Film and Television

Spotlight: A Talk with Michael Anderson of Purple Cloud Entertainment

Here on the blog, we’ve made it our mission to bring the very best in theatre/film/art to the forefront. That, my dear friends, is why this post exists!

Michael Robert Anderson and I first met during a production of The Heiress on Staten Island. He was Morris Townsend and I was the maid, Mariah. He’s a real Renaissance man: actor, writer, director, filmmaker, singer. And he is also the head honcho of his own company, Purple Cloud Productions.

Their latest project is a short film- Major Key– which is set to premiere at Staten Island’s Atrium Cinema on December 5th. Mike was kind enough to sit down with me over the weekend to talk about his movie and give a little behind-the-scenes info!

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Amanda: So Mike, I know you’ve been into filmmaking for quite some time now, but is Major Key your first feature? If not, what was?

Mike: Major Key is in fact a short film- clocking in at 25 minutes. However, it is NOT my first. My first film was titled The Colors of Perception– which was a 45 minute short about a young man who dealt with disabilities/perceptions of life/love/family/etc.

Amanda: As we know, the “war love story” genre has been done a lot over the years. What makes Major Key different and what inspired you to tell this story?

Mike: I’d like to think this genre hasn’t really been as tackled as many people believe. But regardless, I think Major Key differs from the rest because of the main focus being based around music. Major Key is a story that’s surrounded by love, tension, action, and humility. At its heart, the short is an uplifting story about the power of connection through music during tumultuous times. The film centers on an American band of brothers in the height of WWII who are hosted by a German family. Our lead soldier, John Key connects with the German host’s daughter Ilse Brauhn over their mutual love of jazz music. The rest, as they say, is history.

Amanda: What was it like to both write the screenplay and star in the finished product? Was it a difficult task?

Mike: It was my worst nightmare on top of my biggest dream! I had a blast and wouldn’t trade it for the world… but then again, I could’ve used a lot more coffee and downtime to prepare myself on the acting aspect of things. As you can imagine it’s tough to wear all of the hats at once- especially when you have to switch them instantaneously. But again, I’ll treasure that feeling forever.

Amanda: I’m assuming the film was not shot in a studio lot. Where did you go on-location, and did that factor into the actors you wound up casting?

Mike: The location was actually found by our incredible production manager, Jessica Davies, who recommended the odd idea of AirBNB. But lo and behold, she found us a beautiful early 19th century home in the middle of the woods in Millville, New Jersey- where we shot for a full week with no interruptions, beautiful weather and an incredible cast and crew! In regards to the casting side of it, I cast the best of what I saw. I cast the people who I KNEW could bring it all to the table. Location wasn’t a factor in who I got. In fact, the home was the LAST thing we found in the pre-production days, even after casting it.

Amanda: One more thing! What’s next for Purple Cloud Productions? Are you taking this project further, starting something new, or both?

Mike: Purple Cloud Entertainment is always making work. We just love to create. It’s a passion that drives us fay in and day out. Without this craft, without art, I would be no one! So to answer your question- there’s ALWAYS something going on. We’ve got our webseries out now, “Pipsqueak & Stretch”, which can be found on YouTube. And another project that we shot for a dear friend is in post-production, AND I may or may not have something very special in the works moving into 2018! But you’ll have to keep up with us to see!

Hungry for more? Check out Major Key‘s official webpage.
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Theatre

Follow the Money

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What is going on with this most recent Broadway season?

Last year, we got OsloIndecentDear Evan Hansen, and even Come from Away. This time around, it seems we’re getting sub-par play revivals, Margaritaville, and the equivalent of REALITY SHOW: The Musical. More on that later.

Don’t get me wrong…there are a lot of potentially great things on the horizon, namely the revivals arriving in the spring. (Angels in AmericaThe Boys in the BandMy Fair LadyCarousel!)

But it also seems like a truckload of variety acts are landing on stages that were once reserved for theatrical ideas/innovation. As we already know, showbiz is…well…a business, and producers put their money into projects they believe will be successful. Which begs the question- what criteria are they using?

