Thursday, September 24, 2020

My Movie Making Nightmares - Part Deux

Less than two months after I shot my first short film, I auditioned for and was cast in two feature length digital movies.   Digital has changed everything.  Now anyone with a video camera can make their own movies...AAAAAANNNNNNDD they do.  We are talking extremely low budget here.  And since I was non-union with little on camera experience, I did these movies for the footage for a reel.


The first film was produced by a young man with his own production company. His sister ran the auditions and did all the paperwork (i.e. signing your life away since there is no union jurisdiction) and she was also the caterer (she did all the cooking).  The film was shot on location in a vacant flower shop in Pomona, California, which is about 40 miles east of LA! The flower shop in effect was our studio, but only until December 5th, at which point it would reopen for the holiday season to sell poinsettias. Exteriors were shot in the alley behind the shop where some homeless people had set up a little cardboard shantytown. Oh! Did I mention that our director’s father worked as the accountant for the florists’ owners?


The movie was about a young guy who has taken a job as a production assistant on a low budget vampire flick.  It’s his first day on the set and shows all the characters involved in the making of the movie and actual scenes from the vampire movie.  I played the part of the director of photography who speaks very softly, so softly in fact that no one can understand him when he speaks, except for our leading man, the PA.  I had a supporting role in this one and was only required for maybe two days of filming and both of them were just a few hours long.


My first day, I was called at 7:30 a.m.  The only other person who was there at that hour was our makeup girl.  Our leading man showed up a few minutes later, but our director didn’t show up for about 45 minutes.  He apologized profusely.  He never did this, but he had been up late the night before since the shoot ended around midnight and then he had to go home and prepare for the next day’s shoot.   There was a third actor involved in our scene as well.  When we were in makeup, he explained that he wasn’t prepared for the scene we were shooting because he had forgot his script on the set over the weekend and so he had not prepared.  So while we were in makeup, he was running his lines.  


We shot the scene in the back room of the shop. It’s our leading man and me. He’s supposed to be painting some props for the next scene that’s being shot and we talk about his girlfriend and their imminent breakup.  The third actor plays the part of the director and star of the vampire film, a former 1970s action star.  He comes into the middle of the scene.  We set up, rehearse and shoot the scene up until the third actor’s entrance.  He has to enter through a door that is shut.  We get to his entrance and nothing happens.  The director calls his name, “Curtis! Are you there?”  “Yes.”  “Did you hear your cue line?”  “No!”  “ Do you know what it is? It’s…”  We do it again.  Curtis does not enter the scene.   Director to writer/producer, “Go out there and cue him.”  We shoot again.  Curtis enters.  He delivers his lines to the wrong actors.  He doesn’t know which lines are to me and which lines are to the other actor. We cut and shoot again.


Incidentally, his line readings are awful.  I hate to sound unkind but they were very amateur.  The director got tired of cutting so finally he just kept the camera rolling and asked the writer to give him line readings and they asked Curtis to just repeat after Erik.  It worked.  He actually sounded convincing.  


BTW, in order to give you an idea how low budget this film was, the director was also the director of photography and the cameraman.  There was one light instrument used in this scene.  And the battery on the camera was out of power when we started.  Yes, that’s right, real big time movie making here.  


I had to wonder about Curtis.  He was a nice enough guy and all but I got the impression this was all very new to him, acting that is.  But it wasn’t just that, there was something else.  A few weeks earlier, we had a table read of the script with the entire cast present.  He sat next to me.  There were words that he kept mispronouncing. Not just difficult words, but easy ones too.  I thought maybe he was a little slow, but that didn’t seem right.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized he must be dyslexic.  It was the only explanation I could come up with. At one point he leaned over and asked me what ___ was.  I told him the word and he proceeded to mispronounce it. 


He was supposed to be this threatening character in the movie and he had none of that when he read his lines, until he was given a line reading by the director or writer and he copied them, then he sounded menacing.  It was great.  He was a big soft-spoken man in his mid-late thirties I’d say.


During a break my second day of shooting, I asked the director what Curtis’ story was.  Was he in fact dyslexic? No, he apparently only had a sixth grade level education. Thank you US education system!


Incidentally, the second day our leading man was over an hour late!  This did not go over big with the director, who was also late that day but only by a few minutes. And then he had the same problem with the camera, the battery was dead when he started to shoot the first scene.


Like the previous film, I was given little direction.  I wasn’t quite sure how soft spoken I should be.  I mean I had to be heard by the audience right?  But I couldn’t be too loud or the joke would be lost.  It was more a question of the character being that indistinguishable.  So I had to play him really low key and as if he had very little personality so he just kind of blended in to the background.

