Remembering Theo

This month, I am preparing to sing for an event to honor a dear colleague and mentor, Theodore Bikel, on Sept 27th in NYC.

Theo was my Papa in Fiddler on the Roof and I got to sing “Far From The Home I Love” to him at the train station every night. What an emotional memory that is! He often would invite the cast to an evening of food and song, singing folk songs he collected from around the World in several languages. This was after doing 8 performances as Tevye! He was a force to be reckoned with.

At home, on Sunday evenings, he often held informal jams with the likes of Peter Yarrow, Arlo Guthrie, and Tom Paxton. Aimee Ginsburg Bikel approached me to put together a small group of alumni from our cast of Fiddler on the Roof to sing “Sabbath Prayer” at the memorial concert, Remembering Theo.

The concert will feature Peter Yarrow, David Broza, Sheldon Harnick and more. It will also serve as a CD release of a collection of songs Theo was working on his last few years,"While I'm Here", and a Fundraiser for the Theodore Bikel Fund for Peace and Social Justice.

The Fund will honor and promote the values that Theo struggled for throughout his life: human rights and social justice, dignity and peace for Israel, its neighbors and the world. Check here for more information.


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Find Peace, the Hootenanny Way.

Lately I've been hearing a lot of people disparaging about how crazy and scary things are getting around the world. I've been thinking about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that we would all get along much better if we had more music jams or hootenannies! There is a certain camaraderie that happens when people come together to make music.

Music Jam: an informal gathering of musicians improvising together, especially in jazz or blues. (not to be confused with other definitions of jam: to become blocked or wedged; to fill often to excess; to push forcibly; to make unintelligible by sending out interfering signals or messages... no, no, no! These would be the opposite of a good ole music jam!)

Hootenanny: a gathering at which folksingers entertain often with the audience joining in; an informal gathering with folk music and sometimes dancing (ooh, I like that part!)

So, here is my list of ways to Find Peace, the Hootenanny way:

1. Show up - This can be true of anything. Truly, just deciding to show up ready to play or sing along or actively pursue peace in yourself and in the world around you is the first step. You have a gift, be it voice, instrument or active listener/dancer. Bring it! :)

2. Be prepared – the good ole boyscout motto comes to mind. Tune your instrument. Warm up your voice. Get ready to experience some awesome music and inner peace.

3. Set an intention - Having a goal helps you get the most out of any situation. You may be new to making music. You may be an old pro. So, what is it you want to gain today? If you have never been to a jam or feel that you are 'unable' to play along, perhaps just making the decision to play a kazoo or a tambourine is enough. Learning a new chord on the guitar. Letting someone else take a lead and not hogging the microphone... These are all ways to accepting yourself and others' limitations and awesomeness, ultimately, finding a sense of peace.

4. Communication – Communicating what song to play in what key you'll play in, when the bridge starts, what verse to sing. A sense of tranquility comes when you know the words and where you are in the song and can sing and play along :)

5. Listen first, then join in - Peace, and the best music jam, begins with thoughtful listening and understanding.

6. No Judgement - Breathe and then jump in! Doing your best to play something in harmony with others involves discipline and compromise. Have no fear! Go “all in” and have fun!
Now I'm in the mood for a good ole hootenanny! Let's all join in and make some awesome music! (literally and figuratively!)

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Preview on Richard Skipper Celebrations [blog]

Thank you to the lovely Richard Skipper for previewing my show at 54 Below happening tomorrow night! I can't wait to show you photos and more next week!

My featured artist of the day is Tamra Hayden. She will be appearing tomorrow night, July 7th, at Feinstein's 54 Below. 
From Broadway to the Blues, critics have called Tamra Hayden an 'emotionally rich, psychologically-detailed singer that can “reheat coffee" and 'outsizzle’ Peggy Lee.’ 
Tamra Hayden is a celebrated vocalist and accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, guitar, and viola. She has five solo albums to her credit, as well as dozens of musical collaborations. She has appeared on Broadway as Cosette in Les Miserables and as Texas in Cabaret. Off-Broadway performances have included Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, and she has toured nationally as Christine in Phantom Of The Opera, Hodel in Fiddler On The Roof opposite Theodore Bikel, and It Ain’t Nothing But The Blues. Tamra Hayden is versatile, spirited, and prolific.

This show features the music from Tamra Hayden’s latest CD, Love Is… Tamra celebrates the many facets of love with sexy jazz tunes such as: “Fever” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” rousing Broadway anthems such as “It All Fades Away” from Bridges of Madison County, and plenty of spontaneous hilarity to make for an extraordinary performance. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll fall in love all over again!

