Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amra Faye-Wright!


Stop whining and get on with it!!!....(Amra can still hear her mother's voice)

Happy End of March!

Today I'm going out with a bang!
Yesterday, I wrote about Liliane Montevecchi who is appearing at Feinstein's on April 9th. You don't have to wait as long to see Amra Faye-Wright who is appearing there this upcoming week. Obviously, Feinstein's is cornering the market on some of the most beautiful women in the world, both physically and within. Today, I'm celebrating Amra Faye-Wright! 
Enjoy her journey.  
Amra, who is currently starring as Velma Kelly in the Broadway musical Chicago, is returning to Feinstein’s at Loews Regency April 03 and 05 to perform her celebrated cabaret act.

Amra grew up in a small town called East London in South Africa. She didn't see a full scale musical until she was an adult. (She saw the movie musicals, Hello Dolly, Sound of Music etc) and she played in a few amateur concerts, but that was about the extent of her exposure to theatre. However, she had the very good fortune of studying classical ballet with a brilliant ballet mistress who relocated to her town.
There she learned discipline, and developed an overwhelming desire to be on stage. Her plan was to be a prima ballerina....then she grew busty!   
When she discovered what an impact her new figure was making on certain sections of the population, her focus on the classics started to shift. Clearly, there was sooo much more fun to be had than bleeding toes!

The two men who had the greatest impact on Amra's life are Kander and Ebb!  When she was 17, she left her hometown in South Africa to be an exchange student. She was placed in Kansas City, Missouri, for a year. She was in a record shop (before cds) one day, flipping through albums, when she came across an album cover with pictures of women in assorted underwear and bowler hats. It was the original soundtrack of Chicago, the Musical. She took it home and played it. Now, remember, she had never seen a musical, but when she heard that album, it changed her life. She had never heard music like this, it was sexy and smart, made her want to dance, and most of all, it made her feel good! 
She could never have guessed that almost 3 decades later she would be back in America, singing those very songs on Broadway, in the revival. Life is just a box of chocolates, right?
 
Amra has learned to open her mouth and speak. There is just no telling who is willing to help you and how they can further your message.She used to be very shy about promoting herself, she says she has to say this is a skill she's still learning, because her journey has been rather unconventional, and she has never really had to promote herself until moving to the USA. In general, she has found Americans to be the most resourceful people, open and eager to promote themselves, and she's constantly fascinated by this positive attitude.
Sitting at home and emailing and doing send-outs is one thing, but getting out to events and meeting people is part of the work of being a successful artist.
 
Amra's thoughts on Arts in Education
 We are seeing people on TV with no arts education competing to be the next big star. People love to see a nobody plucked off the fields and suddenly becoming  famous. Makes everyone feel like it could happen to them too, if only they could afford the bus fare to the next audition. My thoughts are: anyone can become a star for a moment, but staying there for longer than an hour is a sign of training. 
Education is vastly important. 
I'm not saying that it has to be formal education (certainly mine wasn't, but I believe my journey would have been so much easier if it had been formal) but it has to be a life-long training session. Constant classes. listening, imitating, and finding your own voice. And then going back again and taking stock of what you still have to learn. If you feel like you've learned enough, its time to give up.
 
What advice would you give to youth passionate about a career in the arts?
 If you cannot imagine any other career, and if you are aware that you may be out of work more than in work, and you think you can take the knocks and still come back with as much drive and desire...then get yourself into an arts education program, and welcome yourself to the magical world of the arts.  
 
Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channings Foundation For The Arts)
 Ms Channing is a legend and an icon, and I'm a huge fan.

I'm campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen (See Below on how you can help)
 I'm surprised this hasn't already been awarded to Carol Channing. I hope very much that this will be the year for this great lady to receive her due reward.

How do you chose your material for your show?
I choose material that immediately speaks to me, that I can make a connection with, and is in my range. That said, I have learned over the years that just because you adore a song, doesn't mean its right for you. Ive seen many wonderful Musical Theatre performers try to take on a Jazz piece and fail miserably.
 (Us musical theatre folk have a firm belief that we can do ANYTHING!) Growing up in South Africa, exposed me to many different styles, and I listened to all genres, which has colored my taste in music. 
So I try to find a song that means something to me, and adapt it, interpret it, and infuse it with my own experiences, while still trying to maintain the integrity of the song. A good Musical Director is essential for me. Liza Minnelli told me that the most important thing you can do, is surround yourself with the best people! 
 
