Saturday, October 22, 2016

Celebrating Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz: From Hollywood to Goodspeed

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn't you tell her before?
Glinda: She wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Scarecrow: What have you learned, Dorothy?
Dorothy: Well, I—I think that it, that it wasn't enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it's that — if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!
Is that right?
Glinda: That's all it is!
Scarecrow: But that's so easy! I should've thought of it for you -
Tin Man: I should have felt it in my heart -

Glinda: No, she had to find it out for herself. Now those magic slippers will take you home in two seconds!
Dorothy: Oh! Toto too? Glinda: Toto too.
Dorothy: Now?
Glinda: Whenever you wish.
Glinda: Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home'.

Happy Saturday, October 22nd, 2016!
On a level of 1 to 10, where is your passion for life and your work today? For me, it would be an eleven! I love what I do. I love meeting with, being with, and celebrating artists and art!
As I grow roots deeper and deeper into the areas I'm most passionate about, my energy grows.  I'm not like this 100% of the time. I need down time

and alone time. So many people in the last couple days have privately told me how much ENERGY I have. There are days I don't have energy.  My career path got derailed about five years ago. I have had to completely rethink and redirect the course of my life. I feel that I am finally following the call for my  life and am living in what is my "sweet spot" - the center of my being - I believe my passion is finally begin to really  shine through.
I'm an extrovert and so you'll see a lot of activity from me.
Now, where we are...
October 22 is the 296th day of the year. There are 70 days remaining until the end of the year. 
There are 9 days to Halloween (and my show! See below). There are 16 days till the election. 180 days till Bette Midler's opening night in Hello, Dolly!  
Speaking of Bette, on Monday night, I went to see her interview Carole Bayer Sager at the 92nd Street Y. It was in celebration of Carole's new memoir, They're Playing Our Song.

During the interview, Bette asked Carole if there was a song that she wishes that she had written. 
Carole said there were two, Imagine by John Lennon and Over the Rainbow
I was listening to Sonya Hensley singing this iconic song earlier today. It reminded me that a film and a song that was written 77 years ago is just as relevant today. Both have been a major part of my life and not a day goes by that one or the other pops up in my life. Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to see Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz at the Goodspeed Opera House. I have done several interviews with some of the creative personal
Today's blog is a celebration of The Wizard of Oz, Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland, the Ruby Slippers and how they have always been least in my life. Add Chasing Rainbows to that mix. This is one show that I am going to follow closely.  
The Wizard of Oz, which had been a critical but only a modest financial success during its theatrical run, was chosen to be the first Hollywood film to be shown uncut in one evening on an entire television network rather than just a network affiliate.
Its first telecast took place November 3, 1956 on Ford Star Jubilee. It was the last program in the CBS anthology series, which had already been canceled. The network paid MGM $225,000 for the rights to televise the film and to re-broadcast it if the telecast was a success. (Source: The Wizard of Oz on Television).

About five minutes into the film, Dorothy sings the song after failing to get her aunt and uncle to listen to her relate an unpleasant incident involving her dog, Toto, and the town spinster, Miss Gulch. Dorothy's Aunt Em tells her to "find yourself a place where you won't get into any trouble". This prompts Dorothy to walk off by herself, musing to Toto, "'Some place where there isn't any trouble.'
"Someplace where there isn't any trouble…Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?" -Dorothy
Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?

Add caption
There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat, or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain...", at which point she begins singing.

TOTO (November 17, 1933 – September 1, 1945) was a female Cairn Terrier performer who appeared in 16 different movies, most famously  in The Wizard of Oz
Her real name was Terry. It was her only credited role, though she was credited not as Terry but as Toto. Terry was owned and trained by Carl Spitz.I got the inspiration for today's blog when I went to post my interview earlier this week on John Fricke's Facebook page. Major OZ News announced this week! 

I will write more about that at the end of this blog.

The blog I am referring to was based on my interview with Michael Wartella who is currently appearing as Mickey Rooney in the amazing Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz at the Goodspeed Opera House  starring Ruby Rakos as Judy Garland through November 27th. If you are a fan of Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz, you have to see this production.
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz?
New Oz items for all
What does Marc Acito’s unexplained (yet temporary) paralysis at age four and his mother’s subsequent car crash have to do with the new musical?  Well, everything.Read MORE

Anyone who knew me growing up knows of my love for The Wizard of Oz
I have written about it from time to time over the years. I am a product of the 60s and 70s AND television viewing which was a major part of my formative years growing up. This was a time where we had to wait a full year for the next annual showing. There were no VHS tapes or DVDs. We patiently waited. 

