Thursday, January 14, 2010

If They Can Make It There

Posted by Bruce Miller
Hannah and I had the chance to visit with four actor friends--three old and one new--on our recent trip to New York. We caught up with the first two, Zak Resnick and Mark Ludden (below and to the right), at lunchtime on a frigid Saturday morning.

As many of you will remember, Zak recently starred at Barksdale in Into the Woods (Rapunzel's Prince, Second Wolf--above and to the left) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Jimmy--below and to the left). Mark is a veteran of one of Barksdale's several productions of Joseph/Dreamcoat, which preceded my tenure as artistic director. Both Zak and Mark are doing Richmond proud as they put their amazing talents to good work in the Big Apple.

If you've been keeping an eye on Zak's career, you know he's very quickly becoming someone to watch on the Great White Way. There's definitely no moss growing on this boy.

Just before beginning Millie rehearsals last spring, Zak graduated from the professional theatre program at Carnegie Mellon University. In August, he took his final bows in Millie and moved to New York almost before the applause had stopped. Just a few weeks later, he made his Off Off Broadway debut with the New York Musical Theatre Festival playing a leading role in The Cure, a new vampire musical that generated a significant buzz (see my earlier blog post, Zak Zooms in on Vampire Zeitgeist, Friday, Sept 25, 2009).

Then on October 1, Zak and his amazing tenor made it into the studio to record the new CD from the Broadway Boys, a vocal group comprised of 26 of the most accomplished male voices in New York. He was in illustrious company. Also singing on the Boys CD were Jesse Nager from the Broadway cast of Mary Poppins, Danny Calvert and Landon Beard (Altar Boyz), Telly Leung (Rent), Michael James Scott (Hair), Maurice Murphy (Putnam County Spelling Bee), Daniel Torres (Wicked), Gabe Violett (Spring Awakening), Marty Thomas (Xanadu), and Peter Matthew Smith (Hairspray).

Later in October, Zak made his debut at Joe's Pub, one of the hottest vocal venues in town. He shared his talents with the Public Theater's Music Theater Initiative Songwriters Showcase, singing songs from Dogfight, a new musical by rising composer / lyricist stars Pasek and Paul. Dogfight has just been commissioned by Lincoln Center, and Zak was among those vocalists recruited to showcase the amazing new score in its first public performance.

As a sure sign of his expanding New York profile, Zak was photographed by in November simply for attending the 6th Annual Broadway Unplugged concert at Town Hall. Bedecked in a golden scarf (see above), Zak stood with one of the evening's star performers, Daniel Reichard (Jersey Boys). Coincidentally, also performing that night at Town Hall was another of Richmond's vocal wunderkinds, Emily Skinner (below and to the left).

This past Monday, Zak joined an All-Star cast at the Canal Room for a one-night-only event celebrating the talents of one of Broadway's most exciting young composers/actors/ vocalists, Jonathan Reid-Gealt. Joining Zak at the mic--or perhaps protocol requires that I say that Zak was joining them--were several of Broadway's most amazing voices, including Jeremy Jordan (currently standing by as Tony in West Side Story--and formerly starring at Firehouse Theatre in Austin's Bridge), Tituss Burgess (recent star of The Little Mermaid and Guys and Dolls), Lauren Kennedy (knocking 'em dead in Vanities and Les Mis--also a former Ashland resident who graciously met with our 2007 Barksdale NYC tour group three years ago when we went to see her in Broadway's Spamalot), plus Quentin Earl Darrington and Bobby Steggert (a personal favorite of mine), both from the cast of the just-closed Ragtime revival.

Zak's career could not hold more promise.

Also making his Mark on American theatre is our other friend, Mr. Ludden. For the last few seasons he has alternated national tours of Les Mis (to the left) and Evita with summer gigs at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York. Last year at about this time, Mark was one of the Barksdale alum who graciously agreed to talk with our 2009 NYC tour group during brunch in The Rainbow Room.

Hannah and I caught up with Zak and Mark in their current day jobs as singing waiters at Ellen's Stardust Diner--one of the coolest (and hardest to land) gigs going for up-and-coming Broadway singers. If you've never been to Ellen's, you really should give it a try. The great performances come with the price of lunch--and the singers are phenomenal.

Zak sang a couple songs during our time in the diner, easily outdoing Michael Bublé with his cover of the Leonard Cohen classic I'm Your Man. Mark's power baritone shook Ellen's rafters, providing beautiful counterpoint to Zak's pop tenor.

I suppose all the great theatre singers in New York don't come from Richmond, but what we heard on Saturday was proof positive that at least two of them do.

It was great to catch up with both Zak and Mark last weekend, even if the visits were all too short. All we Richmonders owe them our support as they chart their careers in New York New York. I'll try my best to keep all of you apprised of their successes as they achieve them.

And very soon, I'll write about the other two actor friends who graciously greeted us in the Big Apple.

--Bruce Miller

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