Interview: Dan and Laura Curtis

Patty & Emily have their first transatlantic interview and talk with composers British Dan and Laura Curtis! They answer The Patty & Emily 10, talk about their work with Welsh celebrities on their “A Miner’s Song” and other projects, including their CD Love on 42nd Street and an upcoming Richard Burton musical.

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The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged

When they were in grad school, Rachel Sullivan and Maggie Keenan-Bolger were working on a thesis together about women’s experiences in public spaces. At the end of the project, they realized sexuality was never directly discussed, though it clearly influenced the topic. Aside from already having an interest in sexuality, Maggie and Rachel have a theatre company, Honest Accomplice, which focuses on topics that aren’t openly discussed or seen as shameful. And so, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged was born.

Patty talked to Maggie and Rachel, along with three of the actors, Liza Fischer, Holly Sansom, and (someone you might know) Emily Faye Oakley, about the experience of putting this show together. Maggie and Rachel didn’t sit down at a computer and write up a script. The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged is a devised theatre piece. It’s created by the actors working together and using real life experiences to create a piece about different aspects of sexuality. This isn’t the first production of the show. We saw the show last year, and when she saw they were doing it again, Emily wanted to be a part of it. She also wanted to be a part of telling a different kind of story. Holly, who was a part of conceiving the project the first time around, said what partly drew her to it was the varied types of people who were represented; people she didn’t normally see on stage. Liza had helped with props the first time around and comes from a more traditional theatre background. She was excited to be working on a show that was trying to say something and wasn’t focused on the commercial aspects.

So, what is it trying to say? After surveying over 2,000 people online, talking to friends, and working with the original and current casts, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged is saying what Salt ‘n Pepa said way back in 1991: Let’s Talk About Sex. The previous production was more of a series of thematically connected scenes. While in this production, each character has a through line that you follow. Just like the rest of us, these characters are dealing with topics of body image, race and sexuality, hookup culture, gender, etc. And the hope is that you leave talking about these issues and maybe even opening up about your own experiences. The show isn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable; it’s not gratuitously sexual or, at the other end, overly clinical. It’s a representation of many topics not often discussed; experiences people have, but don’t talk about. So, here it is. Maggie, Rachel, and their cast are having The Talk. The one about the birds and the bees.

The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged runs October 8th-12th. The show is double cast. The cast for October 8th & 10th is Samantha Cunha, Meggan Dodd, Liza Fischer, Cat Fisher, Lindsay Griffen, Austin Klich, E. Okobi, Julia Osen Averill, and Holly Sansom. The cast for October 9th, 11th, & 12th is Mike Burke, Ruth Cooper, Suzu Ledoux, Emily Faye Oakley, E. Okobi, Julia Osen Averill, Mary Parker, Holly Sansom, and Mary Sheridan. Get your tickets here.

Of course, even during this discussion of serious, important (and fun!) topics, we had to throw in our little nonsense survey for these ladies. Here it is!

PATTY & EMILY: Do you know Beth Leavel?

MAGGIE KEENAN-BOLGER: Yes.

RACHEL SULLIVAN: Made a sad face because she doesn’t know who that is.

LIZA FISCHER: Nope.

HOLLY SANSOM: I love her.

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

MKB:  Side Show, but they’re doing it now!

RS:  I’ll just go with Side Show.

LF: I know they just did it, but I missed it. I want to see Angels in America.

HS: Can  we have another Ragtime that stays?

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to be asleep or dead on stage?

MKB:  When I was five, I did The Sound of Music, and they had to cancel the rest of rehearsal because I fell asleep on the bed.

RS: I don’t know if I’ve ever had to pretend to be… I definitely haven’t ever had to be dead. I don’t think I ever had to be asleep.

LF: I did an outdoor Hamlet and was being eaten by mosquitoes when I was carried out dead. So, no.

HS: I feel like any time I ever had to be dead, I’ve been in really uncomfortable positions. So, not a factor.

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

MKB: Can I say my sister’s house?

RS: BAM. The Harvey Theater.

LF: I like the one that they did Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in. The Booth. And I also have to shout-out the A.R.T. was my childhood theatre.

