31 March, 2012

I've Been...

Broadway-Midwestern a trois!

- Evita Opening Night-ing with Jill Paice and Elizabeth Stanley

- Throwing (so many!) parties at The Winter Palace

- ...and really feeling the bliss of welcoming people into my home, a pleasure I have never previously indulged in. 
     Winter Palace gatherings such as
a proper Robert Burns Night (with real life Scottish friends visiting from across the globe),


- DIY (building a closet, frames, bathroom, bookshelves)

- serious quality time with Mama Silbs

- recovering from pneumonia

- Love Loss and What I Wore -ing

- seeing Macbeth at The Met!


- watching a lifetime supply of MURDER, SHE WROTE

- Healing

- debuting my latest cabaret offering, "Ex Libris" at Feinstein's

- auditioning my FACE off

- Writing (finishing a very important project...)

- driving to the Berkshires (twice!)

Seeing some *amazing* performances:
- The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler
- Carnegie Hall (Mavericks, Stravinsky)
- Merrily We Roll Along

23 March, 2012

SHOWMANCE! The To-and-Fro-mance: Max & Elizabeth

At rise…

An audition downtown for Olive Garden. Hundreds of young attractive people are there for the complex characters of Waiter and Patron.  Among them: Max von Essen (of Broadway’s Les Miserables, Dance of the Vampires and currently playing Magaldi in Evita) and Elizabeth Stanley (of Broadway’s Company, Cry Baby, Million Dollar Quartet and recently of Encores’ Merrily We Roll Along). 
They know of one another and have many mutual friends, but up until this moment, they have never met. 
     “I flipped for her performances in Company and Cry Baby” reports Max, “so I already had a talent crush on her.”
Elizabeth concurs, “Max was this legendary hottie to me for years before we actually met.” Says the girl who is affectionately known by those who love her as ‘El Stans,’ “Ahh... Google images. Thank you.” 
Here is an imaginary conversation I made up to illustrate this meeting:
     “Would you like some more bread-sticks?”
     “No thank you.”
Neither books the job. 
     “I assure you it was some of our best work” says Max. 
And THAT is how the magic began. 

[: : …Crickets… : :]

WAIT. That is technically, how it began, but try THIS on for size:
Max and Elizabeth REALLY made magic happen when they were cast opposite one another in the National (and Japan) tour of Xanadu. Lights, camera, roller skates…
Now THAT is how the magic REALLY began. 

[: * :  Fireworks! : * :]

Because although the theatre can bring you together like nothing else, just like Jack Kerouac taught us, that there is no bonding like the bonding you get busy doing ON THE ROAD. Seeing one another looking disgusting and un-showered at the Des Moines airport at 5am to catch a quick flight to Dallas? Pure glamor. Bonding in lonely hotel rooms in Indianapolis because you don’t know anyone else in town?  What a fairy tale. And seeing the world together during the day while you kick ass and take names on stages all across the country at night? Well—no actually, that is pretty amazing. These two not only lead the road company, they roller skated right into one anothers’ hearts. 

I bring you: 
TO-AND-FRO-MANCE - The pals that met on tour. 

(Because let’s face it: “UNLIMITED-SOUP-SALAD-AND-BREAD-STICKS-MANCE”… well, it…look, it just sounds a little clunky…)


I got to know Max and Elizabeth when we all worked together in Michael John LaChuisa’s Hello Again at The Transport Group last year Off Broadway with Max and Elizabeth playing opposite one another once again as The Soldier and The Nurse. Hello Again was one of those productions where the cast had no choice but to [achem again] “get close,” and so we promptly did (and continue to engage in epic email chains, as well as disgusting reunions for such occasions as “The Twelfth of May” and to see the Muppet movie…all together…at midnight…). 
Speaking of Muppets, when I asked them who would play them in the movie of their friendship, Elizabeth responded first, 
     “Well... I enjoyed when we were cast as Muppets...” 
The Nurse & The Soldier
Because that’s right—the company cast Hello Again… with Muppets…
“I [The Soldier] would be played by Animal and she [The Nurse] would be played by Janice” Max chimed in. 
But Elizabeth related it to each of them as well, 
     “Janice is calm, but can also be a bit, well, kooky, and Animal is also tame until he cuts loose and then... watch out!!!”
Well said El Stans. We shall watch out. 
     “If we were to be cast as ‘real’ people” she continued “I'd vote for Magnum PI, Tom Selick to play me (because I've loved mustaches for quite some time), and I would want it to be a movie musical feautring Max’s soprano,” (which is AMAZING for those of you who haven't heard) “…so...  Shirley Jones?  Tom should be called ‘Stans’ and Shirley can be called ‘Maxi.’”
     “Um” Max insists, “if it was a movie musical, WE'D PLAY OURSELVES!” 
I am certain we can all heartily agree. 

