Monday, April 23, 2018

Talking About Desperate Measures with Will Shakespeare on His Birthday

The cast of Desperate Measures at the York. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Will in the West

Peter Kellogg sat down with playwright William Shakespeare on April 23rd, his 454th Birthday, to ask him about his new musical, Desperate Measures, set to open soon at New World Stages.  Here’s what he had to say:

Q: First of all, Happy Birthday, Will.  How does it feel to be 454 years old?
With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.

That’s a very nice sentiment.  Now to Desperate Measures:  You usually do all the writing yourself.  What was it like collaborating with David Friedman and Peter Kellogg on a musical version of one of your plays?  
Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.

When they first mentioned the idea of turning Measure for Measure into a 6-person Western, set in the 19th century with country and western music, what was your reaction?
Lord, what fools these mortals be.

But when they explained how much you could make with a hit musical, when they showed you the weekly box office from Hamilton and Book of Mormon, what did you say then?
Westward-ho!

I understand there were some rocky moments in the collaboration.  What was your opinion after reading Peter’s first draft of the libretto?
Past hope, past cure, past help!

What did you think when you discovered that, though they retained “the bed trick” from the original play, they cut “the head trick” entirely?
This was the most unkindest cut of all.

But instead of giving up on the project then and there, you asked David to play you some of the music from the score.  What was your reaction then?
O! It came o’er my ear like the sweet sound that breathes upon a bank of violets.

Your director, Bill Castellino, has received high praise for his direction of the musical, Cagney. But that’s a very different kind of show. Desperate Measures seems to be more of a comic romp.  What’s your opinion of him so far?
A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

You also managed to procure an amazing cast for the original York production: Emma Degerstedt, Gary Marachek, Lauren Molina, Conor Ryan, Peter Saide and Nick Wyman.  What did you think of their performances?
O, wonderful, wonderful and most wonderful.  And after that, out of all whooping!


Did you offer any advice to the cast, seeing as you too were an actor in your day?
Eat no onion or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.

Jim Morgan and The York Theatre are known throughout the country for helping to develop and nurture new musicals.  What was it like working with them?
Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.

Glad it was a positive experience.  And now to the upcoming production: five of the original cast are returning to reprise their roles at New World Stages.  How does that make you feel?  
I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ever thanks.

The one new cast member is Sarah Parnicky.  She’s playing Susanna, the novice nun.  What’s your opinion of her so far?
O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!  

Impressive.  Now, let’s talk about your producers: Pat Flicker Addiss took over the production at The York and extended it for over 100 performances.  Pat was also a lead producer of Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike (which won a Tony); and A Christmas Story.  What’s it been like working with her? Though she be but little, yet she is fierce.

And now Pat is being joined by Mary Cossette - Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, and Will Roger’s Follies - to bring Desperate Measures to New World Stages.  What do you think of them as a team?  
The very life-blood of our enterprise.

I know the reviews were universally excellent at The York.  One of the critics, Peter Filichia, even called it “The funniest, most tuneful, non-stop, slam-bang, best musical of the season.  What’s your impression of him?   
A Daniel come to judgment! Yea, a Daniel!  O wise young judge, how I do honour thee.

And yet, even though show was so successful at The York, it’s taken you five months to move it to another theatre.  Why is that? 
First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

I get the picture.  So what’s your prediction for this new production and the future of this show?
A hit!  A very palpable hit!

Last question: Any advice to theatregoers who come to see Desperate Measures at New World Stages?  Prepare for mirth, for mirth becomes a feast.

---------

Peter Kellogg (Anna Karenina) has written the books and lyrics for Desperate Measures, the Lortel-nominated musical which played a multi-extended, sold-out run at the York Theatre earlier this season. It will re-open this June at New World Stages. Music is by David Friedman (Listen To My Heart); direction is by Bill Castellino (Cagney, Marry Harry). 

Desperate Measures features:
Lauren Molina (Rock of Ages) as Bella Rose
Conor Ryan ("Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert") as Johnny Blood
Gary Marachek (Eleanor) as Father Morse
Peter Saide (Skin Tight) as Sheriff Green
Nick Wyman (Les Misérables) as Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber
Sarah Parnicky as Susanna/Sister Mary Jo

Inspired by William Shakespeare's Measure for MeasureDesperate Measures tells the tale of Johnny Blood, a handsome young man whose life is in danger over a saloon brawl. Set in the early 1890's, Johnny must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a wily sheriff, an eccentric priest, a authoritarian governor, a saloon girl gone good, and a nun out of the habit- as they all struggle to decide Johnny's fate. Laws are broken and hearts are won as they try to find justice in a world that often doesn't seem just.

Desperate Measures plays New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC, beginning with previews May 30. Opening is June 13. Performances are Monday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday at 2 and 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $59-$89: DesperateMeasuresMusical.com; 212-239-6200.

Full disclosure: producer Pat Addiss is a friend. Even so, I thought the book was very clever and the musical very enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
-- Lauren Yarger

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

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