A few weeks ago, in between trips to Los Angeles, I had the honor of seeing an Off Broadway play, Vilna. No matter what my schedule was, I definitely knew I HAD to see the talented Sean Hudock in the role of Motke Zeidel and I wanted to see this show about the Holocaust because although I haven’t studied it since college, I have thought about it often.
It saddened me to read the statistic that 49% of Millennials cannot name a single one of the over 40,000 camps and ghettos from this time. The Holocaust is becoming a faint or non-existent event of small significance and this cannot be. In order to insure history does not repeat itself, we need to be aware of the events that took place, how certain groups rise in power, and how other groups are so easily targeted. (Sound familiar… I thought so).
The play is only running for a SEVEN more performances, so I encourage you to grab tickets and head out to see it before it closes. Besides my good friend Sean, who always gives phenomenal performances, the cast is chock full of talent. The ghost of Motke Zeidel is played by Mark Jacoby and the cast also includes Carey Van Driest, Patrick Toon, Seamus Mulcahy (Motke’s best friend), Tom Morin, Brian Cade, James Michael Reilly, Tom Morin, Nathan Kaufman, Sophia Blum, and Paul Cooper. Vilna was written by Ira Fuchs and directed by Joseph Discher.
I know many of us are familiar with the story of the Holocaust but trust me, it is so powerful to see this story in person. Motke’s story, in particular, is heart wrenching. Imagine having to choose who you would give up each week from you own community to sacrifice to the Nazi’s in order to keep them from your own loved ones? Imagine knowing you were sealing these people’s fate, people you knew all of your life, to people you knew you couldn’t trust to keep their word. Imagine knowing no matter what you did to please them, you were most likely only prolonging the inevitable. It’s unthinkable.
The most important parts of the play are the details in the story and relating those to our own current times. The power of the story lies in the talent of all on stage. Most of the time, I felt like I was there with them, I felt nervous for them, and I cried right along with them as well.
Emerge yourself in a little history by picking up tickets here.
SYNOPSIS: With a new school year comes a new beginning for the Tigers, the worst-ranked high school cheerleading team in the state. Riley, the new captain, rallies the girls for a fresh start at the annual team sleepover, however, the night takes a bloody turn.
A squad that can’t stick a landing now has to solve a murder if they want any hope of making it to regionals – or the morning. Featuring an infectious pop rock score and razor-sharp wit, this brand new musical proves the highs and lows of being a teen girl in high school are more extreme than they seem.
One of the best parts about NYC is all of the rich, wonderful shows that you can catch off-Broadway. I love a good Broadway show just as much as the next pop culture aficionado but I really enjoy the subjects that are explored in the smaller shows. This past weekend I was able to catch a touching, thought-provoking, and conversation starting show called ‘Fiercely Independent’.
Fiercely Independent is a new play by Tony winner Kathleen K. Johnson. It’s about a couple (Julie and Robert) who have been married for four years and are having some difficulties getting along. They decide to spend 24 hours together in a hotel room with no television, no cellphones, no internet or computers to see if they can work things out – in separate beds.
They have devised a set of rules to follow for the time they are spending at the hotel so that they can maximize their time with limited distractions, hoping to find some solutions and compromises to their issues. This may seem like very heavy subject matter, and it is, but among the serious discussions, there are moments of humor, of tenderness, and of hope.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story but I will say that it’s a very raw look at what our relationships have become in the modern age but also a reminder of how much relationships haven’t really changed. We all still want the same things: To be seen, to be heard, to be loved, and to know that we matter to another person.
Both Julie and Robert have equal chances to air their grievances and they also find that there are more distractions than cell phones, computers, tv, and internet. Even without all of those, they wander from their true goal a little but then they are always reminded of why they decided to come to this hotel room and return to the task at hand.
If you’re in the NYC area, I suggest adding this one to your list of shows to see. It’s currently playing at SOHO Playhouse, so you can make an evening of it by visiting one of the local bars and/or restaurants. I absolutely suggest going with a friend or significant other because there will be plenty to discuss.
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT – a new play by Tony winner Kathleen K. Johnson – will be given its world premiere Off-Broadway at the SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam St. in Manhattan), with preview performances beginning March 1 prior to an official press opening March 6. FIERCELY INDEPENDENT will play a five-week limited engagement through April 7, it has been announced by producer Michael Guccione.
