Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Easter Bonnet

Posted: April 21, 2015 in Musical Theatre, New York

If you are ever in NYC for the Broadway Cares Easter Bonnet competition you have to check this out. As long as you don’t mind seeing your favourite Broadway musicals being destroyed (in a good way). The cast members from these shows perform short segments culminating in a cast member entering with a huge themed head dress (their Easter Bonnet). I have to say it was a real laugh.

This traditional event raises a heap of money for charity and in true American style they do it BIG! Held at the Minskoff Theatre (home of Lion King) the place was packed. The Easter Bonnet celebration is derived from Christianity (of course) – dressing up to honour Christ’s resurrection and in more modern times evolves to buying something luxurious (a hat) to mark the end of lent, then showing it off at the Easter Parade.

My favourite moment had to be Avenue Qs (currently off-Broadway) rendition of Lion King’s Circle of Life where their puppets became animal head dresses. Too complex to explain but so, so funny.

Partly hosted by Micah Scott (It’s Only A Play) and Ann Harada (Original Christmas Eve in Avenue Q), they had such hilarious banter. Micah says to Ann, ‘It was a dream of mine to see you in Avenue Q’. She said, ‘Ah, that’s sweet, did you enjoy it?’. He said, ‘I didn’t see it, my mom said I wasn’t aloud to until I was twelve…you had left by then’.

It was a perfect ending to a long day. A day that started with me getting caught in a down pour. Even with an umbrella I found myself in the cafe where I met my friend, wringing out my socks, pretty! As I fought my way there (15 blocks, NO cabs) I got caught in a vortex and nearly did a Mary Poppins.

So tonight I go to Opening Press Night of the new musical Dr. Zhivago. Can’t wait to see what that’s all about. The evening starts with drinks at Sardi’s, followed by the show and after party at Rockefeller Centre. I’m already tired thinking about it, but super excited at the same time.

Off now to do my research on who’s who!

No small parts….

Posted: April 19, 2015 in Musical Theatre, New York

OK. So we have all heard the expression ‘there are no small parts just small actors’, well when you ARE that small part it can sometimes feel as though that’s a load of bull, but believe me it is not!

I find myself back in NYC again and before I embark on all I have to do here this week I thought I would grab the opportunity to see ON THE TOWN which I had heard so much about.

I found myself leaving the show thinking a lot about some of the absolutely hilarious performances of the ‘non-leading’ (although the leads were great too) performances. Jackie Hoffman, who at first appears as a little old lady and with about ten second scenes here and there still manages to bring the house to full-on laughter. She then returns as a singing teacher and I have to say I think she is the funniest person alive. I also know that the choices she made were her own! I could just tell.

Allison Guinn was another scene stealer with fantastic cameo portrayals throughout and then with her main featured role as Lucy Schmeeler she was all over it. So, so funny.

I’m constantly telling my students that smaller roles can be oh so big in the larger scheme but I never think they believe me. When will they realise that the lead roles are not always the best. They are usually like the bride and groom on the top of the wedding cake, yeah they look good, but it’s the layers of icing and cake underneath that we enjoy the most!

Anyway, not to take away from the three leading gents who worked their butts off today (I can’t imagine doing what they did today 8 shows a week). The talent was incredible.

A great Broadway day out! What I saw makes me remember why I do what I do!

 

Hi, One our my students at AMTA did a video of his trip to NYC to train on Broadway. I liked it so much I wanted to share it. Check it out here.

NYC VIDEO

Day 5 AMTA on Broadway!

Posted: February 28, 2015 in New York
Tags: , , ,

Final day of AMTA training in NYC.

And so my blogging from NYC comes to an end, but I’m off to Los Angeles tomorrow for a week to work on orchestrations for a HUGE new musical that I will be directing. Watch this space.

I wanted to finish off the tips that students got from their dancing days and then tell you what we were up to today.

image

From Francesca…
Hi. my tip of the day is:
when doing a dance call use your own judgement as to whether you can mark the routine on the side when waiting for your turn. Some directors will not appreciate this, so make sure you don’t steal the focus when another group is performing – this could potentially lose you your shot at getting through to the next round! Dance wisely!

