Something’s Coming

… There’s something due any day, I will know right away, soon as it shows. It may come cannonballing down through the sky gleam in it’s eye, bright as a rose…

“Something’s Coming” from Leonard Berstein and Stephen Sondheim’s West Side Story.

What is your passion?  Baseball? Golf? Opera? Graphic Novels? Shakespeare? Politics? Soup Kitchens? Helping the needy?…

There was a time in your life where you were deeply touched, moved, compelled even, to pursue your passion. When you saw Ozzie Smith make diving catches in the 1982 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals;

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Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer win any number of their majors;

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when you first read The Sandman series of Neil Gaiman;

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seeing Laurence Olivier play Hamlet or Richard III;

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when you saw your local congressman make a change in your community that hadn’t been accomplished for years and years of lobbying by other representatives…

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and that moment or moments propelled you into the line of work you do creating a desire to recapture that moment for yourself.

That event can create a desire so strong that you seek to capture it, or recapture it, for yourself over and over in your life.

I was raised in a home where religion was a major focus of our daily lives.  My father was a preacher and my mother was the church organist.

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I began singing at an early age and the songs I sang were telling an “important message” with a deep meaning.  We weren’t a religiously fanatical family but as the son of the leader of a church what I said through song was of the utmost importance to be heard and understood. It may hold sway over important spiritual choices people make.

As I grew up and was introduced to theatre I had a wonderful time entertaining an audience, making them laugh and having a great ol’ time. But when I was introduced specifically to music theatre that had an “important message” or “something to say” but was equally entertaining I was taken, taken with a capital T-A-K-E-N.

Shows like Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George, Cabaret, Chicago…

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Sweeney Todd with Angela Lansbury and George Hearn.

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Joel Grey in Cabaret.

musicals that addressed topics that are serious but done in a non-preachy way, which my dad had a great talent for doing in his sermons; entertaining, fun, humorous but ultimately an event that left you thinking and talking about for a very long time.

My career has been about keeping a keen eye out for that opportunity and I’ve had quite a few.

Floyd Collins: A musical about a Kentucky caver who gets trapped in a tight squeeze and the media circus that essentially danced on the grave of the man while everyone fought over the best way to save him.

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Next To Normal: A musical about a woman suffering from bi-polar disorder and how her family deals with the immense roller coaster ride and serious consequences of her emotional fragility.

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And now The Visit:  A musical about love, deceit, revenge and back again to love that transcends time.

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I am one lucky bastard to have opportunities like this, and not unlike my father in his “calling” to preach I feel that sharing musicals of substance that have something to say is somewhat a “calling” for me. I’m not saving any souls but, in a way, if we can reflect on some of the deeper issues in life through entertainment, maybe we can make our journey through this world a little more meaningful.

The Visit begins previews tonight March 26th 2015 and we open on April 23rd. This is a monumental piece of theatre that I hope you take the time to see.

 

“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

A House Is Not A Home

A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

Darling, have a heart, don’t let one mistake keep us apart
I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, still in love with me.

Lyrics: Hal David and Music: Burt Bacharach

The sentiment above may be about two former lovers but the idea that it takes two, us and you, to make a house a home is what will make the Lyceum Theatre our “home”.

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(Lyceum Theatre a Schubert house with, appropriately, the marquee for THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS one of Kander & Ebbs other musicals.)

Today, March 19 2015 the cast, crew and orchestra of THE VISIT move into our new “home” at the Lyceum Theatre on W. 45th Street just off of “the crossroads to the world” at Times Square.

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For the last week or so our set designer Scott Pask and his team, our lighting designer Japhy Wideman his team, our sound designer Dan Moses Shreier his team and the crew at the Lyceum Theatre have been “loading in” all of their design elements.  It’s a time consuming, labor intensive and precise craft.  They have been creating the world of Brächen for us, the actors and musicians, to walk into today.

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Our incredible costume designer Anne Hould-Ward has been doing fittings and has made available, for weeks now, elements if not all of our costume pieces, during rehearsal so we can wear them and get to know them as “clothes” and not an unfamiliar “costume” that we add the last week during technical rehearsals.

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(My personal socks only for St. Paddy’s Day.)

Jared Janas, our makeup designer, has begun consultations on the very specific look of the townspeople of Brächen.  This look is inspired by Boris Aronson’s designs on Broadway and his work with the Yiddish theatre as well as elements of the artist Ivan Albright.  This is the first makeup test, which will change once we see how Japhy’s lights work with it.

