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