Category Archives: Shows

Robert Brill comes back to the “Cabaret”

By Evan Henerson

It’s fair to say that Robert Brill can always get a prime seat at the Kit Kat Club, wherever that shrine of pre war entertainment decadence may materialize. That’s only fair since Brill designed the club. From “Cabaret’s” first incarnation in 1997 at the Henry Miller Theatre through its subsequent move to Studio 54, to its revival 16 years later also at Studio 54 and on all accompanying tours, that particular layout of tables, lamps and chandeliers is from Brill’s vision.

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The Marquee for Cabaret at Studio 54

As recently as June, nearly two decades after he created what has become an iconic design, Brill checked in on Sally Bowles and the gang when the national tour – currently at the Pantages – played a run in San Francisco where Brill has a home.

“When I see the show now, I’m really looking at how the production fits the venue,” Brill said.   “There are parts that are somewhat adjustable that allow it to sit in the venue for it to be exposed in the right way. So the first thing I’m looking at is how the picture is framed and the proportion of it. Then as you sit down, you’re taking in some of the givens of the space, what the sight lines are like, and how shallow or how deeply raked is the house. You’re kind of taking in the venue, but then you’re also looking at how the show is running in terms of props and then any scenic moves.”

Shannon Cochran as Fräulein Schneider, Mark Nelson as Herr Schultz, Alison Ewing (above) as Fräulein Kost and Randy Harrison (background) as the Emcee in the 2016 National Touring production of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“I jotted down a few notes when I saw the show in San Francisco and passed them on,” he continued. “They take the notes and then they move on from there.”

From its origins at London’s Donmar Warehouse, Sam Mendes’s version of “Cabaret” has sought to place its audience in the center of the action. Sally, the Kit Kat dancers and that scabrous Emcee are continually addressing the guests, several of whom are sitting practically in the performers’ laps. The scenic design had to fit that concept.

When they were gearing up to move the Donmar Warehouse production across the pond to New York, Mendes and his co-director/choreographer Rob Marshall located a space – Henry Miller’s Theatre – that was already a functioning nightclub. That venue needed a sizeable revamp to make it suitable for live theater, and the team needed a designer to oversee that transformation.

Brill, who had designed at several major regional theaters and had a couple of Broadway credits, was asked to meet with Mendes and Marshall. Two days later, he was offered the gig and asked to return to New York to check out the venue and to get things rolling.

Re-shaping the Miller’s Theatre – which they renamed the Kit Kat Club – was challenging enough. Having theater audiences and late night club goers sharing the same venue made for some interesting experiences.

The 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“We were out by 10, and there was already a line outside for people to enter at 10:30 and they would be all over the space on stage, at tables, in front all over the building and backstage until 2 or 4 in the morning,” Brill recalled. “You never knew what you were going to find or discover the next morning.”

Ultimately the production had to move and the conversion of Studio 54, a dance club later owned and operated by the Roundabout Theatre – forced 10 weeks of renovations. From lobbies to bathrooms, from marquee to chandeliers, from painting to demolition. The venue had no stage, so a stage was constructed from the floor up along with terracing for audience seating. The balcony, which had previously been used for events, was demolished.

“What was important to the production was this gradual immersion into the world of the Kt Kat Club from the marquee until you reach the actors on stage,” Brill said.

A mezzanine view of the Cabaret stage at Studio 54

Looking back at his own “audition” for “Cabaret” with Mendes and Marshall, Brill thinks one of the key factors that landed him the job wasn’t so much his Broadway and larger regional theater credits, but a different part of his portfolio. While still a student at UC San Diego, Brill had co-founded the Sledgehammer Theatre, a company that made highly and often guerilla use of venues throughout downtown San Diego.

This was during the 1980s when the real estate climate was friendlier toward this type of experimentation. Sledgehammer staged in former funeral homes, parking garages and abandoned warehouses that had no electricity or bathroom facilities before Sledgehammer took over. A group of fellow UCSD students even built a stage in a canyon adjacent to the library on campus, trucking in sand for the audience to sit on. There was a five and half hour production of “Hamlet” and a staging of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” in a small former retail space. Sledgehammer mounted another play in a former auto service garage.

“I showed [Mendes and Marshall] that work last in my portfolio and that was the work that I think really captured their attention,” Brill said. “It was very rough around the edges, showing the hand of the artist, having to be resourceful and work in a scrappier way. Also to be working site specific and because that’s what this piece became, working in an actual venue and transforming the venue. That really got them interested in having me on the team. It was not so much about the more polished work that I had done at that point. It was really about something that would serve this new interpretation of Cabaret.”

Sarah Bishop as Helga, Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie in the 2016 National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Between the first “Cabaret” and its revival, Brill has hardly been idle. He now has nearly a dozen Broadway credits with his designs for Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” (also at Studio 54) and the 2009  Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls” earning him Tony nominations. He has designed multiple operas and touring shows and worked repeatedly with Leonard Foglia and Des McAnuff who has championed Brill’s work since McAnuff was the artistic director at the La Jolla Playhouse which sits on the campus of UCSD. Brill returns this year to UCSD as a member of the School of Theater’s design faculty.

Brill’s upcoming projects include another collaboration with McAnuff, and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a co-production between Houston Grand Opera and the San Francisco Opera scheduled to open around the holidays.

And speaking of immersive theater, another Brill design figures to occupy a place in Southern California for years to come. The artist designed the scenery for “Disney’s Frozen – Live at the Hyperion,” a short version of the animated film which opened in May and plays several times daily at the Hyperion Theatre at Disney’s California Adventure theme park.

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

 

If you think transporting audiences to Weimar era Germany is challenging, how about taking them to the wintry world of Arendelle, a world that had previously existed only in a much beloved animated film? Dana Harrel, the production’s executive creative director, was not necessarily looking to do a live replica of the film, but, according to Brill, Harrel stressed the need to make the experience to be, you guessed it, immersive.

