Thursday, August 26, 2004

FMT Sheep featured in "A Little Princess"

One of my favorite parts of the FMT production of "Candide" this past Winter was the sheep.

One of FMT's sheep, Lyndsay Faye, is nicely featured in TheatreWorks' World Premiere production of "A Little Princess" which opens tomorrow evening. I saw the first public preview last night, and Lyndsay plays Lavinia, the "Little Princess" equivalent of Nellie Olsen.

(I hope you're all getting the "Little House on the Prairie" reference there?)

You can find out more about the show at, of course, the TheatreWorks blog:

The show runs now through September 19th at the Mountain View CPA on Castro Street.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Foothill Auditions: "The Children's Hour"

Foothill College Drama Department will conduct open auditions for its fall production, "The Children's Hour" by Lillian Hellman, directed by Tom Gough.

About the Play:
From one of America's most significant playwrights of the 20th Century, The Children's Hour delicately and effectively confronts several lurking social taboos by telling the story of two young adult women who run a secluded New England private school for girls in the 1930's. A malicious youngster starts an entirely unfounded scandal about them which precipitates tragedy for the women. Later it is discovered that the gossip was pure invention, but by that time irreparable damage has been done. 


Parts:  1M (Age 30-40), 1M (Age 15-20), 2F (Ages 25-35), 3F (Ages 40-65), 9F (Ages 12-21).  All ethnicities encouraged. 

Prepare:  The auditions will consist of cold readings from the script assigned during the audition.  A 90-sec modern dramatic monologue is preferred, but certainly optional.  If possible please bring a resume and headshot or photo.

Times:  Monday, September 20th and Tuesday, September 21st at 7pm please choose only one day to attend preliminary auditions--no appointment necessary. Call-back auditions will be Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm.

Where:    Foothill College Playhouse (Rm #1301), 12345 El Monte Road (I-280 & El Monte Road), Los Altos Hills. 

Rehearsals begin Monday, September 27th. 

Show runs November 5th through 21st. 

No pay, but college credit available for those who request, registration fees otherwise waived.

For more information: (650) 949-7414.

Several FMTers are in TheatreWorks' "A Little Princess"

The World Premiere of new musical "A Little Princess" opens this week at TheatreWorks, featuring several people who've been in FMT productions this year, including Ricky Tripp and Lyndsay Faye.

Check out the TheatreWorks blog at:

Previews are this Wednesday and Thursday at 8PM at the Mountain View CPA on Castro Street.

You can get half-price tickets to this preview for being a blog reader.

Check the blog to get the phone number and promotion code.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

An After-the-Fact Rave Review

I know the show is closed, but the raves keep on coming. And it seems nice to have them all in one place.

Here's one from a site I didn't even know existed, Aisle Say (cute name, huh?)

Check it out.

Monday, August 16, 2004

More of what's to come

I got this Coming Attraction from cast member Wendell Wilson:

He's been cast in Woman's Will's production of "Lord of the Flies", opening 10/1 and closing 10/24. 

For those of you wondering how Wendell, very much a male, got cast in an all-female ensemble production, he insists it is simply that he auditions really well!

Well, seriously, they wanted to have a male for the part of the "Beast" and the "Officer." 

Every now and then Woman's Will likes to throw a male into their female ensemble just to shake things up.

Sounds right up Wendell's alley to be shaking things up a bit.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The List is Getting Smaller

So, I saw Artistic Director Jay Manley at the show last night, and he let slip (okay, I doggedly asked until he gave me a tidbit) that he has narrowed it down to four possible choices for the FMT Winter Musical.

Now, I know this would be a really hot tidbit if he had told me WHAT those 4 options were...but he didn't. Sorry.

Where was The Mercury News?

OK, am I the only one who's really annoyed the Merc did not review "Ragtime?"

