ROGER BEAN created the long-running hit The Marvelous Wonderettes (over 1,200 performances Off-Broadway), along with the sequels Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns, Winter Wonderettes, Wonderettes: Dream On, and the new large-cast Wonderettes: Glee Club Edition. Original cast albums for all Wonderettes shows are available from iTunes and Amazon. The Marvelous Wonderettes received the 2007 LA Ovation Award for Best Musical for its record-breaking Los Angeles run and continues to be an audience favorite in theatre companies throughout the country. Mr. Bean’s do-wop hit Life Could Be A Dream had a record-breaking 12-month run in Los Angeles, receiving the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, the LA Weekly Theatre Award, and the Backstage Garland Award for Outstanding Musical.
Other popular musicals created by Mr. Bean include The Andrews Brothers, Summer of Love, Route 66, Honky Tonk Laundry, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love?, all published by Stage Rights. More info at www.rogerbean.com
Who were you in high school? Were you that person ten years later? Did you revert back to that person at your high school reunion? Why?
These are the questions I had the cast think about at the start of our process. Obviously, none of us attended high school in the 50s – so content and subject matter are at times, very different. But high school relationships haven’t changed – the tensions, the alliances, the gossip, the break-up-make-up cycles – all of that high school ‘stuff’ – we could relate to.
High school is a tumultuous time of discovery, confusion, hormones, and growing up. At least for me it was. I wanted to be my own person, but I also wanted to be accepted and fit in. If only we could look back and tell our younger selves ‘everything is going to work out just fine’. But at the time I wouldn’t have believed it anyway. Everything is just so IMPORTANT.
I didn’t go to my high school reunion because I was doing exactly what I said I would be doing in my yearbook write up under future goals: Julie is going to be rich and famous and living in New York. I was for sure living in New York at the time. Rich and famous? Well, everything is relative.
My hope is that you see yourself in one (or many) of these characters and that you have a great time reminiscing!
I want to thank Mark for giving me the opportunity to direct at Chemainus. This theatre holds a special place in my heart and having a chance to be at the helm of a show has been awesome. Thanks also to my collaborators – designers, heads of departments, marketing, stage management, crew, band – everyone who helped us get to this moment. Special shout out to my favourite MD, Chris King, and the four girls on stage.
In what is one of George Bernard Shaw’s most controversial plays, Mrs. Warren must attempt to reconcile with her disapproving daughter in a story sprinkled generously with sharp comedy and biting social commentary that remains relevant today. Elements of the play were borrowed from Shaw’s 1882 novel Cashel Byron’s Profession, about a man who becomes a boxer due to limited employment opportunities.
Miss Janet Achurch (an actress and friend of Shaw’s), suggested that Shaw should put on the stage a real modern lady of the governing class—not the sort of thing that theatrical and critical authorities imagine such a lady to be.
He did so; and the result was Miss Vivie Warren. Mrs. Warren’s position is that poverty and a society that condones it constitutes true immorality, while Vivie recognizes her mother’s courage, but grapples with her ongoing involvement in the business.
Mrs. Warren’s Profession was written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893 and published in 1898, but was not performed until 1902 due to government censorship of its primary subject matter. Even then it was only produced as a private showing at London’s New Lyric Club.
Shaw, an Irish playwright, critic, and political activist, used his public persona to promote ideas of social reform. He was obsessed with the inequalities of society, particularly around the disparity between the classes and lack of women’s rights; he found these morally unjust. In defending his play, Shaw claimed he needed to “draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together.” Further, he argued “starvation, overwork, dirt, and disease are as anti-social as prostitution.”
There is some irony to be realized when one considers that while Mrs. Warren’s Profession was known as a proto-feminist text, it was first performed in a club where women could only enter upon special occasion, and then only if accompanied by a man. Furthering this, some argue that Shaw created a conversation about women, rather than with women. Regardless, Mrs. Warren’s Profession still has the power to provoke and spark important, relevant conversations in present day. Shaw’s play directs audiences to consider the ways in which gender relations and historical power inform the present.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an actor, director, and choreographer who currently resides in Victoria. I am also an educator who has taught acting and musical theatre in the public school system for the past 10 years. I love musicals and I really enjoy creating physical theatre.
