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January 11th, 2015

Sean joined the Entertainment Costuming management team as an Emerging Leader at the Disneyland Resort!


June 23rd, 2014

Sean became a lead for the Youth Education Series which is part of the Guest Talent Department at the Disneyland Resort. He still remains active as a Core Lead in the Resort Transportation and Parking Department.


January 15th, 2012

Sean joined the Guest Talent Department at the Disneyland Resort. He is now a Youth Education Series Facilitator and still remains active as a Cast Member in the Resort Transportation and Parking Department where he was recently made a Lead.


May 13th, 2011

Sean graduated with a B.A in Theatre (Musical Theatre) from the University of Southern California.


April 29th, 2011

Sean has been accepted into the Disney College Program starting this summer through January.


January 22nd, 2011

A Little Night Music closed after an excellent 5 show run.

"Kranz gets thumbs up for his sound design..."

STAGE SCENE LA

In the time-honored tradition of "The Show Must Go On," the gifted students of USC's justifiably-lauded Musical Theatre Repertory have overcome a major setback (being assigned an unfriendly-to-musicals off-campus venue for their current production) in this entirely student produced, directed, choreographed, and performed revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music.

Sondheim's 1973 gem presents a particular challenge to any student production, even one put on by talent as top-drawer as MTR's. Parts like the glamorous 50ish actress Desiree, her middle-aged lover Fredrik, and Desiree's elderly mother Madame Armfeldt require a depth and maturity that most 18-to-22-year-olds don't yet possess, and Sondheim's challenging melodies and rhythms must be sung by legit, near-operatic voices. Though MTR's production (with a cast made up entirely of freshmen and sophomores) doesn't quit beat the odds against it, a number of performances (particularly those of D.J. Blickenstaff, Cole Cuomo, Erin Manker, Tory Stolper, and Adrienne Visnic) come darn close.

20-year-old director-choreographer Matthew McFarland already had a list of credits a mile long when he appeared three years ago in the World Premiere Production of Jason Robert Brown's 13 at the Mark Taper Forum. This reviewer had the privilege of seeing this triple-threat when he went on terrifically in the role of Eddie, and with A Little Night Music, he can now quite proudly call himself a quintuple threat.

If only MTR had been allowed use of their usual venue, USC's performance-friendly Massman Theatre, problems like blocking difficulties, poor sight-lines, and a bare-bones set design would likely have been non-existent. Notwithstanding, McFarland and company prove themselves extraordinary troupers, doing their utmost despite daunting challenges.

McFarland introduces the cast in a striking opening sequence that combines sharp turns and piercing glances, and ends with a dramatic swirling waltz around the quintet known as the Liebeslieder Singers, the show's Greek Chorus. Manhattan Beach native McFarland introduces many clever directorial touches, making sure that Madame Armfeldt never lights her own cigarette, having maid Petra use her feather duster as a playful weapon, and insuring that every one of Charlotte's verbal arrows hits its mark. McFarland's staging of the picnic that opens the second act is particularly gorgeous.

As Desiree (the kind of woman who recollects her daughter's conception with an offhand, "She happened"), Adrienne Visnic brings up images of a very young Katharine Hepburn, and her rendition of "Send In The Clowns" receives, justifiably, the evening's loudest applause and cheers. D.J. Blickenstaff's standout work as sophisticated, middle-aged sexy Fredrik is even more remarkable when you learn that he has only recently celebrated his nineteenth birthday. Only a quarter of the age of Broadway's original Madame Armfeld, Erin Manker gives the part a dry wit and septuagenarian wisdom that belies her youth, and sings a memorable "Liaisons." Pretty-as-a-picture Emily Rowan is perfectly cast as Anne, Fredrik's virginal 20ish wife, and an equally good Ben Rudolph manages cuteness and charm even with Henrik's requisite perpetual hangdog grimace. (My favorite line is Henrik's "How can I laugh when life makes me want to vomit?") As spurned wife Charlotte, the marvelous Haley Willis sings "Every Day A Little Death" with such sadness, anger, and resignation that it was a shame this reviewer and those around him were unable to catch more than a glimpse of her hat during the son.

Three members of the cast of last fall's The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are not only among the evening's best performers, they score bonus points for versatility, each playing as diametrically different a role in A Little Night Music as can be imagined. Cole Cuomo transitions from the cuddly street-thugishness of Mitch Mahoney to the puff-chested bravado of military dragoon Carl-Magnus, and displays the evening's finest voice in "In Praise Of Women," a song which features the delicious Sondheim rhyme, "How can you slip and trip into a hip-bath?" Tory Stolper leaves pure-hearted ingénue Olive Ostrovsky behind to sizzle as sexy, saucy Petra (God forbid she should be misconstrued a virgin!), her eleventh hour "The Miller's Son" every bit the showstopper Sondheim intended it to be. Finally, there's not a trace of uber-awkward William Barfée in Jeffrey Watson's splendidly-voiced Liebeslieder Singer, joined by fellow Liebeslieders Jessica Conflitti, Sean Kranz, Rachel Newman, and Tegan Robinett in melodious five-part harmony.

Completing the cast effectively in smaller roles are Stephanie Farugia as Desiree's eighteen-year-old daughter Frederika and Peter Mitchell as manservant Frid.

I am told that some stagefloor-level seats will be removed beginning tonight, which should solve some sight-line problems, though it would be advisable to move as many of the scenes taking place far downstage at audience level up to the front of the raised stage behind them, either that or have the actors in these scenes stand whenever possible. (Note: None of these blocking/sightline problems would have existed in the Massman.)

The brilliant Michael Alfera serves as musical director, and along with fellow orchestra members, Edgar Sandoval and Hope Easton, provides excellent musical accompaniment even though the Village Gate Theatre permits him almost no view of the stage. Will Sammons' lighting design is likewise effective despite the "lighting booth" being hidden far offstage, doubtless accounting for several delayed cues. Manuel Prieto has designed lush period costumes. Kranz gets thumbs up for his sound design, assisted by producer Kim Dalton. CeCe Bratton's hair and makeup are excellent. One can only imagine what kind set designer Victoria Tam could have done at the Massman, one which did not need to be quickly struck following last night's performance.