I don't feel I can really lodge a complaint, given it would just be dismissed as coming from one of the show's marketing folks. But if you're an audience member who feels like they are really screwing up by ignoring Foothill Music Theatre, here's how to tell them:

Arts & Entertainment Section
Assistant managing editor: Katharine Fong (408) 278-3448
Features Editor: Jeff Thomas, 408-920-5892
Deputy Features Editor: Ron Kitagawa, 408-920-5027
Theatre Writer: Karen D'Souza
General E-mail:

You know, it's just a thought. No pressure :)

Saw the Show Again Last Night

So, if you haven't bought your tickets by now, you've missed your shot I suppose, but then it's only right that I taunt you with another discussion of how much this show rocks. I saw it again last night, and it has not only held up well, but actually improved in some areas.

Let me just say that this is not only my opinion. Something I was really struck by was the wild enthusiasm of the audience. I have seen many an "event" theatre production, and indulge me while I drop some, well, not names, but theatre experiences:

I saw the closing performance of "Song & Dance" with Betty Buckley, and her very large fanatical fan following in the house.

I saw the 9/13/01 performance of "The Producers" with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Yes, that's the first night Broadway went back on after 9/11.

I saw Opening Night of Barbara Cook on Broadway back in the 80's, and she has her own fanatical fan following to boast about.

I saw a performance of Gypsy last September where Bernadette received a full standing ovation after finishing "Rose's Turn". We simply couldn't wait until the curtain call.

I think this audience may have been as, if not more, ecstatic. After every number we basically applauded until the next scene started, no matter how long that took. And the scene changes are just not that admirable! There was whistling (well at least from me) there was screaming and whooping. It's always fun to be part of such a raucous, enthusiastic can't help but be pulled in.

I had better seats this time (last time I was craning around a person in front of me the whole time) so I caught a lot more little moments. All in all, I enjoyed it just as much the second time.

Here's the ultimate compliment a show gets from me:

I have a bad back, and sitting for periods of time without moving gets uncomfortable for me. So, I'm a constant watch-watcher. Mostly because I'm thinking, "how long until I can stand and stretch?" "Ragtime" is not a short show, I won't lie. The first act is over an hour and a half.

And I did not look at my watch once either time I saw the show. That is the highest praise a show can get from me!

I've posted a lot of the great comments I've received via email about this show. But feel free to keep sending them in. If nothing else...the cast will love to read them!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Great TheatreWorks offer for Blog Readers

"Ragtime" closes this weekend, so I know you'll be looking for the next show to see.

Consider the world premiere of a new musical version of "A Little Princess" making its debut at TheatreWorks in Mt. View on August 25th.

And here's the bonus:

As you may or may not know, TheatreWorks also keeps a blog.

They are offering half price tickets to the two preview performances of "A Little Princess" to all blog readers.

Those performances are: Wednesday August 25th and Thursday the 26th at 8PM
It is general admission seating at the Mountain View CPA on Castro seat. Seats will cost $16 per (includes a $2 facility fee.)

And you can only get them by:

Phoning the box office at: 650.463.1960
And using the promotion code: BLOG

No walk-ups. No online orders.

So don't despair because "Ragtime" is closing, and you don't know what you'll do with yourself now, and you can't pile into a van and follow "Ragtime" around the country. I've got you covered.

More of What's Next

If you read the "Candide" blog, you've meet late-blooming theatre-holic, Bill Ereñata.

Never having done theatre until six years ago, he's been on a non-stop tear since then...including already having several things lined up after "Ragtime":

Bill begins rehearsals on Saturday the 14th (yes, tomorrow!) for "Sweeney Todd" with The Western Stage in Salinas, performing during the month of October. 

Next up will be rehearsals for the Saratoga Drama Group's production of "South Pacific", yes the one starring Ms. Mary Melnick.

Bill hopes to audition for Foothill Music Theatre's winter musical, whatever that might be (never hurts to get your hints in early, Bill.) But following that, Bill is already cast in Saratoga Drama Group's "Pajama Game", which performs in May and June of 2005. 

Bill has goals outside theatre too, hoping to get a little vacation in there somewhere, and at least definitely visiting family in San Diego for the Christmas holidays, and greeting the new year in his usual manner with friends in Palm Springs. And of course he will save some time for three grandsons: Liam, Ronan, and Ben, already growing so quickly, but filling life with such sweet memories.

