Thursday, October 30, 2008

Audition Technique with Margie Haber: Saturday, November 8, 2008, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Margie Haber Studios of Hollywood presents...
Margie Haber's Internationally Acclaimed Acting Seminar

Author of How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart, Margie Haber has taught many of Hollywood's rising stars and working actors for over 20 years. Her clients include: Brad Pitt, Moly Sims, Vince Vaughn, Halle Berry, Heather Locklear, Kristin Davis, Kelly Preston, Eric Close, and many others. or 310 854-0870 for more information.

Cost: $110.00
$85.00 with Student ID

Stop Acting. Start living the Life of the Character!

Saturday, November 8, 2008, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The Drama Book Shop
250 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018

(212) 944-0595

How to Get the Part Without Falling Apart by Margie Haber. Lone Eagle, 1999. Paper: $17.95.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hot Off the Presses from Samuel French: October 2008

Please call The Drama Book Shopt at 800-944-0595 to order:
Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Sunday, Noon to 6:00 p.m., (GMT -5)

Adding Machine: A Musical
Composed by Joshua Schmidt. Libretto by Jason Loewith & Joshua Schmidt, based on the play The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice

Musical: 5m, 4f, 3 musicians. Various scenes

Adding Machine: A Musical tells the story of Mr. Zero, an unlikely anti-hero for the working man. Rewarded with a pink slip after 25 years in the same office, Zero kills his boss, is executed, and is sent to the Elysian Fields, where he is given a last chance at love with Daisy Devore, his long-suffering secretary. This "brilliant, half-surreal, half-expressionist fantasia" (Chicago Sun-Times) based on Elmer Rice's 1923 play received the Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel, and Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best New Musical.

A "brilliant little musical that...radiates the unmistakable heat, the entrancing light, of aesthetic inspiration."—New York Times

"Is it too early to declare Adding Machine the best new musical of 2008? Perhaps, but I'm going to do so anyhow, and if something better comes along, it will be a great year for musicals indeed." —Time Out New York

"Adding Machine totals up to a complete artistic triumph."—New Jersey Star-Ledger

"A near-perfect musicalization of Elmer Rice's play. Together these fine artists have created a small masterpiece." —New York Observer

"Who would have thought that Elmer Rice's 1923 expressionist drama, The Adding Machine, could be turned into an ultramodern musical? Or that a non-Steppenwolf show out of Chicago could dazzle New York? That something with so much spoken dialogue could still be so musical, so near-operatic in its power? Well, no more wondering; here is Adding Machine." —John Simon, Bloomberg News

"A theatrical revelation. See it to secure your boasting rights now before future productions of The Adding Machine start replicating "Wows!" all over."—Windy City Times

"Brilliant, audacious [and] sophisticated." —Chicago Sun Times

"Compelling, provocative theater...a must see for Chicagoans interested in, and supportive of, intensely serious new stage musicals." —Chicago Tribune

  • Winner of Best New Musical of 2008
  • Outer Critics Circle, Lucille Lortel Awards
  • Nine Drama Desk nominations including: Outstanding Musical, Score, Music & Lyrics

Adding Machine: A Musical. Acting Edition: $9.95


by Steve Yockey
Comedy / 5m, 4f / Unit set

Join the exploits of a band of mismatched cartoon stereotypes on a wild ride through an animated world. Presented in the style of a Commedia dell'Arte scenario gone berserk,Cartoon is a devilishly violent social commentary that explores the rapid coalescence of media, politics and consumer giants. A young, idealistic upstart named Trouble steals the giant hammer that Esther, the bratty dictator, uses to maintain a monotonous but peaceful order. Chaos ensues. Bombs explode. Puppets are set free. Anime girls fight. And as the bodies pile up, the violence begins to creep off the stage and into the audience. There's nothing like a punch in the face to really get the blood moving.

