DIVA TALK: Chats with NYMF's Farah Alvin, Kerry Butler, Ann Harada, Liz McCartney, Dee Roscioli

News   DIVA TALK: Chats with NYMF's Farah Alvin, Kerry Butler, Ann Harada, Liz McCartney, Dee Roscioli News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.

Farah Alvin
Farah Alvin

The 2010 New York Musical Theatre Festival, which runs Sept. 27-Oct. 17 at various theatres in Manhattan, will feature full productions of nearly 30 new musicals. This week, we chat with five of the gifted singing actresses who will give voice to these productions: Farah Alvin (The Tenth Floor, American Theatre of Actors/Chernuchin), Kerry Butler (Pandora's Box, The Theater at St. Clements), Ann Harada (My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, TBG Theater), Liz McCartney (Nighttime Traffic, Urban Stages) and Dee Roscioli (Therapy Rocks, Urban Stages). I posed the same five questions to each of these artists; their answers follow:

FARAH ALVIN
Question: How did you get involved in The Tenth Floor?
Farah Alvin: I became involved with The Tenth Floor when I received a call from casting director Michael Cassara asking about my interest. When I saw that the book was written by Sara Cooper (with whom I worked earlier this year on the new musical Loving Leo) and was directed by Igor Goldin (of whom I am a big fan), I said yes!

Question: How would you describe the character you're playing?
Alvin: I play a social worker named Georgia Jones. She's a very complicated person. She's so invested in her work that she's not only lost sight of the rest of her life, but she can no longer really tell what or whom she is working for anymore. I can't say too much without giving away major plot points, so you'll just have to come see it to figure out how she fits in to the story. It's a dramatic role, which I haven't done much of in New York, so I'm very excited to play her.

Question: Why do you think audiences should come see this particular NYMF production?
Alvin: NYMF audiences should come see The Tenth Floor because these young writers have an incredibly unique voice, and you should come and get a taste of it before you have to pay hundreds of dollars to hear their work. J. Sebastian Fabal's music and lyrics cross so many genres it's hard to believe they're all written by the same person. Hip Hop, Latin Pop, Jazz, Anthemic Musical Theater, Contemporary Classical - and yet all in service of the story telling. And, Sara Cooper's characters are complex and real and fit into a really imaginative, gritty narrative. These two are going to go somewhere, so don't miss this chance to see them on the ground floor (or the tenth floor as the case may be).

Question: Why do you think NYMF is important?
Alvin: So often when you read the New York Times or major papers that review large-scale, high-budget shows, you read a complaint about how no one is writing innovative, interesting, envelope-pushing theatre. It's simply not true, and NYMF is proof of that. By giving writers and composers a forum for their work that they might not have without huge amounts of money and connections, NYMF gives audiences an opportunity to see some of the absolutely brilliant work that's being written. And hopefully, if audiences get behind a piece, it can gain the momentum to have a larger production. In the meantime, it's a treat for theatregoers who are tired of the standard fare. Question: Do you have other projects in the works?
Alvin: At the moment, I'm focusing on The Tenth Floor. As part of NYMF, I'll be performing in "If It Only Ever Runs a Minute," a concert featuring songs and anecdotes from short-lived musicals, on Oct. 14. I'm singing a concert with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in late October and singing music from Loving Leo with Sara Cooper and composer Zach Redler at Lincoln Center. Additionally, there's a big push to bring in Sycamore Trees, the new Ricky Ian Gordon musical, which I did at the Signature in Virginia earlier this year. So keep your fingers crossed, Playbill readers!

Kerry Butler

KERRY BUTLER
Question: How did you get involved in Pandora's Box?
Kerry Butler: It's all thanks to Elmo! My husband wrote a Muppet movie that Gary Halverson directed. Then Gary asked me to be a part of a workshop of Pandora's Box. That went great, and here we are!

Question: How would you describe the character you're playing?
Butler: Pandora is content being a suburban housewife. Her family is the most important thing to her, so when she finds out her husband has been lying and cheating their whole marriage, her world is turned upside-down.

Question: Why do you think audiences should come see this particular NYMF production?
Butler: It's funny, great music, wonderful cast...and normally it costs a lot more to see me in lingerie!

Question: Why do you think NYMF is important?
Butler: NYMF gives new writers a chance to have their works produced. But it also offers an invaluable experience for successful writers. There are so many elements that go into making a good musical. And, the final part is the audience. We need that feedback to know what works and what doesn't. That's why so many shows start out of town. So when you go see a NYMF show — know that you are contributing to the process — and this is not the finished product!

