Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hi Everyone. Just had to share with you some of the fantastic feedback we've been getting on this beautiful show. Many audience members who have been moved and touched by the show have emailed us to share their thoughts. Read-on for first person accounts and highlights from the press. If you haven't purchased tickets to the show yet, blog readers get $10 off to all performances. Use code OFFBA at checkout via www.transportgroup.org or 212-352-3101. Only 11 performances left! Hope you can make it! If you've seen the show, share your thoughts with us as well. Email me at lori@transportgroup.org or visit us on Facebook. See you soon. Sincerely, Lori Fineman, TG Executive Director

"Bravo…fantastic show!" -- MaryJo S.

"A tuneful score by Ellen Weiss...captures the splendor of [Audrey Hepburn's] films." -- TimeOutNY

"Being Audrey, through eccentric comedy and poignant drama, takes you on a life affirming, love affirming journey. It would appeal to ANYONE who has been through the trauma of a crisis involving a loved one faced, literally, with life or death. Bring tissues but be prepared to laugh and tap your toes too!" –- Peggy G.

"Great music! Great acting! Great show! Finally a non-reality show! When faced with an uncertain future see just
how far the mind will go to save both you and the love of your life!" -- Joyce B.

"Enchanting! The cast was excellent. The music and story were wonderful. I loved it all." -– Ron C.

“The show takes a New York housewife through a fantasy world with lively and funny songs that at the end had me in tears with the unveiling of a true love story. It reminds the audience that sometimes our fantasies of what we want are right in front of us the whole time. I loved the music, humor and the fact that at the end, I was touched by a true love story.” -- Laura S.

“I loved the show! The cast was fun and funny! Wishing some days I was Claire and could escape reality...at least for a little while!” -- Lisa B.

Being Audrey was both intelligent and fun. It was no small feat moving the audience into, out of and through Claire's delusions; but it was done magically via Ellen Weiss' brilliant musical composition, the tricky choreography and a smart cast. Cheryl Stern transformed herself beautifully into a very believable Audrey Hepburn!” -- Tom & Katherine H.

"A spirited performance from Cheryl Stern. Valerie Fagan lends a supple voice." -- TimeOutNY

"The cast is strong and effective. Brian Sutherland...does an excellent job walking the line between reality and fantasy. Andrea Bianchi brings a vivid sense of humor to her many portrayals." -– TheatreMania

"[Blair Ross] also displays a snazzy sense of showbiz sparkle." -- BroadwayWorld.com

"I brought my daughter. We loved it!" –- Eric A.

"A big bubbly bundle of wonderment with a hearty singing voice, Stern is totally endearing as a woman who lacks the movie star's gentle grace and poise, but yearns to be a part of her elegant world. She is wonderfully engaging, empathetic and humorous." -- BroadwayWorld.com

"[Jim] Hindman's book is well crafted and cleverly incorporates movie moments. Beautifully executed.
– BroadwayWorld.com

"[An] intriguing new musical. Compelling, fluid direction by Jack Cummings III, and...excellent choreography and musical staging by Scott Rink." -- TheatreMania

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blair Ross on being Dr. Think Pink

My name is Blair Ross and I play Dr. Think Pink in “Being Audrey”. Dr. Think Pink is based on Kay Thompson, who delivered such a delectable turn as fashion editor Maggie Prescott in the film “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. In olden times I auditioned for the role of Smitty in “How To Succeed” and the musical director, Ted Sperling, told me I should play Kay Thompson. Though I admired her, Kay was between 45 and 55 when she filmed “Funny Face” (enigmatically, she never divulged her real birth date) and I was a just-past-dewy 27. I didn’t get the part, but I did get the hint. This is the second time I’ve gotten to play Kay and with each project I see more clearly her effortless genius and my own limitations. Nonetheless, to be compared to Kay is a rare and great compliment and one that grows more treasured as I read about her life and her astounding musical and literary legacy.

