Behind the Curtain

Official Blog of International City Theatre

Laurine Price Believes in the Power of Live Theatre

October 27th, 2016

Laurine Price

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment opened on October 14. Audiences and critics have been praising the work of the exceptional cast. Laurine Price’s performance has been a favorite for many patrons who watched her play everything from captain of a pirate ship to a member of English high society. During rehearsals, Laurine was gracious enough to take some time to answer some questions about her role in the show.

1. As someone who is new to working at ICT,  how has your experience been?

All in all – this has been such a lovely and fun experience.  The cast (Jud and Nick) are exceptional, Luke Yankee has been very imaginative and encouraging, and the crew (Brad, Sabrina, Sarah) is absolutely fantastic.  The design team is professional, creative, and really lovely (Kim, Patty, Tesshi, Dave, and Donna), and I want to be caryn desai when I grow up!  🙂

2. This show obviously gives you the opportunity to play many characters. What kind of preparation outside of learning your lines did you undertake in preparing for your myriad of roles?

Google and YouTube have been my go-to resources for character research and prep. My recent search history ranges from “Sea-Faring Captain” to “Aboriginal Tribal Dances” to “1890s British Editor”, etc.  Gathering loads of ideas, I stand in front of my mirror and try out ways to stand, facial expressions, and different voices. Some call it schizophrenia. I call it “Theater, baby!”

Jud Williford and Laurine Price in SHIPWRECKED!

Jud Williford and Laurine Price in SHIPWRECKED!

3. What other role(s) would you like to undertake? 

Oh man, so many, but to name a few:

“Fosca” in Sondheim’s Passion

“Claudia” in Nine

“Margaret of Anjou” in Henry VI Parts 1 and 3, and Richard III

“Esmeralda” in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“Bloody Mary” in South Pacific (and I want an enormous fat suit for the role … seriously).

4. Performing comedy in the theatre is a very difficult task to undertake. What do you think is the key to make an audience laugh?

Every audience is different. While connecting with your cast mates onstage, if you can connect with your audience and hit the timing — then many jokes will often land. Personally, I love broad comedy and puns. As an audience member, I always laugh at puns, but that’s just me.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Shipwrecked!?

Two things : the magic of theatre and a feeling of inspiration.

I hope audiences enjoy our live production of Shipwrecked! and that it prompts them to support more live theater.

In addition, I hope people will leave discussing whether Louis de Rougemont made up his story or if maybe, just possibly, his adventures were true (even bits of them).  My hope is that people will leave thinking on and embracing the magic of a storyteller, and then are encouraged to dream and hope and believe that their own adventures (however great or small) can be equally as thrilling and inspirational.

Shipwrecked! runs through November 6. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Nick Ley Listens to His Audience

October 21st, 2016

Nick Ley

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment opened last Friday. As soon as the cast came out to take their bow, the entire audience sprung to their feet to give the talented actors the standing ovation they so rightly deserved. Nick Ley’s performance was praised by both critics and audiences as he spent the evening playing more than 20 separate characters in the show. During rehearsals, Nick was generous enough to take some time to answer some questions for us about his work on this fun-filled production.

1. As someone who is new to working at ICT,  how has your experience been?

This is my first experience with ICT, yes.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled and pleased! This show is giving me my first few points towards my Equity membership and the professionalism is apparent.

2. This show obviously gives you the opportunity to play many characters. What kind of preparation outside of learning your lines did you undertake in preparing for your myriad of roles?

Preparing for all these roles requires extreme concentration and a lot of homework. In the maelstrom that is this show, it’s easy to blend these characters together. With advanced preparation, I can create fully fleshed out characters with specific wants and desires. That, coupled with accent work and physical characterization, help to create truly unique characters.

Nick Ley, Laurine Price and Jud Williford in SHIPWRECKED!

Nick Ley, Laurine Price and Jud Williford in SHIPWRECKED!

3. What other role(s) would you like to undertake?

Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Leo Bloom in The Producers and Prince Herbert in Spamalot.

4. Performing comedy in the theatre is a very difficult task to undertake. What do you think is the key to make an audience laugh?

