Stories & Cast Interviews

Sunday, February 8, 2015

About Camelot

Posted by: Pia Haas on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

One day during lunch at the Manhattan’s Lamb’s Club, Frederick Loewe walked up to Alan Jay Lerner’s table. “You write good lyrics,” he said, “Would you like to do a musical with me?” Lerner replied: “Yes, I happen to have two weeks off.” The rest is musical theatre history. Their collaborations yielded an impressive collection of musicals: Brigadoon (1947), Paint Your Wagon (1951), My Fair Lady (1956, film 1964), the film Gigi (1958), and Camelot (1960). The score and lyrics for Camelot are among the most successful to emerge from American musical theatre.

In 1959, Alan Jay Lerner and Moss Hart began to adapt T. H. White's The Once and Future King as their next project. Frederick Loewe agreed to write music, with the understanding that if things went badly, it would be his last score.  Lerner and Loewe were already enjoying great success with their musical My Fair Lady. The producers were able to secure a strong cast, including Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, and Roddy McDowall, as well as Robert Goulet in his first Broadway role. John Cullum also made his Broadway debut as Sir Dinadan.

Camelot opened on Broadway on December 3, 1960. At that point, ticket sales were not impressive and it was projected that it would close before My Fair Lady.  However, the production had its big break when Ed Sullivan invited Lerner and Loewe to be on his television program for an hour slot. Lerner and Loewe used that opportunity to feature all the best songs and scenes from Camelot.
Lerner recounts: “The following morning, for the first time there was a line halfway down the block.  And when the curtain came down, the reaction and the applause were overwhelming. The people came up the aisles raving. Camelot was finally a hit.”

Not only did the show run for over a year, but its original cast album was one of the top selling  albums of the year. Camelot won four Tony Awards in 1961 for Actor, Musical Director, Scenic Designer and Costume Designer.

Camelot was a favorite musical of the Kennedy Administration. Jacqueline Kennedy coined the term Camelot to refer to their time in the Executive Mansion. A week after his death she told a reporter that her slain husband had loved listening to a record from the popular Broadway musical about King Arthur’s court.  She said his favourite lines from it were: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”

Our production, featuring an Intimate and fresh concept is filled with surprises. With many impressive acting and directing credits, both on Broadway and with national tours, our Director/Choreographer, Richard Sabellico, described his longtime interest in revising successful Broadway shows. "There are many well-written musicals trapped in an era or suffering from an overburdened book," he said. "My main interest is to keep the integrity and intentions of the script while making the show palatable, enjoyable and current for a modern audience."

This is exactly what Mr. Sabellico has done with 'Camelot'. He received permission from Alan Jay Lerner’s family to reshape the show. “We have kept all the beloved songs and focused more on the love story of Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot," says Sabellico. "What we eliminated was all the pomp and circumstance, which really was auxiliary to the story. There is great depth to this production," Sabellico said. “Camelot’ really is a true love triangle, with characters who are each good and noble people who struggle with their feelings. I want the audience to sympathize with these very human characters and to think about them long after the show is over.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lady Guenevere

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

 Jennifer Hope Wills is The Lovely Queen Guenevere in Camelot 

 I was born in Baltimore, MD to proud parents William and Sue Wills. I spent the first two years of my life in and out of rehearsal halls, dressing rooms and even a closet or two due to the fact that my parents were active participants in Baltimore Actors' Theatre (BAT). I made my stage debut before my first birthday with a 102-degree temperature as the baby prince in Rumplestiltskin...what a trouper! Before my second birthday, my parents dropped the bomb when it was discovered that a baby brother was on the way. Lots of things were about to change. Not only would I no longer be the only child, but also my parents decided that they had to leave Baltimore. With two children, there was no way that they could support a family on theatrical wages and if one of them would have to leave the theatre...then both of them would have to leave. They decided to move down to the family resort town of Ocean City, MD where there were absolutely no theatrical outlets. That's what they thought anyway…

An old movie theatre down on Worcester Street right off the boardwalk went up for rent and the crazy mind of my father went to work. A children's theatre in Ocean City...what an idea! There was no theatre in town, the theatre was right off the boardwalk and after all, this was a family resort. The idea couldn't fail! My parents sold everything and my father left his lucrative job at the Sheraton Hotel and Parker Playhouse (Parker Productions, Inc.) opened its doors. And the outcome? Well, the idea failed miserably and we lost everything. Did that stop the Wills? No indeed. "Where there's a Wills, there's a way!" Somehow we managed to keep the theatre going and after several moves (Jolly Roger Amusement Park, The Sheraton Hotel and finally the Carousel Hotel) and many years of struggle, Parker Productions became a moneymaking operation and the sole source of income for the Wills Family. For seventeen of the twenty years that Parker Productions was under operation I performed alongside my mother, father, brother Dan and sister Rebecca. Even my grandmother Dolores got into the act. It was truly a most unique childhood and one that would mold my love for theatre and music and would make it difficult for me to choose any other direction.