Arranger, designer, recording artist, vocal coach (to everyone from Judy Garland to Prince Albert of Monaco. I kid you not.), wag, champion diver, author (the Eloise books), imp, virtuoso pianist, Kay Thompson was compulsively artistic and ahead of her time. She left such a small celluloid imprint precisely because she didn’t care to give us more. Her easy mastery of all things she put her perfectly manicured hands to kept her in constant motion to challenge herself in new arenas. It’s been a treat for me to portray a lady of such confidence and imagination, and the “Funny Face” sequence in “Being Audrey” was a delight to stage as Jack Cummings, Scott Rink, Ellen Weiss and Jim Hindman are as devoted to Kay’s singular Bazzazz as I am. If even one audience member muses to themselves after seeing our show, “What was the story with Kay Thompson?” I’d be well satisfied. Kay used to say to her friends, as a way of signing off, “See you in the movies.” Well, happily for all of us, we can see her in one particularly enchanting movie and for that we thank her very much indeed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Andrea Bianchi on the rehearsal process

Hello, my name is Andrea Bianchi and I am a character woman in Being Audrey. Jack Cummings III approached me back in August of 08’ to do a few table readings of the show. This was love at first read for me. The roles I was given the opportunity to explore were different characters from various Audrey Hepburn movies-my favorite sort of thing to play. After I heard Ellen Weiss’s music at the second read, I was hooked and knew I wanted to be a part of it. I even had this superstitious thing going where I never said good bye to any of the creative team because I always wanted to feel like I was coming back to the project. Well, my lack of common courtesy paid off.

From the first day of rehearsals, the vibe with the cast has been great and the chemistry right-on. I’m laughing from the moment rehearsal starts until we break. The safe environment Jack creates for us, along with dance director, Scott Rink, gives us wonderful childlike freedom to just explore-so important when working on a brand new project, particularly an ensemble piece like this one.

James Hindman has written very satisfying material to play which goes from farcical proportions, at times to incredible moving, break-your-heart moments and back again. We were rehearsing a number last week called Wall Of Wishes. The song and sentiment are truly profound and when the song’s over we meet some of the “movie characters” for the first time. I didn’t, as a character, want to be intrusive at this point and thought well I guess we’ll find the balance as we go along. As we began running this moment, it became apparent to me how skillfully James had crafted the story. If we just related to Cheryl’s character, Claire, honestly, these shifts of tone and emotion work rather elegantly. The balance was put in for us.

This show is a real tour-de-force for Cheryl Stern and I’m so loving supporting her in this. She is a great dame and fiercely talented. I can’t wait to take the audience with us on this ride.

Friday, March 6, 2009

James Hindman on writing the book for BEING AUDREY

James Hindman here! Book writer for BEING AUDREY.

When I was approached by Jack, Cheryl and Ellen with this idea, they said – ‘It has to be about a woman who is so in love with Audrey Hepburn, she has a fantasy and escapes into her movies.’ I said, '…Okay.' As book writer, my job was to figure out why this woman would do such a thing. I had to come up with a dramatic reason for her to run from her life while still keeping the show whimsical and fun.

My next task was to watch and familiarize myself will all her movies. That was fascinating! Not only was I reminded of how mesmerizing Audrey was to watch – I noticed all her characters dealt with the consequences of running away from the truth. This was the exact same thing we wanted to write about. Bingo!

We got to work… Cheryl and I focused on the flow of the story while Ellen was busy finding a sound for the show that would be all its own. The three of us would meet with Jack constantly to hammer out how all the elements might fit together.

Cut to The first draft of the script... it was so much fun and really paid homage to the movies. Only Problem – no one knew the movies! Not the way we all did. That’s when Adam Perlman, The Transport Group’s dramaturg, joined in. He helped us map out a story that was interesting all on its own.

I think that’s become the most exciting and challenging part of this process – seeing if we can make a story that makes sense for everyone…whether you know the movies or not.