TV Guide: October 2, 1965 - Don Adams and Barbara Feldon of "Get Smart!"
I remember in our TV Guides at the time, there was a yellow page in the back.
It was a column by Army Archerd.
Jane Withers, Shirley Temple, Terry in Bright Eyes

It was usually there that I would find out when the next TV showing would take place and I would IMPATIENTLY waited. I would count down the days and the night would be built around that. We had to eat supper before it began.
We had to be home. 
People pledging lots of green to restore Dorothy's ruby red slippers 
There were a couple of years where I saw
Used by permission: Alex Ross Art
it at my paternal
On October 22nd, 1939 (off the heels of The Wizard of Oz), you could see Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland in movie theatres in Babes in Arms
grandparents (they had a color TV before us!) and once at my Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Christine's. They had a color TV and when it started in black and white, my Aunt Christine was trying to adjust the color no matter how many times I told her it was supposed to be in black and white!

By the time Dorothy arrived in Oz, the colors were far from what the original screen makers had intended.
When I was seventeen, it was scheduled to be shown but because of a state Basketball game, it was preempted! I called Channel 13 (our CBS affiliate) and complained! All was saved when a high school buddy, Doug Bell, told me that they were able to pick up an affiliate at their home to show it!  So all was saved. Shortly after I moved to New York, it would be shown in the revival houses. I would go with friends to enjoy it.
Today, I celebrate how this film has become an integral part of lives and continues to do so.
It was first shown in theatres in 1939, then re-released nationwide in 1949 and 1955. It was first telecast on television on Saturday, November 3, 1956
The film was shown as the last installment of the CBS anthology series Ford Star Jubilee. 
Since that telecast, it has been shown respectively by CBS, NBC, the WB Network, and several of Ted Turner's national cable channels, but never simply by a local affiliate. From 1959 to 1991 it was an annual tradition on American commercial network television. 
During these years, and for several afterwards, it was always shown as a television special.
My earliest recollection of watching had Danny Kaye hosting the telecast with an opening and lead ins to the film from commercial breaks. 
Mr. Kaye's hosting segments were pre-taped against a recreation of the Yellow Brick Road and The Emerald City at CBS Television City in Los Angeles on January 13, 1964 for a Sunday January 26, 1964 screening. Danny Kaye's hosting segments were repeated until 1967. (Source: TVParty)
Over the Rainbow became Judy Garland's signature song. It has since been recorded by many
Danny Kaye would reassure viewers not to panic when the film began in black-and-white rather than in color, and he would encourage young viewers not to be afraid of the roaring MGM lion at the beginning of the film. No directors or writers were credited for the hosting sequences, just as none are credited for hosting segments prior to films on Turner Classic Movies.

Danny Kaye's wraparound segment was shown between 1964 and 1968 until the film went to NBC.
His remarks would lead directly into the actual film, beginning with all of its original 1939 opening credits (which are shown against a background of moving clouds), including the MGM Leo the Lion logo, the name of the film, the cast list, and the film's principal technical staff, exactly as MGM had created them, with the film's main title music heard.
At the end of the movie, the film's closing credits, as created by MGM, would not be shown, and the
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland photo bombed by Fred Astaire
"The End" title card that directly follows Dorothy's closing line was never seen on television during these early CBS showings.
Interesting side note. The year I was born, 1961, when CBS said that color telecasts had to be paid for by their sponsors. Those sponsoring The Wizard of Oz declined to do so, and the film was shown in black-and-white that year.
Partly because commercial time during programs increased beginning in the late 1960s, the idea of regularly having hosts to introduce the film was dropped when The
Wizard of Oz went to NBC in 1968, where no "wraparound" sequence was shown. The presentation consisted only of the film itself, with its original opening and closing credits, and no special NBC-created credits or hosting segments. The famous NBC peacock would be shown immediately prior to the beginning of the film, with announcer Mel Brandt saying that "the first 22 minutes of this program [i.e. the Kansas and tornado sequences] will be shown in black-and-white", a not quite accurate statement, since the final three minutes of the film also took place did The 1970 showingopened with veteran actor Gregory Peck in memory of Judy Garland who had passed on the preceding summer. Oz producer Mervyn LeRoy, directed Peck's segment marking his first TV work), although this segment consisted of only a few brief remarks, while the opening hosting segments on CBS had gone on for about three minutes or so. The NBC Oz telecasts began the tradition of the film's annual showings during the Easter and Passover seasons of the year as opposed to the winter showings on CBS.