With the deluge of live shows that open during the Christmas season- including the Radio City Christmas SpectacularElf at MSG, and A Christmas Carol on MacDougal Street- who made the decision that a revue starring reality show winners should be playing a coveted Broadway house? (It’s the August Wilson Theatre, to be exact, and they had to take down its Mean Girls marquee.)

I hate to say this, but I almost feel like productions that pander to the non-theatergoing crowd need to struggle at the box office. Perhaps then producers will recognize that they can’t just throw money at anything and have a Broadway smash. Perhaps then they’ll be more inclined to take a chance on fresh, quality material.

I don’t wish bad on Home for the Holidays. I am sure some folks will enjoy it. But to artists who pour their heart into original work and struggle to have it seen, it can feel like a slap in the face. I implore you, producers of the world: try to avoid giving prestigious Broadway credits to Bachelorette contestants and invest more in those who want to use art to change the world.

Writing

Daily Prompt: Trademark

Exciting news from your humble author!

My first collection of essays and lyrics, Tragedy Tomorrow, has been published and is now available for purchase! You may recognize some of the writing as posts made right here on Puccini’s Chronicles.

The book is currently being sold through McNally Jackson independent booksellers- based in SoHo- but I am looking for other outlets as well.

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Of course, the essays are themed to the arts and living with autism in the Big Apple (that is my trademark). The lyrics come from my original musical shows and some standalone songs. Tragedy Tomorrow only costs $10 and can be ordered very soon.

Theatre

Goodbye, Amelie: Shows That Could (in theory) Play at the Walter Kerr Theatre

The theatrical industry is kind of a funny animal. You just never know what will catch on and what won’t. Many things factor into this: word-of-mouth, critics, award season, marketing, and pure luck. And for one reason or another, Amelie (a musical adaptation of the beloved 2001 French movie) just couldn’t make enough stars align. The show (which I quite enjoyed) will play its final NYC performance at the Walter Kerr Theatre on May 21st.

This venue is named for Pulitzer Prize-winner Walter Kerr and opened in 1929. (Today, it is operated by the Jujamcyn Company.) With a seating capacity of just over 900, it is one of the smaller Broadway houses and therefore well-suited to plays and cozier musicals. Its external marquee, with the bright blue lights, is one of my favorites.

That being said, let’s look at a few shows that might inhabit this theatre as well as a few that won’t…but could, in theory.

heathers5 Heathers (New World Stages, 2014). Many a fangirl wished this show, based on the cult teen movie, would transfer to Broadway after its premiere run. Although that seems unlikely three years after the fact, it would still be hilarious to see a musical of this subject matter stand with the likes of Dear Evan Hansen or Come from Away.

taste0037_orig A Taste of Things to Come (York Theatre Company, 2016). Similarly, this small-scale show about women’s roles from the 1950s-60s probably belonged Off-Broadway. However, one of its calling cards was the fact that it also had an all-female cast and band; we could always use more of that!

cyclone0888r Ride the Cyclone (MCC Theater, 2016). This musical is about a group of teenagers vying for the afterlife in the wake of a horrid rollercoaster accident. It seemed to divide public and critical opinion but still managed to be nominated for several awards.

mbutterfly_content M. Butterfly (Planned for the 2016-2017 Broadway season). Now this production of David Henry Hwang’s classic play, directed by Julie Taymor, is confirmed to come to Broadway this year. The only question is which theatre will be chosen- and the Walter Kerr could be an ideal space.

twood_sg_07 The Secret Garden (Seattle Shakespeare Theatre, 2016). Rumors have been swirling that this acclaimed production of the show, featuring Daisy Eagan in a new role, has its eyes on a Broadway transfer.

Alternately, the powers-that-be could just annoy Lincoln Center Theater enough for them to bring Falsettos back.

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Personals

Shine…Again?

Thank you to everyone who took an interest in my NYC cabaret debut!

