WBT Blog

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meet Jonathan Stahl, the Director of Happy Days

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Jonathan Stahl is a WBT regular having performed, directed, choreographed and even assistant stage managed shows.  He has performed in The Full Monty, Gypsy, Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Singin' In The Rain, Phantom, George M and several Holiday shows to name a few. He has choreographed The Wizard of Oz, and Phantom. And he has proudly directed and choreographed Nine starring Bob Cuccioli (and some amazing women), The Sound of Music, Legally Blonde, The Christmas Inn, and It Happened One Christmas Eve.  

I grew up in south central PA in the valley between the north and south mountains.  NewvillePA to be exact. I lived in the country and had a very enjoyable upbringing that did not have a lot of urban culture. I went to public school and did high school theatre productions. I played in the band, sang in the choir… I did not start dancing till much later and eventually went away to college for musical theatre — somewhat against all odds

I was somewhat influenced by Sunday afternoon movie musicals and movies by Shirley Temple. I had a very supportive teacher in middle school who did one small community review who gave me encouragement.  In high school, I was mesmerized by the movie ALL THAT JAZZ.  I did not see much live theatre, but did go to local regional theatre when the opportunity arose. My own work has been greatly influenced by working with Richard Stafford as his associate the last few years.

When not working on a show, I am continuing my education…either as a performer (dance classes, acting classes and the like), or as a student of life. I recently got  his undergraduate degree after a 25 year hiatus and thoroughly enjoyed the education I received in doing so.  I like traveling, going to the gym and museums.  "Ironically, I have to remind myself I need to go see shows from time to time. I always love the theatre."

Being a WBT veteran, (approaching 20 shows!) I am very used to the quick rehearsal process... but being used to it does not make it easier.   It is always a challenge to budget time wisely and make the best use of the actors time/energy. However, the fast pace can also be invigorating.

I am very HAPPY and have been counting the DAYS that I am getting to work on this musical.  This show presents a unique opportunity to look anew at a 1970s sitcom about growing up in the 1950s.  The differences, as well as the similarities, in the two eras, have made working on this show incredibly interesting and informative.  

Having grown up watching Happy Days, the TV show and having lived in Milwaukee for a few years, I feel a connection to the piece and to these characters.  As I re-watched some of the old episodes from an "adult" perspective, I was taken by the talent of the cast and the often ground-breaking social commentary of the plots.   They truly made an impact on society in the 1970s.  This musical stands as a  reminder of how Richie and the gang influenced us back then. But Happy Days, the musical, is more, in that it also serves to remind us of the timeless values the TV show stood for, values which give it the same impact today: loyalty to family and friends, along with fighting for just causes, not to mention  the gratification we all get from a happy ending.  Asking my cast of talented actors to seek the essence of these iconic characters, and yet find their own truths as actors creating a role, was a welcome challenge. For all of us, the opportunity to bring this special piece of theatre to appreciative audiences makes these days HAPPY DAYS, indeed.  

Westchester Broadway offers a unique experience.  They have a wonderful chef and I enjoy the food very much when I get the opportunity to eat there.  Combine this with top notch productions at a less than Broadway price, I think your readers should make it a priority to experience this great evening of entertainment.

 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Erin McCracken Plays PATSY CLINE

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, January 18, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

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I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. No, I did not grow up on a farm, but I do come from a very big family and we spent all the big holiday on my uncle's farm in the mountains of Oklahoma. I spent a lot of time in church where I sang in the choir and was very involved in the youth groups. Both of my brothers, Caden and Logan, were very athletic (and still are!) but I had not one athletic bone in my body. So I stuck with singing and acting.  Thankfully my parents were and are very supportive of my love for musical theater. Being from Oklahoma, my brothers and I were born and bred on country music. We grew up listening to all the great country artists, including Miss Patsy Cline, and of course, all of the great Okie singers like Garth Brooks & Reba McEntire.

