Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Road with Jen Bechter

Jen Bechter who plays the role of Madame De La Grande Bouche in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is our latest blogger! Here is Jen’s Q&A blog entry.

What city are you currently in?
Fayetteville, AR

Which upcoming tour cities are you most looking forward to visiting and why?

Kansas City...because all of my family is coming.
San Francisco...because I’ve never been to the West Coast. (Look out Napa, Here I come!)
Hawaii...need I say more.

What tour stop has been your favorite so far and why?

I haven’t seen much of the U.S., so each city we go to is a new state to see! I really enjoyed Florida. I’m a sucker for the beach. Visiting Dallas last week felt the most like my home town in Kansas.

What music are you currently listening to?
Currently I’m in a jazz mood, so my iPod is playing Jane Monheit.

Name one item you can’t live without while on the road: computer!!! It keeps me up to date with all the ones I am away from.

What do you like to do when you’re traveling between tour stops?

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
I really like the letting go scene after Beauty and the Beast. It shows real humanity and heartbreak from all the characters in the scene. We’ve all been there and it is so relatable. It really touched my heart the first time I saw the scene.

Any memorable tour moments (on or offstage) you can share?
I think the most memorable moment happened in the audition room when they told me I got the part. (Yaaaahoooo!!!!)

Name one reason why people should see Beauty and the Beast.
Everyone has seen the Disney animated movie, but to see it live on stage you feel the emotions of the characters, witness amazing singing and dancing, as well as great scenery. It is an experience you’ll never forget!

What inspires you?
I get inspiration from several things. The first being other actors. Watching someone who is passionate and puts in the work to their craft is amazing. It inspires me and reminds me of how much I love the gifts I have. It also motivates me to continually work harder to be the best I can.

Second, I am inspired by my family. We have come through some hard times and yet we always persevere no matter how hard the obstacle. With my mom battling MS and my father in remission from cancer, my sister is really my rock that keeps me strong. We don't take any days for granted and make each one count. My family's strength is my inspiration.

What are your dream roles?
One of my dream roles is to play miss Mona in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas or Doralee in 9 to 5. I have always been an admirer of Dolly Parton. I grew up listening to country music and her songs take me back to fun childhood memories. The characters aren't too bad themselves. I would also include evil characters like Ursula or ones that are larger than life, such as The Queen of Hearts. I’d also love to do anything by Kander and Ebb.

What is a typical day like for you on tour?
If we are talking about a one show day where I have time to myself, I would wake up around 10 to get around and go to the gym. I am on a new motivational kick (we'll see how long it lasts!). Then, I usually go back to the hotel to cook lunch and dinner. I might read a book or watch The Tudors or True Blood. At 1 1/2 hours to show I do my regular voice warm ups before I head off to the show to get ready. If we have two show days or are driving into a show....well, that's a horse of a different color!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Q&A with Terry Halvorson

Terry Halvorson

Role in Beauty and the Beast:
Musician; Reed 2 (Oboe/English Horn)

What city are you currently in?
Fayetteville, AR

What are you most looking forward to in this city?
The Walton Art Center is a great venue, plus the city has some great bike trails, coffee shops and restaurants.

What tour stop has been your favorite so far and why?
I actually enjoyed our weekend in Grand Rapids, MI because I got to hang out with some good friends of mine and because it's a really nice area.

Which upcoming tour city are you most looking forward to visiting and why?
Well, duh! Honolulu! :) I have never been to Hawaii and it will be my 50th state to perform in!

What music are you currently listening to?
I’m currently listening to the soundtrack to Crazy For You because I will be playing it for five weeks this summer--and because it's Gershwin!

Name one item you can’t live without while on the road:
My iPhone (again, duh!) :)

What do you like to do when you’re traveling between tour stops?
If it's a bus trip, I generally sleep the morning away and watch the bus movie after lunch. If it's a plane day, I like to read a book and watch TV shows that I download on my ever-present iPhone.

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
My favorite is probably Beauty and the Beast for three reasons:
1) I have a nice oboe solo leading into it :)
2) It features Mrs. Potts--and I am a sucker for a beautiful contralto voice!
3) It's just a beautiful scene.

Any memorable tour moments (on or offstage) you can share?
One of my favorite moments actually happened at the very first orchestra rehearsal in Providence. As we started playing through the book, I realized that THIS orchestra is a truly incredible group of musicians and that it is going to be an *AMAZING* 17 months making music with them! When we had the cast join us--the magic really happened! :)

Name one reason why people should see Beauty and the Beast:
Well, I don't really have only one reason, but a combination. First, it's Disney and everyone knows that Disney knows how to tell a great story! Add to that the incredibly talented cast, orchestra and crew who give 200% every show, and there you have it! :)

What is your musical experience?
I have been a touring musician for 4 1/2 years; Will Rogers' Follies, 2 tours of The Producers, The Wizard of Oz, Annie, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast. For all of my tours previous to this, I played combinations of clarinet, flute, saxes, oboe and English horn--usually 5-6 instruments. Playing only oboe and English horn for this show is a nice thing, but also presents its own challenges.

