Friday, March 11, 2011

"Seth Rudetsky's Big Fat Broadway Show" and Master Class with Seth at Hot Summer Nights!!

This summer at Hot Summer Nights we are happy to announce "Seth Rudetsky's Big Fat Broadway Show"! Seth will be performing his one-man show on June 13th at 8pm at The Kennedy Theater and will be teaching a master class earlier in the day. There are only 24 spots for SETH RUDETSKY'S MasterClass on June 13th at 3:30.

The Kennedy Theatre
at The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E South Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
The Kennedy Theatre entrance is located on Salisbury Street around the back of PEC.
Email your name, email address to

BRING SHEET MUSIC (audition songs…) and something to record with!

Cost: $100… payable in advance…right on Seth's blog!

If you want to audit the class or see his one man show "Seth Rudetsky's Big Fat Broadway Show", go the to purchase those tix. For any additional information visit Seth's Blog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Theater Jones : High-flying, Unadorned Lauren Kennedy helps Casa's Evita soar.

High-flying, Unadorned
Lauren Kennedy helps Casa's Evita soar.
by Kris Noteboom
published Tuesday, February 8, 2011

photo: Glen E. Ellman
Kevin Gray as Che and Lauren Kennedy as Eva Peron

by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music); Tim Rice (book and lyrics)
presented by Casa Manana

Closing this week on Sunday, Feb 13
Next performance today at 7:30pm



Casa Mañana Theatre
3101 West Lancaster Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
click here for a location map

Mention Andrew Lloyd Webber to theatergoers and you’ll get a healthy mix of reactions. Some decry his shimmery, epic style. Others laud him as one of the all-time greats responsible for Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Phantom of the Opera, and of course, Evita.

“Oh, that movie with Antonio Banderas and Madonna?” Yes. And at the same time, no. It’s so much more than that, as Casa Mañanaproves in its commendable production about the famed Argentinian actress-turned-First Lady.

Arguably Webber’s grandest epic, Evita tells the story of Eva Duarte de Perón (Lauren Kennedy), primarily through the narration of Ché (Kevin Gray), the indirect yet painfully obvious role inspired by Argentinean Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara.

Eva’s rise from poverty, which involves a mix of acting and sleeping her way to the top, receives plenty of focus. However, the real meat of the story manifests when Eva, via her marriage to Argentinean Secretary of Labour and eventual President, Juan Perón (Greg Dulcie), positions herself as an influential presence in the nation’s political structure.

Narrated by the singly named Ché , the tone of the story is often critical, for though Eva is seen, and eventually officially named, as the Spiritual Leader of Argentina, many of her deeds and motivations are called into question, ultimately painting a mottled picture of a woman who is still highly regarded in the South American country today.

Though told in Webber’s epic style, Evita is a well-focused story about the life of a woman destined to accomplish great things, but who is still human, and thus, flawed. In fact, in addition to being some of the best music Webber has ever written, Tim Rice’s lyrics, which in the operatic style also serve as the dialogue, are second to none.

The bottom line is, Evita is a powerful piece, buttressed by an embarrassment of awards and a who’s who list of former cast members. In short, it’s a challenge, and though not produced on nearly as grand a scale as written, Casa Mañana proves up to the task.

With one of the best and biggest opening numbers in musical history, Casa’s production got off to a rough opening night start. Obviously unable to employ the gargantuan size of the orchestra the music is written for, music director Craig Barna employed a simpler arrangement of the music that left much of the tone setting in the laps of the horn section. And while they performed admirably overall, they contributed to the slow start by taking a few minutes to find their rhythm, missing several notes along the way. Naturally, this is a problem that typically sorts itself out throughout the run of a show as everyone involved gets familiar with the pacing of the performance.

Gray’s Ché is quite obvious in its characterization. Dressed from head to toe in olive green military fatigues and wearing his famous beret, director Richard Stafford leaves nothing to the imagination. This is Ché Guevara, who has become a famous American T-shirt icon.

