Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Madcap Musical Review

Last week was non-stop musicals for me!

On Monday, I performed in the concert reading of  the new musical, "Merton of the Movies." It's about a young man in the silent film era, who dreams of making it as a "serious" actor in Hollywood, only to discover he's a born comedian! AJ Shively, the recent lead in Steve Martin's and Edie Brickell's new musical, "Bright Star," was our amazing Merton. He cracked us all up! As one audience member said afterwards, "I'll never look at eyebrows the same way again!

I played one of Merton's buddies, Edna, a jazzy comedienne who stars in one of the old pie fight films. My big song was "The Chase," and though we had no props or set, so many audience members said they loved when I pantomimed getting stuck in a trunk, trying to evade the Keystone Cops. It was a BLAST!

"Merton" was composed by the dynamic Doug Katsaros, who also wrote the lyrics, and the book was by my "Sasquatched the Musical" director, Donald Brenner. In fact, the reading was a mini Sasquatched reunion, as I got to play with my old "sweetheart," Patrick John Moran....

And the incredibly versatile Jonathan Randell Silver, who played Harpo Marx in "The Most Ridiculous Thing You Ever Hoid," had a pivotal role as Merton's friend, Elmer, from his smalltown beginnings.

Jonathan's heartfelt performance actually made me cry! He was so sweet!

Our marvelous music director was Jeffrey Lodin (above top L). Patrick and Jonathan are also above, followed by the fabulous Martin Van Treuren, who was hysterical as the madcap film director of the Buckeye Comedies.

The rest of the cast was completed by gorgeous voiced Tony Castellanos, the lovely Loni Ackerman (former Broadway Evita and Grizabella - she had the BEST stories!), Janine Divita as Merton's love-to-be (who also recently played Evita) and Lara Hayhurst, a former Elle from "Legally Blonde."

Everyone was so wonderful, and it was such a charming show! I hope we go somewhere with it! :)

Last but not least, I ended the week with a turn as Blanca Vacuous, a maid of dubious origin in "The House in Beverly Hills." I also recorded demos for "The House in Beverly Hills" on the weekend.

For my next trick, I'm back to the writer's table with Wayne Henry and Roberto Cambeiro, fleshing out "Petunia's Coffee House."

Monday, December 01, 2014

A double-take: Merton of the Movies

One of the first plays I read when I moved to NY was George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly's Merton of the Movies. It's a charming play about a young man who moves to Hollywood to become a serious actor in the Silent Film era. The funny thing is, he's SO dramatic, it's funny!

Jim Parsons (Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory) is doing a reading of the play tonight at Roundabout Theatre's Studio 54, and I wish I could be there!

Parsons hand-picked the play and gave a great interview about why he was drawn to the piece.

Ironically, Next Monday I'm doing a reading of the new musical version of Merton of the Movies based on Kaufman and Connelly's play. It's by Donald Brenner and Doug Kastaros, and it benefits the Abingdon Theatre Company, who's hosting the concert.

It is such a charming show, and the music is so fun! I'd love for the folks going to the Roundabout tonight to come see our show next week! It's like a Double Feature a week later. :)

There are a few seats left! Come join the adventure! :) Tix are $20-30 and are available through Abingdon's website at

Thursday, November 27, 2014

So Thankful!

It's been an amazing year, and I'm blown away by how quickly it's zoomed by!

I'm thankful for my family and friends, that everyone is healthy and happy. There's definitely been some health scares for our dads, so I'm glad they're staying strong.

 (my little bro and me with our Dad - love you both!)

I'm thankful for my husband, Robbie, who keeps me laughing and looking for "the funny." You are my best friend, and I'm so glad to be sharing this ride with you!

I'm thankful for my friends who keep me laughing as well, and who've supported all my artistic adventures. I have a core group of 4 friends who've seen every show I've ever done, and I'm so thankful for you: Michael and Carl, Ataman and Jayne! Love you guys!