HS: I just went to the Winter Garden for the very first time, and I love the mezzanine. It made me feel welcome as a poor person.

P&E: Dreamcast us in a show

MKB: Side Show!

RS: Side Show?

LF: Yes.

HS: Definitely.

P&E: Do you have a monologue?

MKB: That you want me to do right now?!

RS: I probably would need a few hours.

LF: I totally do.

HS: I don’t audition any more. No.

P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?

MKB: Rent

RS: I’ve seen the video…the original The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews. I know that’s not live, but that shit was my favorite.

LF: Probably The Seagull.

HS: I was weirdly obsessed with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in college.

P&E: Who would you fangirl(boy) over?

MKB: Does it have to be a Broadway person? Zoe Palmer.

RS: One of the coolest things I ever saw was this nine-hour play directed by Robert Lepage. And I think anyone that can get me to sit in a theatre for nine hours? That’s pretty cool. Or maybe Cate Blanchett.

LF: I met Frances McDormand. She came into my coffee shop. And I was like, “Are you Frances McDormand?” And she said yes. And I said, “I think you’re amazing. I’m and actress.” I was right out of college. And she said, “Oh, that’s great! There should be more actors.” And she tipped me 50 cents.

HS: Sara Ramirez.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?

MKB: Laughs.

RS: Not applicable?

LF: 20.

HS: I think All That Chat is worse though.

P&E: Comps and a Time Machine.

MKB: Into the Woods

RS: I feel like I’d like to go back to a really different time period, like Sarah Bernhardt. And see how the audiences dressed and how the acting styles were so different.

LF: Yeah, the original Seagull.

HS: I mean, Ragtime. The original cast.

Again, The Birds and the Bees: Unabridged runs October 8th-12th. And you can get tickets here.

For Tonight at NYMF

The New York Musical Theatre Festival is in full swing, and while it’s impossible to see everything, you should definitely check some of the shows out. Don’t forget, this is where [title of show]Yank!, and Next to Normal began! One of the shows we’re seeing is For Tonight. We talked to Shanelle Williams, the co-composer and co-lyrist, about the show and its journey to New York.

Shanelle’s collaborator on the music and lyrics is actually her husband Spencer Williams. They met in college and starting writing music together, and people would comment on how their sound would work well in musical theatre. As theatre lovers themselves, they thought they’d try their hand at it. The idea for For Tonight actually came from Spencer’s own great-great-great grandfather. Teaming up with book writer Whitney Rhodes, the show follows the lives of siblings in Wales after the loss of their parents. The music of the show does have Welsh influence, including a Welsh folksong “Suo Gan,” but Shanelle describes the overall sound as “somewhere between musical theatre and Nickel Creek and Coldplay.”

NYMF will be the show’s public debut, having only presented one private reading about a year ago. After editing, they submitted show to NYMF. When they received the call that they had been accepted, Shanelle was almost nine months pregnant. And while the prospect of coming out to New York, doing more rewrites, and putting on your show may seem daunting enough without a new baby, Shanelle says it has been a great experience. Only a few the actors have been with project since the beginning, but working with a New York director Joe Barros and musical director Drew Wutke who knew the mostly New York cast helped everyone smoothly collaborate on this fantastic production. We can’t wait to see this new work from these up-and-coming writers!

And of course the best way for us to get to know Shanelle was to give her our questionnaire. Here’s what she had to say!

Patty & Emily: Do you know Beth Leavel?

Shanelle Williams: No.

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

SW: Oh, that’s a tough one because there’s been a lot revivals lately of things I have wanted revived and now they’re all coming true. Spencer’s in the room here. He likes to pitch in. He’s excited about On the Town right now. And I haven’t seen that one, so I guess I’m excited about that one was well. Oh, Side Show is another. Put down Side Show.

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to be asleep or dead on stage?

SW: Uh, no but one time I did fall asleep in the orchestra pit. Fortunately it was only tech rehearsal though.

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

SW: Oh, I really liked…where did Pippin play?

P&E: The Music Box.

SW: I like that one.

P&E: Do you have a monologue?

