For those of you who've been reading the Rant for a while, you probably recognize the name Nick Blaemire. I first discussed this young talent when he was doing double duty on Broadway as a chorus member of Cry Baby and as the composer of Glory Days a few years ago. Since his time with those shows, he's been busy writing new material, some of which was presented at Lincoln Center last week. Here are a few photos from the event!
This morning I had the pleasure of working with Broadway's Matt Doyle on some promo shots for his website and upcoming concert. Doyle starred in Spring Awakening and recently in Bye, Bye, Birdie (as well as a recurring role on TVs Gossip Girl), but we first met while he was working on Ryan Scott Oliver's Rated RSO at Joe's Pub. He'll be returning to that venue soon for his own solo show--sure to be filled with special guests and performances of songs by a slew of talented composers--so pick up your tickets today!
Hey, Ranters! Looking for a way to get out of this snowy mess known as New York City? Look no further than My AIDS, Dan Horrigan's touching one-man show about his experience accepting himself while being HIV positive. Doesn't exactly sound like a light and easy evening at the theater, but Horrigan balances the sentimental with wonderful moments of humor. I had the chance to photograph the show a few weeks ago, and am now able to offer a special discount exclusively to readers of the Rant!
If you use the code "MURPHY" when purchasing your ticket on SmartTix, tickets are only $20!
There are only three shows left at Urban Stages on 30th Street and 8th Avenue:
Saturday, February 27th at 10:30pm Sunday, February 28th at 7pm Monday, March 1st at 7pm
A few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to photograph Christine Ebersole's show at Cafe Carlyle. It was a truly memorable evening, in which the multiple Tony Award-Winner performed a wide variety of work, ranging from a phenomenal take on "Stormy Weather" to more comedic songs, all which showcased her unrivaled range.
It kills me that I wasn't in NY on Wednesday night to see the premieres of nine new songs from 35mm, a piece I'm working on with composer Ryan Scott Oliver. I was fortunate enough to hear many of the songs in rehearsal, as they're based on--or have inspired--photographs of mine, but nothing quite compares to hearing Ryan's work in a theater with a full band. Lucky for all of us, the performance was recorded and now I'm able to share a couple of songs with readers of the Rant!
First we have one of my favorites from the evening: "The Ballad of Sara Berry," performed by Lindsay Mendez with Jay A. Johnson, Natalie Weiss, and Alex Brightman. This is based on a photo I took over my Halloween vacation to L.A., but it looks as though I'll be reshooting a new image for the song in the near future. All I can tell you right now is it's sure to be demented...just like the story of the song.
Next we have "Mama Let Me In," which Ryan wrote quickly one afternoon while at church. It's a departure from his usual style, and its a capella arrangement offers a stark contrast to the beat heavy "Berry." This song is based on a picture of the Mother Mary behind bars that I took in Soho one day several years ago and it remains one of my favorite photos I've taken.
We've got some big plans for this project and I can't wait to get back to the city and delve into them. Before a full mounting of the show, many of the songs will be presented at Joe's Pub on January 25th! Be sure to buy your tickets now!
As most of you know, I spent last week in L.A. photographing Ryan Scott Oliver's Rated RSO, a collection of the composer's work from various musicals. This was the fourth incarnation of the show, which first played at Boston Court last spring before Joe's Pub here in NYC, and a one-night only event at the New York Musical Theater Festival. I've been involved with the show since Joe's Pub, and I feel honored to have seen its evolution over the past few months.
Because of the difficulty of scheduling actors/the different locations of each performance, Ryan is able to utilize a rotating group of some of the best musical theater performers working today. This time around that meant, among many others, Megan Hilty (Wicked, 9 to 5) as the title character of Mrs. Sharp, a musical comedy based on the teacher-student sex scandal and murder trial surrounding Pamela Smart. Not your typical subject matter...
Here are some photos from that section of the show. More coming soon!
I can't think of a better performance to serve as my final pre-surgery photography job than Ryan Scott Oliver's Rated RSO at the New York Musical Theater Festival. Over the past few months I've been lucky enough to infiltrate this wonderful group of artists, who I first shot at Joe's Pub last May during RSO's previous incarnation. Since then, I've worked with several of them on side projects, but everyone always comes back together to present this concert, which highlights selections from two of Oliver's full-length musicals, Mrs. Sharp and Darling, as well as a handful of stand-alone songs.
