Review: New Line Theatre’s Lizzie

by Rachel Lewis

Evoking a creepy chorus of children setting the scene in a melancholic horror flick, New Line’s staging of the off-kilter rock, or more appropriately, riot grrrl musical Lizzie, opens with the schoolyard rhyme that likely serves as the primary point of reference for most audience members toward the titular Victorian crime saga: “Lizzie Borden took an ax/ She gave her mother 40 whacks…” And it gets creepier, and more tongue-in-cheek, from there. Continue reading

Five Question Friday

Steve Isom and family are a force to be reckoned with around STL- and he’s here to share some wisdom with us today!

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Steve has been a St. Louis based equity actor for a couple dozen years. He’s performed at most of the theatres in town, but is most known for his work at Stages St. Louis where he has done 52 shows. His lovely wife Ellen and daughter Abigail are also in the biz. He once started a little thing called The Kevin Kline Awards, but we can talk about that later.

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

I liked puppets. Age nine, I was bored one summer and mom sees an audition to work puppets at this little church theatre. We went. The puppets were life-sized marionettes. I was too small to run them, but they needed voices for the puppets. It was a musical version of Jack and the Beanstalk. I was the voice of Jack. I can still sing you the Cow song. That little church theatre became the largest children’s theatre in the country, San Jose Children’s Musical Theatre. It was my home away from home.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

I’ll give you the worst instead: “If you can do anything else … for god’s sake DO IT.” That’s a load of crap. People who do theatre are smart, energetic people. Of course we can do other things! Follow your passion. Do what you love. Life is short.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

During 9 to 5 at Stages this year we had a power outage in the middle of Act 1. A generator blew up somewhere. We were told it was going to be a while before, so some of us went onstage with a guitar and started singing to the crowd. We, and the audience, used phones to provide some stage light. It was fun and rowdy. At one point during a song I yelled out at the crowd – “If we all just believe hard enough I’m sure we can get these lights back on!” – and boop! They instantly came on. It was so weird people thought it was some trick, but just a crazy coincidence.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

Sweeney Todd. I always wanted to play Sweeney. I may be getting too old. I’ll do anything in it though. Am I in my Judge Turpin years yet?

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

Im watching TURN right now. So good. I just watched a bunch of 30 Rock because it’s leaving Netflix. I relate to Jack Donaghy. Where’s my scotch?

Thank you Steve!!!

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Grace Austin is an STL based director and educator. Her picture was taken by Ann Aurbach of COCA while she was living out her dreams of being in Frozen.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

 

 

 

Five Question Friday

This guy has been one of my favorites for a long time…. hi Troyer!!
Troyer Coultas is a recent graduate of The Hartt School with a BFA in Music Theatre. He is currently in the ensemble of the National Tour of The Wizard of Oz. Troyer has had the privilege of working with Tony Nominated actors such as Terrence Mann as well as singing on a Broadway stage with Kristin Chenoweth. He had the pleasure of developing a lead role in a workshop of a new musical, ZM, by the Tony award winning writing team of Urinetwon, Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis at the Goodspeed Opera House. A few favorite theaters he has performed at are Hartford Stage, Connecticut Rep, Peterborough Players, and The Dutch Apple.

 

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

The summer after seventh grade I signed up for a summer camp that was doing High School Musical. The reason I wanted to start acting was because I wanted to be a famous actor (I had no idea how anything worked hahaha). We got to rehearsals and I ended up being Ryan, a rather large character, and had the time of my life. That’s when the theatre bug bit me. I was hooked and started being in as many productions as I could manage while taking voice and dance lessons.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

Everyone says it, “be kind to everyone in this business”. Music Theatre is such a small world where everyone knows everyone and you never know what other connections they might have that could help or hurt you. I have gotten half of my professional jobs because of connections. Yes, talent plays a role but the connection is what really pushes you to the front of the headshot pile. Everyone is talented in this business, there are tons of people who are more experienced than you, what is going to get you the job is having people want to work with you because of your personality and positive attitude.