Featured in the cast of FIERCELY INDEPENDENT are Caitlin Gallogly, Christopher M. Smith and Jordan Sobel.
In FIERCELY INDEPENDENT, Julie and Robert have been married for four years. They are not getting along. They decide to spend 24 hours together in a hotel room with no television, no cellphones, no internet or computers to see if they can work things out – in separate beds.
CAITLIN GALLOGLY (Julie) is thrilled to be a part of Fiercely Independent! Recent cred- its include Jovie in Elf at the Engeman Theater and Janie Preston in On a Clear Day at Irish Rep. She’s best known as Princess Kenny on Comedy Central’s “South Park” and as Kim on “Silicon Valley” (HBO). Also on TV: “I’m Dy- ing up Here,” “Future Man,” “Mindy Project,” “Masters of Sex.” Recent stage: Forum, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Recorded in Hollywood (Kirk Douglas Theatre, Ovation nomination), The Women (Scenie Award, Eddon Award), The Belle of Belfast (EST/L.A.; Ovation, L.A. Weekly Award nominations), The Queen’s Physician. Thanks to her incredible family and Professional Artists. Caitlingallogly.com @caitlingallogly
CHRISTOPHER M. SMITH (Robert). Off-Broadway debut. Select theatre credits in- clude the world premiere of Apple Season at NJ Rep, The Gun Show at PS21 in Chatham, Sex With Strangers at Portland Center Stage, Other Desert Cities at Speakeasy Stage, The Pavilion at the Lyric Theatre in L.A. (Stage- SceneLA Award, Best Actor) and Clever Lit- tle Lies at Florida Studio Theatre. Select TV credits include “Orange Is the New Black” and “The Blacklist.” BA Theatre, University of La Verne. www.christophersmithactor.com
Jordan Sobel is an actor, percussionist, fight designer, and teaching artist. He has had performed in New York City and regionally in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Sarasota, and Fort Worth with companies such as The American Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre, and The Asolo Rep.
KATHLEEN K. JOHNSON (playwright/director) has numerous Broadway credits, having produced A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER (2014 Tony Award), WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (2013 Tony Award), HAIR (2009 Tony Award), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, RACE, A LIFE IN THE THEATRE, THE LYONS, THE BEST MAN, SUPERIOR DONUTS and BLITHE SPIRIT, among others. Most recently, she developed and presented a workshop production of the new musical LOUISIANA RHYTHM.
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT has set and lighting design by Will Cotton; and costume design by Rodney Harper. Original music and lyrics are written by Andrew David Sotomayor. Recorded and produced by Erik Gloege. Song performed by George Bugatti.
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT is produced by Michael Guccione, who has produced THE LYONS starring Linda Lavin on Broadway, along with the NY premiere of SHEAR MADNESS and also on Broadway, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS And RUBEN & CLAY’S CHRISTMAS SHOW.
FIERCELY INDEPENDENT will perform Wednesdays through Fridays at 7 pm; Saturdays at 2 and 7 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets are $59 and can be purchased at https://www.fiercelysoho.com/ or call 212-691-1555.
There are so many things we are dealing with now and so many things we need to shed light on. These issues have, thankfully, been showing up in our art to bring awareness and hopefully let people who are going through them know they aren’t alone. I always say great entertainment does more than simply entertain and I love when there is a touch of social good mingled in with my art.
Daniel’s Husband is a touching, heartwarming, funny, impactful, and sad story that may be all to familiar to many. It deals with what happens when a couple (in this case a gay couple) isn’t married and they haven’t taken care of the proper legal steps they need to in case of a medical emergency. It also addresses family drama and the differences in individual beliefs when it comes to marriage. I suggest bringing some tissues because the play (and the acting) definitely hits you in the feels.
“Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. Perfect house, perfect friends – even a mother who wants them married. They’d have the perfect wedding, too, except that Mitchell doesn’t believe in gay marriage. A turn of events puts their perfect life in jeopardy, and Mitchell is thrust into a future where even his love may not prove to be enough. Daniel’s Husband is a bold reflection of love, commitment, and family in our perilous new world.”
