Monday, November 20, 2006

The New York Musical Theatre Festival Gala - Part Two

After checking in with the gracious NYMF staff, we left the lobby and entered the theatre itself, which had been transformed into a gorgeous dining setting. Round tables covered with linen and fine place settings... everything just the picture of beauty and elegance!

We took our seats and I found my dinner mates to be absolutely delightful!
On my left were Charlie and Gary Maffei of Maffei Productions, who quickly took me under their wings. Charlie kept me laughing, because he kept comparing my picture in the program as The Singing Nun to my glitzed-up gala self. "What a transformation!" he said.

Charlie introduced me to Jeff Hiller, who was also receiving The Outstanding Individual Performance Award for his work in the musical The Children. They all were the epitome of delight, and I hope our paths cross again soon.

On my right was director Elizabeth Lucas, who was simply lovely. We discovered a mutual admiration for Janis Joplin and had plenty to chat about.

I also met the playwright and producer, JB Edwards, who was a fascinating fellow. We discussed our love for funny screen sirens of the 40s.

Once everyone was settled, Kris Stewart, the executive director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, took to the stage to welcome everyone. Originally from Australia, Kris started NYMF three years ago and has been making great strides in the NY theatre industry. He was quite charming, and I was thrilled to meet him and his executive producer, Isaac Hurwitz (pictured below with Anthony Rapp), when they later came by our table.

After supper, I went back into the lobby to gather with the other award winners as we were guided backstage for the presentation. Anthony Rapp from RENT fame was there and I was so delighted that he would be introducing us onstage. What a lovely person!

There were a bunch of winners, some of whom were established Broadway folks, while some of us are making our way to Broadway, and there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

The awards show was hosted by Bob Martin from The Drowsy Chaperone, and Sutton Foster and Beth Leavel performed a song as introduction. There were also performances by the cast of [title of show] and I had to laugh because I had auditioned for the replacement cast for that show, but obviously they're still going strong.

Speaking of auditions, Franis Kelly, producer of Smoking Bloomburg, was also backstage to receive the "Best of the Fest" audience prize for that musical (Singing Nun came in 2nd), and he congratulated me, saying how he remembered me in the initial NYMF auditions.

I also received lovely kudos from Scott Brown, who won Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing (Book) for Gutenberg the Musical. He had said that he had seen The Singing Nun, which was amazing considering his busy schedule, and he said how much he enjoyed the humor, darkness and the lovely "heart" of our show. That meant a lot to me.

Once I was called onstage to receive the award for Outstanding Individual Performance, it all flew by so fast. Anthony Rapp announced all of the winners, and we received wondrous applause. Then we returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the show.

A beautiful ballet from Common Grounds was showcased and was gorgeous! There was also a freestyle rap tribute to Kevin McCollum by In the Heights writer and star Lin-Manual Miranda, who performed with co-Freestyle Love Supreme member Chris Sullivan (Shockwave). They were phenomenal! And both pieces impressed upon me the incredible diversity of musical theatre, that any type of music can be utilized for this expressive forum.

The final performance was a special version of the song "Show Off" featuring Brian D'Arcy James (as Kevin McCollum) and the cast of The Drowsy Chaperone. It was hysterical! And then the guest of honor, Broadway producer Kevin McCollum took the stage and had some "notes" for all involved. He started his speech as a funny tongue-in-cheek sort of thing that soon blossomed into a heartfelt thanks for every artist that "shows up" to make theatre happen. That was truly inspirational.

Then the evening came to a close and we all made our way to the lobby again. I was greeted and congratulated by so many wonderful people. It was heart-warming! And my Singing Nun producer George DeMarco and composer/lyricist Andy Monroe were also there with hugs and congratulations. We bid our good-byes to Kris Stewart (pictured above with Kevin McCollum and wife Lynette) and I thanked the NYMF team, but the accolades kept coming my way until I had my coat and left the theatre.
It all was a dream-come-true!

Friday, November 17, 2006

My first awards gala was last Sunday night and I'm still on Cloud 9!

The New York Musical Theatre Festival hosted the event, and it was their "first" too! :) Isaac Hurwitz, the Executive Producer for NYMF, called me a few weeks prior to give me the good news that I would be receiving NYMF's Award of Excellence for Outstanding Individual Performance for my role as the title character in The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun. So I had a few weeks to prepare.