Next appearance
 3rd and 5th April! That's next week!! 8pm, at Feinsteins. titled: Sittin on Top of The World, which is exactly what this show is, a celebration of life, and my journey from African farm to Broadway footlights. I incorporate some show tunes, American songbook,  South African folk tunes, and songs from around the world, taken from my travels (I lived and worked in Europe and Far East for years) MD is Scott Cady, Jeff Carney on Bass, and Heinrich Kruse on drums. I was hoping to have a few more dates, but I am committed to my Broadway performance schedule as Velma Kelly in Chicago.
Christy Brinkley opens with us in Chicago on the 6th April, so I needed to get these shows in pronto! I'm hoping to do another week at Feinsteins in the Fall, but that will be a whole new show (Kander and Ebb). 

What is your biggest success in Show Business?
 On a professional level, I have to say landing the role of Velma in Chicago, which has kept me busy for over a decade, and a role which I have performed all over the world, (and in Japan in Japanese, with full Japanese cast!...not kidding!! I learned the entire script phonetically, and still cant speak a word of Japanese!) On a personal level, my biggest success was my first one woman show, Rouge Pulp. The sense of fulfillment that comes from creating your own product and performing it without the safety net of other performers on stage, was quite overwhelming, and I felt like I had conquered Rome!
 
What was your lowest low and how did you surpass that?
Our very nature as performers means we expect to fluctuate from ecstatic highs to devastating lows. If you want an even existence, don't choose show business. So now I sit with my head in my hands trying to choose which lowest low to tell you! There was the time I went on to perform, seconds after hearing my father had passed away suddenly; and, there was the time my daughter went in for surgery while I was abroad performing (the shock made me lose my voice). Actually, I believe the lowest lows are the times when you're performing away from home, and wondering why you are doing a job that takes you so far from people you love. The times you wonder if the sacrifices are worth the choice you've made to be a performer.
There are skills to develop in how to overcome these terrible times. You always have a choice, decide what it is you want, and get on with it. SEE QUOTE AT TOP OF PAGE !! 
 
Do you consider what you wear on stage for your show a costume? Or is it just clothing to you?
 Oh, most definitely its a costume! Well thought out, and fitted like a glove!
I never put that amount of effort into just clothing.


Actresses Amra-Faye Wright and Melora Hardin perform during "Chicago" on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre on February 9, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Amra-Faye Wright;Melora Hardin
(February 9, 2009 - Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images North America)
Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?
Yeah, but, no but, yeah...um! LOL. Does that ever happen?
I'm really going through some transitions right now. I love performing in Chicago, so that's an aside. But living in NYC is a double edged sword. There is so much to be inspired by, but the hamster wheel doesn't stop, and I feel like I am in danger of spiraling into the stratosphere sometimes.
Friends tell me the same thing about living here. 10 years ago, I took life as it came to me and just said yes to everything. Now, I watch myself a little to carefully. A classic case of the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know... damn! I just need to lighten up a little!

Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
 Oh yes! and then some. I was a farm girl, for goodness sakes! Traveling the world and performing in London's West End and on Broadway? That wasn't in the equation at all.
When I got my first dancing job, I thought I could now die a happy woman! I should remember this more often!

What do you do to remain positive when life's hiccups get you down?
 Good lord, just answering these questions is therapy enough! My other answer to a hiccup, was moving house, or country! I've moved 24 times in the last 25 years. Every time I felt discontent, I moved. My husband has said ENOUGH!
So this is what I do now to overcome: I'm blessed with a wonderful husband who makes me laugh; I act silly and dress up in silly costumes to entertain myself; I'm grateful everyday for my health (which allows me to high kick the same leg every night!). 
 Mostly, I try to see the humor in humanity!

How on earth do you reach theatregoers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you cant pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss.
 Word of mouth still seems to be the most effective tool. Performing and promoting yourself and your show shamelessly at as many events, charities, concerts as you can. 