While Bill has his life planned out until mid-next year, ensemble member Wayne Stribling has it potential life narrowed down! He has two auditions scheduled for after "Ragtime": One with the Multi Ethnic Theater Company for "When You Comin' back Red Ryder?" and one with the African American Shakespeare company for "Beast."

I hope the producers from those theatres saw "Ragtime", because then they will have no question about whether to add Wayne to their roster ASAP!

Thursday's Audience: Big and Wildly Enthusiastic

I happen to hike regularly with the spouse of a Ragtimer. he has seen the show FOUR times!

Including last night.

Apparently he was impressed not only with the size of the audience on a Thursday night (not typically your busiest theatre evening) but also its enthusiasm.

He ventured a guess that this audience may have topped the three others he has been a part of with their ecstatic response to the show.

Standing ovations have been the norm, but last night several folks started standing in the dark, before the first cast member appeared for a bow.

And that's nice. Usually folks save the standing until later in the curtain call, for perhaps their favorite leading character. And then talk afterwards about how everyone was just so good. This was one audience that made sure that everyone, from ensemble on up, knew how goof they were!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

From History to....

Check out what two of our historical figures are up to next:

Ray Renati (JP Morgan) is going to be performing the role of Ernst Ludwig in 'Cabaret' at Broadway by the Bay in San Mateo. The show runs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 10.

Cath Sheldon (Emma Goldman) has a very full roster, indeed. She reports the following engagements, some of which are open to the public:

Sunday August 22nd: sing in my Dad's church on Long Island, in celebration of his 89th birthday (all are welcome but it's a bit far...)

Saturday Sept. 11th:  Mystery by Design "Recipe for Murder" at the Gilroy City Hall 

Saturday Sept. 18th: Mystery by Design "Casablanca Intrigue" at the DoubleTree San Jose (This is Cath's favorite MBD show and role of all time, but it's probably a closed event)

Saturday Sept. 25th, 6 pm: Lyric Theatre Outreach series, a 'mini-Mikado' for Campbell's Ainsley House's 10th Anniversary

Friday Oct. 22nd: Savoy Express (Ken Malucelli's touring Gilbert & Sullivan review troupe) at the Sequoias in Los Altos - Almost certainly a closed event for the residents (this gig was postponed from last year, when an e-colli event sickened many of the residents!)

Friday/Saturday November 13-14: Lyric Theatre Discovery Series, "The Maid of the Mountain", at Le Petite Trianon in downtown San Jose

And right after that we swing into Merrie Olde Christmas Caroler season! 

Allof these gigs, except the Christmas Caroling have come in just since last week, when Cath was idly wondering what she'd do after 'Ragtime' closed. In Cath's own words: "Be careful what you wish for!"


Another tetimonial via Email

I’m writing because I saw a show last week which was maybe the best production I’ve seen in five years, and is easily in the top five I’ve seen in the Bay Area.  And the amazing thing is, it’s not a national tour or at TheatreWorks or ACT or any of the other high-powered places in the Bay Area.  It’s the Foothill College production of “Ragtime.”  Every part of it is superb:  the cast, the directing, the orchestra, you name it.

I’ve seen another production of “Ragtime,” and I enjoyed it.  But believe me when I tell you that this production stands out.  The unfortunate thing is that there are only four shows left:  this Thursday-Sunday, 8/12-15.  (Thursday-Saturday are at 8:00, and Sunday is at 2:30.)

Check out this fabulous show.  You won’t regret it.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Where Are They Headed Next? Mary Melnick (Mother)

Mary Melnick, Mother in "Ragtime", has a rich, full life outside of "Ragtime", as a wife, mother of a 2 year old and elementary school teacher. While Mary used to be a theatre junkie, doing multiple shows a year, she has slowed way down in the face of all her other priorities.

Luckily we snagged her for "Ragtime", and lucky Saratoga Drama Group has snagged her to play Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" next winter.

So, no rest for this Mother. She goes back to teaching her 5th grade class in 3 week and starts rehearsal for "SP" in November.

As Mary puts it, she's looking forward to playing Nellie, a very different sort of role than Mother, and getting the opportunity to be "silly."

