Get A Taste Of: Thomas J. Kasdorf

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MPT Artistic Director Thomas J. Kasdorf explores his darker side as the titular Sweeney Todd. Keep reading to find out how Thomas relates to his character, his strangest experience on stage, and which Sweeney Todd characters his cats are named after!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

I’m a proud Middletonian.

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I’m very fortunate to be almost always performing or working in the theatre in some capacity. But in the daytime, I’m a full time student at UW Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music, working towards my DMA in Collaborative Piano.

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

Children’s Theatre of Madison’s The Wizard of Oz in 1998. I played a member of the Lollipop Guild.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

Playing Jason in Falsettos at University Theatre. The cast was such a family, the production staff was exceptional, the audiences were so warm and inviting, I never wanted it to end.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

Hands down: Waking up onstage in the middle of a performance of Cabaret at the keyboard, in the middle of the number “Mein Herr,” with my hands playing.

What is your favorite theatrical work?

My favorite theatrical works are Arthur Miller’s All My Sons and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

What do you enjoy about your character Sweeney Todd? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

I appreciate Sweeney’s determination and focus, his single mindedness towards achieving his goals. Although I hope that I am not altogether similar to my character, I have been told by people that I have much in common with Sweeney’s brooding attitude.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

I think that this show really explores so many themes beautifully: justice, revenge, greed, love, and loss. And for all its intensity, this show is exceptionally funny in a dark and twisted kind of way.

Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I have two beautiful fur babies at home named after characters in this show: Sweeney Todd and Lucy. Sweeney is a tuxedo cat and Lucy is his sister. I’m basically trying to replicate all of Sweeney’s insanity and menace for my character research. Anybody got any catnip?

 

Get A Taste Of: Meghan Randolph

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Meghan Randolph graces our stage as Sweeney Todd’s business partner and accomplice Mrs. Lovett. Keep reading to find out what Meghan’s three favorite musicals are, what she MUST do before every performance, and why she finds Mrs. Lovett likeable.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before?

I had the pleasure of playing a female Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar in 2016.  It was one of my favorite stage experiences of all time.  

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I run Music Theatre of Madison, a professional company focused on new and lesser-known musical theatre pieces.  We have presented many local premieres and have recently started focusing on brand new, Wisconsin-written works.  I produce, perform, direct, fundraise, market, and do a lot of other stuff and it's my passion. I also write and speak professionally about theatre marketing, teach voice lessons, and am a contract marketing director for SAIL, a local organization that serves senior citizens. 

What is your favorite theatrical work?

I was lucky enough to do my three favorite musicals each summer I was in the high school musical theatre program at Interlochen Arts Camp in the 1990s:  Sweeney Todd, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story. (Fun fact: Pre-famous Josh Groban was in Sweeney and Fiddler with me back then).  Now, with this production of Sweeney, I've had the chance to do each of those shows again as an adult... but backwards - West Side in 2001, Fiddler in 2014, and now Sweeney in 2018. 

What do you eat/drink before doing a show?

I don't usually eat or drink much but I HAVE to brush my teeth last thing before starting or I feel weird. 

What are people going to think about as they drive home from Sweeney Todd?

I hope people find it to be as thrilling as they'd hoped...whether seeing it for the first or millionth time.  If they're longtime Sweeney fans, I hope they see something new and interesting in this production and find things in the characters that they haven't seen before. If they're seeing it for the first time, I hope they're shocked and thrilled by the music and the story and spend all night on YouTube looking at clips!  

What do you enjoy about your character Mrs. Lovett? How do connect to her?

Mrs. Lovett is, in my opinion, musical theatre's truest villain and one of its greatest roles comedically, dramatically, and musically.  She is, in many ways, very likable, which adds to the horror of who she is.  As an actor I have to find her reasoning and look for the layers. So, being the nerd I am, I have written a long, detailed backstory for her to draw on when I'm trying to figure out what made her the way she is and what causes her to do the things she does.  I try to make every moment and every line accounted for in my backstory.  It's just the best way for me to be specific as an actor. The vast majority of what I've decided will not be anything the audience sees directly, but I have to have it for myself, and I hope it makes me consistent.  When I frame this story using the history that led up to it, particularly in this show, which gives us a history to draw upon, I start to sympathize with her and justify her actions, which is scary... and fascinating.  (Don't worry, no plans to make anyone into meat pies any time soon.)

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I am an outstanding thrift store shopper.  I also can say the alphabet backwards in less than five seconds. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

Music Theatre of Madison's website is http://www.mtmadison.com.  I would love it if you stopped by to see the big projects we have lined up for the fall and for next year! 

Get A Taste Of: Kirsten Larson

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Kirsten Larson will once again grace the MPT stage as the beautiful Johanna. Find out more about Kirsten below!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

I’m not a Madison native, but I fell in love with the city when I attended UW-Madison for my undergraduate degree, and I’ve recently moved back to the area!

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which one(s)? If not, what made you audition for this season?

I have!  I’ve performed as Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel and as Celeste #1 in Sunday in the Park with George.

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

For my day job, I’m currently working in Data Analytics, organizing data into usable reports as a resource for social workers nationwide.  I’ll also be working as a Studio Artist with Madison Opera this season!

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

My first-ever show was our Kindergarten play, in which I played a Buttercup.  (I still remember all my lines!)  But my first real staged production was The Wizard of Oz, in which I played a (very tall) Munchkin.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt in the shower or in your car?

‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked is one of my favorites!

What are people going to think about as they drive home from the show?

Sweeney Todd is a show that makes you reflect on your own life and your perception of the world. Every person you see on the street (a poor beggar, a high-profile judge, a barber) – they each have their own stories that may surprise you.  This show serves as a reminder that things are not always as they seem… For instance, do you really know what goes into the food you eat?...

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

My favorite part of the rehearsal process is getting to sing with the orchestra for the first time.  It’s always exciting and makes everything feel that much more real. We’re lucky to share the stage with the Middleton Community Orchestra for this production! 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

Check out my website:  https://kirstenannelarson.wixsite.com/mezzo

 

Get A Taste Of: J. Adam Shelton

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J. Adam Shelton makes his MPT debut as Sweeney Todd's extravagant rival barber Adolfo Pirelli.  Keep reading to learn more about his favorite theatrical works, who inspires him, and how he is able to multitask during rehearsals.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before?

I have not.  I’m really glad the stars have aligned for me to be a part of this season.  My schedule sometimes books 6 to 9 months in advance, which doesn’t always allow me to collaborate with some organizations.  However, it emphasizes what I love about this business: things happen when they’re supposed to and usually for the absolute best!

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I am associate lecturer of voice at UW-Whitewater and also own a private studio here on Madison’s west side.  Among previous daytime jobs:  Starbucks shift leader, Olive Garden waiter, dog sitter, pizza guy, and public radio announcer.

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

My first real musical theatre role was playing the title character in Lil’Abner.  I have to laugh about it in retrospect ‘cause my body type hasn’t changed much in 20 years...  sure I’ve been thinner and bigger, but I’ve never looked particularly toned like Abner should look. 

What is your favorite theatre memory?

My favorite memories revolve around the feeling of community in theatre and music.  I enjoy sharing a laugh with folks, and we’re all working towards a common goal despite being a soloist or a member of the ensemble.  To borrow from Into the Woods, “No one is alone...” especially when they’re in theatre. 

Who is your greatest musical theatre inspiration and why?

Choosing one is difficult, I respect so many and feel inspired by them, but my initial reactions are:  Mandy Patinkin, Patty Lupone, Elaine Stritch, Jeremy Jordan, and Titus Burgess.  ALL of them are trained singers, actors, dancers, and interpret everything that they do to the fullest every time they touch the stage. 

What is your favorite theatrical work (play, musical, opera, etc.)?

Play:  The Crucible
Musical:  The Most Happy Fella or Company
Opera:  Tosca

What do you enjoy about your character Pirelli? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

Pirelli has a flare for the dramatic, and so do I!  ‘Nuff said.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I enjoy experimenting and the process of developing comedy.  The evolution of a joke/gag on stage really intrigues me and jives with my musical side.  Just like music, it’s all about timing and once everyone gets the timing it’s like performing a great symphony. 

What are people going to think about as they drive home from the show?

We’ll learn a lot about people by their reactions to the show, but the scariest will be those that crave meat pies afterwards…

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I knit- especially during my downtime during a show/rehearsal.  I once knit a scarf during a Messiah rehearsal WHILE singing my solo. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

You can add me on Facebook – J. Adam Shelton – or keep your eyes on my studio website – sheltonprivatevoicestudio.com!

Get A Taste Of: Gavin Waid

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Gavin Waid returns to the Middleton Players Theatre stage with his portrayal of Toby in our season closer Sweeney Todd.  Keep reading to find out about Gavin's infatuation with witches, why he once rode a big wheel on stage, and WHO he'll be playing next.

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

I was born in Lake Wales, Florida. I came to Madison in 2014 to begin my graduate studies at UW – Madison.

Have you done any shows with Middleton Players before?

This is my fourth season with MPT! I have been in Carousel, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Full Monty, 42nd Street, and Ragtime.

What do you enjoy about your character Toby? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar?

Toby is incredibly loyal, kind, and has this huge heart. There is a part of the show where he tells Mrs. Lovett that there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her, and that is definitely sincere. I like to think that I am as loyal as Toby, although definitely not as trusting.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

Yes, the show is dark. Yes, there is an uncomfortable situation with meat pies. But there is also a lot of heart in these characters. Some of them, at least.

What do you do when you’re not performing? Do you have a day job?

I just moved back down to Orlando, FL to be nearer to my family, so I am back to working in the wonderful world of retail! I will be starting rehearsals for The Grinchmas™ Who-liday Spectacular at Universal Studios Orlando soon, where I'll be playing Grandpa Who! So if you are in the area around Christmas time, come say hi!

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

My first ever stage show was in elementary school in the Lake Wales Little Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty. I was a singing minstrel. My first professional production was as a seventeen year-old Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors. My voice hadn’t changed, yet, so I was still singing in boy soprano land. That changed quickly after that show, though.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

I was once asked to ride an adult big wheel during a production of a new opera. Let me tell you, it was some of the most fun I have ever had on stage. I got to speed down ramps and do drifts…I even had a little bell!

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

I guess I’ll be that guy and say Into the Woods. It gets me every time.

What is your favorite movie?

Two answers: my favorite animated movie is Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, because I’m from Florida, but also because Maleficent is my ultimate role model. Good outfit, great hair, and super petty. My favorite live-action movie is a tie between Clue and Practical Magic. (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sister witches? Yes please.) Can you tell I really like witches?