I think the Narnia series is timeless and its appeal is multi-generational because of the core values embedded within the stories such as teaching kindness to others, the importance of courage, and selflessness. Ultimately the stories engage our imaginations which is exciting to readers, and of course, a theatre audience.
Did the fact that the work of C.S. Lewis is famous make this an intimidating task to adapt?
Yes, there is a lot of text and Lewis has a specific tone and style which I wanted to remain true to.
Have you read all the books in the Narnia series? Which one is your favorite?
Yes, I have. I really love The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. However, after this process, I have a new appreciation for The Magician’s Nephew.
What is your writing process like?
I read the novel again and again. I then examine each chapter and pick out the most significant plot points and actions within the chapter and then join the actions together. I find speaking in role as I write the dialogue to be very helpful to the process.
What was the first play that you wrote?
I haven’t written a play, but the first piece I adapted was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
What did you do to try to make the story and characters your own?
Reading the text out loud allowed for me to improv with myself and through that process I was able to put my own “stamp” on the work. For example, the phrasing of the Queen’s lines are very similar to how I might speak if I put myself in the position of the Queen. My acting training has really helped me with the adaptation process.
Do you have a favorite moment in the story?
I love the dramatic parts; in particular, I really like the moment in the garden between Digory and the Queen. Digory is forced to choose between obeying Aslan’s direction, or doing what he thinks might save his mother.
What did you edit OUT of this story?
The cabby, the cabby’s wife, and Digory’s Aunt. I found they weren’t essential to the story we were telling. We still have Digory’s mother—but she is represented in a different way.
What do you want your young audience members to take away from this story?
Always do your best to be brave and kind, even when you are faced with fear and doubt.
What will you be working on next?
Lumberjacks in Love.
ABBA entered the world of the theatre when Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, along with lyricist Tim Rice, wrote their first musical, Chess. Chess proved to be a cult hit around the world, producing the hit singles, “One Night In Bangkok” and “I Know Him So Well.”
It was Judy Craymer, the executive producer of Chess, who first recognized the inherent theatricality of ABBA’s pop songs. “The Winner Takes It All” suggested to her “the rollercoaster of love and loss,” she said, “It was extraordinarily theatrical.” She slowly began to work on her idea, sitting on the floor of her apartment, she remembers, “listening to ABBA’s records late into the night.” She commissioned award-winning playwright Catherine Johnson to create the story, insisting that the musical have an original and contemporary story, interwoven with the existing songs, rather than being simply a tribute show to ABBA.
Craymer then hired director Phyllida Lloyd. Craymer later wrote that having this trio of powerful women leading a major musical venture –an unusual thing in the world of theatre –helped to create the strong female characters of MAMMA MIA! On April 6, 1999 (the anniversary of ABBA’s win at the Eurovision Song Contest 25 years earlier), MAMMA MIA! opened at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. “We really had no idea how it was going to be received, “said Craymer, “The audience went wild. They were literally out of their seats and singing and dancing in
From there, it went on to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada, and then to Broadway, to the Winter Garden Theatre in 2001, where it opened with one of the biggest advance sales in theatre history. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to become one of the most popular theatre productions in history, having been seen by over 30 million people around the world. There are currently more productions of MAMMA MIA! playing than any other musical. Each and every night, 17,000 people around the world see ABBA’s breathtaking music come to vivid life right in front of them, live on stage.
How would you describe what you do?
My job as a choreographer is to create all of the movement and dance that you see in a show. I work closely with the director to create work that supports the story we are telling.
What’s a typical work week like?