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

“I thought a lot about Cabaret when we were putting in Frozen,” Brill said. “Dana really wanted it to be an experience for the audience to be completely enveloped in the world of this story. One of the first goals was how to extend the visual out into the theater so they feel like they’re immersed both in the visual world and the storytelling. We did that in numerous ways, both scenically and with projections, lighting and also with the staging.”

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Set from Frozen now playing at The Hyperion Theatre in Disney California Adventure.

“Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” opened May 26, and Brill attended several performances in the days immediately following.

“It was amazing to watch, easily 1/4 of the audience was watching the experience through their phones or their iPads,” Brill said. “But it’s been fun to watch that online and check out who is watching the show and who is paying attention to it.”

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Don’t Be Jimmy

With a line up that includes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, White Christmas, The King and I, Rent, Motown, Circus 1903, Finding Neverland, American in Paris, The Bodyguard, The Book of Mormon, and Hamilton, the Hollywood Pantages 2016-2017 season is one for the record books. While the crew here at the theatre is jumping up and down with excitement, we are also very worried. There are a lot of websites popping up claiming to have tickets to shows that have yet to go on sale. We always want to make sure that everyone that buys a ticket to one of our shows gets to walk through the doors hassle free and be a part of Hollywood History. PLEASE read the information below and watch the video. Share with friends so that no one has to experience the pain of fraudulent tickets.

There are many ticket re-sellers and secondary markets for tickets. For the best seats and to eliminate the risk of fraud, get tickets through the Hollywood Pantages Box Office, HollywoodPantages.com or Ticketmaster. Purchasing tickets from any other seller runs a high risk of receiving fraudulent tickets.

 

 

Beyond the Stage

Musicals are everywhere! From the Broadway stage to live television broadcasts, musicals have had an amazing resurgence in current pop culture. And every few months or so we all get teased with the possibility of a Wicked movie. There has also been a lot of talk lately about an In The Heights or possibly even a Hamilton movie! While we patiently hold our breath for those projects to happen, here is a list of some of our favorite shows that have gone beyond the stage.

Grease

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“Greased Lightning” from the 1978 motion picture Grease

This Broadway musical made its debut in 1972. The concept was created over a couple of beers at a party by creators Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey in an effort to go against the grain of “traditional” Broadway shows. The show opened one year later at the Eden Theatre, just off Broadway, but was not the success originally hoped for. Loved by the public but scrutinized by critics the show ultimately was snubbed by the Tony Awards because the Eden Theatre did not qualify as a Broadway Theatre. It wasn’t until 1978 when the smash hit film took the story to the next level. Since then the show has seen numerous revivals, high school productions, and even a live broadcast on Fox.

 

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Grease Live January 31, 2016

Hairspray

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Hairspray is the 1988 movie turned Broadway show turned 2007 movie turned upcoming NBC live broadcast! The original 1988 film featuring notable actors such as Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, Ricki Lake, and Jerry Stiller had a modest release at the box office but developed a cult following up its release on home video. (Which is like Blu Ray and DVD release for our younger readers.) In 2002 the Broadway musical debuted staring the ever fierce Harvey Firestein as Edna Turnblad. The show picked up 8 Tony Award wins including Best Musical.

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Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad in the 1988 motion picture Hairspray.

In 2007 the hunt for the next Tracy was on as the story took to the silver screen once more. This time some script changes were in order and a star studded cast including John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron came together to break box office records for the biggest opening weekend of a movie musical.

Now we anxiously await for more news about the NBC’s Hairspray Live which has already announced the return of Harvey Firestein as Edna Turnblad as well as Kristin Chenoweth, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Short and newcomer Maddie Baillio.

 

The Wiz

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Cast of the 1978 motion picture The Wiz

The Wiz, Also known by its original name The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz, opened on October 21, 1974 in Baltimore. In 1975 the show took to Broadway and racked up 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical and became an early example of Broadway’s mainstream acceptance of works with an all-black cast. In 1978 the film version was released and became an instant cult classic. In December of 2015 NBC broadcasted The Wiz Live featuring Common, Amber Riley, Uzo Aduba, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, and Queen Latifah.

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Chicago

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Originally based on a play by the same name the story is a satire on the corruption n the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the “celebrity criminal” With music by John Kander, lyrics and book by Fred Ebb,  choreography by Bob Fosse, this show was set to be a hit. The original production only ran on Broadway for 936 performances until 1977 but it was the revival that gained the momentum. It currently holds the record as the longest running musical revival in American Broadway history.  Now the show has a reputation of casting an on going onslaught of celebrities in its leading roles such as Brandy, Eddie George, Rumer Willis, Patrick Swayze, Usher, Michael C. Hall and many more.

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In 2002 the film, directed by Rob Marshall, pulled together an outstanding cast including Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, Catherine Zeta-Jones to name a few. In 2003 the film scored 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture.

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Mamma Mia

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This show got started just a bit differently than most. The show opened in London’s West End in 1999. Being completely comprised of songs from the Swedish pop/dance group ABBA, producer Judy Craymer was nervous about how well the show would be received. It wasn’t long before the craze caught on and in 2001 the Mamma Mia opened on Broadway. Since then, the show has has 5,773 performances on Broadway and has played in 40 countries. In September of 2015 Mamma Mia said goodbye to Broadway but continues to tour.

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In 2008 the Mamma Mia went from stage to screen. I think we can all agree that Meryl Streep was the best part of this adaptation but was well supported by her cast including Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Amanda Seyfried. The movie received mixed reviews from critics and was considered a box office flop but you can’t escape the power of the soundtrack!

Sound of Music

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Julie Andrews (Maria) The Sound of Music film

This Rogers and Hammerstein classic opened on Broadway in November of 1959. The story, based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, earned 9 Tony nominations and 5 Tony wins including Best Musical. Sadly this would be the last musical written by the Rogers and Hammerstein team as Oscar Hammerstein died only nine months after the Broadway premiere. In 1965 the film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer would walk away with five Academy Awards.