paying tribute to the recently deceased Judy Garland (a segment directed by  in Kansas, and were at that time also shown in black-and-white, rather than in the sepia tone in which they originally had been made (the sepia was not restored to the Kansas and tornado scenes until 1989 - the film's 50th anniversary).

Judy Garland with Roger Edens
However, one NBC telecast
It would remain at NBC until 1976. After its 1976 return to CBS, the film was hosted on that network only once more, in a filmed segment featuring Angela Lansbury in 1990, but the CBS "wraparound" opening and closing credits were not - and have never been - revived, although, during those years, a blue card featuring a painting of a rainbow and the title The Wizard of Oz was shown on the screen while the night's pre-empted programs or programs to be shown at regular time and the sponsors were being announced, and immediately before and after commercial breaks.
In the 1980s clips from the film shown on a red background with title was shown at the start, while a still of Emerald City with title was used during commercials. Angela Lansbury also narrated a documentary about the making of the film, originally entitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic and years later retitled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic. Emmy Award for his work.
It was first shown immediately after the movie's 1990 telecast, and is included as a supplement on all the DVD releases beginning with the 1999 DVD release. Jack Haley, Jr., the documentary's director, was nominated for an
On June 3, 2007, Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants, hosted a telecast of the film on Turner Classic Movies, as part of Essentials, Jr., a special summer series of family movies.
And now,  The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., which for almost 40 years has housed one of the iconic pairs of ruby red slippers Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The
Very much a part of our public consciousness
Wizard of Oz
, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the restoration of the shoes — to the tune of $300,000.
The project seems to be working: As of this writing, the Kickstarter has raised $205,000 so far, with 27 days to go.

On this date in 1942, Annette Funicello was born.  A proposed live-action feature Rainbow Road to Oz was to have starred some of the Mouseketeers, including Darlene Gillespie as Dorothy and Funicello as Ozma. Preview segments from the film aired on September 11, 1957, on Disneyland's fourth anniversary show. By then,  The Wizard of Oz had already been shown on CBS Television for the first time.
"That was her sister--the Wicked Witch of the East. This is the Wicked Witch of the West. And she's worse than the other one was." -Glinda
Theories on why Rainbow Road to Oz was abandoned include Disney's failure to develop a satisfactory script, and
Judy Garland immortalized her hand and foot prints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre October 10, 1939
the popularity of the MGM film on television. Disney ultimately replaced this film project with a new adaptation of Babes in Toyland (1961), which starred Funicello as "Mary Contrary".

Mary Wickes also passed on this date. What was her Wizard of Oz connection?  Prodded on by the encouragement of stage legend Ina Claire whom she met doing summer theater, Mary transported herself to New York where she quickly earned a walk-on part in the Broadway play "The Farmer Takes a Wife" starring Henry Fonda in 1934. In the show she also understudied The Wizard of Oz (1939)'s "Wicked Witch" Margaret Hamilton, and earned excellent reviews when she went on in the part. Plain and hawkish in looks while noticeably tall and gawky in build, Mary was certainly smart enough to see that comedy would become her career path and she enjoyed showing off in roles playing much older than she was. New York stage work continued to pour in, and she garnered roles in "Spring Dance" (1936), "Stage Door" (1936), "Hitch Your Wagon" (1937), "Father Malachy's Miracle (1937) and, in an unusual bit of casting, Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre production of "Danton's Death." All the while she kept fine-tuning her acting craft in summer stock.