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

Oh man. I’v lived through more than I can count. One that still makes me smile was when I worked as a performer at Six Flags St. Louis. We did six shows a day for over two months so things went wrong all the time. We had this one show outside on the porch of the main theater every night and I had one of the solos. While I was rocking out downstage I noticed all of the audience started pointing and laughing at something behind me. I tried to act like nothing was happening so I didn’t look. Then I started hearing screams but I’m still performing my song to the audience. I went the whole rest of the show without really knowing what happened only to find out later that a skunk had been running across the stage through all of the dancers while I was singing. After causing a stir onstage he then ran into the lobby of the theater where my supervisors spent the rest of the show tying to get him out while not getting sprayed.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

I have two.

Jack in Into the Woods

Boq in Wicked

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

I watch a lot of Family Guy. Im about to have a LOT of time on the bus and planes during my 91 city tour though so I have a long list of shows to watch. Starting Game of Thrones is definitely a priority.

Thank you Troyer!! You are a joy to work with 🙂

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

Five Question Friday

You’ve seen this guy on the stage AND screen- say hello to Jack Sippel!

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(Photo of Jack backstage at the MUNY taken by Julie Merkle, last week’s 5QF!)

Jack Sippel is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 8, Jack began training and performing at Krupinski Academy of Dance. He also trained and competed at Olympiad Gymnastics where he became the Missouri State Champion in gymnastics. Some of his performing credits include National Tours: the Tony Award winning Broadway musical MEMPHIS, Disney’s NEWSIES (Mush, Bill), Regional: the world premiere of Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz (Flat Rock Playhouse), West Side Story, Mary Poppins (Paper Mill Playhouse), NEWSIES, Hello, Dolly!, Tarzan, Grease, Singin’ in the Rain (The Muny), Film: Disney’s NEWSIES: The Broadway Musical (Darcy, Kenny). Jack is also a teaching artist and choreographer for Krupinski Academy of Dance, Krupinski Academy’s Krupinski & Company, the Krikwood Theatre Guild (9 to 5), Lafayette High School (Shrek, Hairspray) and The Broadway Collective. Continue to follow Jack on social media @jackjsippel

 

Q:What was your first theatrical experience?

A: One of my first experiences in theatre was back when I was in elementary school. I was and still am obsessed with Peter Pan (go on, judge me) and my mom had show me this flyer of a local community theatre company putting on Peter Pan that upcoming summer. I told her I had to go be in this! So we went to the audition and it all fell into place. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in this audition other than the fact I was going to be taught a dance and then I was going to be asked to sing a song that I had brought. I have learned a lot since then. The one playing Wendy in this production was non other than the one and only Taylor Louderman! She has always been brilliant.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?
A: I was told that you if you are going to be in this business then you have to go for it. If there are other things that you like doing as well, do those other things and make room for people who really want this. It’s a field where you need to jump off the high dive and not just dip a toe in the water.
Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

A: This is hard. I have had several ripped pants believe me, but I would have to say during the song Once And For All in Newsies, we have to toss bundles of papers to each other. The bundle consisted of a stack of papers that was glue together and then one “laminated” sheet of paper on top of that all tied together by a piece of string. I had to stand on a stair unit, unable to move side to side or front to back and catch then toss these bundles. One night we had a bundle that was tossed a little too far over my head to where I ended up laying on my back on this stair unit and still needing to toss it to the next guy. I hurry to stand up, the next bundle gets tossed to me and the string holding everything together comes undone! So the bundle is flying one way and the loose sheet is flying a different way. I grab the bundle, grab the sheet, toss the bundle, put the loose sheet under my foot because I knew there was NO WAY I could through a single piece of paper across the stage just to keep it with the bundle then turn back before the next bundle was tossed my way. Oh yeah, did I mention that all of these tosses where timed to the music???? I luckily knew that the bundle that the lost sheet was going to be mine at the end of the number when we actually need that paper. How I know that…. because I’m crazy detailed oriented. Talk about stress and quick thinking.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

A: Don Lockwood in Singing in the Rain!