Film was never finished. Never saw or heard from the director after about a year.

Next week, my magnum opus...Wally Sitch Private Dick. Oy vey!


Sunday, September 13, 2020

My Early Adventures in Los Angeles

I recently came across some notes I wrote 16 years ago detailing my my first experiences in as an actor in LA. It was intended to be a one man show about whats it really like as a working actor in LA.  Enjoy :

I was cast in my Second short film while I was filming my first.  This time, I had one of the leads. I was very excited about it.  It was a comedy set in the Air Force.  It was sort of like Office Space set in the military.  A lot of Austin Powers type humor in it.  I really felt good about this one.  The writer-director (another hyphenate) was a young guy who worked as an engineer in the Air Force.  He had just gone to film school and this was his first film. The story was based on his experiences on the job.


I played the antagonist of the piece, an ineffectual boss who stands in the way of getting the job done.  His name was Maj. Oscar Meyer.  That’s right, like the hot dog.  He was a brownnoser who treated his subordinates like dirt and kissed up to his superiors.  One of the running gags was that he had brown stuff on his nose whenever he came out of a meeting with his superiors.


It was a lot of fun, but there were also many problems.  The film was shot on location in an office in downtown LA.  Like the previous film, we only shot over the course of two weekends because everyone had full time jobs. Two of the main scenes were shot in a meeting room, which had glass walls on either side.  In the first scene, the one wall was covered with green screen for some special effects shooting.  There were two cameras being used simultaneously and combined with the glass and the lights, it took a few hours for the scene to be lit properly.


Two of the actors were not called until later in the day.  One of them, had requested permission to leave early because he had plans that night. He wanted to leave around 7:00 p.m.  He was not called until about 3:00 p.m.  He and his scene partner were there on time and were not called to the set until after 6:00 p.m.  He was not happy.  He had less than an hour.  He was all flustered and he kept forgetting his lines.  All he was thinking about was the fact that he had to get out of there.  We did take after take, and he kept blowing his lines.  Finally, at 7:15 he announced he was leaving.  He told the director he had to be out of there by 7:00.  And he left.  We continued to shoot the scene around him.


Now what got all of us, was this.  This is a man who has been in the business for over 20 years and knows how things work.  When you’re shooting a movie, especially a non-union or low budget film like this, you know you’re going to be there all day and night. Why would schedule something for that evening.  The director should not have granted permission to him.  Secondly, what the hell was he doing for three hours!  I mean he was there from 3:00 to 6:00 and then he gets on set and keeps blowing his lines.  He should have been running lines with his scene partner instead of complaining about not being able to get to his date on time.


That actor was fired between weekend one and weekend two of shooting. Fortunately, his big scene was not scheduled to shoot until the second weekend.  It turns out, he had been trouble all along.  We had a rehearsal on location a couple of nights before shooting began and he fought the director on every bit of direction he gave him.


While we’re on that subject, let’s talk about the direction you get as an actor on a student, short and/or low budget indie film…not much.  It’s pretty much left up to the actor, unlike stage.  I had to make all my own choices and quickly.  I’m not saying that as a stage actor I depend completely on the director.  I do make my own choices, but you do have that long rehearsal period in which you can explore and work together on finding the character.  That doesn’t exist in film and many film directors don’t work much with their actors.  You have to come in prepared and with your character there.  It was a struggle.  In my case, it was doubly difficult because I felt I my acting was too big or stagy if you will.  But no one was correcting me, so it must be all right.  Still, I couldn’t help editing myself. In fact, it was my “staginess” that got me the part.  The director wanted someone who was more theatrical in his or her acting style.  This did not fill me with confidence.  Was I too “stagy”?  I must do something about that. I must tone it down.  Once again, I was not pleased with the final result on film. I swear I gave a better performance than what ended up on film. He seemed to choose the one take where I didn’t say the line the exact way I said it in every other take.  


Overall, it was an enjoyable experience.  I liked most of the other actors.  I thought it was a funny movie and it was a great part for me.  The final product wasn’t the best quality.  There were some pretty cheesy looking cuts and edits in the movie that reeked of amateur filmmaking.  I felt the script was really funny when I read it, but then on screen, it didn’t look so good.  Chalk it up to experience.


