Ensemble Work Can Bring About Magical Chemistry
In looking back on the previous year, there are many good memories on stage for me to savor, particularly in regard to working with some very talented ensembles.
As I grow older and more aware of the chaotic mess that is show business, I am more and more appreciative of the power and magic of an ensemble. An audience has no idea how difficult it is to find that spark but those of us on the inside know when it happens the process AND product will be exponentially better.
2016 afforded Quad City audiences plenty of opportunities to see these kind of vibrant ensembles and I would like to praise two of these productions that featured a such a stellar team.
Disclaimer: I was involved in both of these but because of that I was able to have an inside view I can speak to both sides of the curtain. I am sure this will be heralded as one giant humble brag but it’s not about praising ME, it’s praising those around me. I know some insanely talented individuals and I am proud of their work!
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH – The Circa ’21 Speakeasy
You wanna talk about some serious hard working artists? Look no further than the hardworking staff and cast of this underground musical sensation. The cast and staff had less then one week to put together one of the most inspiring and rocking productions of 2016. On tech side, Mike Turczynski washed the Speakeasy stage with an essence of both a seedy nightclub and a 80’s arena concert. With the help of assistant Jessica Blaum, the look was effective and provided a party atmosphere that helped rocked the Speakeasy. Sound designer and engineer Doug Kutzli also added to the night by providing a solid mix of music and vocals and gave this live event a touch of professionalism. On stage, the show featured a solid rock band consisting of Ian Farm on guitar, the incomparable Kyle Jecklin on bass and the effervescent Peter Letendre on drums. Starring in this zany musical was Sara Wegener and Anthony Natarelli, two of the area’s most dependable and finest performers. Wegener and Natarelli (who also played the keys on a few tunes) gave stellar performances, the likes of which I’ve not seen in the area and the likes of which I have not seen from them. Both were unique and full of this fervor that entertained those of us working on the show and those who gave the show a chance. Natarelli, in particular, really impressed me with his flawless characterization and admirable reckless abandon. There was something special about this particular group and my only hope is they all work together again so we can all experience this kind of magic!
SHEAR MADNESS – Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse
It’s no secret that I love to laugh. It’s no secret that I love spontaneity and surprises (in the right context) on stage. It’s also no secret that I absolutely love working with Tom Walljasper and Brad Hauskins. And that’s why Shear Madness was an absolute dream project and showcased what, for me, is the definition of an ensemble.
Side bar: The first big show I did at Circa was Phil McKinley’s version of A Christmas Carol. The show was directed by none other than Tom Walljasper and featured Mr. Brad Hauskins. I grew up watching and idolizing these local legends and I was getting to work with BOTH of them. I distinctly remember the first day of rehearsal being in awe of the fact Tom would be directing me and that Brad would be acting with me. WHAT. As we began staging something that day I went up to Brad and said something like, “Mr. Hauskins, I’m a huge fan, I’m intimated as hell and it’s an honor to share the stage with you.” Flash forward to opening night I got this incredible card from Tom about the work I had done and to never, ever be intimidated by someone I’m working with. He said, “Remember you can hang with these dudes. You’re all the same. More people just know their names.” It was an inspiring start to my journey at Circa ’21, which continues now working on the current show, “The Music Man!”