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Posts Tagged ‘Patti LuPone’

On Saturday, November 27, 2010, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing cellist Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf, direct from the pit of “A Little Night Music.” What makes this interview so special to me is that I’ve known Mairi since I was 15, when we met at Buck’s Rock Camp in New Milford, CT, at which time her kindness and friendship meant a lot to a boy trying to find his way. It was quite exciting for me when we reconnected in 2002 as I saw her exit the stage door at “The Boy From Oz.” And now to be able add this kind of dynamic to our friendship is a real treat for me. Mairi has been a fixture in Broadway orchestra pits since her debut in “The Boy From Oz.” She has played in the orchestra pits of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “LoveMusik,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and currently “A Little Night Music” which is running through January 9 at the Walter Kerr Theatre (219 West 48th Street, between Broadway & 8th Ave).

On Sunday, December 19 at 8:30pm at Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Corneila Street, Greenwich Village, NYC) you can catch Mairi playing cello in “Joni and Johannes” (the music of Joni Mitchell and Johannes Brahms) along with Simon Mulligan on piano, and Randy Landau on bass with special guest vocalists Jessica Molaskey (“A Man of No Importance,” “Parade,” “Tommy,” “Crazy For You,” “Les Miserables,” “Cats,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” etc) and Mary Beth Peil (“The Good Wife,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Nine,” “Sunday In The Park With George,” “Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”). For just $15 + one drink minimum, you will get a real opportunity to see accomplished musicians and performers live up close and personal! For reservations call 212-989-9319.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a cellist? It was my cello teacher in high school, Nancy Green, who I also went on to study with in college. I went to a music boarding high school, so I was away from home and lonely, and her style of teaching was so expressive. She taught us about the connection to every note, the vibrato, the tone, what you were trying to say, what the emotion was, what part of your body the note came from – were you trying to sound like an alto voice or a tenor? With all the different types of tones and voices, I often came up with a storyline to go with what I was playing. Discovering what I could do by holding one note on the cello was exciting, and cathartic. I often think about that time in my life when I play “Miller’s Son” here at “A Little Night Music” because that first “B” that you hold for a long time is like yeah, this is what I dug about cello when I was fifteen. I moved to the US for graduate school and had another phenomenal teacher, Judith Glyde, who gave me the confidence to go out and actually work. Then I started playing shows and it all made sense…that emotional story telling feel.

There’s a masterclass of Sondheim teaching “Later” that was filmed at my undergraduate school (some time in the 80s, I think). It’s odd to know that so many years after being there, I’d be trying to express the quality he’s talking to the singer about in “Later” and I’d be trying to bring that to “A Little Night Music.”

1a. What was your first Broadway show that you played here in NYC? “The Boy From Oz” although I moved here to play “The Last Five Years,” which I had played first in Chicago. Me: I had no idea that you played that show, I saw it quite a few times, but it was “Boy From Oz” that I saw you at the stage door and we reconnected. Mairi: Yeah, it’s an amazing community that we are in because we see each other again and again, even though it’s nerve-racking when the shows keep closing… but the energy keeps going!

2. Who’s the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Joni Mitchell, although even saying her name makes me a little breathless so I couldn’t imagine working with her! But that would be incredible. Me: You never know…whenever I ask this question I always put the person’s name in the tag so you never know who from Joni’s team might see this. Mairi: During that time in undergrad it was the music of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Sting that I listened to when I wasn’t practicing. It was such an aggressively competitive classical environment, that I spent my downtime listening to their music. I actually worked with Sting recently and got to tell him that without “Soul Cages” I don’t know that I would be a musician.

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? That’s hard because I really like this. I guess I’ve thought about law every now and then. I was in graduate school for a really, really, really long time and at some point in that process I realized I could have gotten a law degree…hahaha.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? So much…There was a line in “Cast Away,” which I thought was in the movie, “You never know what the tide is going to wash up tomorrow,” although I’m not sure he ever actually said that! The idea is that you’ve just got to have faith that something good is going to wash up tomorrow. This gig, “A Little Night Music” is a spectacular job and it’s hard not to get depressed that we have only 6 more weeks – to believe that there will be something just as great. You see where we are and how much space we have. It’s such an incredible environment, not to mention playing for Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch every day. I have a little TV screen on my stand so that I can follow Hunter (Ryan Herdlicka) when he’s playing the cello on stage. Plus it’s run for over a year and I’ve never had a show run that long. You just gotta hope that there will be something else!

5. What’s your proudest moment? Anytime I get to play with my husband. He’s a saxophone doubler. Me: Have you ever played a job together? Mairi: Yeah, he’s played here at “Night Music”. We haven’t had a show together, but we’ve played shows together when one of us has been subbing. Outside of shows, we’ve done various gigs together. It’s fun, ’cause he works in the ‘other side’ of the orchestra (reeds/brass), so I’ve gotten to know a lot of those guys through him.