What are people going to think about as they drive home from Sweeney Todd?

Oof, this is a tough question for this show! I hope they go home with a craving for some pie…

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

I have a website no one looks at! www.gavinwaid.com

Omigod You Guys! It's Candice Jones!

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Candice Jones portrays exercise mogul Brooke Wyndham in her 5th show with MPT. Keep reading to find out more about Candice, and why Legally Blonde may be the show that best describes her!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

No, Minnesota native! (Don’t hate me!) In classic Madison fashion, I got a job at Epic right out of college, and have been here ever since.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before?

Yes, I was Judy in A Chorus Line (2014), Estelle in The Full Monty (2017), Ensemble in Ragtime (2017), and Ensemble in Crazy for You (2018).

What are people going to think about as they drive home from the show?

The fact that Oh My God, You Guys! will never leave their brains ever again. Also, that Elle Woods is an incredibly underrated feminist heroine.

What do you enjoy about your character Brooke Wyndham? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

I love how driven and confident Brooke is. She works her (literal) butt off, and has built a self-run empire in a male-dominant industry. Not only that, she believes in others and believes in herself. I don’t think I’m quite as image conscious as Brooke (I’ve never gotten liposuction, and think that everyone will have cellulite eventually), but when I have an end goal, I, like Brooke, will work incredibly hard and do whatever it takes to get there.

What is your favorite theatrical work?

Right now, probably Waitress. The music made me cry the first time I heard it, and the show has me in tears at the end.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

I haven’t been in any terribly strange shows, so the strangest experience was probably a show I saw reinterpreting the Minotaur myth where the labyrinth was a cruise ship, and the audience was sitting at the tables as if we were also passengers.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt in the shower or in your car?

All of them? Is this a trick question?

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

Most random fun fact: I tricked my parents into thinking I could read as a toddler by memorizing and reciting books on tape while flipping through the book. This worked until one day I was “reading” upside down, and my cover was blown. Incidentally, I was apparently a terror to tell stories to as a child, because I memorized those too and would correct my parents when they used the wrong words.

What theatrical work best describes you?

Legally Blonde, because it’s completely saturated in the color pink.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

To steal Mean Girls’ tag line, don’t be fooled by the pink. The undercurrent of this show is to be yourself, and that women are infinitely more successful together than apart.

Omigod You Guys! It's Adam Marsh!

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Adam Marsh returns to the MPT stage as Warner Huntington III, Elle Woods' shallow, Harvard-bound boyfriend. Read on to find out what Adam thinks of his character, who inspired him to get into theatre, and what his dream job is.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which one(s)? If not, what made you audition for this season?

This has been my first season here! Crazy for You was my first show here and Legally Blonde is my second. I had a moment at the end of last year when I realized I needed theatre back in my life and I was lucky enough to be welcomed to the community by MPT and to find such a wonderful group of people to perform with.

How did you prepare for your MPT audition?

My excellent coach and voice teacher was a big part of that. Leslie Esser-Reitano helped me plan and prepare for my auditions and was the one who pointed me in the direction of MPT. I don’t actually remember what I sang for this audition but it must have been a pretty good choice!

What do you enjoy about your character? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

There are some things about Warner that I respect. He’s honest and he speaks his mind. He believes in himself and his ability to achieve his goals. I like to think that we’re similar in those ways. I hope that’s it though – the guy is a self-centered, entitled jerk. Don’t be like Warner.

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I’ve been working at Epic for the last seven years, but Friday, August 10th is my last day with that as my daytime job. After this show is over, my daytime life will be traveling through Italy for a little while on sabbatical, and then next month, figuring out my new life in New York City. I’ll still be employed by Epic as a consultant, and I’ll be looking for work as a performer as well.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

The movie came out in 2001. Feel old yet?

What is your favorite theatre memory?

When I was 10 years old, I saw my first musical at Duluth Central High School. It was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat directed by Liz Larson. I knew I had to be in theatre after that, and I was lucky enough to have Liz direct me in many shows afterward. She showed me what I was capable of and for that I will be forever grateful.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

I rode an elevator with Josh Gad once.

What theatrical work best describes you?

Cats.

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I’m a damn good whistler. I’m hoping to get a job as a Disney bird.

Omigod You Guys! It's Trevor Bass!

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Trevor Bass takes the stage with MPT for the 12th time with his portrayal of Harvard grad student Emmett Forrest. Keep reading to find out more about Trevor!

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which one(s)?

Yes! I have been in every MPT show since 2013 except for two (to get married).

What was your first stage show and who did you play?

I believe my first time on stage was in The Wizard of Oz -- I was very small, and played a member of the Lollipop Guild!

What is your favorite theatre memory?

I think playing Tateh in Ragtime last summer will hold the top spot for me in terms of memorable experiences for quite a long time.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

During MPT's 2015 production of Miss Saigon, the prop gun wouldn’t always go off. So, for some performances, I would wait on the stage behind a curtain, ready to slam a big textbook on the floor to make the gunshot noise. After I did this, the curtain immediately came up, and I’d have to shove the book into my shirt, and do the next song with it in there.

What do you enjoy about your Legally Blonde character, Emmett Forrest?

What I really love about Emmett is his goofiness and honesty. He and I are very similar in those ways. We both like to be upfront with people, and we enjoy a good pun/stupid joke.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I love to see people’s characters develop, and watching people find those little moments that make a word or phrase their own. Seeing that connection with the whole cast is very inspiring to me.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

There are too many to choose from, but right now I really like Dear Evan Hansen.

