Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Q&A with Jen Davis

Jen Davis, who plays one of the Silly Girls in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, is our latest blogger! Here is Jennifer’s Q&A blog entry.

Name: Jennifer Davis

Role in the show: Silly Girl 1

What led you to a life in theatre?
My first major obsession was the original Annie movie. My parents got to hear my charming 9 year old voice belting out "Tomorrow" and "Maybe" non-stop 24/7. It wasn't until high school, just after I started dance classes, that I decided to teach myself how play the guitar as a vehicle for singing popular songs. I played the flute in middle and high school and started dance when I was 14. High school is where my real practical application started and I realized music, dance, and drama didn't have to just be a hobby. I went to school and became heavily involved in Community Theater. My first major musical was Crazy For You. I've done it many times again since, and still love it :)

What other shows/roles have you toured with?
My first tour I traveled through Japan and the U.S. with 42nd Street as ensemble understudying Maggie Jones. Secondly, I was the Steam Heat girl on The Pajama Game and now I am a Silly Girl on Disney's Beauty and the Beast!

Do you have any insights or advice for young students pursuing musical theatre?
Do it because you love it. Give yourself a well-rounded education and don't be afraid to ask questions! There is so much more to this business than just being on stage, and I find it not just beneficial, but fascinating to learn it all... backstage knowledge as well as practical applications like music and dance therapy, etc.

What are some of the pros and cons of touring?
You get to see parts of the country, and sometimes the world, that you never would otherwise. I feel very grateful to have experienced what I have thus far. Though, it isn't always easy to live out of a suitcase and travel in close quarters with the same people day in and day out... the fact is, if you keep looking at the bright side and see that you get to see parts of the country like California and Hawaii for FREE... you can deal with it. ;)

What are your favorite hobbies on the road?
Ha! Well I've adapted the nickname "Buttons" on tour for my MANY uses of buttons in my crocheting projects. I make scarves, hats, gloves, etc. and incorporate buttons as functionally as possible into all them. I've even started to make my own buttons (with help from my mom) out of coconut and shell pieces.

Do you have any dream roles you'd like to play in the future?
Well, I feel QUITE fortunate to have already played a few but I have yet to play Sally Bowles in Cabaret or Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Funny that they're both leading ladies because the wise-cracking sidekicks always to turn out to be my favorites! ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On the Road with The Beast: Justin Glaser

Justin Glaser, who plays The Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on tour found some time to sit-down with us for a Q&A! Here is Justin’s blog entry.

Name: Justin Glaser

Role in Beauty and the Beast: The Beast

What procedure do you take to get ready for the show?
My call to go to make-up and wigs is at an hour and a half before curtain. Ideally, though, I like to get to the theater at least two hours before curtain. I like to have the extra half hour to use my personal steamer, have a cup of throat coat tea, listen to some classical vocal or jazz music, do some stretching, and focus on relaxed, supported breathing. I also use this time to think through my last performance and make myself aware of things that I feel could be improved. Then, at an hour and a half I go to make-up and wigs. This process takes around 35 minutes. Afterwards, I go back to my dressing room and get myself into as much of my costume as I can on my own. Around 45 minutes until top of show, I begin my vocal warm-up. I sing the same basic exercises each day, which makes me aware of how my voice is feeling that day. At 15 minutes before the top of the show, my dresser comes and helps me into the rest of my costume, which takes about another 5 minutes. I do some last minute stretching and vocalizing in full costume, and then it's time to go to places for the top of the show.

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
My favorite sequence in the show is the title song, Beauty and the Beast, and the scene that immediately follows it. Our Mrs. Potts, Sabina Petra, sings it so beautifully and simply. It's a wonderful moment.

Any memorable tour moments (on or offstage) you can share?
Traveling the country, playing a role I love, in an enormous costume, has provided me with many, many memorable moments.

I take my job seriously, so I never intentionally mess around on-stage during performance. However, when unexpected things happen with costumes, sets, or from audience response, I do get the impulse to laugh. Most of the time I'm able to control myself, and I can use the impulse to turn an involuntary smile into the Beast gritting his teeth. Everyone on stage can see it in my eyes, though, which then makes it more difficult for all of us. Most of the time the problem arises from the eyebrows which are glued to my forehead. When a venue is particularly hot, I'll sweat a lot, and the eyebrows will begin to slide down onto my eyelids. Sometimes I'll be rendered immobile when someone is unknowingly standing on my tail. Sometimes my tail will get stuck in the West Wing set piece, which is always unfortunate, because if The Beast is in the West Wing, something dramatic is going on. Frequently things go wrong during the staging of the Beauty and the Beast number. At this point, Liz Shivener, who plays Belle, and I are both in enormous, lacy costumes. Our costumes and wigs get stuck to each other, we step on each other, her feet get stuck in her dress, and I trip over and step on my tail. We've sort of developed different ways to play the scene depending on what's going on costume-wise, and how our characters have grown together during a particular performance. Sometimes we act the number more playfully and just have fun, and sometimes we take a very serious, passionate approach to it. Both work, but if we're having a particularly difficult time, costume-wise, nine times out of ten the scene will be done more playfully.