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Mary Martin in the original Broadway production.

In 2013 the resurgence of the live television musical event was brought back to life with NBC’s Sound of Music Live. While critics thought Carrie Underwood’s performance was amateur at best the ratings sang a different tune. The Sound of Music Live brought the network its highest Thursday night viewership since the series finale of Frasier in 2004 with 18.62 million viewers.

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The Rocky Horror Show

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Not many people know that The Rocky Horror Show made its U.S. debut in Los Angeles at the Roxy Theatre in 1974 before heading to Broadway in 1975. It only lasted three previews and forty five showings despite earning one Tony nomination. It wasn’t until the 1975 film, staring Tim Curry as everyone’s favorite sweet transvestite, and re-dubbed as the Rocky Horror Picture Show that things really took off. The Rocky Horror Picture Show holds the record for the longest-running release in film history.

And to top things off this Halloween Fox plans to release a reboot! Stars include Laverne Cox as Frank N. Furter, Christina Milian, Adam Lambert and more. Check out the trailer below.

 

What Broadway show do you want to see as a movie or T.V. special?

Carole King Like You Never Knew Her

In preparation for our upcoming engagement of Beautiful the Carole King Musical, we thought we would share some interesting facts about Carole King. Did you know Carole King has written over 100 pop hits? She may not have lent her voice to all of them, but King has written or co-written more hits than we can count on our fingers and toes. We will sprinkle some of those famous songs throughout this blog among all of the other really cool facts about her.

She had her first #1 hit at age 18. Carole King co-wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” for The Shirelles when you were still struggling over what to major in in college.

Her birth name is Carole Klein. She has played the piano since she was 4 years old.

While she was a student at Brooklyn high school, she dated Neil Sedaka, who was in a band called The Tokens. Soon after, she formed her own group called the Co-sines and took the professional name Carole King.

Her 1971 Tapestry album was the best-selling album ever until 1978 when Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours outsold it.

Tapestry was number 1 on the Billboard 200 for 15 consecutive weeks, and held the record for most weeks at number 1 by a female solo artist for over 20 years until surpassed by Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album in 1993.

Carole King was the first woman to win Song of The Year Award in 1972 for “You’ve Got A Friend,” a jam that she performed with James Taylor.

Carole didn’t always have a way with words. King has said that words didn’t always come as easily when she was a teen, calling herself “lyrically challenged.” She said that the true magic started happening when she met lyricist and future ex-husband Gerry Goffin at college in New York.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1987.

King acted on Broadway in 1994 for the first time, taking over for Petula Clark in Bloodbrothers.

Carole King was a “Gilmore Girl”. Not only did King co-pen the theme song for the early ’00s show, “Where You Lead (I Will Follow)” — sung by daughter Louise — she also appeared on “Gilmore Girls” as the cranky owner of a Stars Hollow music store.

Carole has won 4 Grammy Awards. Record of the Year for “It’s Too Late”, Album of the Year for “Tapestry”, Song of The Year for “You’ve Got a Friend” and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “Tapestry”.

Beautiful The Carole King Musical won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album

Carole’s song “Now and Forever” from the movie A League of Their Own received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Song.

 

For more information about Beautiful The Carole King Musical CLICK HERE.

Some Stories Behind the Dancing Feet

By Evan Henerson

As showbiz tales go, “42nd Street’s” is one of the oldest and most inspirational. Fresh faced starry-eyed girl gets off the bus from Allentown determined to find a job – any job – in show business. When the star breaks her ankle, up steps the unknown to take over and write her name in lights.

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Caitlin Ehlinger and Matthew J. Taylor of the 2016 42nd Street Touring Cast.

Great stuff, right? Well, naturally, there’s a story behind the effort to bring the classic 1933 film to the Broadway stage in 1980 where it ran for more than eight years. Likewise, there’s another tale behind the 2001 Broadway revival on which the current production at the Hollywood Pantages is based. In the more than 30 years he has spent with the show, Mark Bramble – the musical’s co-writer and the revival’s director –can rattle off an assortment of them.

But in the summer of 2015, when Bramble and choreographer Randy Skinner re-assembled to assemble the newest touring cast, Bramble put out a call for new stories about another time.

“When I approach a new production, I really do start from scratch, and I want to put the show in a context that’s relevant to the time in which the production is being done,” Bramble said. “We’re just getting out of — and some people say we’re still not out of — this tremendous recession. In 1933, 42nd street, the film really got America out of the Depression.”

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2016 Touring Cast of 42nd Street

“These are people in their 20s and 30s and they had no understanding of the Great Depression. Many of them didn’t even know it existed,” he continued. “I gave them an assignment: find someone in your life who was alive in 1933 and who had a memory of that time. We shared those stories every day before rehearsal.”

While several “42nd Street” company members came back with stories of loss and ruin, others found evidence of ingenuity and even prosperity. An African American singer and dancer and her sister got jobs singing at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem (“they had never had it so grand,” Bramble said.) Another cast member found someone who spoke of planting a secret vegetable garden, protected by a ramshackle fence, on which they survived and, when possible, helped feed the neighborhood.

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42nd Street Opening Night 1980

Bramble shared a personal story as well. Bramble’s mother, a child at the time, accompanied her father when he went to work on Saturdays to take violin lessons at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute. One day while on the train, they learned that the stock market had crashed and the banks had closed. The girl asked her father what all of this meant. It meant, her father explained, that the only money the family had left was what was currently in his wallet.

“When the country began to get back on its feet, and she resumed her routine of going to Baltimore, she would see people on the train and in the train station who she had once seen as well dressed businessmen, and they were selling apples,” Bramble said. “They had lost their jobs. They had lost everything, and there they were trying to survive by literally selling apples.”