So far rehearsals are going great. The cast is terrific. They all really get this style of comedy. Cheryl Stern helped write the book so having her play the lead role has been extremely helpful. And having a great actor like Brian Sutherland play her leading man is a gift! We’ve had rewrites but they’ve all been about making the story clearer. Having the fresh eyes of Scott Rink (choreographer) there has been enlightening because he and Jack have to make sense of it all now. I really can’t wait to get the show on its feet and see what we have. Here we go! I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Stage Manager's Blog by Theresa Flanagan, PSM

I start my morning with a baguette and a coffee outside that quaint, little jewelry place on 5th Avenue; the one with the blue boxes, you know? After window-shopping through dark sunglasses, I head home to freshen my face before the first rehearsal.

I pace in my walk-in closet, trying to decide what to wear. One always wants to dress to impress, but as a stage manager, I must blend style with practicality. Sensible shoes with a touch of panache and a belted sweater (for Audrey only wore belts with blouses and skirts…never pants). I’m a responsible stage manager, after all, so I pack all of the essentials: band-aids, pencils, highlighters, rouge, scissors, hole punchers, long satin gloves, bobby pins, rulers and a plethora of tape, all which fit nicely in my velvet clutch. As I skip down the steps of my apartment, a cab pulls up and Gregory Peck steps out to get the door for me. How charming. We gaze dreamily at each other and feel very New York-y as we ride down the west side to our glamorous destination: 520 8th Avenue, 3rd floor, Studio B.

My staff (entourage? contemporaries? I’m not sure what we’re calling them these days…) has arrived early to assist with preparations. We arrange the tables, chairs and piano and drape pink gossamer fabric over the lights, for no one likes to be seen under fluorescents. After discovering that technology has as expected, let us down, we set to work collating 14 copies of the score. A tragic snag in our otherwise flawless set-up, but we endure. Just as the last logo-endowed binder is placed on the table, the cast and artistic staff begin to arrive.

Thirty seconds of introductions and suddenly we’re all fast friends and ready to begin the read-thru. Cue jazzy up-tempo. Cigarette smoke swirls, piano music swells, laughter bounces off the walls. The actors show both an ease with comedy and a sensitivity for the dramatic. The writers stretch out in their thrones and bask in the glow of read-thru success. The director pops the cork on a bottle of Cristal. The cork flies at James Garner, who brazenly snuck into the party, but he isn’t one of our favorite leading men anyway. Our ever-enchanting associate director is scatting with a snap and our choreographer is waltzing alone. I chassé around the room with an extremely long cigarette holder, feeling positively smug for facilitating a smooth Equity meeting and first rehearsal. How fulfilling to leave rehearsal feeling as though I’ve been partying with the crème-de-la-cosmopolitan-crème of the Off-Broadway scene! Outside the studio and with the sophistication of an English-Dutch movie star, I yell “Driver!” and Gary Cooper’s Rolls Royce pulls to the curb. Always the gentleman, he leaves me, with a wink, on my stoop. I gracefully put myself to bed, eager to rise early for rehearsal number two.

-Theresa Flanagan
PSM, Being Audrey

BEING AUDREY Meet-and-Greet & First Rehearsal Photos:

The cast and creative team of Being Audrey. From the left: Brian Allan Hobbs (Copyist), Scott Rink (Choreographer), Jack Cummings III (Director), Brian Sutherland, Cheryl Stern, Blair Ross, Mark Ledbetter, Stephen Berger, Valerie Fagan, Michael Maricondi, Andrea Bianchi, and Theresa Flannagan (Production Stage Manager)

Brian Allan Hobbs (Copyist) and Gregg Wiggans (Assistant Director)

Brian Allan Hobbs (Copyist), Scott Rink (Choreographer), and Jack Cummings III (Director)

Brian Sutherland, Cheryl Stern, and Blair Ross

Mark Ledbletter and Stephen Berger

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Meet the cast of BEING AUDREY...

Tuesday night was a very exciting next step in the making of BEING AUDREY: the first readthrough and meet and greet with the cast! It’s a completely new experience for everyone to hear the script being read for the first time with the people who will bring it to life on stage. The enthusiasm for the script was palpable, the laughs were plentiful! Read on as we introduce you to the actors who are making it possible. More soon from behind the scenes!