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I can juggle (kind of) and have a black belt in Karate!

What are people going to think about as they drive home from Legally Blonde?

They’re gonna feel super inspired, and feel like anything is possible with hard work! They’ll also be reminded how important it is to be true to yourself.

Omigod You Guys! It's Carolyn Levy!

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Carolyn Levy makes her Madison stage debut as quirky hairdresser Paulette Bonafonte.  Keep reading to find out which "astonishing" musical inspires her, and why she calls herself a parrothead!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

No, prior to moving here in December 2016, I had only been to Madison once or twice before.  I grew up in Brookfield, went to school in Stevens Point, and left the state for 15 years.  I have family that now resides in Verona, so when the decision came to move back to Wisconsin, my Husband and I decided to take a chance on Madison, and we love it!

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which one(s)? If not, what made you audition for this season?

This will be my first show with Middleton Players.  My sister had done some shows in the past with MPT and that’s how I learned about the group.  I had been looking to scratch the ‘theatre itch’ that had been missing from my life the last few years, and I’m very excited to be part of the show.

What do you enjoy about your character? In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to your character?

I love Paulette’s physical comedy and that despite having some struggles throughout her life, she continues to search for happiness with a glass half full approach, especially when it comes to helping others.  She is also forthcoming, even brazen, in her thoughts with no internal monologue, and I’ve never had a chance to play someone like her before, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.  Where we differ – I would definitely classify myself as an introvert that uses theatre as a way to communicate creatively, whereas Paulette is a true extrovert.

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

Yes, indeed I do. I love my job and am proud to be a part of my team.  I am the Office and Starts Manager for Tim O’Brien Homes here in Madison.  I’ve always had a love of houses and residential construction, so I was very fortunate to be hired with such a great employer when moving back to Wisconsin.

What theatrical work best describes you?

The song “Astonishing” from LITTLE WOMEN, as so often in my life I’d be looking for the next steps, not knowing what they were.

“I'll find my way. I'll find it far away. I'll find it in unexpected and unknown. I'll find my life in my own way. Today.  Here I go, and there's no turning back. My great adventure has begun. I may be small, but I've got giant plans, to shine as brightly as the sun. I will blaze until I find my time and place.   I will be fearless…I'll be Astonishing.”

…Also, a good song to belt out1 

What is your favorite theatre memory?

In one of my first professional shows post college, I was performing as Anytime Annie in 42ND STREET in a Summer Stock Company in Illinois.  Because it was so close, my family was able to drive down and see me tapping up a storm.  My favorite theatre memories always tend to be when my family is watching and I know they are there with me, which is why LEGALLY BLONDE is so special: It will be the first time all my siblings’ spouses, my in-laws, and even my Husband will get a chance to watch me perform.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

I was in repertoire theatre group in Montana performing a four-woman show called THE TAFFETAS (think FOREVER PLAID for woman).  One of the ladies got very ill over the course of the first act and took a turn for the worse at intermission.  We thought we were going to cancel the rest of the show, but she insisted that she would be able to complete the show if in a smaller facet – not a small thing to do when you are a quartet.  We delayed the show for almost 45 minutes, with several of us taking turns to keep the audience revived by stepping on stage to sing or talk to them in character.  When we finally were up and going again I had to jump into a few of the songs on the fly that were solos/duets that I was not originally a part of as did the other two woman.  Thankfully this was halfway through the summer run, so we knew the show well enough, but over the course of the next few days the company had rehearsals each morning/afternoon before the following night’s performance to revamp the show without this actress with the four other shows that were running simultaneously. It certainly gave meaning to “The Show Must Go On!”

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

Fun fact: I’m a Parrothead!  My then-boyfriend, now-husband, introduced me to Jimmy Buffet when we were first dating, and I got hooked.  The two of us - having lived a combined time of over 30+ years in Florida - grew to love the beach, and our entire house is decorated to showcase this relaxed lifestyle at every turn – it’s one way to get us through these harsh Wisconsin winters. Our basement is complete with its own Tiki Bar, and has been painted in a giant beach mural to make it a truly unique scene!

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

Get ready! …because you will have fun, you will be singing on your way out the door, and you will be able to do the Bend-and-Snap!

 

 

 

 

Omigod You Guys! It's John Beard!

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John Beard makes his MPT debut as Harvard's smooth-talking Professor Callahan.  Read on find out what drew John to the role, his favorite songs to belt out in the shower, and his bloodiest theatrical experience!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

No, I’m from Gautier, Mississippi, which is on the Gulf Coast. I spent most of my life in the southeast before moving to the Midwest for a job about 12 years ago, and my family and I have been in Madison more than 8 years. We love it.

What do you enjoy about your character, Professor Callahan?

His confidence. And his complete lack of any moral compass. He and I are not very similar and that’s why I took the role. It feels good to be the bad guy... but just for a couple hours a night.

What are people going to think about as they drive home from Legally Blonde?

I think they will do less thinking and more humming of the catchy songs. They definitely get stuck in your head. Ya know, it’s a very light-hearted, silly show and I believe people will think, “Well, that was a fun night.” And what else can you ask for?

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I love singing and I love collaborating. And in every show, there’s a point when you’re rehearsing the group numbers where it all starts coming together. You hear it but you can also feel it. I love that part.

