April 5, 2012

CommUNITY Newsletter Welcomes New Columnist

Category: General — Pride Center of the Capital Region @ 2:21 pm

CommUNITY hit stands and mailboxes over the weekend with our 2012 Arts and Culture issue. Be sure to pick one up and check out stories on some of the exciting things happening in the arts community in the Capital Region. As part of this special issue, we’re pleased to welcome a new regular columnist covering the exciting things going on in local theater. Titled “Here’s Guffman” (taken from Christopher Guest’s hilarious community theater mock-umentary “Waiting for Guffman”), local and actor and theater maven Patrick White will give us an overview of what’s happening in theater, both professional and community, in the Capital Region.  Here’s his first column, which you can find among lots of other features and information in the April Issue of CommUNITY, available now at the Pride Center and locations around the region.

“Here’s Guffman” – by Patrick White

Cohoes Is Ready For a Close-Up

There is a glamorous beast tucked away in the precious music box on Remsen Street known as the Cohoes Music Hall. She’s stretching her legs, running her vocal lines, sharpening her talons and putting on her war paint. Is it a ghost story or a monster under the bed tale? C-R Productions is preparing “Sunset Boulevard” for its opening April 5 running thru the 15th.

This, of course, is the musical adaptation of the much lauded, 11 times nominated 1950 Billy Wilder classic film composed by none other than Andrew Lloyd Weber who supplied C-R with their first smash of the season, “Cats” (Full disclosure: I was favored with being cast in their Christmas production, “A Wonderful Life”).The book and lyrics are by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.

The story is of a reclusive film star of the Silent Era (What is it about silent movies this year?), Norma Desmond whose world is crashed by a young screenwriter, Joe Gillis whom she enlists for her uses-professional and romantic. The idea for the story was born, perhaps appropriately at a funeral with an obligatory requiem given by the co-screenwriter Charles Bracket. “When you’ve had what he had, what you want is the chance to make more pictures, unlimited budgets to play with, complete confidence behind you. What does a man full of vitality care for the past? It’s the present he wants, and the future. There was no solution for Griffith but a frenzied beating on the barred doors. He lies here the embittered years forgotten, David Wark Griffith, the Great.”

Brackett’s co-screenwriter and the film’s director, Billy Wilder  changed the  lead character brilliantly  from a director to a movie star and the stunning creation Norma Desmond was born. 60 years later the film retains its power and fascination because it touches on themes that will never leave us-image versus substance, work’s value, living with meaning and purpose and the legacy of what we leave behind. The glamorous setting and iconic characters attracted many Broadway Musical professionals. Just two years after the film Gloria Swanson, the film’s star was touring in a musical version called “Starring Norma Desmond”. Later the film would be worked on by no less than Sondheim and Prince and Kander & Ebb. Andrew Lloyd Weber premiered his in 1993 in London with Patti Lupone. Fittingly enough, the musical has generated it’s own share of diva stories of  backstabbing, lawsuits and smashed dressing rooms when Glenn Close starred in the Broadway premiere rather than Lupone.  Lupone devotes a delicious chapter in her memoir last year to the show.

“I have loved this score since I saw the show on Broadway.” Enthuses Jim Charles the director of the current production and the C in C-R productions. “I knew the audience would love ‘Cats’. They are in for a real musical treat with ‘Sunset’. The score is stunning.” Starring in the show and making their area debuts are Catherine Fries Vaughn as Norma, Michael Torey as Joe, Christina King as Betty, Kyle Downing as Artie and returning as Max is the company’s most valuable player, Jerry Chistakos. Joshua Zecher-Ross returns after his duties on “Cats” to once again Music Direct.

“I was and continue to be amazed by the story. Norma is a reflection of the change of time. She was a huge star and not able to make the transition to talkies, forcing her to become a recluse and surrounded by memories of what was. All she wanted was the love from the many fans she once had. When Joe Gillis comes into her life, I feel it was the lifeline she so despearately needed at that time. The ending is so tragic. She just wanted to be loved!” says Charles.

Only in a theatre can you truly challenge the great Hollywood lie that film is forever, that once you’re in a movie-you’re eternal. You’re only immortal if someone watches. As the musical puts it “This time I’m staying for good; I’ll be back where I was born to be. With one look, I’ll be me!”

C-R Productions is having no problem dealing with change, in fact they are thriving in these current times, amid an atmosphere which might be called hostile towards the arts. They’ve built a loyal following and are celebrating their 10 anniversary with expansion and growth! This season which opened with “Cats” which Michael Eck called  “flat out wonderful” and one of his favorite moments of 2010 as a critic also had what Paul Lamar of the Daily Gazette called a “Brilliant” production of “Pirates of Penzance”. Other superlatives heaped on that show were “Delightful”-Eck, “Fabulous”-Larry Murray and “Side splitting” Berhardt of the Free George. On top of their busy mainstage season they also offer the tuition free opportunity for local teenagers to shine in their C-R Kids productions  with an awesome production of “Legally Blonde” starring Kelly Swint as Elle and a star making performance by Darcy Schacher (She’s in “Hairspray in May at SLOC, don’t miss her!). Finally and most significantly, their work with C-R Center Stars which just produced a weekend of performances of “Charlotte’s Web” by this cast of people from the Center for Disabilty Services was awe inspiring. Their mission is to “enrich the lives of people with disabilities” but no audience member watching one of their productions can honestly say that they haven’t just witnessed one of the most courageous, committed and beautiful performances they are ever likely to see. When asked what he’s proudest of Jim responds ”Hands down the growth of C-R Center Stars. Tony has done and continues to do an amazing job with this program”. Tony being Tony Rivera the director of “Charlotte’s Web”, C-R Center Star’s previous productions and the R in C-R.

If you’ve never been to a C-R production at Cohoes Music Hall, you really need to discover this Capital Region treasure. As Jim told me “Once people see our work here they always stop to see us and mention they are so glad they found out about us. It is thrilling for Tony and me to meet new people who appreciate the arts in our community. I was surprised when we did ‘La Cage’ and ‘Hairspray’ that we didn’t have a stronger gay audience. The difficult aspect is that many perceive us as a community theatre. They are amazed to find out once they see a show that we are ‘The Capital Region’s Professional Musical Theatre’” Enjoy!

 “Sunset Boulevard”


Cohoes Music Hall


Another Ghost In The Making

Also opening in April is “Circle Mirror Transformation by Annie Baker at SUNY’s Arena Stage directed by the Capital Region’s most acclaimed actress and adjunct professor Yvonne Perry. Fresh off her hilarious, heartrending performance as Gorgeous in “The Sisters Rosensweig” at Capital Rep, Ms. Perry directs the last class of Theatre Majors at SUNY Albany in Ms. Baker’s play which centers around, coincidentally enough an acting class.

The play is a touching, comic collection of scenes by this writer of exceptional grace and power of a disparate group of adults getting together in a Vermont community center to explore what makes theatre the most human of all arts?

 “Circle Mirror Transformation”


SUNY Arena Theatre


Patrick White is a Capital Region actor who will next be seen in “The Real Thing” at Schenectady Civic Playhouse. He can be reached at













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