out of the park. I was blown away so many times tonight that a smile was kept across my face the whole time. One of the most touching moments was watching his proud mom see her son’s dream come true, especially after one of the songs was dedicated to her. Jonathan is on his way to greatness (he’s currently working on his debut musical “Forward” and a screenplay of his life). The next time his music is being presented, I will be there and hopefully you will too. For more on Jonathan and his music visit: http://www.jonathan-reid-gealt.com, http://www.myspace.com/jrgealt, and TheBestArts.com/jrsongs.

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Come to “The Music of Jonathan Reid Gealt” in Concert this Monday, January 11 at 8pm at the legendary Canal Room in NYC. His music will be performed by some of today’s hottest Broadway stars including fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participants Tituss Burgess (Jersey Boys, The Little Mermaid, Guys & Dolls) and Katie Thompson (“R.R.R.E.D.,” “Giant”), as well as Lauren Kennedy (Spamalot, Vanities, Les Miserables), Jeremy Jordan (West Side Story, Rock of Ages), Quentin Earl Darrington (Ragtime), Alysha Umphress (American Idiot), Bobby Steggert (110 In the Shade, Ragtime), Zak Resnick (Broadway Boys), Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime), Matt DeAngelis (Hair), Kasey Marino (Hairspray), Michael Mahany (High School Musical, Spring Awakening), Natalie Weiss (Wicked, American Idol), Adam Armstrong (History Boys), Bridie Carroll (Grease), Rachel Potter, and Jonathan Reid Gealt with music direction by Josh Clayton (Finnian’s Rainbow, City Center Encores).

To sample some of Jonathan’s music prior to the concert you can visit TheBestArts.com.

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Jonathan is currently working on his debut musical, Forward. The Forward demo recordings have gained buzz online and around the city with such Broadway heavyweights as Kelli O’Hara, Liz Callaway, Lauren Kennedy, Shoshana Bean, Michael McElroy, Jonathan Groff, Michael Arden, Lewis Cleale, Tituss Burgess, Max Von Essen, Marty Thomas, and more.

Jonathan’s music has been featured in concerts and venues in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Manila, Japan, Australia, London, and New York including the Broadway in South Africa Benefits, UNSUNG 2007, Miracle on 13th Street, Performers for Peace, Cutting Edge Composers II, The MNNV series, The Laurie Beechman, The Duplex, The Triad, The Canal Room, and the MAKOR. He also wrote jingles for The Barn Theatre’s 2003 summer season in Michigan.

Jonathan is a performer as well as a composer and some performing credits include [NEW YORK]: Jason Robert Brown: In Concert (Birdland), The Music of Lucy Simon (Joe’s Pub) Unsung 2007 (BCEFA Benefit), The Secret Garden (Hammerstein Ballroom), Rags (The Nokia Theater) and Miracle on 13th St. [NAT’L TOUR]: Junie B. Jones [REGIONAL]: Les Miserables (Atlanta Theater of the Stars, Kansas City Starlight, The Wolf Trap), MameAnnie Get Your GunThe Sound of Music (Saint Louis MUNY), Thrill Me (Stoneham Theatre), CatsJesus Christ Superstar (Barn Theatre). [FILM/TV]: Kidnapped (NBC), Across the Universe.

Jonathan has appeared as a soloist with the Boston Pops under the baton of Keith Lockhart and is a graduate of The Boston Conservatory.

To learn more about Jonathan, his music, his upcoming projects, and to purchase sheet music…check out the following two sites: http://www.jonathan-reid-gealt.com AND http://www.myspace.com/jrgealt. This Monday, January 11 at 8pm come hear “The Music of Jonathan Reid Gealt” in concert at The Canal Room with performances by some of today’s hottest Broadway stars.

1. Who inspired you to become a songwriter? Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown, Andew Lippa, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Sondheim, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, my best friends, and my mom.

2. If you could have anyone perform your music, who would you choose? Everyone! Ha! I’ve been really fortunate to work with some of my favorite singers of all time. However, Steven Pasquale, Gavin Creel, Audra McDonald, Caissie Levy, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Laura Benanti, Kristin Chennoweth, Christina Aguilera, and Pink are just a few that are way up there.

3. Is there ever a time you thought about quitting? If so, what did you consider doing? Not really. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Although, I did want to be a professional baseball player when I was a kid. Massage Therapy is also great!

4. What’s the best advice a teacher ever gave you? Stay true to yourself and everything you do will be original.

5. Favorite way to stay in shape? Swimming.

6. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer-Briefs!

7. Favorite play/musical? As far as musicals go, I have 3. “Ragtime,” “The Secret Garden,” and “Sweeney Todd.” As far as plays go, “The Pillowman” blew me away. “Reasons To Be Pretty” was incredible.

8. Favorite TV theme song? The Flintstones.

9. Favorite website? Youtube. Is that sad?

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Superman all the way!

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