Lori Fineman, Executive Director

Cheryl Stern (Claire, additional book and lyrics) A proud Transport Group veteran, Cheryl is thrilled to be back with Being Audrey. She received critical acclaim as Mamie Eisenhower in Transport Group’s Drama Desk nominated First Lady Suite and was also featured in Requiem for William. Cheryl contributed lyrics for TG’s Requiem for William, the Drama Desk nominated musical The Audience, and the 2005 production of Normal, starring Barbara Walsh (Normal, with music by husband, Tom Kochan and book by Yvonne Adrian, received the Jonathan Larson Award and is now touring the US as the centerpiece of the Normal in Schools program, http://www.normalinschools.org/. Broadway credits include The Women (Roundabout; filmed for PBS) Candide (NY City Opera), Laughing Room Only. Off-Broadway, Cheryl recently starred as Alice B. Toklas in 27 Rue De Fleurus. Other credits include: I Love You, You’re Perfect…, Game Show, That’s Life! and The Immigrant. National tours: Grand Night for Singing, Les Miserables, Evita, and Fiddler on the Roof. Regional: starring roles in Hats (New Denver Civic: original cast recording), The Sisters Rosensweig (Geva/Studio Arena), Lost in Yonkers (Tennessee Rep), Light Up The Sky (Seattle Rep.), Closer Than Ever (San Jose Rep.), The Times (Long Wharf), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Cape Playhouse.) TV: Guiding Light, All My Children, As The World Turns, Sondheim at Carnegie Hall, Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Film: Brooklyn Lobster with Jane Curtin and Danny Aiello. Additional writing credits: Are We There Yet? (Westchester Broadway and regional theatres; written with Jim Hindman, Ray Roderick and John Glaudiini), That’s Life! (Outer Critics nominaion), Buffalonia (E.S.T. one woman show), A Christmas Survival Guide, The Littlest Light on the Christmas Tree (Vital Theatre, also with Hindman), Famous, written with Yvonne Adrian and Tom Kochan had its premiere reading at Ensemble Studio Theatre in November. Cheryl is a graduate of Northwestern University. http://www.cheryl-stern.com/

Brian Sutherland (Man) Mr. Sutherland has played leading roles on Broadway in The Sound of Music, 1776, Victor/Victoria, Steel Pier, Cats, Dance a Little Closer, A Change in the Heir, and 110 in the Shade (NYC Opera). National tours include The Light in the Piazza, Disney’s On the Record, Guys and Dolls (with Maurice Hines), Cabaret (with Joel Grey), and 42nd Street (European tour). Numerous regional theatre includes Kiss Me, Kate (St. Louis Rep), Shenandoah (Fords Theatre), Man of La Mancha (Pittsburgh Public), The Pirates of Penzance (Guthrie Theatre), Breaking Legs (Coconut Grove Playhouse), She Loves Me (Cincinnati Playhouse), and Enter the Guardsman (Indiana Repertory Theatre). Many concerts with orchestras worldwide- frequently alongside his wife, Diane Sutherland.
Stephen Berger (Dr. Givenchy and others) Broadway: Little Me, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Wonderful Town, True West, The Dinner Party, Into The Woods and The Pajama Game. Off-Broadway: A New Brain, That’s Life, Beau Jest, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, Isn’t It Romantic, and Nite Club Confidential. National tours: Annie, Rumors, and Ken Hill’s The Phantom of the Opera. Regional: Denver Center Theatre Company, Fulton Theater, Dallas Theatre Center, Cleveland Playhouse, Stage West, George Street Playhouse, Paper Mill Playhouse, Cincinnati’s Playhouse In The Park, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Walnut Street Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Television: Law and Order. A proud member of Actor’s Equity Association since 1975, Stephen is married to the beautiful and talented actress Jan Leigh Herndon.

