Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nothing is an accident, We are free to have it all...

     Hope everyone is doing well.  It's been a while since my last real post (the last one was actually written in late March).  Since we've hit the halfway point of the summer, I should probably catch you up on what's been going on.
    Most of April and the beginning of May was devoted to Little Shop of Horrors at KTK Productions, and finishing up the semester.  Thankfully, for the third semester in a row, I maintained my 4.0 for grad school, even with my finals being tech week for the show.  The show actually ended up turning out okay, though I still think we didn't have enough rehearsals, at least for me.  Hopefully some good things come from it; aka, Arts for Life nominations.  I knew we had a few people there for the show, but I'm not sure they actually reviewed us for consideration.  Keep your fingers crossed.
     After that, I spent most of my time in rehearsal for the Arts for Life Best Performance Awards.  The production of Hairspray that I did last summer ended up getting 14 nominations, and Take Two proceeded to win 6 awards, I believe; among them, we had Best Choreography, Best Costumes, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Large Musical...yeah...that's right...we won Best Musical.  One of the greatest feelings I've had in a while.  I know for a fact our performance kicked serious ass.  Really, how can an audience not like "You Can't Stop the Beat"? 
     It was while we were rehearsing for the awards ceremony that I got roped into Take Two's show this summer, Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, a show I'd seen and enjoyed, but never really had the chance to do.  So far, it's been a very interesting experience.  We're only a few weeks away from opening, and I feel we are just really behind schedule, though we aren't.  In any case, this cast is going to be great.  The ensemble sounds fantastic on all the big numbers, and our leads are great.  I'm actually a little surprised by them, a bit.  I mean, Evan has played more difficult parts in his sleep, including Valjean and the Phantom.  At the same time, Anissa has already played Aida, so it isn't as hard for her to get into everything.  But Melissa keeps blowing me away from time to time.  She did great in Hairspray last year, but she was just a Council Member.  We didn't get to see her do a lot.  That's definitely changing this year.  She has a ridiculously powerful voice for "Strongest Suit" and the other big power ballads.  But she's finding the perfect balance between Princess Amneris and Queen Amneris, which may be the only real character development in the entire darn show.
     While Aida may be a good show, it's really just about your Aida and your Radames.  They sing the majority of the score (13 songs to Amneris's 6), and never really get a good chance to leave the stage.  From an analytical sense, however, Amneris is the only one of the three who has a real arc.  Radames just falls in love, and gets lucky with a Nubian, something he's probably done countless times before.  Yes, he's in love, but it didn't change his attitude towards the rest of the Nubians he's captured.  While he treats them well, he never forgets that he is Egyptian, and therefore, better than them.  He has no major change from the beginning of the show to the end.  Instead, he only changes his tactics as a way to gain Aida's love.
     The same thing can be said of Aida.  Again, she falls in love with someone she shouldn't.  Her change is a bit deeper than that of Radames, though.  She has her Nubian identity that she cannot deny, though she tries awfully hard at the beginning.  She's led a group of woman to the shores where they are captured by Egyptian soldiers.  From her sheer carelessness, she leaves her nation open to attack, and the kidnapping of her father.  She does have an inner struggle over her feelings for Radames, but the only change Aida goes through is finally accepting the leadership of Nubia. That's nothing compared to what Amneris deals with.
     Whoever plays Amneris may have the hardest part in the show.  Not only is it a vocally demanding part, with a large amount of strong belting, but you have to convey her change from Princess to Queen, and all the levels in-between.  She starts the show as a self-absorbed, shallow princess...or so we're led to believe.  Amneris may be very fashion conscious, but there are good reasons behind it.  She has been betrothed to Radames for longer than one cares to remember, and he doesn't seem to notice her at all, or not in a very romantic way.  Therefore, she tries to appeal to him the one way she knows how: appearing as attractive as physically possible.  The rest of the palace has coddled her, and she knows very little of the outdoor world, or the important matters that would affect the rest of the kingdom.  Amneris is aware of how sad it is she focuses so much on the material things:
                    "I feel better when beguiling, Find that fashion keeps me smiling, But in my heart I know it's
                    rather sad" (My Strongest Suit (Reprise))
I truly believe that Radames had feelings for Amneris when they were much younger, but he eventually grew away from them on his conquering travels.  If the princess had left the palace more often, she might've had a change of heart as well.  However, it seems that the Pharaoh kept her in the palace, giving her anything she wanted.  She has groomed herself to be the ideal woman for Radames, and will do anything for him.  When he goes to her room after Pharaoh's feast, she's ready and willing to consummate their relationship without very little thought.  In addition, she tries to better herself to get him back by going to Zoser so she can understand all of the conquests that have been planned.  It still doesn't get Radames to notice her, and it's really quite heartbreaking.
     The problem area for Amneris occurs after "Written in the Stars".  She's overheard everything between Radames and Aida, and knows that she'll never have a chance with Radames now.  He doesn't love her at all, and will only marry her so that Aida will be safe in her escape.  This just makes her song "I Know the Truth" even more poignant. She knows Radames doesn't love her, that he is going to marry her against his will, but she still wants him.  She's willing to do anything to get him out of prison and his death sentence.  It isn't until she asks Pharaoh to bury the lovers together that she finally changes.  Amneris will be leading soon, and needs to mature in order to keep control.  Otherwise, she could fall under the guidance of the next Zoser. 
     I realize it's not the most climactic character arc in the show, but Amneris is just so sad.  I end up feeling more for her than any other character.  Her and Mereb never gain their unrequited loves.  They either learn and change for the better (Amneris) or they stay the same and must be removed from the world of the play (Mereb).
     Anyway, for those that read this, come on out and support a wonderful production for a wonderful cause.  Til next time, this is Chris.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm So Happy That I'm Crying...No, Seriously!

