Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sandy Rosenberg, Phantom's Carlotta, stops by WBT blog

Posted by: WBT on Friday, November 9, 2007 at 3:39:00 pm Comments (0)

 Phantom's Rosenberg chats with broadwaytheatreblog.com By Jon Chattman
Growing up, Sandy Rosenberg always loved to perform. "My earliest memories was at about five years old sitting on a piano at a hotel in the Catskills singing 'When the red, red robin comes bob bob bobbin; along,;" she said in a recent interview with the Westchester Broadway Theatre blog. While she didn't perform in grade school talent shows, Rosenberg performed in musicals and plays throughout camp, junior high, high school, college, and eventually, summer stock. The rest is history. Throughout her career, Rosenberg has performed in a variety of shows regionally and on Broadway. Her credits on the Great White Way include Mamma Mia!, which she starred in for over five years, and the original cast of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Her regional credits include Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl, and yes, Yeston/Kopit's Phantom. Rosenberg can currently be seen in WBT's production of the show, playing that lovable off-key diva Carlotta. It's not the first time the actress has played the character. Some 13 years ago, she played the part at La Miranda CLO. What made her return to the role, read on!

What has the experience been like performing at WBT? What has the audience response been? It's been wonderful at WBT. I haven't been here since the late 70s when I saw my friend Bradley Jones in the chorus of Funny Girl, and that was in the smaller theatre. It's a great space to do a show. The cast and the crew have been so supportive and the audiences are just loving the show. Sometimes they even audibly respond when they think something bad is going to happen....strangely thinking that their words of advice will change the course of the play.
You've played Carlotta in the past. Why was now the right time to do the character again? It's always the right time when someone offers you a job! The good thing about being a character woman is you are often not locked into any specific age for your character. Therefore Carlotta can be in her 30's, 40's, 50's, etc...
What drew you to Carlotta and the show in the first place? In LA, I had been involved with an organization called APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) and yearly they did the S.T.A.G.E.S. benefit. The director of that, David Galligan, was directing Phantom and asked me to audition, and there you have it. An old friend of mine, Paul Ainsley, was hired to play Cholet, Carlotta's husband, so it was a wonderful introduction to the Yeston-Kopit version of Phantom, which I personally prefer to the 'other' Phantom of the Opera. And I am not alone in this preference.
Your character is a diva to say the least do you share any similarities with Carlotta? Geez, I hope not! Though she is quite the fashion plate, wouldn't you say. Actually, she sings higher than I do.
Moving on, you've performed on Broadway in Mamma Mia! for five years. What role did you play? Are you psyched for the movie? I was the crocheting Greek granny at the top of the show and made many a lovely huge doily, table cloth or whatever which we sold at the Broadway flea market for Broadway Cares. I did other roles in the ensemble and understudied Rosie: the first one being Judy Kaye, which meant I also got to perform with Karen Mason, your very recent and very wonderful Mama Rose. I'm very interested in seeing the movie. They've got a great cast. Meryl Streep became a big fan of the show, and although we didn't meet her when she came a few years ago, she did send a lovely letter to the cast. Pierce Brosnan did come backstage and take photos with all of us, so my life is complete. I'd like to be invited to the opening in NYC since I did perform the show over 1,300 times, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see next summer.
Definitely! Lastly, what's up next after Phantom? I don't know....are you offering me a job?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Maury Yeston: The WBT Interview

Posted by: WBT on Friday, November 2, 2007 at 4:59:00 pm Comments (0)

WBT Blog chats with Maury Yeston By Jon Chattman Maury Yeston's version of Gaston Leroux's tale.

Maury Yeston's version of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera never made it to Broadway, and the legendary composer and musicologist couldn't be happier. For over a decade, the show, which he co-wrote with Arthur Kopit (the duo won two Tony Awards for Nine- Yeston has another two for his work on the Titanic musical), has become an international smash, playing regional theatres across the country and abroad, earning raves everywhere it goes. "They nickname it 'the biggest show never to play Broadway,'" Yeston said proudly in an interview with WBT last week. "It's succeeded both critically and commercially all over the world. The public has taken this show to its heart and that's a far greater experience than being on Broadway." Phantom was originally poised to hit the Broadway stage in the late 1980s, but when Andrew Lloyd Webber went public with his intentions for a show of his own (we know how that turned out), financing fell through for Kopit and Yeston's version. While ALW's show became a hit on Broadway, the duo explored other avenues (Yeston went on to make Grand Hotel for Broadway) - that was until 1991 when the show played to raves at Theatre Under the Stars in Houston. That success led to additional productions, notably at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre and the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Chicago.

