News

Meet Deirdre Finnegan – Back On Stage Where She Belongs

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Hard to believe, but Deirdre Finnegan has been away from the stage for more than five years! After seeing her emotional and touching performance in Closer Than Ever, we want to ask – what took you so long?! You only have three more chances to see Deirdre and the rest of the company of Mazeppa’s Closer Than Ever, playing through July 25. Get your tickets at www.mazeppa.org

Tell about an “a-ha” moment you can remember that had a real impact on the direction your life was going to take.

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After choreographing a very demanding show, I found it hard to transition back to just being a mom- I made a decision then to be very selective about how much and where I work so I could be there for my kids.

If your life were turned into a movie what actor would play you?

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Someone extremely hot. [Deirdre, can we suggest Cameron Diaz or maybe Leslie Mann?]

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

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Rock star

On what occasion do you lie?

Only on show questionnaires [Touché, Deirdre.]

What do you consider the most underrated vice?

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Potato chips

What makes you laugh?

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Paul McElwee

What do you do to impress someone you are attracted to?

Juggling- But please don’t tell my husband.

What are your favorite names?

Myles, Frankie and Nora

What is your motto?

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Why should someone come to see Closer Than Ever?

You may have never seen a show like this. It is very unique and has moments of pure clarity that will move even the most cynical person!

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Meet Paul McElwee – A Silver-Voiced Silver Fox


Everyone loves Paul McElwee. He’s handsome, talented, and kind (and harbors a secret love for cookies). He’s back on our stage five years after playing Charles in Pippin, and we are thrilled to have him back. Don’t miss him in Mazeppa’s Closer Than Ever, playing its last six performances this week.

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What characteristics do you and your Closer Then Ever character have in common?

Everything…even though I am not, nor have never been married. I am, however, a 44 year old man who continues to learn life lessons in individuality and relationships (of any kind).

Tell about an “a-ha” moment you can remember that had a real impact on the direction your life was going to take.

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Realizing in my late twenties that I was denying myself an incredible amount of love and emotion and laughter and life by not accepting and embracing being gay.

If your life were turned into a movie what actor would play you?

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Based on looks, I often get John Slattery…and I’m OK with that. Based on everything else, I’d like to bring back Jimmy Stewart.

What is your six word memoir?

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Trust and embrace your inner child.

Why should audiences come and see Closer Than Ever?

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The show has a lot of heart! Each song tells a story that is relatable and real and thoughtful, and the three singing storytellers with whom I share the stage are inspiringly talented.

What do you value most in your friends?

The ability to make me laugh

What is your most marked characteristic?

I took a poll at work, and the word engaging seemed to win out. I like that word. It means a lot of things. Perhaps one day, now that I have the right to marry, it could quite literally mean that someone will put a ring on it.

What is your favorite curse word and why?

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Ass…it’s very versatile

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

COOKIES‼

SHAPIRO ON THEATER

 

Review: ‘Closer Than Ever,’ smart as always.

The angst of American middle-age – when many of us question the paths we’ve taken and the ones we’re moving toward – has never been as tuneful as in the show “Closer Than Ever.”

“Closer Than Ever” is as current today as it was then, and the proof is in the theater atop Christ Church Neighborhood House, where Mazeppa Productions is staging the show in top form.

The songs are vignettes – lots of quickly told stories packed into an evening. They’re sung with passion and clarity.

Read Howie Shapiro’s complete review on his blog, Shapiro on Theater.

 

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Join us for Closer Than Ever, the celebrated musical revue about life after your twenties…when life gets interesting! Closer Than Ever runs July 8-25, 2015, at Christ Church Neighborhood House, located at 20 North American Street (off 2nd Street between Market and Arch Streets) in the Old City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at mazeppa.org/cte or by calling our box office at (267) 559-9602.

Meet Erica Harr – Actress, Advocate And Wannabe Southern Belle


She has performed the open seas on the Disney Magic. She has competed in Miss America. She has a sweetheart smile with a bit of naughtiness behind it. And this month, Erica Harr is part of the incredible company of Mazeppa’s Closer Than Ever, playing now through July 25.

Tell about an “a-ha” moment you can remember that had a real impact on the direction your life was going to take.