Hopefully Musical Theatre Repertory will soon be able to return to facilities befitting their talents and the luster these oh-so-talented young Trojans add to the reputation of USC's School of Theatre. In the meantime, they are doing their stellar best despite considerable obstacles in their path.

The Village Gate Theatre, 3223 S. Hoover St. Los Angeles. Through January 22. Friday at 7:00 and 11:00 p.m. Sunday at 2:30 and 11:00 p.m. Reservations: uscmtr@gmail.com www.uscmtr.com/a-little-night-music.html

-Steven Stanley
January 20, 2011


January 15th, 2011

Sean has been cast in the ensemble of Evita performing at the Lewis Family Playhouse Apr. 8th-17th.


October 25th, 2010

Sean has been cast in Musical Theatre Repertory's production of A Little Night Music performing in the Massman Theatre Jan. 20th-23rd. He will be playing a Liebeslieder Singer as well as Sound Designing the production.


May 21st, 2010

Sean has been cast as Prince Lucas in Rapunzel the Musical, a new work written by creative team Alison McGarry and Brian Leader, performing at the Electric Lodge Jul. 30th-Aug. 1st.


April 11th, 2010

Into the Woods closed today after a great 10 show run.

"... a terrifically performed treat, and one that does justice to its brilliant source material..."

STAGE SCENE LA

Anyone interested in getting a preview of tomorrow's musical theater stars today could do no better than to check out the USC School Of Theatre's current production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into The Woods, performed CLO-scale and directed by Emmy, Tony, Drama Desk, Ovation and LADCC Award-winning John Rubinstein (Broadway's original Pippin). Like last year's sensational Brigadoon, also directed by Rubinstein, Into The Woods is a terrifically performed treat, and one that does justice to its brilliant source material.

Since its Broadway premiere 23 years ago, Into The Woods has become one of the most performed musicals in the U.S.—in regional CLOs, on college and high school campuses, and in intimate theaters. Its first act, which magically combines some of the best loved of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and its second, which explores with considerable depth what happens after "happily ever after," make for a show which retains its freshness and originality two decades after it first captivated Broadway audiences.

Lapine's book ingeniously takes well-known characters from Cinderella, Jack And The Beanstock, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, adds an original pair of his own (the childless Baker and his wife) and a Witch, and has them meet and interact while on a variety of missions which have sent them Into The Woods. Cinderella attends her ball (though here it is a festival lasting several days), Jack goes off to sell Milky White, his beloved cow, Red Riding Hood leaves to visit Grandma's house, and the Baker and his wife take off in search of four magic ingredients which the Witch says will allow them to conceive a child. By the end of the first act, all the characters have become acquainted and their fairy tale happiness has been assured—until the narrator's Act 1 curtain line ("To Be Continued") alerts us that there is more, much more, to come.

Sondheim's songs go from his signature "where did that note come from" ditties ("On The Steps Of The Palace") to instantly hummable ballads ("Children Will Listen") to the jaunty title song, and his lyrics are both clever ("If it were not for the thicket. A thicket's no trick. Is it thick? It's the thickest. The quickest is pick it apart with a stick.") and profound ("Careful the things you do. Children will see and learn. Children may not obey, but children will listen.").

Rubinstein's take on Into The Woods begins with our Narrator (Mark Jacobson) giving last minute instructions to the eight or so black-clad, headset-sporting stage crew members who will be maneuvering scenic designer Kaitlyn Lee's fanciful modular set pieces into a few dozen assorted configurations throughout the show's nearly three-hour running time. Jacobson then launches into the show's entirely fitting opening line, "Once upon a time in a far off Kingdom lived a young maiden, a sad young lad and a childless baker." The young actor conveys just the right blend of the dignified, the stuffy, and the self-important that the role requires, and doubles to great comic effect as a character known as Mysterious Man, who spouts mystifying lines like "When first I appear, I seem delirious, but when explained, I'm nothing serious."

As might be expected, actors playing characters close to their own ages are standouts. Alex Arthur is simply marvelous as Cinderella, and sings the exceedingly difficult "On The Steps Of The Palace" to perfection. The petite duo of Kenton Chen and Sydney Blair, who could both pass for years younger, couldn't be better as Jack and Little Red Ridinghood. Chen captures all of Jack's innocence and boyish charm, and Blair is everything spunky, tough girl Red should be. Each shines in his or her signature number, Blair with Red's sadder-but-wiser "I Know Things Now" and Chen with the magical "Giants In the Sky."

Despite being a decade or so younger than their characters, Ben Trustman and Emily Goglia invest the Baker and the Baker's Wife with years of wisdom gained from life experience. Their "It Takes Two" is a married couple's wondrous discovery that they do better together than apart. Goglia's "Moments In The Woods" is a wry delight and Trustman's duet of "No More" with Jacobson may leave audience members' eyes more than a bit moist.

Ian Littleworth nails the dual role of the Wolf and Cinderella's Prince, making the former suitably sexy/nasty and the latter appropriately dashing/cocky. Sean Kranz matches him for princely narcissism as Rapunzel's Prince, the goofier of the two royal heirs. Their duet of "Agony" and its reprise are beautifully sung and funny as can be.

The exceptionally challenging role of the Witch has stymied many an actress since being originated on Broadway by the phenomenal Bernadette Peters. Marina Lynn Macer gives it her all, and has good moments even despite the role's hard-to-nail complexities, depth, and vocal challenges.

Supporting roles are pretty much all winners. Penelope Yates has loads of fun with Cinderella's egocentric stepmother, and Megan McDermott and Lauren Leigh Barker (as stepsisters Florinda and Lucinda) are both laugh-getters. Emily Spencer Munson is a less ditzy Jack's Mother than usual, but the performance works, Munson conveying Mom's frustration with and her love for her slightly dimwitted son. Adrienne Storrs displays a lovely singing voice as Cinderella's mother and comedic talent as Red Ridinghood's Granny. Haley Fletcher (Rapunzel) is a terrific comedienne and singer. Adorable Christopher Higgins' hilarious, fresh take on the Steward is one to remember. Michael Ishkanian is funny as Cinderella's lush of a father. Olivia Lane and Lexie Lowell pop up to humorous effect in their eleventh hour appearances as Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

Director Rubinstein deserves highest marks for his physical staging as well as for the way he has worked with his cast as actors creating characters and not simply as musical theater performers singing Sondheim. He is greatly aided in his staging by Lee's ingenious set, made up of a dozen or more modular units which suggest trees, houses, and towers rather than depicting them literally, and which the aforementioned stage crew are continually moving into complex new patterns. (This works particularly well in making the audience share the characters' feelings of being lost in a forest maze.)