SW: No. Heavens no. In fact, I botched an audition, like, three years ago. It had been a long time since I had performed. And I went into this audition; I picked up a monologue the night before, and I totally botched it. So, I definitely don’t have a monologue prepared right now.

P&E: What’s the show you’ve seen the most time?

SW: I think Next to Normal was the show I saw the most.

P&E: Who would you fangirl over?

SW: I’m kind of having a fangirl experience over our leading man in our show. He’s pretty sexy, and he sings amazing. His name’s Brandon Kalm.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how bad is the Broadway World message board?

SW: It’s so bad that I never go there.

P&E: Comps and a time machine.

SW: Hmm. I would really like to see the original production of Cabaret.

For Tonight has three performances at NYMF: Wednesday, July 9th at 4pm and 8pm and Saturday, July 12th at 4pm. We’ll be there, and we hope to see you there as well! You can get tickets here.

Jeremy Kushnier in Atomic, A New Musical!

In the 1940s, when the world was fighting a war, a global group of scientists came together to build the atomic bomb in a government project that used the code name “Manhattan.” In 2014, a global group of artists came together to tell the story of that project and a scientist history forgot in the musical Atomic. Jeremy Kushnier, who plays that scientist Leo Szilard, talked to us about this new show and what we can expect from a show that deals with “a very sensitive subject — and then we put music to it!”

Like us (and we’re assuming most of you), Jeremy didn’t know anything about Leo Szilard until he came into this project. Leo’s patents and ideas were what made the bomb possible, but when he realized how this bomb was going to be used, his conscious wouldn’t allow him to be a part of it anymore. He started a petition, and got the signatures of many of the scientists who worked on the bomb, asking the bomb not be dropped on Japan, as they had not built it for that purpose. Because of this, he was effectively erased from history. One of Jeremy’s favorite lines in the show (he thinks it’s still in the show — we talked to him during rehearsals when things were still being added and moved around) is said by Dr. Oppenheimer: “It was Leo’s science that made the bomb possible, but his conscious that made it impossible.”

Aside from the natural drama of war, Leo’s life seemed ripe for a musical telling. There is a great love story in Atomicbetween Leo and his partner and eventual wife, Trude Weiss played by Sara Gettlefinger. They’re living through this tough time together and as Jeremy puts it, “their relationship ends up getting them through it.” (Fun fact: Trude became a surgeon in the 1930s and when Leo was diagnosed with cancer in the 1960s, it was with Trude’s help that he was the first person to successfully use radiation.) And so there is a hopeful dimension to this difficult story of war and politics and science. Atomic is a piece of theatre where you will leave knowing more than you did when you came in, but you’ll also have more questions. As Jeremy puts it, “You walk away going, ‘I wonder what I would have done?'” And isn’t that part of a great experience at the theatre? Of course, it’s also a musical, so expect spectacle. After all, Jeremy promises, “You can’t come and see a show about the atomic bomb, and not blow the motherfucker up.”
We couldn’t let Jeremy get off easy and not answer our questionnaire, so here’s what he said!

Patty & Emily:
 Do you know Beth Leavel?

Jeremy Kusnier: Yes!

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

JK: Oh, unfortunately it’s already being revived and Neil Patrick Harris stole my part.

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to sleep or be dead on stage?

JK: I feel like I must have at some point? I’m sure that I have. I know that I have in rehearsals.

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

JK: Oh, that’s a tough one. I love the Richard Rodgers because it was the first theatre that I worked in. I love it too because it’s got a really steep rake.

P&E: Do you have a monologue prepared?

JK: Never. Even when I’m asked for it.

P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?

JK: Oh, that’s a good one. I think it probably would have to be Hedwig. I was a real Hed-head back in the day. I saw, like, five different people do it. I just really love the show. I’ve been petitioning these guys for years to do it anywhere. I’d do it in somebody’s garage! I can’t count how many times I went to the Jane Street and saw it.

P&E: Who would you fanboy over?

JK: Now that I’ve met and worked with her, it’s Ms. Sara Gettlefinger. She’s a tremendous talent, she’s absolutely gorgeous, and she’s amazing to work with. I love her.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?