I attended Salisbury State University and began my college career as a History Education Major.  Gradually I began taking more music classes than history classes, began taking voice lessons, had joined the college choir and the college theatre club (Sophanes). By the middle of her sophomore year I officially became a music major. I appeared in the college theatre productions of Grapes of Wrath (Elizabeth Sandry), West Side Story (Maria...yes complete with dark skin and hair) and The Secret Garden (Lily). I also won first place in several state and regional NATS Vocal Competitions. I graduated suma cum laude with a BA in Music Education.

I attended  graduate school at prestigious Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. This was my first real move from home. During mytwo years at IU I performed in many of the main stage and chamber productions. I quickly graduated with honors with a MM in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy and a concentration in Theatre. It wasn't long before I came full circle with my decision to return to the world of theatre and found myself with two suitcases on a bus to NYC. I was cast in productions from my first two auditions in New York and by the end of that year I had obtained equity status and had been cast in leading roles up and down the east coast.

My mom and dad are my biggest role models, mentors and influences.  I was also a huge fan of Julie Andrews and Rebecca Luker and dreamed of being just like them :)  Well again, I grew up in the theatre so I really always new about “Camelot” and have always loved it! I saw the show one of those last Richard Harris tours when it came through Baltimore. I’ve always been just hooked on all the stories, books and poetry about King Arthur and it has always been a dream for me to play Guenevere. I have done the show twice before. 11 years ago as Lady Anne/Guenevere Understudy at Paper Mill Playhouse (understudying a WBT favorite Glory Crampton) and then the next summer as Nimue at Sacramento Music Circus. I thought this one had passed me by but I got in by the skin of my teeth :)

 I did indeed see the movie when I was younger and I actually owned the two VHS tape set. I actually think that turning musicals into movies is great! Especially now as it is bringing a less popular form of entertainment to the masses who might not otherwise be exposed. I also loved the intimacy that you can get on film that you can’t always achieve in the theatre especially if you are sitting any further back than the first couple of rows.

 I’m a classics kind of girl and my all time favorites are My Fair Lady, Carousel, The Music Man, She Loves Me and Most Happy Fella. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed in that I have gotten to play almost every ingenue dream role I ever had (with Guenevere being the last). I still would love a crack at Rosabella in Most Happy Fella and I’m waiting until I age into Sally in Follies. I have also never really done anything totally brand new and that would be a great dream come true.

 When not on stage, first and foremost I'm mom to my 6 year old son Vincent. I also love just being outdoors: hanging at the beach, hiking, camping, etc. and traveling anywhere and everywhere.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meet Clark Carmichael!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

Clark Carmichael
plays King Arthur in our production of Camelot.. Read a bit about his journey to the stage..
  I grew up in Kansas City and southwest Iowa.  My parents were divorced and I went to school mainly in Kansas City and spent summers in Corning, Iowa.  I moved   around a bit because my mother was married several times.  I played baseball and tennis in high school and caught the acting bug doing a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  My dad was and airline pilot/farmer I traveled a bit when I was a kid (Africa, New Zealand, Alaska).  I Met my future wife at Northwestern, where I was a theatre major and varsity sabre fencer. I Worked briefly as a bartender, doorman and Starbucks barista in Chicago before going back to grad school at University Of Missouri- Kansas City for acting and directing.  After graduate school, I moved to the NY area (Montclair, NJ) where I now live with my wife and two children.
 I caught the bug in high school and no one could talk me out of it.  The family dynamics of my childhood pointed me to the arts.  My high school drama teacher, Tom Scahill, encouraged me as well as Ruth Ann Clurman, the speech and debate coach.  Dale Rose, my graduate acting teacher, taught me to act.
I knew of Camelot growing up but did not dig deeply into it until Richard Sabellico (our director) cast me in the role in 2008 at Pennsylvania Center Stage.  It was a very special show for me.  
I have never seen the movie.  But I  like musicals on film.  I really liked the recent Into the Woods.
I hate to narrow down my dream roles,  but I would love to play Cyrano De Bergerac, Macbeth and Bluntschli (The Chocolate Cream soldier).  I've also always wanted to do the shows She Loves Me and Next to Normal.
I'm an avid runner.  I've done a couple of marathons.  I also love to travel, mountain bike, hike and ski with my family.
My Ipod has on it: Queen, Prince, James Brown, Barenaked Ladies, Steely Dan, Allman Brothers, The Beatles, Bill Withers, Billy Joel, Boston,Bruce Hornsby, Chet Baker, The Chieftans, Ragtime, Spamalot, The Last 5 Years and lots of other show tunes, The Drifters, Sam Cooke, The Indigo Girls, Jack Johnson, Nat King Cole, Tom Petty, Van Morrison,  Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Kurt Elling...and lots more.