Musical Director Parmer Fuller conducts the large pit orchestra, which gives this Into The Woods a rich, professional sound.

Michelle Goulart's costumes have just the right fairy tale feel, with special snaps for the Wolf's imaginative garb and Red Ridinghood's pink petticoats and (of course) red riding hood. Liza Burns' lighting conveys both the show's magic and charm and its darker moments as well. Philip G. Allen and Sean Foote's sound design provides a perfect mix between miked voices and the Broadway-ready orchestra, plus some great booming, startling sound effects as well. Lili Fuller has choreographed a couple of charming dance numbers. Molly McGraw serves as production stage manager.

All in all, the USC School Of Theatre's production of Into The Woods comes very close to equaling the best of our professional CLO stagings. Add a few years (or decades) to the cast members' ages and you couldn't tell the difference between college and pro. It's that splendid a production.

Bing Theatre, University Of Southern California, 3500 Watt Way, Los Angeles. Through April 11. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 7:00. Saturday at 2:30 and 8:00. Sunday at 2:30. Reservations: 213 740-4672 http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/spectrum/events.html

--Steven Stanley
April 3, 2010


January 24th, 2010

Urinetown closed after a fantastic 6 show run.

"...Co-directors Melissa Trupp and Sean Kranz deserve high marks for scaling down a big-stage Broadway musical to intimate theater dimensions, and for eliciting much dynamic work from their cast..."

STAGE SCENE LA

USC's Musical Theatre Repertory proves once again (in the immortal words of The Who) that "the kids are alright" with their latest production, the 2001 Broadway hit musical Urinetown.

Entirely student performed, directed, and designed, MTR's Urinetown makes for an entirely entertaining evening of contemporary musical theater at its most original, and a great fit for these late teens/early 20s triple-threats. After all, with a title like Urinetown, and a plot as "out there" as the one devised by creators Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, this is clearly not your grandparents' musical.

Urinetown takes place at a time in the not so distant future when decades of drought have caused such a shortage of water that "It's A Privilege To Pee," i.e. private toilets have become illegal and people must pay to use the amenities. When our hero Bobby Strong learns that his father has peed illegally and been sent to Urinetown (=the worst fate imaginable), Bobby leads a rebellion against Urine Good Company, the megafirm which owns and operates the public toilets. Then, in true Romeo and Juliet tradition, Bobby falls for Hope Cladwell, the beautiful daughter of UGC CEO Caldwell B. Cladwell, and finds himself caught between his romantic heart and his revolutionary ideals.

What makes Urinetown work (it ran nearly 1000 performances on Broadway and has since become a regional theater favorite) is its tongue-in-cheek, irreverent attitude, its clever dialog, its quirky but hummable score, and (especially in the MTR production), some of the best choreography you're likely to see this or any year.

Ian Littleworth makes for a dashingly heroic Bobby, demonstrating stage presence and powerful pipes. Lovely Megan McDermott has just the right off-centeredness to make her Hope far less bland than she might appear on paper, though her voice sometimes gets lost in the Massman Theatre. As Cladwell, a very good Tucker Brown looks and acts every bit the power-hungry tycoon he's playing. Deane Sullivan has just the right tongue-in-cheek quality for Officer Lockstock, sharing narrator duties with Little Sally, a deliciously smart-alecky Kim Dalton.

Sullivan and Dalton get some of Hollman and Kotis's best lines, as in the following exchange, early on in the show. Little Sally: I guess you don't want to overload them with too much exposition, huh? Lockstock: Everything in its time, Little Sally. You're too young to understand it now, but nothing can kill a show like too much exposition. Little Sally: How about bad subject matter? Or a bad title even? That could kill a show pretty good.

Erin Pruziner gets many laughs as Lockstock's partner, cleverly named Barrel (Lockstock & Barrel), though I would have preferred a tad less mugging to the audience. Matthew McFarland as the psychopathic Hot Blades Harry and Elizabeth Pye as foul-mouthed Little Becky Two-Shoes are standouts in "Snuff That Girl," one of Urinetown's many great production numbers. Supporting performances are uniformly fine—Allen Darby as greedy Senator Fipp, Thomas Krottinger as the rebellious Old Man Strong, Greta McAnany as Bobby's strong-willed mother Josephine, , and Braden Davis as Mr. McQueen, Cladwell's statuesque subordinate. Playing assorted "Rebel Poor" and UCG staff members are multi-talented Sydney Blair Friedman, Jeffrey Watson, Adrienne Storrs, DJ Bickenstaff, Emma Chandler, Carrie St. Louis, and Jen Bashian.

Finally, reinventing the role of tough-gal "amenities warden" Penelope Pennywise is dazzling star-on-the-rise Janet Krupin. With abundant charisma and comedic chops, and a voice that can belt higher than you might think humanly possible, Krupin is the kind of performer you can't take your eyes off of.

Co-directors Melissa Trump and Sean Kranz deserve high marks for scaling down a big-stage Broadway musical to intimate theater dimensions, and for eliciting much dynamic work from their cast. Musical director Michael Alfera merits equal applause for his crackerjack piano playing and for the great harmonies he's got his singers creating. Chris Payne on drums and Eliana Athayde on bass provide excellent musical backup.

Quite possibly the biggest star of the evening is Friedman's sensational choreography, easily as exciting as any I've seen in professional productions. There's more dancing in Urinetown than in any musical this side of 42nd Street, and more stylistic variety than in any single show I can think of—tributes to Fosse, Michael Bennett, Jerome Robbins, just to name a few, executed in energetic precision by these terrifically talented USC Trojans. No longer can a musical theater performer be just a singer or just a dancer, and these triple-threats prove just how much talent is out there.