Andrea Bianchi (Dr. Leraby and others) Andrea is so pleased to be part of Being Audrey and thanks Jack Cummings and Transport Group for the opportunity. New York credits include original casts of The Cocoanuts at American Place Theater, Italian-American Reconciliation at Manhattan Theater Club, Lusting After Pipino’s Wife at Primary Stages and The Bubbly Black Girls Sheds Her Chameleon Skin for NAMT. Regional work includes The Guthrie, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center, Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center, Stamford Center for The Arts-Rich Forum, Syracuse Stage, Maltz Jupiter, The Barter, Riverside Theatre, Premiere Stages and others. Also, twice named “Best Actress” of the New Jersey theater season by The New Jersey Star Ledger. Television work includes multiple episodes of Law and Order, As The World Turns, Here and Now, as well as shows for The Disney Channel, Court TV, and Nickelodeon.

Valerie Fagan (Trina and others): Forbidden Broadway 25th Anniversary: Rude Awakening (original cast, cast recording, 2008 Drama Desk Award), Forbidden Broadway SVU: Boston’s Elliot Norton Award nominee and Forbidden Vegas (“Vegas At Its Best” Entertainer). National tours: Man of La Mancha opposite Robert Goulet (Aldonza) and Les Miserables (Fantine). Regional: Hairspray (Prudy) at North Shore Music Theatre. Published co-author of award-winning musical 6 Women with Brain Death (New York Musical Theatre Festival). Valerie was honored to sing “God Bless America” for NBC which started the New York City Marathon. Recently, Elaine Paige chose Val’s “On My Phone” as a “Broadway Essential” for BBC Radio. http://www.valeriefagan.com/

Mark Ledbetter (Dr. Williams and others) Mark is thrilled to be working with Transport Group again after appearing in their inaugural production of Our Town as well as Requiem for William. New York and touring credits include Robert Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone (First National), Phil Davis in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (San Francisco, Detroit and St. Paul companies), the Policeman in Mary Poppins (Broadway), Jimmy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (First National), Willie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Of Thee I Sing (City Center Encores!). Favorite regional credits include Leo Hubbard in Regina (Kennedy Center); Cosmo in Singin’ In The Rain (NSMT); Riff in West Side Story (Pioneer Theatre Company); Romance, Romance and Miss Saigon (Paper Mill Playhouse). Film/TV: It Runs In The Family, The Producers, The Job, and South Pacific at Carnegie Hall. Graduate of Northwestern University. Love and thanks to family, friends, BRS and JT. http://www.markledbetter.com/

Michael Maricondi (Pablo and others) A recent graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts who is addicted to Japanese pop music and Scrabble, has just finished a critically acclaimed run as “Mercury” in New Jersey Rep’s production of Cupid & Psyche. In New York, he has appeared in many new musicals including Be Like Joe, Rainy Day People, Extraordinary, Welcome to New Jersey, and others as well as the Northeast tour of I Feel Great! (Kevin) and has performed with Pacific Opera Encores at Carnegie’s Weill Recital hall and in Il Tabarro (Tinca). In addition to performing, Michael is a playwright and composer—his What Fairy Tale is This, Anyway?! The Musical played a sold-out run at The Producers Club and his newest children’s musical, When Push Comes to Shove (with collaborator Rachel Bloom) is set to premiere sometime this coming year. He is also a voice teacher and acting coach. Michael would like to thank Robin and Dana for their support and wisdom, Caitie for making him laugh, “Boopsie” for those late night inspirational talks, and, most of all, Mommy for being his angel.

Blair Ross (Dr. Think Pink and others) Miss Ross most recently appeared in The Women at The Old Globe in San Diego directed by Darko Tresnjak. Broadway: 42nd Street (and National Tour). Off-Broadway: Exactly Like You, Hysterical Blindness, Smoke on the Mountain, Berlin to Broadway, etc. Regional: CenterStage, Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Cincinnati Playhouse, Goodspeed Opera, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Ford’s, Walnut Street, Denver Center, McCarter Theatre, St. Louis MUNY, etc. Writer: The History, Discovery and Travel Channels (story producer) as well as the upcoming musical Touché with composer Randy Redd. Education: Vassar College

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Composer/Lyricist Ellen Weiss on bringing a new musical to life

Well...here we are 12 years later . My obsession with trying to write a modern musical about a very classic icon Audrey Hepburn is about to be satisfied on April 4, 2009. The official opening of Transport Group's production of BEING AUDREY. How do I feel...ecstatic and terrified and mostly grateful. I am grateful for my amazing collaborators, Jim Hindman...Book, Cheryl Stern...additional book and lyrics and of course baby genius, Jack Cummings III...director and master choreographer...Scott Rink.