From Roddy…
TOP TIP: after performing a dance combination infront of a panel make sure you stay in the original formation that you started in until they have finished with you as they have your headshots layed out on their table in the formation you should be in so by moving you’re confusing maters for them!

Today we had the amazing and super talented (and so so funny) Michael Kostroff. He does his audition workshop all over the country and today we had him in for AMTA. It’s the second time sitting in on this and I still learned so much. I don’t audition at the moment due to my directing jobs but it actually made me WANT to audition. Check it out here and if you ever get a chance to go to one just GO!!!

http://www.auditionpsych101.com

Yesterday our actors were uptown working with film director Matthew Bonifacio. I promised to post a pic…

image

 

Goodbye from NYC, I have a bunch of very sad students flying back to London tomorrow who had the most amazing time.

image

 

Day 4 AMTA on Broadway!

Posted: February 27, 2015 in New York

What a great day. Again with Alex and James, dancers extraordinaire.

Day 4 is dedicated to our student Marcelo who has quite a lot to say but all worthwhile.

Hey Ken! So here goes:

It’s insane how much I learnt these past 3 days. Day 1 there were 4 major lessons.

1) The difference between Broadway and the West End: while the Brits admire the internalized specificity of the thought, action and decisions of the actor, at the same time appreciating that one doesn’t need to move too much in an audition – the Americans go for physicality. I literally have a note that says: ‘In America, go for it!’ It’s not just in terms of figuring out the physicality of your character, but also about the amount of energy that you have to match on Broadway.

2) Speaking of specificity; it is so important! But, I learnt that it isn’t just the specifics of your decisions as an actor for your throughline in a monologue, scene or song. The same applies when you’re dancing! Specially when you’re dancing Bob Fosse! The details are what make his Choreographies really special!

3) NEVER underestimate the importance of the cut of your song in an audition. I used to think, I’ll just sing until they stop me… No! If they say 16 bars, find a decent cut that fits within 16-20 max (finishing a phrase is the priority of course) AND work your way backwards. Some practitioners don’t like it if you skip the beginning, so be mindful, but it is even worse if you cut the money note and/or the end of the song – I learnt the hard way.

4) Your rep folder should include a song from every style:
60’s – ‘Grease’
70’s – ‘Saturday Night Fever’
90’s – ‘Flashdance’
Disney Song – Newsies
Pop Song
Contemporary – ‘American Idiot’
20’s, 30’s, 40’s – Old School Musical Threatre
And so on…

Day 2 I learnt about major differences in terminology between British and American tap:

1) Tap Step (Britain) = Flap (America)
2) Flap (Britain) = Double Flap/Flare (America)
3) Pick-Up (Britain) = sometimes called a Spank (America)
4) In America a Stamp is when you put a flat foot down with your weight on it.
5) In America a Stomp is when you put a flat foot down but the weight is on the other leg.
6) In Britain a time-step starts with a tap step (flap), in America is starts with a Stomp.
7) The second difference between American and British time-steps is that American time-steps are syncopated.

Day 3 I learnt that during a high retiré, if your focus is on pushing down with your arms in a correct second position, instead of focusing on your ‘core muscles’ (i.e.: abs), you are so much more stable! It blew my mind! It makes you engage your laterals, which is as important as your abs during a a high retiré or pirouette. A second trick I learnt is that you can counter balance your weight with the opposite arm to the leg you’re lifting by simply stretching is out from your shoulders.

Awesome stuff! Worth trying out when you practice!

Day 3 AMTA on Broadway!

Posted: February 25, 2015 in New York

Hello Folks,

Before I start today I want to say a big hello to my readers from UK, US, Sweden, Russia, Greece, Spain, France and Jordan! I feel blessed to reach you all!

So I saw KINKY BOOTS on Broadway last night. I was really looking forward to it. I’m sorry to report that I’ve never rolled my eyes so many times as I did last night. It was so frustrating. I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t love it. I felt it was self-indulgent, unnecessarily written in the first place (and yes I know it’s from a film), sketchy writing and weak lyrics. I can’t remember one song……ok, have you heard enough? That’s my take – but then I am am rather picky. I can’t see it doing very well in London when it transfers this year. I don’t think it will find it’s audience. But then that’s just my little ‘ol opinion.