I’m pleased to announce that thanks to this show, I have booked another gig- this time at Don’t Tell Mama. I’ll be singing in the April 4th edition of Seth’s Showcase, emceed by Seth Bisen-Hersh, alongside 5 other performers. We’ll each be doing a set of two songs, and all of the sets will either share a theme or tell a story of our choosing.

I don’t want to give too much away, but here are some clues as to my rep for this show:

  1. Both songs will surround a theme.
  2. Both songs are from modern musicals.
  3. One song is an uptempo and the other is a ballad.

My kingdom for a Tony Award…

Get tickets!

Theatre

Videos to Get You Pumped for NEW WORKS on Broadway This Spring

Okay, okay guys, calm down.

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Yes, I know the news came out today that Sara Bareilles will be succeeding Jessie Mueller as Jenna in the former’s own musical, Waitress. From what I’m seeing, half of the world is super excited and the other half is concerned. With some overlap between the two. The concerned side feels as such because they worry how this show’s almost-certain reappearance on public radar could affect the multitude of brand new musicals that will already be struggling to secure an audience just before Tony Awards time.

Well to these friends I say, “Never fear!” Puccini’s Chronicles is here to help. Today I’m going to share some awesome previews that are sure to entice folks into taking a chance on a new show. You know, along with their already-purchased revival tickets or 900th attempt at the Hamilton lottery. (Click on the name of the musical to watch the video!)

AMELIEWhat you’re seeing: A well-arranged selection of visual highlights from the piece’s pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles, set to a lovely duet from its stars, Philippa Soo and Adam Chanler-Berat.

ANASTASIAWhat you’re seeing: Christy Altomare, as Anya, singing the beloved Oscar-nominated song “Journey to the Past” in Columbus Circle.

BANDSTANDWhat you’re seeing: A very cinematic trailer, complete with a bass-baritone narrator and appearances from the original Papermill Playhouse stars, Laura Osnes and Corey Cott. Also, keep an ear open for a Hamilton name-drop.

WAR PAINTWhat you’re seeing: The two leading divas, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, doing what they do best at the Guggenheim Museum.

Personals

Daily Prompt: Shine!!

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Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, presents Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods,” marking a 54 Below debut.

You’ve seen Sondheim’s masterpiece performed by a cast of 18 and a cast of 10…now see it attempted by a cast of one. Featuring an abridged version of the book and score, arranged by DeLalla herself, the fairytales won’t be the only stories getting told.

12% of the proceeds from this event will benefit an autism-based charity.

“As an artist with Asperger’s syndrome, I know that navigating this world- much less being creative in it- is a trip to the woods all on its own!” Along with special guests, see Into the Woods in a new light and contribute to the cause of autism acceptance. The evening will be musically directed by Cristina Dinella.

Amanda DeLalla in “Alone in the Woods” plays Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street) on February 7th. There is a $25-$35 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available here. Tickets on the day of performance after 4pm are only available by calling 646-476-3551.

“Shine” on, all you crazy diamonds!

Theatre

Critically Thinking- Spring Awakening and Sex in Art

I have never been a fan of the popular musical Spring Awakening.

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Granted, the recent Deaf West Broadway production had a fascinating angle and I was curious to catch it. As a whole, though, am I missing something?

Let’s leave the subject matter out of it for a second: strictly music and lyric-wise, Spring Awakening is a fairly mediocre piece. Unless I’m really dense, which is entirely possible…the lyrics are a bit nonsensical. “My Junk” is all over the place, while words like “oh, I’m gonna be your bruise” feel very forced. Not to mention the Act 1 finale is literally made up of 10 words repeated over and over. How this score managed to beat Grey Gardens for the Tony that year is beyond me.

Look, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the internal rhymes and insightful syntax of Sondheim. And various styles speak to everyone differently. Who am I to judge what is great art?

Okay, moving onto the book and characterization. I get it; Spring Awakening is about generation gaps and emotional repression and the struggles of growing up. But I blame the OBP’s marketing team for people thinking that its content is “teenagers having sex.” Because that’s what they emphasize in like half the promotional material. As we all know, sex sells. Perhaps if more emphasis had been placed on the show’s underlying themes, folks like me wouldn’t make that assumption.