"Cartoon poses profound questions with every will leave you thinking and discussing the play for the remainder of the evening." —Backstage

"At its core, Cartoon is a response to society, to violence, to corrupt leadership, and to twisted romance...." —TheatreForum Magazine

"The play slowly reveals itself as being more than just a wacky comedy about violence in the speaks to a deeper, darker truth about people's ability to turn on one another without visualizing the cost of that betrayal. It is in these moments thatCartoon shines." —TheatreForum Magazine

Cartoon. Acting Edition: $9.95

The Makeover
by Patsy Hester Daussat
Comedy / 4m, 4f, 1m or f / Interior

It's a typical Saturday evening, as Mike and Melanie play games with their best friends, Victor and Paula. They have been neighbors for years, and each have a son home from college for the summer. Little does Melanie know that her happy, comfortable world will soon be thrown into turmoil. Mike has sent a letter to Facing Facts, Melanie and Paula's favorite reality television show. He believes Melanie, who has gained weight over the years, would be thrilled to have a makeover at Facing Facts' fabulous spa. After all, she and Paula rave about it. Unfortunately, every Monday night when Melanie and Paula watch the show, their husbands leave to play baseball. Poor Mike is clueless about the show's cruel, ratings-hungry hostess, Frances Montgomery, who thrives on humiliating those who are ambushed on the show. When the Facing Facts crew descends upon her door, Melanie endures a disastrous ambush. Afterward, she cannot understand why Mike would subject her to national humiliation. Melanie tells him to be out of the house when she returns from the spa. Mike is hopeful that she will change her mind, but things only get worse the evening Melanie returns. Frances not only belittles Melanie again, she sets her sights on an oblivious Mike. Melanie finally explodes, throwing the Facing Factscrew out of her house, along with Mike. Events in the days that follow bring Melanie to realizations about herself and the important things in life.
Issues of appearance, communication, relationships, and reality television are dealt with in the light comedy, The Makeover.

"The new comedy-drama The Makeover is satisfying...and highly pleasurable... Daussat's play is quite entertaining and she earns a solid, robust share of laughs from her writing. (She) has a keen sense of humor...Issues of being overweight in this country are presented...with brutal honesty, never once sounding preachy or whining, but instead with a truthful, immensely heartfelt observation...Daussat's talents are shown to be off to a great start...a solid audience pleaser...a knockout hit." —John Garcia, Talkin' Broadway

"Daussat knows the basics of writing a situational script: She sets up the characters and action nicely, and gives the characters interesting quirks and vibrant lines to speak... (The) message about learning to love yourself (is) peppered with... comedy (and is) heartfelt...The Makeover should become a popular title in theaters..." —Mark Lowry, Fort Worth Star Telegram

The Makeover. Acting Edition: $9.95

by Joseph Goodrich
Mystery Drama / 2m, 4f / Interior

Paris, 1963. Director Henry Lockwood has come to the City of Light for the premiere of his new film, Panic. Accompanied on the trip by his wife Emma and his secretary Miriam, Lockwood expects nothing more than to enjoy another cinematic success and to bask in the adulation of young French film critic Alain Duplay. But when Lockwood is accused of a hideous crime—a crime that could destroy his career and his marriage—he's forced to confront the truth about himself and those closest to him. Lockwood, known the world over as 'the Sultan of Suspense,' is caught in a nightmare straight out of one of his own films.

Recipient of the 2008 Mystery Writer's of America
Edgar Award for Best Play

Panic. Acting Edition: $9.95


Smoke and Mirrors
by Joseph Goodrich
Drama / 4m, 3f, / Interior

Set in the break room of a quasi-governmental organization, Smoke and Mirrors follows Anita and a handful of her co-workers through the course of a seemingly normal day, complete with bad cafeteria food, inept bosses, inappropriate e-mails and blood-stained lab-coats. Smoke and Mirrors mingles the comic with the nightmarish, creating a world composed of patriotism and cupcakes, of paranoia and air freshener - a world uncomfortably close to our own.

"Joseph Goodrich's dystopian office fantasy captures the glacial, disjointed rhythm of workplace conversations in an employee smoking lounge; it's a kind of nine-to-five prison yard, in which we see the grotesque and the ordinary conjoined." —The New Yorker

"If Kafka scripted an episode of The Office, it might resemble Joseph Goodrich's bizarre and often intriguing Smoke and Mirrors, set in the smoking room of a nebulous American corporation." —Time Out New York

Smoke and Mirrors. Acting Edition: $9.95


The Last Schwartz
by Deborah Zoe Laufer
Comedy / 3m, 3f

The Schwartz family is on its last legs. Their father's dead and their Catskills home is up for sale. Norma's husband hasn't spoken to her since she turned their 15 year old son in for smoking pot. After five miscarriages it appears Herb's wife won't provide him with an heir. Simon has one foot on the moon. Gene's girlfriend is about to have an abortion. And nobody seems very clear about what it is to be a family anyway. What is it to be a family? Does anybody care any more? Is Judaism all there is to hold the family together? Or is that what it will take to push the family apart? As Simon says, the Earth as we know it is really on its last legs too. When all of mankind is blown into oblivion, who's going to care whether there were Jews? Or how hard a few generations fought to keep the faith alive? The Cherry Orchard takes a holiday in the Catskills as the Schwartz family congregates, maybe for the last time, on the one-year anniversary of their father's death.