Some would point out that the original Broadway Ché, the great Mandy Patinkin, who won a Tony for the role, also wore military garb. True. The choice whether to dress Ché in military garb or plain clothes is a matter of preference. How subtle or blatant should the characterization be and how rooted in the reality of the story should he be. After all, Guevara was only from Argentina, he never carried out any of his actual revolutionary activities in the country.

Therefore, his presence is somewhat spiritual more than physical. In the end, Stafford chose a blatant, spiritual incarnation, whose unwavering, unchanging uniform is always visible regardless of what role he appears as in a scene. And arguably, this limited Gray’s performance as one can perhaps only operate overdramatically when wearing that ubiquitous uniform.

To that end, Gray is often angry and always scowling. His Ché lacks depth when he should be more conflicted. Gray has a nice voice, that sounds like he’s attempting to channel a mix between Mandy Patinkin and Antonio Banderas, but the character isn’t what it could be.

Conversely, Kennedy’s Eva is startlingly powerful. A difficult role previously played by the likes of Elaine Page and Patti LuPone, who famously hated the role due to the often high register it’s written in, Kennedy more than holds her own. And LuPone is right. It’s a difficult part to sing that requires powerful lungs and excellent range. LuPone may have struggled with it, but Kennedy excels. Using the particularly high parts as vehicles to drive home the intense emotion of the lyrics, Kennedy’s performance is stirring. No one will be left unmoved.

For being as big as it is, Casa pulls off a praiseworthy production. Mark Halpin’s stage design is simple, yet effective. Stafford and Jonathan Stahl’s choreography is intricate and well executed. And Stafford is able to take a relatively small cast in a small space, at least compared to what one would expect from a typical Webber production, and still made the story feel big.

And it is a big story. Eva Perón was an important and intriguing figure and this musical provides a particularly critically thoughtful version of her tragically short life, presented with a brilliant balance of the typical big box musical and an intensely personal and deep story about a woman.

Don’t cry for Argentina or Casa Mañana. They’re doing all right.

Here is TheaterJones' video interview with Lauren Kennedy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Theater Jones - Video: Lauren Kennedy

Video: Lauren Kennedy
The star of Casa Mañana's Evita on revisiting the role and being a working actress in New York.
by Mark Lowry
published Saturday, February 5, 2011

by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music); Tim Rice (book and lyrics)
presented by Casa Manana

Closing this week on Sunday, Feb 13
Next performance today at 7:30pm



Casa Mañana Theatre
3101 West Lancaster Ave.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
click here for a location map

Lauren Kennedy is in that comfy place where she gets steady acting work in New York, records albums and is known by name to musical theater geeks. But she hasn't yet reached that Broadway level that leads to Tonys, originating roles or guest starring onGlee.

And she's fine with that.

She's making a living doing what she loves, and that love has brought her to stages on Broadway (Les Mis, Sunset Boulevard, Side Show, Spamalot,for all of which she was a standby and then a replacement), off-Broadway (Lone Star Love, the musicalVanities) and national tours (Sunset Boulevard and Spamalot, again). She has recorded several albums, including a tribute to composer Jason Robert Brown.

She finds work in the regional theater, too, including her latest gig, playing Eva Perón in Casa Mañana's Evita.

It's a role she first played 17 years ago when she was hired by Wally Jones for the North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh, where she grew up. Jones brought her back to star in the show at the theater he oversees now, Fort Worth's Casa Mañana. The production is directed by Richard Stafford, and features Kevin Gray as Ché and Greg Dulcie as Juan Perón.

In the video interviews below, Kennedy discusses revisting the role, what makes Evita an interesting character, and the bliss of steady work in the country's theater capitol.

REVIEW: "Kennedy claimed the showstopper of 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and made it her own."

from Pegasus News

Theater review: Evita at Casa Manana Theatre in Fort Worth

"She didn't say much, but she said it loud." - Che, on eulogizing Evita Perón.