Here is a memory from my friend Maya Amis: That moment when Dorothy opens the door and looks out into brightly colored Oz distills wonder, as does Judy's rendition of the classic line, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas any more." It wasn't until I was an adult that I knew that the film changed from sepia to color at that point. It still blows me away. This directorial choice reflects perfectly the opening paragraphs of the book, in which
On this date October 22, 1949 ... an article in the British publication PICTUREGOER promoting the release of IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME. 
the word "grey" appears around ten times. Here is a song I really like on this subject! Dumb Dumb Dorothy - Three Weird Sisters

Today this scene would be easy to do digitally; colors are changed all over the frame in modern films. But there's no magic there. And in 1939 a bit of stage magic was needed.
The magic continues at Goodspeed!
Here's to the future artists to be created! I'm looking forward to the future chapter of Chasing Rainbow: The Road to Oz on Broadway!

Chasing Rainbows


An awkward girl with a golden voice blossoms into Judy Garland in the inspirational new musical about the bumpy road to "Oz." The future superstar's complicated childhood comes alive with heartbreak, hope and the music that made her famous. "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "You Made Me Love You" and "Over the Rainbow" sweeten the story of Judy striving to hold onto her family. A love letter to gifted underdogs who reach high—and how the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Order Tix HERE.

Again, Pay attention to what is going on around you. I urge you to READ, RE-READ, and TAKE NOTES! Some history should not be repeated.

As you can see, we have a LOT to be proud of. We also have a lot to be concerned about. 
Let's all agree to celebrate that pride in each other! 
Please send your suggestions for future blogs to

Thank you, to all mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs from YOUR pro-active friend,

Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Call on Dolly: From Carol to Bette!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

9 Days till Halloween! I Hope you can celebrate with us! with US! Richard Skipper
"I'd turn back if I were you…" -Lion
Celebrates: A Talk/Variety Show encouraging us to celebrate each and every day and the hidden gems therein. PLEASE CELEBRATE WITH us Halloween, October 31st. AND SAVE THE DATE...Richard Skipper Celebrates...Halloween throughout history! Did you know Dale Evans , Ethel Waters, Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo) , Dan Rather, AND Michael Landon (I was a Teenage Werewolf) were all born on October 31st? The cast includes Leanne Borghesi, Kelley Karel as Hillary Clinton, Laurie Krauz, Marta Sanders, Deborah
Stone AND a Mystery Guest. With musical direction by Bryon Sommers and Jeff Carney on bass. The Triad at 8PM Come dressed as your favorite celebrity and win a fabulous prize! Contact for more info. You never know who you might see there and what might happen. Show at 8PM/Doors open at 7:30.
9 Days till Halloween! Who will be our Mystery Guest! Join us at The Triad at 8PM and find out!
Tickets are $30.00 plus a two drink minimum. 
Reservations a MUST! Call 888 596-1027 to purchase tickets or YOU can also do it on THEIR website. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Actors Fund. CHECK OUT OUR PROMO:

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Meet Michael Wartella: Mickey Rooney in Chasing Rainbows at Goodspeed Opera House

Sometimes the transition from being in control of your life to having absolutely no control is swift, but other times it is so gradual that you wonder exactly when it truly began. Mickey Rooney