                                Michael, Carl and me clowning on the beach. :)

A special shout-out to Tina Sams from "The Essential Herbal" who gives me a kick in the pants when I'm feeling blue and reminds me to look back and see everything I've accomplished. She and her sister, Maryanne Schwartz, who makes incredible jewelry in her Torchsong Studio, keep me inspired!

I'm thankful for all the incredible people I've worked with on so many fun artistic adventures! The year started with the international recording of "Roberta." Larry Moore had seen me as a tempestuous spitfire in the Off Broadway revival of "Johnny on a Spot," and asked if I'd like to play a devious debutante, or "debutramp," as Larry called her. Well, who wouldn't want to play that kind of character? ;)

I got the best review on Amazon: "Laura Daniel deserves a special award for bitchiest bitch this side of the Bitchissippi." And I love being on the album cover!

Huge thanks to Andy Monroe for asking me sing his great song, "The Grand Gesture" for the NY Theatre Barn, which was taped for YouTube.

Thanks to Tweiss Productions for keeping the fires of Hell's Belles burning!

Thanks to my Petunia cast and writing team: Wayne Henry, Roberto Cambiero and Elizabeth Bell. Looking forward to seeing what we develop in 2015!

Thanks to my "Sasquatched the Musical" director, Donald Brenner, for offering me the role of Edna in the new musical, "Merton of the Movies." We are going to have a BLAST!

Thank you to my fabulous acting coach, Susan Aston, for challenging me with larger than life characters like Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," and Alexa Vere de Vere in "As Bees in Honey Drown." What a treat to work with you every week!

And to other great teachers, Heidi Marshall, Tim Phillips, and Bonnie Gillespie: you all enrich my world and make think outside of the box! Thank you!

Thankful to everyone who boosts my day in a wonderful way! Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Monday, November 03, 2014

Merton of the Movies

There must be something in the air about silent movies. A few weeks ago I played silent film star Phyllis Fontaine in Kaufman and Hart's "Once in a Lifetime." Next month, I play Edna, a comic film actress of the silent film era in the concert reading of the new musical, "Merton of the Movies."

I get to work with the my Sasquatched the Musical director, Donald Brenner, as well as some of my fabulous Sasquatched cast members: Patrick John Moran and Jonathan Randell Silver!

And hello! We're featured in Broadway World!

VERY excited! :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Once in a Lifetime

For my next trick, I'll be playing Phyllis Fontaine in the reading of Kaufman and Hart's "Once in a Lifetime." It's a great play about the movie business in the late '20s, going from silent films to talkies. I play a movie star with a terrible voice. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My first cast album

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of playing the petulant debutante, Sophie Teale, for the international cast recording of Jerome Kern's "Roberta."

The musical debuted on Broadway in 1933, but it was never recorded in its entirety, so New World Records decided to release a full length musical recording. It was actually done as a radio play, so there are a lot of scenes in the midst of the songs, which is where my character comes in. I get to make the hero's life hell and thus inadvertently push him into the arms of the heroine. Such a blast!

I played a similar vixen in "Johnny On a Spot" Off Broadway, which is where Larry Moore spotted me and told me about the plans to record "Roberta."

When we recorded this winter, I knew it was something special. The music is so lush! Annalene Beechey's version of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" is GORGEOUS! I'm so honored to be part of this recording, and I'm so delighted to say it's my first cast album!

We sold out on Amazon last week, but it looks like they restocked. They also have it a a digital album. Or you can go to New World Records directly to hear some clips:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"My Best Friend": Another video from the NY Theatre Barn

YouTube posted another video from NY Theatre Barn's presentation of Andy Monroe's songbook. This is me singing "My Best Friend" with David Marshall. It's a song about the dating game. :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Grand Gesture

Last month, I performed in the NY Theatre Barn's cabaret focusing on new composers. Andy Monroe, whom I worked with on "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun," asked me to sing a song from his musical  Chasing Garbo, based on the film, Garbo Talks. My character, Jane, helps the hero (played below by Tom Stuart) find his way to Garbo while expressing her longing for the type of man who uses a "Grand Gesture" to win his fair lady:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Up Next: Singin at the NYTB in the D-Lounge

While in the midst of developing "Petunia's Coffee House," I'm also performing some of Andy Monroe's songs next Monday July 21 at the D-Lounge at the NY Theater Barn on 101 E. 15th Street.