"Incendiary drama and wickedly self-deprecating humor...she shows herself to be a vital new voice for the theater willing to wade into potentially abrasive waters and skillful enough to cut the sting with laughter. —Palm Beach Post

" ...a beautifully crafted new play that weaves hilarity, mystery and loss into a resonant tale about a family's disintegration." —The Miami Herald

"The Last Schwartz is rollicking, sad, shocking, goofy, and thoughtful. It is comic drama firing on all cylinders, a superb work of theater by a playwright in full command of her considerable gift for character and dialogue. —The Washington Times

The Last Schwartz. Acting Edition: $9.95


The Iliad, Odyssey and all of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less by Jay Hopkins and John Hunter
Comedy / 3m, 2f / Bare Stage

On a simple stage, with the clock ticking in front of everyone's eyes, the cast speeds through ALL of Greek Mythology. Its funny, updated and made easy to understand.

The Gods walk the Red Carpet. The Creation of Mankind is a botched subcontractor's job. Man and Pandora try settling down despite an ominous wedding gift. Love stories are a dating show and the Greek Tragedies are sports highlights!

And don't forget the two greatest stories ever told, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Kidnap Helen of Troy and you've got a 10 year slap-fight of epic proportions with pouty Achilles, war-hungry Agamemnon and clever Odysseus, destined to wander the seas for 10 more years fighting giants, seductresses and the Gods themselves.

All the silly decisions, the absurd destinies, and the goofy characters are presented lightning-bolt fast with hysterical results as the clock is stopped with only seconds to spare.

" ...this riotous distillation of classic Greek mythology and Homer's epic poems takes boldface names from myth and literature and turns them into a thing that would make Cliffs-Notes and Monty Python proud....Hunter and Hopkins use pop culture to spoof some of the more overly dramatic Greek moments and do a wonderful job of picking up on all the things that never made sense in these traditional stories.... —Rebecca Swain, Orlando Sentinel

The Iliad, Odyssey and all of Greek Mythology in 99 Minutes or Less. Acting Edition: $9.95


A (Tooth) Fairy Tale Book by Ben H. Winters, Music & Lyrics by Rick Hip-Flores
Children's Musical / 3m, 4f (with doubling)

A boy named Samuel is tired of his life: It's nothing but rules, rules, and more rules! So when Sammy meets the Tooth Fairy, and she confesses that she's bored with her own life and wishes she could be just a regular lady, the two arrange a swap. Samuel becomes the new Tooth Fairy, and the Tooth Fairy heads off to make her way in New York City. Soon Samuel is zipping around the night sky, revolutionizing the tooth biz, while the Fairy joyfully takes in the glories of the Upper West Side, and everyone is happy....for a little while. Soon Samuel, tempted by a scheming Local Newscaster, starts ignoring the rules of the Tooth Fairy game, and (even worse) decides he's too much of a big shot for his very best friends Allison. Meanwhile, after a few brushes (no pun intended) with the hard realities of city living, The Tooth Fairy is ready to switch back, too. But can it be that simple? A (Tooth) Fairy Tale is a musical comedy filled with fairy dust, bright shiny quarters, and maybe just a small molar - sorry, moral - about being true to who you really are.

"A very funny and melodically rich musical...written to amuse anyone from 4 to 12, the show is even a treat for parents: this is one children's extravaganza that won't set your teeth on edge." —The New York Times

"A (Tooth) Fairy Tale is a charming and amusing story. Ben H. Winters keeps the children entertained with broad humor and a host of funny characters...A (Tooth) Fairy Tale is a fun and entertaining show, suitable for even some of the younger children. If you decide to see A (Tooth) Fairy Tale, be sure to make reservations." —Off Off Broadway Review

A (Tooth) Fairy Tale. Acting Edition: $9.95

Monday, October 20, 2008

Intermission Talk by Tony Vellela: Reviewing Equus, 13 and A Tale of Two Cities

Hidden agendas perpetuated on adults by adults is reprehensible enough, but to use talented, wide-eyed, star-struck children to perpetuate a hidden agenda on other children is beyond moral acceptability.

