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.
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.
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)
BEING AUDREY, a new musical March 28th-April 26th, 2009 at 220 East 4th Street
Claire Stark has it all: a beautiful life, the husband of her dreams...and a view of Tiffany’s. When her world threatens to collapse, Claire seeks refuge in a romantic adventure inspired by the films of Audrey Hepburn. Now she must choose between fantasy and reality.