A Chat with the Stars of Million Dollar Quartet

Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting up with the cast from Million Dollar Quartet and interviewing them at the Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville. The talented foursome gave me a some insight into prepping for their roles and filling some very big shoes, but before I share our little chat I should give you a quick rundown of the Broadway show and the true story of this very famous foursome.

Million_Dollar_Quartet_(musical)

The actual event happened on December 4, 1956 in at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Carl Perkins went to the studio to recorded some new music. Jerry Lee Lewis (very new artist at the time) was brought into the studio to play piano for Perkins. Then, Elvis just happened to stop by the studio for a visit. Finally, Johnny Cash shows up and the fours of them hit it off and have an impromptu jam session. They recorded several tracks and the local paper published an article about the whole accidental get-together under the title “Million Dollar Quartet”. 50 some odd years later this phenomenal jam sesh was turned into a hit-musical. The musical takes the audience back in time and gives them a “fly on the wall” perspective to the once in a lifetime gathering.

The famous foursome
The famous foursome

The 4 main characters, John Countryman, James Barry, Cody Ray Slaughter and Scott Moureau, were nice enough to chat with me about their roles as these iconic country singers and what it’s like to perform for the first time in music city.

quartet

Me: Since you are currently performing in Tennessee have you been able to get out, sight-see, visit some of the historical sights of the very characters you are playing?

Scott (Johnny Cash): Yesterday, I took James here on a little “Johnny Cash pilgrimage” We paid our respects at Johnny and June’s grave sights. We went to Johnny Cash’s house, the Ryman auditorium and are now at the Johnny Cash Museum.

John (Jerry Lee Lewis): I took my wife to the Country Music Hall of Fame where they actually had a little “Million Dollar Quartet” section. While I was looking at it, a man came up to me and said,”You ought to go see the show. It’s here right now!” and I was like “funny you should say that…”

Me: How did you prepare for these roles?

James (Carl Perkins): There’s a wealth of information on YouTube these days, as well as books and everything else.

Scott: I’m kind of an obsessive fan. (insert sarcastic looks of shock from his cast members) It’s not just one thing for me. It’s everything. Every song, book or whatever is available. I’ve read everything.

Cody (Elvis): (sarcastically) I’ve had a lot of plastic surgery.

Me: Do you get that a lot? (He looks EXACTLY like Elvis.)

Cody: Oh yeah, and I always give them different answers.

Me. What makes this show such a success?

James: You get a glimpse at the real people behind the icons.

Cody: If you love music, any music, then you’re going to love this how. This unplanned gathering is non-c0mparable. Nothing like this can ever happen again, not without a plan and publicist.

Scott: It tells a story that most people don’t know. You may know Elvis, you may know Johnny Cash, but you probably don’t know the story of the Million Dollar Quartet.

Million Dollar Quartet will be playing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center until May 11th. They will continue touring the nation as well, so check out their tour dates here.  Huge thanks to the stars for taking the time out to give us some insight into this special musical.

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Cheers!

10 Reasons Why You Should Definitely See Wicked on Tour

 

Wicked - Emerald City

After all this time, I think it’s clear that I am a fan of Wicked. I mean…why else would I see it 6 times in 3 different cities? I love it so much that I am finding it difficult to write a fair an unbiased review. Since, Thursday night I have been brainstorming and trying to come up with some critical remarks. The best I’ve got is “the actress playing Glinda isn’t my favorite…still incredibly talented, but not my favorite.”  And that’s it! So, instead of telling you the good and the bad parts of this show, I’m just going to tell you 10 Reasons Why You Should Definitely See Wicked on Tour.

Wicked NY

10. The Costumes. The costumes in Wicked are nothing short of great. They munchkins look short and funny. The Emerald City citizens look crazy and whimsical. Glinda looks spectacular while Elphaba manages to look simultaneously nerdy, homely, studious and wicked. I’ve seen these costumes backstage on Broadway and the detail is fantastic. These are the types of wardrobes you will want to touch, try on and ooh and aww over.