Kudos to costume designer Joe Kennedy, scenic and lighting designer Trupp, sound designer Kranz, hair and makeup designer Friedman, and the rest of the MTR design team.

Much as I relish the chance to see major Equity productions of big Broadway musicals, an occasional student production of the caliber of MTR's Urinetown can provide entertainment at much the same level, plus the enthusiasm and energy that future pros have in abundance. Anyone who wants evidence that in today's musical theater the kids are indeed "alright" need only head over to USC's Massman theater for abundant proof.

Massman Theatre (at USC), 1029 Childs Way, Los Angeles Through January 24. Thursday 8:00, Friday 8:00 and 11:00, Saturday 2:30 and 8:00, Sunday 2:30. Tickets available at the door or by emailing uscmtr@gmail.com http://www.uscmtr.com/index.html

--Steven Stanley
January 21, 2010


January 19th, 2010

Sean has been cast in the USC School of Theatre Production of Into the Woods performing in the USC Bing Theatre April 1st-11th. He'll be playing the role of Rapunzel's Prince.


October 12th, 2009

Sean was cast as Bobby in the USC School of Theatre Experimental's production of Company performing in the USC Massman Theatre Nov. 19th-22nd. He'll be assitant music directing, lighting designing and sound designing for the show as well.


October 8th, 2009

Sean will be co-directing Urinetown for Musical Theatre Repertory performing in the USC Massman Theatre in mid-January.


August 26th, 2009

Sean was cast as Dr. Parker in the USC School of Theatre Experimental's production of Bat Boy performing Oct. 8th-11th at the USC Village Gate Theater. He'll also be assitant music directing, lighting designing and sound designing for the production.


April 11th, 2009

Brigadoon closed today after a great 10 show run.

"...this is the first time I've found myself really loving the show—the first time Brigadoon has truly touched my heart..."

STAGE SCENE LA

Anyone wondering where to see great musical theater without having to pay a fortune would do well to check out the USC Theater Department's upcoming schedule. If the just closed production of Lerner and Lowe's Brigadoon is any example, USC's theater kids are some of the best musical theater performers around, and working under famed professionals like director John Rubenstein and choreographer Troy Magino, they are doing sensational work indeed.

In fact, though I've seen Brigadoon more than once before, this is the first time I've found myself really loving the show—the first time Brigadoon has truly touched my heart. Its tale of a magical land which becomes visible to mere mortals only once every hundred years is about as romantic as musicals come and like the land which bears its name, Brigadoon (the musical) has aged scarcely a day since its Broadway premiere in 1947.

As Fiona, Briga Heelan is an incandescent stage presence with a glorious soprano, a star in the making if there ever was one. Providing fine support are an enchanting Mary Kate Wiles as "bonnie Jean" and teen-idol-ready Christopher Higgins as her intended, Charlie Dalrymple. Adam Peterson does intense, committed work as the doomed Charlie. Leading man Joe Sofranko (Tommy) makes for a fine romantic hero opposite Heelan and their love story is both believable and involving. Lending stature, age, and gravitas is an excellent Will Harris as Mr. Lundie.

Two other performers stand out among the huge cast. Ray Chase has abundant stage presence and a great, dry delivery as cynical Jeff Douglas, perhaps the only lead character in a musical who neither sings nor dances. Stealing every scene she's in as saucy Meg is petite firecracker Lili Fuller. Her two numbers ("The Love Of My Life" and "My Mother's Wedding Day") are showstoppers.

Vocally, this is a mostly very strong cast, with Helan, Higgins, and Fuller making the strongest impression. As dancers, this is an ensemble as proficient as any you'll see in local professional productions. Magino pays tribute to the classic Agnes DeMille ballets and jigs, all the while creating almost entirely new choreography, which his cast execute with grace and precision.

The orchestra, under the direction of Parmer Fuller, provides impeccable accompaniment to the hit-filled Lerner and Lowe score. Set designer extraordinaire Tom Buderwitz's work here is as fine as any he has done professionally. Costumes by Alexis de Forest, Griffin Behm's lighting, and Philip G. Allen and Sean Foote's sound design are equally gorgeous.

Completing the huge cast in expert fashion are the following very talented USC students: Michael Alfera (Sandy Dean), Emma Chandler (Kate), Peter Erian (Angus MacGuffie), Emily Iscoff-Daigian (Jane), Mark Jacobson (Archie Beaton), Sean Kranz (Stuart Dalrymple), Thomas Krottinger (Andrew MacLaren), Natalie Storrs (Maggie Anderson), Ben Trustman (Frank), Bernadette Anne Tyra (Fishmonger), and (appearing as the townsfolk of Brigadoon) Alycia Adler, Giana Bommarito, Kim Dalton, Allen Darby, Sydney Blair Friedman, Matthew Harkenrider, Brittany Kovler, Janet Krupin, Michael Marchak, Emily Spencer Munson, Chris Narrie, Rachel Newman, Eileen Cherry O'Donnell, Rebecca Pollock, Matthew Salvatore, Christina Senesi, Danielle Skalsky, Adrienne Storrs, Ashley Strumwasser, Anne-Marie White, and Ashley Wright. Authentic bagpiper George Hall makes a cameo appearance.

The musical theater business is a tough one, and USC's is far from the only fine program for aspiring performers. Still, don't be surprised if you see some of the names in this review starring in major professional productions and maybe even appearing on Broadway someday. They're that good. (Catch them now while they're still local and affordable.)

--Steven Stanley
April 11, 2009


January 22nd, 2009

Sean sound designed for MTR's Production of The Wild Party.

"...a preview of some very exciting professional careers ahead..."

STAGE SCENE LA

USC's Musical Theatre Repertory's production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party is a thrilling endeavor which serves as further evidence of the brilliant directorial vision of Steve Edlund (Sunday In The Park With George) and as a preview of some very exciting professional careers ahead.