Hello, Dexter Morgan
MICHAEL WARTELLA (Mickey Rooney). Broadway/National Tours: Wicked. Off-Broadway: RENT, The Kid (The New Group), Seussical (Theaterworks/USA), Oliver Twist (TFANA). Regional: Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz, at Flat Rock Playhouse; A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Christmas Carol, and A Prayer for Owen Meany, (Ovation nomination), all with the Denver Center Theatre Company; Oliver Twist (co-production with A.R.T, and Berkeley Rep). Film/Television: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, Mysteries of Laura, and Hallmark original movie Loving Leah.
Michael has been living and working in New York since 2004. He grew up in the Berkshires in Massachusetts which is about ninety minutes north of Goodspeed.
Courtesy: Michael Wartella
He did a lot of theater there as a hobby. He came to New York at eighteen and enrolled in the Circle in the Square Theater School. He did a two year program there in midtown Manhattan. In 2006, when he graduated, he started auditioning AND working. He started out with a big year. He got his Equity card with a TheatreWorks show.
He got a nice regional contract with a play that played several regional theaters. From there, he went on to do several workshops and all of that led to establishing him as someone to be notice in New York. THEN, for the next four years, everything seemed to tank! He couldn't book anything.
He ended up becoming a waiter at Vynl. He met his now former wife there.
Courtesy: Michael Wartella
They had a kid together. They now have an eight year old son that they both adore, Hunter. That actually took away some of Michael's time and energy in terms of pursuing his craft. In a strange way, that gave him the impetus to try even harder.
He did a lot of auditions during that time. He attributes the fact that he wasn't booking a lot to his youth. His confidence started to dwindle. That really is what is needed in the audition room to nail the job. It took him a while to get back on his feet. He lucked out when he got the job for a show called A Prayer for Owen Meany. It is based on the John Irving novel.
The movie Simon Birch is roughly based on this as well.
It was a beautiful three act sweeping epic of a play. He had an amazing time creating with this play. By the time, he had rebooted his confidence as an actor. He finally felt like he knew what he was doing and that everything was going to be OK. From that point on, he finally started getting call backs and booked some work.
Courtesy: Michael Wartella, Tuck Everlasting
It was a year or two after that that he did the revival of Rent that was at New World Stages. Again, that was another moment that propelled him forward. It was an open-ended musical in New York. It gave him a seal of approval. Things were pretty much OK after that. He did Wicked, and went on tour with that in addition to doing it on Broadway for a couple of years. Along the way, he began doing workshops of both Tuck Everlasting  (which ran very briefly on Broadway) and Chasing Rainbows (as that started to be developed). That leads us to where Michael is now.
with son Hunter,  Courtesy: Michael Wartella
This is a very interesting time for Michael. He just turned thirty. He is no longer that twenty-three year old right out of college auditioning. He has been around awhile and he has seen alot. He has noticed a change, not only within himself, but also those others that he shares the stage with. It is a shift in life in which career becomes part of life instead of the main focus. It is now something he does. It is a part of who he is, NOT who he is. That is freeing and wonderful and also a little terrifying. You're not really sure how/where it will move forward from this point on. The good news for him is that he is riding the crest of what has become a successful time in his career.
He has been working a lot, which has been great. The worry about working has dissipated. If he works, it is wonderful. It is what he hopes to be doing.
Ruby Rakos as Judy Garland
If he doesn't, he no longer takes it as a sign that he is not good enough to do it. He now realizes that that is part of the business. If that happens, he will work on something else in the meantime. It is tricky trying to balance your "real life" and your career. They are not always the same thing.
Chasing Rainbows
It's probably hard to find anyone around today who is not familiar with Judy Garland.
Older generations may have grown up with her in Easter Parade or Meet Me in St. Louis. Others might remember her fondly as a powerhouse entertainer and singer who hosted her own television variety show.
Photo: Diane Sobolewski
Ruby Rakos portrays Judy Garland in a scene from “Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz,” with Michael Wartella as Mickey Rooney on stage at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, through Sunday, Nov. 27.
But at the very least, even the youngest among us know Judy as the unmistakable and indefatigable Dorothy Gale in the timeless MGM classic movie The Wizard of Oz. But a lot happened on "the Road to Oz", those formative years that put "Baby" Frances Gumm on the path to becoming Judy Garland and a super-star.
Photo: Diane Sobolewski :Ruby, Michael, Berklea Going as Lana Turner
And that journey is what brilliantly comes to life on the Goodspeed Opera House stage in the latest Goodspeed Musicals production CHASING RAINBOWS: THE ROAD TO OZ.  (BraoadwayWorld Review: Read MORE).