Wicked - Emerald City

9. The Set. The Wicked Tour is extra special because the set (which is insane) is basically identical to the one on Broadway. The producers of the show want you to get your moneys worth. They are determined to give you nothing short of what you would see in NYC. It’s incredible to walk into the theatre and realize they have transformed the stage into this incredible place that has flying witches, bubbles, a giant dragon, bridges, castles and enormous moving gears and clocks. I was there to see them put the set together and still don’t know how they do it!

Original_Broadway_Company (2)

8. The History. Wicked has broken numerous box office records, won a crazy amount of rewards and has been seen by literally millions of people worldwide. This show is a piece of artistic and theatrical history. It’s songs are performed time and time again, it’s referenced in TV shows and movies and  Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda. This musical will be talked about for years to come, don’t you want to participate in those conversations?

7. The Lessons. I touched a lot on this in Thursday’s blog. We learn about accepting ourselves, being brave and standing up for ourselves and others from Elphaba. From Glinda, we learn to accept others and the cost of getting what we wish for… it’s not always what it seems.

Wicked

6. The Backstory. In case you haven’t heard, Wicked is the untold story of the witches of Oz. You will learn how one became good, one became Wicked and even where the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the East, they flying monkeys and the Wizard came from. It’s interesting.

Original_Broadway_Company (5)

5. The Culture. Face it, most of us are not getting enough culture in our lives. We don’t go to museums enough, read enough, listen to great music or see enough theatre. We need to feed our souls with more talent and art! Do your soul a favor and buy a ticket to Wicked. Get the Broadway experience in your home town and watch some truly talented actors perform their hearts out.

4. A Night Out. Seeing Wicked on tour will give you and your better half a chance to have a fancy date night. You can dress up, have dinner, see the show and grab some cocktails. OR, make it a family night out. Wicked is kid-friendly which means you can all go and check it off as family outing and an artsy night for the kids. Perfect.

3. Defying Gravity (and all the music). I am still obsessed with the entire soundtrack from Wicked. Husband and I know every word to every song and sing it a little too often on road trips. The obvious standout is “Defying Gravity”. Even if you’ve never seen Wicked, you have most likely heard this song on various occasions. It’s been on Glee and New Girl and it’s been performed by dozens of others. I get goosebumps every time I hear someone hit that high f at the end. I also get goosebumps every time I hear Idina sing.

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2. The Comedy. Wicked isn’t known for it’s hilarity, but there are many LOL moments. Glinda’s character is hilarious. No matter how many times I’ve seen the show I can’t help but laugh at her ditzy nieve self.

Gina Beck by Matt Crockett

1. The Magic. I guess one reason I love Wicked so much is the same reason I love Disney so much…it’s magical. I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes as I watch. The sets change so seamlessly, characters disappear, costumes change, wizardry is performed and you will constantly wonder “How did they do that?”

Convinced? Good! Now check out their tour schedule and order those tickets. Or, if you are in Middle Tennessee get your tickets here. Have fun and let me know what you think of the show!

Cheers!

 

 

 

What’s Behind Wicked’s Curtain

wicked

Wicked is officially in Nashville and I could not be happier! Over the years I have seen a ridiculous amount of Broadway shows, but Wicked is still my all-time favorite. It was the first show I ever saw on Broadway and this Thursday will be my 6th time to see it. It will also be my third time seeing it in Nashville! I will be reviewing the show on Thursday, but tonight I’m going to give you a peak into what goes into making this show the greatness that it is.

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) is awesome and they invited me to come watch the Wicked crew load-in and setup for their 4 week engagement in Andrew Jackson Hall. The Wicked set, props and costuming is unbelievable. It’s the most intricate scenery I’ve ever seen on stage and the tour is almost identical to the set on Broadway. So, watching the entire thing get unloaded, brought in and put together is really impressive. It takes about 2 and a half days to put this intricate set together and eight hours to load it back into the trucks.