BUT....The person who holds the biggest part of musical heart is Lanny Meyers...arranger...orchestrator...musical director. What can I say about this amazing brilliant award winning talent...He Gets Me.
I want to say a bit about people who support the arts. I have been blessed by the support of THE SHEN FAMILY FOUNDATION for the musical component of Being Audrey. Knowing that this foundation selected my piece gave me the confidence and motivation to do my best and most complete work to date. The National Endowment for the Arts also supported this production along with many other private individuals and friends who have believed in me. Bless them all.
If you're wondering where I'll be every night of the run of BEING AUDREY... I'll be in the audience at The Connelly Theater 220 East 4th Street. I hope to see you there. I'll be the one with her thumb in her mouth.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Director Jack Cummings III on casting BEING AUDREY

Casting any show is always exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. What’s exciting is getting a chance to see the depth of talent in New York City—it’s amazing to see these people come in and hear great song after great song. It’s this reason that I prefer musical auditions over play auditions—what would you rather do for 8 straight hours in a small midtown rehearsal studio—sit through dry monologue after dry monologue or hear the great American songbook!? The nerve-wracking part comes with the knowledge that any mistake in casting, slight or large, can come back to haunt you later in the process when you don’t have time to fix it. But as my friend Mary Testa once said to me, “You always wind up with the cast you’re supposed to have.” I have always believed this and once an actor is cast I stand behind them 100%—I have only had to let go of an actor once in my career and it was because this person just couldn’t learn her lines—the “learning your lines” factor is a tough one to audition—you kind of have to hope they will just learn them since its one of the most basic requirements of an actor’s job—still, you’d be surprised! Then, once you finally have your choice, you have to pray the person is not only available but that they actually want do your show—just because they come in for you doesn’t guarantee you of anything!

I’ve always believed that the actor isn’t just auditioning for us but rather it’s a 2-way street: we, the creative team, are auditioning for the actor as well. My wife, Barbara Walsh, has taught me everything I know about how to treat actors. She’s done this by letting me know how it is from their perspective and this knowledge has made me very actor-friendly. Every time an actor comes in for me, I tell myself that this could be my wife and how would I want her to be treated at an audition. So early on, I set a few rules for myself that also apply to anyone from the team in the room with me: be very friendly, always say nice things no matter what (this actually isn’t hard at all because for me the act of auditioning is brave in and of itself), no writing, eating, or drinking while the person is actually performing, and be sure to thank them for coming in. I want people to do their best work and so it’s important that they feel safe and supported. I think this is all common sense yet I am continually shocked when all too often my actor friends tell me horrific story after horrific story of bad audition rooms.

For the Being Audrey auditions, we were looking for two women and one man. The other 5 roles were cast with straight offers. I prefer to just offer roles rather than audition (saves lots of time and money!) but then once I meet a fantastic actor through an audition, I realize the value of them. We were looking for people who were great singers, actors with depth, and also hilarious comedic actors—oh, and if they can move well, that was a real plus too. So basically we were looking for a bit of the impossible. Most people could sing well but then weren’t naturally funny or vice versa—it was maddening after a while—we would think that we had it figured out and then we’d forget that this person in this track would also have to do such and such which then turned out not to be their strong suit and then we’d have to start all over! In the position of director, I not only have to please myself (after all, I’m the one who actually has to work with them) with my decision but I have to please my collaborators as well—this gets difficult as we all have slightly different tastes to a degree and different priorities. I had to make sure that Ellen Weiss, our composer/lyricist was pleased with their singing and then I had to make sure that Jim Hindman, our librettist was pleased with their comedic timing—not always so easy to please this many people but that’s the art of collaboration as they say.

