The Pasadena Playhouse Blog

Fantasticks Meet and Greet -August 16, 2016



How has your experience been at The Playhouse? 

The Pasadena Playhouse is a classic old world, naturally acoustic theatre. This makes musical performance, in particular, a real joy. Horowitz once said (in his glorious Russian accent) “They can pay me million dollars. If acoustic no good, I don’t play.” Many theaters throughout the country are contracted (certainly as of the 1970s) to support electronically-enhanced sound. This makes for a lousy musical experience. To be able to have a piano resonate, with the sound coming back to you – and the tiniest of pianissimos fill the hall warmly – this is a GREAT experience. So when asked about my Pasadena Playhouse experience, this is first to mind along with the wonderful audience that is so engaged and attentive – and then show their appreciation at the end in such a wonderful and warm way.

We read in your George Gershwin Alone Production Diary that you were one of four interviewers at the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in Poland. Can you briefly describe that experience? 

I wish I could describe this briefly, but I can’t. There is nothing brief or pat about this experience.  However, it is on-line in complete form here.

You’ll be performing your production Hershey Felder as Leonard Bernstein in MAESTRO at The Wallis in Beverly Hills from Aug. 10-28. Tell us a little about this production. 

This production appeared at The Playhouse in 2012 as well. I created it in 2010 and it has played throughout the country over these past six years. It is exciting to be able to step into the skin of such a great artist-musician who was an equally complicated man. The music ranges from Beethoven to West Side Story – and everything in between, and the stories are human. Come and see – it’s a wild look into the life of one of America’s greats.

What’s your favorite play?  Your favorite musical?

I have far too many…that’s the problem with loving theatre. But I tend to lean toward what we now call classics – not necessarily and only Shakespeare – but anything and everything that tells a good story. As far as musicals are concerned, I am consistently amazed at the construction of Fiddler on the Roof in terms of a piece of a musical theatre. But I do love Boheme - the factors that contribute are the great music that supports the humanity of the storytelling and the characters.

Why should people come to see Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin?

A great story – and really, really GREAT music.


Pokémon play around The Playhouse

Meet HAM star, Sam Harris!


1. How has your experience been working at The Playhouse?

I love The Pasadena Playhouse. I think the first time I ever performed here, I was about 24 years old, and I fell in love with it then. So I love the history of it, I love the look of it—it reminds me of a New York house.

One of the things that’s great about working at The Pasadena Playhouse is the people. I mean really, that makes or breaks any place that you play, and this is the most extraordinary staff and crew I know—Sheldon Epps, who’s brilliant, I know Patty Onagan who does the publicity, I know Joe Witt. It’s just a great group of top-notch people, and so it’s a pleasure to work here.

2. How has your start on “Star Search” opened doors for you and your show business journey?

You know, the thing about that kind of television exposure, we talk about this in the show a little bit, is that in the days of “Star Search,” was pre-“American Idol,” pre-“The Voice,” pre-“America’s Got Talent,” pre-all that stuff—there weren’t all these cable outlets. So it was less channels, and larger audiences. So the last numbers that these shows like “The Voice” are getting, like 25 million people for their finales, are what we had every week. So it was a tremendous amount of exposure—which is life-changing. You can’t buy that kind of platform. So it was for me. I was a kid, I was 24 years old; I went from total obscurity to touring and making records and doing tons of television and going all over the world—different music festivals and making albums. So it was a huge change and a huge launch.

And then my career went to doing Broadway, and more touring, and touring Broadway shows, and then I’ve directed, became an author, and now the book has become a play. I do believe because I was so driven and ambitious, and loved to do so many things, if it hadn’t been “Star Search,” I do believe it would have come a different way, perhaps through New York. But, man oh man, it was a great way to kick it off.