Being primarily a dance photographer, I haven't had a lot of experience shooting musicians and singers, and I often find myself engaged with singers in a less visceral way than with dancers. But I connect with these performers in the same way I connect while shooting dance; they use their full bodies to express the music. It's not hard when they have Oliver's songs to sing, which sound simultaneously familiar and completely reinvented, as he takes the musical theater sound and twists it through his own prism. I recommend catching his work whenever possible, and be sure to check the Rant for updates on future productions!
(Jennifer DeRosa and Alex Brightman)
(Mat Burrow and Geoffrey Kidwell)
(Victoria Huston-Elem and cast)
After the jump you can watch two of my favorite songs from the evening...
When the first act curtain came down on the Broadway revival of The Seagull, several of my fellow theatergoers made a strange remark. “I forgot that nothing really happens in Chekov,” they noted of the Russian playwright’s lack of dramatic action. This immediately struck me as incorrect. Sure, as a list of events this story about a family spending time at an uncle’s estate may seem inert: they sit in one room and have a conversation; they sit in another and pour a drink. But because of the words those characters are speaking, a psychological fire that starts in a clearing in the woods quickly burns down the house. Like life, this show demonstrates that it’s not always wild events that define us, but the intricacies of our interactions.
This stark revival brought over by London’s Royal Court Theatre is bursting with immediacy, thanks in no small part to the brilliance of Chekov’s words, which seem startlingly modern today. The design elements share this modernity, and make sure to never pull the focus far from the characters and their interactions, in all their convoluted madness. Bare walls provide ample support for the scenes, and at moments produce stunning imagery. Even something as simple as a scene change is given dramatic weight beneath Peter Mumford’s lighting, the most evocative I have seen on stage in recent memory, which gives the lakeside estate a sense of foreboding theatricality.
As the events begin unfolding, first in the woods created by set designer Hildegard Bechtler that consist of little more than tree stumps, benches, and one set of branches looming from stage right, characters emerge from the wings, immediately relaying tensions between master and servant, celebrity and commoner.
It is the famous, but fading actress Arkadina (played by Kristin Scott Thomas with a blend of campy aloofness and frigid self-centeredness that only occasionally becomes unbalanced) whom much of the story centers on, even when the action is seemingly about something else. Each word is ripe with subtext. Using conversations with Arkadina's son Konstantin and his love, Nina (who has a fascination with Arkadina that is as unhealthy as Konstantin’s resentment of his mother), Chekov initiates the ideas of manipulation, control, and isolation that seem to be the root of the problems his characters deal with.
It is Arkadina that the dialogue keeps coming back to throughout the three-hour running time. Her son resents living in her shadow; her lover (a successful writer, Trigorin, played by the distractingly lispy film actor Peter Sarsgaard) is one of many who must stroke her ego or risk instigating one of her melodramatic mood swings; and her brother’s servants are forced to bow their heads and hoist luggage with nary a tip from her deep pockets.
All of the actors infuse their characters with psychological turmoil that is only sometimes spoken of, but always visible through the skilled performances. None better than Carey Mulligan, always on the verge of tears, with her brilliant portrayal of the malleable Nina—a young actress so enamored with Trigorin’s stature and way with words that she obsesses over him, follows him to the city, and ultimately arrives back at the estate in shambles. Though Arkadina--whose denial is as stifling as her corset--is the catalyst for much of the devastation that occurs in the second half, it is Nina who embodies the metaphor at the title of Chekov’s masterpiece. Though the use of birds and the freedom that flight represents is hardly revolutionary, Nina’s “Seagull” speech in the second act reveals the beauty of the writer’s metaphor for control, and the downside of being able to take flight: one is always susceptible to falling.
Despite several references to Russia, the abundance of bushy bearded men, and the stunning period costumes (the dresses for Scott Thomas are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen), this production could just as easily take place today. The themes of Chekov’s words are timeless. But it is the specificity of his characters that, in my eyes, makes this play such an enduring work.
The entire evening builds perfectly under the skilled direction of Ian Rickson, culminating in a final blackout that is the most haunting use of lighting I’ve ever seen. For the brief moment sitting in the theater between the blackout and the curtain call, I was breathless and overwhelmed by how much had happened throughout the show. The Seagull is not to be missed.