Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, June 17, 2011

Augie is a Cool Cat (In The Hat)!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Friday, June 17, 2011 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

August Abatecola August Abatecola is a multi-talented performer who, besides Acting singing and dancing, is also adept at directing, producing and writing music …  Read on… for some insights in to this young sextuple threat!

I grew up in a very small town upstate called Claverack. It’s one of those towns where practically everyone is either a farmer or a cop. Even though I was not on a farm growing up, there was one directly behind my house, so feeding the cows that night’s vegetables that I didn’t care for was something that regularly occurred throughout my childhood! Growing up in such a small community can seem unbearable to most people, but I wouldn’t change it one bit! Because we were all so close, I was able to gain the support of my friends and most of my community.
When I was sixteen, I booked the lead in Disney’s High School Musical in Albany at a professional theatre. At that time, it was a huge deal since it was one of the first productions of the show in the nation and I was completely excited and overwhelmed. I’ll never forget, when I walked out of my dressing room and down to the lobby on opening night, I realized that almost half of the audience was from my school! It was just one of those moments where I knew I was blessed with such amazing friends!
My biggest support group, is my incredible family. They know very little about theatre, but they love every second of it! My parents were never stage parents, they always let me make my own choices and they backed me one-hundred percent! I remember in eighth grade, I found out that my math teacher was a tap instructor, so we arranged that every Tuesday, she would teach me tap for an hour after school in exchange for my help on any little project she needed done. The only problem was, I didn’t have tap shoes. My father (also my baseball coach) took me down to the garage and cut a sheet of metal to fit the bottom of my dress shoes. And after a full night of work and testing I had a perfect pair of tap shoes!  I’ve been blessed with an amazing family and a great group of friends throughout my life.
For as long as I can remember, I was always performing. If I wasn’t making a stage out of the couches in my living room, I was torturing my friends with rousing productions of some mindless concoction I called a play! My first real spark came when I was four years old. The local high school put on a production of Peter Pan and instantly I was bitten by the bug. Of course, at four, I thought that every show had flying in it. I would audition, rehearse and get to fly in every show I did! Well…. that didn’t happen, but along the way I realized that I truly loved being on stage. It’s strange, I’m more comfortable on stage in front of an audience then I am hanging out with a group of people.
As  for mentors… there are two people who, unknowingly, shaped my acting career. The first is Monica Wemitt. She has been everywhere and done practically everything (including being a part of the original cast of Hello Dolly with Carol Channing!). I first met Monica while working at the Mac-Haydn Theatre many years ago when I was ten. I had the opportunity not only to work onstage with her, but off as well. Just watching her work and seeing how she treated others was more of a lesson for me then any class could have taught in years. The other “mentor” is Rob Richardson, who coincidentally, just performed at WBT in Jekyll and Hyde! I worked with Rob on the same show when I was fifteen and he just had a way of commanding the stage. He was able to reach out to the audience night after night and hold on to their hearts until the final curtain fell. After that, he was always more than happy to meet the patrons who came to the performance that night after the show. The way he interacted with the audience is what a true performer aspires to do.
Dr. Seuss was a huge part of my childhood. I would always force my mother to read the same stories over and over again before I went to bed. For some reason… no matter how many times I heard the story, it was always so exciting and new!
Getting the opportunity to play the Cat in the Hat is absolutely amazing! Getting to see all of the characters that I grew up with come to life every night on stage is absolutely magical. I must admit, I was quite intimidated when I was first handed the role. Everyone seems to have a very clear idea of how the Cat should be played and what he really stands for. Living up to those expectations was a rather trying task. Once I had the chance to really sit down with the script, I realized that everyone imagines any character in a book differently from anyone else. That’s the magic of it all. So, I’m becoming the Cat in the Hat that I always envisioned every night as my mother read to me… with a little added punch just for fun! After all, he is the Cat!

August Abatecola Hands down, my three top shows are Ragtime, Titanic, and La Cage Aux Folles. Each manages to spark my imagination every time I see them performed. I do have three dream roles; Tony in West Side Story. It’s a bit cliché, but he’s such an iconic role and the songs he gets to sing… well… he’s great! The next is Dr. Jekyll in Jekyll and Hyde. I’m young for it now, but if I start preparing, perhaps, one day it could happen! My third, and ultimate, dream role is to be the first ever, male, Mamma Rose in Gypsy on Broadway. Outlandish? Perhaps.

First and foremost I’m a full-time student at Pace University. As you can imagine, it takes a good portion of my time! Other than that I am the director at the Yorktown Stage Camp! I love working with kids and getting to watch them grow as performers. Talk about the magic of theatre!

When I’m not on stage, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and traveling. Not necessarily to far off places, but just heading somewhere none of us has been. I also have a soft spot in my heart for those days of wearing my spongebob sweatpants and snuggie and watching classic Disney movies with a bread-bowl of soup from Panera and Root Beer. Weird combo… I know, but a marvelous day!

Good grief. My Ipod is truly the most random thing you could ever imagine. I always get nervous when people take it and plug it into a sound system at a party and set it on “shuffle.” It ranges from Broadway, to classical, to rap, to country, to techno, to my own music. I’m not too picky with my music. As long as the artist has a good message to deliver and the music has a driving melody, I’m all ears!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Simply Sinatra!!