Next Week

Part Two: My first starring role in a feature! What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Amish Acres Memories - My Past is Vanishing

The decade started and ended with the closings theaters I worked at. January 2010 saw the closing of The Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, Ohio and January 2020 saw the closing of Amish Acres. As I get older the places I worked close (The Sears, Kmart, and Gap stores I worked at are gone. Filene's and Carl's went out of business. Moody's Investors Service and the NFL in NYC have moved to new locations) The people I worked for pass away or retire. Pretty soon I'll have no history! I'm old!!!

Amish Acres. Some interesting stories.
1) I wasn't planning to audition for them. I went to an audition for Seymour in Little Shop for a dinner theatre in New Jersey at the Musical Theatre Works studios on Lafayette in the Village right across from the Public Theatre. They had three floors of studios. I ran into an acquaintance (I don't remember his name other than he was the boyfriend of Gabrielle Mason and I sublet their apartment on West 95th Street for a couple of months). He was also auditioning for Little Shop and told me that one floor up they were having auditions for the season at a place called Amish Acres.
So I went upstairs and signed up, looked at their brochures, (looked like a nice place), sang for them and got a callback for later that afternoon. I called in to my job at Moody's Investors Service and told them I would not be coming that day.
I went back later that afternoon and was given sides to read for the part of Dan King in Plain and Fancy. Jerry O'Boyle the artistic director said he was looking for a Dick Van Dyke type of vibe for the scene. And then he said something like, "Richard Van Slyke, Dick Van Dyke. I just got that!"  I was told they would be making calls in a couple of weeks. A month went by nothing happened. I had written it off.

2) I thought my casting might be an April Fools joke. Monday April 1, I'm sitting at my desk at Moody's Investor's Service and I get a call from my answering service (or it may have been voicemail by then. This was 1996). An actor had quit and they needed a replacement for the role of Dan King. It would mean flying out to South Bend on Sunday and starting rehearsals on Monday the 8th.

I would be playing Dan King in Plain and Fancy, Ike Skidmore in Oklahoma!, The Rabbi's son in Fiddler, the brothers parts in Joseph would be decided at a later date, and I wasn't sure I wanted to stay beyond October to do Annie, but he was thinking maybe Daddy Warbucks.

I packed up over the next few days. Sunday the 7 was also Easter and the start of Daylight Savings and there was a one hour time difference from NY. All those combined, lets just say I got about two hours of sleep. And with no one to sublet my apartment, I was scared I wouldn't be able to get by financially. But off I went.

I flew to South Bend where I was picked up buy the company manager, Sara Heigaard, who also played my leading lady Ruth in Plain and Fancy. Then, we had a 45 minute drive to Nappanee where I would be spending the next six possibly 9 months.

Amish Acres sits about 1 mile west of Nappanee, a small town population @6600. One grocery store, one co-op, one movie theatre with one screen that only showed movies on Friday and Saturday nights. Restaurants included, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. There was also a Chinese buffet place, a pizza place (that closed and re-opened as something else), a country kitchen, a sports pub, a bakery café only open days, a tavern. Then there was the Restaurant Barn on the property where we got one meal a day in the kitchen if we chose.

There wasn't much to do there and for an actor flown in from NYC with no car, not fun. There were three of us hired from NYC, Gene Westbrook, Cece Pleasants and myself. Most everyone else in the cast house came from Chicago, AJ Wester, Derek Phipps, Cindy Lawrence, Joe Lehman, Robert Geils. Sara was from North Dakota.  Nine of us living in an old farm house on the Amish Acres property. And two local hires who commuted daily, Jenny Yoder and Doug Yockey. The Chicago People all came with their own cars so we had rides when we needed and if we were lucky maybe they'd loan a car to you. I often did so I could drive to Elkhart or Goshen to go to the YMCA to workout. I got a flat once driving Sari Engle's car!

There was an old bike in the pantry that I would take on Monday mornings and ride one mile to the cneter of town where two state routes crossed. There was a very nice town library where I could get Sunday's New York Times and go throught the Arts and Leisure section. I would also take pout books. I was into Armistead Maupin's Tales from the City at the time.

I was FedExed the script and score in advance of my trip and I tried my damnedest to be off book as much as possible for the first day of rehearsal. I was saved because my character was only in a couple of musical numbers. So I wasn't used for many rehearsals upfront. Which gave me time to work on my lines at home while the rest of the cast was in rehearsal. It helped! I only used my script to record my blocking and then tossed it off stage to run scenes. We only had a little over a week to put the show up. I remember going shopping in Mishawaka with Jerry to buy my suit at Value City.