It was just a lucky audition.
He was doing Wicked at the time in New York and was auditioning. He was reading for workshops, especially. He was called in to read for this. He had no idea it was even in development.
Photo: Diane Sobolewski, Michael and company of Chasing Rainbows
This was when Bernie Telsey was casting it for New World Stages for a reading and he got the part. He had known a little bit about Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and in the back of his mind, he always hoped that if there was ever a show about him, he wanted to be involved. There are always one or two famous people in this business that you gravitate towards. Mickey was already one of those people for Michael. The little he knew about him, he already felt this kinship right away.
Photo: Diane Sobolewski, Michael and company of Chasing Rainbows
He was incredibly excited to go in and audition. He felt that he really understood the "character".
He also knew, going into the audition that Rooney was this bigger than life personality and so full of energy in a way that is not always as prevalent in today's audition room. Mostly what Michael auditions for is a lot more modern in terms of what they are looking for. He knew that with Mickey, he hap to tap back into his fifteen year old high school days when everything was over the top and he was fully committed and "you work for the applause."
Ruby and Michael at Flat Rock Playhouse (Source
Flat Rock Source
He went into the room with that attitude. Tina Marie Casamento told me in my interview with her that he brought in a pair of drum stick brushes in his back pocket. Halfway through his audition song, he brought a music stand out and started drumming on the music stand. He used to play the drums back in high school. He slid on his knees across the floor and drummed in front of the reader. It was so big that when he finished, everybody applauded. He thought, "That usually doesn't happen in an audition."
That was a good sign and it was one of those moments that he felt it was a good marriage of character and performer. He luckily got to do the workshops when they began.
He started at New World Stages. He (nor Ruby) did not do the Belmont University student workshop. From there it went to Flat Rock and now Goodspeed.
Between that there have been table reads from time to time to tweak. It has been an honor for him, to say the least, to be an integral part of the evolution.
Michael and Hunter. Courtesy: Michael
He has worked with various directors and usually that is a good sign that you might not get the job! It's usually the director who has final casting approval. Luckily, he and Ruby have continued to go to the next step. So, he thanks Tina for that, as well.

Finish this sentence: I'm bad at...
being an adult in the 'real' world. He is so focused on his craft and his career and his son and family that it has not given him time to focus on 'simple' things like paying his taxes on time and going to the doctor and dentist for routine check-ups and going to the gym and maturing into his thirties the way that a 'normal' person would do. He feels like he is behind the curve on that.
However, when it comes to the business, he approaches it from the mindset of a seasoned
A Prayer for Owen Meany (Courtesy Michael)

What interests Michael the MOST about this profession?
He feels that this is what he was born to do.
As he has grown up in this business, he can tell you it's not about the money. He has thought about walking away more than once to do something more lucrative. However, has been unable to do that. It is just in him. It lights a fire in him thinking about it, talking about it, working on projects with other artists, watching them perform...directing, acting, every element of the business. All of it turns him on and gets him going.
He mentions that he recently listened to my interview with Karen Mason (Ma Lawler/Kay
Karen Mason
Koverman). He listened to the entire hour. He asks, "what other thirty year old is spending their night off listening" to what we had to say word for word. He admits to being a theater geek in that mentality.

Name one piece of art that you wish you had created and why you wish you had created it. 
He begins by telling me that he recently began to write some music. They would fall into the soft rock/pop realm. He has discovered that it is incredibly hard and not something that comes easily to him. One of his favorite artists is Coldplay and one of his favorite songs is Fix You.
Photo: Diane Sobolewski
It is a brilliant four minute long mega hit. It is incredibly simple in it's lyrics and incredibly simple in the music, but somehow, it is incredibly evocative. It has been heard in movies and a lot of people from Michael's generation adore it. It also used to be the song for Michael in acting class that he knew within ten seconds of hearing it would make him cry so he would use it a lot. It almost makes him angry in terms of how good it is. He feels like when he is sitting there writing his own music, sometimes he has those moments where he feels like he is Salieri listening to Mozart.
He keeps asking, "How did they do it?' It is astounding to him and he wishes he had that ability.

What is the one thing that Michael has learned about himself on Chasing Rainbows that surprises him the most?
There has been a lot. He considers this project one of the best things that has happened to him career wise.
He loves created new work, especially new musicals. It is not something you get to do in this profession. Oftentimes, you are put into a show that is always running or a revival.
What was terrifying to Michael when they first started is now the thing that he loves the most. He sat there as actor, spectator, and a director's mindset when he first read the play and asked, "What can I do with this? Is there a better line for this? Is there something that I can do in the storytelling  with the dance moves, whatever?" This is an amazing team to work with. Tyne Rafaeli is such an amazing director. We were so lucky to have her. She is such a great collaborator.
Marc Acito (book), David Libby (Musical adaptation) and Tina Marie Casamento Libby
(Conceived) were all so open to collaboration that it was wonderful to get to work on this. To get back to the question at hand, Michael has learned that he is much more capable than he thought of coming up with ideas and being creative on the spot and being brave and being committed to something on stage. When he began this process, that was the thing that scared him the most. Now, it is the aspect that he wants to base his career on.