LOUD was the operative word at Casa Mañanaon the opening night of Evita (playing at Casa Mañana Theatre through February 13) -- unnecessarily loud. The two talented leads, Lauren Kennedy as Evita and Kevin Gray as Che, had legit Broadway chops, and truthfully didn't even need to be miked. Evita's real-life story was full of violent emotions and political rhetoric and whenever those two got especially expressive, their mics made them so loud they actually distorted their excellent singing voices. Their mics were so hot that they made me wish I'd had one of them riding around town with me this week to melt the two inches of solid ice on the roadways.

Ditto for the adult chorus: When they started singing, nay, shouting, nay, SCREAMING "Requiem for Evita" at the opening, their mics simply should have been cut. We could have heard them quite easily without electronic assistance. I reached in my purse and pulled out my Bluetooth to put it back in one ear, so that I would have to protect only the other ear whenever this happened throughout the show.

Director Richard Stafford had assembled a gifted cast of well-enunciating singers, so all this extreme amplification was completely superfluous. However, I chalked it up to having seen the show on opening night, while they were still tweaking the sound, and I'm sure by the time you go see this show -- and I am strongly recommending that you go see it -- these sound problems will have disappeared.

Thanks to Costume Designer Tammy Spencer, this show was also a treat for the eyes. Costumes were lush, elegant, and true to the time period when depicting the wealthy English socialites or Evita once she had risen "Rainbow High," and they were monochromatically accurate when portraying her descamisados (the shirtless ones -- the working class who wore t-shirts instead of dress shirts). I especially loved the way Spencer often had Evita, who was in virtually every scene, change costumes right on stage with little effort and no delay, and how she ceremoniously "stripped" the English of their power.

The choreography, created jointly by Director Richard Stafford and Associate Director Jonathan Stahl, was stunning. The Argentinean slums were the birthplace of the tango, and the cast executed tangos, and other dances, with breathtaking precision. Of special note was the tango couple, who were featured in several numbers as punctuation to the musical dialogue. A couple of times, their dancing was so far upstage I was certain that audience members seated far house left or far house right couldn't see them at all, and that would have been a real shame. They even handled a quick "wardrobe malfunction" early in the show very adeptly. Unfortunately, the program didn't list their names so that I could recommend that you go see them again wherever they appear next. I wish I knew who they were.

The choreography of the military men was ... unexpected. The soldiers (or sailors?) were obviously well-trained in ballet, and executed the plies, lunges, squats, and whimsical goose stepping with admirable meticulousness. The first time they appeared, however, they made me giggle as I reminisced about Monty Python's classic Army precision drilling but in the second act, when Greg Dulcie's solid Perón comically tried to mark their steps along with them, it really sold me on their dance moves.

Kevin Gray and Lauren Kennedy from Casa Mañana's Evita

Glen Ellman

Kevin Gray and Lauren Kennedy from Casa Mañana's Evita

Sam Rushen's lighting design was very dramatic, especially during the fun Dr. Strangelove-like/musical chairs number "The Art of the Possible" and Evita's triumphant anthem "Rainbow High."

All of the leads in this production were very well cast. Both Jonathan Bragg, as Magaldi, and Ashley Arnold, as Perón's teenaged mistress, lifted their respective solos heavenward (well, at least as high as the center of Casa Mañana's tall geodesic dome) with effortless purity. Greg Dulcie not only physically resembled the actual Juan Perón, but also brought a subtle, sly comedic element to his portrayal. Kevin Gray, as Che, was always intelligible as the story's narrator, which was not an easy feat with that many lyrics, Lloyd Webber's labyrinthine vocals, and the accompanying emotions required of the part.

The entire show, of course, rested on the slender shoulders of Lauren Kennedy as the titular Evita. At the beginning of the show I was unsure of the choices she was making. Not usually portrayed (as Kennedy was doing here) as a naïf who got swept up into the fast life of Buenos Aires, Evita was rather a manipulative, malicious, Machiavellian woman who knew what she wanted and went after it with a vengeance, even while still a teenager. I just wasn't feeling the "edge" that Evita, according to all her biographers, had from the get-go and wasn't afraid to use.

