ROUNDABOUT BLOG

2016 Award Season

Posted on: March 30th, 2016 by Roundabout

 

Congratulations to all the nominees this awards season!

Drama Desk Award Nominations:

She Loves Me - extended through July 10
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Outstanding Actress in a Musical - Laura Benanti
Outstanding Actor in a Musical - Zachary Levi
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Jane Krakowski
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Nicholas Barasch
Outstanding Set Design for a Musical - David Rockwell
Outstanding Orchestrations - Larry Hochman
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical - Jeff Mahshie
Outstanding Hair & Wig Design - David Bryan Brown

Special Drama Desk Award
Sheldon Harnick for She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof and The Rothschilds

Long Day's Journey Into Night - limited engagement
Outstanding Revival of a Play
Outstanding Actress in a Play - Jessica Lange
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Michael Shannon

The Humans - now playing on Broadway
Outstanding Play
Outstanding Director of a Play - Joe Mantello
Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play - Justin Townsend
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play - Fitz Patton
Outstanding Ensemble - Special Drama Desk Award

Noises Off
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Megan Hilty
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - David Furr

Ugly Lies the Bone
Outstanding Actress in a Play - Mamie Gummer

Full list of nominees.


Drama League Award Nominations:DramaLeague_Logo135

She Loves Me - extended through July 10
Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical

The Humans - now playing on Broadway
Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play

Long Day's Journey Into Night - limited engagement
Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play

Noises Off
Outstanding Revival of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play

Distinguished Performances:
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Reed Birney, The Humans
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans
Judith Light, Thérèse Raquin
Megan Hilty, Noises Off
Jessica Lange, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Michael Shannon, Long Day's Journey Into Night
Leslie Kritzer, The Robber Bridegroom

Read the full list of nominations.

OCC_Logo135Outer Critics Circle Award Nominations:

She Loves Me - extended through July 10
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Outstanding Direction of a Musical - Scott Ellis
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical - Laura Benanti
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Jane Krakowski
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Nicholas Barasch
Outstanding Set Design - David Rockwell
Outstanding Lighting Design - Don Holder
Outstanding Costume Design - Jeff Mahshie

Long Day's Journey Into Night - limited engagement
Outstanding Revival of a Play
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play - Jessica Lange
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play - Gabriel Byrne
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play - Michael Shannon
Outstanding Lighting Design - Natasha Katz

The Humans - now playing on Broadway
Outstanding New Broadway Play
Outstanding Direction of a Play- Joe Mantello
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play - Reed Birney
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play - Jayne Houdyshell

Thérèse Raquin
Outstanding New Broadway Play
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Judith Light
Outstanding Set Design - Beowulf Boritt

Ugly Lies the Bone
John Gassner Award nomination - Lindsey Ferrentino

Read the full list of nominees.

The Pulitzer Prizes:
The Humans - now playing on Broadway
Pulitzer Prize for Drama - Finalist

LortelAwards_Logo135Lucille Lortel Award Nominations:

The Humans - now playing on Broadway
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play - Reed Birney
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play - Jayne Houdyshell
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play - Lauren Klein
Outstanding Scenic Design - David Zinn
Outstanding Lighting Design - Justin Townsend
Outstanding Sound Design - Fitz Patton

The Robber Bridegroom - playing through May 29
Outstanding Revival
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical - Steven Pasquale
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical - Greg Hildreth
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical - Leslie Kritzer

Read the full list of nominees.

Off-Broadway Alliance Nominations:
The Robber Bridegroom - playing through May 29
Best Musical Revival


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season


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Follow an Education at Roundabout School Residency

Posted on: April 26th, 2016 by Alan Bounville

 

“What is life like for an immigrant and their family?”

“What is life like when you feel trapped?”

11th Grade students at Repertory Company High School answered these questions through exploration of Long Day's Journey Into Night and interview theatre techniques to produce an original show for their community. Roundabout Teaching Artist and theatre artist Alan Bounville shares a little about his journey creating this work:

Teaching Artist Alan Bounville with students.

Teaching Artist Alan Bounville with Repertory Company High School students.