Daniel’s Husband is playing Off-Broadway right now and I suggest you catch it, it will leave you with plenty to think about as well as plenty to discuss with whoever sees it with you.
Here’s a bit about the stars:
Matthew Montelongo (Mitchell, Daniel’s Husband) has appeared in numerous New York productions, including the Broadway revivals of A View from the Bridge and The Ritz. Off-Broadway, he has been seen in One Night (Cherry Lane); This Backstage Life (Atlantic Theatre); His Daddy (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Whore (Summer Play Festival); God’s Ear (Vineyard Theatre/New Georges); Five Flights (Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre); The Mineola Twins and Arms and the Man (Roundabout Theatre Company); and Tartuffe (Shakespeare in the Park/Public Theatre). Regionally, Matthew has performed in the national tour of Looped and in productions at Washington D.C.’s Studio Theatre, Hartford TheaterWorks, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Signature Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre (Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Ensemble), Alliance Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Theatre, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Delaware Theatre Company, Capital Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, The Old Globe, Two River Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Matthew’s television appearances include “Ray Donovan,” “Elementary,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Forever,” “Gossip Girl,” “Law & Order: SVU” (x2), and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He recently starred in the feature film Bear City 3 and the popular new web series “West 40s.”
Ryan Spahn (Daniel) began his Off-Broadway career in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Pulitzer Prize finalist Gloria at the Vineyard Theatre. He went on to appear in Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband and Ike Holter’s Exit Strategy, both for Primary Stages, as well as the revival of Summer and Smoke with Transport Group and Classic Stage Company. His recent regional credits include Hamlet at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Halley Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Gloria at Goodman Theatre, Exit Strategy at Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Nina Raine’s Tribes at Actors Theatre of Louisville. His feature film credits include Woven (co-writer), He’s Way More Famous Than You (co-writer), and Grantham & Rose (writer). He co-created the digital series “What’s Your Emergency,” was a writer and producer on Logo’s “Cocktails and Classics,” and appeared on TV in “Tanner on Tanner,” “Ugly Betty,” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” He will be seen next in episodes of “Half Life” and “The Blacklist” and the upcoming film Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker. Ryan received his BFA from The Juilliard School.
Anna HolbrookRaising (Daniel’s Mom) has appeared in Jo (Theatre Row), Skeletons (Broadway Bound Festival), Daniel’s Husband, The Dolphin Position (Primary Stages), Natural Life, Hot L Baltimore (Gloria Maddox Theater). Regional: Crimes of the Heart, Three Viewings, My Fair Lady. Film: I Love Trouble, Those Who Wander, Boxed. Television: “Blue Bloods,” “Bull,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Law & Order,” “L&O SVU,” “The West Wing,” “Spin City,” “One Life to Live,” “All My Children,” “Another World” – Daytime Emmy®. www.annaholbrook.com
Leland Wheeler: Off-Broadway: Daniel’s Husband (Dir. Joe Brancato, Primary Stages/Penguin Rep). Film & Television: 1/1 (with Lindsey Shaw & Judd Nelson), We Need to Talk about Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsay), “Blue Bloods” (CBS). Student of Deborah Hedwall. Since 2001, Leland & his family annually produce the award-winning Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling, WV.
Lou Liberatore: Broadway: Burn This (Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Award Nominations), As Is. London: Burn This. Off-Broadway: Pushkin (american vicarious/Sheen Center), Daniel’s Husband (Primary Stages, Penguin Rep), A Class Act (New World Stages), Orpheus Descending (Bartley/Glezos Prods), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Masterworks Theatre Co.), Rocket to the Moon (Peccadillo Theatre Co.), Turnabout (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Sight Unseen (Manhattan Theatre Club). Also: The Vineyard, Naked Angels, The Lark, Orpheum, Second Stage, Circle Repertory Company. Regional: Angels in America, Parts 1 & 2 (Actors Theatre of Louisville), The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… (Berkeley Rep), The Diary of Anne Frank and That Championship Season (Westport Playhouse), A Thousand Clowns (Two River Theatre). Also: The Alley, Theatre J, Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Pioneer Theatre, Steppenwolf, Mark Taper Forum. Film: Sleeping with the Fish (upcoming), Barrio Boy, Blood from a Stoner, Box, Mary and Louise, It’s My Party, Rosen’s Son, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (Disney World, Epcot Center). TV: “Deception,” “The Affair,” “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order.” Education: Fordham University (Lincoln Center), William Esper. Member Artist: Ensemble Studio Theatre, Actor’s Center, Circle Repertory Company (1985-1996).
