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Tag Archives: wicked
The Houston Symphony’s 12-13 POPS season is off to a great start this fall! After a wonderful season opener with the Midtown Men, we’re excited to welcome our next special guests Alli Mauzey and Nicole Parker to perform some Broadway favorites in our October POPS concert, Wicked Divas. I recently had the chance to interview the show’s Broadway stars, along with their manager and the show’s co-creator John Such, and got some fascinating insights on the divas’ long-time friendship and the thrilling story of how the show came to be!
• Georgia McBride: Alli and Nicole, I understand the two of you are great friends- how does your friendship influence this performance?Alli Mauzey: The history Nicole and I have allows us to bring that depth to Wicked Divas. Not only the comfortability in playing with each other on stage, but all the wonderful stories and experiences we have shared become part of the show.
Nicole Parker: We have a shorthand with each other so it’s fun to be able to tell where she might be going with a story or an instinct and it leads to what I think is a sort of a great spontaneity on stage. I think we support each other very well, and I certainly know that if I ever drop the ball she’s got my back, and vice versa. We are just very comfortable with each other which makes it easy to perform regardless of how many factors might change around you. I like to think that our comfortability puts the audiences at ease and they know right off the bat they are in for a good time. Plus we make each other laugh a lot which I enjoy.
AM: Different cast! I don’t believe I’ve gotten to do Wicked with most of this group of people. I’m really looking forward to that!
• GM: Nicole, I have heard about your work on Mad TV and your impressions; how does the preparation for your comedy work compare to the preparation for your live musical theatre work?
NP: I think when preparing for sketch comedy you have to have adaptability because things can change on a dime, whether it’s an audience’s reaction or a fellow performer throwing you a curve ball in the moment, and the same skills apply to musical theater, because live singing can be very unpredictable; your voice may not always cooperate due to allergies or climate, etc., and each concert requires adaptability from how each symphony likes to work, the sound design in the concert hall, and so on. So it’s a good skill set all around!
• GM: Alli and Nicole, what are your favorite aspects of the Wicked Divas show?
AM: Instead of singing in one style as you would in a book musical, we sing in all styles: pop, classical, Broadway, etc. It’s a thrill to sing it all in one night! Of course being accompanied by your fantastic symphony will be the highlight of the evening!
NP: I really love the music I sing and my duets with Alli, and the arrangements. Also, I love to travel, and this is a unique way to really get a feel for each city, especially from a cultural perspective. And it is pretty fabulous singing “Defying Gravity” with a full orchestra, while not having to be green and strapped in 20 feet up! I get to wear a pretty dress and move however I please, which is not the way it works when you are actually playing Elphaba!
• GM: Alli and Nicole, were you ever in the Wicked cast at the same time? If so, what are some of your favorite behind the scenes memories? Does the duet “For Good” have a special meaning for you, especially since you are such close friends?
AM: Nicole and I met while doing Wicked on Broadway actually. But what was interesting is that as we got to know each other we found out that we grew up about 15-20 minutes from each other and were familiar with the same theatre programs and people back home in Southern California. I had even met Nicole’s Mom, Dee Parker, before I had met Nicole while I was in high school but didn’t know it. Dee used to work with the ear, nose and throat doctor I would go to. I would go in for doctor’s visits, and this woman kept talking about how talented her daughter was and how she would be on Broadway someday. Cut to years later, I met Nicole on Broadway, we figured out that I had met her Mom when I was in high school, and I can vouch that her mother was right about how talented her daughter is!!!
NP: We have done Wicked together twice, once on Broadway, and again just this past summer on the First National Tour. Oh there have been many backstage laughs. I suppose some of the best memories are making each other laugh during “Popular.” Alli is just so amazing in that scene and was constantly keeping me on my toes by changing things up. Things got loopy especially at the end of a five show weekend! “For Good” is very special to sing with Alli, of course. She stood at my wedding! Both times we have sung it in our last performances of Wicked together, it’s been a little inaudible, with all the tears! But we’ll keep it together for you, Houston!
• GM: John, I hear the development of Wicked Divas is an interesting story. How did this show come to be?