My mother was a singer and played the piano so I was singing and singing loud from the start! She has a love for musical theatre that rubbed right off on me. My pastor in Oklahoma says he was completely astonished when he visited our home one day and I got right up on the coffee table and belted out 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' when I was around 5 years old. I loved being on stage and performing when I was younger but what really sealed the deal for me was my first trip to New York City. I was in the 6th grade and we went to NYC to see our Okie friend, Kristin Chenoweth, in the Broadway show 'Steel Pier'. I was mesmerized by the spectacle of it all. I had seen many musicals but nothing like that. It was that same trip that we saw 'Candide' at the Gershwin Theatre and that just put me over the top. Being a musical theatre actor was what I was going to do. 

I always loved singing but my high school drama teacher, Rosemary Baker, was influential in the sense that she really helped to love acting and creating characters. Being from Oklahoma, I knew I had to study with Florence Birdwell at Oklahoma City University for voice training. She taught me how to really sing. Not only technically but emotionally. Her training prepared me to be a professional in the musical theatre world.  

My very first audition and call back in NYC were for this show, Always...Patsy Cline!  I was too young at the time but after that audition process, I knew it would be on my dream role list. Last year that dream came true. I had the opportunity to play Patsy Cline at Ocean State Theatre under the direction of Amiee Turner, who is also directing this production!  

At first, I was very nervous about portraying Patsy Cline. When you play an icon you automatically have this overwhelming feeling of making sure everything is perfect and spot on. But there is only one Patsy Cline so I just create her to the best of my ability. I read up on her life, studied videos and had a lot of help from coaches to perfect my Patsy sound. 

Dream roles would be Eliza Doolittle in 'My Fair Lady' and Rose in 'Gypsy', although I have a few years to go before I can tackle that character. My "guilty pleasure dream role" would be Elle in 'Legally Blonde', maybe some day!

This will be my third show at WBT. My first was A SLEEPY HOLLOW CHRISTMAS CAROL and then I played Tracy Turnblad in HAIRSPRAY.   One of the things I love about WBT, a regional theatre, is that you can get Broadway quality theatre so close to to New York City...and dinner is included! 

 I live in New York City, so I enjoy exploring the city and finding new and fun places to eat! I love nothing more than spending a night out in the city with good food and good friends. I love going to movies and seeing live theatre as much as I can. But, more than anything I enjoy figuring out how I can get back on stage.
 
My IPod holds Everything! Pop, music theatre, country, jazz, indie... You name it!  I love Christmas music and listen to it year around!  Beyonce, Adele, Carrie Underwood & Kelly Clarkson are constantly on repeat (I have a thing for strong female singers)!

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lee Harrington Joins The Cast Of Show Boat

Posted by: Pia on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 

Lee Harrington  joins the cast as Magnolia Hawks in SHOW BOAT!

Show Boat as it returns for a second run at Westchester Broadway Theatre from Dec 30th  to January 31st , 2016.

LEE HARRINGTON  (Magnolia) Thrilled to be a part of this wonderful company! Off Broadway: Into the Woods (Roundabout Theatre Company), JELLYBEAN- original solo show (Fringe Festival). Regional: My Fair Lady (Sharon Playhouse), Company (Pittsburgh Public), Merrily We Roll Along (Cincinnati Playhouse) Marvelous Wonderettes (Stoneham Theatre), Man of La Mancha (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey), and Dead Man's Cell Phone (CMU).  Training:  Carnegie Mellon.

Our production stars Sarah Hanlon as Julie Laverne, Lee Harrington as Magnolia Hawks, John Preator as Gaylord Ravenal, Jamie Ross as Cap’n Andy, Karen Murphy as Parthy Hawks, Amanda Pulcini as Ellie May Shipley, Michael James Leslie as Joe, Daniel Scott Walton as Frank Schultz, and Inga Ballard as Queenie.

Featuring the talents of; Malcom Armwood, Eric Briarley, Erin Chupinsky, Micharel Dauer, Jonathan Freeland, Alia Hodge, Justin R.G. Holcomb, Celeste Hudson, Paul-Jordan Jansen, Leisa Mather,  Zoie Morris, Gabriella Perez, Kristyn Pope, Adam Richardson, Roger Preston Smith and Karen Webb.