This project began when the school’s principal, Mr. Fram, and theatre teacher, Mr. McIntosh, decided to embed the creation of an interview theatre play about immigration into the curriculum for their junior class’ yearlong research project on the subject. The play was to focus on the stories and perspectives of immigrants to the USA. At the onset of the project, each student was asked to interview an immigrant and then transcribe a story from that interview. The overarching research question of the residency was, “How do immigrants to the USA view the term, “American Dream?” The result: dozens of rich and nuanced stories that focused on freedom, family, struggle, opportunity, education and resources. Myriad perspectives on these themes were heard in this play, aptly titled, What is the American Dream?

Producing Partners residencies encourage students and teachers to model professional theatre practice as they work towards producing their own show.  Embedded into this residency was a pre-show workshop and attendance at the student matinee of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. O’Neill’s masterwork related directly to Repertory Company High School’s show. Both pieces have their roots in first person accounts: O’Neill’s is based on his own upbringing and Repertory Company High School’s shares direct accounts from people living today.

In our pre-show workshop, we explored the show’s themes through scene work about immigration and other issues from the script for Long Day’s Journey Into Night (addiction, physical and mental illness, and family discord). Students explored playing the material in ways that didn’t allow for escape. The results were dynamic! Some scene groups confined their work to very specific areas of the room. Some physically blocked their partners in subtle or overt ways. One group put the play’s matriarch, Mary Tyrone, into an imaginary box. As the actor performed, all we saw was her mouth moving as she struggled to escape. Due to this, the other characters’ voices in the scene became disquietingly clear. At the student matinee, the students were rapt with attention (as Jessica Lange recently pointed out in this interview). At intermission and after the show, we discussed the connections between that show and their own. This discussion continued throughout the rest of the residency.

Students in rehearsal for the show

Students in rehearsal

Through a series of several workshops and mentoring sessions, students explored the interview theatre genre by interviewing and transcribing, play editing, and performing. Within the editing process we looked for the overall arc of the show, shifting things around, and editing further until we reached our final script. Students then worked with Roundabout Teaching Artist Creighton Irons to create a musical refrain echoing the show’s title. The refrain was both haunting and interrogating. It paralleled the diversity of experiences and viewpoints about the immigration process that were represented in their play. As we neared the final performance script, we didn’t waste a moment getting the show on its feet. During rehearsals, the students worked in small groups and continued refining the pieces up until opening night. By the residency’s end, Mr. McIntosh and I faded into the background as the students ran the entire show!

Students work on marketing materials for the show.

Students work on marketing materials

The students at Repertory Company High School did one of the most honorable things you can do as an artist: they created something that didn’t exist before. And because they took the time to listen to people’s stories and then create What is the American Dream?, more voices have been heard. At their play’s end, they pose the question: “What is your American Dream?” It is a question that I feel is also embedded deeply in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. It is a question that I will carry with me as I continue my work as an artist and educator. As the artistic director of IN OUR WORDS, a theatre company that uses stories from individuals as the source material for its work, I am immersed daily in and around this genre. I also hold an  MA in Educational Theatre, with a focus on theatre that relates to narratives that parallel those in this project. I am grateful to all of the students and staff at Repertory Company High School and Education at Roundabout for inviting me to be a part of this journey of creation, reflection, and performance.


Related Categories:
Education @ Roundabout, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Teaching Artist Tuesday


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She Loves Me: An Origin Story

Posted on: April 19th, 2016 by Olivia O'Connor

 

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Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in SHE LOVES ME

In 1992 a young actor-turned-director named Scott Ellis met with Roundabout’s Artistic Director, Todd Haimes. Ellis was just coming off the recent success of And the World Goes ‘Round: The Songs of Kander and Ebb, a musical revue that he’d conceived with Susan Stroman and David Thompson and directed at the Westside Theatre. Haimes was relatively new to his position as Artistic Director, having transitioned into the role in 1990 after seven seasons as Executive Director. He had led Roundabout to its first Broadway home (the Criterion Center Stage Right) only a year before. The meeting didn’t seem particularly momentous. Ellis pitched a show he was interested in directing, a jewelbox of a musical called She Loves Me. Though the show’s writing team (Joe Masteroff, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerry Bock) had gone on to megawatt success since She Loves Me’s 1963 debut, the musical hadn’t been seen on Broadway since its well-reviewed but short-lived first run. Haimes wasn’t ready to commit to the project; he was impressed by Ellis’s work, but he didn’t know She Loves Me well. Even more importantly, he was already set to announce another musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, as the first installment in the company’s brand-new Great American Musical Series. He accepted a cast recording of She Loves Me from Ellis, said thank you, and filed the meeting away in memory.