John Such: I received a call from the executive director of the Cincinnati Pops on a Thursday at about 4:00, telling me that Ms. Chenoweth, who was supposed to perform with them that weekend, was ill and they had no idea what to do. The rehearsal was the next day (Friday morning). They wondered if we could substitute another Glinda in her place- but I told them that Kristin was a star at this point and that substituting her with another would only leave room for direct comparisons. But I thought the idea of keeping the Wicked theme and bringing two ladies who had performed Glinda and Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and building a program around them would be interesting. She agreed and I called Julia Murney and Megan Hilty (who is now one of the stars of SMASH) and both were available and ready for the challenge. We all looked at songs I had in my library and set forth building a program with selections that they knew. Once we decided on the vocal selections, Steve Reineke then filled in with the orchestral selections and constructed the order. I pulled the music, booked the flights, emailed the ladies the vocal parts and the performers were in Cincinnati the next morning for rehearsal. Not one person turned back their tickets and the review said, “When dazzling Broadway diva Kristin Chenoweth became ill and canceled her appearance with the Cincinnati Pops on Wednesday, the orchestra had barely two days to find a replacement. They found two, Megan Hilty and Julia Murney – two big talents with big voices to match. That’s not much time to salvage a show. But on Friday, combined with those gorgeous show tunes played by Steven Reineke and the Cincinnati Pops, just about everything was “coming up roses.” The Cincinnati Pops thought of the name of the show and, as a “thank you,” allowed me to use it.
• GM: John, how many times has it been performed around the country?
JS: A lot. I can’t even count.
• GM: Alli and Nicole, have either of you ever been to Houston before? If so, what is your favorite thing to do? If not, what are you most looking forward to about Houston?
NP: I have never been to Houston so I am very excited! I’m looking forward to a good steak and a good time!
AM: I have not been to Houston before either! I am absolutely thrilled to come and take it all in! And I am even more thrilled to get to share the stage with the Houston Symphony conducted by the amazing Steven Reineke!
On a side note, Nicole and I are huge fans of the store Anthropologie, and I read recently they now have wedding stores in two cities in the United States- one being in Houston! I’m getting married in May so Nicole and I hope to take some time to look at wedding dresses while we’re in town. So excited! I was also a bridesmaid in her wedding a year ago so it’s so special to be involved in such momentous times each other’s lives!
For more information about the concerts and to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE!
On Sunday morning, the Houston Symphony announced its upcoming 2011-12 season of Classical, Pops and Family concerts. In line with the Symphony’s mission, enriching concerts fill each weekend with inspiration and bring innovative, first-class performances to the extensive cultural scene in Houston. Dynamic guest artists, Music Director Hans Graf and Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski will collaborate with the 85 members of the Houston Symphony in performances that span many musical genres and four centuries of composition. Highlights include season-opening performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; a three-week-long tribute to Rachmaninoff; Orbit – An HD Odyssey, the sequel to the internationally renowned Planets project; ACCESS, a new concert format for today’s ever-evolving audience and appearances by many talented conductors, some of whom are vying to be the Houston Symphony’s next music director, following the end of Hans Graf’s successful tenure in 2013.
Stellar Artists, Beloved Repertoire
As always, the Houston Symphony brings powerful programming to the fourth largest city in the country. Under the direction of Music Director Hans Graf, the 2011-12 season will open with two performances of the inspirational “Ode to Joy” Beethoven Symphony No. 9 on September 9 and 10, 2011, and will close with dramatic performances of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff on May 17-20, 2012. These concerts, along with many others during the season, will also feature the talented Houston Symphony Chorus under the direction of Charles Hausmann. In addition, the Symphony will showcase a feast of classical offerings including Elgar’s Enigma Variations; a special commissioned work by Pierre Jalbert of Rice University that will honor the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy; Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik; and Berg’s Violin Concerto featuring the Symphony’s concertmaster, Frank Huang.
Many friends of the Houston Symphony will be returning to Jones Hall including violinists James Ehnes and Hilary Hahn, soprano and Houston Grand Opera Studio alum, Albina Shagimuratova, and extraordinary pianists André Watts, Olga Kern and Emanuel Ax.
Debuting artists are in abundance in 2011-12. The Symphony welcomes cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott, percussionist Colin Currie, violinist Chloe Hanslip, and guest conductors David Afkham, Gilbert Varga, Christoph Koenig, Edward Gardner, Jakub Hrůša, John Storgårds, Vasily Petrenko, Alexander Shelley, and Pablo Heras-Casado.
“The upcoming season demonstrates the impressive breadth of the Houston Symphony,” said Graf. “We will welcome back to Houston some of the world’s most accomplished guest artists, some young talent just bursting onto the scene and, as always, we offer a bounty of music that will stimulate, excite, entertain and hopefully inspire you. I am looking forward to it!”
Orbit – An HD Odyssey
Orbit – An HD Odyssey is coming! Following the success of The Planets – An HD Odyssey, with glowing reviews, sell-out concerts, a well-received UK tour, and a best-selling DVD/Blu-ray disc, the sequel is being launched. The Houston Symphony has once again commissioned producer/director Duncan Copp to create an out-of-this-world, high-definition film to accompany a live orchestral performance by the Houston Symphony. Orbit – An HD Odyssey will focus on planet Earth. Featuring John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, high-definition images from NASA’s shuttle missions, the International Space Station and satellites orbiting Earth will be spun together to tell an awe-inspiring story of our home planet’s land, sea and sky. The world-premiere performance of this Symphony Special concert will occur on February 18, 2012.