Since I was young, I was a natural comedian. Comedic timing was something that always came easy to me. The Muppets were an extremely formative part of my life growing up and I can honestly say that much of my innate awareness for timing and wit came from watching every Muppet movie and TV show that I could. One could venture so far as to say I am a colorful fur suit shy from being a Muppet, myself. That being said, for me, the key to making an audience laugh is timing. And to master timing, you need to be a good listener and something of a mind reader. Making an audience laugh is more than delivering a line in a funny voice. It’s knowing when the audience is READY to laugh. Any good joke or comedic moment follows the recipe of: Setup > Punchline. And it’s in the space between these two moments that listening to your audience is most important. Once you’ve listened to your audience and established a relationship with them, that’s when you can begin to make them laugh.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Shipwrecked!?

Donald Margulies wrote a fantastic Afterword in the published edition of this play.  He says, “young people have so many options at their fingertips that the plight of the theatre must seem almost quaint to them.” Firstly, I hope young people come to see this show. Secondly, to the young people who do see this show, I hope they take away from it what Mr. Margulies is trying to do with this piece and that is to reinvigorate the joy of live theatre, the magic of a moment. And I hope that after seeing our show, people will be reminded of the joy of seeing a show brought to life on stage in front of your eyes, because that’s literally what we do as actors on stage. I hope audiences have as much fun watching this show as we have performing it for them. This show has the potential to form an extremely powerful bond with the audiences who come to see it and I really hope we can achieve that.

Shipwrecked! runs through November 6. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Luke Yankee Wants Us to Pretend

October 10th, 2016

Luke Yankee

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment begins performances on Wednesday. They have been holding rehearsals for the last three weeks to make sure this technically difficult play is executed without error. This adventure tale of the high seas is being helmed under the direction of Luke Yankee. We asked him some questions about his work on this imaginatively staged show, and he was kind enough to respond. Enjoy!

1. Since you have directed at ICT before, what has your experience been like this time around?

Every cast has a unique energy and a very different set of dynamics. I can honestly say, the cast of Shipwrecked! is one of the kindest, most generous, loving, talented and respectful group of actors I have ever worked with.  And I have been doing this a LONG time! Jud Williford, Laurine Price and Nick Ley are extraordinary people AND brilliant actors. This play takes tremendous precision and teamwork and they are all there for one another. It is a pleasure to go to rehearsal every day! I know this strong feeling of community among them makes them into a stronger acting ensemble and will be reflected in their performances.

2. As someone who also is a playwright, how does that influence your approach as a director?

Obviously, I have tremendous respect for the written word. Donald Margulies’ script is so strong (and incredibly detailed), I have encouraged the actors to trust the text. Most of the answers they are looking for are right there on the page.

Jud Williford and Nick Ley in Shipwrecked! An Entertainment

Jud Williford, Laurine Price and Nick Ley in Shipwrecked!

3. What do you have to say about this style of theatre where actors play many roles between them? Is there something unique that this type of theatre offers audiences?

As a director, it is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever done. You have three actors who never leave the stage. They create all of the sound effects and play more than 40 characters. Thank goodness I am also a dialect coach! To make it look simple and easy, it takes incredible accuracy and concentration.  These actors truly have their work cut out for them. Shipwrecked! also has a tremendous sense of fun about it. It’s like the little boy standing on a kitchen chair and saying, “Look mommy! I’m a pirate on a ship!”  It speaks to the childlike innocence and sense of play in all of us.

4. Since he is one of the most celebrated playwrights of the modern era, what do you think makes Donald Margulies such a respected playwright?

I had the great pleasure of getting to know Donald when he was honored at the William Inge Theatre Festival, where I am on the advisory board. Aside from being a lovely man, he is a gifted writer. His work has great passion, great humanity and it reveals the human condition, our frailties and vulnerabilities in a very unique way. It is a pleasure to work on one of his plays.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Shipwrecked!?

While most of the play is incredibly fun and lighthearted, it also makes a strong statement about how we treat celebrities in our culture. We build them up just to tear them down when they get too famous and powerful. It is a ‘message play”, but it speaks more to the world of “let’s pretend” and harkens back to a simpler time. Couldn’t we all use that in our lives?

Shipwrecked! runs October 12 through November 6. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Stephen Rockwell: It’s Funniest When it Touches on the Truth

June 24th, 2016

Stephen Rockwell

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, now in its third week of a four-week run, has been making audiences laugh since it began performances June 8. Our Tony-winning Best Play can owe much of the show’s success to its endlessly talented cast. One of those cast members, Stephen Rockwell, who plays Vanya, was asked some questions about his work in this hilarious production, and he was gracious enough to respond. Enjoy!