As I sit here, starting to write this, it is 6:15 AM on Sunday, March 25, 2012; and I have just finished my 69th show in eleven very short years.  While each show stands out in its own way, this one is special: John Waters' Cry-Baby the Rock Musical...Yes, it's a Johnny Depp movie...Yes, it seems like an odd choice to be musicalized...Yes, it's probably not going to appeal to everyone.  I really don't care.  I have never felt so "right" on stage as I did as member of this production.  I've done plenty of shows, some I really don't care to remember; some as leads, others as chorus.  But I have never felt this way about a show before.  You want to know why? 

It's the cast.

These were not only talented people that I could trust on stage; these were people that I would trust with my life any day of the week: men and women that I would gladly do anything for.  They are neither just my fellow actors nor just my friends.  They have proven time and time again that they are my family.

Never in my life have I been pushed so hard and far by a show; and the ones really doing the pushing were everyone else on that stage with me.  I must admit that I never think I'm talented enough to get some of the roles I do.  But I still count my blessings for getting that little phone call from Scott on October 11, 2012.  That phone call may be the greatest birthday present I ever got.  It didn't matter that it wasn't a lead.  I would gladly do ensemble for any show at New Line, as long as it meant I got to work with actors of this caliber and character. 

When we started the rehearsal process, I was excited beyond all belief.  This was the most rambunctious cast ever: people I'd worked with before; some I'd never even met; and some I'd dreamed of working with.  It only got better as we went further into the rehearsal process, and all came to realize the same thing: we were putting on the American regional premiere of a new musical.  Yes, the show had been produced in La Jolla and New York, but it really didn't get the response it was hoping for.  In addition, it was very unlikely that anyone who saw those productions would be seeing New Line's.  Therefore, this was OUR show; this cast came together, and created our own homage to John Water's insanity, and, to put it mildly, it did in fact rock.

In closing, I just need to say thank you to everyone for making this such a wonderful experience, and I hope I get to work with every one of you again soon.

Christopher Strawhun

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Guy Sure Looks Like Plant Food to Me!

Howdy hey, Everybody!  It had definitely been a long while since I've added a new post.  For that I am sorry.  For other things...I'm not sorry.  I've been trying to finish up my semester, and just get everything done.  In addition to that, I've been rehearsing my ass off for my next show, going up this week.  It's got everything: dentists, Billie Dawn-esque leading ladies, and plants...lots and lots of plants. 

That's right folks, I'm doing Little Shop of Horrors with KTK Productions.  Add to that, I'm Seymour Krelborn, plant nerd extraordinaire.  While this wasn't one of my dream roles, Little Shop is one of my dream shows.  I never thought I would get a chance to do it, let alone play Seymour.  Everything is coming together pretty well, though I do wish we had a bit more rehearsal time.  Rehearsing 3 days together then having a 4 day break kind of messed with my head, and I just felt really unprepared until this week.  However, now we're cooking with gas, and I think we'll have a decent show on our hands.

I guess until next time, good bye, and remember not to feed the plants, otherwise they may feed on you.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

We have a good thing goin'

Sorry it's been so long since my last update. A lot has been going on that I need to catch you up on.

Anyhow, we finished blocking the show last week, and so far, have attempted our first run-thru.  Not my most shining moment, but I actually believe it went pretty well.  It also helped that we were able to move into the theatre a little bit earlier than originally anticipated. The only things I'm having problems with right now are just hearing some of my harmonies and the marathon that is "The Chase" (for those coming to see the show, there is a chance you will be winded watching it cause I'll be winded about halfway through).