One thing I became concerned about with the younger actors that came in to read for us was their lack of knowledge and feel for old movies. Being Audrey references Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Love in the Afternoon, Funny Face, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In order to pull our script off, the actors have to know the stock characters from these types of movies. I became alarmed as the auditions went on how the younger actors simply had no reference for these types at all. I said on a break to Cheryl Stern and Scott Rink (our wonderful choreographer) that theatre students should be required to study and watch every old movie from 1930 – 1960. For my generation (I’m 41), these films were key to our sensibility, to put it mildly. When I first met my wife, she told me, “I learned 100% of my comic timing from watching I Love Lucy.” I get worried that young actors today have never even seen I Love Lucy! As a result, one role from the auditions was cast a bit older than originally planned.

The other quality I have to somehow feel out during an audition is whether or not this person is up for a new musical. New musicals are a peculiar beast—they can be treacherous in that songs come and go, and scenes come and go at will. The emotional toll this takes on an artist can be quite significant. Not everyone has the stomach for it and I have to truly trust that the person I’m casting will be a team player and up for anything, which includes cuts of material that they might have grown attached to. I made a mistake a few years ago by not thinking thoroughly about this part and I really paid a big price for it.

I am thrilled with our cast –they are all fantastic, funny people that are real pros when it comes to putting together new material. We start on Tuesday and I am so excited to finally get in a room with actors and other artists—my favorite kind of room!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cheryl Stern on developing and starring in a new musical

So we start rehearsals in a little more than a week and there are so many feelings reeling around in my brain it’s hard to begin to let you all in there. But I will do my best. We are creating a brand new musical that takes a contemporary woman in crisis and thrusts her into a wild fantasy ride via the movies of Audrey Hepburn in order to discover her own strength and identity. YIKES!!! It’s the biggest challenge of my life as a writer and I know it will be the biggest challenge of my life as an actress.

We have an amazing team creating this piece and we have been working like demons to carve out this unique story without killing each other in the process. “Art Isn’t Easy!!” But we love each other madly and “You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet”. Am I full of cliché quotes or what?

Anyway, we just did a reading last night of our most recent draft with a group of lovely and game actors who donated their time to help us see what we have and where we need to go together. It is always harrowing to hear your work read and with the double duty I have been given on this journey, I am acting the role and listening to the whole text at the same time. Not an easy task but also a gift. I am sitting in the unique position on this one and it presents opportunities and challenges daily.

As additional book writer and lyricist, my job has been to assist in the dialogue and storytelling with Jim Hindman and to shape lyrics with Ellen Weiss on a number of the songs. I am often a liaison between the two writers and find myself bouncing back and forth in phone conversations and writing sessions during the course of any given day. I am broker, sounding board, big picture person and clarity police; Sybil meets Henry Kissenger.

Now, on to the acting part. The role of Claire is the kind of role that middle aged short Jewish girls can only dream of having. And it’s mine!! This is a true gift. To be able to contribute to the creation of a role that is made in heaven for you is just the dreamiest and though it presents it’s own set of pressures, anxieties and responsibilities, it is the coolest thing ever and I am beside myself about getting started.

We have a creative team that is just stupendous and we are assembling a cast that I know is going to be genius. I am thrilled to be playing opposite the brilliant Brian Sutherland and my dear old buddy Steven Berger is joining the cast as well. He is the funniest human alive and I cannot wait to share the stage with him once again. We have Blair Ross as the Kay Thompson character. She IS Kay!!! So excited. Also onboard is super talent Mark Ledbetter. Today we go into auditions to find the rest of our cast.

It is going to be the ride of a lifetime and I cannot wait to begin it. I am so grateful to Jack and Transport Group for continuing to give me the richest and most rewarding opportunities as actor and writer. Will keep ya posted.

UP NEXT: Jack Cummings III discusses casting.