Monday, May 18, 2009

Best of Broadway / Benefits of Barksdale

Posted by Bruce Miller
Rehearsals for Thoroughly Modern Millie began this evening. An eager cast of 22 assembled under the knowing eyes of director / choreographer Patti D’Beck, musical director Paul Deiss, and stage manager Ginnie Willard. I welcomed everyone. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking that nine of the Millie cast members are new to the Barksdale family, including two of the leads. Other than seeing them at auditions, I met these nine for the first time tonight.

One of the leads who is NOT new to Barksdale is Zak Resnick (pictured above and to the right). Zak arrived at rehearsal tonight directly from his drive down from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in Pittsburgh, the prestigious university theatre program from which he just graduated. His car was still packed to the roof with everything he owns.

There must be something special about Richmond’s relationship with C M. Other Richmond theatre notables who went to Carnegie Mellon and then vaulted almost immediately into their professional careers include Tony nominee Emily Skinner and Hollywood superstar Blair Underwood. Like Zak, both Emily and Blair shared their talents with Theatre IV, Barksdale and other Richmond theatres before making it big on the national scene.

Like Emily and Blair, Zak seems destined for great things. Many Richmonders remember Zak for his memorable portrayal of Rapunzel’s Prince in our 2007 summer musical Into the Woods. But in New York, Zak is known by his growing fan base as one of the Broadway Boys, a six-man super group comprised of Broadway’s hottest tenors. (Six sing at any one time. There are actually 25 or so talented young men who have been selected for the ensemble.) “A fusion of funk, soul and gospel, the Broadway Boys create an out-of-control energy that makes you want to just get up and dance,” states Amy Birnbaum of the Jujamcyn Theatre organization. “Their arrangements of Broadway and pop tunes give way to a myriad of sound, color and grit. An experience you can’t afford to miss!”

You can hear and see Zak and the Boys singing "Defying Gravity" at Zak is the guy to the far left of the screen (stage right). The camera-work is a little shaky, but you'll get the gist.

Taking time off this summer from his develop-ing NYC career as a Broadway Boy, Zak will be playing the male lead of Jimmy in our production of Thoroughly Modern Millie at the historic Empire Theatre. Last Monday, just before leaving New York for Pittsburgh, Zak took Broadway by storm one more time before heading south. After being selected as one of the 16 rising stars to be featured in this year’s Leading Men benefit concert for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS, Zak performed onstage last Monday side by side with fellow “leading men” including Jonathan Groff (Tony nominee for Spring Awakening), Nick Adams (currently achieving major celebrity buzz in the Broadway cast of Guys and Dolls), and Michael Kadin Craig (now starring Off Broadway in Altar Boyz). Lest you miss the import of being included in this august group, let me remind you that previous Leading Men concerts have featured the talents of current stars including Matt Cavenaugh, Cheyenne Jackson, Aaron Lazar, Matthew Morrison, Hugh Panaro and Christopher Sieber.

You can catch Zak’s star-to-be turn on YouTube, singing "The Streets of Dublin" from A Man of No Importance. The last time I heard Zak sing this song was in the cabaret that the cast of Into the Woods performed on Barksdale’s Willow Lawn lobby stage to benefit the Richmond Theatre Artists Fund. This time he sounded just as great, but he was introduced by Tony nominee John Tartaglia (Avenue Q, Shrek The Musical). I loved hearing John announce to the packed Broadway audience that Zak would be appearing this summer at Barksdale Theatre in Richmond, VA.

Those of you who listen to the Broadway channel on SIRIUS satellite radio will be interested to know that Zak was accompanied by none other than Seth Rudetsky.

As the Broadway in Richmond series reopens this fall with David Copperfield’s magic show at the new CenterStage, it’s good to remember that more Richmonders get their Broadway at Barksdale than anywhere else. If you really want to catch Broadway stars past, present and future, head on downtown this summer for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and catch the Best of Broadway with the Benefits of Barksdale.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller


Jacquie O. said...

Hi Bruce. I have to chime in with my own praises about Zak. In the early 90’s John Glenn put in a good word for me with Jeri Culter-Voltz at SPARC and even though I had no relative teaching experience (outside of college) Jeri took a leap of faith and gave me the opportunity to co-teach with Bridget Gethins. My first class was the "Mico-Mini's" which were made up of 5 and 6 year old rising stars. In that first class was a young man named Zak Resnick. It was his first acting class and he was so excited. A few weeks into the semester I met his lovely Mom Peggy. She asked to speak to Bridget and I privately. She wanted to know if Bridget and I would be willing to listen to Zak sing a song from a tape recorder because she thought he had a good voice, but wanted our advice on weather or not she should start him up with a voice teacher in addition to the acting class he was taking with us. Of course we agreed. Little Zak came in the next week tape recorder in hand. I wish to God I could remember what song he sang (maybe Bridget does), but when he opened his mouth we both just about fell out. It was a voice from the heavens...a high tenor, not unlike those you hear in English boy choirs. And he sang with a confidence that most adults even don’t have. I was blessed to form a friendship with Zak and his family, including teaching his very talented sister Jillian (Peggy used to make me the best rice pudding that I ever tasted.) It has been so wonderful over the years to watch him grow and I could not be any prouder of his success! Bravo Zak!

Anonymous said...

A six year old tenor? He must have had some balls!

Terry Halpren said...

I was in New York about a month ago and went to see the Tony winning revival of "South Pacific" at Lincoln Center. It was great, and it was great to see two Barksdale and Theater IV actors in the cast. Jerrold Solomon and Christian Carter. Richmonders should be proud of the Broadway talent we have acting here on our local stages, and not spend all their money on the imported "Broadway" shows at the Mosque. Many of those so-called "Broadway" shows don't have ANY actors who have actually been on Broadway. In some ways, it's a lot more about advertising than it is about quality.