Lippa's off-Broadway Wild Party, like its Broadway counterpart (Michael John LaChiusa's version of the same epic 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure March), centers on an all-night party which turns into orgy which turns to tragedy. Edlund conceives his production as a dream-turned-nightmare, allowing him to spotlight his twelve-actor ensemble almost as frequently as Lippa's book and songs do the musical's four lead characters, keeping the party guests ever-present, surrounding Queenie, Burrs, Kate, and Black like demons.

Flashes of Edlund's imagination are everywhere, from the opening number which features the cast "A Chorus Line"-d-up, holding not headshots but mug shot numbers (following their post-party arrest), to its closing moments when the party guests find themselves once again in line, about to spend then night in jail as punishment for their wildness.

Edlund's Wild Party is visually stunning (kudos to Sara Nishida's dramatic lighting) from our first view of saxophonist David Olivas illuminated by a single spot, to the cast surrounding Queenie (Briga Heelan) with hand-held lightbulbs, to the bright police headlights which appear suddenly as the cops arrive to arrest the hung-over partiers.

Talk about a busy ensemble. As Burrs (Chase Williamson) sits on a chair masturbating, the entire cast surround him, lifting him up as if he were on a boat on a rolling sea, then encircle the bed, witnesses to his rape of lover Queenie, and later, when he threatens her with a knife, they pursue him offstage like a pack of wild dogs. The bed becomes a 1920s roadster as the partygoers head towards Queenie and Burrs' flat, introducing themselves to us, the front two party guests holding flashlights as the car's headlamps. Whether interacting, forming couples, or surrounding the bed of a newly-coupled pair of lovers, the cast remains an integral part of the action. Only at rare, quiet moments does the ensemble retreat to upstage chairs for a break.

Choreography (by Edlund and Lily Fuller) rates an A+, with the high energy "Let's Raise The Roof" and "The Juggernaut" standouts, featuring the entire cast executing complex, erotic, full-body moves in perfect sync. (Note—the orgy sequence which in some other productions has the cast's near naked bodies entwined is staged here in a manner to insure that parents of the performers need not fear seeing their children in X-rated poses.) In addition to Edlund and Fuller's spectacular dances, Joe Sofranko has choreographed a dramatic fight sequence between Burrs and Eddie with some great slo-mo effects.

Musical director Brian P. Kennedy has assembled a stellar six-piece orchestra with Kennedy on piano, Mandy Mamlet on keyboard, sax player Olivas doubling on flute, Kenneth Johnson on bass, Gavin Salmon on drums, and Erik Miron on guitar, all of whom perform Lippa's omnipresent score to perfection. If there's a disadvantage to having so many instruments on stage, it's that the unmiked singers often have to push too hard to be heard above the musicians, something that does not always show off their voices to their best advantage. Since important dialog and lyrics are also sometimes drowned out by the band's volume, body mikes would make the production sound considerably better.

As Queenie, the gorgeous, voluptuous Heelan does intense, committed work, with her performance of the closing number, "How Did We Come To This?" a triumph of musical theater acting/singing. Though Heelan's singing suffers from being unmiked in "Let's Raise The Roof," her "Maybe I Like It That Way" (with simply Heelan on vocals and Kennedy on piano) is sung with beauty and power.

Though Williamson is perhaps not as menacing as Burrs could be, he is excellent at showing Queenie's lover's mental instability. The song "What Is It About Her?" provides a fine vocal showcase for the handsome young actor/singer, and when he goes berserk in "Let Me Drown," the cast once again encircling him demonically, Williamson proves that the crazier Burrs gets, the better his performance becomes.

In a complete turnabout from her StageSceneLA Best of 2007-8-cited performance as Dot in Sunday In The Park With George, Natalie Peyser makes Kate makes a firecracker of manic energy. She is sexy indeed lying atop the upright piano flirting with the pianist Kennedy and a powerhouse as she belts out "The Life Of The Party."

As Black, Garland Hunt Jr. has a voice of velvet (his "When You Cry" may well bring tears to your eyes) and a suaveness, strength, and tenderness that prove a perfect counterpoint to Burrs' mania.

The plum role of predatory lesbian Madeline True goes to scene-stealing Laura Darrell, unrecognizable as ingénue Maria in MTLA's West Side Story with her scary white-streaked hair and a hip she throws out to audience delight. Whether milking her solo ("An Old-Fashioned Love Story") for everything it's worth or turning bright green with jealousy when she finds a female object of her lust making out with a man, Darrell gives one of her most memorable performances yet.

Equally scene-stealing is adorable co-choreographer Fuller, a sizzling pixie with a Betty Boop soprano in the role of Mae, girlfriend of pugilist Eddie (MTR regular Ben Trustman, who manages to be both scary and funny at once when asking "Are you making fun of me?!") Their number, "Two Of A Kind," sparkles like an old-time vaudeville routine.

Completing the ensemble are Michael Marchak (Jackie), doing a beautiful "morning after" ballet dance solo to "Jackie's Last Dance," and triple-threats Jeffrey Watson (Oscar D'Armano), Kenton Chen (a standout as Phil D'Armano), Adam North (Sam Himelsteen), Rachel Salzman (Rose Himelsteen), Cameron Ernst (Max), Hayley Huntley (Nadien), Emily Iscoff-Daigian (Dolores) and Mary Kate Wiles (Sally).

Edlund's set/prop design features piles of steamer trunks (and a bed of course), all on rollers to be moved here and there on the black-walled stage by cast members taking us to various nooks and crannies in Queenie and Burrs' apartment. Costumes by Fuller and Peyser and hair design by Bernadette Tyra capture the look and feel of the decadent Roaring 20s. Sean Kranz's sound design incorporates sirens and the tinkling of Kate's tinkle (good for several laughs).

As a musical, The Wild Party doesn't last nearly as long as Queenie and Burrs' party itself, but it does clock in at over two and a half hours. Fear not, though. There's nary a dull moment in an evening filled with passion and power. Here's hoping that Steve Edlund won't have to wait to long to make his professional directorial debut. 21st Century theater needs more artists of his caliber, and if The Wild Party is any example, it is a thrilling indication of great things to come.