Scott Ellis

Scott Ellis

Six months later, circumstances had changed. The rights to Forum had been revoked when a well-known director and big-name star expressed interest in doing the show; Roundabout, a company that had only recently become financially solvent (and that had never before produced a musical on Broadway), couldn’t come close to competing with such a glitzy proposal. Now, the company found itself in a very public bind: they’d announced the launch of the Great American Musical Series and had no Great American Musical to produce.

Haimes remembered the meeting he’d had with Ellis and gave him a call. Would he still be interested in directing She Loves Me at Roundabout? The timeline was tight – the show would need to go into pre-production in just a few months – but Ellis said yes.

This decision – and, in retrospect, the seemingly unremarkable meeting that preceded it – would go on to be one of the seminal events in Roundabout’s 50-year history. In the 28 years prior to the season of She Loves Me, Roundabout had occasionally dipped a beveled toe into musical theatre, but never anything close to the scale of She Loves Me, and certainly not on Broadway. The company had tackled musical revues (Pins and Needles, Streetsongs, A Kurt Weill Cabaret), short-run workshop productions (The Musical Merchant of Venice), children’s musicals (Yolanda Loves Me), plays with songs (Privates on Parade), and even a new musical (Brownstone). She Loves Me was something different – a full-scale Broadway revival of a little-known classic – and for both Haimes and Ellis, it was a first: Ellis’s first musical on Broadway, and Haimes’s first musical altogether.

In interviews in the years following, Haimes has often remarked that he assumed that producing and rehearsing a musical meant taking a play and adding an orchestra. The reality was, he quickly found, much more complicated – and far more expensive. Throughout the process, Ellis remembers, the Roundabout staff was constantly asking for explanations of the rehearsal needs: Why two rooms at once? Why two pianos? Why do you need an orchestrator? Then, Ellis remembers, the questions stopped. Looking back now, he realizes Roundabout had likely decided to stoically accept the sunk cost: they’d already come this far. If the show was a hit, great. If it was a flop, they’d lose millions, but right now, there was nothing to do but wait.

Doing the waiting, Haimes was terrified. He prided himself on money management; after all, it was his business sense that had pulled Roundabout out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few years earlier. But the company was still far from comfortable, and here he was, in one of his first seasons as Artistic Director, spending more money on She Loves Me than the company had spent on any production. As the budget ballooned, the board of directors grew concerned. Haimes knew that if the production wasn’t successful, the board could justifiably oust him from his post; they’d certainly never green-light a musical again.

It was with these high stakes that Haimes walked into She Loves Me’s last run-through in the rehearsal hall. Fluorescent lights illumined actors in street clothes; tape marks indicated the show’s bi-level set. Hardly a glamorous setting, but to Haimes, the run-through was magic. He walked out of the rehearsal studio confident that the show would be a success – of course, his enthusiasm couldn’t guarantee ticket sales, but artistically, at least, the production was worth the agonized wait. Ellis, for his part, vividly remembers another moment of magic within the final weeks of rehearsal and tech: walking into the Criterion Center lobby to find it filled – to every possible corner – with props. Today, remembering that crowded lobby and the production that filled it near to bursting, Ellis looks back with some degree of amazement; he had relatively little experience under his belt, and yet Masteroff, Harnick, and Bock entrusted him with their show.

The 1993 Roundabout production of SHE LOVES ME

The 1993 Roundabout production of SHE LOVES ME

Their faith – and the faith of Haimes and Roundabout – proved to be well-deserved. The production went on to be a sold-out hit, to be nominated for nine Tony Awards (including one win, for lead actor Boyd Gaines), and to transfer to both a commercial Broadway run and a run on London’s West End. Perhaps even more significant than the success of the show itself, however, was the institutional shift it heralded. Far from being shuttered, Roundabout’s Great American Musical Series went on to become a cornerstone of the company’s mission. Since She Loves Me, Roundabout has brought more than twenty musical revivals to the stage, including landmark productions of Assassins, Cabaret, Sunday in the Park with George, and Anything Goes. Today, Roundabout is the only not-for-profit theatre company dedicated to producing a full-scale musical on Broadway every year, a commitment which has garnered five Best Musical Revival Tony Awards as well as over thirty additional nominations and awards. The company has become a home for the innately American art form of the musical, an identity which can be traced directly back to 1993’s She Loves Me. Haimes and Ellis, too, are far from the novices of 1993; Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director of Roundabout, they are leading the way for the next decade of risks and rewards.


