"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing"

Recorded at Mark Janas’ The Salon Open Mic on July 21, 2013.
Guest Host/Pianist: Bill Zeffiro

“Nothing Really Happened” by Craig Carnelia, from “Is There Life After High School?”

“The Road to Ruin” by Bill Zeffiro, from “The Road to Ruin”

Marquee Five in “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” at SOPAC

As a special event presented by Midtown Direct Rep, Marquee Five will be bringing “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) on Sunday, August 4th at 7pm. If you missed the debut of this new show at 54 Below in May, now is your chance! Click below for tickets or call the SOPAC Box Office at 973.313.2787 today.

This is a special performance, as it will be my first back from my Disney Cruise Line job, and we will be video taping for posterity and marketing power. So we need a nice big audience to fill this amazing, beautiful large venue! Please come see what has been hailed as “the Manhattan Transfer for the New Millennium” (Times Square Chronicles) and help me celebrate my return to my beloved group.

South Orange Performing Arts Center – Purchase tickets HERE.

“Broadway By The Letter: Act One”
Direction by Lennie Watts
Dan Feyer on Piano

Sunday, August 4, 2013, 7:00pm
South Orange Performing Arts Center
South Orange, NJ 07079

Take the Midtown Direct line or NJ Transit bus to South Orange or travel by car via the 78 or 280 freeways.

Tickets: $20
Box Office: www.sopacnow.org
Phone: 973.313.2787

About “Broadway By The Letter: Act One”:

After a successful debut at 54 Below, Marquee Five brings “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” to SOPAC. Presented as a special event by SOPAC’s resident theatre company, Midtown Direct Rep, “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” is a collection of Broadway material arranged with Marquee Five’s signature harmonies, humor and heart, including pieces by Stephen Sondheim, Rogers & Hammerstein, Kander & Ebb, Jason Robert Brown, William Finn and many more. Featuring Mick Bleyer, Adam West Hemming, Vanessa Parvin, Sierra Rein, and Julie Reyburn on vocals, with special appearances by Lynsey Buckelew and Christopher Whipple, accompanied by Dan Feyer, and directed by Lennie Watts, “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” offers a harmony-infused tribute to theatrical composers, shows and songs presented with a wink and a few surprises.

About Marquee Five:

Hailed as “a breath of fresh air in the cabaret world” (BroadwayWorld.com) with “superb blend in song” (NiteLifeExchange.com), the group won the 2010 MAC Award for their debut show “We Can Make It: The Songs of Kander and Ebb” at the Metropolitan Room. They followed this in Fall, 2010 at Don’t Tell Mama with “8-Track Throwback,” a show Cabaret Scenes called “top-notch spectacular.” The group released an album recording of “8-Track Throwback” in early November, 2011 and debuted their new show “Broadway By The Letter: Act One” at the prestigious 54 Below in May of 2013.

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It is quite unfair of me to put myself to the task of writing this blog entry – six months on board The Disney Magic. Every week aboard could have been it’s own entry, so I’ll be light on myself and make me just do a highlights reel of sorts. Suffice it to say, my choice to leave New York to travel and sing and make kids’ eyes grow with wonder for half a year was a positive one. It was hard work and I was away from family and friends (at least my husband got the opportunity to take a number of cruises for free!). On the other hand it was also glamorous and rewarding. When people asked me what it was like working on board, I responded that it was a combination of College, Broadway, and working for the Navy. Shipboard rules and expectations were high but we were able to go off shore at some of the most beautiful lands on Earth, and experience “mini-vacations” between shows and work hours. Christmas and New Year’s and Valentine’s Day were celebrated in the small hallways that connected our cabins, but we loved opening up our Secret Santa gifts and Valentine’s Day cards all the same. Add that to working with one of the biggest Entertainment companies ever plus the knowledge that my work would grant wishes and create memories…let’s just say it was worth it! Those ever given the opportunity to work and travel with Disney Cruise Line should live the experience at least once.