One time I had a very difficult time keeping it together during the Beauty and the Beast scene. Near the top of the song there's a sequence where The Beast mimics Belle's actions at the dinner table. Right at the top of this sequence the bow fell out of my wig. I did my best to keep up with the business at the table, and at the most opportune moment, I quickly grabbed the bow off of the floor and put it on the table. However, when I went to pull my arm away from the table to continue the business, I couldn't. The lace on my coat sleeve had gotten stuck to something on the table and I couldn't get it free. Just then, Liz got up to come to me for the dance. Panicking, I pulled my arm away from the table as hard as I could and heard something rip. I looked down at the table, and where my arm had been stuck, was now just a strip of velcro. Very confused, I looked at my arm. There was a fork dangling from my sleeve. In order to keep it from moving during the set change, the fork had been attached to the table by velcro. By this time Liz had made her way to me and asked me to dance. I continued with my dialogue, while trying to free my sleeve from the fork, but had no such luck. She pulled me center stage to dance and I was swept over by a feeling of overwhelming dread and embarrassment. My mind raced as I imagined myself doing the entire number with a fork dangling from my sleeve. How would Liz react when she saw it? What if it were to fall onto the stage where one of us might step on it or trip over it? What if it were to get loose from me and attach itself to Liz? Or her wig? I'd never be able to keep it together and play the scene with a fork stuck in Belle's hair! It was too much for me. Just as we reached center stage to set up for the dance, I quickly turned my head upstage, let out a brief burst of laughter, and returned to do the scene as best I could. By the end of the number, I realized the fork was no longer attached to my sleeve. I didn't see it on the floor, either, so I just went about doing the scene. Later, I found out that it had fallen onto the table just as I'd gotten up to do the dance. That was a rough one.

What do you like to do when you're traveling between tour stops?
On travel days, I mostly just listen to music on my iPod or read.

What are six items you can't live without while on the road:
1) My phone: Used to keep in touch with my family and closest friends, this reminds me of my life outside of the tour, which I'll return to once this amazing experience is over.
2) My computer: Used for staying up to date on email, watching movies, and keeping up with what's happening in the movie industry.
3) My tour DVD collection/ Netflix account. I'm a huge movie buff. With the exception of the show, Mad Men, I watch no TV, so movies are my number one source for entertainment.
4) My iPod. For those long travel days.
5) My Beauty and the Beast actor work book. This is a book I made to prepare for the role. It's full of quotes that inspire me, character notes, show notes given to me by the creative team and stage manager, and many images of people, characters, animals and places. I revisit this from time to time if I ever start to feel stuck in a performance.
6) My friend, Keith Kirkwood, "Cogsworth." Though he's not an item in real life, he does play one on stage. He is my confidante on this tour and supplies me with endless hours of witty banter. I also count on him to tell me when I'm wrong or overreacting to petty issues.

What have you learned from your entire experience with Beauty and the Beast?
I have learned much from my experience with this show. I tend to be a bit reclusive, by nature, and made somewhat anxious when in large groups of people. My involvement in theater over the years has really helped to bring me out of my shell. Specifically on this tour, playing a role that puts me in front of thousands of people each week, and dealing with weekly interviews with the media, has forced me to relax considerably under these circumstances.

I read reviews of the show, regularly. Many people in the performance industry have just as many theories on why one should or shouldn't read reviews. However, what keeps me interested in performing is the fact that I feel that I've not even come close to realizing my full potential as a singer or an actor. Most of the reviews for this show have been very positive, but we occasionally do get mixed or negative reviews. I know that the creative team is pleased with this production, as a whole, and with my performance. I am mostly pleased with my performance. Audiences respond favorably to the show, and to my performance. When we get a review that is completely negative, I can immediately dismiss it. Sometimes a reviewer won't like something about my performance that I've been specifically directed to do. I can dismiss those, as well. The reviews that discuss my abilities as an actor are the ones I pay closest attention to. I think about what they have to say, and if it's something I've been criticized for by a director or a teacher in the past, I really reflect on it and try to think of ways that I can improve the issue in the future. I can't please everyone, but just because I'm pleasing most doesn't mean that I can't keep improving and growing.