1.  As someone who is new to working at ICT,  how has your experience been?

It has been wonderful working at ICT for the first time. Everyone who works for the theatre from caryn on down has been extremely supportive and nurturing. They’ve provided us with the atmosphere and the tools we need to do our work and bring this delightful and meaningful play to life. And I love the gorgeous theatre space!

2. What kind of preparation outside of learning your lines did you undertake in preparing for the role of Vanya?

In preparation for playing Vanya I began by re-reading the four major works of Anton Chekhov (The Seagull, The Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya and The Cherry Orchard). I’ve been fortunate to have been in all four plays at one time or another, but I wanted to remind myself of the plots, the characters and the themes. I also did an extensive character autobiography of Vanya to have a strong sense of his backstory and the nature of his relationships, especially with his sisters.

Leslie Stevens, Stephen Rockwell and Jennifer Parsons in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at ICT
Photo Credit: CaughtintheMoment.com

3. Vanya is a role that many actors would love the chance to play. What other role(s) would you like to undertake?

Like most actors I have a long wish list. But interestingly, I have always wanted to play Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya and would love to have a crack at it after playing Mr. Durang’s version of the character. I would also love to have a chance to play Jamie in Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten and either Bohr or Heisenberg in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen.

4. Performing comedy in the theatre is a very difficult task to undertake. What do you think is the key to make an audience laugh?

As they say “Dying is easy and comedy is hard.” I’m not the first to say that it’s all in the timing, which it is, but delivery has something to do with it as well. And in the end, I think it’s funniest if it touches on the truth in some way. We were so fortunate to have a gifted director like Mary Jo [DuPrey] who really understands the craft and helped us to find the right timing and delivery, as well as the truth inside the laughs.

5.  What do you hope audiences take from seeing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?

First and foremost, I hope that audiences enjoy themselves. The play is extremely funny and is meant to entertain. But it also deals with changes that have taken place in our society over the past half century. I hope that after laughing their heads off, that audiences will go home thinking about and discussing those changes and what they mean to our culture and our society.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike runs through July 3. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Mary Jo DuPrey Loves Command of Complex Language

June 15th, 2016

Mary Jo DuPrey

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, now in its second week of a four-week run, has received a wonderful response from audiences since it opened. Our critically acclaimed production is led under the direction of Mary Jo DuPrey. We asked her some questions about her work on this side-splitting show, and she was kind enough to respond. Enjoy!

1.  Since this is your first time directing at ICT, what has your experience been like?

Directing at ICT has been so wonderful.  ICT is dedicated to bringing the very best scripts to stage with the very best actors in town, which is always a pleasure for a director!

2. As someone who has also acted, how does that influence your approach as a director?

I think being an actor gives you a very good platform to work with actors because you have the ability to imagine the approach an actor may take and that provides a very good start for conversation about script and character.  Also, training as an actor gives you the proper vocabulary and understanding to communicate with actors in a way that is meaningful and useful to them.

Leslie Stevens, Stephen Rockwell, Connor McRaith and Jennifer Parsons in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at ICT.
Photo Credit: CaughtintheMoment.com

3. Is there added pressure when directing a play with accolades such as Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?

Yes, of course, there is that pressure because many people have seen the play and have very strong ties to the original.  On the other hand, the play often receives those accolades because the writing is so good, and it’s always easier to direct a great script than an average one.

4. Since he is one of the most prolific playwrights of the modern era, what do you think makes Christopher Durang such a respected playwright?

I think Durang is one of the few modern playwrights who has such an unerring command of complex language.  The more we delved into this script, the more the actors and I discovered the need to be letter perfect and not paraphrase because even the slightest misplaced word lessened the work.  He is so witty and erudite, and works with language in a way that one rarely sees anymore.

5.  What do you hope audiences take from seeing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike?

Well, I think the kernel of the play is inside Vanya’s monologue in which he bemoans the current state of American culture, but, unlike Chekhov, Durang gives a more hopeful, optimistic solution to modern angst, and that is to find refuge in family and those you love.  I think that way, it’s not unlike The Wizard of Oz.  “There’s no place like home.”  Though ‘home’ may mean different things for different people, it is essentially, very true.

For more information or to purchase tickets to Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Kevin Bailey: Never Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

March 4th, 2016

IMG_5108

Kevin Bailey in ICT’s Closer Than Ever

Closer Than Ever opened at International City Theatre on February 12. After wooing audiences for almost a month, the show will close this Sunday. We were lucky enough to meet with veteran actor and cast member Kevin Bailey to ask him some questions about the show and theatre as a w hole. Please enjoy!