Performs at the Massman Theatre (at USC), Located at 1029 Childs Way, Los Angeles 90089 Through January 25 6 PERFORMANCES ONLY: Wednesday 8pm, Thursday 8pm, Friday 8pm and 11:30pm, Saturday 8pm, Sunday 2pm Tickets available at the door or by emailing uscmtr@gmail.com. For more information, visit http://uscmtr.weebly.com

--Steven Stanley
January 21, 2009


January 20th, 2009

Sean has been cast in the USC School of Theatre Production of Brigadoon performing in the USC Bing Theatre April 2nd-11th. He'll be playing the role of Stuart Dalrymple.


October 26th, 2008

Sean is now one of the Artistic Directors of USC's student run musical theater group Musical Theatre Repertory.


October 13th, 2008

Sean will be portraying the part of Laurie & Rodrigo in the USC School of Theatre Experimental's production of Little Women performing in the USC Massman Theatre Nov. 21st-23rd. He will be co-music directing, lighting designing and sound designing for the show as well.


October 2nd, 2008

Sean sound designed for MTR's Production of Hello Again.

"...an all around sensational production which proves that student produced-directed-acted-designed work can give any professional production a run for its money..."

STAGE SCENE LA

Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 classic La Ronde becomes a seductive chamber musical in Michael John LaChiusa's Hello, Again, currently being staged by USC's Musical Theatre Repertory in an all around sensational production which proves that student produced-directed-acted-designed work can give any professional production a run for its money.

Simply to find 12 college-age singers capable of performing LaChiusa's complex melodies is a feat in and of itself. That each of the 12 should be an ideal fit for his or her part is even more remarkable. That everything should come together so perfectly under Briga Heelan's confident direction is something to celebrate.

Like La Ronde, Hello, Again begins with a man and a woman, adds a bit of mystery, seduction, humor, and a big helping of sex, then sends one of the pair into the arms of another, who then couples with yet another, and so on and so forth until the La Ronde comes full circle with the last new character paired with the first to have disappeared from the loop. LaChiusa, who wrote book, music, and lyrics, adds a bit of non-chronological time travel to the mix (the first scene is set circa 1900, the second in the 1940s, the third in the 1960s, then back to the 1930s for scene 4, until the tenth and final scene brings us up to the year 2000). The openly gay composer also adds a homotwist to the circle by having the cast made up of 6 men and 4 women. You do the math.

The daisy-chain begins with The Whore (Jessica Perlman) and the Soldier (Peter Byrnes), the latter of whom has no cash to offer in exchange for sex. Fortunately for him, she turns out to be "the one who gives it away" in the first of many simulated sex scenes, more of them than you're likely ever to have seen in any 90 minutes of musical theater. In fact, of the 10 couplings, only one does not involve copulation, and that's only because an iceberg gets in the way.

The soldier then meets The Nurse (Mary Kate Wiles), and with a 1940s swing trio providing backup harmony, he sings, "I gotta scratch my itch. May be my last. I got a little war. My boat's about to leave." He just wants to get his nuts off. She wants more than just a one night fling. What else is new?

The Vietnam War is raging when the nurse meets The College Boy (Brad Wergley), an Upper East Side rich kid with parents moneyed enough to hire in-home care for the young scion's sprained angle. Teenage boys may have the reputation for being horny devils, but this time it's the nurse who takes charge and the college boy learns that stockings have more than one use. (Can you say "Tie me up?").

Cut to a 1930s movie theater where Fred Astaire is dancing on the screen and the college boy is having an illicit tryst with The Young Wife (Natalie Storrs), who declares herself "morally bankrupt" and proves it by giving college boy a blow job, popcorn sticking to her knees. Now, if only the boy could get it up and keep it up.

Milton Berle is on the TV (it's the 1950s after all) as the young wife and The Husband (Steve Edlund) prepare for a night at the opera. But first, a bit of conjugal gratification, during which the young wife fantasizes about love with a stranger in LaChuisa's catchiest tune, "Tom." "I can't remember my husband's face," she sings. "I can't remember my lover's face. But I can remember a stranger's face."

It's the 1910s and the husband has invited The Young Thing (Michael Peha) to his luxury liner stateroom, telling him "When I saw you board at Southampton I thought: There you were, all alone, sailing across the sea, sweltering in steerage, looking lost and hungry. Fatherless. Penniless. Innocent." Well not innocent for long if the husband has his way. Then again, there is that pesky iceberg…

Disco and polyester reign in the 1970s as the young thing meets The Writer (Derik Nelson), who already sees in his mind's eye the movie De Palma will be making from his screenplay. The young thing wants "somewhere safe, anywhere safe"; the writer wants nothing more than the young thing's slim young behind, and to paraphrase Lola in Damn Yankees, what writer wants, writer gets, and sweet young thing, horny writer, wants you.

Fortunately for the women of Hello, Again, the writer swings both ways, and is now a 1920s silent movie writer/director/star, appearing opposite The Actress (Emily Goglia) and trying in vain to win a declaration of love from her. (This is Hello, Again's only scene without a song, though LaChiusa provides silent movie-style musical accompaniment.)

The actress, now living in the 1980s, is mistress to The Senator (Ben Trustman) but desires more from their relationship. "I'll be what you want, I'll be anything for you," she sings, and offers him a diamond brooch she had received from an admirer (to make him jealous?) but to no avail. Soon the senator is out the door and into the arms of The Whore, back from Scene 1, in the year 2000, and before she can tell him "Hello, Again," the circle is complete.

LaChiusa's often discordant music has been called an acquired taste, the composer's this-way-and-that-way melodies making Sondheim seem positively Rodgers-and-Hammersteinesque by comparison, however having seen several LaChiusa shows over the past few years, most notably The Blank's sizzling production of The Wild Party, I must confess to having acquired a taste for his tunes.

Director Heelan clearly knows her LaChiusa and understands Hello, Again to a T, and this shines through in her assured direction. Working with a superb design team on a limited budget, the results are visually quite stunning, and with her entire cast so well chosen and so vocally capable, and Brian P. Kennedy's musical direction as fine as any I've heard in a 99-seat theater, this Hello, Again can't help but be a winner.