During rehearsals, we work six days a week – eight and a half hours a day. Once we get closer to show time, we start working longer days at the theatre in order to add all of the technical elements of the show like the costumes, lights and the set.
How did you get started?
My mom put me into dance when I was a little girl and I loved it. When I was 13, my musical theatre teacher cast me in a show and I fell in love with musical theatre. I was always interested in the choreography aspect of the show and after high school started to assist local choreographers on different productions. Eventually, I was offered my own show and have been working professionally ever since.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I think the most challenging aspect of my job is taking the music and lyrics and converting them into movement that supports the story. My job is to make every performer look great on stage so working within their skill set to create movement and dancing that they can do well and looks great.
Can you talk a little bit about the different dance styles in this production?
This show is filled with a mix of styles! You are going to see a lot of classic jazz, street jazz, ballroom and of course, Disco.
When did you begin choreographing? Tell us about your first experience.
I started choreographing when I was 15 years old for students at the dance school I attended. Since then, I’ve gone on to choreograph many competition pieces for different dance groups on the lower mainland and children’s theatre. My first professional choreography job was with Theatre Under the Stars and their production of Mary Poppins. It was a huge production with over 30 members in the cast. It was both challenging and exciting.
What is your process like? Are you driven by the music first or a specific concept?
I think it is a bit of both. When I am first starting to create choreography, I often sit down and listen to the music and write down the things I am imagining. I work with the script and the director to create and really understand the story and how we are going to tell it, and then create movement that aligns with the story and the vision for the show. I then get on my feet and start physically working out what each dance step will be and where all of the performers will be standing on stage.
What is your favorite genre to choreograph?
I really enjoy choreographing classic tap pieces. It’s fun to come up with different rhythms that add to the music.
Do you have a favorite routine in this show?
There are so many great pieces in the show. I am actually a really big ABBA fan so it’s been a blast getting to listen to their music every day. If I had to pick, Voulez Vous is one of my favourites.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Being here in Chemanius and getting to create theatre in such a beautiful location is very special. I hope that audiences enjoy Mamma Mia as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it.
DO YOU KNOW ABBA?
A QUIZ ON THE BAND AND MUSIC BEHIND THE MUSICAL
Recording together as a duo, Björn & Benny released their debut album in 1970. What was it called?
A. Lycka C. Björn & Benny
B. The Duo D. Laika
On what TV show did ABBA stage their final appearance?
A. The Morning Show C. The Tonight Show
B. The Late, Late Breakfast Show D. The Oprah Winfrey Show
Which of these albums was the only one not to chart in the UK?
A. Super Trouper C. Ring, Ring
B. Voulez-Vous D. Waterloo
Which Swedish artist designed ABBA’s logo, and all of their album covers from 1976-1986?
A. Ruun Söderqvist C. Rune Söderqvist
B. Rona Söderqvist D. Ron Söderqvist
Which popular Swedish company of the same name did ABBA need to get naming rights permission from?
A. A theatre company C. A chewing gum brand
B. A clothing line D. A fish canning company
As long as they didn’t wear the super flashy ensembles they became famous for donning onstage while
they weren’t performing, they were considered deductible by Swedish law.
A. True B. False
The group was in such high demand that they made the unique arrangement for Russia to pay them with
oil to perform while touring the Soviet Union during the Cold War when rubles had been embargoed.
A. True B. False
Before they were ABBA, what was the band known as?
A. Frida C. The A’s and B’s
B. BABA D. Festfolk
Answers: A, B, C, C, D, A, A, D
The film adaptation The Sound of Music was released March 2, 1965, and for many households, was the introduction to the von Trapp Family, and beloved classic songs such as “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. However, while The Sound of Music was based on Maria von Trapp’s book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (published 1949), there were a number of key differences between the true story of the von Trapp family, and that of the film and Broadway (first performed 1959) adaptations.
THE VON TRAPP FAMILY DID NOT CROSS THE ALPS TO ESCAPE THE NAZIS.