Former Houston Symphony Music Director, Christoph Eschenbach, will return to Jones Hall on December 6 for a one-night-only, Symphony Special performance with the musicians of the Houston Symphony. Eschenbach returns to the podium, for the first time since February 2002, to lead the Houston Symphony in Mahler’s momentous Symphony No. 5.
It will be a month full of Rachmaninoff programming in January 2012 for a three-weekend concert extravaganza called “Rach Fest.” Included in the line-up will be all four Rachmaninoff piano concertos, performed by celebrated young pianist and 2010 Gilmore Artist Award winner, Kirill Gerstein, who will be serving as an artist in residence during the festival. Rachmaninoff, a virtuoso pianist in his own right, wrote hugely demanding music for the keyboard. Gerstein’s performance of all four, knuckle-busting concertos in three weeks will be amazing to behold. Interestingly, Houston has a special relationship with Gerstein. In his early years as a fresh face in the industry, he was embraced by the Houston Symphony as a guest soloist. Then, in the days before his most recent appearance with the Houston Symphony in January 2010, Gerstein received the news that he had been awarded the prestigious piano prize, the Gilmore Artist Award.
A New Concert Experience
Houston Symphony patrons’ yearning for a deeper connection to music and musicians inspired the creation of a new interactive concert series for 2011-12. Along with the aid of celebrity guest host, Miles Hoffman of National Public Radio fame, the ACCESS Series is designed to be a highly accessible and informative approach to a symphony concert. The concerts, a collection of three Friday evenings, will begin an hour earlier at 7:00 p.m. and will be shorter in length (approximately 80 minutes) with no intermission. As ACCESS host, Mr. Hoffman will bring an interactive spin to the performances such as interviewing artists, conductors, orchestra members or discussing repertoire throughout the concerts. In addition to the music, a pre-concert cocktail party is planned for each night along with post-concert question-and-answer sessions.
“With the ACCESS series, we are aiming to attract both new and current audiences who are eager to know more about the music being performed and the musicians involved,” said Mark Hanson, Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO of the Houston Symphony. “Our host, Miles Hoffman, will engage and excite anyone who loves great music! This series is tangible proof of the Houston Symphony’s commitment to innovation, experimentation, and engagement.”
Even More Music!
The Pops season continues to provide the “Music You Know, Music You Love” in 2011-12. Kicking off the year on September 2-4 will be “Viva Italia!”, an evening of iconic Italian hits like music from The Godfather and Jersey Boys, La Traviata and “Nessun Dorma!,”– all performed by Poperazzi, a pop-opera vocal trio from Las Vegas. Glee fans and Baby Boomers alike will delight in several shows. Idina Menzel, star of Broadway’s Rent, Wicked and TV’s Glee, debuts with the Houston Symphony on October 14-16. “Live and Let Die: The Music of Paul McCartney” comes to Jones Hall with Michael Krajewski conducting on November 4-6 along with a “Tribute to John Denver” on April 5-7, 2012. Also in April, “Cole Porter’s Great American Songbook” will entertain audiences with song classics from Broadway and Hollywood. Likewise, movie music will be the star of another concert weekend in January 2012. “The Best of Williams and Spielberg” will showcase the Houston Symphony and Krajewski performing epic music from Stephen Spielberg and John Williams’ films. Bowfire! will electrify the stage in March 2012 with their virtuosi fiddle players who play a wide spectrum of musical genres with a show including choreography, dramatic lighting, set design and costumes. The dance-inducing Latin music group, Tiempo Libre, will close the Pops season in May 2012 with their Cuban flair and fusion of classical music and Afro-Cuban rhythms.
“I invite you to experience these incomparable musical evenings featuring tributes to Paul McCartney, John Denver and Cole Porter, journeys to Cuba and Italy, and salutes Hollywood and Broadway. You’ll hear the music you love performed by one of America’s finest orchestras – your very own Houston Symphony! Come and join us for the fun. I’ll see you there,” said Krajewski.
Houston Symphony Associate Conductor, Robert Franz, has created another captivating season of family offerings. Fairy tales, The Little Mermaid and Houston Astros’ Milo Hamilton are all part of the 2011-12 Weatherford Family Concert Series. Families can enjoy an engaging, entertaining experience full of wonderful orchestral music on four Saturday mornings during the season. “Once Upon A Dream: Princes & Princesses” will kick-off the Family series on October 15 with music by composers featuring brave princes and beautiful princesses. “The Night Before Christmas” will be the Family holiday concert on December 3, and the “Music of Little Mermaid” will delight audiences on March 10, 2012. Rounding out the four-concert series will be “Perfect Pitch: Music of Baseball” on April 28, 2012, where the Houston Astros’ announcer and Hall of Fame award-winner, Milo Hamilton, will narrate Casey at the Bat.