This where the giant semi's backup and unload into the theatre.
This where the giant semi’s backup and unload into the theatre.
I learned that these are called "elephant doors", which makes a lot of sense, considering an elephant can easily fit through them.
I learned that these are called “elephant doors”, which makes a lot of sense, considering an elephant can easily fit through them.

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Not only did I get to an insider’s look into how the show is unfolded, but I also had the pleasure of interviewing their company manager, Steve Quinn. Steve is a very outgoing and friendly guy who has been with the Emerald City tour for 9 years. He knows his stuff. He was asked if there are any plans in the works for musicals or plays to be made from the other books that were written. Sadly, he has never heard of any such plans. (Wouldn’t that be cool though?) He pointed out that it’s hard to have lightening strike twice, which is true, but Idina Menzel did have Defying Gravity and Let It Go… so it’s not impossible.

steve

He believes the main draw of Wicked and its huge success is the fact that we have all been a “green girl”, Elphaba, at some point in our lives. We have all been at the point where we feel awkward or just don’t fit in with that main group. The story of Elphaba is one we can all relate to and we all have to learn to accept who we are and that’s what Wicked celebrates. I completely agree with his theory, it’s a similar theme in Frozen, which explains it’s popularity as well. However, I think there’s a huge lesson to be learned in Glenda’s story as well. I’ll touch on that later this week.

I had to know his favorite part of his job. He told me he loves standing out front before the show starts and watching the faces of all the guests, from city to city, coming to see the show for the first time. There is so much excitement and wonder in their eyes as they come through the lobby.

seats

I feel as if I know Wicked inside and out. I thought I was becoming more and more jaded to the magic behind Broadway shows, but I’ve got to say that my experience today has me all pumped up to see the show again on Thursday!

If you are interested in seeing Wicked in Nashville, then check out the show times and ticket information here. To my friends outside of Nashville, check out the tour schedule here.

Review of Sister Act The Musical

souveniers

About a week ago I got asked to review Sister Act The Musical at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. When I got the email I was pretty stoked because I never got to see the show on Broadway when we were living in New York and because Husband and I would get to go together and have a little date night. Then, I realized that our first “date night” since Luna’s birth also meant our first time to leave Luna with someone else.

Luckily, my Mom-in-law lives close and is very willing to keep Luna, but it still was not easy to leave her. Not. At. All.

We arrived early to check out the scene, the souvenirs and to read through our playbills. I always like to get to know the actors before the show starts.

me audience 20140311_192920

I remember loving Sister Act the movie and watching it numerous times growing up, yet I barely remember what happened in the movie. I decided not to watch it and refresh my memory before the show because I didn’t want to be bothered by any differences. I’m happy to say that the only difference I noticed is that the music in the movie is not used in the play. In fact, the play has all original music by Alan Menken (a disney legend!).

The music was great! Every song was catchy and fun and the singing was fantastic. The show was cute and entertaining for sure. It wasn’t my new favorite, but I enjoyed watching the nuns sing and dance. I especially enjoyed the priest’s performances! Honestly, it had everything you’d expect in a broadway show…bedazzled costumes, great songs, impressive sets, some dancing and a huge finale. I don’t think anyone would be disappointed (unless you’re expecting an exact replica of the movie).

The only downside is that the story is a little dated and there aren’t any great dance numbers. Don’t expect to hear any incredibly witty jokes, just expect some good R&B/Gospel music being belted out by outrageous nuns.

Personally, I would have enjoyed the show much more if I wasn’t freaking out about leaving Luna at home. I called to check on her during intermission…she was of course crying, which made me cry. I actually begged Husband to take me home, but he refused. I never doubted that Luna would be fine, or that my Mom-in-law could care for her, I just wanted to be with her. It’s not easy to leave your baby!

Anyways, if you are interested in seeing Sister Act in Nashville sometime between now and March 16th then get your tickets here. If you don’t live in the Nashville area then check out the tour schedule here.

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Cheers!