And that is what unspools in a ninety-minute intermission-less sugarfest eight times a week at the Jacobs Theatre, innocently labeled "13." Behind the calculated cuteness of having a new musical supposedly about the (tiny) trials and (innocuous) tribulations of a 12 1/2 year old Upper West Side Jewish lad heartlessly moved by his newly-divorced mother to Appleton, Indiana is a cold-as-cash formula to lure unsuspecting high school musical theatre students across the country into mounting this schlock on their auditorium stages, once it receives the 'as seen on Broadway' imprimatur.

The cool customer behind this fraud is Jason Robert Brown, whose The Last Five Years has accumulated a cult following despite its limited and ego-centric substance. His Tony Award for Parade came during one of the driest years ever on Broadway for musicals, which found it virtually unchallenged in its category. The less said the better about his contributions to Urban Cowboy.

So how best to get back in the game? How about a gimmick in which all the characters, two-dimensional as they are, are teen-agers and - OMG!!! - they are all PLAYED by teen-agers! And - OMGGG !!! - the entire BAND is comprised of teen-agers, too? And - wait, there's more - there are - I can't believe it! - there are thirteen CHARACTERS, too. This level of calculated cleverness belongs in the State Department.

The negligible storyline finds young Evan (the competent Graham Phillips) meeting the interesting girl next door in his new home town, finding out she's an outcast, and when he starts his quest to produce the perfect bar mitzvah, throws her under the hay wagon. The rest of the characters are straight out of Saved By The Bell, or the lame Broadway musicalization of Footloose. Archie and Veronica had more backstory than this bunch.

The only character with a distinguishing feature that would not be expected is Archie [the brave Aaron Simon Gross], who endures his degenerative neuro-muscular disorder, which requires him to use crutches, with a kind of unjustified peppy c'est la vie. He is rewarded with several moments and lyrics that tastelessly mock his physical condition, including some in which he cheerfully participates.

The lyrics are in no danger of sounding like they were penned by an adult, featuring such memorable rhymes as "move" and "prove," "fine and "mine" and inevitably, "school" and "cool."

It is a hard sell to anyone who remotely knows a savvy Upper West Side teen to think that they would countenance the openly-homophobic words or behavior. And even if this young lad were soooo desperate to be accepted, his "inner voice," (perhaps brought out as everyone remains frozen in place as he expresses his revulsion in a tight spot), would cry out for his former tolerant 'hood.

Two new discoveries manage to break through this travesty—Allie Trim as the aforementioned wronged-but-later-redeemed real girl person who has a voice that will soon compare to the iconic likes of Rebecca Luker or Kelli O'Hara, and the explosive and underused Eamon Foley, whose glorious voice, kinetic-times-a-million energy and head of golden shag hair are buried in the chorus, but who always blazes through the surrounding mediocrity whenever he's present.

The tantalizing three-sheeter outside the Jacobs shows us the 13, each slapped with a label across their body—such as The Gossip, The Outsider, etc. which offers a whiff of promise to parents hoping to get a window into their teen-ager's world. But these cardboard characters never deliver, except to serve as vehicles for ambitious young performers, sort of a farm team for Spring Awakening.

And the appropriation from other work that tells real stories about young people in love ["Getting Ready" is a lift from West Side Story;"A Little More Homework" is a lift from Rent] is blatant.

But the damage is done. It can now claim "as seen on Broadway." Would that those of us who have seen it on Broadway could somehow un-see it.



Now, if you are seeking a genuine tale of a troubled teen, walk one block south to the Broadhurst and take in the joys of Equus. This revival of Peter Shaffer's 1975 Tony-winning drama alternately crackles and whispers, lures and repulses. The sexually-confused Alan Strang confesses to blinding six horses whose care he is charged with, using an iron spike to gouge out their eyes. Instead of jailing him, a sympathetic magistrate named Heather Saloman begs the overworked child psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart to take him into his on-site facility for examination and possible treatment. The good doctor's practiced detachment lays the groundwork for the conflict between his cool and the young man's intensity—fire and ice.