When I asked both of them what their friendship’s motto would be they both responded almost in unison with "Do What You Can." 
     “That's just a little phrase I used to say to Max before each performance of Xanadu.” Elizabeth is known far and wide for her bone-dry, razor-sharp wit, and here is Exhibit A. Max clarifies, 
     “She started saying that to me in the wings of every theater we worked in on tour. I'd be in my teeny short shorts, head-band and tank top gearing up to play Sonny Malone, and she'd calmly walk over to me, pat me on the back and dryly say ‘Do what you can…’ It stuck.” 
     “But in truth I think it could be a bit of a motto!” Elizabeth insists, “we bonded early on over a mutual human respect for honoring what one CAN do.”
     “To get back at her, I'd often give her notes while she was making quick changes.  She'd literally have 30 seconds off stage to make a change, and I'd run up to her and say ‘Hey Stans, you're doing great, but I want you to make two quick adjustments...’ Good times.”

Max and Elizabeth’s bond on and off stage moved and intrigued me as I got to know them throughout Hello Again, and our friendships have continued to grow. There is something special about these two. They are passionate artists and speak with great knowledge and agency about their lives, their work, and their world. 
     “I've fallen in love with Max's kindness and tenderness” she continues “I felt early on in our friendship that Max would be a ‘lifer,’ but this past year there were some tough times for both of us. I knew when I was able to cry in front of Max, he was here to stay.” 
     Max agreed, the relationship deepened this past year, off and on stage, “I often think of our experience together in Hello Again in 2011,” he says, “My character had to literally unravel and [Elizabeth] was forced to be extremely vulnerable,” he continues, “—it was difficult to see the hurt in her eyes during the rehearsal process and through the run of the show. I was proud of us both for being so fearless…”
     “I think we first bonded over a strong work ethic,” says Elizabeth, “I appreciated that he was always so committed to being his best. I really admire that quality in anyone.” 
But also? They laugh. They weep with laughter. 
     “I can't imagine my life without his wHit!” she exclaims. 

On tour they were “exploring partners,” seeking out what each new city had to offer, “We'd wake up on our day off, grab breakfast and our guide books, and get on the subway or some bus to somewhere” Max says,  “I loved when we were exploring one night in Seattle and passed a coffee shop called ‘Uncle Elizabeth's.’ Well you can be sure the mustache came out.” Back in NYC they still love to explore,  “We’ll grab coffee or a meal and a glass (or glasses) of wine and catch up.”  
     “—And at some point sharing Max's favorite, M&M's” Elizabeth adds. 
     “No matter what, though,” says Max, “it never seems like enough time.”

Like I said— something special. 
I need you to take a look at this photograph. 

 Wanna know how this photograph began? We were DONE taking the photographs. The shoot was complete. Suddenly El Stans makes her way over to Max’s piano and says 
     “Hey Max, wanna play a little something together?”
     “Sure” Max replied, smiling at the thought.
     “Do you have the Pathétique?”

[—Record scratch—]

Um, I’m sorry: THE PATHÉTIQUE? As in Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique?! I thought we were doing a Playbill photo-shoot that literally five minutes ago included false mustaches on Max’s bed and now we’re playing Beethoven on some sort of casual whim?! Where am I—Manhattan School of Music? What is this— the CURTIS INSTITUTE?! I thought I needed a camera and witty banter for this article—my kingdom for a piano degree. 
     “When I first met Elizabeth, I knew I'd met a young, beautiful, kind and extremely talented woman. What I didn't  know was that I had met someone who would become one of the greatest friends I'd ever have. Yes she's beautiful, yes she's talented, but to me she's just Stans, my treasured friend.”
Incidentally? Max just did happen to have the Pathétique.  
And then what happened? 
They mutually agreed, without discussion, THROUGH SOME FORM OF FRIGHTENING TELEKINESIS, to assign the right hand to Max, the left to Elizabeth… 

Do what you can…” went their mutual inner monologues. 


