Wednesday, September 05, 2012

TLS-London Will Be Fantastic.

Guy Retallack.
Jim and I were able to attend a couple of rehearsals for The Last Session-London and I can tell you now, without hesitation that the show is in safe hands. Guy Retallack, the director, understands the humor and the passion, inside and out. The cast is absolutely first rate. Beyond first rate, in fact.

I sat next to him as he staged the opening sequences. Longtime readers of this blog know that I've actually stepped in and taken over productions where I felt they missed what was supposed to be going on. I literally sat there, needing to say nothing. And when he asked me for input, all I could do was shrug and say, "You nailed it."

I cannot tell you how relieved I am to know the show is in such safe hands.

With Darren Day, we have a genuine rock star in the role of Gideon. He had a huge career in England, faced some personal difficulties, fell out of the public eye and has, in recent years, has been making his way back onto the stage.

Steve Schalchlin with Darren Day.
IOW, he isn't just "playing" Gideon (also a "former rock star"). He is Gideon. His singing is so rich and soulful, he brings a completely authentic dimension to the performance. He's not an actor pretending to be a rock star. He simply is a rock star. His fans are going to be thrilled to see him back and in such great form. And, btw, he's a lovely person.

For the rest of the roles, Lucy Vandi as Tryshia has all the dignity and sass you ever want in a Tryshia -- and man, can she sing. When they were rehearsing "Preacher," I thought the roof was going to come off. Simone Craddock has knowing twinkle in her eye that makes you laugh even when she's just standing there. And her entrance as Vicki is hilarious and LOUD. The phrase that kept coming to me was that she, even this early in the process, was playing it "balls out."
Lucy Vandi is adorable. 

Darren Day with Simone Craddock.
Ron Emslie, as Jim, has just the right gravitas and deadpan humor to be the exactly the annoyance Gideon needs, keeping him honest.

Ron Emslie is Jim.
And, last but not least, there's Buddy. In many ways, he can be the most difficult role to cast because, as Gideon's antagonist, not only does his character move through a dozen emotional states through the play, but he's got to have a perfect Southern/Texas accent or nobody will believe him. I was crossing my fingers on this. I've seen more than a few actors miss it entirely by being too much of a hick -- or come off as stupid.

Perhaps it's because, like Darren, A. J. Dean has experience as a rock and roll singer in bands -- he is currently putting together a rockabilly band -- but when he entered as Buddy, I thought I was back home in Texas. He nailed the accent PERFECTLY. And he has just the right mix of innocence and aggression that Buddy needs. I get chills just writing this.

Steve Schalchlin with A. J. Dean all done up in his usual rockabilly attire.
Jim Brochu mugging with A. J. Dean and Lucy Vandi out on the town.
I suppose, when producer Rob Harris first approached us about doing TLS, I had as much trepidation as excitement about the prospect of a London cast. Would they "get" the American accents? Would they understand the humor? Would they know how to direct it?

All I can say -- and I mean this honestly -- is that I'm breathing easily. The show is not merely in safe hands. This may equal or even better the original NY and LA productions. Seriously. More than I ever dreamed possible.

Just before we left the rehearsal, I gathered the cast around and told them how honestly moved I was by their talent, their commitment and their passion.

I said I feared The Last Session had run its course and was 'dead.' That its time had passed and that no one cared anymore. But just as I had come back to life -- and this is where I started crying -- it was deeply, deeply moving to me to see the show coming back to life in the hands of such a capable, talented and loving cast and creative team.

This initial run, with its modest budget, will only be about a month long. So, people who want to see it need to get to London soon. It opens on September 25. But if it hits, who knows what could happen? Maybe a full scale resurrection will happen. Maybe it will be a sweet moment in time.

But no matter what happens, no one associated with this production will ever be the same. Back in 1997, The Last Session was overwhelmed in the tsunami that was Rent.

What's amazing, as everyone told me, is how much TLS seems to be so relevant to today. It definitely holds up after all these years. Just like me!

Thank you, Rob Harris. Thank you for remembering our little show. Thank you for assembling this brilliant cast and creative team. Thank you for everything.


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