What more to say? Between performances and greeting hours, we would have time off the ship to explore each of the ports. In Costa Maya, Mexico, I held a lion cub in my arms. In Cozumel, Mexico, I stood on Mayan ruins and had tastes of some of the best Tequila made on Earth. Key West opened its key lime martinis and frozen ice cream pies to my tongue, and introduced me to Ernest Hemingway’s house and six-toed cats. I snorkled in the Grand Cayman Island waters, and swam with dolphins in the island’s Dolphin Discovery park. We landed in Port Canaveral, FL, about once a month and with a quick rental car and a free Crew pass, I made Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot feel like my own personal playland. And then, we had the experience of traveling across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe for our final cruise. I stood on Portuguese land for the first time in Funchal, Madeira – and drank Madeira itself – and watched Barbary Macaques (monkeys) eat and play on the Rock of Gibraltar. My eyes landed on the coast of Africa for the first time, and when my contract was done I step foot in Barcelona, Spain, where the Magic would call its new port for the next 6 months.

But of course, I think the best thing I will walk away from this is the glorious friendship of my cast-mates, many who reside in New York City. They came from all over the nation and a few from Canada. A number of them were returning to the Disney Cruise Line life, which was a blessing during the early days of getting used to the ship, while others were just as new to ship life as I was. Another great walk-away experience was seeing the children (and many adults) in the audience go through a heart-filling sense of joy and wonder. When Fairy Godmother couldn’t remember her famous magic spell, it always did her heart good to hear 4 and 5-year-olds yell from the audience “BIBBIDY BOBBIDY BOOOOO!” at the top of their lungs. And to see young girls dressed as princesses and a few boys dressed as princes and knights wait in line to see Snow White and Princess Tiana…well, even the most hardened of hearts wouldn’t be able to resist. Then there was the die-hard Ursula fan with every pin of hers around his neck, hand-painted shoes on his feet, and a few tattoos upon his body. And full-grown adults wiping tears away at the Finale of “Disney Dreams.” Also, some wonderful guests who came to our Guest Cabaret (which I produced) in Studio Sea and gushed how thankful they were to hear us sing our own material and show off our range. And then playing around with Pluto on the sands of Castaway Cay and telling jokes to Mickey Mouse and catching pens and autograph books from Jack Sparrow. And then…and then…and then…

You see my problem here. I step back into the New York lifestyle knowing that I took a lovely job-vacation for 8 months and happy that I will always have these memories. I may return one day to the waves on board a Disney ship, but in the meantime I have many photos and memories with Mickey and the gang, my cast-mates, and on the shores of faraway lands to keep me company.

Here are a few of those photos (more to come):

The White Rabbit

The elusive White Rabbit!

One of the benefits - visiting Port Canaveral 8 times and seeing Epcot and Magic Kingdom for free each time!

One of the benefits – visiting Port Canaveral 8 times and seeing Epcot and Magic Kingdom for free each time!

Holding a baby lion cub in Costa Maya, Mexico

Holding a baby lion cub in Costa Maya, Mexico

View of The Disney Magic from the shore...and a pelican and a sea bird...from Cozumel, Mexico

View of The Disney Magic from the shore…and a pelican and a sea bird…from Cozumel, Mexico

DCL Logo on the Magic smokestack

DCL Logo on the Magic smokestack

Excited to receive my Disney Cruise Line nametag, which I got to keep at the end of my contract

Excited to receive my Disney Cruise Line nametag, which I got to keep at the end of my contract

A rainbow sees The Magic off at Funchal, Madeira.

A rainbow sees The Magic off at Funchal, Madeira.

With Cinderella and her seamstress-friend-mice! Now if only Fairy Godmother was there to take a picture...

With Cinderella and her seamstress-friend-mice! Now if only Fairy Godmother was there to take a picture…

Goofy is such a romantic at times!

Goofy is such a romantic at times!

My duties with Marquee Five didn't end on board...in fact, I brought my music to learn in the sun!

My duties with Marquee Five didn’t end on board…in fact, I brought my music to learn in the sun!

Mickey and friends hold a celebratory meeting for those who needed to receive our Ears!