Really, really well. 

14 March, 2012

SHOWMANCE! The "Soro"-mance: Summer & Sierra

The Broadway community is no stranger to siblings residing together on the Great White Way—The Fosters, Gummers, Marshalls, Keenan-Bolgers and of course the legendary Booths of yore come to mind, to name but a few. But we all know sisterhood is an extra-special bond (and no, in this particular instance, I am not speaking of singing nuns). 
The point is, there is nothing like growing up side-by-side; sharing your dreams, ambitions and no doubt a community theatre stage (or five) together, and then seeing those dreams become a reality. 
But unlike the siblings mentioned above, the Boggess sisters had differing art forms and artistic ambitions (Summer as a cellist and Sierra as a performer)—but they just happened to land in the same destination. 

Ladies and Gentleman, 
The SoRo-mance.

And what a sister act it is (…loooook…I realize I just made that nun comment and… well, I don’t wanna get sued… so…forgive?) 

[Sound Cue:  “Sisters”—Irving Berlin’s White Christmas feather-fan spectacular…]


Play on!
Growing up in Denver, Colorado, Summer and Sierra Boggess were the eldest of a set of three sisters, all born two years closer apart. All closer than close; best friends and favorite playmates. 
Their first memories are of growing up re-enacting their favorite movie, Disney's Sword In The Stone. Summer played Merlin and Sierra, Madam Mim.
     “We had a small plastic inflatable pool in our backyard and we would have wizard's duels,” they cackle, “We’d stand back to back, count off, and march in place, trying to knock the other over into the pool.”
They also made up countless imaginative worlds. 
     “And they were really involved,” Summer, the eldest of the Boggess sisters, reports, “I was ‘Lucy’ and Sierra was ‘Sophie’ and they were best friends… who were also microscopic.” 

[. . . : ::—tumble weed—:: : . . .]

Um. Why, you ask? 
     “Why not!” They respond. 
     “We could go into great detail, believe me there's a lot of detail, but that's another article.” Sierra laughs flashing her signature glittering smile.
     “Or a musical,” Summer chimes in, doing a dead-pan take to her sister.
Someone call Douglas Carter-Beane. 

Summer, Sierra and their younger sister Allegra, all began playing piano at the age of four, and then went on to selecting the musical instruments they wanted to play for their elementary school band.  As they grew, their exceptional musical abilities became apparent, and they began playing together. 
     “We would play trios in church, and for a few weddings” Sierra explains, “Summer on cello, me on the flute, and Allegra on oboe and sometimes piano— Allegra was definitely the ‘family pianist’” Sierra smiles. 
Also, the two eldest ‘Sisters Boggess,’ like any self-respecting Coloradan, engaged in winter sports.  

[Cue: a classic Goofy®-style cartoon theme song]

Thumbs up Sierra!
     “We ice skated!” says Summer, “The first ten years of our lives was spent ice skating, in competitions. We woke up at 5 am to be at the rink before school. The whole thing.”
But Musical Theatre quickly became Sierra’s primary passion.  “Summer loved and breezed through her academics, but just like a lot of people, High School was hard for me! But getting to school so I could go to Band, Orchestra, Drama and Choir? Those classes all saved me! Before long musical theatre became my world, and I knew I had to study in in college and become a professional.” But what of the flute? “Oh I still continued to play the flute! Though it is more of a hobby.” 
I mean… my hobbies are binging on crime drama on my DVR…but, no, flute is cool too. 