Lucy Live and On Stage!

If you read Saturday’s post you know I was lucky enough to review the traveling production of I Love Lucy: Live on Stage, and probably more excited about it than most. Pretty much anything with Lucy on it excites me. I once ran across a theme park, losing my friends, in order to take a picture with a Lucy impersonator. Knowing this, I’ll try my best to give a fair review.

I managed to keep myself from stocking up on more paraphernalia.
I managed to keep myself from stocking up on more paraphernalia.

The show is set-up to make the audience feel like we are at an actual taping of the famous sitcom. There are scenes from Lucy and Ricky’s house as well as Ricky’s club set up, a director, a host to keep the crowd entertained and even performers to entertain (and advertise) between takes. It’s all set in the 1950’s and they don’t step out of this setting for even a moment. In fact we were never asked to turn off our cell phones, but we were reminded that those fancy pants 35mm cameras.

My perfect accessories for the night!
My perfect accessories for the night!

The play showed 2 episodes from I Love Lucy and a few outtakes between the scenes. Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta (Lucy and Ricky) are the stars of the show and truly do an amazing job embodying these classic characters. Their comedic timing is perfect, Ricky’s frustration is real and Lucy’s cries, crazy faces and antics are all there. Then, there’s Fred and Ethel, played by Kevin Remington and Joanna Daniels, they are equally as funny. Fred does little jigs and moves his big belly around the stage with no shame. Ethel is perhaps the most realistic of all the characters. Joanna manages to sound, look and act exactly like the Mrs. Mertz I grew up watching. It has everything you’d expect when watching any I Love Lucy episode.

Elegant half-up hair (tutorial from The Small Things Blog)
Elegant half-up hair (tutorial from The Small Things Blog)

It was a little odd to watch other actors perform such iconic roles and scenes. It was kind of like when some random American Idol contestant belts out your all-time favorite song, it just isn’t right. But, after about 15 minutes, I managed to be sucked in enough to feel like I was watching old episodes being played out in front of me. Since, I’m a sucker for cheesy comedies from the 50’s I really ate up the performances between the takes. They had the “Crystaltone Singers” dance and sing jingles for us to fill the commercial time. They sang about alka seltzer, shampoo and a myriad of other ridiculous products. It was cute, very funny and exactly what I imagine people enjoyed watching 50 years ago.

35 weeks and 5 days pregnant! (dressed in Pinkblush Maternity)
35 weeks and 5 days pregnant! (dressed in Pinkblush Maternity-review and giveaway coming soon!)

Overall, the show was great. Being a true I Love Lucy fan (or fanatic), made the experience very nostalgic and even a little magical. It was a very special experience. Husband is not an I Love Lucy fan. He never watched the show growing up and I’ve yet to convince him to watch the series, even though I have the entire collection on DVD in my nightstand. However, on the way home from the play he not only admitted to enjoying the show, but said he wants to go back and watch some of the episodes now.

I just love forcing Husband into photo ops such as this.
I just love forcing Husband into photo ops such as this.

I was glad we both loved the show, but I have to say that our entire experience was not exactly perfect, and it has nothing to do with the show itself. We have never ever in our entire lives sat around such rude and inappropriate people in an audience, and we have been to A LOT of shows. There was the “I’m with the media!” woman who insisted it was necessary to take crappy photos on her iPhone throughout the show. Then there was the drunk “I need to explain every joke and finish each line with the actors” girl, who actually began moving and dancing along with the actors. Husband was lucky enough to sit next to weezy-laughy-woohoo loudly through the entire show lady. And, in front of us was the “I can talk over the actors as much as I want because I apparently think I’m in my living room” old woman. At on point the girl next to me actually explained to me that when Ricky said “wild duck chase” it was funny because he means “wild goose chase”, get it? Clearly, these people have never been out of their house. It was so bad, that Husband and I couldn’t even stay irritated, we ended up just laughing at the whole ridiculous situation. We only wished we had a flask to turn it into a drinking game…if I could drink of course.