Q: What is your current guilty TV pleasure?
A: One of my guilty TV pleasures would have to be Dancing With The Stars. It just hooks you in. I also dream of being one of the pros on that show.

 

Thank you Jack- can’t wait to see where you’ll be dancing next!

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Grace Austin is an STL director and educator who heads the Theatre Department at East Central College. Her picture was taken by the ever talented Ann Aurbach who is the Production Manager at COCA.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

Five Question Friday

I am so excited about this Friday’s feature- lets hear it for Julie Merkle!!

Julie is a St Louis photographer who has had the pleasure of shooting in some of the coolest places. Most recently, she has been on staff at the Muny on the Media team. When not behind the lens, Julie is helping out area high schools make their theatre companies the best they can be!

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

Woosh, back in middle school! I had just broken my leg and couldn’t play basketball anymore, so I turned to theatre to pass the time and I fell in love. I’ve been stage-crafting ever since. My first time shooting a show was my very last show in high school, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead; fell in love with that just as quickly.

 

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

I have two answers : The first was, “stay in college, you’ll never make it otherwise.” It was a heartbreaking sentence to hear at a time when that was the last thing I needed to hear. Spoiler: I didn’t stay in college; while I don’t know what defines “making it” I’m humbled to say I’ve lived a fantastic life in the theatre and through photography so far. It’s been the greatest joy to mix the two loves. (Shoutout to the MUNY!) The second piece of advice actually comes from R&H’s Cinderella, “Go! With the promise of possibility!” It’s been a driving force to put myself out there and see what becomes of it all.

 

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

Uhhh…ummm…well….I forgot a SD card once to shoot backstage? There’s probably been a fair amount of shooting on stage and having to dodge a set piece or scene change.

 

Q: What is your dream role/show?

For this shutter clicker, anything dance heavy. West Side, Anything Goes, 42nd Street, Chorus Line, Lion King… I could shoot Newsies everyday and be so fulfilled. Once was not enough.

 

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

Will and Grace reruns. It’s been a binge at my house in preparation for the reboot!

 

Thank you SO much Julie- how cool to hear from a theatre photographer!

 

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com

 

 

Five Question Friday

From gauges to stages (wow, that was a bad joke…), let’s say hi to Evan!

 

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Evan has been performing in St. Louis since he was eight years old. Some of his favorite roles include Roger in Rent and JD in Heathers with New Line, Frederick in Noises Off with the Meramec Theatre Department, Ernst in Spring Awakening at Stray Dog, and Nicky in Avenue Q with Take Two Production, who he’ll be working with again this fall as Henry in Next to Normal. Thank you all so much!

Q: What was your first theatre experience?

I was in the children’s chorus of Joseph when I was 8. I was so nervous when I went to audition, I cried outside the audition room for five minutes. I knew nothing about musicals. I had no audition song so I sang this song I learned in church about Jesus and crayons.

 

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

So I had gauges in my ears when I was a kid. I could fit a pencil through the hole. I was around 12 years old, and while working on a production of Beauty and the Beast, the woman playing the Wardrobe told me that I should remove them if I wanted to continue acting. That was when I decided that I wanted to seriously pursue theatre and here we are today. Thank you, Tanya!

 

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through?

Okay! So I was in a production of South Pacific. I played Cable and I was doing a scene that was supposed to include myself, Liat, Emile, and Bloody Mary. For those who don’t know the show, my character does not speak French and he is in love with Liat who speaks only French. Bloody Mary is Liat’s mother and acts as translator/ matchmaker. Emile also speaks French but has no relation with any of these people. Anyway, a big dramatic scene comes up involving all four of us. Emile and I are onstage and Liat walks on without Bloody Mary. So we are trying to do this scene. I try to talk to her in very bad fake French and she looks at me like I’m nuts. I go to Emile asking him to translate but he is completely dumbfounded by the situation. I end up dropping to my knees, going full soap opera, and screaming to the heavens “Bloody Mary Where Are You?!” We then hear a flush over her mic and she comes sauntering onstage like everything is normal.