As for Summer, she went off to college at University of Colorado without a crystal clear path. 
     “But I had an amazing cello teacher there named Judith Glyde who opened my eyes to being a professional.” Summer switched her major to Cello Performance and soon she was spending ten hours a day in a practice room, and went on to get her Masters from Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

When asked what made her take the Broadway route, Summer responds (and beautifully I might add), 
     “Well, of curse we all grew up watching musicals! But in college I always volunteered to play for every musical or opera— I loved working and collaborating with singers on vocal repertoire so much. I love how expressive they have the capacity to be, and I like supporting them. As a collaborative musician you have to be so aware and tuned in to a vocalist’s slightest variations in breath or expression—they always do a different show every night! Also, I have so much respect for the fact that a singer cannot hide behind an instrument. Their voice is who they are. It take so much courage. I consider it to be the ultimate expression.”
All three Boggess sisters have all gone into different areas of the music world, but they all began with, and majored in, music.  Allegra now teaches piano and oboe in economically disadvantaged areas of the world. 
     “That is another huge part of who we are.” Summer continues “All of us are passionate about using music to empower young people.”
All three Boggess sisters support ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty)— founded by Broadway’s Mary Mitchell Campbell.
     “I recently returned from visiting Allegra in Afghanistan,” says Summer, “Allegra works there full time and I was visiting to teach and play concerts at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. And we often spend parts of our summer at the Shanti Bhavan school in India. Sierra is always working but she sings on every album and at every concert!”
     “We’re so fortunate that each path has allowed us to be able to work together,” Sierra adds.
     “It was always the three of us—” Summer concurs, “playing music together.” 

But being part of the Broadway community together is an ultimate dream come true. One almost can’t imagine a more perfect living metaphor for the way each sister views and cherishes the other. 
     “I have always admired Sierra's courage to make her own path.  Growing up, I'd always watch her climb a tree or go over a bridge first and if she didn't fall I'd be brave enough to try it myself.”
     “When I was singing in The Little Mermaid” Sierra says, “It felt incredible knowing that Summer was in the orchestra pit playing her cello. Whenever she subbed for Mermaid I would listen for her solo cello-lines and it made for such an amazing performance…” Sierra stops a moment, then adds, thoughtfully,  “I trust Summer with my life. I know she always has my back.”

"...for there is no friend like a sister..." - Christina Rossetti

* * *
Summer is currently playing in the Broadway orchestra of Porgy and Bess at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

Sierra is currently playing in Love, Loss and What I Wore until March 25th at The Westside Theatre and can be seen on the DVD and Blue-Ray recording of The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary concert at The Royal Albert Hall, starring as Christine Daaé. 

08 March, 2012

Owls I Love: A List

Disney owls of note
1. Archimedes
As seen pictured [right], Disney owls of note include A.A Milne's very own "Owl" of Winnie the Pooh fame, Professor Owl (a school teacher from two classic cartoons Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom), Big Mama the owl (from The Fox and the Hound), the "hoo" owl from Sleeping Beauty that Aurora famously dresses up as Prince Charming.
But PEOPLE: there is a number one owl in my heart. No list of favo(u)rite owls could begin, or be complete without Archimedes (brilliantly voiced by Junius Matthews )-- Merlin's grumpy owl who bears the name of the famous mathematician in Disney's 1963 animated film The Sword and The Stone based on the story of the same name by T. H. White chronicling the educational adventures of the wizard Merlin, and a young boy named Arthur and how he became King of Camelot.

Oh Archimedes, how you huff and fluff and puff. And how we love you when you laugh to the point of near death.You are my favo(u)rite owl of them all, and that, my wise old peevish friend, is saying something...

2. The "Lovely" Owls
Particularly the massage owl...'Nuff said.

3. Hedwig
Harry Potter's snowy companion, how could we ever leave Hedwig, with her very own theme song, off this list?
Hagrid bought Hedwig as a birthday present for Harry when they went to Diagon Alley together. Harry decided on her name after finding it in A History of Magic. Before attending his first year at Hogwarts, Harry routinely stayed in his bedroom with Hedwig, away from the Dursleys, since she was the only living creature in the house that did not hate him. Throughout her life, Hedwig provided Harry with mail service, as well as loyal companionship. Hedwig often showed Harry her affection by gently nibbling his ears and fingers, and seemed fully capable of understanding his wishes (as she faithfully followed Harry's orders to peck Ron and Hermione until they responded to him).