Mickey and friends hold a celebratory meeting for those who needed to receive our Ears!

Snorkeling in Grand Cayman Island waters

Snorkeling in Grand Cayman Island waters

I volunteered with Disney's "Voluntears," playing with and reading to foster care kids in Grand Cayman.

I volunteered with Disney’s “Voluntears,” playing with and reading to foster care kids in Grand Cayman.

I swam with, got pushed by, and got to kiss Capi, a lovely Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman.

I swam with, got pushed by, and got to kiss Capi, a lovely Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery Grand Cayman.

With a dignified representative of the Gibraltar Monkeys (or Barbary Macaques)

With a dignified representative of the Gibraltar Monkeys (or Barbary Macaques)

I had a light load on Monday night (the 12th) for rehearsal, so in the afternoon myself and a few castmates went to the Steam Whistle Brewery for a tour and some beer! This relatively young pilsner-brewing company set up “shop” in an old historical train station depot, where engines were brought in for cleaning and maintenance. Three previously fired employees of a corporate takeover endeavor had a few beers over a campfire and decided to start their own brewing company. They started calling it “Three Fired Guys Brewery,” but later reflected upon the need for local Torontor-ian workers to have a 5pm “whistle” to break them from their 9 to 5 jobs and reward them with a beer; thus, “Steam Whistle” became their name. I highly recommend their tour, which is “basically” free. For $10 you get a tour + a souvenir bottle cap opener; for $15 you get the same tour + a six-pack of their pilsner to go. And they give you before and after and during tastes of the beer, so in the end you get a lot more than what you paid for.

Three Disney amigos cheering with Steam Whistle!

Bottled the day-of, and imbibed 5 hours later.

On Tuesday night, we headed out as a cast to have dinner at O Noir, a specialty restaurant with a sensory twist – the diners eat in the dark, served by blind waiters. The waiters themselves are nonplussed about the experience, but the diners get to experience what it is like to eat while blind, or certainly let all their other senses take over during the meal. We couldn’t use our iPhones or digital watches to take pictures or check the time, and if a restroom was needed we had to be led out via a waitstaff member. They have a full three or two-item menu, but you can also order each item as a “surprise,” and tell them if you are allergic to or don’t like any particular food.

The experience was unique. We were led in by the waiter, kindergarten-style with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us. It was pitch black save for the tiniest glow in two corners of the room. But I could literally not see anything, even my own hand. I could feel the place settings, which were just as you’d expect. Real glass and ceramics with metal forks and knives. Eating with them was totally different, for you had to make note of each item as you put them down, and I tended to want to hold on to the stem of my wine glass for fear of knocking it over. Some forkfuls would come up to my mouth with the right amount, some with too much, and quite often nothing at all. The conversation amongst my table was hilarious, and it was amazing to 1. not know the exact passage of time 2. have the ability to be expressive oneself physically without anyone seeing you and 3. try to make sure your needs or questions were made known just verbally. And there was the odd foul play amongst my fellow diners (I had fun blowing on the neck of my castmate immediately behind me). We had the whole room to ourselves as a party of 28 or so, so the volume in the room reached a few crescendos and there was a tiny bit of group singing. The food itself was simple American fare, but very well done. I had the surprise appetizer, a Filet Mignon with potatoes and green beans, and a surprise dessert. The surprises turned out to be a mixed green salad with (we think?) cooked parsnips in feta, and later some cinnamon & caramel-covered vanilla ice cream on a small slice of apple pie. Eating something that is not only visible but completely unknown is thrilling, but we admittedly used our fingers to make sure we didn’t miss anything on the plate. Remarkably, I didn’t emerge (blinking furiously even in the low-lit lobby) with food on my blouse, and because I was careful I didn’t drop my fork the way I usually do. I highly recommend this experience, which is available in the states at a restaurant called Dans Le Noir.