She Loves Me is now playing at Studio 54. For tickets and more information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, Education @ Roundabout, She Loves Me, Upstage


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Alex Timbers

Alex Timbers

On March 12, 2016, Alex Timbers spoke about The Robber Bridegroom with education dramaturg Ted Sod as part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s lecture series.

An edited transcript follows. (Beware: There are spoilers below.)

 

Ted Sod: Will you fill us in on what happened once you graduated from Yale and began your directing career? You started a company, I believe, and did a lot of devised work.

Alex Timbers: I graduated from college and my first job was as an intern for the artistic director of Manhattan Theatre Club, which gives you such a bird’s-eye view of how theatre works. And one of the first things you realize, that you don’t learn in college, is that in New York people who are 22 don’t get to direct Thornton Wilder. I decided to create my own theatre company in order to create a job for myself as a director. And what I noticed was that there are about 300 off-off-Broadway theatre companies. What I wanted to do was create a theatre company that had a very specific mission statement so that our work might stand out, something more specific for example than doing classical plays through a modern lens. I focused on doing work about historical subject matter through an irreverent and contemporary prism. And I think that bears out in The Robber Bridegroom, where we’re looking at something that’s historical and hopefully we’re giving a fresh take to it.

 

TS: And the name of that company is French, correct?

AT: We called it Les Frères Corbusier, the Corbusier Brothers. We did some work about urban planning early on.

 

TS: And did you start that company with other graduates from Yale?

AT: Yes, I began it with two great people I went to college with. The other thing that we did was we started leanly. I would work with other theatre companies where there would be 16 staff members, everyone unpaid. And you’d have a marketing manager, but there wouldn’t be a marketing budget. So after the third meeting the marketing manager would stop showing up, because there wasn’t anything for them to do. We started out with just two or three people, more like how you would run a dance company. We had a producer or two and an artistic leader.

HERE'S HOOVER! by Timber's theater company

HERE'S HOOVER! by Timber's theater company

 

TS: And is that company still producing?

AT: We did a show about Herbert Hoover last year that was really fun.

 

TS: Let’s talk about your history with plays that are being revived. You haven’t done many revivals.

AT: No, this is my first revival in New York City.

 

TS: Sometimes revivals require a different take from the director. Did you have to approach this material differently because it had already been done?

AT: We were very lucky that Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman, who wrote the show and hadn’t had a professionally produced revival in New York in about 40 years, love this show and so they were very involved with it. And they allowed us to approach it as a new work. Outside of New York, The Robber Bridegroom is performed all around America; but some of the songs you saw today have never been performed as part of The Robber Bridegroom the way that they’re performed here. The opening of the show is completely different. There’s about 15 or 20 percent of the show that’s different. So what you’re seeing is a very unique production of The Robber Bridegroom. It still has the same spirit as the 1975 and 1976 productions.

Design for the original production of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

Design for the original production of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

I’ve never seen a tape of what the original show was, but I read all the reviews and read people’s responses to the show and from those I learned about the show’s assets and what worked less well.

 

TS: When I interviewed Alfred Uhry, the librettist and lyricist, he said, “This is Alex’s baby. I don't know exactly what he’s going to do with it, but he’s going to take it and do something grand with it. I’ve waited a long time to find the right director and Alex is the right director. But at the same time, it’s not like we’re creating a show from scratch.”

AT: Both Alfred and Bob have been very collaborative. That collaboration manifests itself in all sorts of ways in every department. We have a music director named Justin Levine and a choreographer, Connor Gallagher. And the authors just basically said to us, “Have at it. Go make your version of The Robber Bridegroom. We don’t want a replica of the 1975 production.” At the first meeting I raised my hand and said to Alfred, “You know, I want to talk about the script. Can we look at this scene?” He’s written brand new scenes. That whole wedding sequence at the end, where it’s a reprise of Jamie Lockhart’s song, “Love Stolen” -- in every other production, that’s a square dance. And we thought there was more of an emotional connection there and added a reprise of an earlier song instead, for example.

