Colony Curtain Call!
The Newsletter of the Colony Theatre Company: October 2004

Check-In...And Live. Grand Hotel, The Musical.

Grand Hotel, the Musical promises to deliver intrigue, romance, villainy, desire, ambition, and tragedy---all the elements of a classic musical spectacular---complete with singing and dancing in the classic tradition of past Colony musicals.

Grand HotelFor the first time since 2000's Side Show, The Colony stage will come to life with a large-scale musical---20 actors in all---in the tradition of past Colony musicals City of Angels, On the Twentieth Century, and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

You may think you already know the story of Grand Hotel, either from the 1932 Oscar-winning movie or the 1989 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, but The Colony’s Grand Hotel, The Musical, as reinvisioned by director Peter Schneider, will be unlike any other version of the show you know. This Grand Hotel will be sexy, vibrant, captivating and passionate---the way great musicals should be.

Set in Berlin in 1928, the story of Grand Hotel is a human tapestry of love, loss, lies, and longing. The action takes place in the opulent Grand Hotel, the most elegant hotel in Europe, where, as they say, "people come…people go…And nothing ever happens." Well, that's not exactly true. What happens in the lobby, rooms, and hallways is life---in all its grandeur, tragedy, joy and sorrow. Characters of every kind come to this hotel: a Baron desperately trying to hold onto his place in society, an aging ballerina desperately trying to hold onto her youth, an ambitious typist desperately trying to make something more of her life, and a dying accountant desperately trying to live out his last days among the rich andGrand Hotel Rehearsal
Musical Director Michael Reno
rehearses with cast members Jason Graae,
Robert J. Townsend, Chris Payne DuprJ, and Mike Irizarry
beautiful. The fantasy world of the Berlin hotel, one of the final bastions of the idle rich, set against the stark reality of a fragile post-war economy, is a reminder of the dichotomies of life and the complexities of humanity. The hotel's grand revolving door serves as more than just a metaphor for the colorful guests who come and go in this complex and captivating story.

The themes that resonate throughout the story are universal--hope, pride, lust, envy--basically each of the seven deadly sins has its moment in this beautiful and haunting tale.  Whether it’s money, love or fame, we all crave something. Grand Hotel is the place those cravings are met---and where dreams are both made and dashed.

Grand Hotel has a long and colorful history. Based on Austrian author Vicki Baum's 1929 novel, "Menschen im Hotel" ("People in a Cynthia Beckett
Cynthia Becket rehearses
a musical number
Hotel"), the original stage version, dramatized by Baum, appeared the following year in Berlin before moving to New York, featuring a 52-member cast. In 1932 MGM released the Academy Award-winning film Grand Hotel, starring Greta Garbo and Lionel Barrymore (in which Garbo uttered her famous line "I want to be alone"), and, in 1958, the first musical version titled At the Grand, starring Paul Muni, was produced in California, although it never found its way to Broadway after Muni abandoned the project. The story also served as the premise for the ill-fated TV series Hotel starring James Brolin, before finally finding success on Broadway in 1989, where it captured 5 Tony Awards, including Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Michael Jeter, and Best Director and Choreographer for Tommy Tune.

The authors of Grand Hotel have colorful histories of their own. For over seventy years Robert Wright and George Forrest (Music and Lyrics) were partners, collaborating on music and lyrics for film, stage and club acts. They specialized in adapting themes from classical music into engaging tunes for movie scores and stage musicals. They were nominated for three Academy Awards but are perhaps best-known for their score of Kismet (book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis), which was based on the music of Alexander Borodin and won a Tony Award in 1953. The most popular song from the show, "Stranger in Paradise," has been recorded by many artists, perhaps most notably Johnny Mathis.

Author Luther Davis, who wrote the book for Grand Hotel, got the inspiration for the musical when he came across the out-of-print novel in a second-hand bookstore. Maury Yeston, an accomplished composer in his own right, was brought in to contribute a few songs for the show. Yeston is perhaps best-known for creating the Tony-Award winning scores for Titanic and Nine.

Directing Grand Hotel will be Peter Schneider, a creative mastermind with an impressive resume. Best-known for his long tenure at Walt Disney, Peter oversaw the rebirth of the animation industryCate Caplin and Gary Franco
Cate Caplin and Gary Franco rehearsing
and was responsible for getting over 20 movies made, including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Toy Story. He also served as the President of Disney Theatricals, where he produced Aida and The Lion King on Broadway. What most people don't know is that Peter started his professional career in the theatre and was very active in the off-off Broadway movement in the early seventies, directing at Circle Repertory Theater, the WPA Theater, and Playwrights Horizons.  For 5 years, he was the Managing Director of the St. Nicholas Theater, one of the premiere Grand Hotel Production Team
Director Peter Schneider, Choreographer Cate Caplin
and Property Designer M.E. MacElveney
watch a rehearsal
theatres in America for developing new writers, and he was the Associate Director of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, a 10 week Arts festival that changed the face of the Arts in Los Angeles.