 Set and Costume Design is by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, Lighting Design is by Andrew Gmoser, Sound Design is by Jonathan Hatton and Mark Zuckerman, Hair/wig design by Gerard KellySteve Loftus is the Technical Director, The Production Stage Manager is Victor Lukas, Properties are by Grumpy Props. Lisa Tiso is the Associate Producer.

Show Boat, the first great serious Broadway musical, combined the talents of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. The story, which spans almost fifty years, follows the lives, loves, and losses of a troupe of riverboat performers aboard the Cotton Blossom floating theater on the mighty Mississippi.  Its timeless score contains some of the most beautiful and emotionally charged songs ever written for a musical, including "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" and "Make Believe." “Ol’ Man River”, is the show's most memorable anthem about how the mighty Mississippi River, that unstoppable force of nature, is completely indifferent to human suffering.

Show Boat departed from typical musical comedy material, based on a best-selling novel by Edna Ferber, it's a melodrama with musical numbers that actually reveal character and further the plot. 

The musical illuminates the racial and social changes that were shaping the country in 1890-1927. It features a multiracial cast and a plot that deals, among other things, with the plight of an interracial couple for whom it's illegal to perform together in certain Southern states. 

 The show opened on Broadway at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 27, 1927. The critics were immediately enthusiastic, and the show was a great success, running a year and a half, for a total of 572 performances. It has been revived numerous times--most successfully by Hal Prince in 1994. Two Film versions were produced by MGM including the 1936 film with a Screenplay by Oscar Hammerstein II Starring Irene Dunne and the 1951 Technicolor film version with Ava Gardner and Howard Keel

 We are thrilled to bring this classic hit musical to the WBT stage! Richard Stafford, a WBT favorite, will Direct and Choreograph the show. The Musical Director is Ryan Wise.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Meet Neil Berg!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

We caught up with TIM & SCROOGE Composer, Neil Berg. We asked him about his collaboration with Nick Meglin and more. Read on for some insights into the persona of this MULTI-Talented man!

 

In the late 90’s,  I was presenting my  musical “Witches Tail” at the Irvington Town Hall Theater.  Then theater manager, Pamela Rapp mentioned one of the editors at Mad Magazine, Nick Meglin had just written a musical and was looking for a composer.  Shortly thereafter, I received a libretto for a new musical entitled “Tim”.

When I read the piece it was very long but had very talented ideas. The story of a young man who wants to forge my own life resonated with me. My parents wanted me to go to law school or go into real estate. My parents were beyond disappointed that I wanted to write musicals.

I recall that during the reading,  there was one particular lyric that stood out.  It was concise, beautiful, and smart and had a flair for moving the story forward.  I wrote the melody instantaneously.  It was presented and sung by my wife, Rita Harvey (Fiddler On The Roof, Phantom of the Opera).  Nick immediately loved it.  The song “Nothing More” is one of the pivotal songs in the musical and is sung by Tim’s fiancé, Allison.

In middle school, I performed in musicals such as “Oklahoma, “Half a Six Pence”, “Camelot” and was the comic lead in “Up The Down Staircase”.  I had always had a passion for baseball.  In high school, musicals conflicted with baseball and I was forced to choose. I chose baseball and went on to Binghamton University, known for its baseball program. 

At Binghamton, I continued to play in piano bars, rock bands,  and talent shows.  In my junior year, I was asked to write a musical “Ghost Story” which was produced by the University.   I was then sought out by the professional theatre in Binghamton, The Cider Mill Playhouse, to write musicals.  Good bye baseball, good bye,  law school, hello Broadway!

I was accepted into the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop and was trained to write musicals by Skip Kennon and the legendary composer, lyricist, educator and musicologist, Maury Yeston (Nine, Titanic, Phantom, etc.).

Nick and I also wrote the musical version of the hit movie “Grumpy Old Men” which premiered at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

When not performing, I am an avid baseball fan,  I love classic rock music, love food and enjoy being a father and a husband.