A.C.T. PRESENTS – RICH AND FAMOUS

John Guare’s saga of Broadway dreams and critical creams arrives at A.C.T.
just in time!

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

AMERICAN CONSERVATORY THEATER (A.C.T.) continues its 2008–09 season with John Guare’s RICH AND FAMOUS, directed by John Rando (Urinetown, The Musical and Wedding Singer on Broadway) in its first major revival since its 1976 New York debut. From the ingenious mind of John Guare, who brought Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves to the American stage, this delicious dark comedy springs to life with twisted humor, rapid-fire dialogue, and outrageous plot twists. The revival script includes significant rewrites to the original text, as well as hilarious songs freshly scribed by Guare himself. In RICH AND FAMOUS, playwright Bing Ringling yearns to savor the sweet taste of celebrity, and he’s hoping play number 844 will be his lucky break. But on opening night, he slips into a nightmarish phantasmagoria that shows him just how wrong things can go. Click here to order tickets on-line: RICH AND FAMOUS

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The Cast at A.C.T. – Brooks Ashmanskas, Mary Birdsong, Stephen DeRosa, Gregory Wallace.
Photo, Kevin Berne

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Along with the comedic geniuses of John Guare and director John Rando, this production brings together an explosive combination of acting talent from Broadway and an A.C.T. favorite. Brooks Ashmanskas, who was nominated for a 2007 Tony Award for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and has also appeared in the Broadway companies of The Producers and Gypsy, takes on the role of struggling playwright Bing Ringling. Joining Ashmanskas as a whirlwind of outlandish characters from the early ’70s New York theater scene are Mary Birdsong (Reno 911! on Comedy Central and Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and Hairspray on Broadway), Stephen DeRosa (Hairspray and Into the Woods on Broadway), and A.C.T. core acting company member Gregory Wallace (‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE and THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR last season at A.C.T.). Rich and Famous plays at A.C.T. through February 8th. Opening night is Wednesday, January 14th at 8 p.m. Click here to order tickets on-line: RICH AND FAMOUS

Looking at artistic success and America’s obsession with celebrity with a hilariously satiric eye, Guare has created a story that feels as fresh and moving as it did 30 years ago. Director John Rando’s production embraces the feeling of the early ’70s New York City in color and feel, while focusing on the transformative work required of the four actors in the show. “This has always been one of Guare’s plays that I’ve wanted to do,” says Rando, who won a Tony Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for his production of URINETOWN, The Musical which began its national tour at A.C.T. “It’s a wickedly funny story of an aspiring young artist at a time when being a hip artist in New York City was the thing to be. I cannot wait to dive into the wacky world of this affectionate look at theater then and now.”

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Gregory Wallace, Mary Birdsong, and Brooks Ashmanskas.
Photos, Kevin Berne

“John Guare’s work has the unique ability to simultaneously exist on many different planes of reality that are disparate, fully realized, and by definition dramatic—and Rich and Famous is a perfect example of this,” adds Ashmanskas, who plays Bing Ringling. “It is Guare’s fantastic bravery and honesty that keeps me hysterical with laughter. To get a chance to tackle this sincere, sophisticated, and adorably desperate role in a brilliantly revised version of this terrific play directed by the genius John Rando alongside a stellar cast, including my old pals Mary Birdsong and Stephen DeRosa, is almost too good to be true. I would be thrilled to work at A.C.T. under any circumstances, but this is truly exciting and an honor.”

“One of my longstanding artistic dreams at A.C.T. has been to bring the extraordinary and delightful American master John Guare to San Francisco to work on a play. He is a consummate teller of tales and a writer who is constantly surprising and original,” says Artistic Director Carey Perloff. She adds of Rando’s return to A.C.T.: “Ever since John’s unforgettable direction of Urinetown, we have looked for another project to do together. As soon as I read Rich and Famous, I knew we had found it. John’s deep experience with classic comedy and with a wide range of musical forms, as well as his wit and his huge visual imagination, make him a perfect fit for Guare’s wild and imaginative world.”

Set by designer Scott Bradley in a run-down, converted theater space, the production will allow the actors to fully inhabit the myriad of characters. Lighting design is by Alexander Nichols, fashions by Gregory Gale, Jeremy Lee on sound, and Laura Burton serves as musical director and performance pianist.

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RICH AND FAMOUS – John Guare, Playwright.
Portrait, Paul Kolnik.

Click here to order tickets on-line: RICH AND FAMOUS

Visit Seán on YouTube:
Lorena Feijóo – A Look at “Giselle” with Seán Martinfield
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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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