Each of the 10 performers could easily inspire a sentence or even a paragraph of praise. Suffice it to say that there is not a weak link in this cast of first-rate singer/actors, each of whom proves absolutely right for his or her role, from Perlman's voluptuous whore to Byrnes' earnest soldier to Wiles' saucy nurse to Wergley's eager college boy to Storrs' frustrated young wife to Edlund's pervy husband to Peha's wide-eyed young thing to Nelson's self-involved writer to Goglia's diva of an actress to Trustman's womanizing senator. It also helps that LaChiusa's characters are, with few exceptions, not too far removed from the actors' ages, so student production or not, this is simply musical theater at its best.

Notice how LaChiusa's script allows each cast member to play a number of minor roles, carefully chosen to suit the actors' main character. The Senator appears as an inebriated man, The Actress doubles as an opera prima donna, and The Young Thing is also a pop singer.

When The College Boy and The Young Wife have their movie theater tryst, they are surrounded by horny men. Scene 2's 1940s setting features an appropriately swingy trio and quintet,

Scene 7 has most of the cast dancing to a disco beat, and Scene 9 has cast members doubling as 1980s music video performers.

Hello, Again's music score manages to fit each decade, all the while remaining quintessentially LaChiusa, whether the five-part harmony of the 1940s "We Kiss" or the 1930s tango "Story Of My Life" or the doo-wop 1950s sounds of "At The Prom" or the "do the hustle" beat of the disco-70s "Montage."

Several dance sequences feature Lili Fuller's fine choreography. Edlund's inventive scenic design situates the action atop a large watch face which covers the stage floor, accentuating the notion of traveling through time. Set pieces (a street lamp, a bed, a futon, etc.) complete the minimalist yet very effective set. Natalie Peyser and Edlund's lighting design is as good as any I've seen in a professional small theater production of this kind, colors heightening moods, and a particularly fine final sequence has the actors forming a circle around the stage, each lit from above by a single spot. Costume designer Sarah Morris has met the challenge of creating clothes for the main characters which not only fit era but also personality, as well as numerous costume changes for the many minor characters. Sean Kranz's sound design insures that the orchestra never overpowers the singers, or vice versa. Musical director Kennedy doesn't miss a note on the piano, and is backed by an equally fine Kenneth Johnson on bass and Christopher Carhart on percussion.

Next up for Musical Theatre Repertory is an Edlund-directed production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, which is on my must-see list for January, and should be on yours. In the meantime, Hello, Again, plays at USC through this weekend. See it, or you'll wish that you had, and who knows when there'll be another chance to see Hello, Again? With Musical Theatre Repertory doing fine work like this, the future of musical theater is in very good hands indeed.

Massman Theatre, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Through October 5. Friday at 8:00 and 11:30, Saturday at 8:00, and Sunday at 2:00.

--Steven Stanley
October 2, 2008


August 28th, 2008

Sean was cast as Jonesy in the USC School of Theatre Experimental's gender swapped version of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying performing Oct. 9th-12th at the USC Village Gate Theater. He'll also be co-music directing and lighting designing for the production.


January 28th, 2008

Sunday closed yesterday after our short weekend run.

"...Comic relief is provided in the characters of Mr. and Mrs., American tourists..., wonderfully portrayed by Sean Kranz and Ashley Wright..."

STAGE SCENE LA

The future of musical theater is in good hands with talented students like those from USC who have put together a sensational black box production of Sondheim/Lapine's Sunday In The Park With George, a production which actually surpasses last year's outstanding Sunday/George at The Chance Theatre in both imagination and originality. This is due in large part to director/set designer Steve Edlund, aided by a fine cast and a star making performance by Natalie Peyser.

Musical Theatre Repertory's Edlund has designed a mobile white-walled set which spans the wide Massman Theatre stage and takes shape before our eyes as a modern day, denim clad George utters the memorable opening lines, "White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole. Through design. Composition. Tension. Balance. Light. And harmony." A large blank screen upstage begins to fill, like a giant Etch-A-Sketch, with lines which begin to represent Seurat's most famous work, "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Later on, the pencil lines become charcoal, with shadings of gray, and eventually fill with color and light.

For the few uninitiated, Sunday In The Park With George is the story of 19th century French painter George Seurat, his fictitious model/muse Dot, and (in act 2) Seurat's 20th century great-grandson also called George, and his grandmother Marie, the elderly daughter of the first George and Dot. Its themes are "art, emotional connection, and community." (Wikipedia.org)

In the role of Dot, Edlund has cast Natalie Peyser, an actress/singer of great confidence and talent who more than holds her own again recent performances by Broadway's Kelli O'Hara at Reprise! and the Chance's talented Lowe Taylor. Peyser conveys Dot's tenderness, and her charm. "I can read," she exclaims insistently, and then in the tiniest voice, "a little." At times, she is nearly incandescent. Even when Peyser is sharing the stage, you can't take your eyes off her. In a fine scene with Tara Panattoni as Yvonne, Peyser is particularly strong as she mocks Yvonne's affectations (and Panattoni is very good indeed as she reveals Yvonne's insecurities). In act 2, a gray haired Peyser returns as modern George's 90something grandmother, Marie, her eyes shimmering with memories, her voice quavering as she sings a heart-wrenching "Children and Art." Remember the name Natalie Peyser. You'll be hearing it again for sure.

As both 19th century George and his modern namesake, DJ Cashmere has the harder task, as the role(s) of George put vocal demands on even the best tenor, and there is always the memory of Mandy Patinkin's almost unnaturally high and pure voice on the original cast recording. Cashmere gives it his all, and conveys George's passion verging on obsession in "Finishing the Hat." He is especially good in "The Day Off," as tough Spot and saucy Fifi (two canines), down on his hands and knees, sniffing the ground, and creating two very different voices for the pooches. Cashmere does some fine and credible acting as contemporary George.

A real standout in the production is Laura Darrell in a pair of very different characterizations. With the help of some excellent aging makeup, Darrell is believable and touching as George's elderly mother, reappearing in Act 2 glamorized as wealthy art maven Blair Daniels. Darrell, who sings "Beautiful" … beautifully and with deep feeling, has a solid career ahead of her as a musical theater character actress.