NYTB in the D-Lounge is New York Theatre Barn’s revolutionary platform for meeting emerging writers, supporting established writers and presenting new musical theatre work. Established in 2007, the series has featured hundreds of writers and performers.

UP NEXT: MONDAY JULY 21 @ 7:30 pm
Doors open at 7pm, Show starts at 7:30pm

$15 General Admission ($10 for students/BMI Members)

2 drink minimum at the bar

Featuring songs from many of his shows (including his Jerry Bock Award-winning musical, DRIVE) along with stand-alone gems and little-heard specialty material, Andy’s new concert shines a spotlight on the solo performer.  Seven singers (Bill Coyne, Laura Daniel Koch, Robbie Fowler, Deborah Grausman, David Marshall, Courtney Shaw, and Tom Stuart) take turns at the mic, delivering songs that are funny, poignant, and brimming with humanity.

Andy and I worked together on "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun" for the NY Musical Theatre Festival. I won the NYMF Award of Excellence, and Andy later received countless awards for his musicals, including "The Kid." 

Andy has a great pop sensibility, and I LOVE his music! 

I'm singing from a show he wrote called, "Chasing Garbo," which is based on the movie "Garbo Talks." I play Jane Mortimer, a struggling actress who loves old movies and helps the hero in his quest to find Greta Garbo for his dying mother.

Looking forward to singing, "My Best Friend" from Sally Peaches and "The Grand Gesture" from Chasing Garbo.

Another opening, another show!

We unveiled "Petunia's Coffee House" last night in the Colleen Dewhurst room at the Aurora / Friedman building, which is part of the Actors Fund. It was a full house, and there were a lot of laughs.

Elizabeth Bell plays LeeAnn Cumberpatch (L), Wayne Henry plays Petunia Lee Swanson (top right), and I play Darlene Yvonne Kramm, a blast from Petunia's rock n roll past.

LeeAnn and Petunia are trying to open a Bohemian coffee house in NYC, but every stone has been left unturned, and Dar shows up to wreck havoc.

The show is part improv and partially scripted with music from the 80s. We have one more developmental performance on July 28th, and then it's back to the drawing board!

Hope to see you at the Coffee House! ;)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Petunia's Coffee House

I've been writing and developing a show with my friend and UCB alum, Wayne Henry. He created a character named Petunia Lee Swanson, who's had some segments on YouTube, and he wanted to expand her horizons in a somewhat musical way, so Petunia's Coffee House was born!

We started improvising scenes, and then writing them. I've written some pieces over the years: one for the Vagina Monologues, one was a cabaret called "Love in 35 Minutes," and I've been taking writing classes at The PIT.

In "Writing for SNL," Ali Farahnakian talked about the Writers' Table, and with Petunia's, we've definitely been there! I love the roundtable forum. It's been a blast to toss around comic lines , seeing what makes us laugh. A lot of those sessions have ended in laughter through tears, because we've been cracking each other up!

We "open" Petunia's Coffee House in July as a workshop-in-progress. It'll be interesting to see if people want to go along for the ride! I hope so! :)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who put their foot on the gas?

This year has been zoomin by, so blogging has taken a backseat.

I just wrapped playing "Martha" in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf for Susan Aston's acting class. What a RIDE! Greg Connelly, who plays the Osborn butler in The Amazing Spider Man 2 was my George, and it was a delight peeling back the layers of this combustible couple.

In the midst of this, I've been writing and developing a show with my friend, Wayne Henry. We met a few years ago when we were cast in the Off Broadway revival of the 1940's comedy, Johnny on a Spot. While our characters never had a scene together, we just clicked and said, "Let's make something happen!"