1. As someone who has worked at ICT before, how has your experience been this time?

This is my third show for ICT. If ICT were a restaurant, I’d give my experience a Michelin Three Star Award!  I have had another exceptional theatre experience worthy of a special journey. As had my past experiences at ICT, this journey started with the very best of professionals from all creative departments: an outstanding Director (Todd Nielsen) and Musical Director (Gerry Sternbach), a dream cast to perform with, and the ICT production staff to brilliantly put it together. By its very nature, creating theater magic requires many chefs in the kitchen working together to make the fare superior to watch and enjoy. caryn desai is the master chef who gives the rest of us the room to do (what I hope) is our very best work!

2. What do you hope audiences take from Closer Than Ever?

Closer Than Ever is a tricky little musical — very easy to underestimate the way it unfolds. I would like audiences to see themselves in at least one, and ideally many, of the relationships displayed in each of the songs, as each one is a story unto itself.  If someone is able to identify with a specific character or a theme, then they will be moved to smile, laugh and even shed a tear.  The music and lyrics are simply that powerful.

3. Which song is your favorite to perform and why?

Okay , I hope you’ll allow me two — I know that’s cheating.  Of course, getting to perform the anthem, “If I Sing,” is without compare.  It brings up every single feeling I have about my own dad and the unwavering support he has been to me every day of my life.  But, I also get this humorous and contemplative song about a relationship that has lost its spark titled, “There.”  It’s a great song to act each night and I get to perform it with a theater giant, Valerie Perri.  That’s what we refer to as Heaven on stage!!

4. You have had an impressive career in musical theatre. What do you love about this art form?

Only in theater do you get to know immediately that you have made a difference to your audience and “moved them” in some way. They may laugh, they may cry , they may simply smile; but something is happening in the moment and in the next moment and those moments impact all the moments after that.  It is never the same from one night to the next, at least not entirely.  Similar, yes,  but it’s the difference that is exciting and working to have an impact each night is the gift of theater to me.

5. If your life was a musical, what would it be called?

If I could make up my own title it would be, “Blessed.” Otherwise, I hope you will allow me the answer, “Lucky Guy.” Those titles best represent how I feel about my journey.

Closer Than Ever runs through March 6. For more information or to purchase tickets: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Valerie Perri Can’t Ask For Anything More

March 2nd, 2016

Valerie Perri performing in Closer That Ever. Photo Credit: Tracey Roman

Closer Than Ever opened three weeks ago at International City Theatre. Response has been fantastic, and many comments have been made about the cast and their beautiful voices. We checked in with veteran actress and Closer Than Ever cast member Valerie Perri to ask her some questions about the show. She was sweet enough to oblige.

1. As someone who has worked at ICT before, how has your experience been this time?

Equally outstanding and professional! Also, ICT continues to produce the most interesting and challenging plays and musicals, which ultimately makes the experience very satisfying to perform.

2. What do you hope audiences take from Closer Than Ever?

We walk through many doors in our lifetime. There is always a new experience and challenge that presents itself over each threshold. Enjoy it! Don’t let fear ever stop you from the journey that is YOURS and awaits behind each and every door you open!

3. Which song is your favorite to perform and why?

I guess if I had to choose one it would be “Life Story.”  I enjoy the simplicity of sitting on a stool, and having a heart to heart with the audience. It’s the journey of a divorced woman who’s had to raise her son alone, accepting the challenges and the sometimes regret she’s felt along the way, but, ultimately her choices and experiences have made her a stronger person, today.

4. Close Than Ever addresses a lot of different life experiences that every person goes through at some point in their life. Which song in the show touches you the most?

“Patterns” was a difficult song for me during the rehearsal process as I remembered the early days of raising my twins when there was a certain daily schedule to follow and so much of the “sameness” that it was so easy to personally lose a sense of myself in the day to day minutia. It’s frightening how narrow your world can become in those formative years. I felt it was so important to be present for my children and subsequently took time off from my career to make it all about them. Today, as an actress, it’s nice to have a memory bank that holds that information so I can tap the feelings necessary to illuminate the story I am telling.