Westchester Broadway Theatre brought Phantom to its stage for the first time in July 1992. The show broke records and became WBT's longest-running show in its 33-year history. The show returned in 1996 and found similar results. With that said, it's no wonder why the production is back at WBT now through Feb. 9, 2008. We spoke to Mr. Yeston days after he saw the latest WBT production, and asked him all about this current incarnation, what the show has meant to him, and of course, what projects he currently has up his sleeve. As it turns out, he's hard at work penning new songs for the film adaptation of Nine, which will be directed by WBT alum and Oscar nominee Rob "Chicago" Marshall.

It's a pleasure to speak to you. First logical question, what do you think of WBT's current production of Phantom I saw all three productions [at WBT]. I think the current production is absolutely splendid. It’s the best one they’ve had yet. With the combination of their design, use of hydraulics, and use of space, there’s a fluidity and theatricality to it that’s really unparalleled. The cast is just extraordinary. Aaron Ramey and Kate Rockwell are just extraordinary. They’re top-notch and both have huge careers ahead of them. This production could go into a small Broadway house tomorrow. I’m really proud…

What do you think of Westchester Broadway Theatre in general? Have you seen other productions? Oh yes... It's one of the great jewels in the crown of American Theatre. They draw upon world-class talent from New York and locally. They draw brilliant directors and have a tradition of starting brilliant young people who can say they got their start at Westchester Broadway Theatre. They’re one of the first ones and one of the best in the world. And, I’ve traveled all over the world. They’re right up there with the top: Chicago, Boston, Houston, Silicon Valley…The Westchester community should be extremely honored to have them.

Your show is labeled the "other" Phantom, but many critics seem to point out how much better it is than Andrew Lloyd Webber's version. What do you make of the success Phantom has had despite not being on Broadway? It's earned its right with audiences all over America. It used to be you'd do a show on Broadway, it gets the attention of the whole world, and maybe you win a Tony Award. [If you couldn't get the show on Broadway], you'd rent it out to regional theatre. Broadway was where you'd see cutting-edge new shows, and regional theatre was where you'd see yet another Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma. There's been a massive shift. Now, very much what you see on Broadway is - 50-to-75 percent revival and regional theatre is where you see an exciting new show. My show Phantom travels around the country from [large to small venues.] The production of our Phantom had a way of uniting all theatres around the world for what was a massive hit. This is a unique show. Arthur and I worked very hard. We did it out of the love of the subject matter long before Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Have you seen Andrew Lloyd Webber's version on Broadway? I've never seen the show, and I'm sure he's never seen mine, but I have tremendous respect for him. The only thing I did the same way Cameron Mackintosh did was, I invested in logo design for the show and made it available. We're also very fortunate to have done an album. Anywhere the show is, people can buy the cast album. It has an all-world marketing effect without having to be on Broadway.

If the opportunity came along for your Phantom to be on Broadway would you consider it? Never say never, but I have no interest in doing it at all. There's already a Phantom on Broadway, why would you want to see two? There's one Phantom on Broadway, but my Phantom's been everywhere - twice in Japan. It wouldn't make sense.

Shifting gears, I understand you're writing new songs for the film adaptation of Nine. How is that coming along? It's thrilling, isn't it? The same people doing it made Chicago. From everything I'm reading, they seem to be putting together an extraordinary cast in the film...Sophia Loren, Javier Bardem...Penelope Cruz, and Marion Cotillard of La Vie En Rose. They've asked me to write a number of new things. It's an absolutely thrilling experience. I told [director] Rob Marshall on no uncertain terms that I'd follow him to the ends of the earth; whatever he needed to do, I'd support it. The important thing when a stage musical is being made into a film is it's very important that it be allowed to change and morph as a film rather than keeping it in stage form. My first job was to make sure the creative team of the film [knew] they have liberty and the full support of author to make any changes. The worst thing an author can do is constrict or get in the way of the ability of a filmmaker. The first thing I did was to communicate to the team 'you must know you have my full support whatever you need to do. When maestro Fellini gave me permission for Nine- I was inspired by 8 1/2- I thought it was a great gift to allow my being inspired by his own work to inspire the vehicle for my own creative expression.

