Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gaston’s Best Bud

Name: Michael Fatica
Role: Lefou

Michael Fatica plays the role of Lefou in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and is today’s guest on our blog! Read on to learn more about Michael!!

Hello blog readers!! I'm Michael Fatica, also known onstage as Lefou! For those who haven't seen the movie or the show before, Lefou is Gaston's sidekick and best bud. I'm also referred to as that crazy little guy who keeps falling down throughout the story :)

We just finished a beautiful two weeks in Honolulu, followed by a week break before we venture into the fall schedule. After a week in San Antonio, we arrive in Tempe, Arizona, at the ASU Gammage Theatre! Some of the cast, crew, or musicians have toured to Tempe before and also boast that it is one of their favorite spots. One of the first things we see in each city is, of course, the theatre. We are lucky enough to play some amazing spaces around the country, and I'm sure the ASU Gammage is no different. It always adds an extra spark to doing the show in a theatre with a strong history or unique structure. I'm really excited to check out the ASU space designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and hopefully add a bit of "Disney Magic" to the Broadway Across America Season!

I have ventured to Arizona before, having visited Tucson with my family when I was in Kindergarten. Originally from Florida, I'd never seen such a dry climate and rolling landscape, and remember thinking it looked so alien. My only memories that stuck were the tragic ones: my sister fell into a cactus and had to slowly pick out the barbs, while I had an exuberant horse on a trail ride that decided to take a jaunt instead of a slow walk. I'm sure at 23 I am now more equipped to explore what Tempe has to offer. I'm looking forward to checking out the ASU campus, and to head over to Mill Avenue and see what's happening downtown.

So, while strolling through Tempe from October 19th to the 24th, keep an eye out for some extra boisterous theatre types....it might be one of the company members of Disney's Beauty and the Beast!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Replacement Experience

Name: Sarah Claire Smith
Hometown: Winter Haven, Florida
Role: Silly Girl/Enchanted Object

Sarah Claire Smith plays the role of a Silly Girl and an Enchanted Object in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and is today's latest blogger! Read on to learn more about Sarah!!

I wasn't living in New York at the time of the original audition for Disney's Beauty and the Beast in May of 2009. I was just visiting NYC, catching Broadway shows--yet with the intent of auditioning as much as possible! (I had just come out of a ten-month contract and I needed to be inspired!) Disney's Beauty and the Beast was one of the auditions I attended during my visit. Thankfully, I was called back the entire week and went through many callbacks for different roles. Still, I didn't hear anything back immediately. I was called back for another series of callbacks in September and October…again, no offer. I was called in one more time for an understudy role in February of 2010. While in the end I was not cast, it was a wonderful experience to be called back so many times. As actors do, I went on with my life--and other wonderful opportunities came about in result! They say, "When a door is closed there is always another opening." It's a wonderful lesson to learn. Now fast forward a few months...

I spent this summer in Florida performing RENT and teaching in a children's theatre program. I was in the midst of teaching middle school kids a number from Hairspray when I got "the call." The Company Manager called to find out my availability to replace a girl who was injured. This was a familiar call. I was asked to come in earlier that year but was unavailable--because I was opening a show the weekend they needed me! While I was thrilled to get another call, I was again under contract for the next 3 weeks. Thankfully, NETworks decided to wait for me and I came on board Disney's Beauty and the Beast in early August!

I joined the Dance Captain and Music Director in Kansas City for my replacement rehearsals. They taught me every aspect of my track in two days of 4-hour rehearsals! It was quite overwhelming, but the cast and crew were very supportive. In every stressful moment I just sought peace and relied on all of my good training. On my "Opening Night" we had a put- in rehearsal with the whole cast before the show. I remember feeling surprised at how calm I was. I must have understood that freaking out would only exacerbate this stressful situation--so I just took a breath, smiled, and made my entrance onto the stage! While my first show was not flawless, I felt great about my performance. It didn't actually become "fun" until a few days later, when I could relax into the role and enjoy my time onstage.

I still can't believe that I was put into the show in 3 days! I wasn't nervous--but I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. It was intense!!!

Here I am, now almost two months into tour as a Silly Girl and spinning napkin! Touring is a wonderful and unique experience and that I am still learning from and adjusting to. Recently we were in San Francisco and Honolulu--both incredible cities. I had to pinch myself most days to make sure it wasn't a dream. I love being a Silly Girl. We cry a lot, swoon over Gaston, and have a great time every night. Getting paid to sing, dance, act and see the country is a pretty incredible gig. I am grateful to be here and be a part of a show that lifts people's spirits and brings them to their feet every night!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Behind the Musical: Carolyn Violi

Carolyn Violi, who is the Musical Director and Conductor for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, partakes in our latest blog! Here, Carolyn tells us about her love for Frank Sinatra, Beauty and the Beast and the piano!!