So, not only have we revisited all the music with their blessing, but we’ve also looked at the orchestrations. Is this a banjo-heavy song? Does piano play on this? Piano usually isn’t a part of The Robber Bridegroom, but it was important to us to get the feeling and the vibe and to have something percussive. So there have been two orchestrators, Justin Levine and Martin Lowe, who worked on Once, and both men have gone through the show and reworked Robert’s orchestrations. That’s something that’s helped make it feel new too.

 

TS: When you pitched the show to our artistic director, Todd Haimes, was he familiar with the show?

AT: Todd didn’t know the show. He’d heard of the title. This was around 2011. Todd is so generous and artist friendly that he suggested something that artistic directors rarely might suggest. He said, “I’d like to spend some money exploring this.” He gave us a three-week lab to go and work on it with a full cast and a band in a rehearsal room. No audience, no ticket sales to make the money spent back. We got to figure out, with the choreographer and the music director, a lot of the staging that you saw today.

 

TS: The original production had 17 actors, I believe.

AT: Yes, all the other productions that you’ll see are basically done with 17 or 18 actors. One of the things that we thought would be cool is to celebrate the abilities of a group of really smart actors. So we shrunk everything down to nine people and a band. The actors could pick up instruments and there would be fluidity with the band.

 

Eudora Welthy's novella

Eudora Welthy's novella

TS: I’m curious about your response to Eudora Welty’s novella, on which this musical is based, because you told me you read that first. Will you give us a sense of how you prepared to direct this? And what happened when you got in the rehearsal room?

AT: The process of adaptation in this show is really unique because when you think about it, it started as a Brothers Grimm fairy tale called The Robber Bridegroom. And then Eudora Welty, a southern Gothic writer, adapted it into a novella also called The Robber Bridegroom. And then Alfred and Robert wrote to her and said, “We’d like to make this into a musical.” And she said, “Actually, many people have tried to do this and failed, but you may have the rights.” And so they began to adapt it. This material has had many different iterations. In terms of the process of research, what you do on a revival in addition to researching the original production, is you also look at the time period. What was going on in The Natchez Trace? What were things that people took part in in everyday life? What was the predicament of a bandit like Jamie or a girl like Rosamund? Sitting around a table and discussing these ideas -- that was the process during the first couple of days of rehearsal.

 

TS: How do you collaborate with Justin and Connor?

AT: They’re great collaborators and they’re witty and I think wit is an underappreciated value these days. They’re both good storytellers. We went through a pre-production process on everything. Everyone brings ideas to the table and then you winnow those ideas. With Connor, what we were able to do in December, through the kindness of the Roundabout, was a dance lab with a bunch of young actors. We were able to get in a rehearsal room to work out some of the more complicated dance sequences. Through that process you get an idea on what works and what doesn’t. And through that process you get to have a similar, shared sensibility. I think musicals are different than plays or other art forms that are collaborative. For musicals to succeed, I think all collaborators need to be rowing in the same direction. What you learn working on musicals is that everyone needs to be telling the same story in the same style; otherwise, you’re dead.

 

TS: I’ve heard it characterized as everybody has to be in the same world at the same time. The score, when it was first done, was called “bluegrass,” and Robert, the composer, calls it Appalachian. It was very rare for a New York audience to see a musical with a score like this at the time of the original production. Do you feel audiences have caught up with bluegrass music and that it’s more pervasive in the culture now?

AT: I think this spring is a really interesting time in musical theatre because at the Cort Theatre, you’ve got Bright Star, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s musical. That’s got a bluegrass score. Down at the Public you’ve got a show opening tomorrow called Southern Comfort and that’s got a bluegrass score as well. I think bluegrass is a completely theatrical idiom of music. And it’s something that’s popular and in the zeitgeist right now.

 

Steven Pasquale and the company of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

Steven Pasquale and the company of THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

TS: I want to talk about your design team. What I love about your shows – and I don’t mean to make it reductive – is that the sets sometimes spill into the audience. I sense a part of your understanding of theatre is the audience can’t be passive. Is that true?

AT: I think the idea in The Robber Bridegroom is that these characters are telling a story that they love, a story that means a great deal to them. I think the actors’ storytelling is something that should be celebrated. And the theatre as a sacred place for storytelling is important. So having the footlights divide you and the actors is not part of what our mission is on this show. The actors are becoming these characters. That’s important to us. It’s important that you’re here.

