With a background in education, I always like seeking out opportunities in educational theatre. Among the best programs for college-aged students is the Musical Theatre Conservatory (MTC) at the esteemed Barrington Stage Company (BSC) in Pittsfield, MA, not far from Camp Greylock, where I worked between 2008 and 2010. The summer intensive selects roughly 15-20 students each season with backgrounds in performance and directing, and provides mentorship and daily classes by members of the BSC Faculty, guest artists, and other master clinicians. Performance opportunities include a series of cabarets, certain education/press events, the student-driven "directors' projects," and an end-of-the-season showcase. Students also understudy various roles, throughout the season. It has been my honor and privilege to serve as resident music director for this fine program, which is now in its final two weeks.
When I was asked to music-direct the 2017 MTC program, which is staffed through the education department, one of my hopes was that the experience would open some new doors for me throughout Barrington Stage, specifically as a music director/conductor down the road. BSC has had over 20 world premieres, including some big hit musicals like Spelling Bee. They also mounted the recent Broadway transfer of Bernstein's On the Town. Little did I know, their resident music director, Darren Cohen, was scheduled to leave the Berkshires early this season, and needed to find someone to conduct Company, starring the fantastic Aaron Tveit. To paraphrase a song from the show, "Someone [Was] Waiting," and that someone was me. We just finished our first week of rehearsals, and I couldn't be more thrilled. The cast. The material. The venue, all of it. Amazing. Excepting some individual concert pieces, Company will be my first professional Sondheim; it is also Chrissy's favorite show. Our first performance is August 10th; hope to see you up in the Berkshires!
On Inauguration Day, when I was more or less in a pit of Trumpian Despair, I was happy to discover that The 5th Avenue Theatre's production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which I music-directed, was nominated for nine Gypsy Rose Lee Awards by the Seattle Theater Writers, the Emerald City's only professional Critics' Circle. Yesterday, the winners were announced, and I am thrilled to report that we took home seven awards (in bold print), myself included!
I also have to add that the lovely Jessica Skerritt, recognized for her performance of Hedy LaRue, ending up losing to HERSELF, as she was nominated twice in her category, winning instead for her turn as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain at Village Theatre. Congratulations, everybody!
During my first full season at Goodspeed, I was thrilled to discover that our Fall production was slated to be City of Angels, arguably the jazziest original score ever to grace a Broadway stage. In the show, the "Angel City Four," a scatting, vocal jazz quartet propels the plot forward at various times, much like a Greek Chorus, but in very tight harmony. Rather than casting the performers individually, Goodspeed wisely chose four talented actor-musicians from an existing group, Marquee Five, to come to East Haddam as a package deal. Coincidentally, the bass of the group, Mick Bleyer, was an old friend of mine from Reading, PA. We had done community theater together way back in the day, but I hadn't seen him in nearly 15 years. It was amazing to reconnect with him, and meet his talented colleagues, (soprano) Vanessa Parvin, (alto) Sierra Rein, and (tenor/arranger) Adam West Hemming.
Fast forward five years, and the gang is back together, along with the fifth member of Marquee Five, the lovely mezzo, Lyndsey Buckelew. This Fall, we premiered a new set, Backporch Swing, in a show at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, followed by a tour of Southern California, Florida, and Virginia. Our time is California was amazing; we stayed with Adam's friend, performer Bree Burgess Rosen, while performing two nights at the Carpenter Center in Long Beach, and one night at No Square Theatre in Laguna, co-founded by Adam and Bree. We also performed on a morning radio show and facilitated two student workshops. I was lucky enough to catch up with my old Antietam friend, Jack Kubacki at our show in Long Beach, and meet my Mom's friend from elementary school, Delise Konigsbach, who came from San Diego with her husband Dan to see our show in Laguna. On our day off, I drove to Encinitas to visit my Cousin Amy and her family. Cousins Ezra and Arlo showed me around their neighborhood and ran me ragged at the playground. We also ate our fill of fresh-picked passionfruit and pomegranate – delicious! Florida and Virginia were more like whirlwind performance getaways, but fun and fulfilling, nonetheless. The Tin Pan was a great venue in Richmond, and our gig in Florida came with a camera crew! We'll post videos when we get the final footage.
This summer, I donned my Hawaiian shirt once again for another run of The Bikinis at the Long Wharf Theatre in beautiful New Haven. It has been fun to reconnect with the old gang and play through Joe Baker's great arrangements. We have enjoyed many enthusiastic audiences, a TV morning show appearance, and some kind words from the press, too!
THE NEW YORK TIMES: "A Trip Through Time, with a '60s Sound"
"...the music is lovingly resuscitated. And the music is the point. Harmonizing beautifully under the musical direction of Dan Pardo, they perform fondly remembered classics, with reprises of the Bikinis’ “hits,” appropriately ’60s-style ditties written by Mr. Roderick and Joseph Baker."
THE NEW HAVEN REGISTER: "Long Wharf Dons 'Bikinis' for a Musical Good Time"
"Credit musical director-keyboardist Dan Pardo for muting his band sufficiently [enough] to keep the voices paramount without burying the musicians’ skillful playing. One actually hears and understands lyrics so elusive in their original recordings."