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It’s with great excitement that we as a company add the crew at the Lyceum to our family of THE VISIT.  Some people have already worked together others we know through working at other theatres.  For instance our stage door “mistress?” Elena Bennet-Goulet is the wife of the head electrician, Susan Goulet, at the Booth Theatre where my wife Marin and I did NEXT TO NORMAL a few years ago.  We say “theatre family” because it is just that, sometimes we may be close relatives or relatives once or twice removed, but we are all here to support one another and to reach for the highest goal of creating wonderful theatre and hopefully art for the theatre audience.

And that’s where you come into the picture.  Once we’ve filled this “house”, which is what we literally call the theatre where the audience sits “the house”, we open the doors to you to come in and experience with us, live, all of us alive and telling and listening to the story, that’s when I consider that a “home”.  We spend six out of seven days of the week at this home away from home.

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This isn’t just our home.  This theatre is the oldest theatre on Broadway.  It has been home to so many incredible plays, musicals, performances, actors, directors etc…  Like any family we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.  We honor the long tradition of story telling, learning from those who have come before and adding and applying our own traditions of today.  The spirit is the same and we are surrounded by the spirits of the artists who have come before.

Read a little about the great history of this theatre here: Lyceum Theatre

And now THE VISIT adds it’s own history making element to this space.  Theatre legends Chita Rivera and Roger Rees star in the last musical to be produced on Broadway of the iconic team Kander & Ebb.  It is also K&E’s last collaboration with prolific playwright and luminary of the great white way Terrence McNally.  Not forgetting the superb leadership of highly respected helmers of hits John Doyle (director) and Graciela Daniele (choreographer).

This is history in the making.  You absolutely will not want to miss this.  Don’t look back and regret not getting to W. 45th St. and experiencing this once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, theatre event.

So to twist Hal and Burt’s song into an idea for our purposes:

Darling, have a heart, don’t let one mistake keep us apart
I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home
When I climb the stairs and turn the key
Oh, please be there, still in love with me.

(Ok, that last line sounds a little like “like me, you really like me” circa Sally Fields Oscar acceptance speech… which it’s not meant to be.)

 

“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is impermanent, each moment is here and then gone.

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One of the hardest things to do, as westerners and capitalists constantly trying to climb that ladder of success, is to savor each moment and live in it fully.

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I know that might sound a little odd.  It also is one of the most difficult things to do; live in the moment trying not to dwell on the past and allowing the future to be what it is.  I think that’s why I’m so drawn to the art of theatre and have made it my life’s work.  Every time I walk on stage there is no telling what will happen.  You are well rehearsed and your skills allow you to know, pretty well but still generally, what will actually take place.

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That idea extends to the fleeting opportunities to see a particular event of impermanent moments.  i.e.: How long a show runs that you are interested in seeing. There ain’t no DVR for theatre!  You got to hightail it out there or the chance is gone.

This isn’t just a plug for the show I’m doing… it is that but it is much more.  This is a life lesson I keep trying to teach myself and a lesson I need to learn over and over again.

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Every opportunity that arrises to see Tony Bennet in concert I say to myself “he’s a legend, a singer you adore and he’s still here… singing and performing.  Get to that concert and don’t miss a chance to hear him live!”

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Did you have a chance and miss it?  How many of you wish you had heard Kurt Cobain before he left us, Ella Fitzgerald, Cat Stevens?… wait he’s still around, but you know what I mean.

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This year we lost some incredible artists who made a significant contribution to theatre.  I saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman in A Long Days Journey Into Night but missed his Death Of A Salesman directed by Mike Nichols who we also lost this year.

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer…

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… we just need to remind ourselves that we need to seize every opportunity that is given us to enjoy life.  I enjoy being entertained and thinking and feeling.  I think you will enjoy this once in a lifetime theatre event of seeing Chita Rivera and Roger Rees starring in the last musical written by Kander & Ebb and Terrence McNally directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele that will be on Broadway beginning the end of March 2015.

No telling how long this will last, hopefully a long time, but life is life and unpredictable, so do yourself a solid and buy your tickets early and tell your friends.

I just did.  (tell my friends that is, I’m in the show and can’t see it.)