Later in the week, I had dinner at Fresh, a heath-conscious lunch and dinner location with a puppeteer friend Nicholas Lemon (lemonproductionsinc.com). I had a delicious kale salad and some honest-to-betsy Ginger ale, then Nicholas & I walked around the area, stopping at the CBC Building. He pointed me in the direction of a small museum, which I later visited to see puppets and old machines from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

I’m writing the end of this post on Embarkation day, November 24th. We are in Houston, and will drive to Galveston this morning to the terminal and set foot on The Magic at 7am!!! I’ll soon blog about Houston, the wet drill, Thanksgiving, and my first week or weeks on the ship The Magic!

So long!

With my husband safe in New York again and the sugar taste of candycorn brushed off my teeth, I was again alone to continue rehearsals with Disney and spend more time enjoying Toronto. We did a few runs of “Villains Tonight” and went on to “Disney Dreams,” a lovely (and most popular amongst audiences) pastiche-style musical featuring vignettes of a number of Disney movies. I can’t give away too much of it, but in one sequence I play a Mom catching her young child reading under the covers late at night. Instantly, I was reminded of myself as a young kid, who did the exact same thing. My Mom would knock on my door an hour after bedtime and commandingly say “Sierra…time to go to sleep!”, knowing full well that I was yet again reading an “OZ” book or “Alice in Wonderland” under the covers via flashlight. Rehearsing the scene put me right in my Mother’s shoes, and I thought that as an English Professor and an enthusiast of literature of reading, the term “reap what you sow” was applicable to her way back when. It was easy for me to step into that scene and find the humor in it.

Between rehearsals this past week, I’ve taken advantage of the cultural and creative treasures of Toronto. This city is a great Entertainment capital, and there are Broadway-caliber (and even pre-Broadway runs of) musicals to see. I had missed “Sister Act” in New York, so I was thrilled to see the production here. It was adorable and funny, with great pop-belted singing and 70’s funk. Plus, a lovely collection of character ladies and older women to play for me now and into the future! I also took a morning (I had it off from rehearsals) to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, which is very much like the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The ROM has a great collection of ancient Chinese ceramics, stuffed and mounted creatures, recreations in real scale of a number of plants and animals, skeletons of Dinosaurs and million-year-old mammals, plus a gallery of textiles and gorgeous dresses in a special “Textiles and Costumes” area. One beautiful section contained gems and minerals of the world, including a sheet of copper in its original form, and the gorgeous “Light of the Desert” Crussite Gem. I was excited to be able to see ancient Egyptian mummies, actual gold-leaf circlet crowns from Greece, armor and guns/swords from Europe, a piano from the Elizabethan era, and a fantastic collection of carvings, clothing, and beautiful beaded work from the Canadian First Peoples collection. My iPhone picture gallery and my head was full by the time I left 4 hours later. Here are a few shots I took:

The front of the older section of the ROM building; the entrance has a more modern flair.

ROUS’s exist!!!
(That’s a “Princess Bride” reference)

First Nations exhibition

This Chinese ceramic is of a Torture Demon

Pelt of a symbol of Canada, the Beaver. This one is none too happy.

Myself and Megalogaurus, the bigger brother to T-Rex, if you can believe it!

That was on Tuesday morning, November 6th, and by the end of rehearsal in the afternoon I was happy that I had spent the day distracted from my country’s Election Day. I had already sent in my vote via Absentee Ballot (for the first time!) and hunkered down with dinner and CNN on TV to watch the results unfold. In the later hours of the night, I began Skyping with my husband and as the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”‘s Live coverage began, he “watched” with me. Suffice it to say, and not to get too political, I was happy with the results, especially with the President, LGBT-equality laws, and the election of so many women to Representative roles.

Skype date for Election Night is going really well!

One of our thrills of the evening…we love Elizabeth Warren!

We have a week left, just a week, before we leave for Houston, TX, for our final training and a tiny Thanksgiving Holiday break. And then, two weeks from yesterday, we will embark on The Magic. We will “shadow” the current cast, tour the ship, get to know the rules and joys of what we have available to us, and I’ll take over completely the role of Vocal Captain. I’ve truly enjoyed the preparation of being the Vocal Captain – sitting in on rehearsals, hearing people’s unique voices and skills and how they morph into each role vocally. It’s been truly an honor to be privy to these rehearsals, which are usually closed to the rest of the cast.