Handsome Keith Barletta is suitably oily as the lecherous Franz. In a very clever bit, Franz, seated on the grass next to a standing Nurse slips his hand under her floor length skirt and up her leg as he whispers seductively, "It's too hot." Sydney Blair Friedman is Franz's wife Frieda, very funny as she and Franz strike a pose when they discover George painting them, and later reacting to the stench of the boatman (an appropriately surly and vulgar Jonathan Shell).

Ben Trustman is very good as the supercilious Jules, with his handlebar mustache and giggly wife, an equally good Tara Panattoni. James Grosch is excellent as Louis, the baker, whose sweet smile makes one almost forget that he's not the brightest bulb. Grosch returns effectively in Act 2 as modern George's close friend Dennis.

One of director Edlund's original touches (or at least one I'd never seen before) is the clear differentiation between the two Celestes. Wearing completely dissimilar costumes, these are clearly two very distinct young women. Celeste # 1 (Greta McAnany) is the Alpha Celeste, taking great pleasure in bossing the sweeter, more subservient Celeste # 2 (Ashley Strumwasser) around, even hitting her with her umbrella when #2 is a bit insubordinate. #2 knows well enough not to let #1 sit on the grass without cleaning the ground with her handkerchief, and when #1 is seated, she makes sure to hold her umbrella straight above her head leaving poor #2 to sit unprotected from the sun. McAnany never overplays Celeste's bossiness, and the lovely Strumwasser would seem to be just right for future roles as Laurey in Oklahoma and Julie in Carousel.

Brad Wergley is funny (so cute and yet so dim) as the "human" soldier, his bosom buddy comrade in arms represented by a blurred charcoal drawing on a human-sized cutout. Kelly Combs does very well as bratty Louise, and as modern George's ex-wife Elaine.

Comic relief is provided in the characters of Mr. and Mrs., American tourists (presumably from George W. Bush country or thereabouts), wonderfully portrayed by Sean Kranz and Ashley Wright. Wright has the good luck to get to play three roles, all of them with flair. In addition, she's the Irish nurse and in Act 2 reappears as the gregarious Harriet Pawling.

Director Edlund shows special skill in maneuvering his 15-actor cast around the stage, and especially in group scenes like the end of act 1 mayhem which George stops with a shouted "Order!", leading to a moving rendition of Sondheim's exquisite "Sunday" with "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" filling the stage from left to right as the actors strike the painting's inhabitant's distinctive poses.

One of the stumbling blocks productions of Sunday In The Park With George face is the sometimes awkward transition from act 1's 1887 setting and the more contemporary act 2's 1984 time frame. Edlund's set helps greatly in making this transition, as it transforms effortlessly from park to art gallery.

The same upstage screen which held Seurat's "Grande Jatte" painting now projects a lightning fast montage of famous paintings, spanning every year between 1887 and 1984 in machine-gun rapid succession. Yet another of Edlund's innovative ideas.

The Chromolume presentation is very effectively executed with a giant hollow Plexiglas crystal center stage, housing a half dozen or so colored rotating spotlights, while a laser light show takes place above the set, accompanied by electronica music.

Speaking of music, the very talented musical director Billy Thompson (composer of Invasion The Musical, costar of Twist, and USC grad) makes beautiful music at the piano, aided by Alexander Gerogakis on keyboard 2. Rarely has a single piano sounded so "big" and flawless.

Nick Handley's lighting design is very effective, notably in a scene where Dot sits at her desk powdering herself, bathed in a celestial white light, George's portrait of her in this same pose propped against the wall behind her. In the background a nearly crazed George stands behind a transparent scrim on which he adds dots of color to his signature painting, all the while singing "Dot Dot sitting, Dot Dot waiting, Dot Dot getting fat fat fat…" Excellent lighting aiding in creating a powerful scene.

Costumes are at a highly professional level, with credit due to Peyser for the first act's intricately designed and beautifully executed 19th century fashions, including a hand-made bustle for Dot and the most god-awful feathered hat you've ever seen for Mrs., the obnoxious American tourist. Sara Fox designed act 2's 80s fashions, which are perfect recreations of the big-shouldered look of 20 years ago. The women all have absolutely spot-on 80s hair as well.

Jesse Laks contributed the excellent sound and projection design, Griffin Behm was laser designer, Joe Sofranko choreographed the fights, and Paul Backer was vocal/dialect coach. Others involved behind the scenes included Melissa Trupp, Kim Parch, Kaitlyn Lee, Kate Thomas, Liza Burnes, Brittany Perham-MacWhorter, Sarah Morris, Carmen Smith, Jordan Schames, Sarah Steinman, Catherine Jeffrey, Brent Lomas, and Lili Fuller.

Seeing a student production always requires some additional suspension of disbelief, with young actors (in this case averaging around 20 years old) often playing roles which, once they enter the world of professional theater, they won't get the chance to perform again for another 20 or 30 years. But it's also exciting as an audience member to see glimpses into the kinds of roles the future holds for these performers.

This USC student production of Sunday In The Park With George competes quite favorably with many of the finest 99-seat theater productions I've seen over the past several years. If you have the time this weekend, do yourself a favor and catch this "Sunday" before Monday rolls around and it is no more.

Performs at the Massman Theatre (at USC), Located at 1029 Childs Way, Los Angeles 90089
5 PERFORMANCES ONLY: Thursday, January 24th at 8pm, Friday, January 25th at 8pm,
Saturday, January 26th at 2pm and 8pm, Sunday, January 27th at 2pm
Tickets available at the door or by emailing uscmtr@gmail.com. For more information, visit uscmtr.weebly.com

--Steven Stanley January 24, 2008


January 21st, 2008

Sean has been cast in the USC School of Theatre Production of Carousel performing April 3rd-13th. He'll be playing the role of the Principal as well as acting as part of the general ensemble of the show.


December 7th, 2007

Sean was asked by the USC Musical Director, Parmer Fuller, to be one of two performers for the USC Emeritus Group Christmas Brunch for the second year in a row. He sang two solos and lead several Christmas carols.


November 11th, 2007

Sean was cast in USC Musical Theatre Repertory's production of Sunday in the Park with George performing January 24th-27th. He will be playing the roles of Mr. and Lee Randolph.


© Copyright 2009 Sean Kranz