Posted by: wbtpress on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 2:10:00 pm Comments (0)

A warm and commanding stage presence has earned Steve Lippia the reputation of “having the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.” His youthful, energetic talent and powerful show creates a perfect blend of “classic” with “today,” introducing a new generation to this timeless music and transporting long-time listeners back to the era of “Old Blue Eyes.”  He will appear Here at WBT on Saturday, June 18th.

"I'm a singer, not a Sinatra wannabe or look-alike. I'm not trying to be him or copy him," he said in at telephone call from Las Vegas. "That would be kind of embarrassing and cheesy. I don't do that stuff. I have arrangements that are very close to (Sinatra's) originals, and I certainly borrow from his approach to music as far as phasing goes," he said.

Lippia, 54, grew up buying and listening to pop and rock music, but he surprised his friends, when, on a dare, he chose to sing "It Was a Very Good Year" in a high school talent show. He'd heard Sinatra's Grammy-winning recording of composer Ervin Drake's best-known song at home, on his parents' recordings.

"This was really the music of their generation," he said, "but I never thought of it being outside of myself."

That has remained true for succeeding generations. If you don't believe it, check out the songbook in a local karaoke joint sometime, said Lippia. Flip through the songs by artist, "and you'll see Elvis, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, the Beatles, U2 and whoever else," he said, but when you get to Frank Sinatra, "you'll see that even today, there's perhaps more music dedicated in that book to him than to any other artist."
With his choices of material and arrangers, his signature style and "his ability to dramatize the lyric as if he was living in the moment," Sinatra came to own the songs he sang, said Lippia. "He was a conduit to people's souls with these great songs."
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Le Cirque is Coming to Town!

Posted by: wbtpress on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 4:26:00 pm Comments (0)
Fire & Ice: An energetic explosion of sight, sound, imagination and beauty. An amazing display of theatrical artistry with mid-air acts of strength and impeccable timing-perfect for audiences of all ages. 
Monday & Tuesday, June 6th & 7th Matinee & Evening!
Cirque Le Masque co-owner Dennis Schussel (with his brother Bernie) answered a few questions to reporter Evelyn Shih, about his own obsession with the drama of the circus.
Q. How did you get interested in the circus, and in cirque theater?
When I was 14 years old, I used to wipe seats at the circus as an usher, did it for about five years. It was at the Island Garden Arena in West Hempstead (N.Y.). ...
I needed money — I needed those quarter tips! You want to be independent as a kid. It's just weird how things happen. How you begin with something like that, and then you end up in this business. It's just meant to be.
Q. What's your favorite act out of the 14 in "Fire and Ice," the current show?
The highlight is every act they watch. My show tends to play off different emotions.
But if I had to point out one, it would be the three-person hand-to-hand balancing, which takes it to another level. Their bodies are painted in silver, and they're balancing each other up in the air. At times it looks like they're suspended in midair.
Q. Who are the people in the show?
I contract acts for the year. The next year I'll bring in a whole new act. It keeps the show fresh. ... People are born into it. These are people who start when they're 3 years old. Their families were circus members, usually from Russia or Hungary or Poland.
Q. How do you find the acts?
I get e-mails all the time from performers, saying, "I heard you were great to work for. I'd love to submit my qualifications and my act to you." Every week I'm receiving 15 to 20 new submissions.
Q. Do you think the kind of circus theater you do is more popular in Europe than in America?
The acts themselves are not rooted here. The acts are rooted in Europe. But the roots of the show are deeply rooted here in America now, and it's becoming more and more popular. I think it hasn't even gotten near its peak.
Q. What do you like about your job?
We love what we do from Day One to today. Can't wait to go to work. ... A show like this, I say, brings more joy to the audience than a Broadway show, because it strikes a variety of emotions that you don't get in one kind of a show. I love that aspect of it. When I stand backstage, we get standing ovations 99 percent of the time with screams and yells. I still get goose bumps.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Here I am, Again!!

Posted by: wbtpress on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 4:44:00 pm Comments (0)
William McCauley plays Movie Producer R.F.Simpson in Singin' In The Rain. He is no stranger to the WBT stage! We have been lucky to lure him here several times...Read on!
I'm from Wayne, Pennsylvania (suburban Philadelphia), and I put my way through Northwestern by singing and playing in piano bars in Chicago.  I saw Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado" at age 8, and have been an actor ever since.  I was a protege of Metropolitan Opera soprano Anna Moffo and studied singing with NY City Opera's Jack Harrold.  Sada Thompson, who died last week, played my mother on Broadway and mentored me for nearly 40 years.
           I began at WBT with "Applause" in 1980.  The best show I ever did for WBT was "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" in 1987.  It starred Broadway cast members Tony Azito and Paige O'Hara, the choreographer was Rob Marshall (who directed the film of "Chicago"), it was the New York debut of Broadway star Rebecca Luker, and dancing in the back row of the chorus were Kathleen Marshall (Rob's little sister, who directed "Anything Goes", currently on Broadway) and Rob Ashford (who directed "How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying", currently on Broadway).
           This is my fourth production of "Singin' In The Rain" -- my first was at WBT in 1996.  I am always amazed that people want to see this show on stage, when they can rent the movie masterpiece for a few bucks.  Whenever I ask them why they want to see it on stage, I always get the same answer:  "Because that's REAL RAIN!!!"
           I unofficially hold the record for playing Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady" more than any other actor.  These days, I have graduated to the role of Col. Pickering, which is also lots of fun.  My memories of playing the lead in "CHICAGO" for three years I keep very close to my heart.