27 June, 2013

"San Francisco Symphony's Tony & Maria..."

Opening tonight at San Francisco Symphony's Davies Hall, until July 2.  

From the Huffington Post:
"Say it loud, say it soft -- West Side Story. And there's music playing. It's just there, deep in the heart, engraved in the culture and playing somewhere right this moment. San Francisco Symphony is presenting five performances of West Side Story, June 27-30 / July 2, and like you've never seen or heard before. They are the first to present the complete 1957 musical on a concert stage. And hold on, the production is being recorded. It may prove to be the most significant recording of the show since the Original Broadway cast. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas worked with Leonard Bernstein and is internationally renowned for being the composer's champion interpreter. In the roles of the star-crossed lovers, popular Broadway and TV personality Cheyenne Jackson as "Tony" and the fastest-rising soprano in musical theatre, Alexandra Silber as "Maria." It's the stuff that dreams are made of."

Read the full article HERE.

26 June, 2013

An Open Letter to Rebecca Luker

Dear Rebecca,

So, Hi.
This is weird.
I think I know that.
I mean, we're sort of 'colleagues' now, though we haven't worked together (yet!), and we know each others' names and have come to each others' shows, but here is the thing:

I feel like I have to tell you something. Truth is, when I dig deep down and reeeally give it a good think, there really is no other single person who has influenced my artistic life as profoundly as you.

[*takes a deep breath... exhales...*]

I know.
I know that is an intense thing to say.
It is a "fan girl" thing to say and I am not, nor have I ever actually been a fan girl.
Not in real life.
Only about Angela Lansbury really (but I admit that falls under the category of "Crazy Love" and doesn't count... at least I hope not...)
Because first of all I'm of the pre-Tumblr generation, and on top of that I'm actually quite shy (I couldn't even come to meet you at stage door when I came to The Sound of Music in '98) plus, I dunno, I was born in LA, something about seeing celebrities at the bank and grocery store and all that...

But, listen, this is the crucial part:
you taught me how to sing
You didn't know that you were doing it, but you did.

I would listen to recordings of you and pour over them with a fine tooth comb, ear pressed close to the speaker, completely in astonishment of how you don't really seem to have a break, how your vibrato is so even and natural and "spinny" and how your tone is like velvet, and in attempting to emulate it, I learned how to sing. In addition, your depth of feeling oozes through your voice in a way that says you trust not only your own depth of spirit, but the depth of those that hear you--it is the ultimate in creative dignity. You make old songs sound fresh and vibrant as if they were written yesterday. You make new material soar. You showed me how a soprano could be a leader in the modern era and, I am unutterably grateful for everything you inadvertently gave me.

But I am even more grateful that you are the loveliest, most gracious person in real life, who clearly loves her husband and family, who allows people to share their toothpaste (and forgives them for being super weird about it weeks later), who comes to shows Downtown, who then waits around to be generous with praise for those that are coming along behind her legacy. I am grateful for your humility, genuine, charming self-effacing sense of humor, and for your deep well of inner beauty, as much as for your talent.

When I was growing up, the classics of Broadway were the stories that shaped me; Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, Jerome Kern, Bernstein, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and those that picked up their batons. And interestingly, when I began my career in England (where I never dreamed wind would blow me) I never really came across the people that I spent so much time listening to in my bedroom, in the car, mimicking in the shower, or on a bunk bed at summer camp. I suppose, when I returned over three years ago now, I couldn't stop reeling from how commonplace it seemed to "run into" these iconic people, to share stages and Greenrooms with them-- it felt like a veritable "Whose Who" of teenage theatrical appreciation.
     "Oh hey, Brian Stokes Mitchell, thanks for clasping my hands so sincerely, welcoming me to Broadway and then telling me casually as we exchange Voice Over stories that you were ONE OF THE VOICES OF THE CALIFORNIA RAISINS. Because the world just got THAT much better."
     "Heeeeey Marin Mazzie, allow me to sing at Carnegie Hall opposite your husband and you can just sit next to my Mom in that box up there and you and Peter Freidman--stars of the first Broadway show I ever saw--can just, you know: come backstage afterward and we can all just pal about like this happens ALL THE TIME." 
     "'Sup, Sheldon Harnick? Thank you for being my real life 'Dear Friend.'"
     "And hey there, John Cullum, allow me to just call you at home on the 5th of July after weeping over 1776 which was on cable last night, and we can have a real heart-to-heart about your legacy and how much it and the theatre means to both of us..."
And I mean, I am. I basically know how to keep my cool. At a certain point all these people become people because they are, and you grow up (and to) realize that we all have similar processes, and the show must go on and everyone has bad vocal days and dry spells and relationship problems and coffee addictions and cellulite and its actually really marvelous. I just hope that my inner child never stops finding joy in encountering these people--never stops marveling at how I got to be so fortunate. And if I am ever so lucky to be one of those people for the generations to follow, may I be as down-to-earth-elegant as you about it.

