Summer is often a slow time in the theater for D.C. audiences but this summer will be different. Opportunities abound for good plays and good music. One opportunity that I urge you to take advantage of is the chance to see and hear Nicholas Rodriguez on July 17th. At that time metro Washington will get to see a new side of Rodriguez when he brings his show The First Tim e… to the Signature Theater in Arlington for one night only. He will be joined by guest artist and Signature Theater star Nova Y. Payton who has thrilled audiences there as Effie White in Dreamgirls and as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray. Nicholas explores life, love and loss through an intimate evening featuring new interpretations of songs from the world of pop, jazz, folk and musical theater. If you have never heard Nicholas sing you are in for a real treat and an evening to remember.
I recently had the chance to meet and hear Nicholas when he performed as the special guest at a fundraiser for Congressman Mike Michaud(D-Maine) who is running for Governor in Maine. That is the kind of thing Nicholas is known to do. When he is not on stage in a show Nicholas is the Artistic Director of the Broadway Dreams Foundation faculty (www.mybroadwaydreams.com), volunteers for The Harvey Milk School in New York City, and SMYAL in Washington, DC. I first ran into Nicholas when he was presented with the 2011 Outstanding Community Ally Award by SMYAL. Nicholas is an all-around nice guy and the fact that he has been recognized as having one of the best voices in theater today and is drop-dead gorgeous are really only extra benefits.
Some of you may know Nicholas from his role as Nick Chavez on ABC’s “One Life to Live” for which he received the GLAAD Media Award, the 2009 Visibility Award, and, along with his co-stars “Men of the Year.” Or you may have seen him in his Carnegie Hall debut in a one night only concert version of Guys and Dolls starring Nathan Lane, Megan Mullaly and Len Cariou.
Washington audiences have gotten to appreciate Nicholas when he starred opposite Kathleen Turner in Mother Courage and Her Children at Arena Stage where he recently played Freddy in My Fair Lady and was also seen as Curly in Oklahoma! for which he received a 2011 Helen Hayes Award for “Best Actor in a Musical”. Audiences around the world have seen Nicholas in tours of Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus), Evita (Che), and Hair (Claude).
For an enjoyable night in the theater I urge you get tickets, only $25, and not miss Nicholas Rodriguez at the Signature Theater on July 17th as part of their Sizzlin’ Summer Nights series.
The New York smash hit Buyer and Cellar is now at the Harman Theater n D.C. through June 29th. On Saturday Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre and Tom Mounteer, super lawyer and member of the Founders Council of the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, hosted a fun opening night soiree for the star of the show Michael Urie and his partner; writer, actor, producer, Ryan Spahn at Mounteer’s beautiful D.C. home. When introducing them to the crowd Kahn spoke of Urie’s amazing talent and drive and said that we will also be hearing a lot more from his partner Spahn who Kahn vouched for as a great actor.
There was a glittering crowd in attendance and among them were versatile actor Tom Story, former Theater Washington Board Chair Victor Shargai, director AlanPaul, writer/producer EricTipler, Dean of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences Jeff Ackman and his partner grants manager at the DC Arts Commission, Stephen Mazzola. Also there was well respected theater and film critic Tom Mondello, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s managing director Chris Jennings, and from the Mayor’s office senior communications officer Rob Marus.
The one-man play starring Urie is about an unemployed actor who ends up working in the cellar ‘mall’ of superstar Barbara Streisand. The concept came from a book which Streisand wrote in 2010 where she mentioned in passing that she has what she called a personal ‘mall’ in her Malibu mansion where she has her antique collection and all the other collections she has acquired over the years. Jonathan Tolinswho wrote the play took that snippet and has written what everyone who has seen it says is one of the ‘funniest plays in years’. In the play unemployed actor Alex More finds work with Streisand as shop-keeper of this fictional mall with Streisand as his only customer. Urie who plays both Alex and Streisandhas been playing them and a handful of other characters in Buyer and Cellar for over a year at the small Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York.In a recent Metro Weekly cover story Urie said how much the audience matters to his work in this show because as he said, “You’re not getting a full Barbra.” Urie doesn’t do Streisand in costume but all who have seen him say he still manages to make you believe he is her.
Urie and Spahn credit Kahn with the idea to bring Buyer and Cellar to D.C. Urie was a student of Kahn’s at Julliard over ten years ago and when Kahn saw the production at the Rattlesnake he suggested that it would go over well in D.C. From that suggestion Urie and Spahn now have a national tour planned which will take the show from D.C, to Chicago, San Francisco and then Los Angeles. I asked Urie if hopes Streisand will come to see the show in LA and he had mixed feelings about that. While of course it would be great he doesn’t want her to feel offended in anyway. Her publicist Ken Sunshine did see the show in NY and Urie said he loved it so maybe he will bring Streisand and surprise Urie one night.
For an evening of fun and laughter in the theater I suggest you call and reserve your tickets TODAY for Buyer and Cellar. Remember it’s only there till June 29th.
This year talented playwright Peter Byrne managed to come up with a funnier script for Will on the Hill than last year and that must have been hard to do. The only help he gets is that members of Congress seem to do and say funnier things each year (mostly unintentionally) and that of course helps. As in the past the play was directed by the very talented Alan Paul who recently won a Helen Hayes Award as best director of a musical for his direction of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Will on the Hill is the annual fundraiser for the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Education Department which reaches over 25,000 children in schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District. This year’s event, Co-chaired by The Hon. Tom Davis, Bernie McKay and Gene Procknow, raised over $460,000.
It is the one time of the year that members of Congress let down their hair and let go of their egos and a little pride and participate in this great special production. They were joined this year by a stellar crew of professional actors including Hannah Yelland, who recently starred in Brief Encounter; Harry Hamlin, star of stage, screen and television; Nicholas Bruder, a Drama Desk award winner for Sleep No More; and John Keabler who theater goers saw recently as Hotspur in Henry lV Part 1 at the Shakespeare Theatre.
Members of congress who generously joined in the fun included among others representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Dina Titus (D-NV), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Tim Rice (R-SC), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The Shakespeare Theatre Company is a Tony Award winning company led by the inimitable Michael Kahn. Michael is in the Broadway Theater Hall of Fame and last year was presented an honorary CBE by Queen Elizabeth. He joined the cast last night at what he thought was the last moment portraying the candidate. However his staff had planned it well in advance and handed out Michael for President buttons at the buffet dinner after the show.
Will on the Hill is just one of many great things happening at the Shakespeare Theatre Company and I urge people to take a look and plan an evening or a number of evenings in the theater.