Who is your greatest musical theatre inspiration and why?

David Delk, who directed my first community theater show. I was 19 and the youngest person in the cast by far. He convinced me I could do it.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

One of my cast mates cut her lower leg on a piece of set furniture. She was taking blood thinning medication due to some medical issues so it was coming out quickly. We spent the whole second act navigating puddles of blood on the stage. She made it through and we did our scheduled show the next night.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt in the shower or in your car?

"I Want to Be a Producer," "If I Loved You," "Suddenly Seymour." The shower is where I do my best singing so this list could go on for a while.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

This cast - as a whole - has an irrational hatred of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, so I’ll say Cats just to pick a fight.

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

Doesn’t everyone? Wait, is everyone else getting paid for this show?!? Seriously, I was in
television news for two decades but recently started working for Focus on Energy as their
Public Relations and Media Manager.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your projects?

www.focusonenergy.com

Omigod You Guys! It's Tara Martino!

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Tara Martino joins MPT for the first time as Elle Woods' nemesis, Vivienne Kensington. Keep reading to learn more about Tara, what she admires about Vivienne, and why she's well known at Red Lobster!

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

I was born and raised in the north-west suburbs of Chicago and came to Madison to attend UW.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players before? If so, which one(s)? If not, what made you audition for this season?

This is my first show with MPT and I’m so excited! I had seen a few of Middleton’s previous productions (Seussical, Ragtime, A Chorus Line) and was so impressed. I knew I wanted to be a part of one of the shows and Legally Blonde was the perfect one to start off with because it is so much fun and high energy.

How do you prepare for auditions?

Typically I have a few “go-to” songs that I’ll rehearse through a few times before I’m ready to audition. I like to visualize the room, the people, and how it will go – I try to imagine that it all goes well! Usually that helps to alleviate any nerves. I also have the philosophy of going in and leaving it all on the table – that way directors will know just how much crazy is packed inside my head and they can choose to reel it in or not (I was always told it’s easier to tell someone to do less than it is to get them to do more).

What do you enjoy about your Legally Blonde character Vivienne Kensington?

I love that Vivienne is unapologetic. You may love her or you may hate her, but either way, you know you’re getting the real thing. She is smart, confident, sassy, and ultimately is able to apologize when she knows she’s in the wrong – that’s pretty admirable and not something that comes easily to all of us strong-willed females.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Getting to know the other cast members. The community aspect of theatre is always what brings me back. The rehearsal process can be demanding and stressful but the people and relationships make it all worthwhile.

What is your favorite theatrical work?

I’m a sucker for a good belt musical so I’d probably go with Thoroughly Modern Millie. Not to mention that the 1920’s has always been my favorite era and tap my favorite kind of dance, so it marries 3 of my favorite things into one hilarious and action packed show.

What was your strangest experience in theatre?

I performed with a group in college called the Wisconsin Singers. We would tour around the state and country performing for communities and doing workshops with local students. A couple of summers ago I was recognized in a Red Lobster as being “one of the singers” as if I was some kind of notable celebrity. That was pretty strange and has not happened since!

What do you do when you’re not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a daytime job?

I work in Human Resources as a recruiter for Epic, a large healthcare tech company in Verona (you’ve probably heard of it). I work with a small team to source and interview all of the wonderful employees who end up working for the company.

What would you like MPT audiences to know about Legally Blonde?

There is a lot more substance than meets the eye. This show is fun, engaging, and light but it will also send you home with a wonderful message about being true to yourself and setting your dreams beyond even what you think you’re capable of.

Give us a fun fact about yourself—do you have any special/hidden talents?

I can’t make a peace sign with my left hand…there’s something wrong with it. The right one is totally fine but for some reason, my left hand doesn’t want to do it. Ask me – I’ll show you!

We're Crazy For: Abby Nichols

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Abby Nichols plays Polly Baker, the only woman living in Deadrock, Nevada. Find out more about Abby and Polly below!

Have you performed with Middleton Players Theatre before?

I have done one other MPT show which was West Side Story in 1999. Crazy For You is my first one since then.  I auditioned for this season because I've always wanted to play Polly, and I wanted to get back in the game after having a baby last summer.

What do you enjoy about your character Polly Baker?

She's a tough cookie! She has no trouble standing up for herself, but she also has a soft side. She's really a bit crazy and schizophrenic, but that's fun to play!

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Running the whole show for the first time.  It's scary and invigorating, and you really see it start to come together. It's hard for me to truly find my character and know what I still need to work on until I do the entire show in sequence. Once we start running the show, the worrying stops and the fun begins!

What do you do when you're not performing?

I teach an early childhood music program called Music Together, and I teach private voice lessons. I also have a four year old and a one year old who keep me very busy!

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

It is one of the goofiest shows I've ever done, but it has some of the most beautiful music. Audiences will probably recognize many of the wonderful Gershwin songs -- "Someone To Watch Over Me," "You Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Got Rhythm," etc. -- but they are all strung together in a fresh, surprising, hilarious way.

What is your strangest theatre experience?

When I was a freshman my high school did Anything Goes. I was in the ensemble, but my boyfriend at the time played the lead role of Billy.  My older sister played the role of Hope, who is Billy's love interest.  So... my boyfriend had to kiss my sister on stage!

What is your favorite theatre memory?