And this is where I suppose I open this letter up to everyone-- we all have these people. Not "idols," though I am certain we have those too, but I am speaking of the real, true Role Models present in our lives in the purest sense of the word. Those individuals who form and shape the people we become by their example by simply being themselves and allowing the world to observe and edify their own paths from their precedent.

May we all revere such people, and, no matter what we do, how public or private, may we all endeavor to become role models ourselves for those we may never even know to be watching us...

So Rebecca, it occurred to me the other night at 54 Below when I came to see your glorious cabaret of Jerome Kern tunes, how much I wanted to be there. How much I wanted to hear you sing with a capital 'S.' But what really grabbed me by the collar was in fact after the show, when I came up to you and you said, sweetly as ever,
     "Alexandra, hello! Thank you for coming!"
... and we had a really nice, lovely, cordial exchange because... I don't know, I guess we're in this together now. When did that actually happen?
And I felt it--right there in the bar.
I felt that moment more than ever that I had somehow Arrived
How glorious. 
How commonplace.
How simple a little 'hello--'
--a greeting that could never, ever fully articulate my appreciation for all of the above.
And how perfect that that precise moment of clarity, should come from you.

So (not at all creepily, but in an utterly normal manner), I thank you.
For all of it.




23 June, 2013

Caramoor Opening Weekend [à la mode...]

Opening weekend at Caramoor!

Plus, a grand little sneak peek at "Vanilla Ice Cream..."


21 June, 2013

She Loves Me at Caramoor

Dear Friend,

Please join us in the beautiful woods of Katonah New York with an INCREDIBLE Broadway cast in what has fast become a full-fledged production directed and conducted by Ted Sperling with the stunning Orchestra of St. Lukes-- hear the original orchestrations in the FULL glory. "Dear Friends" Sheldon and Margie Harnick will be there, so should you. 

The Vanilla Ice Cream is on me. 

 Sincerely Yours, 

Dear Friend.

20 June, 2013

Apologies to Laura Osnes

Well shit.
Prince Charming bled.

Also known as:
Santino and I ran at each other at the just-wrong moment and totally botched the final kiss during our She Loves Me run-thru.
Charming indeed.
Basically: I broke his face.
There was blood.
Then I apologized to Laura Osnes:

19 June, 2013

"It All Turns on Affection"

I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it. To have a place, to live and belong in a place, to live from a place without destroying it, we must imagine it. By imagination we see it illuminated by its own unique character and by our love for it. By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy.

-Wendell Berry from “It All Turns on Affection”, 2012 Jefferson Lecture

16 June, 2013

A Father's Day Email

The Miracle Worker
Three years ago, I received an email from one of my oldest, dearest friends, David Fetzer. It moved me so much, it inspired a spout of memories that I wrote about here.

This is what it said:

"Three things I miss about your Papa:

1. Hearing him shout "Fetzer!" either from across a room, or hallway, or on the other end of the phone, in the background.

2. His talent for singing ever-so-subtly off-key.

3. His crazy infectious perma-smile, especially in the context of watching his daughter when she performed on stage. Which I did get to witness.