I sat down recently to get to know a little bit more about Tamra beyond the press releases and to give you a chance to get to know her better as well. I hope you enjoy.
Right after our exchange on Facebook, Tamra was cast as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and hasbeen in a whirlwind since then! She had to reschedule her 54 Below show, Love Is..., to TOMORROW NIGHT July 6th at 9:30 pm because it conflicted with the show schedule. 

What do you think it takes to succeed in this business? 
I find that the nicest and most compassionate people make it to the top! Of course, a lot of grit and talent doesn't hurt. I believe if you have the passion to do something and you work hard with all your heart and never give up, you will eventually succeed! 

When you see a bunch of talented people, why do you suppose one goes on to become a star while the others fall by the wayside?
I think it has a lot to do with timing. There are soooo many talented people in the World! So many that are great and deserving of a big break! Getting the right role at just the right time can mean everything! I think that is what helped me land my Broadway debut as Cosette in Les Miserables. I just happened to be the right age, look, and vocal type at just the right time. Of course, that didn't make me a star. But, it gave me a nice start to my career.

Why do you keep doing what you do? 

I LOVE it! I love using music and creativity to spread peace, love and tolerance! To help people have cathartic release from what binds them up inside. We are in the midst of such insanity right now! I hope that I can use my gifts to serve humanity! That is all. That is everything! 

What do you still want that you don't have now? 
Well, I was recently gifted a Harp and a Mountain Dulcimer... so that is taken care of. Now, I just need plenty of time to learn how to play them! That would be nice... and a villa in Tuscany... is that too much to ask?

At what point, if ever, did you think of quitting? 
I contemplate quitting quite often. Luckily those moments pass because I truly love what I do! It's just the business of the biz that gets to me. I keep my eye on my message and 'why' I do what I do. That motivates me and keeps me going!

What Wisdom would you like to offer my readers today? 
Stay true to who you are and know that is enough. You are perfect as is! 

Do you consider yourself competitive?
Yes, but not with other people. I like to reach my goals and accomplish what I've set out to do. But, never at the expense of someone else. At the end of the day, I just want to know that I've done my personal best. 

Buy Your Tickets HERE


Read the full post here.



Craig Schulman joins me for my 54 Below Show!

I am happy to announce that my dear friend, Craig Schulman, will be joining me for a few songs from Phantom and Les Miserables in my show at 54 Below! Craig was Jean Valjean when I was Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway :)

We have performed numerous Broadway Pops Concerts together across the US and it is always a joy to sing with him! I sure hope to see you there!

Full Details:
Love Is...
54 Below
254 W 54th St. Cellar, NYC 10019
July 6, 9:30pm
TICKETS ($25-$35)




Tonight at the Transit Museum!


Tonight at the Transit Museum!

Tonight, If you're in to an evening of wine and immersive art and theater in the subway (I mean, who isn't?), meet me in Brooklyn.

I'm performing in an immersive staging of one of two short plays by Tina Howe at the Transit Museum. RSVP and more info at the Facebook Event here.

Use code 167FF for $5 off your ticket - click here to buy - and see you tonight! 



Thank you, Bristol!

I have officially completed the run of Man of La Mancha here at Bristol Riverside Theater! I can't believe it is already over - I had a beautiful experience and feel blessed to have spent the time with such an amazing cast and crew.

 I think my favorite review was about the chemistry between Don Quixote, Sancho, and Aldonza:

“Well before her standout performance in the song “Aldonza,” however, (Tamra) Hayden locks in with (Robert) Newman and (Danny) Rutigliano. The trio’s chemistry is almost palpable for the rest of the night.”  -Jack Fernino, The Midweek Wire

Although this video isn't showing us in costume or the final 'product', it is a wonderful reminder of the great time I had. Watch the cast sing 'The Impossible Dream' from week 2 of rehearsals!

Well, things are not stopping for me. I'm already rehearsing for my next performance, a Tina Howe play, “Caution, This Bus Kneels, Stand Clear”.  



Man of La Mancha Performance Schedule

I had an amazing opening week of Man of La Mancha opposite Robert Newman (Don Quixote) and Danny Rutigliano (Sancho). It has been a wonderful experience to revisit Aldonza, a role I played when I first began acting professionally, and approach it in a whole new way with the careful and decisive direction of Keith Baker.  

If you are in or around the Bristol, PA area, come see us! Schedule below and tickets available here.