What kind of training have you had?
I studied the various woodwind instruments (oboe, clarinets, flutes, saxes and recorders) in school as well as privately and I have been to master classes for most of these instruments (as well as others).

What can you offer, share and discuss with students across the nation who are considering music as a career choice?
Wow, this one is tough... Music can be a difficult career choice as it requires 4-5 years of college along with hours and hours of daily practice. Teaching jobs are getting harder and harder to find (but not impossible). Getting a job as a performer is even more difficult, as there are steadily less and less jobs--yet there are still a lot of talented musicians getting college degrees. To get a performing job, it is good to network with as many other musicians as possible, starting in high school and college and continuing through every gig you play. No matter how small the gigs may be, getting more work is as much who you know as how well you play.

What teacher had the most impact on your career choices and success?
My first high school orchestra director, Mrs. Rita Wilcox, had a huge influence on me. I was playing cello at the time and the high school nearest me did not have an orchestra. Mrs. Wilcox petitioned the school board and got me an inter-district transfer to the high school she taught at across town and drove me to school for my first three years of high school! I still visit Mrs. Wilcox every year when I visit my family around Christmas.

I am also tremendously grateful to my high school band director, Mr. Bud Behrens who pushed me on every instrument I played in his band. I made county honor band two years on oboe and one year on bassoon as well as state honor band my senior year on clarinet. He also encouraged us to form small ensembles for local competitions.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Video Blog by Jeremy M. Brewer

Jeremy M. Brewer (French Horn) has been touring for the last 10 years playing horn across the US, Canada, Japan and even India. Originally from Fort Walton Beach, FL, Jeremy graduated from Florida State University in 2000 with a degree in Music Education.

One of my favorite things to do while traveling with Beauty and the Beast is to grab my camera and take a lot of pictures and video of each city. It's always a great souvenir to have so I can look back in 20 years and remember all the great places I was lucky enough to visit. Instead of writing about all the places we've been so far, I thought I'd show you a few...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Q&A with Cliff Lyons

1. What are your roles in the show?
I play a few roles. I play the Bookseller, a Knife, a Salt & Pepper, and I am a member of the court in the show’s finale. I also understudy three roles in the show. I cover Cogsworth, Maurice, and Monsieur D’Arque. So even when I’m offstage, one ear is paying attention to what is happening on stage! It’s exciting stuff.

2. What are some of the Bookseller's favorite books?
Oh! The bookseller has quite a few favorites! He loves all kinds...especially spy novels. Still, nothing beats a good fairy tale! His favorite: Beauty and the Bookseller. (It’s not widely known...)

3. Can you tell us about your audition process for Beauty and the Beast?
My audition began in front of the casting director for the role of Cogsworth. He had me sing and read from a side. (A side is a small scene that you are given to read in an audition.) The casting director asked me to come back about a week later to read and sing in front of the Associate Director. I returned as requested and was told “Thank you.” Sometimes “thank you” means that they’re not interested, but they thank you for coming in. I left believing that I probably wouldn’t be cast in the show, but felt confident that I had done a nice job.

About a month later, I was at work serving tables. You can imagine my surprise when I received a call from the casting office. I wasn’t allowed to be on the phone at work; so naturally, I ran to the restroom and hid in the stall! Apparently the team had an ensemble track that they were casting at the last minute, and they decided I might be right for it. I agreed to a 10 a.m. appointment for the next morning. I was lucky--appointments are rare! However, I was supposed to open the restaurant the next morning at 8 a.m. I BEGGED people to take the shift, but no one was interested. Finally, I had to bribe with money. I paid another server $50.00 to take the shift.

I went to the studio the next morning to sing, read, and even move for the team. They asked me back for one more callback later that afternoon--to meet the Director Robert Roth. Later, I did it all again for Rob and then went home. The next day, I got the call that I was being offered the show!!!

Best $50.00 I ever spent.

4. What have you learned from your experience with Beauty and the Beast?
This is a tough question to answer. I’m still learning every day. Here are the top 3 things that I’ve far!

1: Be on time--no matter what. If you’re not, then you could throw an entire group of people off.
2: Patience! When you travel as a group, things rarely happen in your own time. (See answer #1)
3: Teavana at the end of the day will fix almost anything!

Cilff Lyons on Teavana? "They're Grrrrrreat!"

Click here to read Cliff’s bio.