Saturday, June 23, 2007

Meet the Cast of "Into the Woods" – Part II

Every few months, someone will step forward to complain that Barksdale and Theatre IV keep casting the same people over and over, and that new people may as well not audition, because Richmond’s theatres run closed shops.

It is completely true that Barksdale and Theatre IV benefit greatly from an informal company of national caliber/Richmond-based actors who, if we’re lucky, perform once or twice a year on our stages. We believe this practice serves both audiences and artists well.

However, it is completely untrue to say that newcomers don’t stand a chance. During the Signature Season that is now concluding at Willow Lawn, we cast 62 different roles in five productions. The great news is that 31 of the actors who performed those roles were performing at Barksdale Willow Lawn for the first time since we assumed leadership in 2001.

Three of these exceptional “newcomers” are playing leads in our hit summer musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. All three attended high school in Greater Richmond, and have since moved on to larger markets to pursue their careers. All three are performing with Barksdale for the first time.

Rita Markova is doing an absolutely magnificent job as Cinderella. She’s beautiful, as anyone can see in an earlier blog entry, and acts and moves with intelligence and assurance. But it’s her voice, an exceptional lyric soprano, that simply knocks me off my feet. Rita recently played Maria in West Side Story at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina and New Jersey Concert Opera. She also appeared in Cats at Northern Stage, Titanic at Media Theatre, and Godspell, A Chorus Line and Grease at Shawnee Playhouse. Coincidentally, Rita originated the title role in the world premiere workshop of Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Theatre IV will be presenting the official World Premiere of the finished script during our 07-08 Season.

Rita attended Godwin High School during several of her student years, and is a graduate of New York University with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance.
Visit Rita's website

Zak Resnick cuts a dashing figure as Rapunzel’s Prince and a second Wolf. Again, I refer you to the photo that appears in a previous blog entry. A rising junior at Carnegie Mellon, Zak is truly someone to watch. Last summer, Zak vaulted to the big time when he was cast in Broadway and Beyond with the legendary Ann Reinking and Ben Vereen. Shortly thereafter, Zak made his NYC debut in Scott Alan’s prestigious Monday Night’s New Voices series.

But Richmond audiences are not unfamiliar with Zak’s many talents. At the Firehouse, he appeared in Bat Boy and starred in The Last Five Years. He also saved our necks once a couple of years back. Due to some difficulty I can no longer recall, we were forced to cancel a performance of one of our Willow Lawn productions—it may have been Anything Goes. As fate would have it, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts had booked a large number of seats for the cancelled performance on behalf of a group of supporters who were coming in from out-of-town. We couldn’t bring the group in to see our show, so, at the last minute, faithful friend Stephen Rudlin put together a full evening’s cabaret performance to take to the Museum, and Zak agreed to perform. Not only was he terrific, he helped us fulfill a major responsibility and defuse a potentially explosive situation.

The third “newcomer,” at least to us, is Drew Seigla, who is charming everyone’s socks off as Jack (of Fee Fi Fo Fum fame). Drew is studying classic voice as an undergrad at Juilliard in NYC (probably the most prestigious performance training program in the nation). He made his opera debut with Le Nooze di Figaro in Rome two summers ago. Last summer, he was an apprentice at Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theatre of North Carolina. One earlier summer during his Richmond high school years, he appeared with SPARC in Footloose at Theatre IV’s Empire Theatre.

Referring back to Part I in this Meet the Cast series, if anyone can give Ford Flannagan a run for his money in the physically fit competition, Drew is probably the man to do it.

One of the best features of the Into the Woods cast is that the supporting roles are filled by new and veteran talents who are just as amazing as the leads. Amy Hruska (Cinderella’s Mother, Granny, Giantess, Sleeping Beauty) was our hard-working music director and pianist for Annie Get Your Gun, James Joyce’s The Dead, Olympus on my Mind, They’re Playing Our Song and Where’s Charley?, but she hasn’t acted on Barksdale’s stage since appearing as one of the sisters and the cousins and the aunts in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore at Barksdale Hanover Tavern way back in 1981.

Jackie Jones, on the other hand, is back as Jack’s Mother in Into the Woods, but she works so steadily in Richmond’s theatres that it’s hard to think of her as “back.” Jackie recently brought down the house as Letitia Peabody Primrose in Henrico Theatre Company’s On the Twentieth Century, somehow shoehorning that star turn in after two consecutive gigs at Barksdale Hanover Tavern in Over the River and Through the Woods and Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which immediately followed her critically acclaimed turn at Swift Creek in Steel Magnolias. As busy as she is beloved, Jackie is a true charmer.Visit Jackie's website

Katrinah Carol Lewis (Lucinda) is back after performing so beautifully in Intimate Apparel.

Kim Reuter (Rapunzel) lends her magnificent voice to Into the Woods after completing a year of touring with Theatre IV.

Craig Smith (Cinderella’s Father) is sharing his talents with us at Willow Lawn while simultaneously sharing his theatre with us at Steward School. All right, the state-of-the-art Kramer Center is not exactly his theatre, but it’s where he teaches Acting and English and heads the theatre program during the school year. And Steward School will be sharing the Kramer Center with us for the second incarnation of the Greater Richmond High School All Star Musical, which opens in July.

Harriet Traylor (Cinderella’s Stepmother) is truly a Barksdale favorite, having graced our stage as Regina in The Little Foxes and Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Eric Williams (Steward) is being all aristocratic now, but a few months ago he brought tears to every eye as the brother recently released from prison in Smoke on the Mountain at Barksdale Hanover Tavern.

Completing our cast of 17 is Hannah Zold (Florinda), who is fast becoming a Barksdale and Theatre IV musical mainstay. She recently turned in wonderful performances in The Wizard of Oz, Mame and The Full Monty.

Richmond theatre is blessed to have so many talented artists working in its midst. I hope you’ll catch their inspired performances this summer in Into the Woods.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our family recently spent a fantastic evening together (a rare event these days), attending a performance of "Into the Woods." Being great Sondheim fans as well as fans of many of the Barksdale players (new and veteran), we were literally entranced! We saw the 2002 production with Vanessa Williams on Broadway but I have to say, in the intimate setting that Willow Lawn provides, it was a pure joy! The sets and costumes and creative use of space was magnificent. I was so impressed with Drew and Zak as well as Ms. Markova and the acting talent of Ms. Abrams. The entire cast was fantastic! My children are students of theatre and musical theatre and what an education they receive when having the opportunity to see quality productions such as this! Bravo Barksdale!