4. My Owl Barn - a blog. Check it out. I could go broke on this blog. Thank goodness for discipline.

5. The Tootsie Pop Owl

A kid approaches Mr. Owl and casually inquires,
     "Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?"
     "Let's see, one, two, three..." then he crunches into it and eats the whole things, handing the stick back to the kid, "THREE."

Dear Tootsie Pop Owl,
You are not helpful. You are, in fact, snarky. Plus, you stole the kid's Tootsie Pop just to sarcastically prove a point. But Sir? That was good work. Your sarcasm, on this particular occasion was welcome because the kid's question was a little bit frivolous and though his latent curiosity was adorable in it's naivete, you appear to be wearing a scholar's hat which would indicate that you have far more important questions of the Universe to contemplate. Good luck with that.

Love, Al

PS) 249. The answer is roughly 249. 

6. Night Owls
Circadian rhythms are a very real thing, people, a very real thing.

Anne Fadiman, Hunter S. Thompson, James Joyce, Elvis Presley and Robert Louis Stevenson who famously said 'there is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours...' Night owls. Like me. Like 1 out of every 7 people.

The End.

06 March, 2012

SHOWMANCE! The "BoCo"-mance: Nikka & Nick

Picture this:

Two drop-dead gorgeous dancers climbing all over each other like spider monkeys talking at the same time. High-pitched squealing, lots of collapsed-over giggling “that makes other people on the street look at us like we should be committed,” the girl says, “Which maybe we should. Do they do musicals in psych wards or just plays?” Suddenly, the boy begins to sing “Snikka Lanzarone Snikka Lanzarone” to the tune of “Gary, Indiana” from The Music Man. 
These two have now greeted one another.

No. No this is not the set of Desperate Housewives. 
Nor is it a dormant memory from your weird dream last night. 
It is not a party at Elton John’s house.
This is Nikka Lanzarone and Nick Adams, greeting one another in an everyday fashion. 
     “And then there were two…” Nick replies when asked for the name of this indie-short, and I would tell you which theme song should start playing as the camera pans out, but Nikka insists this might be a rather complicated matter.
     “Here's how this would go: we would try to discuss having a theme song, but I wouldn't want any Britney, and Nick wouldn't want any Wilco, so talks would stall after three hours and we would get a cocktail instead.”



...clearly up to NO good...
      “It was in 2001 at The Boston Conservatory,” Nikka reports when I ask about their origin story.
     “Capezionik@aol.com!” says Nick, “We chatted online (with my mothers dial up Internet) before we were Freshman and I knew then we would be in kahoots. “
So. Because this super-stretchy pair’s friendship blossomed at The Boston Conservatory, (aka “BoCo”) I bring you:

[: : Jazz hands : :]

Now, everyone knows that college has the potential to be a veritable wilderness of insecurity, so it is always handy to have a companion. Nick and Nikka were matched instantly (the Lewis to each others’ Clarke, the Bill to each others’ Ted…if you will…and you will…) in and out of class,
     “We were always paired together, since we were The Dancers, Nikka reports. But their Bostonian duet wasn’t always fun and games (or jazz hands and high kicking).  “It also brought a lot of personal struggles and hurtles” says Nick concurs, continuing, “Nikka and I knew we had a very special bond early on in college.” 
In fact, it was those particular struggles that helped to define the friendship further. 
     “I think the two dancers doing Shakespeare together our senior year of college truly defined our friendship,” says Nikka. “We didn't mean to wind up in this super-serious acting class, but it was the only one we could take that allowed us time to take ballet with the dance majors!” Quite.  “It was WAY outside both of our comfort zones, but we knew we had to rally if we were going to do this in real life.  That was the moment I knew that we were truly in this together, and that we would support each other forever.”
But what makes this College-to-Broadway friendship extra special?
     “I can be myself with Nikka” Nick chimes, “I can be intellectual and silly all in the same conversation. She's that kind of girl…” Thinking further he adds, “She also inspires me with her incomparable fashion sense! Girl can put a look together.”  
Word Nick. Word. 
Super high-fashion Nikka Does. Not. Mess. Around. with the clothes. 
But in all seriousness he adds, 
     “Nikka is the definition of unique. She's smart, beautiful, talented. I can always count on Nikka for a polarizing opinion and she has the ability to read my mind.”
     And it is not just the love, but the admiration that is mutual for Nikka, “Nick's tenacity, drive, and spirit is one of the most amazing things I've seen in action. He's gotten to the level he's at and has kept the pure love for what he does intact—that is incredibly inspirational.”
So much joy comes from watching your friends grow into themselves—to find their path, to soar and achieve their dreams. From where I stand, it appears Nick and Nikka inspired one another to become the inspiring adults entertaining the Broadway community today. The last two years have had the extraordinary pleasure of watching one another catch their respective “great white whales.”
     “Watching her make that legendary entrance for ‘All That Jazz’ as Velma Kelly in Chicago on Broadway...” Reflects Nick,  “[with] tears streamed down my face and my hands clutched my heart…I'll never forget that.”
You can tell: this is what knowing someone from the very beginning is all about.
     “There is nothing like watching one of your best friends in the world get entrance applause while starring in a Broadway show—” Nikka adds, “—it's such a magical moment, especially thinking back to all the late nights in college, dreaming of what our adult lives would be like. I cried watching him in Priscilla.”