Inside the Actor's Studio

Ooooh – tough one! Well, I was very fortunate to have an amazing voice teacher & mentor all through high school, college and beyond – Chic Walker. When I was accepted to grad school for vocal performance he said “You need to go to the Actor’s Studio for grad school and get your MFA in acting instead.” I felt a moment of clarity, followed his advice and studied for three of the hardest & best years of my life there!!!

If your life were turned into a movie what actor would play you?

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I like to think they’d ask Kate Middleton to try out acting, because I’m obsessed with her… But I think Sandra Bullock would be a good fit.

What is your six word memoir?  

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I’m totally cheating here & using a few extra words…”Everything I Need to Know in Life, I Learned From Autism”. My platform when I competed for Miss America was Autism Advocacy and Awareness because of the amazing influence my sister Jessie has had on my life. I’m actually working on a book in my spare time about the lessons Jessie has taught me.

Why should audiences come and see Closer Than Ever?

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This is one of the most fantastic groups of people to work with!  The production team and the cast are not only insanely talented, they are also some of the nicest people. And I think that shows in the final product!  It’s good work by good people!  Plus there is something for everyone. Some tender moments, some clever ones and some very funny pieces!!! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…. It’s a beautiful show!

 

What is your motto?

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Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” – Annette Funicello

It sums up my feelings so beautifully!  Nothing is perfect, but it can be beautiful and wonderful if we choose to see that!

What characteristics do you and your Closer Than Ever character have in common?  

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Well, my character in “You Wanna Be My Friend” is southern, and I not-so-secretly wish I was a southern belle… Seriously, everything down to my car has a monogram on it! But most of the characters in these songs are fun because they are so far removed from myself. It makes it a really great project!

When and where were you happiest?

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There have been some really happy moments in my life! My wedding day to my husband, Greg, competing at Miss America, performing on the Disney Magic, Stella’s birth – but as cheesy as it sounds, I really think happiness is a choice – so any day I choose to be happy is the happiest 🙂

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’m a very sensitive person – to a fault… It can be a lovely thing, but for me there’s no way to “not take it personally”…

Monica song – “Just one of those days, don’t take it personal”

What is the funniest thing you have heard a child say?

Not to brag, but I’m told I said some pretty great stuff… When I was little and sitting on my dad’s lap, I looked up and asked “daddy, why did God put all that hair in your nose and He just put boogers in mine?”

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THE INQUIRER

 

 

The Inquirer thinks Closer Than Ever is “a beautifully sung ode to a generation,” and we agree.

Rob Henry’s direction makes full use of Adam Koch’s expansive café-styled set, guiding the couples in movement from tables to bar stools to solitary chairs, and reflecting the shifting relationships depicted in the songs. Alyssandra Docherty’s lighting highlights these emotional contours, and pianist Zachary Wisely and bassist Andrew Nelson give an intimate, rich feel to Shire’s music.

Will Connell sprinkles sympathetic bits of falsetto into recollections of resisting infidelity, while Erica Scanlon Harr belts out the frustration of an emotionally abandoned wife.

Along with Deirdre Finnegan, the four actors harmonize beautifully in multiple ensemble numbers, and Finnegan’s gorgeous phrasing and complex portrayal weaves together her characters’ multiple emotional threads into a vivid portrait of cherishing, regret, and hope.

Read Jim Rutter’s complete review on philly.com.

 

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Join us for Closer Than Ever, the celebrated musical revue about life after your twenties…when life gets interesting! Closer Than Ever runs July 8-25, 2015, at Christ Church Neighborhood House, located at 20 North American Street (off 2nd Street between Market and Arch Streets) in the Old City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at mazeppa.org/cte or by calling our box office at (267) 559-9602.

PHINDIE

 

Phindie calls Closer Than Ever “a charming musical exposé of mid-life angst.”

Performed by a winning four-person cast (Will Connell, Deirdre Finnegan, Erica Scanlon Harr, and Paul McElwee) with solid musical accompaniment … the ensemble delivers the personal revelations of a host of characters with humor and heart. …and their four-part harmonies are consistently flawless.

Mazeppa’s original scenic design (Adam Koch), which forgoes the show’s standard bare stage and metaphorical “Doors” … allows for increased visual excitement in the blocking (by director Rob Henry) and choreography (by Dawn Morningstar). … Illuminated by Alyssandra Docherty’s beautiful lighting, it is a place where the characters feel comfortable coming and going, searching and baring their souls.