JK: On a scale of 1-10? 4,000. I can’t even. I don’t even go; I don’t even dare.

P&E: If you had comps and a time machine, what would you go see?

JK: I would go and see City of Angels. I love that score so much, and that’s another show that I’ve always wanted to do.

Atomic starts performances at The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row on June 26th and is scheduled to run until August 16th. Don’t miss this amazing cast, led by Jeremy Kushnier. For more information, visit their website. For tickets, click here!

Sing Pretty, Don’t Fall Down: Kate Baldwin at 54 Below

We sat down with one our favorite Broadway ladies (and Patrick’s Mothers), Kate Baldwin, to find out a little more about her upcoming show at 54 Below, Sing Pretty, Don’t Fall Down. Kate said the name came from advice her college musical theatre professor would give her when she had, she’s ashamed to admit, let her musical theatre assignments fall behind her academics. So the very least she could do was go out there, sing pretty, and don’t fall down. Little did she know, however, that this ended up being good preparation for the way professional performers are often expected to learn things on short notice.

So, the idea for the show was formed from all of the things Kate wished she had known about the business, all the ways you could “fall down.” She’ll be sharing stories about her falls, but also how she got back up again. Get ready to hear showbiz tales about her interactions with fans at the stage door and run-ins with other actors. We also learned that she is not good at ad-libbing, in fact it’s one of her least favorite things to do. Not great when you just did a show with who she calls “the master ad-libber,” Norbert Leo Butz. And we can’t wait to find out what “salty advice” she got from an actor.

Interwoven with these stories, of course, will be what Kate calls some of her “greatest hits.” Included on this list will be a song from each of her most recent shows, Big Fish and Giant, songs from one of her favorite collaborators Sheldon Harnick, a couple of Sondheim songs that Kate doesn’t think she’s ever performed publicly, and a song with special guest Katie Thompson. But there’s much more than this in store, and really, it doesn’t matter what Kate Baldwin is singing because, in the end, Kate Baldwin is singing.

We once again ended our conversation by asking Kate to answer our silly little questionnaire. Here are her answers:

Patty & Emily: Do you know Beth Leavel?

Kate Baldwin: Yes, I do. I have photos with Beth Leavel.

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

KB: I want to do Sunday in the Park with George, and I want to play Dot.

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to sleep or be dead on stage?

KB: Yes. In high school, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Titania. And you know, she has to fall…I fell asleep.

P&E: What happened?

KB: Um, I don’t remember. I just remember somebody jabbing me and waking up. And probably not saying something in Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare’s a language. It wasn’t in Shakespeare. It was English, but it wasn’t in verse.

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

KB: Oh, the St. James. It has to be the St. James.

P&E: Dreamcast us in a show.

KB: Dreamcast you in a show? Newsies? You could be some Newsies.

P&E: Do you have a monologue prepared?

KB: Hell no. Do I have a monologue? I have never had a monologue in my life. Never. That’s a big fallacy.

P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?

KB: The Full Monty because I was a swing, so I would go every night and watch it.

P&E: What about shows you weren’t working on?

KB: I don’t think I’ve seen a show more than twice. I saw The Wedding Singer twice because it was fun. I dug it. I saw The Drowsy Chaperone twice. I saw The Light in the Piazza twice because I cried through the first time. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels twice? Maybe.

P&E: Who would you fangirl over?

KB: I fangirled all over Laura Linney and turned into a big pile of mush.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?

KB: What? Is it…it’s a message board so people post their opinions about things?

P&E:  Don’t ever go on it. If you don’t know about it, then you don’t need to know it. It’s a 10. No, it’s a 20.

P&E: If you had comps and a time machine, what would you go see?

KB: Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady? Patti LuPone in Evita?

Kate will be at 54 Below for three nights: May 15th, 16th, and 17th. Get your tickets here, and we’ll see you there! And there’s a good chance she’ll be wearing these shoes, so you don’t want to miss out.

KB Shoe

Patty & Emily Meet the Tony Nominees!