Chinese fortune cookie opened this week. This happens almost every day. So lucky.

These next coming weeks look to be quite busy too, starting with yet another visit to the CN Tower this afternoon. More to come: O Noir Restaurant, “Jekyll & Hyde,” final rehearsals and final runs, and Thanksgiving in Houston!

Although I’ve been up in Toronto rehearsing with Disney, I left part of my heart with Marquee Five. My award-winning vocal group has plowed forward in my absence, adding female swing Lynsey Buckelew to keep the Alto line flowing, and the five of them are kicking butt in New York City this month! There are TWO opportunities to see Marquee Five in November, and I highly recommend you go see them, since the shows they are performing in are stellar entertainment events!

First: "They Write The Songs" November 18th

“MAC Presents They Write The Songs”: a night of music featuring some of New York's best songwriters
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Red Cross to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy
The Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs is proud to announce a new annual show to be held each fall, called “MAC presents THEY WRITE THE SONGS.” The inaugural show will be held Sunday, November 18th at 4pm at Baruch College’s Engelman Recital Hall (Lexington Avenue at 25th Street). Each year, this show will present the work of selected songwriters, highlighting both those who are well-established, as well as those who are on the rise. Songs written by these outstanding songwriters will be performed throughout the show by singers who have previously either won or been nominated for MAC Awards, or in some cases, by the songwriters themselves. The songwriters selected for the inaugural show of this new annual series are Jeff Blumenkrantz, Barry Kleinbort, Johnny Rodgers, Mary Liz McNamara, Nate Buccieri and Scott Evan Davis.  The host for the evening will be Grammy award winning songwriter Julie Gold.  Nate Buccieri will be the musical director.
With performances by: Penny Fuller, Rebecca Luker, Karen Mason, Alysha Umphress, Liz Lark Brown, Marquee Five, Colleen McHugh, Lennie Watts, and Jonathan Whitton.
Sunday, November 18th, 4:00PM
Baruch Performing Arts Center
– Engleman Recital Hall
55 Lexington Avenue (at 25th Street)
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 day of. Purchase them here.
After party reception: free for MAC members.

Non-members may attend the reception for $10 collected at the door.

THEN:Sondheim Unplugged” November 25th at the acclaimed 54 Below!

Join Marquee Five in our 54 Below debut! A celebrated New York event since 2010, the Bistro Award-winning series “Sondheim Unplugged” features some of Broadway and cabaret’s most dynamic voices, accompanied by piano only.
“Sondheim Unplugged”
Hosted by series creator Phil Geoffrey Bond with Musical Direction by Joshua Stephen Kartes
Sunday, November 25, 2012, 6:00pm (Doors open at 4:30 pm for 6:00 pm show)
54 Below – “Broadway’s Nightclub”
254 West 54th St, Cellar
New York, NY 10019
Near the 50th and 59th A/C stops
Cover charge: $20 – $30
Food & Beverage Minimum  $25
Tickets can be purchased online here (use code SONDHEIM for $10 off the cover price in the main dining room seating!)
With special guest Sarah Rice, Sweeney Todd’s original Johanna.
And featuring Jim Brochu, Stephanie d’Abruzzo, Darius de Haas, Hilary Cole, Marquee Five, Molly Pope, T. Oliver Reid, Julie Reyburn, and Lucia Spina!

It has been quite a week – lots of joys, a lot of work, and a lot of heartbreak. My husband came to visit from New York, which was a great joy! During the days, I was heavily ensconced in rehearsals for “Villains Tonight,” which is probably my favorite of all the shows since it’s a huge number of Disney villains rolled into one…and I get to be the one with two arms and six legs. I can’t wait to play with that costume when I get on the ship. We did a few runs of “Villains” yesterday for the first time, and it’s quite solid already; hilarious, frightening, and a lot of fun.