Thinking of you both today.  =) "

Emails like this always arrive out of the blue from Fetzer-- just one of those guys. He'd show up magically in your inbox, and every so often on your doorstep in Detroit, Glasgow, London, or at the stage door in Los Angeles, beaming with pride.

I've written about Fetzer a few times on this blog-- remember the adorable Salt Laker who sat next to me in Junior year directing class at Interlochen? The curly-haired one with open, knowing eyes, jaunty hats, and hands that fit so perfectly in my own, when we held them they made a suction noise? I gave him a mold of my hand when we parted ways at the end of school, and after reading the post linked above he sent me this photograph to show that the hand still sat upon his desk.

He gave some rousing performances at Interlochen-- some were in scene-work the world never got to see (a stunning Prince Hal soliloquy, and Oswald in Ghosts come to mind). Then there was the time he staged a particularly naughty experiment with his Senior Directed One-Act of Lord Byron's Love Letter, in which he rehearsed his actors in a fully staged version of the show for his professor, only to wheel out a movie projector and play a silent FILM version of the play that his cast narrated out loud below the screen, to everyone's complete astonishment (and, to the professor, complete horror).

Then of course, some of his brilliance was worked in the main-stage shows-- a tortured and annihilating James Keller in The Miracle Worker, where, in one performance when everything at the end of Act 1 went terribly wrong when the door Annie Sullivan was supposed to be locked in "miraculously" opened, he saved the day with his signature wit asking,
     "What'd she do--JUMP?"
to rapturous applause.
Not to mention the silent Waiter in She Loves Me--(in fact, I'm having a lot of fond memories of both my Dad and Fetzer this week as I rehearse for She Loves Me at Caramoor.)

He played guitar left handed.
He drew beautiful cartoons.
He smiled with a sweet little smirk.
He wrote gorgeous, hand-written letters and sent them in the actual mail.
He had a wonderful band with his best friend (called Mushman).
He created a theatre company in Salt Lake City to provide culture to the town that was his home.
He believed in, and supported his friends.

He also gave me one of the very best Father's Day memories in recent history.
I am grateful to him.
I have thought of him every year on the occasion since he sent that message. 

Isn't life marvelous like that?  How a day that once provided joy, in the absence of a father presents so much heartache, but now, I think less of the heartache-- I think of Fetzer's Father's Day Email. 

And I think, as the above memory insinuates, that David Fetzer was always sort of Dad's favorite. They shared a sort of quiet innocent, "watching" quality--both very young souls I think. Despite all their intellect and wisdom, they shared a sense of wonder about being here; Alive and in The World, that is. They went for walks and didn't do a lot of talking. They "got" each other. And I recall how Fetzer dropped absolutely everything to make his way to Detroit for Dad's funeral. Something about his presence there was the tipping point of difference for a lot of us.

David turned 30 on December 17th last year...
     a few days later, he was gone.
Too soon.
Far too soon for anyone, but beyond comprehension for a star so bright.
I am fortunate to have know him and called him a friend.
Anyone that knew him I am certain feels the same. 

I hope that in whatever lies beyond, he could hear Dad shout "Fetzer!"from 'across a room, or hallway' as he entered, and I like to think of them taking nice walks out there, without saying a lot, just as they always did.

See you in the stars, David. 

And thank you.

09 June, 2013

The Cello Sang

The cello sang from the corner.

Dmitri’s hands had been aching to play whilst waiting several weeks for his fingers to heal after the long winter had ravaged them.  Now, in the flushes of Siberian spring the men sat idly about Shura and Mikhail’s open front room within the Volosnikov house as they were want to do most Sundays. Grigory Boleslav smoking in one corner, Anatoly and Yevgeny playing cards in another. Andrey Tenderov lay prostrate, legs sprawled blithely in the center of the room thumbing through a pile of novels and pamphlets, thoughtlessly adding his own  melodies to Dmitri’s concert.