We went to the Meet the Nominees reception and were able to interview these Tony nominees:
Chad Beguelin: Aladdin, Best Book & Original Score of a Musical
Joseph P. Benincasa: Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre
Danny Burstein: Cabaret, Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Nick Cordero: Bullets Over Broadway, Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Julian Crouch: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Scenic Design of a Musical
Harvey Fierstein: Casa Valentina, Best Play
Robert L. Freedman: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Best Book & Original Score of a Musical
Joshua Henry: Violet, Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
James Monroe Iglehart: Aladdin, Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Ramin Karmiloo: Les Miserables, Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Anika Larsen: Beautiful, Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Steven Lutvak: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Best Original Score of a Musical
Jerrod Spector: Beautiful, Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Isabel Toledo: After Midnight, Costume Design of a Musical
Darko Tresnjak: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Direction of a Musical

Watch the Tony Awards on June 8th at 8pm EST on CBS! Hugh Jackman will be there!

The Lillias White Effect at 54 Below!

We were lucky enough to talk to Lillias White about her upcoming 54 Below show, The Lillias White Effect. But before we dove into that, we needed to make sure she knew that Audra McDonald went on a tweeting spree two weeks ago, posting links to YouTube videos of Lillias and calling her voice “singular, brilliant & perfect.” We couldn’t agree more and couldn’t be more excited for her upcoming show!

Lillias said it all started when 54 Below reached out to her to do a show at the venue. We also have her good friend Joshua Sherman to thank for getting her to the 54 Below stage. (Check out this amazing video they did together!) What made it all come together, however, was when Lillias “locked eyes” with a young man at the opening night for Disaster! the Musical. This young man was Will Nunziata. He approached Lillias because in that moment he had a gut feeling that this was the “once-in-a-lifetime talent” he was looking for to direct in a show.

And this show sounds like it’s going to be amazing, not that we thought a Lillias White show would be anything less! When we called her, she had just been listening to Rosalind Russell in Gypsy in preparation. Billy Stritch is her musical director. And she’s working with a director for the first time on a show like this. She is enjoying having Will there to really shape it. His focus is to stay true to Lillias as an artist, so we can expect all those songs we want to hear Lillias sing, but maybe not from such an expected place.

We ended our conversation with Lillias by asking her to answer our silly little questionnaire we’ve used in our 54 Below shows. Here are her answers:

Patty & Emily: Do you know Beth Leavel?

Lillias White: Yes

P&E: Which show do you most want revived?

LW: Oh, there’s a list. I would love to see Gyspy revived with me starring as Mama Rose. I’d love to see Mame too. Hello, Dolly! with me as Dolly. I’d love to see a revival of Once on This Island. What else? The Wiz.

P&E: Have you ever fallen asleep on stage while pretending to sleep or be dead on stage?

LW: No

P&E: What’s your favorite Broadway house?

LW: The St. James. I love it up there. That was my first.

P&E: Do you have a monologue?

LW: Uh, yeah. I could do one. If they called me today and said have it tomorrow, I could do that.

P&E: What is the show you’ve seen the most times?

LW: Dreamgirls. I think I’ve seen that show more than anything.

P&E: Who would you fangirl over?

LW: There are lots of people, you know, who are fantastic! There’s a singer named Ledisi. Every time I see her, I just bow down. Also, Leontyne Price. Harry Belafonte. There was a girl in Motown, Morgan James. She’s got some pipes. Also, Valerie Simpson. Rachelle Ferrell. And Mariah Carey. Also, Gregory Porter! Oh, oh, oh! That voice is just fantastic.

P&E: On a scale of 1-10, how awful is the Broadway World message board?

LW: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t look at that every day. I’m not a computer person.

P&E: If you had comps and a time machine, what would you go see?

LW: Oh, man. If I had comps and a time machine, I would go and see all of the shows that I would not have been able to see during the period where blacks were not allowed into the theatre. I would go see original productions of shows that had Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte.

We also asked Will if he had comps and time machine, which Lillias White show would he go see. He said The Life, and we would be right there with him.

The good thing is you don’t need a time machine to see Lillias White at 54 Below! She’s doing three nights: May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Get your tickets here, and we’ll see you there! We’ll be the ones crying.