Monthly Archives: November 2015

Full Circle

It was about a year ago that Ryan Axberg began rehearsals on his high school’s production of Young Frankenstein. Soon after, the show was nominated for several Jerry Herman Awards and Ryan was auditioning for the best leading male category. Since then he has graduated from high school, started classes at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), and come back to the Hollywood Pantages as one of our amazing ushers.

We caught up with Axberg just before his next shift at the theatre to chat with him about his experience in the musical theatre world and his journey from high school stage to The Jerry Herman Awards at the Hollywood Pantages.

Q: How did you catch the Musical Theatre bug?

Ryan: It all started in middle school. I wasn’t involved in the theatre world but my dad encouraged me to audition for Suessical the Musical. I got the part of a  Wickersham Monkey Brother. It was how I found my group of friends, a place to belong. I continued to audition for the school musical every year after that.

Q: What is your favorite musical?

Ryan: Singing in the Rain both on stage and on film is a marvelous masterpiece.

Q: Tell us how you felt when you found out you had landed the part of Igor in Young Frankenstein.

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(Above) Ryan Axberg as Igor in Young Frankenstein at the 2015 Jerry Herman Awards Ceremony.

Ryan: It was my senior year at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. The show had been announced (Young Frankenstein) at the end of the school year as next years musical. Originally I thought I wanted the role of Dr.Frankenstein but found myself identifying with Igor more. I’ve always been the best friend to my brother who ended up being Dr. Frankenstein so it worked out.

Q: How did you find out your school had chosen you to audition for best leading male in the Jerry Herman Awards?

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Ryan Axberg as Igor in Palos Verde Penninsula High School’s production of Young Frankenstein.

Ryan: The only two male characters who were eligible from our school were Igor and Dr. Frankenstein. My brother had had the opportunity to go to the Jerry Herman Awards the year before. When I was chosen he was very understanding and not heartbroken at all.

Q: Describe your experience going through the Jerry Herman Award audition process. What was it like to audition in front of such notable judges like Kenny Ortega, Cathy Rigby, John Bowab, Kay Cole, and Lewis Wilkenfeld?

Ryan: I knew my material front and back so that kept me calm. I just had to be myself and perform. They said I performed great and that I had a great voice but I needed to be more confident with my physicality. I sang The “Old Red Hills of Home” from Parade and “Together Again” from Young Frankenstein for contrast and they said that they wanted to see more of a physicality difference between the two songs and to commit to everything 100,000%.

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Axberg (pictured on the right in the pink tie) in the opening number of the Jerry Herman Awards

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Axberg (pictured on the right in the pink tie) performs in the closing number of the Jerry Herman Awards.

Q: When your school found out that they had been chosen to perform a production number from Young Frankenstein for the Jerry Herman Awards Ceremony and how did you prepare?

Ryan: I feel like having that opportunity was such and honor to bring our school, to show our spirit and our pride was wonderful. Young Frankenstein played in March and the Jerry Herman Awards were June 1st. So we had three mandatory rehearsals with the cast. We just worked it and shockingly enough no one forgot anything so our third rehearsal ended up getting canceled.

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Ryan and Director Seth Cohen receiving the Jerry Herman Award for Best Ensemble/Chorus on behalf of Palos Verdes Peninsula for the production of Young Frankenstein.

Q: How did your love of musical theatre help you decided to go to AMDA?

Ryan: I knew I was going to study theatre. When I am on the stage I feel so comfortable. I feel so in tuned with myself and my surroundings, I feel happy. That’s why I decided to pursue theatre and stick with it.

Q: After everything you went through with the Jerry Herman Awards you have decided to stick around as an usher at the Hollywood Pantages. How are you liking it?

Ryan: I have always loved the Pantages and it’s just down the street from my school. I thought it would be such a good opportunity getting to work where I performed for the Jerry Herman Awards. It’s kind of full circle.

Q: What advice would you have for a high school student interested in pursuing a career in musical theatre?