Anyways, you should definitely check out the show if you’re in Nashville, and if you aren’t the check out their touring calendar. Fans will adore it and even non-fans will enjoy it. Just try to sit by people who have at least a Kindergartner’s knowledge of proper theatre etiquette. If not, then pack a flask.

Cheers!

Meeting Lucy and Ricky Ricardo

live on stage

I was a HUGE dork growing up. One prime example of this fact is that I loved everything on Nick on Nite. Every night I put my TV on TV Land in hopes of catching TV classics like Mr. Ed, Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Patty Duke Show, the Munsters and Laverne and Shirley. I adored these classic comedies, but the show I looked forward to most and watched religiously was I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball was the most hilarious person I had ever seen and my Mom and I spent many nights watching marathons of old episodes and laughing the night away.

When I was about ten years old I came across some old I Love Lucy paraphernalia while on vacation and had to have it. I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a purchase in my life! It was two tin lunch boxes with scenes from my favorite show and they quickly became my most prized possessions. As the years passed, Lucy collectibles became more and more popular and soon everyone I knew was buying me “Lucy” stuff for every holiday. By the time I was 16, my entire room was decked out in I Love Lucy collectibles (told you…huge dork).

During my first year of college I actually entered a Halloween costume contest dressed as Lucy from the famous “Vitameatavegamin” episode. I had my own bottle of vitameatavegamin and reenacted the entire scene…seriously, can’t make this stuff up.

Proof, now no judging
Proof, now no judging

I am admitting these humiliating details of my life so when I tell you how excited I was about not only going to see the traveling production of “I Love Lucy: Live on Stage“, but getting to interview the stars of the show dressed in their full costume and make-up, you understand that I was truly over the moon with this opportunity.

I Love Lucy: Live on Stage” is currently showing at TPAC (the Tennessee Performing Arts Center) in Nashville until February 2nd. Opening week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sirena Irwin (Lucy Ricardo) and Bill Mendieta (Ricky Ricardo). I met with the two stars of the show on their lunch break and got to know a bit about their life, background in theatre and Lucy experience with a couple other local reporters. (BTW: they were very chatty.)

sirena and bill

Me:  Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background before becoming Lucy and Ricky?

Sirena: Let’s see, I have been involved in comedy out in L.A. for a while and have done lots of work in cartoons. I was lucky enough to be cast on Spongebob Squarepants. I’m still on that show, thankfully, I play Spongebob’s Mom, Mr. Crab’s Mom and basically any random women on the show. From that, I started doing many other shows…Batman, the Brave and the Bold, HollyHobby, etc, etc. Besides that, I always did theatre in L.A., which for me is just a place that I love. I always did at least one, maybe two productions a year. I’ve done sketch comedy and improv and even worked with Rick Sparks, our director of I Love Lucy, a few times. He actually called me up and asked if I wanted to audition for the role and I said “of course”! I went in and prepared “Vitameatavegamin”, a song, and was prepared for some improv. I came at a real deficit because I didn’t have a deep understanding of I Love Lucy. I didn’t even grow up with a television. It wasn’t until I was in an acting class when a woman asked if I’d seen much I Love Lucy. I told her I hadn’t, but realized I really should. She then invited me to her home to borrow her own collection. Her name was Paula Stewart and she had played Lucille Ball’s younger sister in the Broadway play Wildcat. She told me a lot about her relationship with Lucille and showed me letters Lucy had written her and other personal artifacts. That is basically my journey up until this show.

Bill: My journey…I did a lot of theatre, I grew up in San Francisco with a family that is all involved in the arts, so performing is always something that we just did for each other. I did all types of theatre, but when I moved down to L.A. I got more involved in the TV and film business, but was still doing theatre. Before I did this, I did a production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and that was really fun. I’ve done some directing over the years too and directed some comedies which has definitely helped with this project. When this came around and I saw a notice for the auditions I knew it was going to be a great script because it’s I Love Lucy. Of course Ricky has great material, and he gets to sing, and he gets to lead a band…this is going to be a really fun project. Originally, this was going to be a three-week project and I thought okay, cool, not much of a commitment, and now…

Me: 4 years later…here you are!