I've also learned a great deal about my voice on this tour. Through all of the growling and yelling that I do over the course of the show, I've learned what it can withstand, or maybe more importantly, what it cannot withstand over an 8 performance show-week. Though one of my goals for each time that I step onto the stage is to deliver a perfect vocal performance, I've learned not to let myself get too down when unavoidable vocal mishaps occur. I've learned the importance of a full night of restful sleep, to avoid alcohol entirely, and not to drink caffeinated beverages on performance days. I can take all of these lessons with me and apply them to each show that I do in the future.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Q&A with Erin Elizabeth Coors

Elizabeth Coors plays the role of Babette in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and was nice enough to be this week’s Q&A participant! You can read Erin’s entry below.

Name: Erin Elizabeth Coors

Role in Beauty and the Beast: Babette

What city are you currently in? San Francisco

What tour stop has been your favorite so far and why?
Chicago. There was so much to do and the show was really well received. It was also our first two-week sit down so we had our first golden day!

Which upcoming tour city are you most looking forward to visiting? HAWAII!!!

What music are you currently listening to?
I've been listening to a lot of “beachy” stuff... Jack Johnson, Gavin DeGraw, Eric Hutchinson.

Name one item you can't live without while on the road:
My computer. It keeps me connected to my friends and family and allows me to know what’s happening in the biz in NYC.

What do you like to do when you're traveling between tour stops?
I like to read, listen to music and watch TV shows on my computer. I was heavy into Dexter at the beginning of the tour and have now moved on to Sex and the City and Weeds.

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
"Human Again." The energy onstage between all the actors is really intense and that always radiates out to the audience. Everyone expects "Be Our Guest" to be a show stopper, but "Human Again" catches you by surprise and really gets to the heart of the story.

Any memorable tour moments (on or offstage) you can share?
Soooo many! Just last night Lumiere's candle sticks got caught in my costume and we were stuck together during a musical number. Merritt, the actor who plays Lumiere, and I have worked together a lot so we were lucky that we know each other well enough that we could cover and the audience never even knew!

Name one reason why people should see Beauty and the Beast.
It's really a beautiful show. There are amazing costumes, the set is gorgeous and the dancing and singing are also wonderful! There is truly something for everyone. It's an incredible experience to be part of something that reaches children and adults at the same time.

What made you decide to do theatre?
I always loved singing and dancing, but had TERRIBLE stage fright (I still kind of do). I had some wonderful teachers and mentors along the way that gave me the confidence to at least try out for college programs. I auditioned thinking "if it's meant to be, it's meant to be." I've been very lucky in this business so far, but above all it's been the support of my parents that have really fueled me. Without them I'm not sure I'd be where I am today.

You've played Barbie and now Babette. What's the ugliest role you've ever had to play?
Last time I did Beauty and the Beast I played the Hag/Enchantress! (I was also a Napkin.) I absolutely loved the show and really was interested in the role of Babette, so I was really excited in auditions when I was given the opportunity to read for Babette.

How did you prepare for your audition?
I was really nervous auditioning for such an incredible creative team. I spent a lot of time with vocal coaches finding a great song, "Speaking French” from Lucky Stiff. I thought it was a brilliant selection. Until I heard another girl right before me sing it for the role of Babette as well! But that's how the business goes. So I just tried to really stay in the moment and listen to the creative teams' direction and take their notes. They knew what they wanted. I just tried to tap into that.

Don't miss Erin Elizabeth Coors' Babette as NETworks presents Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

For tour dates, click here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Q&A with Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks who is part of the Ensemble in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast talks about staying in shape on tour and the one item he just can’t live without on the road! Here is Jeff’s Q&A blog entry.

Name: Jeff Brooks

Role in Beauty and the Beast: Ensemble

What city are you currently in?
San Francisco

What are you most looking forward to in this city?

What tour stop has been your favorite so far and why?
Kitchener, ONT - I got to go on as Gaston!

Which upcoming tour city are you most looking forward to visiting and why?
Honolulu. Easy answer.

What music are you currently listening to?
Gotan Project

Name one item you can't live without while on the road:
XBOX 360

What do you like to do when you're traveling between tour stops?
Watch movies and sleep!

What is your favorite song/scene in Beauty and the Beast?
Rooftop Battle!

Name one reason why people should see Beauty and the Beast.
People need to see this production of Beauty and the Beast because it's brand new!!

What is your favorite musical and why?
Damn Yankees: it was the first Broadway show I ever saw (age 12).

What is your favorite aspect of touring?

How do you stay in shape on tour?
Any way I can. Plus, "Be Our Guest" and "Gaston" are a decent cardio workout :)