Ryan: If you have a passion for it it’s your duty to go for it!

 

 

Chip Off the Old Block

This week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Bradley Pierce. We know Pierce as one of the wonderful bar tenders at the Hollywood Pantages, but some of you may know him as Peter Shepherd in Jumanji, also staring the late Robin Williams. What most people don’t know is that Pierce has had an extensive voice acting career. One of his most iconic roles, is Chip from Disney’s Animated Beauty and The Beast.

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At age eight, Pierce’s agent submitted him for a role. The only information about the role was that it called for a child in a Disney show. He auditioned and didn’t hear anything for six months then was called back in. Eventually, he was booked for the role of Chip, who originally had only one line. “Mamma! There’s a girl in the castle.” As the role grew, they kept asking the young Pierce to come back and record more lines.

When asked if he had any interesting stories about his time working on Beauty and the Beast, he mentioned that he was actually filmed while doing his voice overs because Disney likes to use characteristics and mannerisms from the voice actors when animating the characters.

“I was talking to the voice director about a trip I had taken to Arizona to see my Uncle. My Uncle had a hot tub at his house and had shown me how to shoot water between my teeth. I remember showing him that I could do that, and they ended up adding that into the movie where Chip jumps into the bubbles with the rest of the dishes.”

Pierce also explains how the voice over process worked for a kid.

“I always delivered my lines in groups of three. You know, to change the inflection slightly with each one. When the character Maurice first picks up Chip and takes a drink from the cup, the line is, ‘His mustache tickles Mamma!’ “

When said with the wrong inflection, this phrase can sound quite silly.

“The entire booth started laughing hysterically. I was eight years old, and it made no sense to me why that would be funny. So I asked, but they said, ‘we’ll tell you when you’re older.’ A line that Mrs. Potts says to Chip in the film.”

Even after his role as Chip was finished, Bradley went back to work for Disney many times.

“I have done a lot of background voices for them. I worked on Kingdom Hearts, both video games 1 and 2; and I still have a good friend that works there now, so occasionally I will hang out on the lot. Which is fun. Disney, more so than a lot of companies, has a kind of family atmosphere to it.” Pierce explains.

 

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Bradley and family at Disneyland.

Now, as a father of 3 adorable children, Pierce is playing the most important role to date: Dad. Pierce’s son Gavin, who came along to the interview, talked praises of his father, and even credited him with his choice to act as well.

Gavin explains, “Jumanji is actually what started me acting. I was watching it once and said, ‘Daddy I want to be on T.V.’ “To this Pierce said, “Okay. We’ll give it a shot.”

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Bradley and son Gavin

Aside from being a busy father of 3, helping his oldest break into acting, and bar tending at the Hollywood Pantages; Pierce also finds time for his website, ZFO Entertainment. The Last Word in Geek Entertainment. The site is full of comic convention event coverage and interviews as well as original content being produced by Pierce himself.

For more information about ZFO Entertainment visit their site:

www.ZFOEntertainment.com

 

Holiday Trees

It’s That time of year again! We decided to take advantage of a quiet week between shows here at the theatre to put up the holiday trees! A tradition that started about 9 years ago that we look forward to every year. Check out the photos and video clips below of the whole process.

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The lobby in front of the Box Office turns into a forest as the trees come out of their boxes.

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Next the frames have to be put together.

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Our wonderful crew untangling all of the lights.

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Holiday Tree takeover of the Box Office Lobby.

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A view from the roof of the top of the marquee.

(Below) Video of the process from the roof looking down onto the marquee.

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Several men use lifts to bring the tree pieces up to the marquee for assembly.

(Below) A time lapse of Hollywood Blvd. and the trees going up on the marquee.

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One side nearly completed.

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Testing out the lights.

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These guys have no fear of heights

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Final touches.

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Losing the light. We will finish on day 2!