6. Favorite place to rehearse on your own? Somewhere that is cushiony with carpeting and tons of pillows. Anything that soaks up the sounds so I can hear everything, so when I go and play, I won’t be surprised by any little sound. To be honest I don’t like to practice. It’s a necessary evil. There are some people who want to practice every day, but I never felt that way.

7. Favorite way to spend your day off? At home, sleeping, watching TV, knitting, eating, and hanging with my husband.

8. Favorite skin care product? Cetaphil and Shea Butter (in the winter). I sadly don’t use any of those fancy skin care items.

9. Favorite website? Facebook. I’m hooked on it. At this point I have friends all over the world and it’s pretty cool to be able to keep in touch with them so easily and see what they are up to.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman of course!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I can be an archer (you know with a bow and arrow). Me: Like Geena Davis. Mairi: Sure, but I don’t know that I have her strength. Those bows are heavy and super tension-filled, and my elbow sticks out a bit so it’s tricky when the string comes back after you release the arrow…

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Dreaming at all would be great. Last night I watched the PBS Sondheim Gala before I went to sleep and oh my gosh, they had those six incredible women come on stage in those stunning bright red gowns: Elaine Stritch, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, etc. One after another they stood up and sang and after watching that special I was wide awake until 5:30am. I’m looking at 2 shows today on 4 hours of sleep…haha

13. When one of the cast members are out during a show, how does that affect you as a musician in the show? It depends. Sometimes if there’s a different key, we’ll pull out a different part depending on their range, but as to the timing, it’s all up to the conductor because they are the ones leading and making those choices. The great thing about this show, particularly with Elaine Stritch, is that you get a different theatrical performance each time and I love that.

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The contest is now over. Today’s winner is Donald! Congratulations!! Tune in next week for another “Free Stuff Friday” and who knows the winner just might be you! It’s “Free Stuff Friday” at “Adaumbelle’s Quest” and today one lucky reader, at random, will have the chance to win a copy of Patti LuPone’s CD “Patti LuPone at Les Mouches” and as an added bonus, I’m throwing in a CD sampler from the revival of “Gypsy” for which Patti LuPone won a Tony Award for. The winner will be announced at 5pm today! Good luck…

Your question this week is: What is your favorite role that Patti LuPone has played (in any medium)?


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To be able to make someone laugh can be a challenge, but to make someone laugh for an hour consistently is a talent few have. One performer who has the wit & skill to do that is four time Mac Award winner & fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” partricipant Julie Halston. On Sunday, April 11, 2010, I got to see Julie’s new one woman show “The Cocktail Hour/A Reality Show” at Birdland, one of NYC’s most famous cabaret spaces. Julie’s show was presented by Jim Caruso’s Broadway at Birdland series. From comedy to song, Julie can do it all. She can take the most simplistic task, like reading an email about cookie sharing, a phenomenon sweeping the nation where people exchange cookie recipes, and turn it into the funniest thing you’ve heard by using her gift of inflection & storytelling.  Her punchline is that the people hosting these parties are probably the ones that shouldn’t be eating all these cookies, in fact they should probably become bulimic. At times Julie can be a little dark with her humor, but it’s all in good fun. One classic Julie Halston shtick is when she talks about how she was anorexic while living in Hollywood. She says there is nothing funny about anorexia, but if you don’t die from it then it’s not such a bad thing & you are incredibly thin. Julie also did a hilarious bit about kids and that if you can’t afford a babysitter, you probably can’t afford to have kids.

After Julie entertained the audience for a while, she brought up a very special guest, two-time Tony Award nominee & fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Alison Fraser who delighted the audience with a hilarious song about how she’s never been cast in “Law & Order”, but has been on “Law & Order: SVU.” Alison then treated the audience to a very touching moment when she sang “The Green Heart,” a song written by her late husband Rusty Magee from the show of the same name written by Magee and Charles Busch. There is an effort to bring this show back to life, so let’s hope it happens. If that treat wasn’t enough, Alison & Julie then graced the audience with a duet of “Gotta Have a Gimmick” from “Gypsy” which both have starred in, Julie in the 2003 revival with Bernadette Peters & Alison in the 2008 revival with Patti LuPone.

One other touching moment came towards the end of Julie’s show when Julie talked about her dad who passed away last year on Christmas Eve and she reinacted how her mom would read the hospital dinner menu to her dad, selecting what his dinner choice would be. When Julie came to visit him and asked how dinner was, her dad would say “Great! I payed the nurse $30 to go to Applebees and get me a burger, ice cream, and soda. I love this place.” Julie delivered this bit with emotion, sincerity, and that style of delivery only Julie can give.