Can you explain the experience of writing something new for something two decades old? The funny thing is Nine was way ahead of its time. It never gets old. It goes back to Fellini's film. The show always seems current. It was so cutting edge and will always be avant-garde. This is a golden opportunity for me. When I was first writing for Guido, I was a younger man than Guido was. Now, I'm a man older than Guido is supposed to be. I have a different perspective now. It's tremendously exciting. It feels right. I think I'm really lucky to have a chance to do this. I'm still inspired by this piece and always will be. For example, for the 2003 revival, when I knew Antonio Banderas and Chita Rivera were starring, the first thing I did was write a tango for them. I was like 'My God...Antonio and Chita? They must dance together."

Aside from Nine what other projects are you working on? It's starting to look like Death Takes a Holiday, based on the movie and a book initially written by Peter Stone who wrote Titanic, will play next Broadway season. I'm very hopeful. Peter died several years ago, and I'm very fortunate current book author Thomas Meehan (Young Frankenstein) is helping us go forward. I'm also very excited for another show I'm putting together. It's a labor of love in which the widow of Frank Loesser has given the rights to me for Frank's wonderful music of Hans Christian Andersen.

Would you ever consider debuting a new work at WBT? I wouldn't remotely overlook the possibility a new musical could debut at Westchester Broadway Theatre. The question is would the subscriber base and patronage be interested in seeing shows in their early forms. One reason Boston is so good to perform new musicals is that the Boston audience likes to see the changes and improvements along the way. If that kind of psychology could get started at WBT, it could be quite wonderful.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Maury Yeston raves about WBT and Phantom

Posted by: WBT on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 8:49:00 pm Comments (0)

 Stay tuned for our full interview with Mr. Yeston... in the mean time, see what he's saying about the show and WBT!

On the production: "I think the current production is absolutely splendid. It's the best one they've had yet. With the combination of their design, use of hydraulics, and use of space, there's a fluidity and theatricality to it that's really unparalleled.

The cast is just extraordinary. Aaron Ramey and Kate Rockwell are just extraordinary. They're top notch and both have huge careers ahead of them. This production could go into a small Broadway house tomorrow. I'm really proud..."

On Westchester Broadway Theatre:   "Westchester Broadway Theatre is one of the great jewels in the crown of American Theatre. They draw upon world class talent from New York and locally. They draw brilliant directors and have a tradition of starting brilliant young people who can say they got their start at Westchester Broadway Theatre. They're one of the first ones, and one of the best in the world. And, I've traveled all over the world. They're right up there with the top: Chicago, Boston, Houston, Silicon Valley...The Westchester community should be extremely honored to have them."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Audrey ...lovely Audrey

Posted by: WBT on Friday, October 12, 2007 at 9:04:00 pm Comments (0)

Julie Connors as Audrey in Little Shop Of Horrors.

I grew up first in San Jose, CA (thru 8th grade), and then Turlock, CA, where I went to high school.  So I am a (Northern) 'California Girl'!   I started out as a dancer.  First with tap, starting in 2nd grade.  By junior high, I was in jazz class, and by high school, was studying ballet.  I taught tap and ballet to youngsters when I was a senior in high school.  I danced at the Atlas School of Dance in San Jose, and the Backstage Academy of Dance in Turlock, CA.
 

