It really hit me that humans like to measure time in decades, so here we are; collectively, definitely aware that yet another one is ending. And like many others, I have gone deep into reflective mode: a hibernation of sorts, which actually works in pretty good conjunction with wintertime. Last night, I was perusing old journals from six to seven years ago. I remember looking at this page where I had scribbled some random thoughts and quotes. “The world is full of wonderful things!” - Cornelius Hackl. I guess on May 24, 2013, I needed some positive inspiration? And who better from than Cornelius: young, joyous, and in love, who exclaims this sentiment in the 1964 musical Hello, Dolly! This morning, I woke up to the news that Jerry Herman, the composer of Hello, Dolly! and other beloved classics of musical theater, had died. And then I cried.
Mr. Herman’s music has been part of my life for all of my decades, and provided the soundtrack to pivotal moments in my life and the lives of so many other people I know. In his music, he managed to capture the rawness and honesty of the human condition in the tenderest of ways, in the cleverest of ways, and in the most singable of ways. As a child growing up in the theater, the songs are beautiful, catchy, relatable, and fun to perform. And then you become an adult and you really start to understand the deeper layers of what it is to be alive and flawed and vulnerable and sad and happy and giddy and sentimental, sometimes all at the same time - and then Mr. Herman’s music can really be a soothing balm for that. You get it now. You are able to understand his music better. His music delivers encouraging messages for us to take chances, stay present, and enjoy life to the fullest. What a gift he gave us all.
I am a little girl, and my voice teacher and I are preparing for the vocal studio’s annual holiday concert. My piece would be “We Need a Little Christmas” and she’s going over the lyrics with me especially because it’s very wordy. The concert ends up going well, and I get all the words right. Then, I am nine years old, and get to see a local production of Hello, Dolly! I, of course, fall in love with it, and watch the video of the film version over and over again at home. Barbra’s facial expressions are imprinted in my brain. I also remember watching the Mame film as well at that age. Then I am fourteen years old, appearing in my first high school musical, in the ensemble of Hello, Dolly! The bloomers, the skirts, the hats, the harmonies, the sets, the dancing! It was my favorite of those entire four years. Then, years later, as Ernestina in a very special production with National Asian Artists’ Project, off-broadway with an all-Asian-American cast, at the Signature Center on 42nd street in New York City. That was so incredibly fun. Then, doing an all-Jerry Herman concert with National Asian Artists’ Project Broadway Community Chorus. Oh, my heart! Oh, our hearts! The essence of delight can’t help but ooze through us all when we are working on these pieces together; optimism really is contagious.
And then, this past summer, in the ensemble with StageWorks’ Fresno’s production of the Fresno premiere of La Cage Aux Folles. The same voice teacher who taught me “We Need a Little Christmas" all those years ago is our vocal director for the production. Full circle to the max. It’s hard to express just how in love I am with La Cage Aux Folles, but I am in love with La Cage Aux Folles because to me it is one of the sweetest love stories in musical theater. And one of its most important sentiments, “the best of times is now” is the simplest thing but the truest thing. Our entire run was sold out, and when the audience stood and clapped and sang along to “The Best of Times is Now” curtain call, it would choke me up every time. But I can’t help it. I’m a sap.
Jerry Herman’s work reminds us to seize the day, celebrate, and LIVE. An invaluable reminder for myself starting NOW - not tomorrow, not in four days on January 1, 2020, but now - is to do just that. “Tune the grand up/Call the cops out/Strike the band up/Pull the stops out/Hallelujah!/It’s today”. Thank you, Jerry Herman, and goodnight.
It's been a whirlwind summer. On June 10th, I began rehearsals for StageWorks Fresno's MAMMA MIA! and we opened on July 12. This was my first show in my hometown in many years, and I was so excited to get started. We danced. And danced. And danced again. And held sustained notes while dancing. It was one of the best workouts EVER! And since it's summer in Fresno, I'm sure we all sweated off AT LEAST ten pounds from our non-stop ABBA dance-a-thon, and then going out and living life in sweaty triple-digits. Hahahahaha.
And then in the blink of an eye, it was all over. One weekend only. I am humbled, grateful, and totally blessed to have had this experience. I've wanted to do MAMMA MIA! for ages now (because who doesn't love ABBA?), and I'm so glad this was the summer it finally happened. I'm in awe of my fellow cast members, the band, the creative team, our crew, our volunteers, and our audience who came to support us. I won't ever forget it.
"Money, Money, Money" Photo Courtesy of StageWorks Fresno
"Does Your Mother Know?" Photo courtesy of StageWorks Fresno
Next up - I'm playing Mme. Renaud in the Fresno Premiere of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, the second show in StageWorks Fresno's 2019 season! We open this Friday, July 26, and our opening weekend is SOLD OUT! There are two more weekends to get tickets for, but they are going fast, so purchase them as soon as possible! Click the link here: www.stageworksfresno.com
Well, if you've somehow made it to this nook of the internet...greetings, and welcome! I'm excited to share my new website with the world, and give you a little update about what I've been up to lately!
On June 2, I appeared in a staged reading of excerpts from two new musicals, showcasing work from the class Creating Musical Theatre: A Collaborative Lab, part of the educational program at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of Beverly Hills, California. I played Alana, a Hawaiian singer/songwriter, in 38 MINUTES, written by Rhiannon Lewis and Jack Zager; and Sadie, a snarky student, in ELDERHOOD, written by Rachel Carlson and Charlotte Daniels. All four composers are recent high school graduates with bright futures ahead of them, and I am so delighted to have been able to help bring their shows to life! It was also a joy to work with such a terrific and fun cast and creative team. Randy Brenner and Stormy Sacks co-taught the class and also served as director and music director, respectively.
As with any new work in development, a large part of our rehearsal process involved brainstorming, ideas being bounced off of one another, and a whole lot of playing and figuring out things together. The Wallis' partnership with composer Stephen Schwartz and the ASCAP Foundation made it possible for Mr. Schwartz to attend one of our rehearsals and give his feedback to the young writers. It was exciting and interesting to hear his response to the shows and share his own experiences and processes in songwriting. After the performance on June 2 - which was nearly sold out - there was a brief Q & A with the creative team. I'm very grateful to have been a part of this project! New works are always so fun. And if you haven't seen a show yet at The Wallis, I encourage you to go! They have terrific programming and wonderful opportunities for community engagement with the classes they offer. I think there's something there for just about anyone - a true gem of a place in beautiful Beverly Hills.
The week of June 10, I began rehearsals for StageWorks Fresno's productions of MAMMA MIA! and LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, in which I will be in the ensemble. It has been many years since I have worked with this terrific company in my hometown. We're in the thick of rehearsal now, dancing A LOT! It's going to be fun. All ticketing and information can be found on StageWorks Fresno's website. Please click here.