How important was Michael's training?
It turns out that was vitally important.
He is always PRO-TRAINING for any young artist who comes right out of high school. He knows that it is always not necessary to book work. However, it is such a helpful part of the process. Michael's school was not a school that gives you a stamp of approval and guarantees that you get an agent and that gets you on Broadway like a Carnegie-Mellon. What his school did offer was immense deep rich acting training that he has yet to experience in his performing life. He did a lot in the Berkshires growing up, taking classes and shows and he was really good at razzle dazzle performance. He had from a very young age total showmanship and commitment. He was not good about going beyond the text and thinking deep about it, being honest, truthful, authentic with the work.
Michael's greatest creation
His adult training beat that out of him and taught him how to feel and how to think with the goal being, at his school, not opening "your mouth until you believed what you were saying. That had never been a goal of his before. So, he has really been thankful and lucky in that his training is coming in handy especially in things that have been running so like like Wicked when he is asked to just jump in. Because of his training, he is now able to read the script and learn a brand new piece of text, working on it from the beginning. Realize that the circumstances and stakes are just as intense and real as a Chekov or Shakespeare play and play them with that intensity. That is one example of how his training now plays off.

Is Michael living the career that he envisioned for this time in his life.
In some ways yes, but he doesn't believe anyone truly does. He remembers telling his father, "I got accepted into this acting school and I am going to go there and probably a year after that I will play Mark in a revival of Rent on Broadway."  
His father was like, "Really? Are you kidding?" Of course, the irony of that is that he was lucky enough eight or nine years later to get an off-Broadway revival where he covered Mark and went on thirty-plus times. He got to play his dream role and work with certain people that meant something to him. It think. He certainly thought and envisioned it. He got a Broadway show earlier than he thought. It was several years after leaving school. You dream big. Michael is still dreaming big. If he had his way, he would be Christian Boyle and then he would move on to doing sit-coms and TV and SNL...the sky's the limit.
Michael tells me that the reality is that now that he is a grown-up and he understands the real world. It is hard to get any job, whatsoever. He is incredibly thankful and lucky and fortunate that he has been working quite a bit in his whole career and especially over the past four or five years. It all feels to him like it is just the beginning. On the other hand, it all feels very surreal at the state of his daily life. Recently, he was thinking he has done two Broadway shows. He cannot believe that! There are moments in which he gets totally humbled at how lucky he is to have come this far.
This question comes courtesy Tina Marie: What is the one thing that you have found most surprising in rehearsing this show?

Marc Acito kept reminding his actors that these are real people. They had real lives. The goal was not to play a version of them from the Hollywood movies but to authentically replicate their real lives. Of course, everyone did a lot of research. When Michael started to delve into the mind and discover who Mickey was, he thought, "What makes Mickey tick."
If he was behaving at that level, what got him there? Michael feels like that is the entire point of Chasing Rainbows with Judy. The show, according to Michael, barely touches on it. Being that Mickey isn't the focus of the story, his contributions to Judy are only touched upon a little bit. Mickey was raised in a very hectic situation. His father was an alcoholic and was barely around. His mother was a showgirl and raised him quite literally out of a trunk on the vaudeville circuit in dressing rooms in which he was surrounded by beautifully women all the time very much like Guido in Nine. There were SOME similar things in Michael's life that he could understand. What is amazing to Michael is that Mickey's joy and love for what he did and his notorious love of women and his passion for meeting and marrying women came from a very sad but rich place.
A lot of performers are searching for love or acceptance. He never felt like he got that from his immediate family. Having never meeting Rooney, Michael is putting all this speculation together on his own. It has been really incredible for Michael to see all of this. They say clowns cry the hardest.
It all came from a pretty serious desperate need for Mickey, all that joy and energy.