I consulted Singing Nun costume designer Bobby Pearce and he said, "You can't go wrong with a classic black dress." My musical theatre coach, VP Boyle, was also instrumental in pointing me in the right direction.

I wanted to find a dress that embodied my own sense of style, so when I saw this little black and white satin number, I just knew it was for me! It fit on so many levels and made me feel fabulous! Also it went beautifully with my favorite pair of shoes: classic black Prada heels.

Jewelry was next, but since the dress was so spectacular, I didn’t want to go too crazy, so I was thrilled when I found a pair of pearly earrings that were like dazzling cascades of light. Just the perfect touch!

I also had a black velvet, satin-trimmed purse and coat that fit neatly with the whole ensemble, and I marveled at how getting dressed for a special evening can be an event unto itself!

The day of the gala was misty and gray, wrapping the city in a dreamlike quliaty. I hit the gym in the morning and then enjoyed the afternoon with my boyfriend. When evening came, I took my time getting ready and enjoyed each moment. A girlfriend who moonlights as a makeup artist helped me with my makeup, and I really felt like Cinderella getting ready for the ball.

When I left the apartment to hail a cab, the taxi that stopped for me was one of the newer yellow-orange van-cabs, so I couldn't help but giggle as I stepped into my own pumpkin-like coach.

I zoomed through the streets of Manhattan and arrived at the beautiful Hudson Theatre on 44th Street. When I arrived, the lobby was teaming with people dressed to the nines. It was the meet-and-greet cocktail hour, so everyone was chatting loudly and catching up with each other. I just joined in the fun and introduced myself to everyone I met!

To be continued..... :)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The New York Musical Theatre Awards Gala is this Sunday night, and I am so excited!!!

It is just incredible, knowing that I am going to be meeting some of the best and brightest people who make theatre happen on Broadway. Sutton Foster, Beth Leavel and Bob Martin from "The Drowsy Chaperone" will be there. And Broadway producer Kevin McCollum is the guest of honor.

To top it all off, I will be receiving the NYMF Award of Excellence for Outstanding Individual Performance for my role in "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun." I am just amazed and incredibly honored.

The show received photo coverage on and there were some lovely reviews.

This whole experience feels like a dream come true, and it is! It is such a joyous time!

I've been running around Manhattan, consulting friends on what to wear for the gala, and the support and encouragement have been wonderful! I feel so blessed to have this extended family of friends watching out for me, sharing this wild ride with me.

It is only the beginning. :)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What an incredible Autumn!

I just finished playing the title character in the new musical, "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun" (shown left). It was an exhilirating experience, performing in a brand new musical, and it was such an honor to bring this real-life woman to the stage.

In researching the real Sister Smile, I fell in love with her and her drive to make music and find a higher truth of spirituality. She really felt a strong connection to the divine, but she was also confused by drugs, alcohol and her own lesbian yearnings. Truly an incredible character to explore!

Of course, our musical "take" on her life was narrated by a drag-queen (wonderfully played by Stephen Michael Rondel)who imagined he had adventured with the Singing Nun, so there was some obvious poetic license. But so much of her real story was in there, and it was wonderful to have people respond to our tale.

The music was a blast, and it was thrilling to sing it! Andy Monroe composed and wrote most of the lyrics, along with Blair Fell, who wrote the script. The whole process of working on a brand new musical was incredibly rewarding, and we were guided along by one of the most brilliant directors I have ever encoutered, Michael Schiralli.

The cast was an absolute dream and the crew was exceptional! Everyone put their "all" into the project, and audiences really seemed to respond to this heartfelt endeavour. I heard so many good things from friends, family, and complete strangers who felt such a connection to the show that they had to tell me about it. That was truly remarkable.

The cherry on the cake? I'm receiving The New York Musical Theatre Festival's Award of Excellence for Outstanding Individual Performance.

NYMF is having their first-ever gala on November 12, and they will be presenting awards to selected artists who performed in the festival. They are also honoring Kevin McCollum, the Broadway producer behind such hits as "RENT," "Avenue Q," and "The Drowsy Chaperone."

I am on Cloud 9! :)