Monday, August 09, 2004

One Last Rave Review

This from, one of the premier sites guessed it...talking about Broadway :)

Check it out.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

One More Week to Go

Well today's matinee will close out the third weekend of "Ragtime" performances.

The audiences have been growing, no doubt fueled by fantastic reviews, word of mouth and even "word-of-keyboard."

At this point, you have only FOUR MORE PERFORMANCES to catch. And those performances are selling really well. I'm going to see it again this Saturday with some family who couldn't resist the passion behind my descriptions of the production.

I hear we've got lots of cast friends and family unable to resist seeing the show more than once, so you're competing with them for good seats!

You can use the link in the upper right of this blog to get to the online box office. And don't forget to use the promo code BLOG to get your $2/ticket discount.

In the coming days, I'll be telling you what various Ragtimers are up to next. And this blog will live on as the Foothill Music Theatre blog after "Ragtime" closes.

Keep checking in!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

A "Ragtime" Exchange Program

Harlem ensemble member Wendell Wilson share the following story:

"A group of Ragtime cast members, Julie Valentine (Sarah), Ray Renati (J P Morgan), Annette Stenger (New Rochelle Ensemble), Robyn Winslow (Immigrant Ensemble) and Wendell Wilson (Harlem Ensemble), visited the exchange students at Stanford University. 

This group of students is learning about our show in preperation to come see it this Friday. They're learning the story, and the songs as well. First we told them about the parts each of us play in the show, and the effects that we have on the story.  Then we led them through some of the physical, mental and vocal warm-ups that we do before each show. We performed several of the numbers that we do in the show: "Crime of the Century", "Getting Ready Rag", and "Henry Ford." 

The exchange students also performed several numbers for us: "Crime of the Century", "What A Game", and "Buffalo Nickel Photoplay Inc." They did a great job!  Everyone had a great time. 

The highlight for me was singing "Sarah Brown Eyes", a duet, with Julie Valentine.  This is the Coalhouse/Sarah flashback duet that takes place in Coalhouses' mind after she is killed.

"Ragtime" says so much about the immigrant experience that I'm sure students in this country on a foreign exchange will really appreciate it. And it's great that the cast was willing to take a little of their time off (now that they've opened and finally have some) and make this 'field trip'!

Want to See "Ragtime" For Free?

There is actually a way. See the following note from cast member, Doug Brees:

We still have need of some volunteers to help us during our current run of "Ragtime" at Foothill Music Theatre. You would be helping us out by directing audience members from the edge of the parking lot to our theater. In exchange, we provide you with a ticket to a production that critics and audience alike have been praising as worthy of Broadway and other professional venues. You would need to arrive one hour prior to curtain, and are finished 10 minutes prior to curtain which leaves you ample time to reach your seat. 

Even if you're not interested in working in the parking lot, you really don't want to miss this production. It's lush, vibrant, poignant, and uplifting, and our orchestra is superb. Plus, the show itself is compelling in its own right! We're biased, of course, but come see it!

If you're interested in helping us out, please contact Doug Brees. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More Emails from the Audience

Sometimes the best indication of a show's success is that an audience member is willing to take time out of his or her busy day to send feedback our way about the show. After all the critics are paid to write a review. The audience is paying us!

Here's one more blurb from an email received:

"Just had to again tell you how FABULOUS "Ragtime" is!!! I told everyone in this office that they MUST get tickets to see it. A couple of them have indicated they will go. It was one of the best things I've ever seen in the Valley. Really! We saw it in New York a few years back and your production was equally as good, in my opinion. What a thrill it must be for you to be in such a great production."

Nothing like 'word-of-mouth', and that's what sells tickets too.

Don't forget you can get $2 off every ticket bought online just for reading this blog.

Just use the Promo Code Word 'BLOG' when you click to the online box office in the link to the right.

See you at the show.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Guest Blog Entry from Michael J. Vaughan

Sometimes things happen in the world of publishing, and stories get pushed out. Michael J. Vaughan recently researched and wrote a great story on our production of "Ragtime", and then sighed as his editor couldn't get it in print in time for the show's run. Too bad, because it's a great story and Vaughan got to speak with playwright Terence McNally himself for the story.