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I’ll see you at the Lyceum Theatre when you see The Visit!

 

“You be good and I’ll try.”

 

Jason

 

Family

It’s more than you, it is more than me
Whatever dreams we have they’re for the family
We’re not alone anymore now there are others there
And that dream’s big enough for all of us to share.

As Curtis sings to Effie in DREAMGIRLS.

Don’t think

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Try this

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The idea that we actors are a family is obviously not a new one.  It’s actually quite an ancient idea.  A band of actors traveling here and there to tell a story, an entertaining story, a story of social significance and if you are lucky one that does both.  Either way, in order to do this you spend hour upon hour, day upon day, week upon week and if you are good and lucky, month upon month and longer… together.

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You share close quarters (dressing rooms, one or two bathrooms), watch as each other matures and grows as individuals, witness happy moments (marriages, births of children), grieve and console through hard times (deaths of “real” family members, health issues among you) etc… we ride the roller coaster of life and it’s a very unifying journey.

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Your director, if he/she is good, is a mother/father figure, who guides you lovingly through the process one step at a time; supervising each step, helping to shape each thought so that all of the family can grow in the same way at the same time.

JohnDoyle200px(John Doyle – Dir. The Visit)

As a citizen of the theatre world we are lucky to have many families.  Each family has it’s own dynamic and life span.  Some families you wish you could divorce quickly, others, when the inevitable time comes to move on, you are left devastated and not quite sure how you’ll survive the break up.  Somehow you do.  And when you think nothing could quite top that last great experience another completely different, but equally wonderful, clan of Koo-Koos comes along and makes you feel proud to belong.

Here’s to our theatre families.  All of us ever the traveling band of actors flitting from one group of lovely people to another, making deep and lasting connections that last a lifetime.  For those of us who go through a tough stretch in life know we are always here for you.  We’re just like that.

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IMG_0733(Some Lovers – Old Globe)

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IMG00057-20101025-2319(The Full Monty – Bway)

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“You be good… and I’ll try!)

Jason

Money!

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“Money makes the world go ’round, the world go round the world go round.

Money makes the world go round it makes the world go round.

A mark a yen a buck or a pound, a buck or a pound

Is all that makes the world go round

It makes the world go round.”

As Fred Ebb wrote in the song “Money” in Kander & Ebb’s landmark musical CABARET.

 

It’s not from laziness or simplicity that Fred chose that phrase and uses it over and over again in this song.  Having money, too much or not enough, is a regular presence in our lives.  Always has been and always will be.  It’s an issue that is repeated over and over ad nauseam.  Money, the necessity of having it, the greed at wanting too much, the hardships when you don’t have enough, all the glorious things you can think of to do when you have even just a little extra etc… is a constant issue in our lives as humans.

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We wake up to it on the news, read it in the papers, our government has constant problems with managing it, social organizations have a hard time raising it, families don’t have enough to send their children to school to get an education so that they can maybe eek out enough money to live on with their family…

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Wouldn’t it be nice if someone just walked into your life and said “I’ll wipe out your nations debt, subsidize your community organizations, hospitals, churches, schools and give each of you a few million dollars.  If you do me one little favor”?

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That sounds like a pretty sweet deal – right?  Would you really need to hear the conditions if there were any?  If there were, you’d probably find some way to manage it so you could live worry free of money.

What would you do?  What wouldn’t you do?  Is there a possibility for negotiation, if you had any problem with what is asked of you?

What if you were asked to kill someone?  Just one person, one insignificant person?  What if no one knew who killed this person? What if this person was considered inconsequential maybe even a blemish on your town or country?

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Would any of that justify considering the deed of murder for money?

Sounds like a heavy question but not so difficult to consider given how scarce and hard money is to come by.

These are the underpinning questions asked in THE VISIT a new musical by Terrence McNally and John Kander & Fred Ebb.  Starting performances on Broadway March 26th.

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It stars theatre legend Chita Rivera who plays the wealthiest woman in the world who has the means of saving a town that has been struck down and crippled by poverty and bad luck.  She only asks of them for revenge on someone who has betrayed her.  Roger Rees plays this blemish on their society, the man not worthy of a second glance… is his life worth it?

Come see this wildly entertaining musical.  It’s worth the price of admission.  Trust me.

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THE VISIT!

BTW: I’m in it too. 🙂

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“You be good… and I’ll try.”

 

Jason