The real Evita, shown in actual vintage black and white photos on a video screen periodically throughout the show, was not beautiful, nor even really pretty. But she oozed confidence and had a commanding presence, and when she died, most of Argentina petitioned the Vatican to have her canonized. That kind of devotion wasn't inspired by a coquettish Disney-esque heroine.

I could tell you the exact moment in which Kennedy brought the real Evita to the Casa Mañana stage. Near the end of the first act, Perón dreamed of leaving politics and going off to another country, "sipping cocktails on a terrace, taking breakfast in bed." He was sitting on the edge of the bed, while she was walking upstage, with her back to the audience. When she heard his "crazy, defeatist talk," she leaned on the headboard, and her entire body portrayed her emotions: disgust, frustration, and the "there he goes again" sigh of realization that she was, once again, going to have to re-talk him into grabbing and maintaining power with an iron fist. And she did all this with her body -- the back of her body, actually -- as we could not see her face.

So now the big question, the only one that anyone thinks when they hear of a new production of Evita: Can she do "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" justice? Sí, señor. She nailed it. I knew all the iconic renderings of this ballad -- La LuPone's, Madonna's, and my favorite (don't laugh), Karen Carpenter's. I could safely say that Kennedy claimed this showstopper and made it her own. Her Evita then stayed strong and believable throughout the entire second act to the sudden, jarring finale.

If you've never seen Evita, this production is recommended highly. Though every line was sung, each word was enunciated so well, you wouldn't lose the thread of the plot. If you already love Evita and know every word, I still recommend this production highly. The talent, a good deal of which is home-grown, was phenomenal, and we all need to be supporting good theatre with live orchestras and terrific music directors like Craig Barna, if we want it to continue at this soaring level.

John Garcia's The Column
Pegasus News Content partner -
John Garcia's The Column

LAUREN KENNEDY in EVITA at Casa Manana Photos by Curtis Brown Photography

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lance Horne NYC Concert to feature Lauren Kennedy with Cheyenne Jackson, Rebecca Luker, Ricki Lake, Alan Cumming

Lance Horne NYC Concert to Feature Cheyenne Jackson, Rebecca Luker, Ricki Lake, Alan Cumming

By Andrew Gans
06 Jan 2011

Cheyenne Jackson
Cheyenne Jackson
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The 2011 American Songbook series, which is held at the Allen Room in Manhattan, will present an evening with theatre composer and arranger Lance Horne Jan. 14 at 8:30 and 10:30 PM.

Entitled First Things Last, the concerts will celebrate the release of Horne's debut recording of the same name.

Joining the composer will be a mix of Broadway and West End performers, including Alan Cumming, Lea DeLaria, Cheyenne Jackson, Lauren Kennedy, Ricki Lake, Rebecca Luker, Meow Meow, Daphne Rubin-Vega (10:30 PM show only), Julie Atherton, Alexandra Silber and Paul Spicer.

Daisy Prince will direct the evening, which will feature backup vocals by Julie Garnye, Marty Thomas and Tori Allen-Martin.

Lance Horne provided vocal arrangements for Little Women on Broadway. He has penned songs for Gypsy of the Year, the Actors Fund benefits and contributed to the Off-Broadway song cycle Songs From an Unmade Bed (for which Mark Campbell penned lyrics) as well as Three Lost Chords and The $trip. He co-produced Alan Cumming's album "I Bought a Blue Car Today." His work has been presented at Joe's Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, The Juilliard School and Lincoln Center. Horne is a graduate of the Juilliard School.

For tickets visit AmericanSongbook or phone (212) 721-6500.

Tickets are also available at the Frederick P. Rose Hall box office, which is located at Broadway at 60th

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Synergy Spa is proud to sponsor this year's production of A Christmas Story at the PECPA in Downtown Raleigh, December 7-24. Bring in your ticket stub and we will give you a $25 credit to use towards your purchase of any holiday spa gift certificate as our way of thanking you for supporting your local performing arts!
Click here to buy tickets!
(Offer valid through 12/24/10.)