3. How has fatherhood impacted you and your career?

Becoming a dad is the most important thing I’ve ever done. It’s the most important experience I’ve ever had. It has given me a perspective that I didn’t have. I’ve always been a very passionate person, but I don’t think until I had a child, like as much as I thought I had loved, I didn’t know what love was—the depth of it—until I had a kid. It’s beyond. Like the first minute you see them you don’t even know this child yet and it’s already like I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE FOR YOU. It is so large. It’s definitely affected my work, it’s affected my person certainly—about being my best person. But it’s also affected my art and my work. I used to have anxiety about working, I mean I still get very nervous, but I used to have anxiety about working. And somehow when a child is your priority, the work becomes what you do rather than what you are. My value is as a husband and as a father, and the work has gotten better because of that.

4. Can you tell us about the time Oprah called you after Sept. 11 to come on her show to sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”?

I was living in New York, and I moved from New York to Los Angeles on Sept. 10. The next day the world fell apart. And I was in an empty house, the furniture hadn’t arrived and wouldn’t arrive for some time because of everything that had happened after. I felt so alone and helpless like I had abandoned my house on fire. My friends, my life were there; I lived in New York for a long time. And I couldn’t find a community for myself yet, I was just really off the plane. And about four or five days later I got this call from Oprah Winfrey saying she was doing a show called, “Music to Heal Our Hearts.” She felt it was time that we grieve together and move on together. So, of course I said yes. And then I got on the first plane that I hadn’t been on since, which was really scary. But then everything kind of turned into a huge healing experience, the way we rehearsed, with her and her baseball cap and sweatpants saying, “Do you know this song? Do you know that song? Let’s try putting this thing together.” Todd was there, he was amazing. We were going to dinner at her house the night before for this sort of communal thing. It was me and several other Gospel singers, I was the only white boy—which was a thrill! But she trusted me to sing this sort of Gospel-ish music.

Anyway, so the actual experience was actually difficult to perform. It was so emotional and so moving, like I didn’t know if I was going to quite get through it. First I did a song called “Precious Lord,” which is a song that Oprah wanted, it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s favorite song. So she was like, “Would you like to look at the song?” and I said, “Sure.”… And this song, *sings* “Precious Looord, Take my hand, Lead me On, Please help me stand. I’m so tired, I’m so weak, I’m so worn.”

So it was about this grief and then it went into “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which is you know, from Carousel, and we did it in this 6/8 Gospel feeling—never walk alone! And it was very healing for me, and then Oprah asked if I wanted to fly back on a private plane with her to Los Angeles. She said, “Do you want to come with me?” And I said, “You guys already got us tickets and stuff like that.” And she goes, “No, with me on my plane.” I’m like, “OF COURSE I DO!” So that was beautiful. I heard Oprah never watches her own shows after, but there was an immediate tape made after this and we watched the show twice because we needed it.

And it was an extraordinary, extraordinary experience in a very, very difficult time.


Read Sam’s cover story in this week’s Pasadena Weekly.

Meet MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO star, Sandra Tsing Loh!

sandra-tsing-lohrs1. How’s the Volvo doing?

The Volvo made it to 144,000 miles and then died.  However, for emotional reasons, I have not been able to get rid of it so it is sitting in our driveway covered with dead leaves, peacefully decomposing.

2. Burning Man’s coming up in August. What advice do you have for first-timers?

Re: Burning Man, the advice, as in life, is always simple: Keep Hydrating.

3. What’s your favorite musical?

Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and the happier numbers of West Side Story.

4. What’s your favorite play?

There are so many I can’t pick one.  But I was really struck most recently by Casa Valentina.  Saw it twice.

5. How has your experience been working at The Playhouse?

Working at The Playhouse is the best.  The building, aside from having history and beauty, has such soul, that you can feel.  Sheldon says, “She is very grand.  She responds to gestures that are very specific.”

6. Why should people see The Madwoman in the Volvo?

It’s a midlife crisis, including laughter, tears and–literally–couples therapy, that you can get done in 90 minutes and then go out for wine!  (Or any other festive low-carb treat!)

Meet MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO star, Shannon Holt!


1. How has your experience been working at The Playhouse?

I am having a wonderful time here. The staff, crew, and volunteers are all so incredibly kind, friendly, and dedicated. And the theater is so beautiful. The audiences have been terrific, too.

2. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?

I love working with really creative and generous people. My two great Madwomen, Sandra and Caroline, rate at the tip top of my list. They are brilliant and inspiring and I am honored to be a part of the team.

3. What’s your favorite musical?

I am not good at picking favorites! I love so many shows for different reasons – but A Chorus Line was the first Broadway musical I saw and I was so moved by it.

4. What’s your favorite play?

A Streetcar Named Desire.

5. You play a lot of characters in The Madwoman in the Volvo. Who was the easiest to portray?

The British Guy.

6. Why should people see The Madwoman in the Volvo?

It is a very funny and sometimes very moving true story, expertly directed by Lisa Peterson, and it will entertain you. I promise!

Meet MADWOMAN IN THE VOLVO star, Caroline Aaron!


1. How has your experience been working at The Playhouse?

Well this is my second day here, so I don’t have a lot. I just flew in on Monday, we had rehearsal yesterday and the day before, so I’ve been here two days. But the theater is so exquisite, it’s full of so many wonderful ghosts. I noticed from the marquee outside this theater is turning 100 years old, so I like being younger than the theater—that’s hard to do these days. It’s wonderful.

2. Who have been some of your favorite people to work with?

Director-wise, I loved working with Tim Burton in Edward Scissorhands; I loved working with Kevin Spacey in Beyond the Sea. I’ve worked with Woody Allen many times, so he would be right up there as one of my favorites. And then the ones that are gone that I feel so sad about, like Nora Ephron…

3. What’s your favorite musical?

Musical? That’s such a good question. Okay, I’ll tell you because I just saw it. If I had a choice between seeing a play or musical, I would always see a play. I just saw The King and I in New York and I just loooooved it. Also, I teach and it’s a musical about teaching, so I loved that. It’s just so brilliantly done. And I love Fun Home, which is coming here. You must go see that.

4. What’s your favorite play?

I’m gonna say, in a contemporary vein, a play called Collected Stories by Donald Margulies.

5. You play a lot of characters in The Madwoman in the Volvo. Who was the easiest to portray?

Probably the little girl, her daughter.

6. Why should people see The Madwoman in the Volvo?

Because it’s a play about taking chances. And I think we all seem to wallow in our comfort zone, and I think taking a chance is a good idea.


GALA Production Slide Show

The Colony Theatre presents…CARNEY MAGIC!

CarneyPPHTradeNoTextThe Colony Theatre presents
Limited Return Engagement
May 6-8, 2016
Following a sold-out show in January 2016, the most-awarded magician in Magic Castle’s history – JOHN CARNEY – is returning to The Colony’s stage for ONE WEEKEND ONLY!

Carney Magic is a theatre show that blends mind-blowing sleight of hand with intelligence, taste, and wit into a unique evening of pure entertainment. This is definitely NOT your typical “magic show.” Carney’s approach is smart, engaging, and entertaining. Pin-balling between jaunty comedic riffs and astonishing sleight of hand, Carney will have you reeling with his hilarious audience participation segments, as well as his embodiment of multiple characters.Buy tickets online or call 866.811.4111.
The Colony Theatre
555 North Third Street
Burbank, CA 91502

Rockwell Presents: The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada

150by150 dwp rockwell

The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada

Directed by Tye Blue

The Boss from Hell is Back as Rockwell Table & Stage presents The Unauthorized Musical Parody of The Devil Wears Prada, running Thursday-Sunday through July 3rd.  While you’re out getting the boss’s coffee, get your tickets at Brought to you by Executive Producer Kate Pazakis.

Male Swing: Alec Cyganowski

Nigel: Tom DeTrinis

Miranda: Drew Droege

Miranda: John Flynn

Andy: Kelley Jakle

Christian: Sebastian La Cause

Christian: Matthew Merchant

Andy: Lana McKissack

Emily: Marla Mindelle

Nigel: Alex Mohajer

Lily/Jaquline/Giselle: Corbin Reid

Female Swing: Megan Reinking