    “Oh Mitya do play the Bach Suites—number 3, the Sarabande, please, it is my very favorite. Oh, say you will.”
    “Yevgeny,” sighed Dmitri Petrov, “I cannot do the 3rd, my thumb is still healing.”
    “The second then. Even just the Prelude. Come! No one does mournful cello better!”
    “Yevgeny, I am almost as weary of the Bach as I am of you. Now be still, stop nagging, and don’t let Anatoly beat you with a pair of fives yet again.” Anatoly smiled broadly at this—he loved to win.
    “I wouldn’t know a Prelude or an Allemande if it jumped up and bit my arse but I like the sound of Sarabande—is she spoken for?” joked Tenderov not even looking up from his books still sprawled upon the ground, his hair gleaming even in the ambient light. The men chuckled approval. Yevgeny was unfazed.
    “Please…” he pleaded, head inclined, eyes batting, smiling with his signature endearing influence.
There was a very deep sigh from the corner.
    “Oh very well,” he grumbled, agreeing only to silence his nagging, though the sincere light in Yevgeny’s face was, admittedly, charming, “but the Second—and only the first movement.” They cheered at the predictable delights of the mismatched bunk-mates.

There was a lull in the air in anticipation. And then at last Dmitri began to play.

There are times when we witness a creature being essentially itself—it happens when we watch beavers build their dams, when birds launch into the heights of the open skies, or as mothers feed their young. In this we witness a kind of glory, not with our senses but with something else entirely: the essential parts in us respond to it, our nerves tremble, and we are ignited with a kind of knowing.

So it was when Dmitri Petrov played his cello.

There was no visible shift in the men. They soaked in long strains and mournful chords as they continued to sit and read and stew and smoke. But the shift was there; real and present, the Cellist crying out to the essential with these inessential men.

04 June, 2013

The Styles of Nikka

I mean: please.
My friend Nikka Lanzarone has been featured a few times here at London Still (all things Hello Again, the Playbill feature I wrote last Spring BoCo-mance as well as kvelling over my new NYC gal-pals) ...But she is also a stylist, and she is the real deal. So naturally I have to add my two cents. 

LOOK: you know that girl whose mom was "'smokin' hot in her hayday" (and, frankly, still is) and thus cleans up great for a party because she is wearing all her mother's hand-me-downs?

That same girl who can't get her act together to look like anything more than a clueless tree-hugging 7th grader in her everyday life?
Well. That's me. 

Or that WAS me, until Nikka Lanzarone told me that color was my friend.
And that it wasn't okay to wear a headscarf every day.
And jeans four sizes too large stolen from a donation box were just not going to cut it after junior year of undergraduate school.
That I could love my shape.
That looking great was not just for dancers and models and people who liked fashion.
That looking great was for everyone.
     Was for me.
That I could be that girl: The girl who can absolutely wear structured pieces and jeans that fit and vintage picks and look fabulous all the time.
     ...Not just at a party in her mom's clothes. 

Thanks Nikka. 
I thank you, and so does the world who has to look at me.

Nikka is one of my favo(u)rite pals.
But she should also be your stylist.
She is more than a rockin' bod, signature wHit and able to put her leg above her head.

01 June, 2013

People I Went to PROM with: A List

'Tis the season to get your PROM on. So, in honor of the annual Promenade, here is a comprehensive list of Alexandra Silber's Prom Dates in Chronological order.

1. Bill Bradley
He was Mr. Webb and I was Mrs. Webb. He was John Jasper and I was Rosa Bud. He was a Senior and I was a Freshman. It was the scene of the "my-Dad-put-on-a-tux-and-jumped-out-of-the-bushes" crime.
It was super awkward and I was the only Freshman there.
But we got Slurpees afterward and that is what matters.

2. JP Zammit
I don't think I will ever know what JP Zammit was thinking when he asked me to Prom my Sophomore year--I barely knew him, truth be told. His mom sometimes came into the Greek diner I worked in, and he kind-of-sort-of lived around the block, but there must have been something about his  portrayal of Lazar Wolfe the Butcher, combined with the fact that he was in super rad band (and still is), combined with the fact that he was nerdy-cool-but-cooler-than-me. We never really talked before or after that night, and our Prom "date" was short, utilitarian and pretty business like: he showed up, we took some pictures, we ate, we danced, we went home. Scene.