Our first day off on Friday, we all drove up to Mishawaka to go out to eat and see a movie. I rode with our musical director SD Lewis who was married to our choreographer Kent Lewis at the time, They had a soon to be 3 year old daughter. Yeah, she is now 27. I'm old!

I remember discussing Annie with SD in the car.  She and Jerry had talked about me maybe playing Daddy Warbucks. I told her I was more interested in Rooster. She agreed stating that now that they had worked with me for a few days, they could see that was a better fit.

It was a fun time. Eating in the Restaurant Barn kitchen where our choices were fried chicken, turkey or ham. The store at the front of the barn sold free baked breads, cookies, pies, cheese. I would do my "grocery shopping" there and buy cookies and bread every week. That didn't last long!

Opening night of Oklahoma!, we raided the ice cream and fudge shoppe for a party back at the cast house. Here is a picture from that night with me showing off some of the cheese we scored!

Jenny Yoder hosted a Mary Kay cosmetics part at the cast house one night (see below)

And there was my 35th Birthday party (below)

My parent sent a gift basket. More cheese!

A mostly quiet group of people. We didn't go out after shows.  We would go home and watch TV and then got to bed each night. That changed as new cast members came on board and the housemates changed.

In July, we lost Joe to a Shakespeare play in Chicago and Jenny to CCM where she was entering her sophomore year.  In came my friend CoriLynn Peterson from NYC and another actor named Ryan who came from a summer stock playhouse a few miles away that went under that season. Also, Sari Engle was brought in to direct Joseph. CoriLynn and Ryan moved into the Christmas Shop on the corner across from the entrance to Amish Acres. They let them live on the second floor while the shop was downstairs.  Sara and Robert also moved across the street and Sari moved into the house with us.

Sari was very close to Jerry, Robert and Gene and we started socializing more, often going out to the local dive bar in town, where I swear to God some nights we were the only ones in there with full sets of teeth. That was the first time I had real beef jerky out of a jar on the counter.

The season was so successful that the sales department wanted another rep show for October after Joseph closed. The staff put their heads together and came up with a show that could be done with just the core company, Godspell which Sari also directed. Rich Snyder was brought into take over the role of Peter in Plain and Fancy when Ryan went back to school and to play Jesus in Godspell. I played John/Judas. It was really lovely production all tied into the site's fall harvest.

After Godspell, AJ and Cece left and a whole new crew came in to do Annie and the house became much livelier with Joby Raines, Kacy Levy, Darren Murrell and my friend Jason Mosher.  With only one show to perform and none to rehearse, we went out more often. And this crowd was also more of late night group. Remember the late nights playing video games? Was it Nintendo? I don't know!

Closing night party of Plain and Fancy when we all took turns shaving Gene's head for his upcoming role of Daddy Warbucks in Annie with the razor we all chipped in to get him for his birthday.  Poor Gene. He thought it would be fun but it really got to him. He has a beautiful full head of hair. It was hard. Fortunately, it all grew back.

I played FDR. Jerry gave me a CD of FDR radio speeches to listen to, specifically the "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" speech, which was the very first line I spoke in the show. Darrin as Harold Ickes was responsible for pushing me around in the wheelchair. I remember getting a blocking note at one rehearsal and saying to Sari, "Why are you giving me the note? I just sit here. Give it to Darrin. He's the one who moves me. " LOL

And that poor dog we recruited to be Sandy. Not a stage trained dog. LOL It was the groudnskeeper's dog. He was a sweet dog. I was the official handler and basically I had to tell the entire cast to stay out of the wings when the dog was on stage otherwise, he would go towards them no matter how many Annie had in her cardigan pockets.

Oh my God! and there there was the night one of the orphans asked if I wanted my neck adjusted. And before I could say a word, she took my head and jerked it and snapped my neck. Yeah. That happened.

The day after we closed Annie, Gene and I packed up CoriLynn's car and drove back to NYC, (CoriLynn rode back with Jason).  It was a 13 hour drive. We got into NYC about midnight the night before New Years Eve. Long drive.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Amish Acres - A Tribute

You're asking yourself what is Amish Acres and why is Richard talking about it? Well...

In 1996, I spent nine months working in the Round Barn Theatre there and yesterday they performed their last show there.

Amish Acres is closing after 50 years.  Amish Acres is an Amish tourist attraction in the small northern Indiana town of Nappanee. It was opened in 1968 on the site of an Amish farm by a local businessman named Richard Pletcher.   In 1987 they began presenting the Broadway musical Plain and Fancy with 6 or 7 actors in the former town meeting hall on the premises.