I was very lucky and thrilled to be invited to see a touching, important off Broadway play called The Other Day. Theater is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, especially on the weekends. I can get lost in the city for an entire day and then end it by seeing a great play or musical. It is all so very entertaining and in some cases, as is with The Other Day, it can leave you thinking about so much.
The other day is a story about relationships, the good and the bad parts, the sweet and the sad parts. It’s about two couples: a gay couple who meet in rehab and a straight couple where the husband is so consumed by his job and success that he is driving his wife away (and straight to a flask).
Unfortunately, it was a very limited run this time around but I’m hoping it comes around again and you all get to see it. There are so many powerful moments, so many touching moments, and just so many life moments. What impressed me most is that a character’s sexuality is becoming less important as we all realize these stories, the things that happen to us in life, are so universal. In the case of this play, you could interchange the straight characters and their situations with the gay characters and their situations. Love is love and being human just means we all basically experience the same things when it comes to life, love, losses, and vices.
Look out for it and of course, I will keep you updated as to when and where you can see it as soon as I know! This one is worth catching, tears and all.
Yes, you read that correctly, The Book Of MERMAN. This is a delightful Off-Broadway musical comedy where two Mormon missionaries ring the doorbell of Ethel Merman and you can just imagine where the hilarity begins.
It’s a three person cast of performers who posses some of the biggest voices I’ve experienced on or off Broadway and their comedic timing is completely on point throughout.
How can you go wrong with a show about two Mormon Missionaries who happen upon Ethel Merman’s apartment? Ethel causes quite the stir an a few cathartic moments for the young men and the young men provide Ms Merman with a few self realizations of her own.
Here’s a little about the cast from the night I was lucky enough to see it:
Carly Sakolove is Ethel and absolutely does Ms Merman proud. Carly is a long time fan of Ethel Merman and pays tribute to her, other Broadway divas, as wells as pop divas in her one woman show, “I’m Every Woman”. Her viral YouTube video “Broadway Divas Send in the Clowns” featuring her diva impersonations, has been hailed by Timemagazine and The New York Times. Off-Broadway: The Marvelous Wonderettes (Betty Jean),NEWSical the Musical and Girls Night: The Musical (Carol). She was recently seen in the national tour and Royal Caribbean companies of Mamma Mia! as Rosie. Favorite credits: Mazeppa in Gypsy (Sharon Playhouse) and Helena in The Mystery of Edwin Drood(Speakeasy Stage) and Robert Anne in Nunsense (Feinstein’s 54 Below)
So, Carly supplies the Ethel part and two more talented actors provide the Mormon part. Kyle Ashe Wilkinson (Elder Braithwaite) and Chad Burris (Elder Shumway) do that wonderfully. In this cast, each voice is as grand as the others. At one point we are even treated to a Merman-off where Ethel challenges Elder Shumway to a voice-off.
Kyle recently made his NYC debut in the developmental presentation of Manifesto: The Diaghilev Project at the Robert Moss Theatre. Some favorite credits include Harold Bride in Titanic: The Musical (Rocky Mountain Rep), Chris inBecky’s New Car (Florida Rep), Justin in Good Boys and True (Theatre UCF), and Man 1 in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Theatre UCF). BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Central Florida. www.kyleashewilkinson.com
Chad has been part of: National Tour: The Book of Mormon (Elder Cunningham) Regional: Cleveland Playhouse, Cape Playhouse, Arkansas Repertory Theatre. He is the co-creator of the web series, City Boyz.
I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night at this musical and so did my guest. I left with a few of the songs stuck in my head and a smile on my face.
If you’re looking for some fun, to be entertained, and to have a reason to tap your feet, get yourself over to see The Book of Merman. I think you’ll find it’s a great way to spend the evening, part of a date, or to entertain out of town guests. Since it’s an off-broadway production, the price point is quite affordable and the theater setup makes every seat a great one!