Peter has assembled an outstanding production team, including Musical Director Michael Reno, Choreographer Cate Caplin, and an ensemble of actors who will knock your socks off with their singing, dancing and acting talents. Included in the 20-member cast is company member Dink O'Neal, whom you will remember as Bruce Granit in On The Twentieth Century, and Beth Malone, who played Sally in our production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Also featured in the cast is Jason Graae, whose credits include Falsettos on Broadway, the original cast of Forever Plaid, and Ragtime, where he created the role of Harry Houdini. As if the promise of amazing vocals isn’t enough, Grand Hotel will feature dancing---and lots of it! One thing is for sure, this show will be a spectacle of proportions you haven't seen on our stage in a long time. Make sure you don’t miss out on the show that will be the musical event of the year!

Grand Hotel, the Musical will begin previewing on Wednesday, October 13, will open on Saturday, October 16, and will run through November 14. Grand Hotel, the Musical will be presented without intermission and will run approximately 90 minutes. It is appropriate for ages 12 and up. To order tickets, call (818) 558-7000 today!

Artwork and artwork title copyright 2004 Shoolery Design, Inc.

Bouquets to The Ladies

Our recent production of Lillian Groag’s The Ladies of the Camellias continued our string of through-the-roof reviews, taking our current run of Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choices to four in a row, following the stunning critical success of Clutter, The True Story of the Collyer Brothers Who Never Threw Anything Out, The Drawer Boy, and Around the World in 80 Days. It just goes to show, when you’re hot, you’re hot!

What the critics had to say:

KABC Radio:

“As George Bernard Shaw famously wrote in The Saturday Review, ‘Bernhardt is a star; Duse is an actress.’...Be that as it may, that historical dramatic duel is brought to new life in a hysterical sendup: The Ladies of the Camellias, written and directed by Ladies of the Camelias
Melinda Peterson and Victoria Carroll
as Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt

Lillian Groag at Burbank's delightful Colony Theatre.... While Groag has used memoirs and diaries to authenticate the voices of the two women, the play itself is a fabrication, a hilarious slapstick farce played over-the-top by a team of well-directed, flawless performers...and the audience was with them every step of the way.... the play is intelligently written and lovingly directed.”


“Her able cast is anchored by Melinda Peterson as a piercing Duse and Victoria Carroll as a commanding Bernhardt. Mark Bramhall makes a dapper distraught Dumas, Louis Lotorto is a feisty Worms, Marcelo Tubert is dashingly devastated as Flavio, Tony Abatemarco’s M. Benoit is always so infused with energy that this subsidiary part becomes as important to us as it does to him....Special kudos to A. Jeffrey Schoenberg for his gorgeous costumes. Tom Buderwitz’s elegant set opens onto the brick prop-lined back wall of a theatre, underlining the reality behind this particular opiate. Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting design is used to highlight the actresses’s key moments as surely as if they’d done it themselves.”

Los Angeles Times:

“Big egos, great fun....Two great ladies haunt the hilarity of The Ladies of the Camellias. Abundantly entertaining, Lillian Groag's The Ladies of the Camellias, now at the Colony, is a gilt-edged valentine to the theater that begins as a frothy exegesis of eccentric celebrity and ends with a surprising philosophical punch. Groag, who has revised and rewritten Camellias for the Colony's production, directs her own work with just the right touch of slapstick, maximizing its deliberate and delightful artifice. In the best tradition of other theater-centric comedies such as Light Up the Sky, The Royal Family and Enter Laughing, Groag's play concentrates on the comical foibles of eccentric theater folk.  Inspired by an actual meeting between Duse and Bernhardt, Groag's play has the added advantage of being well-researched and scholarly, abounding with references to Shaw, Stanislavski and Marx, and rich with the kind of gossipy anecdotes dear to theater-lovers' hearts. Groag's sterling cast captures the genuine camaraderie of theater people--- an exotic tribe that fuels plenty of rollicking fun. But just when you think this enterprise might devolve into mere camp, Groag alters the discourse into an impassioned defense of art and the civilizing properties of the theater.”

Back Stage West:

“Few things are as much fun for theatricals as watching theatricals being theatrical. CRITIC’S PICK!”

LA Weekly:

“The acting is flawless and Tom Buderwitz’s set design is a marvel of riches from an age gone by. RECOMMENDED!”

Ladies of the Camellias Group Shot

The Colony Welcomes New Managing Director

Following the departure of long-time Managing Director Amanda Diamond, The Colony was left with some pretty big shoes to fill. Artistic Director Barbara Beckley knew that whomever she brought in would have to not only have the qualifications to handle the Sean Alan Cutlerchallenging duties of Managing Director for a fast-rising Equity theatre, but also a person who could fit into the Colony family. The right candidate would also need to understand that despite our recent critical successes, challenges are still ever-present in this economic climate, as funding for the arts is in perpetual decline. Even a theatre as successful as The Colony struggles to make ends meet, and the search for new sources of revenue is constant. The role of a Managing Director is to not only help to seek out these new sources of revenue, but to assist the Artistic Director in steering the organization through storms and into calmer waters.