Read Debra Miller’s complete review on Phindie.

 

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Join us for Closer Than Ever, the celebrated musical revue about life after your twenties…when life gets interesting! Closer Than Ever runs July 8-25, 2015, at Christ Church Neighborhood House, located at 20 North American Street (off 2nd Street between Market and Arch Streets) in the Old City section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. All tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at mazeppa.org/cte or by calling our box office at (267) 559-9602.

Closer Than Ever (Production Photos)

Closer Than Ever (Mazeppa Productions, July 8-25, 2015) starring Deirdre Finnegan, Will Connell, Erica Scanlon Harr, and Paul McElwee. Directed by Rob Henry with choreography by Dawn Morningstar and musical direction by Zachary Wiseley.

For more information, please visit our production page. Tickets available online or by calling our box office at (267) 559-9602.

Photos courtesy of Kelly Anne Pipe Photography.

 

Meet Will Connell – Goatcheese Lover & Pacino Lookalike

You know who is having an amazing year?  Will Connell.  He’s graced the stages of some of the best regional theaters in the Philadelphia area.  He played Houdini in Ragtime at Bristol Riverside and Jack in Into the Woods at The Eagle Theatre.  And now, this wildly talented actor (and ridiculously sweet guy) stars in Mazeppa’s production of Closer Than Ever.

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If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

So unoriginal, but flight. I would love to hit happy hour at Sampan and then hop on over to Rome for some gelato and/or pizza…

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

What was the musical soundtrack you listened to over and over again in high school or college?

I am 100% a rock musical baby. Spring Awakening and Next to Normal played non-stop on my U2 edition iPod.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is sitting with incredible friends on a roof while talking and laughing all day and night with boxed wine and guacamole. I’m a lucky guy because I get to do that frequently with some phenomenal people.

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If your life were turned into a movie what actor would play you?

A young Al Pacino from the poster for Serpico. Google it, it’s insane. [We did, Will, and you look badass]

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What is your greatest extravagance?

Definitely goat cheese. It’s not cheap but I really can’t live without it.

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What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Nothing gets my goat (cheese) more than people who take themselves too seriously and cannot laugh at themselves. That, and the need for passive aggressive behavior on Facebook. Both of which often go hand-in-hand. I just want to see pictures of puppies and babies.

What is your six word memoir? 

No Small Roles, Only Small Actors.

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What is your song of the summer?

I’m really into “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. But I’ve honestly spent more time shouting “Dead Girl Walking” from the Heathers cast recording than anything else yet this summer.

Why should audiences come and see Closer Than Ever?

Because I’m sharing the stage with three people as marvelous onstage as they are off, and no one should miss their wonderful performances!

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SET DESIGNER, Adam Koch, REVEALS The Ten Sets That Shaped His Career (So Far)

Adam KochAdam Koch - 1 is one of the most sought-after young theater designers in the country. He’s designed off-Broadway, at renowned regional theaters, and for some of the biggest nightlife events in the world. This summer, he arrives in Philadelphia to design Mazeppa’s July 2015 production of Closer Than Ever.

My Signature Set, So Far
Hairspray at Syracuse Stage

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It can be said that designers are tested when they apply themselves to “the classics.” In the world of musical comedy, Hairspray has certainly made a space for itself. I love this production and design because of the unexpected beauty and visual fun we were able create for a title that often gets a garish and cartoony treatment.


Set Where I Changed the Audience’s Expectations
Bye Bye Birdie at Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma

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Birdie is another “classic” where the audience’s expectations are in play.   Because Birdie is really about a couple who give up the city for a chance at happiness in the heartland, there has to be a reason for them to stay! So instead of a kooky geometric jungle gym world (like you recall from “Telephone Hour”), I found an idyllic Norman Rockwell inspired look, the kind of place no one could say “no” to.


Set That Was Most Changed from Its Original Concept

Closer Than Ever at Mazeppa Productions

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This show crisscrosses stories and strangers like a fantasia of modern life and love. But where does this all take place? Inside? Outside? In an abstract space filled with doors (as the lyrics suggest)? When I look back on my life, I don’t picture doors; I think of the faces of people I’ve met. So we conceived of a dream-like cafe that brings the stories and actors close to one another, face to face.