May 18 - 2pm and 7:30pm

May 19 - 7:30pm

May 20 - 8pm

May 21 - 2pm and 8pm

May 22 - 3pm

May 25 - 2pm and 7:30pm

May 26 - 7:30pm

May 27 - 8pm

May 28 - 2pm and 8pm

May 29 - 3pm

June 1 - 2pm and 7:30pm

June 2 - 7:30pm

June 3 - 8pm

June 4 - 2pm and 8pm

June 5 - 3pm Closing Performance



Heart of darkness, and humor, in "La Mancha" at Bristol Riverside Theatre

In this interview in the Bucks County Courier Times, Robert Newman gives good insight into how we are approaching this show:

Heart of darkness, and humor, in "La Mancha" at Bristol Riverside Theatre
By Gwen Shrift, staff writer | Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The setting of a celebrated drama is a prison, the inmates traumatized by the terroristic regime who put them there — yet a deranged hero is capable of creating a beautiful world in his mind, and expressing it eloquently.

As the Bristol Riverside Theatre readies its production of "Man of La Mancha," parallels from our own age surface in director Keith Baker's approach, according to Robert Newman, the TV and stage veteran who plays the addled Knight of the Woeful Countenance in the musical based on Miguel Cervantes' 17th-century novel, "Don Quixote."

Baker motivated his cast by likening the effects of Cervantes' era on its people, most keenly voiced in the hero's second-act monologue on war, to contemporary concerns.

"He and I work in very similar ways. We're seekers of truth," said Newman of the director. "He called me several months ago, and we talked about this sort of darker side of this piece. It's taking place in this dungeon, where people are waiting to be taken to the place of execution . . . and burned alive. The inmates and other victims of the time were irrevocably shocked to the core by the Spanish Inquisition, a centuries-long campaign that sanctioned torture and resulted in persecution, and execution, of suspected heretics. The director compares the characters' psychological state to post-traumatic stress disorder as suffered by combat veterans in modern times. "These (characters) are all people imprisoned by the terror of their experiences," said Baker. "They often exhibit irrational rage, childishness, self-hatred. I just wanted to bring that to bear in the behavior of the people. They've been through wars, they're murderers, they're thieves. They've been subjected to immense terror."

In our own time, "We have our soldiers returning home and we don't know what to do with them, and don't treat them well, and let them fend for themselves. There are people who have come back from Vietnam and are still suffering, and we do nothing."

Newman said these insights inform a production that, for various reasons, differs markedly from previous portrayal of the Knight three years ago at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan. The TV star who for 24 years played Joshua Lewis on "Guiding Light" wryly points out that during the earlier "La Mancha," he was three years younger and lighter. "I've spent months thinking about this character. Now, (I'm) processing other thoughts that Keith brings into my interpretation of Quixote, and sort of let go what I might have done three years ago," he said. "It's one of the most exhausting characters you can play on stage. You're playing three different roles at the same time," the actor said, likening Don Quixote to Tevye from "Fiddler on the Roof." There's "a mile of dialog all the time, and at a very fast pace . . . (it's) physically and mentally exhausting, but they're the best characters you can play.

"You really have to put everything you have in this piece, otherwise, why do it? It's the kind of exhaustion that lifts your soul. It's all good." The actor said his time on TV, with its demand to "memorize dialog, process blocking and movement" helped develop stamina for the stage, his favorite artistic setting. "You've got to make decisions quickly, and make them strong," he said.

For all the bleakness of its setting, "Man of La Mancha" deals with the delicacy of the human mind and spirit. It is a play within a play, as Cervantes — one of the facets of the leading character — purposefully stages the story of Don Quixote with the other prisoners. The Knight is legendarily off-kilter, in his sweetly dissonant version of life a champion who performs noble deeds, but to others, a madman. His sidekick, Sancho, has a bit of fun at his master's expense, lightening dark places with humor.

Newman said he enjoys the relationship between Don Quixote and his servant, working out the nuances with fellow actor Danny Rutigliano, who plays Sancho. "We are finding the funny where we can find the funny," Newman said. "I don't want to paint this as a dark play. It's an uplifting play, and an inspiring play."

Also in the cast are Sharon Alexander, Julian Brightman, Lauren Cupples, Robert Farruggia, Tamra Hayden, Christopher Roche, Dwayne Alistair Thomas and Danny Vaccaro. Ensemble: Rajeer Alford, Daniel Bontempo, Elena Camp, Will Connell, Stephen Dagrosa, John DiFerdinando, Kevin Murray, Victor Rodriguez and Dwayne Washington.

Musical direction by Darren Cohen; set by Roman Tatarowicz, costumes by Linda Bee Stockton, choreography by Stephen Casey, lighting by Ryan O'Gara and sound by Liz Atkinson.