Most comedians can make someone laugh, but it takes a special kind to keep that going.  Julie Halston knows how to keep the laughs coming with skill, style, and most of all humor! Next time Julie Halston has a show, I would highly recommend going to see it!

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Justin Stein is one of our next generation performers to keep your eye on! At 19, he has already released his debut album “Justin Stein” and has opened for some of the biggest names in music today such as Corbin Bleu, Jesse McCartney, Jordin Sparks, and Raven-Symone. In addition to music, Justin is an actor on the rise…he’s was in the New York Philharmonic’s production of “Camelot” with Gabriel Byrne, Christopher Lloyd, and Fran Drescher, starred with Tony Award Winner Patti LuPone in the Ravinia Festival’s production of “Gypsy” as well Porchlight Theatre’s production of “The Secret Garden,” and The Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire’s production of “Bye, Bye Birdie.” Most recently, Justin starred in fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” parrticipant Bobby Cronin’s industry reading of “The Beaten Path.” For more on Justin be sure to visit: http://www.justinstein.com

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Hmn, im not exactly sure… It has always just been a part of me. My mom brought me up on show tunes and i actually attended phantom of the opera in my moms stomach… so i guess it started then? haha. I have just always loved performing.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Highest, belt… B on a good day… C on a crazy good day. Im a Bari/tenor.

3. What has been your best and worst experience in a show? Best experience: To be honest, i have loved working on The Beaten Path. It has been an amazing experience to create the character of Cody and watch how the character i created influences the script throughout the process of rewriting. I hope i am given opportunities to originate characters in the future. I have also enjoyed working with Patti Lupone and Lonny Price on Gypsy. Watching them work was truly a learning experience. Worst experience: When i was younger I went to a theatre/arts camp and was cast as Joe in Damn Yankees. I had just turned nine and had no idea what i was doing… Basically, i didnt learn my lines in time and because of me they had to turn the show into a musical review. I felt terrible. But it taught me never to be unprepared cause you will disappoint a lot of people… including yourself.

4. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I can do the wave with my eyebrows.

5. Who do you consider to be your hero? My parents… Especially my mom. I was a handful as a kid, haha!

6. Favorite way to stay in shape? eating healthy… although im eating a crumbs cupcake as i write this.. so… so much for that! 🙂 i try to go to the gym but seem to have a difficult time dragging myself there….

7. Boxers or Briefs? Boxers.

8. Favorite play/musical? Play: “Augst Osage County”…hands down. Musical: Proabably “Les Miserables.”

9. Favorite website? Hulu.com

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Superman..cause he can do basically everything.

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Photo Credit: Kirsty Furg

I had the pleasure of personally interviewing Leigh Ann Larkin during the Abingdon Theatre’s “Marathon ’33” benefit back in October. In person, Leigh Ann radiates kindness and joy with an energy that shines as bright as the sun. On Broadway she has starred as “Dainty June” in the Tony Award winning revival of “Gypsy” starring Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti, while Off-Broadway, she starred in “The Yellow Wood.” Leigh-Ann has toured with country in Walt Disney’s “On The Record” (which also starred fellow “Adaubmelle’s Quest” participant Andy Karl) and has been seen regionally at the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre (“Belle” in “Beauty and the Beast”), Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (“Deborah Sue” in “Bye, Bye, Birdie”), West Virginia Public Theatre (as “Emma” in “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Lily” in “The Secret Garden,” and “Liesl” in “The Soud of Music”), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Featured Dancer in “Where’s Charlie”), and at the Cincinnati Conservatory (“Claudia” in “Nine” & “Jen” in “Jon & Jen”). Her TV roles include “Lipstick Jungle,” “The Flight of the Concords,” and recurring roles on “Guiding Light” & “All My Children.” Currently, Leigh Ann can been seen back on Broadway in the revival of “A Little Night Music” starring Angela Lansbury & Catherine Zeta-Jones. For more on Leigh Ann Larkin visit: http://www.leighannlarkin.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Patti LuPone and my mother who got me started and was very supportive.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Low E, high C, and high E. I’m working on high E flat.

3. What has been your most embarrassing on-stage moment? When I punched a hole through the train in “Gypsy.”

4. Out of all the people you have worked with, who did you learn the most from? Arthur Laurents.

5. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Meryl Streep and Mary Louise Parker.

6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I’ve got a “green” thumb–love to garden.

7. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? Starbucks. one pump of soymilk in a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

8. Favorite skin care product? I’m an organic girl. I love Alba moisturizer and face wash. Actually, I love all their products.

9. Favorite website? http://www.steelers.com/ (Pittsburgh Baby!)

10. “Saved By The Bell” or “Beverly Hills 90210”? “Saved By The Bell.”

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