“I love putting these concerts together for our family audiences,” said Franz. “As a fairly new uncle, these concerts are an extension of the time that my niece and I spend dancing and singing together…on a bit of a larger scale! But don’t be misled; these concerts are as much for parents and grandparents as they are for kids. The fact that all generations in a family can enjoy the Houston Symphony together makes these concerts very special.”
Houston Symphony On The Road
Return to Carnegie Hall
The Houston Symphony has been invited back to Carnegie Hall to participate in the 2012 Spring for Music Festival. With a tag line of “Uncommon Concerts for $25”, the festival is a new and innovative collection of concerts featuring North American symphony and chamber orchestras with a focus on unique programming at affordable prices. The Houston Symphony will kick-off the 2012 festival with the first performance on May 7, 2012. The week-long event is designed to allow chosen orchestras to showcase their artistic philosophies through distinctive and creative programming in one of the world’s most competitive musical environments, Carnegie Hall. The 2012 festival will mark Spring for Music’s second festival; May 2011 will be the inaugural run.
Expanding the Symphony’s Footprint in Houston
Sugar Land Series
In 2011-12, the Symphony is setting-up shop in Sugar Land in bustling Fort Bend County for a series of three concerts on Thursday evenings beginning at 8:00 p.m. The first two concerts in this new Sugar Land series will feature the Houston Symphony and Chorus in performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Handel’s Messiah. The third series performance will be presented in the new ACCESS format – an informative and interactive approach to a symphony concert hosted by Miles Hoffman of National Public Radio fame. The location will be the high-tech, multi-functional, and easy-access performance facilities at Sugar Land Baptist Church on Highway 59.
Music Director Search
The Houston Symphony’s 2011-12 season will mark the second year in its search for a new music director. As previously announced in October 2009, Hans Graf will end his tenure at the end of the 2012-13 season as the longest serving music director in the organization’s history. In January 2010, the Symphony formed a committee of musicians, staff, board members and community leaders to begin the search for a replacement. Among the many guest conductors who visit Jones Hall each season, there are possible music director candidates who are being assessed for their musical leadership, on-stage charisma and communication abilities.
Special Note for Current Houston Symphony Subscribers:
So, when looking around the conference room during a recent marketing meeting, our resident blog expert rested her eyes on me and said “YOU should right a blog for Broadway Rocks!” Broadway Rocks, in case you are wondering, is the first POPS concert of the Houston Symphony’s 2010-2011 Season. It opens this Friday, September 3rd. The concert includes songs from what we are calling “the latest generation” of Broadway musicals. The NEW classics (pardon the oxymoron). Things like Wicked, Rent, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King. Of course, there are some golden oldies. How could you do a Broadway concert without a little Phantom of the Opera and the like?
Why did she suggest I write the blog about Broadway Rocks, you ask? Well, because I am the just the biggest musical theater geek in this entire organization. My conversations regularly are snippets of Broadway songs that are sung at whomever I’m addressing at the moment. My belief is that it is a lot more fun to sing and dance your way through your everyday life. It’s either that, or the fact that I did marketing for an organization that brought touring Broadway shows to local markets, and I worked there for many years.
One of the perks of my former job was that once a year, I was “required” to go to New York for a week and see as many shows as I could. I know…such torture! So, I’ve had the privilege to see many of the shows that are going to be featured in the upcoming Broadway Rocks concert. When we first talked about programming this concert, my true colors were seen probably for the first time. I was new at the time, and when this concert was mentioned, I started to grin and wiggle in my seat. I couldn’t wait to hear what shows we were going to feature. And I was NOT disappointed. And imagine my near accident inducing excitement when I learned that Julia Murney who WAS Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway and on tour is going to be here to perform with the orchestra! It is going to be so amazing to have her and the other Broadway stars with us to perform this music.
So yeah, I’m a little geeked out by this upcoming concert, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have been that girl that stands at the stage door after a show to get my program signed when the cast emerges, and that’s okay. Part of what I love about the Houston Symphony is that we have something for everyone to enjoy, whether it is a Beethoven, the Music of Led Zeppelin or even a little slice of heaven like Broadway Rocks. Of course that is my slice of heaven, but to each his own. If this is not up your alley, then I can guarantee we have something that you will enjoy. And please don’t judge me, “I Am What I Am!”
The first person to comment with the name of the Broadway show I just referenced will win a pair of tickets to Broadway Rocks!