This excruciatingly measured choreography—between a young man caught in the act of brutalizing the very witnesses to his mental torture, and a nearly-retired caregiver witnessing his own internal breakdown as his self-doubt tortures his every act—plays like a spoken sonata. Alan allows himself to reveal his demons to the doctor, when his religious zealot mother and clandestinely promo-addicted father have both failed to win his respect. A young girl (Anna Camp, who flatteringly recalls the appeal of the teen-aged Cynthia Nixon) secures a part-time job for him at the stable where the crime was executed, and nearly frees his libido, but even she cannot help him reconcile his crazed mindset that replaces the picture of the suffering Jesus at the foot of his bed with the image of a commanding steed's noble head.

Broadway newcomer Daniel Radcliffe [the magic Harry from the movies] and stage veteran Richard Griffiths [late of the classic The History Boys] demonstrate exactly and definitively how two-hander scenes should be played. There is an organic interaction between boy and man, a great series of moments that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Other cast members deliver their roles admirably, with only Kate Mulgrew as the magistrate careering off the tracks with acting choices that somehow suggest that she is either trying to seduce or reignite a sexual relationship with the doctor, and is using this poor lad's plight as a means of getting face time in the doc's office.

As the resolution is achieved, it is clear that this is a good but not great play, one that depends for its value on strong performances. The story line owes more than little to the Carson McCullers novel turned 1967 film Reflections in a Golden Eye. Thankfully, Griffiths and Radcliffe deliver. It is also possible that each of them has pulled from past roles (Griffiths from "Boys," and Radcliffe from another boys project, the Australian film December Boys) to mine the gold in these characters. Whatever the source, these are thoroughbred performances that belong in the winner's circle.


As the good doctor might advise in matters that require care, "First, do no harm." Such may have been the admonition chosen to fashion the new musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities." Ricocheting around the stage of the Hirschfeld Theatre, this harmless grade B near-clone of "Les Miz" chose wisely where it matters, and in a way that recent Gothic and costume-drama musicals did not - it does not take itself too seriously. And we are the better for it. Once again, the "Mamma Mia" model rescues a show that could have suffocated itself with cloying self-importance.

Instead, what is presented is unself-conscious good humor, a lightness in the story-telling that is almost on the level of children's theatre, which is meant as a compliment. An acceptable portion of the original source material survives, built around the wastrel, hard-drinking solicitor Sydney Carton (James Barbour), the unwilling ex-pat French aristocrat Charles Darnay (Aaron Lazar), and the fetching Lucie (Brandi Burkhardt). Lucie's dad is still recently released from the Bastille as a result of the citizens seizing power during the French Revolution. There is still the Carton-loves-Lucie, Lucie-loves-Darnay, Carton ain't too taken with Darnay story line, along with the indomitable Madame Defarge, who does more than keep to her knitting.

Rousing moments in Act Two replace plot-point ones in Act One, starting with a robust number titled "Everything Stays the Same." And the voices are uniformly first-rate, and none more than Barbour. The proceedings are served well by Tony Walton's versatile skeletal sets and rear-wall silhouettes, reinforcing this production's choice to give us realism once removed, fidelity selectively honored, and a welcome antidote to the never-ending Masterpiece Theatre imports that, when aired past eleven, dispense with the need for sleeping pills.

TONY VELLELA, the veteran theatre correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, writes and produces the PBS series about theatre, "Character Studies". His work has also appeared in Parade, Theatre Week, USA Today, Dramatics, Rolling Stone, and several other publications.

Titles Mentioned in this Article and Available from The Drama Book Shop:


The Last Five Years
The Last Five Years (Vocal Selections)
Jason Robert Brown
Hal Leonard, 2003. Paper: $17.95

Parade (Libretto), in the collection: The New American Musical
Edited by Wiley Hausam
Theatre Communications Group, 2003. Paper: $18.95

Footloose (Vocal Selections)

Hal Leonard, 1999. Paper: $17.95

Spring Awakening (Libretto)
Theatre Communications Group, 2007. Paper: $13.95

Spring Awakening (Vocal Selections)
Hal Leonard, 2008. Paper: $19.95


Equus by Peter Shaffer
Samuel French. Acting Edition: $7.50

The History Boys by Alan Bennett
Faber & Faber, 2005. Paper: $13.00