He then brought me onto JAWS the Musical, a mini musical he wrote and composed. It was fabulous fun, running 35 minutes.

While he's been fleshing JAWS out, he wanted to write a show around an improv character he created a few years ago named Petunia Lee Swanson.

And so Petunia's Coffee House was born! It's a lesbian love story about a couple trying to open a Bohemian coffee spot in NY. I play Petunia's ex-girlfriend, Darlene, aka DAR, and it's been a blast to develop this wild, dark woman who doesn't care about anything but getting what SHE wants. WHAT FUN!

Most of our initial rehearsals were improvised, but we've been writing as well, and it's been fascinating to feel the piece taking shape. I wonder if Christopher Guest works this way, taking a bunch of improvised larger-than-life characters, marrying them together through story, song, and edits, and then unfolding... something fun. :)

It's been an interesting way to work, and I'm enjoying every step of the way! We "open" Petunia's Coffee House in July as a workshop-in-progress. It'll be interesting to see if people want to go along for the ride! I hope so! :)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Springin up Dusty, Belles, and Petunia

It's been such a jam-packed Spring! I feel like a bud about to burst!

In March, I played Dusty Springfield's manager in the reading of the new musical, "I Found My Way." Such great music!

I've also been doing producer readings of Hell's Belles, a musical in which I play Judy Garland and Janis Joplin. I've been involved with the show for many years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how people react to those two icons. It is truly an honor to play them! 

I'm also in rehearsals for "Petunia's Coffee House," an improv-based show with karaoke. It feels very Christopher Guest-y, and has been a blast to write and improvise the story.

Now it's May Day, and I feel like I'm busting loose! It's such a thrilling time!

Happy May Day to you! :)

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Quarterly Business Review

Like many actors in the city, I have a support job. Luckily, my day job is flexible enough that it works fairly well with my acting gigs, and it provides me with some business sense as well. For example, I never would've thought of doing a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) before, but I've been hearing the term so much lately, and it made sense to look at my acting career with that business perspective.

I just did my taxes and realized I made a nice profit within acting gigs in 2013. Looking at the QBR for this year,  I've already surpassed 2013's profit with various gigs in 2014's first quarter! That feels fabulous! I hope I can keep growing! :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

"Roberta" Recording Completed

Had a blast this week, recording songs and scenes for Jerome Kern's "Roberta." It was treated as a radio play with the emphasis on a historical sound and feel of the 1930s. I played Sophie Teale, a devious debutante who makes the leading man's life hell and thus drives him into the arms of the demure heroine.

Patrick Cummings (above right) played the all-American football hero who inherits his Aunt Minnie's (aka Madame Roberta) French fashion boutique. His best friend, Huckleberry Haines (don't you love these names?), was played by the hilarious Jason Graae (above left), who helps steer him away from my naughty little villainess.

The divine Jeanne Lehman (below), who played Mrs. Potts on Broadway, was my mother, Mrs. Teale, and I used a trick from the August Osage County actresses, who listented to Meryle Streep's cadence and observed her mannerisms to ensure they had that "family" feel. I did the same thing with Jeanne, and Larry Moore, our fabulous factotum, was delighted because we had that in-sync sound. I just sounded higher and more like a spoiled brat! :)

Larry and I worked together on the NYMF show, "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun," so it was a blast to collaborate again!

We recorded at John Kilgore's Studios, which were quite nice! The incredible Judy Sherman was our recording producer, and Rob Berman was our fabulous conductor.