Tonight it’s HEDWIG and the ANGRY INCH. I’m more optimistic about tonight. I think I will be ‘showed out’ after tonight though.

AMTA training today with the energetic duo James Kinney (1 of the top 10 choreographers in this country) and Alex Nordin, an all and all, tall triple threat. He was really tall today wearing heels to teach a drag routine from none other than the TONY award winning musical KINKY BOOTS (rolls eyes). The students loooooooved both classes.

I decided to ask a few of the students to send me a 1 liner of something they learned today so here goes…

From Laura…
“The most valuable thing you can do is to be the best possible version of yourself. If you say you can do it, you will do it”

From Lisa…
“Make sure you bring some character to the dance so that you can show the panel your personality and give them a taste of what you’d be like on stage”

From Emily…
“Hey ken, so I originally learnt this from you in London but it has been re-iterated so much today and yesterday by James and it’s really inspiring. “You can only be the best version of yourself.” It’s really great to know that we can always better ourselves but we don’t need to try and be anybody else. Favourite piece of advice so far 😊”

From Andrea…(I love this one)
“When a choreographer or director is asking you to bring out a part of yourself that you hate and that you tried to hide for all your life, the best thing to do is totally free it 150%, you’ll feel better after and the impact will be great!”

From Hannah…
In an audition use simple steps to get back into the formation the panel set you in so they have a clear view of who’s who.

If you mess up or fall over the thing they will love you for is if you come back 10x better.

If you get more than one pass at a combo that includes an improvisation section do something different each time.

Get into character in the intro of the song, don’t just hold a pose, move about!

From Lexi…
They can put someone else in your spot but they can never replace you

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game

Never let panic show through your performance

WOW!!!!
I had so many comments that I need to post the rest tomorrow.
Very inspirational comments given today from our American friends.

They are back tomorrow again with James and Alex.

Thanks for reading!

🙂

And here they all are...

And here they all are…

Day 2 AMTA on Broadway!

Posted: February 24, 2015 in New York

Wow! What a day. I finished it sat next to two of the producers of Broadway Tony award winning show ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’, in a coffee shop. we had a great chat! (Thank you Nura for the introduction) I saw the show last year and it was amazing. It now stars UK’s Scarlett Strallen who I worked with in ‘The Music Man’ at Chichester Theatre back in the UK.

I went to the cabaret venue 54 Below to watch a one-night performance of Irving Berlin’s music last night and who did I see as part of the all-Broadway cast? Scarlett herself. Small world.

Now onto day 2 of training today with the energetic and lovely Ricky Hinds, from NEWSIES. He did a repertoire class with our students, again accompanied by Stephen Purdy, vocal GOD! Very similar tips to yesterday but here are some add-ons.

– overdone songs are GET OUT and STAY OUT, THE LIFE I NEVER LED, anything from FOOTLOOSE, PROUD of YOUR BOY. I won’t say what shows they are all from, if you sing them you will know.

– Don’t stress about 16 bar cuts for audition songs. In NY if you go over they will likely stop you anyway. In the UK we are a bit nicer. Ha!

– Be direct with what you are singing. Don’t come in with a bunch of options. If you get it wrong they can always ask for something else. Ricky did auditions for 42nd street yesterday and there were 350 girls waiting, they don’t have time to mess about.

– I asked Ricky what his pet peeve was with auditioners. He said not being prepared! If you have had the sides to learn for a week and you don’t know them it just looks like you can’t be bothered and it will be over.

I then popped up to the Acting Studio which is up on 54th Street where our acting students are spending four days with film director Matthew Bonifacio (and yes his awesome accent sounds just like you would think it would based on his name). One word – awesome! this young director has won awards and his latest featured short movie was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. My students were watching it when I arrived. They were blown away. He then Put them on camera to do a scene from ‘Whiplash’. I could have watched him work all day but I had to get back down to Pearl Studios to see my good friend John Scatchetti, who is probably New York’s best tapper! He is playing George in the up coming production of The Drowsy Chaperone this summer in Florida. We did the show at AMTA last year. Incidentally our Vice our principal Mark Goldthorp and I did the same show with Elaine Paige in the West End.

Off to see the a Broadway smash KINKY BOOTS tonight. It transfers to London this year so I need to know what all the hype is about.

Looking forward to day 3 !

Ken