5. If your life was a musical, what would it be called?

“The Exquisite Beauty of a Well-Balanced Life”

It took a lot of work along the way, and like all of us, I’ve had my share of bumps, bruises and disappointments. Yet today,  I enjoy good health and being happily married. I take great pleasure and pride in our two magnificent sons,  a beautiful home filled with music and harmony, and I continue to pursue my artistic life by performing in plays, musicals, symphony concerts, television and film. Who could ask for anything more?

For more information or to purchase tickets to Closer Than Ever: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Adam von Almen is Happy to be Standing

February 26th, 2016

Adam Von Almen in Closer Than Ever at ICT

Adam von Almen in Closer Than Ever at ICT

Closer Than Ever, which opened two weeks ago to kickoff International City Theatre’s 2016 season, has been winning fans nightly. Much of that can be attributed to the endlessly talented cast. We were able to sit with cast member Adam von Almen and ask him some questions about his work on this show, and he was kind enough to respond. Enjoy!

1. As someone who has worked at ICT before, how has your experience been this time?

Working at ICT this time around is COMPLETELY different, mainly because of the material. My previous production was The Heir Apparent, a French farce, spoken completely in rhyming couplets, and Closer Than Ever is a contemporary musical theater piece. I also performed the whole show of The Heir Apparent on my knees, which is also a perk to this current production. Ha! But I jumped at the chance to come back to ICT because, whether the material is a play or a musical, caryn always picks shows that contain challenging and emotional roles for an actor, and Closer Than Ever is no exception. It’s a behemoth of a sing, but so rewarding! I’m so happy ICT subscribers get to see me actually put my music degree to use this time too!

2. What do you hope audiences take from Closer Than Ever?

I hope audiences are willing to go on the extreme roller coaster of emotions with the cast. We are up there portraying happiness, sadness, anger, joy, humor, resentment, obsession, ecstasy, hope … the list goes on, and while it’s therapeutic for us, it’s also for the audience. It’s easy to sit back and listen to the gorgeous melodies of the composer, David Shire, but that’s only half of the experience. I feel like the people that get the most out of this production are the ones that are really listening to Richard Maltby, Jr.’s lyrics and connecting with us. It’s my hope every night that the audiences will find a couple songs that really relate to their personal being, whether it be from a past or current experience, and can reflect upon it critically or fondly, and have fun of course! Like I said, it’s a roller coaster!

3. Which song is your favorite to perform and why?

It’s funny, because my favorite song to perform changes every night. Some nights I’m feeling a little more crazy and obsessive than others so the song “What Am I Doin” is always a blast to sing. But the song “One of the Good Guys” is definitely a favorite every night, mainly because I really connect to the lyrics and of the solos I sing, it gets one of the biggest connections from the audience. Not gonna lie though — I love just sitting out there snapping while Penny sing’s “Back on Base” to perfection! Does that count?

4. Because Closer Than Ever is comprised of many individual stories told thru separate songs, what have you enjoyed about this style of musical theatre in comparison to a typical musical that has a linear narrative?

Closer Than Ever can take you to many emotional places at a lightning pace. A more linear musical with a story needs to take time to introduce the characters, situations, time periods, significant events, but Closer Than Ever just jumps right in. I keep mentioning it, but it really is a roller coaster because each song has its own emotional arc, allowing the audience to go on many personal journeys.  An exposition, rising action, a climax, and sometimes a resolution are in each song, but then it’s on to the next. Also, many musicals are about flashiness and making sure the audience is entertained, which I totally want as an audience member sometimes, but Closer Than Ever is a nice reprieve from the big spectacles. This type of musical is for the people that want to reflect on REAL human experience and not just pretend. I am listed in the script as Man 1 because every man/ woman is supposed to be able to put themselves in my shoes. It’s daunting, yet so therapeutic!

5. If your life was a musical, what would it be called?

Game of Thrones – The musical

For more information or to purchase tickets to Closer Than Ever: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

Why Beverly O’Neill Means so Much to ICT

February 3rd, 2016

Beverly O'Neill

International City Theatre (ICT) has a lot to celebrate these days. Not only are they kicking off their 31st Anniversary season with the award-winning musical Closer Than Ever, but they are also celebrating the renaming of their home. ICT is hosting a gala to honor former Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill, paying tribute to her dedicated service to the City and her support of ICT and the arts in Long Beach with the newly named Beverly O’Neill Theater.