Of course, this week in history will have the names “Sandy” and “Frankenstorm” forever associated with it. My husband was kept from flying back to New York for another two days, and we watched CNN and carved pumpkins on Monday the 29th as the storm hit New York and New Jersey. It may sound callous to carve a pumpkin while watching the waves creep onto my Manhattan island home, but it was actually a good thing to keep my hands busy, and I took out a lot of nervous energy onto the gourdes in front of me. The Canadian winds (which added to the overall strength of the storm) whipped around our building as we watched. I’m thankful our New York apartment is in high grounds, and that the person taking care of our cat was resourceful and responsible while we both were away. I watched Facebook and Twitter, seeing reports from my friends as their power went out (luckily no extreme tragedies) and then back on again. Pete took pictures during his journey back on Thursday, flying back into La Guardia Airport, and then on Friday walked around the city to capture eerie footage of 14th street in total dark. Check out his site to view these.

Sandy and “Baby” Sandy, the pumpkins inspired by Monday night’s storm. Note the pipe cleaners for “windblown” hair.

But we did have fun while he was here in Toronto! I took him around the Disney Rehearsal halls so he could see how I worked and how big the stage taped out on the floors were. We took the time to go to the CN Tower (had a great time at great heights, and he took pictures both with and without his zoom lense). We saw “Frankenweenie” in 3D, which I loved since it was like an old-fashioned Tim Burton movie and had a great message of why not to be an ignoramus. We also walked around Toronto a bit, got a friend a Hard Rock Cafe Toronto pin, and bought ice cream.

Pete & I standing on the “glass floor” portion of the CN Tower…it goes against every human instinct to stand on it, even though it’s perfectly safe.

Lying down on the glass floor and “falling” like a “Die Hard” villain!

On Wednesday, we rehearsed a full day then were released into the HALLOWEEN night! Halloween is my favorite holiday, and in the midst of being in a different country I had to think of something that would be cheap and that I wouldn’t have to lug back to the ‘states afterwards. So, I grabbed inspiration from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and went as a sexy floor of a movie theater, or a “Cinematic Diva” as it eventually was called. It was fun – garbage bags sewn to a bra and a skirt taped together in a bustle, with candy wrappers/boxes and strings of popcorn, plus strategically placed cups and 3-D glasses from the “Frankenweenie” visit. I painted a film strip on my face, dolled my hair up, and had a blast. And in the end, the large Diet Coke at the movies was the most expensive item – the whole thing cost me $10! And I won “Most Creative” at the cast party’s costume contest that night. Was a bit sad to throw it away…

The front of the “Cinematic Diva” costume.

The back, with bustle.

We go into rehearsals for our fourth full show during these final weeks! I can’t believe that in a little over two weeks we will be traveling to Houston, TX to finish training, then heading out on the 24th to The Magic, which will be my new home for the following 1/2 a year. Surreal to think about, and I still have so much to see here in Toronto before I leave! More to come…

PS. Those who wish to read another Magic 29 castmember’s blog about her current experience can go to Let The Magic Begin by Alissa Wilsey. You can see a cast shot of all of us in costume at our Halloween party, a pic of the “Soup Party” we had on Friday, as well as her lovely “jar” art – I have a black and red one she made for me with imagery of trees on it. Talented in many ways, this lady!

A month ago, I had boarded a plane to Toronto and arrived to find my new, albeit temporary, home for the next two months. My own apartment with a washer/dryer and dishwasher, a balcony overlooking the Toronto streets, and housekeeping service every Monday. Wow! Thus began my life as a Disney Cruise Line Mainstage employee. Over the last month, we’ve been rehearsing for many of the shows to be performed on the Disney cruise ship The Magic. On the ship, we will have Mainstage performers, Character performers, swings, and I will be the cast’s “Vocal Captain.” Our cast is the “Magic 29,” meaning the 29th group of people to perform the shows on the Magic since the ship first set sail.