This past weekend, though, was a lot of fun just for the fact that the set is in place.  I have to say that I love building the set of a show that I'm cast in.  I find it helps me to connect a bit more to each scene, knowing the effort put forth to create that flat or platform, grounding the entire process.

In addition, we had publicity photos this past Tuesday.  Much fun was had by all (I hope...I don't want to lie on the interwebs), and everyone looked smashing in their costumes.  The creepiest thing was when I got home after rehearsal, and was looking in my closet, I swear to God that I found the same exact shirt Amy brought in for me, except in a different color.  Mind Blown!

This show is coming together in such a wonderful fashion, I find it hard to believe that we open in less than two weeks. It has been such an amazing and difficult experience bringing new life to this show that just didn't have a chance to shine in New York.  I think that this is the production John Water's and the creative team really wanted instead of the Hairspray-esque version that made its way to Broadway.  This is a down and dirty show that has no qualms of telling the audience "up yours", though we never actually say a bad word in the show (ass doesn't count because it could just mean we need to pay close attention to our load-bearing, canyon exploring little friends).

So, things to be aware of when you come see the show:
1. If you have never played with a baton before, it can be harder than one might imagine.  Right, Taylor?
2. If there is a death, orgy, funeral, or just something that might be slightly fucked up, it's a New Line show.
3. Please keep the aisles clear so we may debauch ourselves all over the place.
4. Though it might not say it in the program, Mr. Dupree W. Dupree named the Drapes that the Whiffles play. 
5. It's really fun to say "whiffle".   Say it with me now..."whiffle"
6. Ass Chords, Racist Monkeys, and Wagons Full of Wet Kittens are all real things that need to be controlled and worried about.

Til next time, stay nifty.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who ya been lovin' since I been gone?

Good Day Everyone!  I hope that everyone who reads this is doing well.

I realize that it's been a while since I last posted.  Every time I've tried, something has come up.  Therefore, here I am now, and I have a lot to catch ya up on.

We have finished blocking the entire first act as of last night, and let me just say...this show is going to rock and/or roll the entire evening.  Everyone sounds amazing, and seeing the designs for the set has made this whole experience even more real for me.  I'm going to be the second person ever to play the bass Whiffle (he doesn't have a name in the script, but you can call me Brad).  As we block and rehearse each scene, everyone is bringing their own little tweaks and perks to the material.  We are essentially creating a new(ish) work the minute we step out on the stage, and I wish I could just watch it happen.  Happily, though, I am a part of it. :D  

A few of my favorite bits about this show (so far)
     5. Ryan and Taylor killing it every time they do "I'm Infected"
     4. Ari singing "Jukebox Jamboree".  He hits it, rubs some funk on it, then hits it again.  
     3. Singing that awesome doo-wop background to "Girl, Can I Kiss You?"  Still my favorite song to sing in the entire show.
     2. The Teardrops...period.  I honestly think they are going to stop the show several times in the first act alone.
     1. Being a Whiffle.  That's the simplest way to put it.  It's been a long while since I sang some honest-to-goodness 4-part harmonies.  This is what I was raised on; what made me want to join St. Matthias Choir (and be the only boy for the longest time); what made my 4 years at DeSmet worth it: being able to sing barbershop/doo-wop/4-part anything.  It's my destiny, much like Lenora is Cry-Baby's destiny.
     .5. Terrie singing "Screw Loose"/just being Lenora.  She's that good.

As I said before, my Whiffle name is Bradley.  That's not all though.  My prisoner name is Hugh, and my Drape name is Terrence (many thanks to Dupree for the name).  More on this to come.

Along with the blocking rehearsals, Robin has been teaching us some killer choreography.  I know for a fact that it nearly killed me the first time...'ahem'... Bad joke aside, I haven't danced this hard in the longest time.  I would greatly advise everyone to invest in Bayer aspirin til the end of March.  Their stock might be rising some.  After watching myself in the mirror, and some of the dance videos, I don't know how the hell my body is doing some of the things it's doing, fucked up knees and all.  (For those that haven't noticed it before, my natural stance is first/second position.  I like to think I'm a little duck-footed).  Now all that needs to be done is to practice til the cows come home.

Well, I must get going, so I leave you with my new favorite rockabilly song.  Have a great night.

PS: I thought of this earlier last week, but Terrie put this song on her blog earlier, reminding me of it.  One of the all-time great doo-wop songs from the 50's. First, what Terrie posted

This is what the Squares would listen to.  Perfectly acceptable in its own way.  Now the next version, the original version from 1954 by the Chords.  I believe this would be the Drape version.  Your thoughts?


Friday, January 13, 2012

Bum Bum Bum Bum...

We finished learning all of the songs this past Tuesday; therefore, it's time for the read-thru.  I have never been more excited for a read-thru than this one.  It's amazing how well the cast envelops the story through the music, but I can't wait to see and hear how we handle the actual text of the show.