 

Set I Wish More People Got To See
Bat Boy at 1st Stage

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There is a certain kind of magic that happens when you stuff a big show into a tiny space. With Bat Boy’s rocking score, this little black box theater was seriously busting at the seams. It was so electric that this production was nominated for six Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Set Design, and won for Outstanding Director (Steven Royal).

Set I Made the Most of on a Tight Budget
Always…Patsy Cline at Bristol Riverside Theatre

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My biggest challenge is often how to make a set look thoroughly conceived, beautiful, and detailed without a lot of money. Patsy Cline required that kind of smoke and mirrors. With the help of lighting designer, Cory Pattak, and the tech-savvy of the thrifty team at Bristol, we managed to make a big impact on small budget.

 

Set Currently On Broadway That Got Me Very Excited
The King and I at Lincoln Center Theater

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The collaboration between director Bartlett Sher and designer Michael Yeargen continues to be incredibly gorgeous, seamlessly blending old world elegance and new world simplicity. The ship that floats out over the audience is a total treat, and the palace settings take full advantage of Lincoln Center’s vast, sweeping stage. This design makes me want to jump into the stage picture and live there.

 

Iconic Musicals I Get To Reimagine

Chicago at Wright State University

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The revival of Chicago has been running for 15 years on Broadway, and now that visual approach – the black costumes, the gold framed orchestra – has become part of our Chicago consciousness. But this fall, I am working with director, Joe Deer, to reimagine this story by emphasizing the fun and decadence of vaudeville in the 1920’s, in a production that is dripping with decay and dazzling period detail.

 

Saturday Night Fever at Ogunquit Playhouse and Gateway Playhouse

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Fever is another kind of “classic” – a classic movie – the backbone of which is the Bee-Gee’s disco songbook and a whole lot of dancing. The pleasure and fun of Fever on stage is again the music and the way the show dances from one scene to another. And so like a ballet, I’m creating a visually striking and physically minimal production that captures the grunge and the glitter of the era.

 

Set of Someone Else’s That I Will Never Forget Seeing
Here Lies Love at The Public Theater

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I was not prepared for any aspect of this show. The immersive storytelling and staging was completely surprising and addictive. (I saw the show three times!) It nailed what all creative teams set out to do – to tell an epic story in a simple and unexpected way. Here too, I wanted to jump into the stage picture and live, and because of the environmental design, I could!

 

Set That Stretched or Challenged Me Most as an Artist
Miss Saigon at Signature Theatre

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Saigon is an epic story with an epic amount of scenery and locations that are undeniably part of its identity. I got the chance to design Saigon as a younger man under the direction of Broadway’s Eric Shaeffer, and it really was trial by fire. I look back now and recognize it as the project that required so much more of me than I thought I could give. It is my proudest accomplishment because of it.

A Show Twenty-Five Years in the Making

A Note From Artistic Director, Rob Henry

2015-05-15 Mazeppa Cocktails and Cabaret 037The year was 1989. I had just graduated college, and a good friend and I had purchased tickets for the hot off-Broadway musical revue at The Cherry Lane Theater – Closer Than Ever. I fell in love. First of all, Maltby and Shire’s music was so unlike anything I had heard before. Every song told a story about a specific character and situation; plus, the score was infectious. I ran out and purchased the CD the very next day. And then there were the four fabulous performers. Sally Mayes was the standout for me; her rendition of “Miss Byrd” and her verse about the Fonda family in “There’s Nothing Like It” are still some of my favorite theatrical memories.

Flash forward to March of 2011. Auditioning for our inaugural production of Pippin is Erica Scanlon Harr – singing “Miss Byrd.” Her performance immediately transported me back to The Cherry Lane Theater. I knew then and there that someday I needed to direct Closer Than Ever with Erica playing Woman 2. To be honest, I never thought it would actually happen, but then again, I should know better than to doubt. After all, Mazeppa Productions is five years old this year – something that often causes me to pinch myself.

Now here we are – July, 2015 – one week away from opening Mazeppa’s Closer Than Ever. The rehearsal process has been wonderfully collaborative. Erica, Deirdre Finnegan, Will Connell, and Paul McElwee are four of the most talented, generous performers I know. During our run the other night, I was once again transported back to 1989.Closer Than Ever has survived the years spectacularly. I am eager for audiences to discover this musical gem that helped shape my theatrical perspective.

Previews begin for Closer Than Ever on July 8 and performances continue until July 25.  For tickets or information, click here.