Bramble first heard this story in the late 1970s when he and co-writer Michael Stewart were figuring out how to bring “42nd Street” to the stage. After watching a screening of the film at the Carnegie Cinema in the basement of Carnegie Hall, they rushed back to Stewart’s apartment and called composer Jerry Herman to gauge his interest in composing new music. Herman’s response: absolutely not. Anybody who adapted “42nd Street” for the stage and didn’t use Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s songs in a stage musical was a fool.

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1980 Cast of 42nd Street

Bramble, Stewart and director-choreographer Gower Champion set out to secure the rights to the song catalog. Meanwhile, word of the team’s quest filtered back to legendary producer David Merrick. Merrick, who had been working on films in Hollywood, wanted to get back to Broadway and thought “42nd Street” would be the perfect vehicle.

Stewart balked, still smarting from the failure of their collaboration on 1974’s “Mack and Mabel.” Bramble insisted they take a meeting with the producer, and Stewart went in with guns blazing.

“We met at the Oak Room of the Plaza Hotel,” Bramble recalled. “Mike was a very feisty guy and he was very pissed off with Merrick over ‘Mack and Mabel.’ He sat down and he was practically growling, he was so angry. He said, ‘David, this is a big show. We want 16 girls,’ and Merrick looked at him as if he had lost his mind.”

“He said, ’16 girls? I won’t do it with less than 24, and if we can fit them on the stage, I’ll use 36.’ Of course, that shut Mike up. David said, ‘I want to do the biggest show since the Second World War,’ and we set about to do that.”

As the team came together, Champion – the show’s director and choreographer – needed a male dance assistant to work with arranger Donald Johnston. Johnston recommended a young dancer from Ohio named Randy Skinner.

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Randy Skinner

“I was kind of the same age as a lot of the kids I was in charge of,” Skinner recalled. “On the one hand, I felt like one of the kids, and wanted to go out with them at night. The other half of me realized that this was one of those breaks that happens without your realizing that it could be life altering. Which it was.”

The out of town reviews were not favorable, but Merrick forged ahead anyway. At its first preview in Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Bramble recalls maybe 300 people in an auditorium that held 2,000. On the play’s opening night in 1980, Champion passed away. The musical went on to become the 14th longest running show in Broadway history.

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After an opening night of “42nd Street” in 1980, the producer David Merrick, right, announced the death of the show’s director, Gower Champion.

“42nd Street’s “success effectively launched the careers of both Bramble and Skinner who reunited to stage the 2001 revival, Bramble as director, Skinner as choreographer. The two men have subsequently worked on productions both regionally and around the world from London to Shanghai, from Berlin to Tokyo. Bramble has been nominated for Tony Awards for the original book and for his direction of the 2001 revival. Skinner’s choreography for the revival was also Tony-nominated.

Skinner calls it “the granddaddy of all musicals.” Bramble concurs, citing the life-affirming message about the possibility of the American Dream, a theme that he says never gets old.

“If you follow your bliss, dreams really can come true,” Bramble said, “and I think that’s what the appeal was of the film in 1933, I think it’s what the appeal was of the original Broadway show in 1980, and I think it continues to be the appeal.”

And speaking of following your bliss, here’s one more story.

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Matthew J. Taylor and Caitlin Ehlinger as Peggy Sawyer and Julian Marsh in 42nd Street

While still in high school in Houston, Caitlin Ehlinger took a master class with Skinner and declared it a dream to one day dance for Skinner professionally. Nearing her graduation date and with only high school musicals on her resume, she travelled to New York to audition for “42nd Street.” After a 10 day audition process, she won the role of – you guessed it – Peggy Sawyer, the unknown ingénue who becomes a star.

Only in the theater.

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Cabaret in a Roundabout Sort of Way

A classic show that has seen many iterations since the 1960’s, Cabaret is still going strong. As we know here at the Hollywood Pantages, just because something has been around for a long time does not mean you know everything about it. We did a little digging on Cabaret, playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre July 19 – August 7th, and here is what we found.

The original Broadway production of Cabaret opened on November 20, 1966. In addition to several Broadway revivals and West End revivals, Cabaret has been staged in over 16 countries across the globe. Roundabout Theatre Company’s most recent revival opened at Studio 54 on April 24, 2014 in which Alan Cumming returned to revive his Tony-Winning turn as the Emcee.

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Alan Cumming as the Emcee in Cabaret

For those of you currently enjoying Chicago now playing at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre you may consider Cabaret for your next theatre outing. Both shows were written by the highly successful songwriting team, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, and have more in common that you may know. Kander and Ebb’s greatest acclaim came from Cabaret in 1966. The musical, directed by frequent collaborator Harold Prince, was a major success, with a Broadway run of over 1,100 performances. It won a Tony Award as the season’s best musical, and its original cast recording won a Grammy Award. The film, directed by Bob Fosse, won eight Academy Awards. The musical Chicago (1975) after an excellent initial run of 936 performances was revived on Broadway in 1996 to become an even greater hit. It has become the longest-running revival in Broadway history, and the 2002 film version was also a great success.

Many well known leading ladies have claimed the role of the British singer Sally Bowles each bringing their own version of the character to the stage. Starting with Judi Dench in the original London production in 1968, other notable Sally’s include Natasha Richardson, Brooke Shields, Molly Ringwald, Emma Stone, Debbie Gibson, Teri Hatcher, and who could forget Liza Minelli for her portrayal in the 1972 Oscar-Winning film.

Judi Dench in her provocative role as the amoral Sally Bowles in Cabaret, the new musical show at the Palace Theatre, London.

Judi Dench in her provocative role as the amoral Sally Bowles in Cabaret, the new musical show at the Palace Theatre, London.

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Emma Stone as Sally Bowles

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Teri Hatcher as Sally Bowles

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Debbie Gibson as Sally Bowles

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Molly Ringwald as Sally Bowles

The multi-Oscar-winning movie makes several changes to the play; in addition to adding and dropping songs, the secondary love plot of the original is replaced with a different secondary plot, a male character is added whose role emphasizes the bisexuality of the leading male character, and the nationalities of Sally and Cliff are switched.  (When ABC aired the movie for the first time, it cut out the revelation of Cliff’s affair with another man, which basically made hash of the end of the film.)