THE HARTFORD COURANT: "The Bikinis Stay Afloat at Long Wharf"
"What sets 'The Bikinis' apart from other jukebox nostalgia shows is the range of the music being remembered, some clever vocal and instrumental arrangements, and — wonder of wonders — half a dozen original songs. These new tunes by Ray Roderick and Joseph Baker are clever pop pastiches that fit snugly alongside the dozens of familiar Top 40 hits from the '60s and early '70s."
BROADWAY WORLD: "The 5th Avenue Proves It Knows HOW TO SUCCEED"
THE DAILY RECORD: "Razor Sharp 'How to Succeed' in Seattle"
"The musical score by Frank Loesser, conducted by Dan Pardo with new orchestrations by Bruce Monroe,
THE DAILY (UW): "How to Succeed" is a work of visual, lyrical, and satirical genius that's not to be missed"
SEATTLE GAY SCENE: "How to Succeed is a candy-colored comedy delight!"
JETSPACE MAGAZINE: "How to Succeed is something of a miracle"
"A powerhouse ensemble is light and comically charged on their feet in the several big production numbers.
THE DISPATCH NEWS: "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a laugh riot!"
BLOGCRITICS: "All the stars are aligned in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of How to Succeed in Business"
Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin
Next week, we begin previews for a terrific production of Frank Loesser's Pulitzer Prize winning farce, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, at the prestigious 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, WA. I have had the supreme honor and pleasure to serve as music director for this wonderful piece, and for the first time, will be conducting the entire run from the podium – not just bobbing my head from behind a piano. Our 14-piece orchestra had its first rehearsal last night, and they sound fantastic, with brand new orchestrations by Bruce Monroe, and some new arrangements by yours truly.
Happy July 4th! I am so humbled and happy to share that as of June 25th, 2015, I have made my Broadway debut as the 2nd Keyboard player and assistant conductor on Amazing Grace: A New Broadway Musical at the Nederlander Theatre. This marks my third production of this powerful show (Goodspeed and Bank of America Center in Chicago), directed by Gabriel Barre, choreographed by Christopher Gattelli, with music direction, arrangements, and incidental music by the Joseph Church. We are finishing up the second week of previews now with a press opening set for July 16th. Audiences are loving the show so far; please come out and support this moving piece of theatre.
So after three seasons at Goodspeed, Chrissy and I got married in Pennsylvania and moved to Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Chrissy quickly found a steady job at Gymboree, and I was fortunate enough to line up projects through the rest of the calendar year.
I spent my summer music directing and playing "The Bikinis" — a fun and frothy beach party musical by Ray Roderick and Jim Hindman of Miracle or 2 Productions. We played a month at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT before a two week stint at the Harbor Lights Theater in Staten Island.
New Haven was a great town, with an especially great food scene! If you haven't checked out Louis' Lunch, or gone down to experience their version of Little Italy, you are missing out! In the great Pizza Rivalry of Wooster Street, I vote for Frank Pepe's! Staten Island was great, too. We performed in the historic Snug Harbor Music Hall, and I got lots of miles in on my bike, commuting from Ditmas Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, then south to the Staten Island Ferry. The ride on the ferry was serene (and free!) with a terrific view of Lower Manhattan and Liberty Island. Some eager older gentleman also took out his phone one day and was excitedly tracking our location on Google Maps over the Hugh L. Carey (Brooklyn-Battery) Tunnel. Snug Harbor was picturesque, with lots of beautiful 19th century structures, and large botanical garden, as well. After my final "Bikinis" matinee, I discovered that on the 3rd Sunday of every month, the Folk Music Society of New York meets in Snug Harbor for "The William Main Doerflinger Memorial Sea Shanty Sessions" at the Noble Maritime Collection building. Needless to say, I grabbed my concertina and hopped on over after the matinee was finished! I hope to catch them again soon.
I am now in pre-production for Amazing Grace, which will open this fall at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. I'm thrilled to be a part of this exciting new musical; Stay tuned for more news on that, as well as some other projects!
Finally, I just want to give a shout out to my friends and colleagues, Eli Bolin, Hunter Bell, and Lee Overtree, who are in rehearsals now for Found: A New Musical at the Atlantic Theater Company. I music-directed their workshop last December, and I'm absolutely in love with the piece. Unfortunately, I could only be in one place at one time. Break legs!
So much has happened since I first put this site together last August. Do you know when you put something off, and then continue to put it off because you're embarrassed by your own negligence? Well, I do, and that's how I have felt in regards to my website. Anyway, here I am again, with this year's top five!
So glad that my site is finally up and running. Please let me know what you think, or just drop me a comment to say "hello". For a long time, people have been asking if I had a website or if I was planning on getting one. I kept dragging my feet and making bad excuses, like "it's too hard to do myself" or "I don't have time to add any more freelance projects to my plate anyway" but no more!
I hope that this site gets my name out, leads to some new collaborations, and kicks up my professional image a notch. No, this business card with my parents' address and my old Yahoo email hasn't really been cutting it –– especially when I'm playing a long bar gig and the person who wants my info isn't even sober enough to even hold a pen!