Bill: Right?! The show was first tested in Los Angeles where it did really well. We then moved to Chicago, where it was a great success, and bringing on a National tour seemed to be the next logical step. The cast has changed a little from place to place, but we have also become a family. It’s been such a great experience.

Sirena:  He’s right. Playing this role for so many years and for so many audiences has been a real lesson in comedy. Just getting to know the show, the characters and stepping into these roles has been like a degree in comedy. Doing this live we get instant feedback and we know if we hit it just right or if we are a beat off. We never tire of it because every show and every audience is different.

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Me (to Bill): So, were you a Lucy fan at all growing up?

Bill: We watched the show as a family like we watched lots of classic comedies, but as a child I felt so frustrated with Lucy! I always thought “Why did she do that? They could be rich! They could do this or that, she is ruining everything!”

Me: And, now that’s your job!

Bill: I know! And, that’s the point of situational comedy. But, I did always think that Ricky Ricardo was very cool.

Other Reporter: What was the process after getting these two roles?

Sirena: After I received the call from Rick Sparks, saying I got the part, I tried to talk him out of it. “Are you sure you don’t want an impersonator or someone who has lived with this longer than me?”  I felt like I was coming at such a deficit. Ultimately, they wanted to give ma shot, and I had a lot of work to do, but I really owe a lot to do them to have given me this opportunity and trusted me to do the work and learn this role. I’ve read, and am still reading, Lucy books every evening.

Another reporter: And can you tell us a little about the show?

Sirena: Rick Sparks really wanted this to be a Valentine to I Love Lucy, but also a love letter to the beginning of the television era. He wants the audience to come in and understand what it’s like to watch the show being shot live in front of them.

Bill: They shot the show with three cameras in front of a live audience, and it was the first time anything like had been done. It was ground-breaking at the time. So, now, in our show the audience will see cameras and little scenes between the shots, like they’re really watching a sitcom being filmed.

Me: So, did you watch and study lots of old episodes to prepare for your roles?

Sirena: I’m sure the two of us have each seen every episode, and many multiple times. They never lose their comedy. For me, the one where she tells Ricky she’s pregnant is so moving! That’s what keeps us coming back; it’s so honest, connected, truthful and yet funny. For me, that ticks all of the boxes.

Bill: The fact that they were also actually married, makes it a very unique blend of reality and fantasy.

pregnant and interviewing

Another reporter: Why do you think I Love Lucy: Live on Stage is so successful and resonates with so many people?

Sirena: One thing we hear from the audience is that they actually feel like they’ve been taken back in time and are able to see the filming of this show.

Bill: That’s what theatre does, it gives you that suspension of disbelief and allows you to step into that world for 2 hours. It offers two different experiences: If you are fans of the show it allows you to imagine what it may have been like to experience the filming or if you are just getting to know it, you get a little bit of history of TV and I Love Lucy. It’s also just a great love story between Lucy and Ricky, you the see the complexities and the comedy in their relationship which is why it’s still a success even on TV today.

We ended our interview shortly after this statement. The two stars needed lunch and we were escorted to the stage to find our spot before a special mini-performance. There was a gala going on inside the theatre and Lucy and Ricky were going to surprise the guests with a 10-minute skit.

tpac backstage

Ricky entered the stage first singing the lyrics to their famous theme song and Lucy soon joined him, singing off-key and trying to find her way into the spotlight. They performed a hilarious skit that included bits and pieces from a famous episode, as well as the Live on Stage performance. It was great and it really was like watching Lucy and Ricky perform together. Bill and Sirena have such chemistry and have managed to completely transform into their characters.

alf

If you are interested in seeing the show then check out the times and ticket prices here and learn even more about the show here. Can’t wait to get my review of the show up!

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Cheers!