Working with my husband Jace is always a treat. We met during Thoroughly Modern Millie so that show stands out in my mind. Then a few months after we were married he directed me in Next to Normal, which was another stand out theatre experience. I don't have any really specific memories to share about those shows, but I always remember them fondly.

We're Crazy For: Chaz Ingraham

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Madison favorite Chaz Ingraham plays song-and-dance-man Bobby Child, whose dreams get sidelined when he's sent on an errand to Deadrock, Nevada. 

Are you a Madison native? 

I was born and raised here, then moved to New York City for a few years. I’ve been in Europe for the last five months on the International Tour of Hair.

Have you performed with Middleton Players Theatre before?

I’ve done more than a few. Favorites include Les Miserables, The Producers, A Chorus Line, and of course Crazy for You.

What do you enjoy about your character Bobby Child?

I like Bobby’s optimism, and how he never stops trying to live his dream, even when his dream changes.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

It is a high octane, intense, dancing, family-friendly, comic extravaganza.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

The first time I ever performed the Paul monologue from A Chorus Line in front of a live audience. They were the most fulfilling ten minutes of stage time that I’ve ever had.

What is your strangest experience in theatre?

I saw a production of Hamlet at a local theatre and during the middle of “To be or not to be” the fire alarm went off. Kudos to the actor playing Hamlet for directing us to our immediate exits in character.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

“I Put A Spell On You” from Hocus Pocus. I do a mean Bette Miller!

Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I sang “Purple Rain” onstage with Prince once, live onstage in front of 20,000 people before his untimely death. 

We're Crazy For: Bobby Goderich

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Bobby Goderich plays eccentric director Bela Zangler, who is also the victim of some hilarious identity theft! Read below about some of his favorite roles, theatre memories, and TV shows!

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Yes.  I was in Ragtime 2005 and 2017, Company, Into the Woods, and Chicago.

What do you enjoy about your character Bela Zangler? 

My favorite aspect of Zangler is his personal journey way through the show.  How he grows from beginning to end.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Sitz probe by far is the favorite part.  Hearing the actors and the orchestra come together for the first time.  Gives me goosebumps every time!

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre?

By day I work for BMO Harris Bank.

What would you like audiences to know about this show? 

This show will make you smile!  The music, the dancing, the one-liners, and the overall message is sure to bring a smile to your face.

What is your favorite theatre memory? 

When I had the opportunity to cover Pirelli in Sweeney Todd with San Francisco Opera, it was a very accelerated, AWESOME, process!  Walking Onto the stage of the War Memorial Opera House was absolutely beautiful and astounding! (It’s the opera house featured in the movie Pretty Woman.)

What is your strangest experience in theatre? 

During a performance of Company, the light board decided to reset itself and ALL of the lights came up.  Stage lights, house lights, everything.

What is your favorite Broadway musical? 

Not a fair question... so I will give a top five (in no particular order): Hairspray, Sweeney Todd, Hunchback of  Notre Dame (it never made it to Broadway but I still love it), Into the Woods,  Falsettos.

Give us a fun fact about yourself.

My favorite TV show is basically anything cooking related but  I LOVE "The Great British Baking Show"; I cannot juggle as hard as I try; I taught myself how to play 8 instruments; and I am very ambidextrous when playing sports.

We're Crazy For: Krystal Lonsdale

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Krystal Lonsdale plays Irene Roth, Bobby's hilariously frustrated fiance.  Keep reading to find out more about both Krystal and Irene.

Are you a Madison native? If not, what brought you to the area?

Before moving to Wisconsin nearly 5 years ago, I lived all over the place including New York City, Colorado, Switzerland, Florida and even Nevada.

Have you performed with Middleton Players Theatre before?

This is my first show with MPT and I couldn’t be more delighted with the experience! Crazy For You was irresistible for me to audition for because I love dance-heavy, comedic, large theatrical productions; Gershwin is also one of my favorite composers. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do this work with a very talented cast and team.

What do you enjoy about your character?

Irene is bold, witty, assiduous, provocative, and exudes confidence. We also get to see that she can unleash a unique type of passion, and can reveal a dash of tenderness too. Getting the chance to highlight those qualities in a character is fun and empowering.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I love that sweet spot when I feel comfortable enough with the material and the relationships between the different characters to finally take a chance and implement what’s been stewing in our heads. This happens right before I have to “set” what we’ve worked on for the performance, and I find it to be the most creative part of the process for me.

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre?

Yes, I have a few jobs which include teaching Music Together around Madison, working for a non-profit, and investing. I also keep busy by spending time with my two lovely children, Donovan and Bridget.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

When I got to perform with my husband three years ago in Music Theatre of Madison’s production of 35mm

What is your strangest experience in theatre?

It’s too strange to share. Let’s just say that when the term “hybrid” is in your contract: RUN!         

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

She Used to Be Mine from Waitress, although more recently it has been Never Enough from the Greatest Showman (if that counts).

Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I love to work on my hobby farm: I have a garden, a forest, chickens, wild cats, goats, a llama, and sheep. I’m always experimenting with homestead related things that I find on youtube and pinterest (my attempts, on average, fail). But it’s fun and humbling!

 

Come and Meet: Patrick Chounet

Patrick Chounet will be playing Father in our upcoming production of Ragtime. Last season Patrick appeared in all three of MPT's productions. Learn more about Patrick’s favorite part of the rehearsal process and what he does for his day job.

Are you a Madison native?