But at the same time, I’m brought to my other point. I almost feel as though the direction of the piece (or at least the OBP) decided to milk those teenagers having sex. Did we really need to see Lea Michele’s bare chest, Jonathan Groff’s ass, or Hanschen’s “self-loving” out in the open to understand the action and its implications? It appears to be gratuity for the sake of gratuitousness. Basically: if you want to tell a meaningful, compelling story, focus on that and not how graphic you can get onstage.

Well, that’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to challenge me on any of my opinions here. In conclusion, though, I want to add that I don’t think the entirety of Spring Awakening is a lost cause. There’s some good stuff to work with here- I just don’t think it was executed correctly. As occurs frequently to artists when they try to create a game-changer. Ain’t life a bitch?

Writing

“The Fools Who Love”

by Amanda DeLalla

Here’s to the fools who love.
To the red-nosed reindeer,
And finger-less glove.
To the dandelions called a weed,
Who may get what they want,
But not what they need.
Here’s to the fools who desire.
For a better world, some inner peace,
And more hearts afire.
Those who just want to know what’s true.
I don’t think they’re stupid to try;
Do you?
Here’s to the fools who dream.
Who believe that goodness
Is more alive than it seems.
The ones who trust in some greater plan,
Those who leave a legacy
Because they believe they can.
We reach and cry but will still be kind,
From oceans below to skies above.
All in a quest to simply find
Another one of the fools who loves.

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Theatre

For Your Consideration: a review of Broadway’s WAITRESS

“It’s amazing what baking can do,” sings Jessie Mueller as Jenna the waitress in one of just two non-Hamilton shows surviving from last season. (The other is School of Rock.) And if “baking,” she also means “the theatre,” then she’s absolutely correct. Seeing Waitress on Broadway this week for my birthday affirmed that.

In short: Jenna is a small-town waitress who happens to have a gift for baking pies. The trouble is that she’s stuck in an abusive marriage and unexpectedly pregnant…until a baking competition offers a $20,000 prize and the potential for a new life. Along the way, she is aided by her friends at the diner (Kimiko Glenn, Keala Settle) as well as the new doctor in town (Drew Gehling). Actually, she and the doctor wind up having an affair. The show is based on a 2007 motion picture.

Famously, the score was entirely done by pop singer Sara Bareilles, who received a Tony Award nomination for her work. Her involvement with the show has been a staple of their marketing campaign, and she makes vocal cameos (pre-recorded) at a few points in the musical. I am in love with Bareilles’s music for Waitress; in fact, it’s a big part of why I wanted to see the show onstage. It’s fresh, it’s catchy, and each number is carefully crafted to reflect the personality of its characters. My favorite songs are “Opening Up” and “Bad Idea,” the opener and closer of Act I, respectively. There is also the 11 o’clock song, “She Used to Be Mine,” but I’ll talk about that at the end.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is how the ensemble is used: they fill lots of minor roles, but they also serve as a Greek chorus of sorts for the action. The effect works surprisingly well. As for the leading players, they were all perfectly suited to their roles and got great audience reception; at my performance, Kimiko Glenn’s understudy was on, but she did a great job. Another thing Waitress knows how to do is find a balance between comedic and serious moments. You have the ludicrous awkwardness of Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald) and Becky’s take-no-prisoners attitude…and then a scene later, you see Jenna get hit by her husband (Nick Cordero).

Speaking of which, Jessie Mueller gives another electric performance as the main character. She brings such raw emotion and sincerity that I cried at three different times in Act II. “She Used to Be Mine” spoke to me on a profound level as I thought about my own trials and tribulations. Like Jenna, the girl I once was didn’t ask for bad things to happen to her…and both of them escape (and still do) by immersing themselves in their passions.

With any luck, someday I too can achieve my ultimate happiness- and the ones I care about will be right there with me. Waitress was not only a delightful birthday gift, but a reminder of just how spellbinding the arts are for the soul. They don’t even have to be fundamentally perfect; as I’ve heard, “it only takes a taste.”