When I asked them (separately!) how they might spend a day off together, I got these twin-like responses that I shall now share with you in TABLE form to further illustrate the point:




Take class at Steps. 
Buy clothes. 
Watch movies. 
Talk trash. 
Drink wine.

Eat (where we'd argue uptown or downtown, but Five Napkin would probably win)
Dance class (we haven't done that together in awhile). 


Rinse. Repeat.

* * *
Nick is currently playing Adam/Felicia in the Broadway production of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre
Nikka is currently playing Florinda in Into the Woods at Baltimore Centerstage through April 15, and at the Westport Country Playhouse from May 1-26. For tickets to the respective engagements, please visit Baltimore Centerstage and Westport Country Playhouse online. 
twitter: @nikkalanz

01 March, 2012


Dear Blog-o-sphere,

I am so sorry to have been a bit quiet recently.
I needed the quiet.
Very much.

Isn't it interesting that in January we are inundated with television, internet and radio advertisements shoving pro-active, energetic new beginnings upon us? Buy this skincare line! Get in shape! Try this diet! That diet! Don't eat carbs! Don't eat meat! Don't eat anything! Find love! Find your ancestors! DO IT NOW!!!

I didn't want to "do it now," I wanted to sit alone in my house and be with myself (and at most, with Jessica Fletcher)... in the quiet.

I needed to think about my life, about life in general. About relationships with others and with myself. I needed to de-fragment the internal computer. Though the work was silent, I worked so hard, and multi-tasked so ferociously, that I made myself sick-- at the height of my internal re-organization I caught walking pneunmonia and was forced to go even deeper in.

Slowly, I am emerging. Slowly, I feel a very heavy veil lifting. But the work is arduous, and frustratingly time-consuming. Depleting.

I will come home from a day of actor-ing and tell myself to do something simple--
     "Boil the water" I say to myself. Out loud, like a crazy person, I respond,
     "Boil water? What am I, a chemist?!"
And I go to Plan B. [Please note: Plan B usually includes a can of black beans...don't you judge me!!]

All of this is to say the following: I have been getting to know myself again, and that didn't leave a great deal of space for sharing myself with others. But I value sharing life, and I value you, dear readers, and I apologize for leaving you so unceremoniously.
I have returned.


The other night I attended a concert at Carnegie Hall with Comrade Baker-- a marvelous evening of music which concluded with a performance of Stravinsky's The Firebird delivered by the St. Louis Symphony (passionately conducted by their own David Robertson).

I didn't just cry; I wept. I actually wept, and had to wait for everyone to leave the hall before I could get up and exit myself.

I know this is on the nose, I know that it sounds prosaic to say so, I know that--But music really does have the power to transform. Like winter into spring--the cold earth has not died, it has merely been resting, waiting to be shaken and invigorated by the tilting of the earth ever-closer to the sun. 

Welcome back, spring.
And Al.

Please: watch and hear the whole of this "mythical story of Life, Death and Renewal.".
You won't be sorry.


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