Here's the full Cast List:

Billy Boyden, the band’s manager . . . . . . . . Tally Sessions
Sophie Teale, the debutante . . . . . . . . . . . . Laura Daniel
John Kent, the fullback . . . . . . . . . . . . Patrick Cummings
Huckleberry Haines, the crooner . . . . . . . . . . Jason Graae
Mrs Teale, the mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jeanne Lehman
Aunt Minnie, Madame Roberta . . . . . . . . Diana Montague
Ladislaw, the doorman . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eamonn Mulhall
Stephanie, her assistant . . . . . . . . . . . Annalene Beechey
Lord Henry Delves, friend of Madame Roberta . . . John Molloy
Scharwenka, the cabaret star . . . . . . . . . . Kim Criswell
Anna, the fitter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Aine Mulvey
Luella LaVerne, the model . . . . . . . . . . Michele McKenzie
Marie, the cutter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christina Whyte
Sidonie, the presser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary O'Sullivan
Buyer, Bartender, Cafe Russe Owner . . . . . . . Stephen Cole
The Collegians: Adam Alexander, Kyle Guglielmo, Justin Keyes,
Michael Marcotte, Tim McDevitt, Patrick Mellen, Kevin Vortmann

Orchestra of Ireland
Conducted by Rob Berman

The CD will be released on New World Records. I'll let you know when! :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recording "Roberta"

This week I go into rehearsals for the international recording of  Jerome Kern's "Roberta." This project is quite special, as it's being done as a radio play with a focus on the authentic sounds of the 1930s.

The European cast recorded in Dublin. Below Larry Moore, our fabulous factotum, with Diana Montague as Madame Roberta. :)

Larry and I worked together years ago on the NYMF production of "The Tragic and Horrible Life of the Singing Nun." He's such a doll and shared some of the pix from the Dublin recording.

Below is Annalene Beechey, who played Roberta's assistant, Stephanie (and Russian princess in disguise!). She sings the famous number, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."

I'm with the American cast, who start recording next week. I play Sophie Teale, a "devastating" debutante who makes the all-American football hero, John, suffer quite a bit. She reminds me of a mix of Scarlet O'Hara, Veruca Salt, and my character, Barbara, from "Johnny On a Spot."

Great fun to dive into this devious debutante! ;)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Janis and Judy

I've been involved with the musical, Hell's Belles, for quite a few years now, and it's a treat to see how audiences respond to the piece. 3 women play a total of 21 infamous women, performing in a cabaret in "hell," led by a devilish master of ceremonies named Lester.

I've played Salome, Eva Braun, Lizzie Borden, Queen Guenevere, Alice B. Toklas, Joan Crawford, Lady Godiva, Janis Joplin, and Judy Garland.

Of all these, it never ceases to amaze me how audiences fall in love Janis and Judy. One gent last week told me he had gone to college with Janis, so she was his favorite. Another fellow told me I took him through Judy's entire career with one song! It's incredibly cool, and I feel fortunate to play homage to such fabulous women!

"Let's sing 'em all!"

Script Juggling

I've been juggling a lot of scripts lately. I had 4 last week: 1 was for a callback for an independent film, another was a mini musical version of "Hell's Belles," and 2 were for acting classes (stage and screen.

This week I've got 3: one is for a reading of an independent film, another is the libretto for the international recording of "Roberta," and the last is "Crimes of the Heart" for acting class.

All these characters are so delicious, and it's a treat to research, character build and act them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Off with a Bang!

Everyone I know is starting this year with a huge surge of energy, and it's exciting! There's a lot going on!

For me, gig-wise, I'm doing a producer reading of Hell's Belles. I got a callback for Kara Herold's independent film, 39 and 1/2. I'm preparing for the international recording of Jerome Kern's Roberta. It's being done as a  radio play, and I play the devious debutante, Sophie Teale. I'm also going into rehearsals for an improv-based musical called "Petunia's Coffee House." Think Pee Wee's Playhouse with lesbians. :)

I'm back in acting class with Susan Aston, and I started a film class with Paul Schnee. Both are brilliant!

Google Paul, and you'll see he offers a ton of great advice about "the (audition) room," and I especially liked the article on how he and Kerry Barden cast The Dallas Buyer's Club.

I also have to give a huge shout-out to Heidi Marshall and Tim Phillips, whose on-camera classes have made a major impact on how I approach and prepare for auditions and casting director workshops.

I am thankful to be working with such great people!

Rock n roll! :)