Judy Garland had as mentors early on Kay Koverman and Roger Edens. Who is the most influential person on Michael's work?
He says there have been different people at different times.
Starting out, both of his parents were and are both performers. They still act and teach and choreograph in the Berkshires. It was all taken very seriously when Michael was a kid. He would be reprimanded if he wasn't in his light or he was wearing light colors backstage when he should have been in dark colors. It was instilled to him from an early age that this was a serious profession. He grew to really appreciate and love that.
It put him a little bit ahead of the game professionally with a lot of the people that he has worked with. He tends to have the same kind of a professional sensibility with someone like a Karen Mason as opposed to someone just out of school. His parents had a huge influence on him that way.

Once Michael got to New York, his acting teacher, Alan Langdon at Circle in the Square, was always on his shoulder. His work was so depthful and rich. It has never left him. That is pretty much true of everyone he has ever worked with. Joe Mantello has been a huge hero and a mentor of his.
They have worked together on a couple of things. He is such an amazing director and artist. He is also quite an amazing actor. When Michael saw Joe in The Normal Heart, he thought, "That just wasn't a show. It was an event.

His performance in that was so intense and so rich that I thought if I can't do it like that, I don't want to do it." Terrence Mann has always been an inspiration to Michael. He was lucky enough to work with him at one point and he has been an inspiration to Michael on commitment and energy and professionalism. Michael considers himself lucky that he has gotten the chance to mingle with these "giants." "Holy crap! How did I get here?"

What is it about the business that you think has changed for the better...and for the worst since you began in it?
Positively, Broadway and musical theater has had a bit of a resurgence thanks to shows like Glee and American Idol. Also, the LIVE musicals being broadcast on TV. It is great and cool to open all of this up to new audiences and new generations.

That is something that the powers that be may not have thought about as they began all this. It is also poisonous and tricky for those involved because it starts to get to a point where people want to go into this profession simply because they want to be famous and just for certain accolades and attention verses telling stories and being authentic. That gets to be a little tricky sometimes to sift through those things.
In closing, Michael is really thankful in the fact that he gets to tell stories and he gets to do this for a living. It has been an important art form in our history as humans. Michael is glad it is still happening. If he had to come up with a thesis statement about what he is about in this business, it's about TRUTH. It's about HUMANITY. It's about a bunch of people sitting together collectively in the dark, take a breath, and have a cathartic experience. It proves that we are not alone in the world. Everything they may be experiencing, painful, shameful, hard, and joyous, and wonderful is also something that other humans may have experienced or may be experiencing. If we can have that moment with each other, it makes a difference to really affect those people walking out of the theater.

Michael has always aspired to, in some way, to be a reflection of humanity for the audience. If he can do that for the rest of his life, he will be a happy camper.
Many impressive visitors have walked The
Yellow Brick Road to Oz and Broadway from The Wiz to Wicked . The Wizard of Oz’s fabled movie’s star Judy Garland has been a character in The Boy From Oz to End of The Rainbow. Goodspeed Musicals’ new musical, Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz tells the story of Judy Garland before she became the international legend in movies like A Star is Born, Meet Me in St. Louis, and in concert.  (The Westfield News, READ MORE)

Don't Miss Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz through November 27th at The Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Thank you, to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Courtesy Scott Clarke
Click on site to go to website


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

Save the Date and join us at The American Popular Song Society on November 12th

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Hope you can celebrate Halloween with US!
Happy Birthday, Dale Evans!
Richard Skipper Celebrates: A Talk/Variety Show encouraging us to celebrate each and every day and the hidden gems therein. PLEASE CELEBRATE WITH us Halloween, October 31st. AND SAVE THE DATE...Richard Skipper  Celebrates...Halloween throughout history! Did you know Dale Evans , Ethel Waters, Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo) , Dan Rather, AND Michael Landon (I was a Teenage Werewolf) were all born on October 31st?
Follow Leanne Borghesi on Twitter
The cast includes Leanne Borghesi, Kelley Karel as Hillary Clinton, Deborah Stone, Laurie Krauz, Marta Sanders AND a Mystery Guest.
With musical direction by Bryon Sommers and Jeff Carney on bass. The Triad at 8PM Come dressed as your favorite celebrity and win a fabulous prize! Contact for more info. You never know who you might see there and what might happen. Show at 8PM/Doors open at 7:30.

What is your favorite Halloween memory?

Tickets are $30.00 plus a two drink minimum. Reservations a MUST!
Call 888 596-1027 to purchase tickets or YOU can also do it on THEIR website. A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Actors Fund

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,