I always enjoyed singing.  I attended St. Christopher School, a Catholic School, in San Jose, for first thru eighth grade.  Starting in the fourth grade I sang in the church choir.  I got a lot out of this experience and between the dancing and singing, naturally fell into the musical theatre.  I did my first musical at Turlock High School when I was in the tenth grade.  THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, THE SMELL OF THE CROWD.  I was a member of the ensemble.  When one of the cast members who had a featured role of "The Girl" came down with the chicken pox, I took over her role the opening weekend and even received a positive review in the local paper.  From that time on, I had officially caught the theatre bug...even if I didn't yet know it. :)
 
The late Cathy Wydner was a positive role model for me.  Cathy played Peggy Sawyer in the National Tour of 42ND STREET and many regional productions in the Southern California area afterwards.  I got my AEA card by performing in a production of this show in which Cathy was playing Peggy.  I deeply admired Cathy's immense singing, dancing, and acting talents.  Peggy Sawyer had always been a dream role of mine.  Ever since I had seen the National Touring production of 42ND STREET at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, around the time of my eighth-grade graduation.  Turns out I had seen Cathy in this role.  Amazing.  More importantly, Cathy was an incredible individual.  She was warm and friendly, complimentary, and encouraging.  I ended up playing the role of Peggy in 42ND STREET at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, NY many years later.  I felt like I had learned how to do that role successfully by learning from the best.  I even got to wear the "Peggy" costumes from the most recent National Touring Co.  It was a dream come true.
 Another favorite show is LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.  Audrey was a dream role!   I also love MY FAIR LADY.  And GYPSY.  I have performed in both shows.  Just love both of those shows' scores.  Have played Dainty June (long ago; it was the first role that I performed in a professional production!).  I think that someday I'd like to play Mama Rose.  ANYTHING GOES is also a fantastic show, with wonderful music.  I loved playing the sassy gun moll, Erma.  But someday I'd like to play Reno Sweeney.  Would love to sing that role.  CABARET is also an all-time fave.  Just LOVE Liza!  The film is the perfect movie musical.  How thrilled was I when Liza came to our last performance of LITTLE SHOP at WBT?  And she came backstage after the show!  Pretty awesome.  I saw the Broadway revival of CABARET five times.  That's a record.  Sally Bowles is definitely a dream role.  Liza definitely the inspiration.  I think it is her greatest performance.  She's an icon.  One of the last "real" musical theatre stars.  If I were to play Sally, it would have to be pretty soon!
I loved watching the film of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.  Ellen Greene is a phenomenon.  But I couldn't study her performance before creating mine.  We are so different!  I'm glad I "did my own thing". :)
My favorite moment in the show was singing "Suddenly, Seymour".  For the high-powered singing plus the emotional investment.  Talk about a theatrical high!  
 
I just had a baby on November 1, 2008!  Adrienne Nicole Grunspan.  She is already the love of my life.  I know she will react positively to my being on stage.  When I get back on one!  For now, I am happy to take care of this precious little miracle.   
I love to EAT.  And I love to TRAVEL.  I love to travel to different countries and EAT their food!  My husband and I took a trip to Poland this past summer.  I was about 5 1/2 months pregnant.  I had a fantastic time eating.  Enjoyed some kielbasa and pierogis-to-die-for, for sure, and other delicious traditional polish cuisine.  I like to stay in shape by way of dance class and jogging.  Actually, I do not enjoy jogging.  I guess I enjoy the way I feel AFTER I jog...good about myself and energetic!  I enjoy good conversation.  A good conversation with a family member or friend really makes my whole day.  I enjoy going to the movies and the theatre, of course!  I love documentary films, independent, foreign, drama, comedy, even action/adventure, and animated films, on occasion.  In fact, I take my movie-going/movie-watching fairly seriously!  And I like to cook and bake.  Just made a delicious Christmas dinner for five.  Yum!  Oh, I mustn't leave out my "guilty pleasures"...reality TV in the form of lots of Bravo TV:  Project Runway, Top Chef, and Top Design.  Also addicted to "So You Think You Can Dance?".  Next season I am starting an internet pool to predict the winner among my family and friends, LOL.  Oh, and I can't leave out "The Office".  Have watched every single second of every single season of that show.  Never laughed so hard in my life.  

I have lots of favorite musicals!  MISS SAIGON, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, CHESS, COPACABANA, MY FAIR LADY, WICKED, THE LAST FIVE YEARS, CABARET.  also some musical theatre soloist albums:  Kristin Chenoweth, Debbie Gravitte...Barbra, of course.  Dolly Parton, Norah Jones, Annie Lennox, Kelly Clarkson.  The Story.  Ella.  I guess you could say I'm into female vocalists. ;)  There are some men...Bill Withers, James Taylor, Nat King Cole, Billy Joel.  I want to see James Taylor in concert.