The Magic 29 cast is a group of great people – young and energetic, amazing singers and dancers, and all have a professional attitude. We are sharing the rehearsal space with the Wonder 26 cast, which has a number of highly athletic performers due to the nature of their shows. They come into the green room drenched in sweat after a run or a hard hour of rehearsing. They leave to go to the Wonder in a few days, so it will be odd to suddenly have the huge rehearsal spaces all to ourselves. But we spend our days rehearsing vocals, staging, and choreography for five 50-minute shows, plus various alternative entertainment numbers. And I understudy a number of characters, so sometimes I (and anyone else who is an understudy) have to learn two different “shows” to one script.

The things I love about this job: I get to be silly for a living at times, but then get to sing some amazing music written by some of the most brilliantly prolific composers and lyricists known today. I get to learn a bit of sign language, puppetry, and some basic sword fighting and swashbuckling choreography as a part of my job. I’ve been able to have time off to walk around Toronto, see Cirque de Soleil’s “Tempest”-inspired “Amaluna” show, got scared at the “Screamers” Haunted House theme park, ate Canadian Thanksgiving with the cast and bonded strongly with them. I look forward to carving pumpkins and having a great Hallowe’en with them too, and tomorrow I get to show my visiting husband around the area and visit Niagara Falls with him on Sunday!

In addition to the above perks, we’ve been given access to the DVD and VHS collection of Disney movies, and I’ve been able to re-watch a half-dozen or so Disney movies from my apartment. This is partly for research (as Disney characters and Greeters, we need to know backstories and some performance-related details), but it was also great to revisit movies I hadn’t seen since I was 10. Indeed, as I watched “Alice in Wonderland” (which my parents bought for me when it was out in VHS), I realized that I could probably recite the whole movie from memory. So many audio-based memories were connected to that movie! And it was wonderful to watch “Dumbo” and “Snow White” just to marvel at the hand-drawn animation and beauty in the conceptualization. But I also loved re-watching “Beauty and the Beast” (I’ll be puppeteering to the voice of Angela Lansbury soon), “The Little Mermaid,” and “Hercules” again. The more modern Disney movies have a LOT more movement and pizzazz than the old movies, but all of them have that Disney charm and both innocent and not-so-innocent fun.

Today I rehearse Ursula for the first time staged!

More to come…

WAR HORSE at the Vivian Beaumont Theater

While I have been extricating myself from New York life in preparations for my Disney cruise job, I had a bucket list of restaurants to eat at, places to visit, and shows to see. This week I was able to finally see the Broadway show “War Horse” before I left and before it closed in January – I saw Wednesday’s performance (September 12th) at 8pm. I’ve since learned that it’s playing in Toronto, where I’ll be heading, and I will do my best to see the Canadian cast while I’m there – it’s that great!

I’m a huge fan of puppetry, and all the footage and photos of the “War Horse” puppets made me want to see this show. But it was more than just puppetry that makes this show immensely beautiful and heartbreaking. It is a pure ensemble cast, full of physical and vocal storytellers. The choreography demands in setting scenes, moving the props and set pieces, and the effort involved in seamlessly traveling from British countryside to French World War I battlefield was so inspiring and awe-worthy. The use of light, sound, puppetry, humor, and realistic costuming (not to mention the acting by the performers) transformed the thrust stage into a storytelling marvel.

The ability to take an inanimate object and breathe life into it has always fascinated me. And watching “War Horse” reminded me of the power of granting the audience the ability to believe that a horse can appear on stage and have a personality as rich and connected as any human character. When Joey the Foal stood on stage for the first time and snorted, tears welled into my eyes. Yes, full-grown humans stood and manipulated the puppet, but as they took care to bring the horse to life, the humans faded from my vision. All that stood was the horse, and I was only reminded of the human element every once in a while. That’s masterful storytelling in my opinion. And when the life literally left other ensemble horses on stage, literally and figuratively, it revealed how the puppeteers are able to take a collection of wood and metal and leather and create something big and staggeringly “alive.” Watching the puppeteers was a Master Class in giving the object weight, resistance, breath, focus and point of view – all the elements that make something specifically alive in our estimate as fellow creatures. It was marvelous to see a beautiful, sad, frightening and heartwarming story told to us via the skeletal essentials of the stage.