Name: Carolyn Violi

Role in the Show: Musical Director/ Conductor

Hometown: Indiana, PA (hometown of actor Jimmy Stewart)

What kind of music do you listen to? I love most types of music and of course, Broadway show tunes. If I'm driving a long distance, I love to listen to the standards of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, etc. That music will never go away. When I listen, I marvel that these artists recorded without the aid of auto tune.

Can you tell us about your history with Disney's Beauty and the Beast? I was teaching high school music in western Pennsylvania when a former student of mine, Brent-Alan Huffman, called and asked if I was interested in joining the national tour of Beauty that he was going to conduct. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave a profession I truly loved until I went to New York to actually see the show. I fell in love with it and said yes. It was a few months later that I would start on the road and stayed on that same tour for four years. People always ask me if I ever got tired of playing the show that many times and my reply was always never. Not once did I walk in the pit not wanting to do the show. It was also a gift to be named one of the conductors and get to stand on the podium.

 What kind of training and experiences led you here? I grew up taking dance lessons from age 3 and started playing piano by ear. My first grade teacher noticed that after music class I would go to the piano and play tunes we learned that day, so she called my parents to suggest I take lessons. My parents were thrilled because it was another activity to keep me busy since I was pretty precocious (well, actually highly energized!). Ok, let's be honest--I was a terror! I never sat still so it was almost a blessing that I would sit and practice. I kept on playing and after I got my degree in Music Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I started teaching in schools around my hometown. As the vocal music teacher I was responsible for the school musicals that I directed. I was also musical director, conductor and, oh yes, choreographer to over 20 productions. Involvement in community and regional theatres around the Pittsburgh area led me to work on another 50 or so productions, either as musical director or onstage work.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Life of an Understudy

Steve Czarnecki, who is an ensemble member in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, was nice enough to share a blog entry with us! Read on as Steve discusses some of his other responsibilities on the tour.

Name: Steve Czarnecki

Role in the show: Ensemble

Hey all!

You may know me as an ensemble member in the current national tour of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. However, I thought I would talk a little bit about my other responsibilities in the show. I am the understudy for both the Beast and Gaston. Each of the main characters in our production has two people understudying them, and many of the ensemble members like myself, understudy two parts--which can be both exciting and nerve racking.

From L to R: Nathaniel Hackmann (Gaston) with Steve Czarnecki and Jeff Brooks

To date we have performed the show somewhere around 220 times. And of those I have performed as the Beast thirteen times and as Gaston twice. Preparation for all of this began around day one of rehearsals in January. The understudies and I would frantically write and rewrite staging as it was given to the principals. Of course, we would do this only when we had the free time away from learning all of our own ensemble responsibilities. It was definitely challenging as things would change from rehearsal to rehearsal and you had to adjust your notes "on the fly." However, there was the comfort of knowing that after we opened in February we would begin to have our own understudy rehearsals!

Finally the day came where I was going on for the first time. Now THIS was a situation that made me more nervous than perhaps any other performance I've ever given. We had just had our first understudy rehearsal a few days before and now it was time for me to go on as the Beast. Many, many things run through your head as you perform. First and foremost, your lines!! You've gone over them a million times but now, for the first time, you are doing them with the rest of the cast! Furthermore, you want to make the audiences experience of the show the same as they would get seeing the "normal" cast of the show. You have to keep up the integrity of the character that the other actor has established. It is scary but also wonderfully exciting! The energy of your cast mates giving all their love and support and the experience of putting yourself into a new part is thrilling. Being an understudy is one of the most important jobs in the theatre, it can be very challenging, but more importantly it can be the most fun you'll ever have!

The whole cast after rehearsal at Gateway Playhouse!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Robyn DeGuzman: Aloha!

Robyn DeGuzman, who plays Silly Girl #3 in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, is our latest blogger! Robyn shares some neat facts about herself, the tour, and life in Hawaii!

Name: Robyn DeGuzman

Role in the show: Silly Girl 3

Aloha from Honolulu, HI! I'm Robyn DeGuzman and I play "Silly Girl #3". Though I also dance in the ensemble as a fork, plate, and napkin, you probably remember me primarily from my constant fainting - I can't seem to keep it together when Gaston's around!

Constantly collapsing during our eight show weeks isn't always easy, but I've adopted a few tumbling tricks of the trade. When we started rehearsals, our fight director, Rick Sordelet, advised me to start off slowly. I experimented a lot and found which falls I was most comfortable with, and I gradually became faster and faster at falling, and even more importantly, getting back up! The movement reminds me a lot of judo, which I trained in when I was younger. I also use utilize my modern dance training from college.

As for life on the road, it isn't always easy, but we're in HAWAI'I! Snorkeling, horseback riding, visiting Pearl Harbor, hiking, and skydiving are only a few of the things our cast has experienced here! I personally am enjoying Waikiki's beautiful beaches for relaxing and surfing and trying a lot of the local cuisine, which is an awesome blend of different cultures that makes it distinctly Hawaiian. Try a plate lunch from the Diamond Head Market and Grill or some Saimin from the famous Like Like Drive Inn!

Mahalo (that means thank you) for reading. See you back on the Mainland!