Update: After having the read-thru last night, I am so friggin' excited for this show now.  Everyone sounded great, and I know the minute we start blocking, we are going to be in business. 

On the personal side, however, I'm already having some problems, mainly with knowing this music.  There is an awful lot of it, which isn't the problem.  I'm really just not used to having to sing bass.  I mean, I was singing first tenor from 2002 to May 2010.  Evita with New Line was the first time I had ever actually sung Bass/Baritone, and that was difficult enough.  The good thing there was that Eeyan and Aaron were down there with me, so if I couldn't hear it I just had to search for their voices to get back on track.  I still have problems reading bass clef but it's gotten better.  I'm just worried I'm going to eff up the Whiffle stuff.  From what I've been able to tell, I'm anchoring a majority of the chords, so that adds a little more pressure.  The thing is being the only person down on that part.  Oh well, just means that I have to practice more on my own.  Practice makes Permanent, so I just need to know the music even better than I normally do.  

Allison (Elizabeth Stanley) and the Whiffles led by Baldwin Blandish (Christopher J. Hanke)
While I've been working on the music, I've been doing a lot of research into the original movie, production, and just the time period we are depicting.  I thought I knew a lot about the fifties, but there is so much more that I need to look into.  I mean, I can listen to all the oldies and doo-wop I want, but when you start looking at the years some of those songs were coming out, they came out after 1954 (when Cry-Baby takes place).  It's almost like I need to ignore all the fifties music I know and love, and try and come at the show from a different angle.  The Squares are still in the Big Band mentality, almost.  They are the clean cut, probably listening to Glenn Miller, or Count Basie if they are feeling really adventurous.  The Whiffles are almost worse, going back to the barbershop quartet music from the turn of the century.  Meanwhile the Drapes draw inspiration from the rhythm and blues coming down South.  This is the kind of music that would be played underground, in the flop houses and hole-in-the-wall bars found down on Beale Street in Memphis, or at Sam Phillips' Sun Records. 

Well, I gotta get going, so thanks for reading, and don't forget your Anti-Polio shot.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here We Go Again.

First things first. I has been a long time since I last posted here (well over a year). So much has happened in that time. I started grad school, have been working with theatres around town, and just trying to live each day as it comes. Now that we are caught up, I must start the topic at hand...

Cry-Baby the Musical!!!!!

Rehearsals started early this week for New Line Theatre's production of John Water's Cry-Baby the Musical, of which I am happy and proud to be a member of the cast. This is going to be a fantastic experience, primarily due to the fact that we are the first production outside of the Broadway production. No one else has touched this show, so we are going to be bringing a whole new experience to a welcoming audience. Also, I am technically getting college credit for being in the show, so I'm glad to be sharing the wackiness that develops as well as the process of bringing this show to life.

Now, I'm no stranger to the kookiness that is John Waters. I have been a fan of Hairspray and Cry-Baby since I first saw them on television so many years ago, and now being able to do both in less than a year is even cooler. I still think I fit better in the fifties and sixties, hence the reason why my favorite musicals are Grease and Jersey Boys. Those were the years when rock and roll was created, perfected, and at the same time, destroyed. The fact that this entire genesis makes its way through the show gives me reason enough to enjoy this.

First Rehearsal
As I mentioned earlier, rehearsals started this week, and we have a hell of a show in our hands. Though I was sitting further back in the bass section, I was still amazed by the power and pure "raw"-ness coming from everyone involved. This is definitely not an easy score. In comparing it to the other John Waters' musical, Hairspray ranks as a 6.5 while Cry-Baby hits around a low 8 (for scale significance, I put Birdie at a 4.5 and Sunday in the Park with George at an 11).

The score wages kind of a battle between the lovely, though occasionally cheesy tunes of shows like Finian's Rainbow and Bye Bye Birdie to the pure rockabilly drive created by Sam Phillips and his Sun Record Label. Though I get to sing a little bit of everything throughout, I'm proud to be on the cheesy side, being a Whiffle, one of the harmony guys. I mean, this is the style I grew up on: The Four Lads, The Four Aces, The Lettermen. The Whiffles are the Baltimore version of The Plaids in Forever Plaid, and who can say anything bad about the Plaids?...please don't say anything bad about the Plaids, or else I may get pissy.

At the same time, I'm having so much fun singing these rock songs. I really can't wait until we get to I'm Infected and Girl, Can I Kiss You just because they serve kind of a midpoint. They have that four-part background with the more expressive lyrics, making those numbers almost doo-wop, in my opinion. And, really, if doo-wop is involved, I'm going to be singing somewhere.

Sadly, I must now go. So till next time, watch your ass.