And in 1992 they had a round barn from a nearby farm dismantled and reconstructed on their property and attached a stage and backstage area as well as a balcony. It was a very nice space. Very rustic with handmade Amish quilts hanging on the walls and from the balcony.  A grand piano was on house left at the foot of the stage and the entire score was played by the musical director.  They employed 11 actors.

View of theater from the stage

In 1996, they added a full season of shows. This was the year I arrived. Plain and Fancy was performed five shows a week with the current rep show four times a week. The shows were Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With Annie playing solo the months of November and December. The year went something like this. Arrive in Nappanee on Sunday April 7, start rehearsals for Plain and Fancy Monday April 8. Show opens two weeks later with core cast of 11. Beginning of May start rehearsals for Oklahoma! during the day while performing Plain and Fancy at night expect for matinee days. Oklahoma! opened around Labor Day Weekend and ran four weeks. We did nine shows a week, ie. five Plain and Fancy, four Oklahoma! with two show days on Wednesdays, Thursday and Saturdays

We had to change over the sets in between shows and we rehearsed the next rep show while we were performing the current one. So in June while performing Oklahoma and Plain and Fancy we were rehearsing Fiddler on the Roof. Since it was summer, local high school and college student shome for the summer were hired to fill in the casts.

The shows were almost instant sell outs. We added rows of seats to the mezzanine level to accommodate the crowds. It was general admission seating. I was also the house manager. Because the season was so successful, the sale steam wanted to add a show to October. So we were approached by management about doing Godspell for October with 9 of us. It was a really special show because they tied into the fall harvest season on the farm. We set the show on lakeside cabin with tall reeds and a small dock, as well as a small working fire center stage that we gathered around to tell the parables.

We got one free meal a day in the Restaurant Barn, but we had to serve ourselves and eat at picnic tables they had set up for us in the kitchen.  Fried chicken, ham, turkey were the main courses along with smashed potatoes, cole slaw, peas with ham in them. But  the pies! Oh My God the pies! Whatever was in season, they had fresh pies. Every pie imaginable. You could get fat eating there every day.
The Greeting Barn with the Round Barn Theatre behind it

The restaurant barn also had a grill out in front in aloft that was open for lunch every day, burgers and fries and such. And the main lobby was a gift shop that also sold fresh baked goods, breads, cookies, etc.

I needed money to help pay for my rent in NYC because I didn't have a sublet throughout my entire time there. So I worked night audits on the weekends at the adjoining hotels owned by Amish Acres and in the Christmas season, I worked at their Christmas Village in the site of the Pletcher family's former furniture store to make a little extra cash.

The Inn at Amish Acres

Amish Acres also had an annual Arts and Craft festival that was among the top 100 in the country an people came from all over the country. Their were license plates in the parking lot from all 48 continental states. It was something to see.

We stayed in a cast house on the property. There was a pond right outside my bedroom and during the festival there were swan boat rides and port-a-potties were lined up outside our house. They put up signs on house saying not to disturb the tenants asking for bathrooms.

I loved my nine months there. I was hopeful that someday I might return.  It was a special place. I'm sorry that is closing.  Thank you Dick Pletcher and Jerry O'Boyle for giving me one of the best  early professional experiences of my career.

I hope someone will want to buy it and keep it open. Any takers?

Monday, September 2, 2019

I'm All Shook Up

Hi there! It's been awhile. What have I been up to? Well, I've been back in San Diego performing in San Diego Musical Theatre's (SDMT) production of the Elvis Presley musical All Shook Up. I play Jim Haller the leading lady's father. It's a fun role and its a great showcase for me.  I've had a blast. Yesterday was our final performance and now I'm back in Los Angeles and reality.

Fan artwork of our cast. 

But first, let me backtrack. I was approached by the artistic director about a month before the auditions to come in for the role Jim. Well, I wasn't familiar with the role so I did some online research and saw it is a nice role with a decent story so I said yes.  I went to the callbacks and knew as soon as I was reading the sides that this part was written for me. I got the part!

I went into this show thinking, "This is great. It's going to play to my comedic strengths, really allow me to be big and goofy. I can really do something with this part." And while that is true to an extent, I realized quickly that while I have a couple of really funny moments in the show, my character actually has a very sweet, touching story line.

First, let me say that I love working at SDMT. They put on superior productions. The casts are always amazing as are the staff and crew. And I did have fun backstage with this crew.  And I had fun onstage.  I got to play all the emotions from sad and lonely to head over heels in love and giddy to heartbroken and it felt great. I got laughs. I got tears. My favorite thing was when the audience would audibly say "Awwww" after I get rejected by the object of my affection.