We are a Superstitious Bunch

Theatre people have been known to be among the most superstitious people on the planet. For centuries we have been shouting “Break a Leg” and shushing those that try to mention the “Scottish Play”. But why?

“Break A Leg”

A very common superstition among performers is to say ‘Break a leg,’ as a means to wish each other luck before a performance. Some say that to wish someone “good luck” before they go on stage is to jinx them and cause the opposite outcome. Many believe this phrase dates back to the days of Vaudeville Theater. At the time, the theater would book more performers than they they needed in an evening for their variety shows, and then only pay the ones that they chose to perform. When one of the chosen performers entered the stage they did so by passing through curtains referred to as “legs”. To say “Break a leg” meant wishing him or her a paycheck for that night! To this day, “Break a leg” is still a customary way of wishing a performer good luck.

Don’t Whistle While You Work…

Have you ever heard that it is bad luck to whistle while in a theater? Before headset communication became a common practice among stage hands, whistling was the primary signal for moving scenery on/off stage or flying in a drape from overhead. If you accidentally whistled at the wrong time, you could cue scenery to move, which in turn could get you run over or bonked on the head!

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The Play That Must Not Be Named

To say the true name of the “Scottish Play” while in a theatre is considered very bad luck. So much so that we hesitate to type out the real name of the play while sitting in the offices above the theatre. According to folklore, the play’s history of bad luck began with its first performance (circa 1606) when the actor scheduled to portray Lady Macbeth died suddenly and Shakespeare was forced to replace him. In another 17th-century production, held in Amsterdam, the actor playing King Duncan was allegedly killed in front of a live audience when a real dagger was used in place of the stage prop during the stabbing scene. Productions of the play have also been the center of raucous audience riots, including one in 1849, a long-standing rivalry between fans of British actor William Charles Macready and American Edwin Forrest turned violent during a production at New York’s Astor Place Opera House, leaving 22 dead and more than 100 injured.

Some believe Shakespeare brought the curse upon his own play by using authentic spells in the three witches’ dialogue, while others believe that a production that has been staged for more than 400 years is bound to have its fair share of accidents. Either way, most thespians don’t want to take any chances. So what’s the antidote for accidentally uttering the forbidden word? Simple. Exit the theatre, spin around three times, spit over your left shoulder and either recite a line from Shakespeare or unleash a profanity.

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The Ghost Light

Every theater has a Ghost Light, a light that is left onstage which is never turned off. It’s there to guide the first and last person into and out of the theater. For centuries, a myth has held that the light is protection from spirits, because if the theater ever went completely dark, lonely and resentful ghosts would realize everyone had gone and proceed to cause all sorts of mischief.

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Bad Dress, Good Show

No we don’t mean that you have to wear a a bad dress to have a good show. Wishful thinking or not, many stage actors swear that a bad dress rehearsal portends a great opening night. This superstition’s origins are unclear, maybe a producer or director trying to boost a cast’s morale, but it’s a comforting concept when the final dress goes south.

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Flowers After a Performance

It’s considered good luck traditionally to give the director and/or the leading lady, after closing night, a bouquet of flowers stolen from a graveyard (never give flowers before a performance – They are yet to earn them so it’s bad luck!)

Graveyard flowers are given on closing night to symbolize the death of the show, and that it can now be put to rest. The rational origin is that theater was, as most people who have worked in the industry will tell you, never a greatly profitable profession and despite being macabre, graves were a great source of free flowers.

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Peacock Feathers

Many veteran thespians tell stories of sets collapsing, curtains catching alight and other disastrous events during performances with peacock feathers. The feather is said to represent a malevolent ‘evil eye’, that bestows a curse on the show. The association between peacock feathers and the evil eye is best illustrated by the Greek myth of Argus, the monster whose body was covered with a hundred eyes, these eyes were transferred to the tail of the Peacock.

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The Last Line

It has been considered bad luck to say the final line of a show before it opens. In addition, taking bows to an empty house is considered a bad omen. It is a tribute that the show is not complete without the audience.