Vaughan has graciously offered the story to us to put in our blog, so here it is.

By Michael J. Vaughn

For San Francisco actor Paul Araquistain, this summer has provided a rare opportunity to hone his craft. While performing the role of Tateh in Foothill Music Theatre's "Ragtime", Araquistain is simultaneously workshopping a new play with Terrence McNally, the Tony-winning playwright who adapted "Ragtime" for the stage.

"When we first met for the (workshop) project" said Araquistain, "I remember saying to (McNally) that it was the second night in a row that I'd been reading his words. I told him that I was up for the part of Tateh, and he said that it was a good part for me."

The musical is based on E.L. Doctorow's 1975 novel, which wrapped itself around the entirety of 1906 America - achieving this, in part, by using individual characters to represent entire social groups. Tateh is a Latvian immigrant who Doctorow uses to symbolize all immigrants.

"I understudied the part of Tateh about 18 months ago," said Araquistain. "It's been interesting this time to look at the lines with the new insight I've received from working with McNally. He writes very succinctly and economically; he doesn't write in any big dramatic pauses. I can see that McNally has been extremely faithful to the book, truly preserving the feel of it."

McNally is unique among top-level writers, in that he alternates between creating his own plays (Tony-winners "Master Class" and "Love! Valour! Compassion!") and adapting the works of others for the musical stage (Tony-winner "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and the opera "Dead Man Walking") When I asked him about the difference between the two art forms, he vigorously defended the art of adaptation.
"The only reason to do a musical adaptation," said McNally, "is to love the source material as much as you would love something of your own. Writing a musical book or libretto is not slumming or a vacation from playwriting. It requires the same honesty, diligence and artistry as any original piece."
McNally said he has gotten a lot from working with Araquistain, who "has a sly quality" that he enjoys. The workshop is taking place at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theater Center, where McNally began a 15-month residency in March.
"The whole intention of the (workshop)," said Araquistain, "is for an author to develop a play in concert with the actors, working with them as the play forms. It's beneficial in some ways because it forces the actors to focus on the moment we're playing, prevents us from playing to the conclusion, so to speak, because we don't yet know what the conclusion is."

Foothill Magic

Foothill has won so many professional-level awards, it long ago lost the title of "underdog." It's also become clear that director Jay Manley and company have no problem putting on big shows; this year's cast is actually ten performers smaller than 2001's "Show Boat," which featured 67.

"The challenge," said Manley, "is that, unlike "Show Boat", "Ragtime" is very cinematic, with many short, vignette-like scenes. Nearly all of the show is underscored with music, so that is also a challenge for timing."

The story's most fascinating - and philosophically dark - figure is Coalhouse Walker, a black ragtime piano player who turns to violence after suffering a steadily worsening series of indignities. The part is played by James Monroe Iglehart, who won a Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award in 2001's "Show Boat."

"(Coalhouse's) character is a mix of different real situations that happened to black men at that time," said Iglehart. "When I first read the script, I thought I would never do what he did when he finally 'loses it.' Yet the more I probed the character, I began to understand, you never know what you'll do if you are put in a life-and-death situation, or if you lose everything you love and hold dear."

Doctorow's story also makes use of real-life figures like Harry Houdini and Henry Ford, leaving some Foothill actors with the challenge of dragging icons down to earth. For Palo Altan Ray Renati, the assignment was tycoon J.P. Morgan.

"I have some photos of him that I use to spawn my imagination of what he was like," said Renati. "The show displays him very much as an icon and something of a bigot. What I want to know is what he was like to relate to as a person. I think he was stern but generous, and truly believed that people could pull themselves up by their immigrant bootstraps, as it were. His vision of the Morgan library becoming a public institution was realized by his son, J.P. Junior."

Renati said that Foothill, in addition to putting on great shows, also provides hard-to-find opportunities for local performers. "When you have other theatres in the area like TheatreWorks and American Musical Theatre of San Jose, who hire mostly Equity actors (often those from out of town) and save only small roles for local people," he said, "(Foothill is) a great place for local actors to work on a quality big musical production."

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