I am originally from right outside of Cleveland, OH (Euclid). I moved here in 2012 to work at Epic, and I’ve been here ever since!

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Last season was my first. I was a company member, so I did Jesus Christ Superstar, Sunday in the Park with George, and Seussical.

What do you enjoy about Father? Are there any challenging aspects of his character to portray?

Father is an interesting character to play. I think he really loves and cares about his family, as well as others, but he equally cares about the status quo and how others perceive him, which leads to a lot of internal struggle and conflict throughout the show.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

Definitely the people. Theatre brings people together very quickly, and it’s how most of my friendships come about. Getting to work with new people and ride the roller coaster of a show together is always exciting!

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre?

I work out at Epic as an Ambulatory Technical Services Representative. When I’m not at work or in rehearsal, I spend a lot of time over at MadPower Training doing yoga and HIIT workouts.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

It’s intense. Definitely not a feel-good show you leave humming along happily … well, maybe still humming along, just without a different set of feelings.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

Probably my first trip to NYC. It was right after I graduated college, and we went to do a workshop with the revival cast of Godspell. As this was my first show, it already had a lot of sentimental value, but being able to go see it as my first Broadway show was pretty awesome as well! Also went to Ella’s Stardust Diner for dinner, and then saw Wicked that evening before getting on a bus and heading back home.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

It’s Dear Evan Hansen currently ... though if you ask me a “favorite” question, it is likely to change day to day.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

I feel like there is no wrong answer to this. If it is a song I know, I am ready to belt it out. Doesn’t matter if I can sing the part or not: challenge accepted!

BONUS: Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I have an obsession with pigs. In my office at work, there are probably close to 30 pigs scattered around. My apartment has even more!

Dont miss your chance to come see Patrick in our upcoming production of Ragtime! Performances are August 10-13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.

Come and Meet: Ashton Siewert

Ashton Siewert will be portraying Mother in our upcoming production of Ragtime. We asked Ashton, a longtime Middleton Players Theatre participant, to share a little more about herself, such as why this show is important to her, what she loves about the rehearsal process, and what musical made an impression on her.

Are you a Madison native?

Yes and no. I was born in Florida and spent two years in Arena (not quite Spring Green), but most of my life has been happily spent in Madison.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Oh yes, I have been involved with Middleton Players since 2006. I worked backstage until 2011, when I made my stage debut as Jack’s Mom in Into the Woods. Since then, I have been onstage for almost every production. I have also served on the Board of Directors for about ten years.

What do you enjoy about Mother? Are there any challenging aspects of her character to portray?

Mother is such a powerful character. She’s an upperclass woman of the 1900s, and I love having the opportunity to portray someone so dignified who also awakens to her ability to be independent. It is challenging to accept and convey the limitations placed upon her by her era.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

There are too many to choose from! I love the first read-through, when everyone comes in with a prototype vision of how they’re going to portray their character. Sitzprobe is another favorite point of the rehearsal process; hearing the orchestra for the first time is so exciting! Finally, I love opening night. The way an audience changes the energy of a performance is such a great feeling, and I always look forward to that “this is it” moment.

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre?

I work at CapTel in Human Resources, and also host trivia at the Nitty Gritty.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

The themes of this show are so relevant and insightful, with a beautiful and heartbreaking score to augment. We are so glad that you are interested in sharing this experience with us.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

I saw The Lion King in Chicago and at the end of the opening number there is a drum beat that just blasts through the audience and reverberates through the entire house. I can’t adequately express the feeling in words; there was a moment of complete stillness and then the audience erupted into applause. It was such a simple thing, but that feeling was so amazing.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

Ragtime. It’s such a blessing to be able to partake in my favorite musical for the second time!

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

In His Eyes” from Jekyll and Hyde. It’s a duet, so it’s double the fun!

What do you eat/drink before/after doing a show?

I drink lots and lots and lots of water before a show. I don’t like to eat before going onstage, so I normally just have a small snack. After the performance, I’ll eat just about anything.

BONUS: Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I have studied three languages in addition to English: German, French, and Japanese. (I’ve also studied Spanish and Italian, but for only one semester each.)

Dont miss your chance to come see Ashton in our upcoming production of Ragtime! Performances are August 10-13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.

Come and Meet: Trevor Bass

Madison native and Middleton Players Theatre veteran Trevor Bass will be playing Tateh in our upcoming production of Ragtime. We asked him to answer a few questions about what it’s like to bring Tateh to life on stage, what some of his favorite theatre memories are, and what show he loves to marathon.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Yes, this is my 10th show with Middleton. The strong sense of community, friendships, and great production value are what keep me coming back.

What do you enjoy about Tateh? Are there any challenging aspects of his character to portray?

I enjoy Tateh’s passion, his belief in himself, and his conscience. He is a very good person. His emotional journey in this show is drastic and cathartic, and it is a challenge to put myself in the shoes of a struggling immigrant. Portraying his struggles and triumphs in the face of absolute adversity has been one of my greatest acting challenges, and I look forward to bringing that to our audiences!

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I love the creative environment. Being given the opportunity to experiment, and being told clearly what works well and what doesn’t is very fun to me. Rehearsals are also great because I love spending time with other people who are passionate about musical theatre.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

This show has stunning relevance to our current climate, and incredibly powerful subject matter. Our cast feels these things deeply, and will tell the story beautifully. This show gives a glimpse into the past, reminding us where America has been, and that we should learn from that.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

My return to theatre in the form of Middleton Player Theatre’s Les Miserables. It was my first show since before going to college, and the friendships I formed in that show have lasted and grown ever since.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

The answer is different depending on the day, but currently I’d say Falsettos.