If you are able to see it on Broadway, do so. Or catch it in Toronto or one of the touring shows. It’s not a star-studded show, but a brilliant application of every aspect of theatrical story-telling that will make you view the power of imagination in a whole new light.

And you must see the Goose…oh the Goose!

WE MADE THIS MOVIE – Online Premiere Show, September 20, 2012

Co-Writer/Director Rob Burnett (right) is interviewed by comedian-actor Michael Ian Black (left) on the Ed Sullivan stage

My husband Pete & I went to a free screening last night of an independent movie ($1 million budget!) called “We Made This Movie.” Not only was it a fun experience stepping into the Ed Sullivan Theater for the first time, it was a great movie to see! “We Made This Movie” starts out as a series of behind-the-scenes footage showing a high school student’s attempts to make a “Jackass”-like movie. However, as it progresses the movie reveals itself to be a coming-of-age film about young-adult relationships and the struggle to rise out of a dead-end small-town life. It’s a truly sweet, funny, and heartfelt movie. Although it is a one-camera film (according to Director Rob Burnett), the film looks like it was shot on multiple cameras (a stunning editing job!) and the young actors playing the high school film crew did a fantastic job – you truly rooted for each and every one of them, and understood their struggles and issues. And yet it’s hilarious and funny and sometimes (sweetly) crude. From the interview, we gleaned that it was mostly scripted but that improv from the actors (some of whom are trained improv writer-actors) was included. A few lines had us giggling in our seats for minutes after…

I was quick to Facebook-message the director, Rob Burnett, after the viewing with this anecdote: “I’m about to head off away from my husband for 9 months on a cruise ship gig (as a singer), so the scene about leaving for Yale resonated even for me…My husband, sitting next to me, grabbed my hand at that moment, so we wordlessly recognized it together. And of course, as a creative couple (he’s a writer), we both appreciated the message of doing whatever you can to express and create and fight being stuck in whatever situation you don’t want in your heart of hearts to be in.” His reply: “It is always so satisfying when you feel like you have connected with an audience member, that they got what you were going for on all its levels and nuance…Good luck on the singing gig. Thanks to you and your husband both for coming tonight and spreading the word about our little movie. Our only chance to be seen is through people like you.”

I highly recommend seeing this movie, which is a compact 90-minutes and is thoroughly fulfilling. You can see the movie in it’s entirety online September 20th, 6:30pm (7:25pm screening start) Online Premiere (check out this link HERE for information and to Register): Watch the movie online for free, plus view extras like Red carpet arrivals and celebrity interviews, opening monologue by Jim Gaffigan, Twitter commentary by comedy writers, and a panel moderated by Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh (MATES) with co-writers Jon Beckerman and Rob Burnett and the WMTM cast.

I heard that it will also be available on DVD, on iTunes, on Hulu Plus, and on Netflix and other streaming-media resources in the future. So keep an eye on the title “We Made This Movie” and catch it if you can!

August 26, 2012
I’m thrilled to have been invited to co-host the multiple award-winning The Salon, a weekly open performance event hosted by Mark Janas THIS SUNDAY! The theme of the evening is “Happy Birthday, Mr. Bernstein” and will feature songs written by Leonard Bernstein and others associated with the American composer, conductor, lecturer and pianist. Mark Janas was a student and friend of Bernstein, so I’m sure a lot of interesting stories and memories will be told. Etcetera, Etcetera – 352 West 44th Street, NYC 10036 – on Sunday, August 26th from 7-10:30PM. (Sign-Up Begins at 6:15.). There is a $10 cash cover collected at the door and a $15 food/drink minimum (cash or credit) per person. The skirt steak is to DIE for, as well as the salmon, and I highly recommend any of the martinis. Bring your sheet music (bring other titles just to make sure duplicates don’t happen), and be as on theme or off theme as you wish!. More information about The Salon: www.markjanasthesalon.com / www.markjanasthesalon.blogspot.com