If anyone deserves this kind of tribute, it is certainly Beverly O’Neill. She is Long Beach’s only three-term, citywide elected Mayor. Initially elected in 1994, she was re-elected in 1998 with almost 80% of the vote, and was re-elected to a third term as a write-in candidate, the nation’s only large city Mayor to accomplish such an historic feat. A product of the Long Beach public school system, starting with the Long Beach Day Nursery up to her graduation from California State University, Long Beach, Dr. O’Neill pursued her post-graduate studies at the University of Vienna, and received her doctorate from the University of Southern California.

Prior to becoming mayor, Dr. O’Neill spent a 31-year career at Long Beach City College beginning as a music instructor and women’s advisor. In the succeeding years she advanced to Campus Dean, Dean of Student Affairs, Vice President of Student Services and spent her last five years as Superintendent-President. It was during this time that she worked with and supported Founding ICT Artistic Director Shashin Desai to open International City Theatre on the college campus, the first time there was a professional theatre on a community college campus in the nation. After a string of successful seasons at the college, she supported ICT’s move to the underutilized Center Theater in downtown Long Beach at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. ICT has called this home ever since, celebrating its 20th year downtown in 2016.

If you would like to attend the Gala and celebrate Mayor O’Neill and her achievements, ICT invites you to attend. Guests will enjoy complimentary wine, a delicious dinner and attend the opening night of Closer Than Ever. There will also be a post-show reception with O’Neill, the director, and cast. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 562-436-4610 or visit www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.

Gerald Sternbach: Nothing Comes From a Vacuum

November 5th, 2015

Musical Director Gerald SternbachSondheim on Sondheim, now in its final week of a four-week run, has been dazzling audiences nightly. Much of that is due to wonderful musical numbers performed by our amazing cast, who have been under the guidance of the endlessly talented Musical Director Gerald Sternbach. We asked him some questions about his work on this show, and he was kind enough to respond. Enjoy!

1. As Musical Director for Sondheim on Sondheim, what has your experience been with this show?

I have had a wonderful experience doing this show. There are some of us that have been loyal Sondheim enthusiasts. I remember the excitement I personally had—since I did not live in New York (I grew up in the San Fernando Valley)—of hearing original cast albums of shows. I have been listening to his musicals since I was in high school, and there was always that element of discovery.  Something new from a master, and to my sensibility, in the 70s and 80s, there were still “masters” on Broadway. This has been a great cast, and it has been a joy to approach familiar material with fresh eyes … and the added years of “gravitas’’ certainly help.

The cast of Sondheim on Sondheim

(L to R) Josh Wise, Stephanie Fredricks, Shaina Knox and Jake Novak in SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

2. Since you have been in the business a long time, what other Sondheim shows have you worked on and which was your favorite?

As musical director of Reprise from 2002 through 2007…I started with FOLLIES (with Patty Duke, Vicki Carr and Harry Groener in the cast) … that was my debut as musical director for the organization. And it continued with COMPANY (Christopher Sieber, Judith Light, Josh Radner) and SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (Kelli O’Hara).  It was a thrill to conduct Broadway-size orchestras for those shows. Two of those shows were directed by the redoubtable David Lee, who just happened to direct the very first Sondheim show I ever did—SIDE BY SIDE by SONDHEIM (at the Studio One Backlot in West Hollywood. I am not going to date myself by telling you which year. Needless to say i was still in my 20s … and it was before I moved to New York. I also want to share that I saw the the original cast of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE perform the final preview … when the show was “frozen,” so to speak. It will always remain one of the top five theatrical experiences of my life—and it was my thrill to conduct it at Reprise.

3. Why do you think Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics are held in such high esteem? What makes him different from other musical theatre composers?

His craft, his sensibility and the sense of rightness of it all. People need to realize that a lot of his shows were “fashioned”… they were “created”… nothing came out of a vacuum fully formed. These works took time. Even the works that are flawed have a fascination about them.

4. On the other side of the spectrum, which musical theatre composer do you think deserves more attention or acclaim?

I’m just going to say it … me. I have several projects that I have worked on … and am working on … that hopefully will be taking further steps within the next year.

5. What do you hope audiences take from seeing Sondheim on Sondheim?

Audiences—all audiences—that doesn’t ONLY mean new audiences—need to learn that nothing comes from a vacuum … that intelligence needs to be savored and in these times when mediocrity is the “coin of the realm” there is always something you can learn from the work of Stephen Joshua Sondheim.

For more information or to purchase tickets to Sondheim on Sondheim: please visit www.ictlongbeach.org or call 562.436.4610.

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