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Cabaret 1972 RŽal. : Bob Fosse Liza Minnelli COLLECTION CHRISTOPHEL

 Cabaret was based on several chapters from Christopher Isherwood’s somewhat autobiographical novel Goodbye to Berlin, and it seems that new versions of this story have always appeared at times of crisis in America. The novel appeared at the close of World War II; the non-musical stage version debuted during the McCarthy era; the stage musical opened during the Vietnam era; and the movie musical opened in the midst of the Watergate era.  Each subsequent version of this story has been braver, edgier, more explicit, and only now can it be told completely truthfully. Only now can Cliff be fully gay as Christopher Isherwood – the real Cliff – was. Only now can the Kit Kat Klub be as sexual, as decadent, as it really was. Only now, after musicals like Assassins and Kiss of the Spider Woman, are musical theatre audiences ready for the disturbing extremity that this story really demands.

Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Sarah Bishop as Helga, Andrea Goss as Sally Bowles and Alison Ewing as Fritzie in the 2016 National Tour of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Now experience Cabaret for yourself at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre July 19-August 7. Direct from Broadway, CABARET reunites director Sam Mendes, co-director / choreographer Rob Marshall and many of the same creative team members behind the Tony-Winning 1998 revival production. The New York Times calls it, “Divinely, dangerously decadent,” while Time Out New York hails it “A Broadway jewel in all its glittering glory!”

Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Get your tickets to Cabaret by visiting us at: www.HollywoodPantages.com/Cabaret

 

Brian Yorkey’s “If/Then” Moment

Evan Henerson

Once you’ve written a musical that centers around choices and consequences, the subject of paths taken and forsaken is going to circle back. Members of the cast and crew of “If/Then” have their own, unique If/Then stories. So does Brian Yorkey, the show’s book writer and lyricist. In fact he’s got several.

But on the occasion of “If/Then” coming to the Hollywood Pantages Theatre featuring Tony nominated star Idina Menzel and several members of the Broadway company, one particular series of Yorkey choices seems particularly noteworthy.

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(from left) Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Idina Menzel and LaChanze recording the cast album for If/Then.

Yorkey was a student at Columbia University who had already written a few college musicals. Overseeing the university’s Varsity Show for returning alumni, Yorkey was in a bind when the program’s music director went abroad, accidentally taking the music with him and leaving the varsity show producers in need of a pianist to play the show for a summer reunion performance.

A friend and classmate, Rita Pietropinto, had heard rumblings of a hotshot freshman who could tickle the ivories: kid by the name of Tom Kitt.

“So Rita knocked on Tom’s door and he agreed to play the show,” recalls Yorkey. “Tom listened to a cassette tape and played the rehearsal that same night which is ridiculous. She introduced us and at first I was like ‘I don’t want to write with some punk-ass Freshman kid. I’m 23 and he’s 20. What’s that about?’”

Yorkey laughs at the memory. As history would play out, by introducing Kitt to Yorkey, Pietropinto altered several lives. Kitt and Yorkey began writing songs together and that creative partnership led to the team winning the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for “Next to Normal.” “If/Then,” their subsequent show ran for 401 performances on Broadway and the duo are currently at work on an adaptation of the film “Magic Mike.”

Book writer and lyricist Brian Yorkey, left, and composer Tom Kitt, pose for a photograph in front of the Booth Theatre on Broadway in New York, Monday, April 12, 2010. Their musical, "Next to Normal," won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama Monday. The musical is about the complexity and heartbreak of a woman's mental illness and its effect on her family. "This is a show about real people and what they are going through, exploring their pains and also their joys on a level that musicals don't often do," Yorkey said. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brian Yorkey, left, and Tom Kitt, pose for a photograph in front of the Booth Theatre on Broadway in New York.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kitt’s arrival worked out well for Pietropinto as well; she ended up marrying and having three children with the composer. “In that sort of little random piece of chance, Tom got a wife and a professional colleague for decades,” Yorkey said. “It did not seem significant at the time, for sure.”

Another reverberation from the new Kitt-Yorkey partnership involved the Columbia Varsity Show’s music director who was displaced by Kitt’s arrival. Yorkey and this budding musical theater man had already written a handful of musicals together and had dreamed about writing for Broadway. After the varsity show, Yorkey e-mailed the friend, a Rhodes scholar who was studying at Oxford, and asked his friend’s permission to team up with Kitt on a musical.

“He said, ‘You know it’s fine if you do one or two things with him as long as you don’t abandon me for a new partner,’ and of course I said I would never do that kind of thing, and that’s kind of what I ended up doing,” Yorkey said.  “I did not behave well, and I was a little bit embarrassed about that and we didn’t speak for a few years.”

Who was that jilted pianist? Fellow by the name of Eric Garcetti.

The two men have long since reconciled and Yorkey is hopeful that, schedule permitting, the Mayor of Los Angeles will take in a performance of “If/Then” at the Pantages.

“I said to Eric at the time, ‘Look, what I have to do for this world is write. That’s what I can do. You have many other things to offer that are more important than writing Broadway musicals,’” Yorkey said. “That’s already proven to be true. It all worked out the way it should be, but not without a little drama along the way.”

Yorkey came to Los Angeles in the hopes of writing for film and TV, and he made his living pre “Next to Normal” by writing a series of screenplays which were never produced. But he has never had to make an If/Then style choice between chasing Broadway and the silver screen success. Yorkey took both paths.

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Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey Tony award winners for best original score for “Next to Normal”

Theater success came first. Post college, Yorkey ended up back in Issaquah, Washington where he had attended high school. He linked up with the Village Theatre, first as an artist with the theater’s KIDSTAGE program and later as the company’s Associate Artistic Director for six years. Five of Yorkey’s musicals have been staged at the Village including “Funny Pages” (1993), “Making Tracks” (2002), “The Wedding Banquet” (an adaptation of the Ang Lee film) (2003), “Play it by Heart” (2005), and “A Perfect Fall” (2007). “Next to Normal” also received a workshop at the Village Theatre back when it was still titled “Feeling Electric.”