Time and resilience is needed to build a fan base and if you have enough resources to hang in there long enough, it will eventually hit - if your product is good. AND, of course, Richard Skipper's daily blog!

A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
1. Endless resources to open my own nightclub, where I could sing what ever I wanted, whenever I pleased.
2. To have all my family living here in NYC.
3. more wishes! (World Peace will come out of these!)

How did you get into this business?
 I studied classical ballet, then later modern dance, and tap, for 12 years. But I only got into show business late in life. I left the farm when I was 27 to go dance as a showgirl in Sun City in South Africa.
I performed there for 5 years, and was picked up by a Parisian company to dance in Europe. While performing in Monte Carlo, I decided to audition for the Cabaret as the singer, (never sung professionally before) that was my first singing job! A whole new world opened up to me, and I began to travel the world starring in multi-million dollar musical extravaganzas. I learned to perform in many languages, which gave me versatility, and put me in demand. 
 
I returned to South Africa and started to perform in musicals there, and then my own one-woman shows. On a trip to England, I pitched up at the General Managers office of Grease, the musical, who also happened to be casting Chicago. I was sent to an audition, and got the role of Velma. I stayed in London for 10 years, and then moved here. And here?...I shall stay,.. I think!

What is your favorite song? And yes, you can only pick one!!!

A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square

What is the last stage show you saw. Local or professional.
 Blood knot (Athol Fugard), with Colman Domingo and Scott Shepherd, at the Signature Theatre. Their performance moved me to tears.

What do you do to prepare for your performances?
 I have to maintain a certain body shape for the role I play nightly, so I eat 2 prawns and lettuce leaf for dinner!! I get 8 hours of sleep and keep alcoholic beverages to a minimum. I do a good vocal warm-up while slapping on my eyelashes, and a ballet barre at the half hour call.
For cabaret performances, I rehearse extensively with my MD, go over every minute detail with a fine-tooth comb, and then go out there and be spontaneous.

You do an iconic role. Do you think you should on to an iconic costume piece as a momento OR donate it to a museum for others to enjoy?
 I think others will only enjoy an iconic used costume if its been sweated in by Judy Garland, say for instance!
I'm not sentimental, Ive moved home too many times to hold on to any stuff. Out it goes!!
 
Do you make a living at this or do you have a survival job? Please elaborate on your thoughts on this
 I'm fortunate to make my living in theatre. Ive been playing Velma for over a decade, alternating with other shows, and cabarets in between. Its not all been easy, there have been some tough times, but if it ever got dire, I would make the decision to get another job.  Everybody needs to pay rent, so between contracts it may be necessary to have a survival job. Its all good, you got to do what you got to do.

 If youre happy, continue forward, if not....choose another career.

What is the best compliment you have received in this business?
Gosh Amra-Faye, I thought you were 25!

25 never looked so good! I hope all of my readers will celebrate you in person this week at Feinstein's!

 “Sittin’ on Top of the World” is a one woman show which traces, with engaging wit and sophisticated glamour, Amra -Faye Wright’s unlikely journey from African farm girl to an award winning actress, singer and a Broadway leading lady. The performance warmly illustrates Amra-Faye’s passion for life and her stylish interpretations from The Great American Songbook. The Musical Director is Scott Cady
Triple threat Amra-Faye Wright continues to dazzle audiences year after year as the high-kicking murderess, Velma Kelly, in the long-running Broadway musical, Chicago. Her embodiment of Velma has been in demand around the globe since 2001, on Broadway and in London’s West End, as well as in Europe, South Africa, and Japan, where she performed the role in Japanese.




April 3 and 5, 8:00 PM

Tickets prices are $25.00 Cover/$40.00Premium Seating/ $25.00 Food and Beverage Minimum.

Jackets are suggested but not required. The club is located at 540 Park
Avenue at 61st Street in New York City. For ticket reservations and club
information, please call (212) 339-4095 or online at
Feinsteinsatloewsregency.com and TicketWeb.com

 Press Contact for Amra Faye-Wright: Wayne J. Gmitter
Think Iconic Artists Agency
Phone: 917-209-1148
Email:  wayne@thinkiconic.com


NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

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

                                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..Happy Birthday, Debbie Reynolds!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!







  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!





  
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com
                                
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world! I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED!



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