Here's an example:

This job was a gift. I got to do everything I love on stage. Sing, dance, be goofy and get laughs and then play some nice tender, sweet moments.  It was a gift. I said that before. It bears repeating. I've been in dozens of shows over the years. I have many, many favorites among them. I have been very lucky that way.

I gave up a very nice paying job a couple years ago because I wasn't happy and I HAD to pursue acting full time. It is the one thing in my life that brings me joy. And sometimes we as actors forget that. We get bogged down in the business side of show business. The constant auditions and overwhelming rejection, the ridiculous insecurity and struggle to survive on little or no income. it sucks. It's tough. I struggle every day. There are days when I just don't know if I can keep going. This is why I do theater. It brings me joy. I can be somebody I can't be in life.

My favorite place to be in the whole world is in the wings backstage watching the show. One of my rituals is to go onstage by myself behind the closed curtain before the show starts, listening to the audience on the other side. (Oh. I also use that time to stretch because at my age, if I don't stretch before a show...well let's just say it saves me some pain later). Why did you have me on my knees so much?! God, were my legs stiff every morning!

Another joy, watching younger actors grow in the process. So proud to work alongside and watch them discover and grow as artists. This cast was amazing from top to bottom. Not a weak link in the bunch. All so very hard working and professional. 💗

So thank you to Jill, Robert (so glad we got to work together), Neil (the first person to cast and direct me at SDMT), Ron, Steve, Heather, Jessica, Max, Janet, Amy, Preston, Crystal, Jaz, Andrew, Don, Michael, Erin and Gary.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Live in Front of a Studio Audience

My thoughts on the All in the Family and The Jeffersons episodes that aired live this week.

We all know I am a classic TV junkie. I grew up in front of the TV. I know TV actors and their credits like sports fans memorize their favorite teams and players stats. I do that with actors' credits and their awards.

So as you can probably guess, I was excited to watch Live in Front of a Studio Audience on ABC this past week. What did I think? Loved it! I am hoping we will see more based not he ratings for this one.

I loved the audience reactions. They were loud and not sweetened like today's sitcoms. These days, the three-camera sitcoms are still shot in front of a live studio audience, but then they "fix" or "sweeten" the audience reactions in post production. So they sound muted, to me anyway. Often times, if the audience doesn't laugh where the producers want a laugh, they will add one in. In the Norman Lear days (the 1970s), the audiences were loud and boisterous, especially on his shows. They would applaud and go nuts over some of the lines.

I've read many articles and interviews where younger television viewers don't like the live studio audiences. They call it canned laughter, which it is not.  But we've got a whole generation now raised on the single camera comedies like The Office and Modern Family. They don't like the studio audience shows. To me, that's what a sitcom is!

On to the show...Loved Marissa Tomei as Edith. Loved Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker. They were great, Trust to the characters while bringing their own spin to them. Ellie Kemper and Ike Barinholtz were good to although they didn't have as much to do. And frankly they are a little old to be playing the children of Marsisa Tomei and Woody Harrelson.  But I am quibbling here.

Tomei was a hoot as Edith. Loved her high pitched voice and the running around. Harrelson got the vernacular and dialect of Archie down just right. And not importantly, they were not imitating the threat Jean Stapleton and Carroll O'Connor.

Jamie Foxx was hilarious as George Jefferson. I loved how he had the swagger and the mannerisms of George. However, to me, he was doing an impression of Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson as opposed to bringing his own take to the character. He was doing a sketch character. And that makes sense since he got his start on In Living Color. And I wasn't too thrilled with how he broke the fourth wall and pointed out his flubbed line instead of just repeating the line and going on as one does on stage. But that's just me.  It was funny to see Woody Harrelson break and turn his back to the audience when that happened. And Marissa Tomei just stayed in character as Edith, you could see she was stifling a laugh but staying as Edith. It does make live TV fun, but again really?

For me, the highlight of the night was the appearance of Marla Gibbs as Florence. I jumped out of my seat and cheered when they opened the door and revealed her. YESSS!!! And double bonus whammy for us classic TV fans, she was reunited with her 227 co-star Jackee!

Oh! And how fabulous was Jennifer Hudson singing The Jeffersons theme song!?

All in all I loved the night and I hope we get some more. That's TV!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd

Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd sung by me in The gift of Song benefit at Repertory East Playhouse in April 2013. Part of a tribute to Sondheim evening.