During the climactic scene of the show, the von Trapp family will flee Salzburg, Austria by hiking over the surrounding mountains. In real life, however, this would have lead the von Trapps into Nazi Germany, the very regime they were trying to escape! The real-life departure of the von Trapps was far less dramatic—in broad daylight, the family left their villa and crossed the railway tracks behind their home in order to board a train to Italy, under the guise of a family vacation. They did, however, leave just in time, as the next day the Austrian borders were sealed.
Interesting Historic Fact:
Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler used the von Trapp’s villa during World War II as a summer residence once the von Trapp family had fled.
THE REAL-LIFE MARIA WAS A TUTOR TO ONE OF THE CHILDREN, NOT A GOVERNESS TO THEM ALL.
Georg von Trapp’s second-oldest daughter, Maria, contracted scarlet fever in 1926, and could no longer make the journey to school. Georg sought out Salzburg’s Nonnbery Abbey to find a tutor for his sick daughter. At this time, Maria Augusta Kutschera had entered the Abbey two years previous as a novice, and was the perfect candidate given her training at Vienna’s State Teachers College for Progressive Education. Her time with the von Trapps was to be a 10-month assignment before she formally entered the convent.
MARIA AND GEORG MARRIED LONG BEFORE FLEEING AUSTRIA. AND SHE DID NOT LOVE HIM—AT THE TIME.
47-year old Georg von Trapp and 22-year-old Maria Augusta Kutschera were married on November 26, 1927, more than a decade before they fled. Maria claimed she fell in love with the children at first sight, and she liked their father, but did not love him. Though, as the years went by, Maria did learn to love Georg von Trapp.
THE NAMES OF THE VON TRAPP CHILDREN WERE CHANGED IN BOTH THE BROADWAY AND FILM ADAPTATIONS OF THE STORY OF THE TRAPP FAMILY SINGERS.
Overall, there were 10 von Trapp children, not 7. The names, ages and sexes of the children were all changed. The oldest von Trapp child in real life was Rupert von Trapp, born in 1911 and a practicing physician by the time the von Trapps fled Austria in 1938.
Interesting Historic Fact:
While the von Trapps were offered many enticements by the Nazis—greater fame as a singing group, a position as a medical doctor for Rupert, a further naval career for Georg. The von Trapps knew they were on thin ice—they refused to fly a Nazi flag above their home, refused to sing at Hitler’s birthday party, and Georg declined a naval command. After weighing the benefits against leaving behind their family, friends, estate and all of their possessions, they decided they could not compromise their principles and integrity, and they left.
THE VON TRAPP FAMILY WAS NOT HAPPY WITH THE PORTRAYAL OF THEIR PATRIARCH.
The captain was a warmer father figure than he was made out to be. While he did carry a whistle, and did have a distinct whistle sound for each of his children, as well as dressed his children in sailor suits, he did not have them marching or standing at attention. Out of the two parents, Maria was the one with a cooler demeanor. Though she was a caring and loving person, the real-life Maria was also prone to fits of temper.
MARIA DID NOT BRING MUSIC TO THE VON TRAPP HOUSEHOLD.
The captain and his first wife (who died of scarlet fever) enjoyed music, introducing it to their children and household long before Maria came from the Abbey. Before Maria came, the von Trapp children already knew how to sing and played a number of instruments. What Maria did teach them was madrigals.
Madrigal: “a complex polyphonic unaccompanied vocal piece
on a secular text developed especially in the 16th and 17th centuries”
WHY DID THEY BEGIN PERFORMING?
What originally lead the von Trapp family to begin singing professionally was, like many families, the loss of their fortune in the Great Depression. The von Trapps actually took in boarders in order to bring in additional funds. One of these boarders was Father Franz Wasner, who would act as their musical director for over 20 years. The fictional Max Detweiler never existed in real-life. After fleeing Austria with the von Trapps, Wasner accompanied them on their tours of Europe and the United States.