“If/Then” would have no workshop phase out west, not after Idina Menzel came on board. The idea for this project came from Kitt who dreamed up the notion of a young woman coming to New York to restart her life. Producer David Stone suggested that the team consider reworking it to make the woman closer to 40, thereby raising the stakes of her choices.

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(from left) Tom Kitt, Idina Menzel and Brian Yorkey at the 2014 Tony Nominee press junket.

Kitt and Yorkey agreed, and Stone informed the team that Idina Menzel was interested in coming aboard and possibly making the play her first return to Broadway since “Wicked.” With Menzel on board, except for a pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theatre in Washington D.C., the play would develop in the city of its genesis: New York. Which is fitting, given how much of a role the city plays in the final product.  “If/Then” builds around the choices made by city planner Elizabeth, and the two divergent paths that she takes as Liz and Beth based on those decisions.

“If/Then” may have been conceived of as a valentine to the Big Apple –  a tale that could only take place in that specific city –  but Yorkey has since discovered that regional audiences from other places have taken possession of the musical.

“It surprised me is how profoundly many people have read their own lives into this story,” Yorkey says. “It was very much, we felt, a New Yorker’s show and the characters in it certainly sort of have a certain New York-ness to them, but the people who came to Broadway who loved it most were from other places. I got to sit with audiences in Denver and in Seattle. There is something about the experience of New York that I think New Yorkers, if it’s not their experience of New York, they judge it as inauthentic.”

“I’ve talked to people in Denver and Seattle and they have also able to read their own cities into the story of a woman who was tired of not living in a city and moved back to a city,” Yorkey continued. “That song ‘Map of New York’ is really a story about how cities are wonderful places to make a life happen, and I think that watching audiences from other places and in other places embrace that sort of New York set story has been surprising and really gratifying.”

The Pantages geography certainly suits Yorkey who moved to Los Angeles in the early 2000s and is now bicoastal with a home that sits five minutes from the Pantages. His series “13 Reasons Why” will go into production for Netflix in 2016.

Asked about the quintessential Los Angeles musical, Yorkey demures.

“I don’t think it’s been written yet. Maybe if Steve Martin has a good experience with ‘Bright Star,’ he can write the musical of ‘L.A. Story.’” Yorkey said.

There’s another option. Yorkey cops to the fact that before the dissolution of the Garcetti-Yorkey musical team, the duo was at work on a musical set in the City of Angels.

“We may finish that musical some day,” Yorkey said with a laugh. “He’s a little busy right now.”

Until that reunion, musical theater watchers can continue to wonder what if…

 

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Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Returning to “Tomorrow” Today With Martin Charnin

Evan Henerson

It takes a certain perseverance and resilience of spirit to create a musical about perseverance and resiliency.  Just ask writer-director Martin Charnin who keeps framed rejection letters from the early to mid 1970s mounted on his walls. Those epistles were sent by dubious producers who advised Charnin and his co-creators to abandon the idea of bringing the saga of a certain cartoon orphan to the musical theater stage and move on to a different subject.

“I treasure them,” Charnin says of the letters. “It’s a good lesson. Sometimes people don’t like what you do.”

But sometimes they do. The original production of “Annie,” which lyricist and original director Charnin created with composer Charles Strouse and librettist Thomas Meehan, ran for 2,377 performances on Broadway. There have been two Broadway revivals and multiple touring companies. Between Broadway, road companies, regional and international productions, Charnin has now directed the musical 19 times.

One need not necessarily be a glass-half-full minded individual to identify with “Annie,” but that spirit is part of what keeps Charnin returning to the well. After a successful theatrical career that began in 1957, the Emmy and Tony award-winning Charnin certainly knows that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow,” but he figures that the world can often use a similar wake-up call.

“I really am reminded every time I do it what the show’s initial message was, and that’s how I basically get the optimism that is up on the stage for two hours,” Charnin says. “That’s something that I need. I think everybody needs a tap on shoulder to remind them that, as awful or as bleak or as difficult as it may be today, there might be something better around the corner.”

“That’s a valuable message to have in your wheelhouse,” he continues. “Certainly for the last 38 years that it’s been playing, that seems to be the message every time we enter a political year. The message becomes a little more pertinent.”

Asked whether the show ever served as a pick-me-up in the director’s own life, Charnin harks back to the original production…the one that produced those rejection letters. It took seven years and multiple passes to finally get “Annie” on stage first at the Goodspeed Opera House and then to Broadway. When “Annie” finally arrived in the late 1970s, it premiered when national spirits were not exactly at their highest.

“The country was in dismal shape when we started to work on it,” he says. “Nixon, Vietnam, a bad economy and everything started to turn around in 1976. In 1977, everything exploded in a positive way.”

Set as the musical is in the winter of 1933 against the effects of the Great Depression, “Annie” follows its 11-year-old heroine of comic strip fame as she moves through a series of hardships en route to a fairy tale ending in the home of Oliver Warbucks. Our Annie’s never-say-die spunkiness is intended to be a bellwether for dealing with the types of difficulties faced by post-Depression era America.

In the midst of her quest, Annie belts out a song that articulates her hopefulness… a certain song that has become more than a little bit famous as evidenced by the fact that it is now one of the 100 most frequently performed musical theater songs.

Perhaps you’ve heard the tune? A one-word title that rhymes with the words “you borrow”?

“We needed a moment early in the show that kinds of defines Annie musically,” Charnin recalls. “We find out a lot about her in ‘Maybe’ which opens the show and which tells us things in terms of plot. What we find out in ‘Tomorrow’ is her attitude.”

Over the ensuing years Charnin, has heard “Tomorrow” performed in multiple languages and in a variety of contexts.