We made certain efforts in the design like pulling out the front-row seats, pushing the stage forward. We carried the set design into the house. We wanted to keep reinforcing that we’re here in the same room together. We know that the show takes place in 1795 – but we made certain choices to contemporize some of the costumes, for instance. What are people buying at thrift stores that relates to what people were wearing in 1795? And we did that because this isn’t a museum piece. We wanted it to be an aspirational experience for the audience. We want you to feel as if you want to hang out with these characters, wear these clothes, play with this band.

 

TS: You sometimes refer to this as “DIY theatre” or do-it-yourself. Will you tell us about do-it-yourself theatre?

AT: I work on shows that require all sorts of different aesthetics, ones where – I mean you see them all the time on Broadway – where a giant room comes in or comes up through the floor or whatever and every prop is detailed. And I think those are great for a certain type of theatre. But here, what we’re saying is, “We’re creating the story in front of you.” What we want is a lean-in experience for the audience. We want to engage the audience’s imagination.

We use the props we have on hand and use them over and over and over again to detail different locations and have the actors become the environment and the scenery. So it’s a very do-it-yourself aesthetic. I think it’s something that you wouldn’t do in a movie. It’s something that’s inherently theatrical and engages the audience in the act of storytelling.

 

TS: I also want to talk about the audience’s romance with con men. It seems like we never get enough of them. Why do you think that is? We’re watching one play out on the national political stage right now.

AT: I think musical theatre has a great history with hucksters as protagonists. If you look at The Music Man’s Harold Hill or you look at the protagonists in The Producers or you look at Billy Flynn in Chicago. We love these kinds of salesmen. I think that part of the reason is that these characters try to better their predicament, they make positive, active choices. Think of Charlie Brown. He always gets that football taken away from him, but he always gets back up to try to kick it. And that’s what we love. We love people who try, who sell themselves, who are actively trying to work out how to make things happen. I think that Jamie Lockhart and this whole band of robbers and bandits are like that as well. Rosamund is a compulsive liar. That’s an interesting character flaw.

 

Ahna O'Reilly as Rosamund in THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

Ahna O'Reilly as Rosamund in THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

TS: She’s been around Salome, her stepmother, for a long time. Her father is sweet and seemingly naïve. It’s fascinating to me that Rosamund has had polarities of behavior as a moral compass.

AT: Her backstory is actually really interesting in the novella. Clement Musgrove’s original wife was a woman named Amalie and he had twins with her, just like the twins at the end. And one of them was Rosamund and one was a boy. Clement went on a trip with a guy named Kentucky Thomas, and his wife Salome, and they were attacked on the frontier. And the only people who survived were Rosamund, Clement and Salome. Clement knew immediately that Salome was not a right match for him, but they were so desperate for water that he made a promise to God. He said, “If I find water, I will marry this woman and do right by her.” And the next moment he found water.

 

TS: So now it’s your turn to ask questions.

Audience Member #1: Hi, I just wanted to say this is my second time seeing the show. And it’s even funnier the second time. There’s so much that I didn’t catch the first time. Anyway, are there any plans to record a cast album of this production?

AT: We would love to do that. I think that there is a cast album of the Barry Bostwick version from 1976 and it’s a great recording. But particularly with these new orchestrations and this cast, it would be amazing to have it be recorded.

 

TS: It might be good to just give you a brief history on this show. This is the second show that Bob and Alfred wrote together. Alfred had only been doing lyrics up to that point. And he did the book for this with the blessing of Gerry Freedman, the original director, who kept encouraging him. Of course, now he’s a playwright almost exclusively. But he has written a new libretto for a piece that’s being done at Long Wharf about Toulouse-Lautrec. The Robber Bridegroom was done as a workshop at St. Clements in 1974 with Raul Julia in the title part.

Patti Lupone and Kevin Kline in THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

Patti Lupone and Kevin Kline in THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

There was a woman named Margo Harley, who was associated with the Julliard School, who went to John Houseman and said, “This show is perfect for us.” And they did it on tour with Patti LuPone and Kevin Kline. And while they were on tour, a producer said, “Let’s do it on Broadway.” But since Kline and LuPone were on the road, they decided to recast it with Barry Bostwick and a woman whom I haven’t heard much of since, Rhonda Coullet.

AT: And what’s interesting too is it was on Broadway with Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone for about 14 performances.