 

Q: What is your dream role/ show?

I’d probably say Evan Hansen just because it would be cool to play a character with the same name as me! I don’t actually know the show or its music.

 

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

Oh let’s see. My DVR is loaded with episodes or Mr. Mercedes and Project Runway and Face Off. And I usually have Impractical Jokers on until I fall asleep every night…

Thank you Evan (I’ll watch Face Off with you anytime- great show!)

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com.

 

 

Five Question Friday

Angel in the house today! Lets hear from Sara Rae Womack…

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Sara is a local actor/choreographer who has been seen at Stray Dog Theatre, New Line Theatre, R-S Theatrics, Act, Inc., and Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre. She recently completed the sold-out run of In the Heights with R-S Theatrics as Yolanda (“no hablo ingles”). By day, Sara is the Program Assistant for Saint Louis University’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts. In the Spring, you can catch her work at New Line Theatre in Anything Goes, where she’ll be playing Virtue as well as co-choreographing with fellow Angel Michelle Sauer. Connect with her on social media @sararaewo or check out her website, sararaewomack.wix.com/sara

 

Q: What was your first experience in theatre?

Well, I’ve been a dancer since I was five years old, and I started doing “proper” theatre in high school, but I suppose my first actual show was a summer school production in primary or elementary school. We did what I am sure is a theatrical masterpiece entitled “We Has Jazz.” I played…Ella Fitzgerald. Forgive me, world.

Q: What is the best piece of career advice anyone has ever given you?

This is a two-part answer for me. Growing up in dance class, my mentor Ann Gustafson taught us to listen to notes that were given to other dancers, in case there were any corrections that we could apply to our own practice. It’s a nosy habit, but I think it’s been one of the most important lessons I’ve been taught. So, when we were rehearsing for Funny Girl at Stray Dog Theatre, our director Gary Bell was working on a song with Lindsey Jones, my dear friend and our fantastic Fanny Brice. He told her that in that moment, she didn’t need to prove how good of a singer she was, because the audience would already know how talented she was. As actors, we are always trying to prove ourselves, and in doing so, we sometimes distort our storytelling. We don’t always have to prove how great of a singer we are, or how pretty or thin or tall we are. The audience sees us more clearly then we see ourselves. Our job is just to tell the story in the most authentic way possible, putting our narcissism aside. (btw, Lindsey is not only a beautiful singer, but a fantastic actress. She killed it.)

Q: Tell us about a backstage or onstage mishap you lived through.

So I wasn’t onstage, but we were doing a production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Kirkwood Theatre Guild, and when we got to this musical number called The Reckoning (which is a BIG reveal of the show), the cue line was given, and for some reason the band wasn’t coming in. They were stationed on this tall platform above the set. So, my friend Ryan Glosmeyer (who was playing Freddy), basically did the beginning of this patter song as a monologue…that just happened to rhyme. Brilliant. It turned out that the band was all plugged into this one outlet in a corner upstage that accidently got unplugged during a scene change. So, they were up on this tall platform where no one could see them, playing, and nothing was coming out of the monitors. Amazingly, they figured it out and got plugged in just in time for this huge trio section of the number. I’ll never forget it. The ensemble was all sitting in the dressing room under the stage, and we just froze. But hey, it all worked out. And for the record, Dirty Rotten is a fantastic and hugely underrated show. David Yazbek is a genius.

Q: What is your dream role/show?

If I ever make the time to learn piano, Carole King in Beautiful- The Carole King Musical. Until then, Dot in Sunday in the Park with George.

Q: What is your current guilty TV Pleasure?

Y’all, I don’t have a television or internet in my apartment, so I haven’t seen anything current. My favorite television show, though, is and will always be Gilmore Girls. Team Jess; of that there is no doubt.

Than you Sara- Can’t wait to see you in Anything Goes!

 

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Grace Austin is an STL area director and educator.

See her work at gracemaustin.com