What do you eat/drink before/after doing a show?

Before a show I tend to eat lightly and mildly—with the exception of that one time I ate Taco Bell (REGRET)—so that usually means a sandwich and plenty of water. It’s only water during, and then a drink with my castmates after!

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

My brother and I do a mean duet of Defying Gravity.

BONUS: Give us a fun fact about yourself!

Fun fact: I watch The Office almost every day. My wife Mari and I are fully addicted. We’ve watched the entire series more times than I can remember. The day they take it off of Netflix will be a sad day in the Bass household.

Dont miss your chance to come see Trevor in our upcoming production of Ragtime! Performances are August 10-13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.

Come and Meet: Gregory Brumfield

We are so excited to welcome Gregory Brumfield back to Middleton to play Booker T. Washington in Ragtime! A professional opera singer by day, Gregory tells us about how he approaches playing Booker T, his strangest theatre experience, and what kind of books he likes to collect.

Are you a Madison native?

No, but I’ve lived and worked here for many years, in addition to attending and graduating from UW Madison with a BA in Theater. 

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Yes. My first show was Little Shop of Horrors as Audrey II, followed by a walk-on role in The Producers, and I played Javert in Les Miserables in 2014.

What is your favorite theatrical work?

I’m on the Hamilton bandwagon, I like Evita, and Ragtime has been a favorite.  As a professional opera singer, I also do enjoy “Salome” by Strauss, and “Rigoletto” by Verdi.

What do you enjoy about Booker T. Washington? Are there any challenging aspects of his character to portray?

Booker T is very conflicted.  He is furious that Coalhouse has upset the social fabric, and was afraid of the repercussions that might ensue for the African American community.  At the same time, he is sympathetic to what drove Coalhouse to do his dangerous deeds.

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a day job?

Opera singing is my professional job, which I balance with teaching when I don’t have a gig.

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

That it depicts early 20th century America in vivid detail.

What is your favorite theatre memory?

This is hard to determine.  Perhaps singing the role of Jim in CTM’s Big River was a particular treat.  The story of a young white boy and his runaway slave, that so many were familiar with through the written word,  always moved audiences in special ways.

What is your strangest experience in theatre?

When I was performing in Mother Courage and Her Children at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana for a school matinee. The audience had to leave because it ran too long so we finished the performance to a totally empty house.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

Les Miserables and West Side Story.

What musical theatre song do you shamelessly belt out?

“Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera.

What do you eat/drink before/after doing a show?

Tea with lemon and honey is my ritual. I eat something light beforehand, because no matter how many times I’m on stage, I’m always nervous.

BONUS: Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m a Marvel comic book collector and movie watcher.  I have the complete Luke Cage Hero for Hire comic book series from the 1970s.

Don’t miss your chance to come see Gregory in our upcoming production of Ragtime! Performances are August 10-13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.

Come and Meet: Kate Mann

Kate Mann will be portraying Emma Goldman in our upcoming production of Ragtime. This will be Kate’s 10th show with MPT! Find out the challenges Kate faced in bringing Emma to life and what she recommends you bring to the show.

Are you a Madison native?

Nope! I grew up in a little town called Suamico, Wisconsin, near Green Bay. I moved here for school.

Have you done a show with Middleton Players Theatre before?

Oh, yes! This is my 10th show. Others were RENT, A Chorus Line, Carousel, Miss Saigon, Jesus Christ Superstar, Sunday in the Park With George, Seussical, The Full Monty, and 42nd Street.

What is your favorite theatrical work?

THIS IS TOO CHALLENGING! But, I’d probably say Angels in America (yes, both parts!).

What do you enjoy about Emma Goldman? Are there any challenging aspects of her character to portray?

Emma Goldman is a fierce, strong, passionate woman. I relate to her in that she feels things very intensely, and is very passionate about her beliefs. She’s also a total feminist, so, same. My biggest challenge with Emma is that she has moments of real warmth and softness, followed by fire and a more rigid strength, so I’m working hard to differentiate the two.

What is your favorite part of the rehearsal process?

I’m a nerd with a theatre degree so I LOVE the nitty gritty “book” work as I call it. I thoroughly enjoy the process of reading a script, researching everything I can about it, the character, the time, etc. I take pages and pages of notes and read the script an (almost) embarrassing amount of times.

What do you do when you're not performing/working in the theatre? Do you have a day job?

I manage the Pure Barre fitness studio in Hilldale and am currently getting certified to teach classes there as well!

What would you like audiences to know about this show?

BYOT (bring your own tissues).

What is your strangest experience in theatre?

I lit my hand on fire by accident doing an Irish play once. That was pretty weird.

What is your favorite Broadway musical?

Falsettos!

What do you eat/drink before/after doing a show?

Before a show I usually stick to tea and something easy to digest like a banana. Which means after the show I’m super hungry and eat exclusively fried, delicious food.

BONUS: Give us a fun fact about yourself.

This will be my fun fact for all intents and purposes for the rest of forever, but I danced backup for Weird Al last year on a stop of his world tour. Yes, THE Weird Al.

Don’t miss your chance to come see Kate in our upcoming production of Ragtime! Performances are August 10-13 at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased here.