 

TS: They were at the Harkness Theatre and that qualified them for Tony nominations.

AT: Patti LuPone and Alfred both got nominated.

 

TS: And then the next year it was considered a revival.

AT: Barry Bostwick won the Tony for best actor in a musical.

 

TS: Waldman has continued to write incidental music. He has composed music for a lot of plays at Lincoln Center. And, of course, Alfred wrote his great Atlanta trilogy: Driving Miss Daisy, Parade and The Last Night of Ballyhoo.

Audience Member #2: I’m curious about one thing, as a musician. The whole thing of doing the sound effects yourselves is almost like old-time radio or a vaudeville effect that really charmed me.

AT: Thank you. In terms of the sound effects, that was part of the do-it-yourself quality of it. We wanted the company to be able to comment on scenes that they weren’t in, but also to create the visual and sonic environments for scenes they weren’t necessarily in either. It all goes back to the idea of communal storytelling.

 

Audience Member #3: Hi, Alex. Can you offer any advice to new graduates on how to start a theatre company?

AT: The three things that I normally tell people is be really specific with the kind of theatre you want to create because your company will need to stand out from other companies, which I think is a hard thing to do. Also, it’s generally difficult in the long run to create a company with all the people who you went to college or graduate school with because at the end of the day, you all might actually like different kinds of theatre and after a couple of productions, you guys will each want something different from the future of the company. Also it’s helpful to have one artistic director.

 

TS: Sometimes that mission of a new company will morph, correct?

AT: Yes, over the years.

 

Alex Timbers directing THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

Alex Timbers directing THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM

TS: Every year there seems to be new companies. I have no idea where they get their money from. But, Alex, wouldn’t you say that’s a big deal? Finding the money to produce?

AT: Absolutely, yes.

 

TS: And it’s always very valuable to get some press, so people know you exist. And if you’re lucky enough to have The New York Times come by, sometimes it can be a big help. It’s a complicated thing. There are so many new companies and new companies of mostly people who’ve just graduated from Brown or wherever. I feel like it’s a huge undertaking. But I’m sure if you think about what’s missing here in New York City, you’ll find out there actually is something missing.

Audience Member #5: Can you speak a bit more about your first experience with the show, the squash court that you mentioned? What was it about that production that was so inspiring for you?

AT: I was an undergraduate in college. And some kids I went to school with put on The Robber Bridegroom and I had never heard of the show before. And what I remember about it was the mischievous quality to the actor-audience relationship. I found it really charged and exciting. It didn’t feel elevated and elitist. It felt just kind of anarchic and a little raunchy. I just remember being surprised. It wasn’t what I thought musicals were.

 

Audience Member #4: I found the scene with the masks intriguing, while everyone was singing and dancing. Was it difficult for the actors to balance it all?

AT: That moment with the masks in Salome’s song, “The Pricklepear Bloom,” was actually an interesting moment in the rehearsal process and came out of a conversation with the music director, Justin Levine, the choreographer, Connor Gallagher, and Leslie Kritzer who plays the role. Our feeling was that it would be great for the song to have a lift at some point. It would be fun to have a “dream ballet” for Salome. And that was something in rehearsal that we started exploring: “What would her dream be?” We decided on a whole world of Salomes where she was glorified and everyone was like her, instead of her being an outsider, maligned. And so that was where the masks came from and how the choreographer and music director built that whole sequence.

 

TS: Something we didn’t discuss is the fact that throughout this play – and it’s something that you mention in the playgoers’ guide interview – there is this concept of duality. Everybody has a dual nature in the piece. I feel like that’s something the audience can take away with them -- nothing is ever what it really seems to be.

AT: Jamie Lockhart is the Bandit of the Wood and he’s Jamie Lockhart, the gentleman. Rosamund’s the girl that dresses up like a crazy person and then she’s also beautiful Rosamund, a merchant’s daughter. Throughout the show there’s this duality that lurks. I think that it’s an important theme in the piece. Where I find it the most resonant is in the songs like “Deeper in the Woods,” where you really get that sense that two different worlds co-exist out there. I like the duality of the hard-hearted world and the more romantic, gauzy world that surrounds us.


The Robber Bridegroom is playing through May 29 at the Laura Pels Theatre. For tickets and information, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2015-2016 Season, A Conversation with, Education @ Roundabout, The Robber Bridegroom


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