Question: Do you have other projects in the works?
Butler: I have been working on many new shows, most recently The Nutty Professor and Catch Me If You Can.

Ann Harada

ANN HARADA
Question: How did you get involved in My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding?
Ann Harada: They approached me about it, and I was excited about working with (director) Stafford Arima and about the fact that it was based on a true story. It felt fresh and the songwriting had a highly personal and distinctive voice.

Question: How would you describe the character you're playing?
Harada: Jane is a free-spirited, politically active Wiccan lesbian. So, typecasting. But seriously, she is spiritual, open, loving and supportive – just what I would like to be.

Question: Why do you think audiences should come see MMJLWW?
Harada: It’s funny, moving and relevant. What the heck more do you want in a musical? Also, for those of you who love Canada, this is your show.

Question: Why do you think NYMF is important?
Harada: Not to be nutty about it, but I sort of think NYMF, NAMT and the Fringe are the most important events of the year for those of us who are obsessed with musical theatre because they encourage new work and provide a valuable showcase. I’m not saying I think the set up is perfect, but it is tremendously difficult for new writers to get their shows produced in any way, so to have an organization devoted to development and production is very important. They always have amazing people involved. Last year was my first year doing NYMF, and I couldn’t have asked for better colleagues or more fun.

Question: Do you have other projects in the works?
Harada: Well, I have a lot of benefits coming up, but the one closest to my heart is Christmas Eve with Christmas Eve that benefits Broadway Cares. My favorite therapist gets to live out her dream of singing with dreamy Broadway leading men. It’s a giddy mashup of Broadway, holiday tunes, comedy and dance. And, of course, I get to put on the wacky top again.

Liz McCartney

LIZ McCARTNEY
Question: How did you get involved in Nighttime Traffic?
Liz McCartney: I got involved with this particular show, I think, from the director, although the writer told me "I was the only one they thought of." Thank you, that's very nice, it's always good to pump up an actor's ego – but Michael was directing another NYMF show a few years ago that he asked me to do and I couldn't because of my schedule at the time, so I think he thought of me when this one came along.

Question: How would you describe the character you're playing?
McCartney: The character I play is a nurse...period. She does her job to the best of her ability. We've all dealt with loss in our lives, and she deals with hers and the loss she sees around her in a most unusual and timely way.

Question: Why do you think audiences should come see this particular NYMF production?
McCartney: Well, again, we all deal with loss, and everyone has his or her own way of coping with it or avoiding it, but this show dares to ask, "What would we do if we [were] given the gift of time to understand it?"

Question: Why do you think NYMF is important?
McCartney: I just started writing myself, and getting people to pay attention when you're not Sondheim is difficult, to say the least. So, I think any outlet to allow producers who actually have a creative vision, to see works in their infancy is important.

Questionp: Do you have other projects in the works?
McCartney: In November I will be doing the second workshop of Ballroom, with Tyne Daly. I am so excited!

Dee Roscioli

DEE ROSCIOLI
Question: How did you get involved in Therapy Rocks?
Dee Roscioli: I've always wanted to be a part of NYMF. When I saw the description for Therapy Rocks, I knew it was going to be a piece with a lot of heart...and cake, and I am not a girl who turns down dessert. Also when I auditioned for the show, I felt a connection with the creatives in the room, and that always makes for a positive experience.

Question: How would you describe the character you're playing?
Roscioli: My character is Jess, Leah's best friend/unpaid therapist. She is a fashion editor for a top magazine, juggling career and trying to have a family...and of course her bestie's crazy manic life. She is just at the point where she is forced to set aside Leah's problems to tend to her own. In my personal life I find myself lending an ear or advice to my best friends, which makes this character so relatable.

Question: Why do you think audiences should come see this particular NYMF production?
Roscioli: Karen Bishko has written some stunning music. I also think there is a character or an issue for everyone to relate to. I would also say it's a show off the beaten path and deserves its time in the sun!

Question: Why do you think NYMF is important?
Roscioli: NYMF plays a great role in helping new works, composers and new producers. It also provides a haven for smaller, more intimate shows that without NYMF might not have a chance to be seen by an audience of both industry professionals and theatregoers. Plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun!

Question: Do you have other projects in the works?
Roscioli: I recently did a sold-out show at Birdland that I really loved working on. I'm itching to do another one and also to try and bring it to Chicago. My manager has been trying to push me to do an album, so maybe he'll be able to convince me soon...

For tickets and more information, visit NYMF.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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