Instead of looking at the search for a new Managing Director as an overwhelming task, Barbara decided to use the search as an opportunity to forge a new path for the theatre. As The Colony nears its 30th anniversary, she wanted to find a creative partner, someone with a vision for the future of the Colony, who could assist her in guiding the theatre through the current economic climate, who has a background and a general knowledge of theatre, and has fresh ideas for where The Colony should be in two, five, ten and thirty years from now.

She found this compatriot in Sean Alan Cutler, a young theatre professional from Florida who had made his recent mark in New York in the commercial theatre world. Sean worked extensively off-Broadway, where he served as a member of the management team of Blue Man Group’s New York City production of Tubes, as the Company Manager and Acting General Manager of American Rhapsody: Songs of the Gershwins, and, most recently, as the Associate General Manager of the long-running hit, The Donkey Show and its sister production, The Karaoke Show.

Even though Sean had spent the past 15 years in New York, he began his career as an actor in his hometown of Miami at age 8. At 15, he was nominated for a Carbonell award for Best Actor in a Play for the role of Eugene in Brighton Beach Memoirs. A graduate of The New World School of the Arts in Miami, where he was a Dean’s Award recipient, Sean went on to earn degrees in Film and Television Production, as well as Political Science, from New York University.

To call Sean a true Renaissance man of the theatre would be an understatement. In addition to performing and management, Sean has been a crew member, stage manager, production manager, technical director, designer, writer, director, and usher.

While the challenge of becoming the Managing Director of a nationally-recognized, award-winning Equity theatre like The Colony is a daunting one for someone his age, Sean’s passion for theatre and his vision for the future make him the ideal candidate to help lead us to our next thirty year anniversary.

Beckley feels she has found the right partner in Sean, “It was very hard to lose Amanda, who had become such an integral part of the Colony family, but in Sean we’ve found another young and talented professional who has a wonderful passion for theatre. I feel our management styles will totally complement each other and I’m looking forward to working with Sean for many years to come!”

Welcome to The Colony, Sean!

The Colony Receives Six Ovation Award Nominations

At a press conference held at The Boston Court Theatre on September 15, the nominations for the 2004 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards were announced, and The Colony was honored with six nominations.

Spanning shows that were produced in the greater Los Angeles area from September 1, 2003 to August 31, 2004, the Ovation Awards are Southern California’s only peer-judged theatre awards. The Colony won the coveted Ovation Award for Best Play in a Larger Theatre the last two years in a row, in 2002 for The Laramie Project, and in 2003 for Toys in the Attic.

Although we are particularly proud of each nominee, we are perhaps even prouder of the fact that of the five Colony productions that qualified for Ovation consideration this year, four were recognized with nominations. Our consistency was similarly honored in 2002, when our productions of Side Show, The Laramie Project, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown all garnered nominations.

Congratulations to all of our 2004 Ovation nominees!

Set Design in a Larger Theatre

  • Tom Buderwitz - The Ladies of the Camellias

Costume Design in a Larger Theatre

  • A. Jeffrey Schoenberg - The Ladies of the Camellias

Lighting Design in a Larger Theatre

  • Jeremy Pivnick - Clutter

Featured Actor in a Musical

  • Jeffrey Rockwell - Gunmetal Blues

Featured Actor in a Play

  • Jeff Marlow - Around the World in 80 Days

Featured Actor in a Play

  • Larry Cedar - Around the World in 80 Days

The Ovation Award ceremony will be held on November 14 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Jeffrey Rockwell

Jeffrey Rockwell

Larry Cedar

Larry Cedar

Jeff Marlow
Jeff Marlow

Special Announcement

The Colony’s Fine Wine Club Debuts

The Colony is introducing its own wine club, in partnership with Friar’s Choice, to provide exclusive fine wines to our supporters. For the holidays, personal enjoyment, or business entertainment, these wines all score well, having great taste and the best value. These fine boutique Australian and New Zealand wines are making their American debut, and The Colony is getting the first opportunity in the U.S. to order these fine wines, sold in an exclusive mixed case.

Winter 2004 Limited Edition

Case of 12 bottles, 3 bottles each:

  • 2002 Eldredge Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2004 Terrace Road Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2003 Morgan’s Run Shiraz
  • 2003 Pendarves Verdelho

A generous donation is made to The Colony by Friar’s Choice for every case sold.

Reserve your order for a pre-holiday delivery of a case today!

Price: $150 plus 8.25% sales tax and $10 delivery charge.

Reservations: George C. Bacon, CEO, Friar’s Choice, Tel: (661) 251-0866