“One of the funniest ways that I remember it was when they used it to accompany a commercial showing all of the playbacks from an NFL season,” Charnin says. “The day after the season ended, the players were all getting their gear together and leaving the stadiums. All of the quarterbacks are thinking about tomorrow and the next season.”

“I guess we always live in the present and we go to bed and wake up and it’s the future,” he says. We’re lucky to have locked that title up and made it work on so many levels.”

Any young lady who sings “Tomorrow” has to project not only hopefulness, but the grit that it will require to power through those tough times. Having worked with dozens of young girls – both portrayers of Annies and her fellow orphans – Charnin emphasizes that the character is “not Shirley Temple.”

“That’s a common misperception,” the director says. “She’s got to have a toughness and a sense of stick-to-it-iveness. And obviously she has to have a set of pipes. Annie’s a survivor. She confronts a lot of different things in the context of the script. Basically that’s what she was in the cartoon when we first read it, and that’s what attracted me to the character.”

Charnin cites the impressive history of stage Annies from original Broadway creator Andrea McArdle all the way through the current tour’s Issie Swickle. You want resiliency?  How about starting your professional career while you’re still in elementary school and still be able to ply your trade three decades later, maybe even as the mother of an acting child yourself? “Annie” has its share of break-out stars from Allison Smith to Sarah Jessica Parker to a young Welsh actress from the London company, Catherine Zeta Jones.

“I get a big charge from working with the kids,” says Charnin. “We have had quite a lot of luck finding young ladies who were 10 or 11 who have gone on to have terrific careers.”

With the “Annie” tour successfully launched, Charnin is hard at work on other projects including a musical about the life of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust. Charnin is also working on a revival of the “Annie” sequel “Annie Warbucks” potentially for a New York opening during the 2016-17 season. Ideally, Charnin says, “Annie” and “Annie Warbucks” would play in repertory at the same theater so that you can see the shows on alternating nights or – “Nicholas Nickleby” style – as a same day two show weekend marathon.

Of course, wherever his creative journeys take him, Charnin always figures to have the opportunity to return to a production of “Annie” somewhere, sometime. As the last nearly 40 years have established, the appetite for this tale has by no means abated.

With this new incarnation, Charnin hopes that people who saw the musical as a child might revisit it and take home new memories. For audiences who are returning to the musical many years later, perceptions should be based on what is on stage rather than on memories that have been distorted by the passage of time or other versions of the story, Charnin says.

“Part of what this show is about is a reminder to look at it again, and then make your judgment,” Charnin says. “The hope is people take to it in the same way they did and have been for almost four decades.”

Bet your bottom dollar!

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Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

Bill Berloni and “Annie”

Evan Henerson

The star of the Broadway production is on the tour, but visitors to the hit musical “Annie” at the Pantages Theatre will see an understudy who has taken over for the leading player. Just cool your scandal-mongering, all you gossip hounds. This is not a leading player switch-out of “42nd Street” proportions. The performers are just fine with the substitution, assures the man who lives with both of them.

Sunny, who played Annie’s faithful four-legged companion Sandy in the 2012 Broadway revival, will certainly live to bark again for adoring audiences. But for now, understudy – but no underdog – Macy is the pooch under the lights.

“Macy has taken over the role of Sandy,” confirms Bill Berloni, the owner and trainer of both dogs. “It’s like a situation with dance partners. Issie Swickle (who plays Annie) has a slightly better rapport with Macy, so we decided to let it happen all the time.”

When Berloni talks about human-animal rapport, he knows whereof he speaks. The Connecticut-based trainer and operator of William Berloni Theatrical Animals, trained the original Sandy for “Annie’s” 1977 production at the Goodspeed Opera House and on Broadway. He has provided dogs for every major revival since, and has worked on countless regional, college and high school productions of the musical as well as the 2014 film with Quvenzhané Wallis.

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Bill Berloni with the very first Sandy (1977)

If successful Sandy-Annie pairings are indeed a “show-mance” between performer and pooch, then Berloni has spent nearly 40 years playing Cupid and helping to advance the course of true love so that it comes through convincingly on stage. That magic is accomplished through a certain amount of training, with actors learning and executing the commands that Sandy must perform during his 15 minutes of stage time. But this kind of puppy love is also fostered through offstage playtime, repeated routines and, well, alone time.

“When you go on the road, it’s a constant bonding experience,” Berloni says. “Many nights each week, Issie will have a sleepover with the dogs. She feeds then and when she goes to bed, they curl right up with her. We have created a real bond, not just a theater bond.”

Dogs being the creatures they are, that bond can be established, nurtured and even transferred. The original Sandy spent seven years on Broadway performing opposite five different Annies. Of course, that dog (whose offstage name was “Sandy”) was historic in more ways than one. In 1977, when “Annie” was being developed at Goodspeed, no live animal had ever had a major role in a live theatrical performance. At the time, Berloni was a 20-year old stagehand and aspiring performer who was offered the chance to get his card with Actors Equity if he could find and train a live dog that would play Orphan Annie’s companion. Berloni ended up at the Connecticut Humane Society where he rescued the abused and bedraggled dog at a cost of $7 mere hours before the animal was scheduled to be put down.

The rest is animal theatrical history. Sandy’s success opened the door for Berloni’s new career as the go-to animal trainer for the entertainment industry. For several years in the late 1970s and early 80s, Berloni, Sandy and Annie became celebrities, promoting the show on TV news programs and around the country. Sandy is featured prominently in Berloni’s 2008 autobiography “Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars.”

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Bill with the original Sandy

Should Berloni ever follow up with a volume of “More Broadway Tails,” Macy’s saga could fill up a chapter. A stray in Oklahoma City, Macy had been picked up by Animal Control. She was scheduled to be euthanized but the staff at the Animal Shelter loved her so much that they kept switching the date on her card to prolong her life. Macy was shuttled into the Prison Dog Training Program at the Davis Correctional Center where she spent six months with prisoners, but was the only dog in her class not to be adopted. When Berloni found her, she had landed with a Dalmatian rescue organization, the only non-Dalmatian of the bunch.

