Friend of the podcast Jeff Heimbrock (The Book of Mormon, Newsies tour) makes the case for the classic musical The Golden Apple, which he recently performed in at Encores!
"Bagels and introductions. Frantically learn an entire musical. Rehearse the show without really knowing what is happening. Perform the show without really knowing what is happening. Close. This is the general gist of what it’s like to be in a production at City Center Encores!, a producing outlet dedicated to reviving little-known chestnuts of yester-year in concert form. Traditionally, Encores! shows are rehearsed and presented all in a three week period, with cast members holding the script/score in black binders, in limited staging and costuming, and backed-up by a full-fledged orchestra (led by the incomparable Rob Berman). The experience is notably fast and furious. With The Golden Apple, Encores! decided to raise the stakes- offering a nearly fully staged production, with costumes, set pieces, and completely off-book. Summer stock theaters do this every year, so no sweat, right? Try 135-minutes of nonstop singing with a 40 person cast in a show nobody has heard of and no wing space on stage left. Grease, this ain’t."
"Loosely flavored, but inherently inspired by Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Golden Apple is the brainchild of Jerome Moross and John Latouche. The music is playful, stylistic, and baked with a heavy dollop of Americana (which Mr. Berman so expertly discusses in his essay on the score for Playbill). Mr. LaTouche's lyrics are extraordinarily clever when he’s laying the satire on thick with American culture (Max Chernin and I would obsess over Helen’s line “Piper Heidsieck, Veuve Cliquot, swing your partner doh-see-doh”) and also simple and poetic when the characters are allowed some moments of brevity (such as Penelope and Ulysses reuniting at the end of the show, vowing, with thunderous chords from the orchestra, that
" We’re one not two, we finally see that I am you, and you are me."
"The show features twelve 'Heroes,' the soldiers who are returning to their small town of Angel’s Roost after fighting in the Spanish-American war. My ruggish demeanor and alpha male personality makes me an obvious choice for this type of character, which I felt really showed new sides of myself to New York audiences, who either know me from my commercial for The Book of Mormon or from my leaked nude photos on the internet. The Heroes spent a large chunk of the show onstage, following Ulysses (played by Broadway heartthrob and true dime piece Ryan Silverman) to the wicked city of Rhododendron where we each get killed off one by one by the seven deadly sins. Nothing like musical comedy!"
"I was struck by something that Jesse Green wrote in his review of our show in The New York Times (and if anyone should ask, I am self-respecting* artist and NEVER read reviews). He kindly said our not-so-little production was making a “marvelous, if last-ditch case for [The Golden Apple].” I had to unpack that a little bit. Making the case…making the case for this piece. I suppose every revival is making the case again for a piece of theater. Re-interpreted, re-told, re-staged. Born anew for a new audience. A new era. There is a responsibility inherent in making the case for a show, especially for something this obscure, this rare."
"New York audiences’ enthusiasm can be tempered by a signature fickleness, walking into theaters with nothing in their hands but a surcharged ticket and nothing in their heads but the phrase “prove it." The Glass Menagerie is one of the most well-known American plays, which gives someone like the visionary Sam Gold an opportunity to explore it in a completely different way. Making the case. The companies of Miss Saigon and Hello, Dolly! make the case for those shows in versions that are similar (but not carbon-copy) of the original productions, with the added benefit (or is it hurdle?) of those being juggernauts of 20th Century American musical theatre. To do justice to a forgotten piece is a delicate process… You want people to discover or remember this show. Even more important is serving those who already love The Golden Apple from it’s decades of being a signature cult musical, widely loved by aficionados. Many of them have never gotten to see it on stage."
"You want to people to see what Moross and LaTouche were going for, why they were brilliant, why this show deserves your attention. The inverse of the issue facing many big revivals, most people come into Encores! shows with no preconceptions, almost as if it were a completely new piece. To pull all this off requires a swell of great enthusiasm at the core of the production, and no one was better suited to take this on than Michael Berresse. A (Tony-nominated) veteran of the stage, Michael's undying love for The Golden Apple is part of the reason why it was such a joy to bring this piece to life. His reverence was palpable, and it was very clear why he was making the case. His passion carried all of us to the finish line, even when we were blindly throwing things to the wind and hoping something would catch."
"Just as we were starting to figure out the show and feel comfortable with it, the run was over. This can be hectic to perfectionists like myself, but the scrappy, 'here-goes-nothing' performances are a sort of theatrical purity. Staying alive onstage, staying alert just to stay afloat. Exhausting, exhilarating. And then, the flame extinguishes, the ghost light comes on, the show is over and goes to bed in that treasure chest, waiting to be woken up by whoever is brave enough to tackle The Golden Apple again, in all of it’s expanse and glory."
"Much like the forgotten gems that Encores! resuscitates, I too am under appreciated and awkwardly structured. Every time I start a new show, I feel like I’m making the case for myself too. I am not needy or insecure at ALL*, but showing up to the first day of rehearsal is terrifying. A congregation of other artists, introductions to a new community that you hope will love you and accept you in all the gross ways you need love and acceptance. I can be painfully shy (no, really), which is an obstacle when everyone knows each other already and I generally want to make a good impression on…well, everyone. For my career, these impressions can be important (Sondheim says 'everything you do, you still audition' and truer words have never been written in the history of mankind). But what is my impression as a human being? Am I giving? Am I being patient, kind, forgiving, attentive? Am I contributing to this work?"
"Then, like I hoped (or knew) it would be, I made new friends. Beautiful friends. Inspiring friends. This shared experience of momentary inspiration and community is the epitome of gypsy life. We spend every day and then every night together. Getting to know and love them before immediately saying goodbye. Plays, if they’re lucky, repeat a process of birth, death, and rebirth. They’re constantly being given life, some more rejuvenation than others (I should add that not every production of Hamlet makes a good case for Hamlet). As the shows come and go, so do the people. You sweat, bleed, cry, and laugh with these people for two weeks, two months, two years. Then the show closes, or you leave for another gig, and suddenly those people, your people, are gone. You will always have that shared experience in your memory, but the group dissipates. I don’t have too much separation anxiety (I was blessed with every other form), but I do get post-show blues. Constants in the theatre are rare. Friends and colleagues come and go. So do the paychecks, the showmaces, the gossip in the dressing room, the drunk chats on Sunday nights about love lives, daydreams, the flubbed line in Act Two..."
"Of course, these people will eventually boomerang back to you. At a bar, on 8th Avenue, or in another show. Shows get a rebirth, friendships get a steroid shot. You get to make your case all over again. It’s hard to say goodbye (my love), but it’s equally refreshing to get to say “hello, old friend."