But you know? I remember how he came to my house a few weeks after Dad died, and despite my pajama-ed, grief-stricken state, we had a gentle, meaningful talk. I remember the way he sat on the end of the bed with his hands in his pockets aching to know what to say. The truth was I didn't know what to say either. But ultimately it was his mere presence at the end of that bed that meant the most. Because people forget--they forget to come over and just sit at the end of your bed a few weeks later.  I doubt he even remembers so brief and uneventful an encounter, but it meant a lot to me at the time. It still does. All of which revealed to me that JP Zammit was, and is, a super great guy.

3. Nick D’Emilio
Now this is pretty weird. When I was 14-15 I was having a rough time. 1997-98 are sorrrrrt of a bluuuuur. I was having trouble with "girls" at school, my Dad was very ill, and the summer of 1998 at Camp was when I made some of my closest, most enduring, lifetime friends. It was the summer of The Alexandra Sisters and hurricane of charisma that is Oliver Friendly (who ended up marrying one of us). So, when a huge gang of us decided to gather in Washington DC at Oliver's House for New Year's Eve, my parents didn't bat an eyelid-- they let me go have a really special, utterly memorable New Year with what I knew would be a group of lifelong pals. It was magical. Then there was a blizzard that kept me in DC a few extra days and I got to meet a few more of Oliver's DC friends-- one of whom was Nick D'Emilio-- budding photographer.

I dunno. It was in the early days of AOL chatting-- IMing was like some sort of miracle-- WOOOOOW you could talk to multiple people at once from anywhere in the country just by typing. Remember that? I kept in touch with Nick and one night online, he asked me to go to Prom. In DC. And the crazy thing was? My parents let me go do that too. It was on a boat. I barely remember it, but I do remember sneaking into The National Zoo and kissing him in the Rainforest Room before seeing The Phantom Menace.
I never saw him again.
Good times.

4. Jeremey Catterton
Ahhhhh my first love. Jeremey may have irritatingly spelled his name with three Es, but, man: I LOVED HIM SO HARD. He was rebellious and dangerous, über-damaged and preeeeeetty arrogant (in truth, actually just a sweet, rejected, floundering youth trying to find his way); and though he was irrational, totally strange, sometimes selfish, oh how I loved him as only a sixteen-year-old could!

Sure! He dyed his hair constantly (my favorite being “Number 44B for African American Women”). Sure! He had a piercing in both ears (and eventually in his nipples). Sure! He was more than a little manorexic, and okay, he waxed on and on (and on) about how everyone on planet earth besides him was a philistine.

But he also held me like a cross between a boy, a man, and a desperate teenager, all of which he was. He wrote beautiful love letters, and poetry, and the best book inscriptions you have ever seen all in his glorious left-handed scrawl, and hell, it all came from a pain I think he may, at least at that time, had only ever shared with me.

All that said, my parents were still, understandably horrified.

To hell with matching boutonnieres-- this was MORP, Interlochen's version of Prom (it is "Prom" spelled backwards you see, and "Stag, Fag, or Drag: YOU GO") and this time my date matched his nail polish to my dress.

It was the most romantic dance I ever attended.

5. Michael Arden
O...MG. Babies.
Before Michael Arden was Michael Arden, he was Jerrod Moore and I went to spend "Spring Break 2000" with him in his hometown of Midland, Texas. We drove around. A lot. We sang. We went to the airfield. We stayed up late. We ate all. the. time.
And we went to Prom.
There were cowboy hats.
We did not fit in.

6. Michael Arden
Eager to not be outdone by our turn at Midland High, High School besties must go to MORP together and we did. We went in a big group of Theatre heavy-hitters and had an amazing night.
There was a giant yellow school bus.
And gowns made out of duct tape.
And epic dancing.
And bowling.

All of this is to say: six Proms in four years of High School is some serious result.


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