“It’s through the kindness of so many strangers that she has gone on to entertain,” Berloni says of Macy who has appeared in more than two dozen productions of the musical.

Sunny’s saga is equally dramatic. Berloni cast her practically sight-unseen out of a Houston animal shelter 24 hours before her time at the shelter was coming to an end. She became the subject of the Al Roker Entertainment program “Annie’s Search for Sandy” and is featured in the book “New York Dog.”

Of course the alternative to stardom for either dog would potentially have been very grim. “I’m probably one of the few people who casts roles where, if you don’t give the actor the role, the actor could die,” Berloni says.

All of Berloni’s performing animals are rescued, which represents the fulfillment of a promise that Berloni made to himself nearly 40 years ago when he went looking for the first Sandy and learned of the plight of stray dogs. He is an officer of the New York Humane Society and an advocate for humane treatment of animals. He received a special 2011 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre and is the subject of the Discovery Family Channel reality show “From Wags to Riches.” He is a regular participant in the annual Broadway Barks animal adoption event, and he received the Richard Craven Award from the American Humane Association.

Bill Berloni.

Bill Berloni stands with Taran, One of 30 rescue animals on Bill’s farm.

“I try to be a role model,” he says. “There are still no laws protecting animals in entertainment, and that has been something that has always bothered me. I set my own standards based on conscience. I have walked out of shows and given up gainful employment when people have asked me to do things that are not humane. There is no governing board that steps in to protect my rights or to protect my animals.”

“I have set standards, and with those standards have come certain costs,” he continues. “If a dog needs a quiet place to rest, I will trade dollars out of my contract to get a dressing room so the dog can rest. These are things that I hope producers start to accept on their own. They are very accepting on ‘Annie.’”

This is hardly surprising given Berloni’s history with the show and with original director Martin Charnin. The two have worked together on multiple Broadway and touring revivals of the show as well as the sequel “Annie Warbucks.” Berloni estimates that he has provided Sandys for as many as 100 productions of the musical.

Some of the experiences have come with creative speed bumps. As detailed in the Annie Gets her Walking Papers chapter of “Broadway Tails,” the 20th anniversary revival had a lot of offstage drama including the dismissal of lead actress Joanna Pacitti four weeks before the production was scheduled to open on Broadway.

From a showmance perspective, that tale has a happy ending. While Brittny Kissinger played the role on Broadway opposite the Sandy of Cindy Lou, Berloni helped ease Pacitti’s disappointment by giving her Zappa, the Sandy with whom she had rehearsed, bonded and fallen in love.

That circumstance is extremely rare, says Berloni. The animals he trains may end up among the dogs who live on his farm (currently at 30) or they may get adopted by a loving family, but Sandys are not routinely paired off with Annies once the show is at an end.

“We do this because we love them and want to give them forever homes,” says Berloni. “The business that came down the pike (in 1997) and disappointed that child… she really loved that dog, and I wanted her to leave with a piece of herself intact. The show obviously was not happy, but I was just more concerned with Joanne Pacitti’s welfare.”

Berloni recently finished the musical “Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical” for which he supplied bloodhounds. He’s got animals in “The Wizard of Oz” tour and is one of the producers of “Because of Winn Dixie” in which the dog isn’t just a key player, he’s the star. He’ll train the Toto for NBC’s live version of “The Wiz” following up on his work training Nana for “Peter Pan Live”

Of his regular recurring gigs, “The Wizard of Oz” is a favorite (“I grew up on that movie and recreating it for stage audiences is wonderful the stage”) as is “Legally Blonde” (“Hanging around with all those young women is great energy. It keeps me awake.”).

But Berloni says measures every new show against that first experience with “Annie.”

“I was 20 when ‘Annie’ opened on Broadway. A week later, I was being interviewed by the ‘New York Times’ theater section, and that original production went on to the White House,” Berloni said. “Everything that happened in that particular production changed my life and set the standard for what I would try to do with the rest of my life. Sandy was the dog who taught me everything I knew.”

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Evan Henerson has been writing about theater in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was the Theater writer and critic for the Los Angeles Daily News for nine years and has written for Playbill Online, Backstage, American Theatre and Stage Directions.You can read his reviews on TheaterMania, CurtainUp and Examiner.com.

We’ve Got Annie!

We all have that one show that sticks with us our entire lives. Maybe it was your first show, perhaps is was a show that really struck the mood you were in at just the right time, and sometimes it’s the show that left you with some new go to shower songs. For the Nederlander Organization, that owns the Hollywood Pantages Theatre; that show is ANNIE.

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We had the distinct pleasure to sit down with the President of the Nederlander Organization, James L. Nederlander, to discuss the phenomenon that was and still is ANNIE.  We asked Jimmy what he remembered about the show’s debut on April 21, 1977:

“I remember that the name of the theatre (The Alvin) and ANNIE had the same number of letters so we changed the marquee to say ANNIE for the show instead of displaying the theatre’s name. This show was something else. I went through several copies of the record because I kept wearing them out.  It was a great family show and a great date night show. It warmed the cockles of all hearts, of all ages. Everyone left with a smile. It was a great first musical for many children and people just kept coming back to see it. After nearly 40 years people are still coming back to see this show.”

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The Alvin Theatre now the Neil Simon Theatre changes its name to promote the new show Annie. (1977)

The original cast included Andrea McArdle (Annie), Reid Shelton (Daddy Warbucks), and Dorothy Loudon (Miss Hannigan). ANNIE Was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and walked away with 7 including Best Musical and Best Score. Annie’s doors stayed open until 1983 and held the title for longest running show at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre) until Hairspray in 2009.

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ANNIE original cast.

With over 10 different tours and revivals, several movie and television adaptations, and more pop culture references than one can count, ANNIE continues to inspire new generations of children to this day.

Get your tickets by visiting www.hollywoodpantages.com/annie