Saturday, February 9, 2013

Let's Hear It for the Boys!

In my last post, I mentioned the themes of female friendship in "Legally Blonde." Now I want to call special attention to the male members of our casts.

"Legally Blonde" is one of the most challenging Mainstage shows our young actors have ever taken on, with more demanding songs, complex choreography, and multiple quick changes than we've had in recent shows.

Michael Metcalf, above left, was the only cast member to appear in all eight performances as he played the shark-like Professor Callahan of Harvard Law School in Casts A, B, C, and D. His commitment, endurance and energy at every rehearsal and performance are to be commended.

Our guys went through a lot in this show, getting kissed...

 ... and slapped!

Sam Stein played both the ultra-masculine Kyle the UPS guy (and subject of one of the funniest lines in the show: "That new UPS guy is like walking porn!") as well as the both gay and European Miko Argitakos. Sam's Russian jump easily cleared five feet.

Javier Spivey, below, got a lot of laughs in the same triple-cast portrayal of Kyle/Mikos/Dewey for Casts C and D.

And then there are the Bens! Ben Senneff, above, and Ben Milan-Polisar, below, shared the role of Warner for Casts A/B and C/D respectively.

Warner is a nuanced character as he's torn between what his heart really wants and what he thinks he needs to achieve his goals. It would be so easy just to play him as a jerk, but both guys brought depth and humanity to the role. Just a great job done by both.

I gotta give a quick shout-out to Miguel Garcia for his Jamaican-themed "Beer Bash Extreme" frat boy rap. So funny!

And then there was Emmett. Noah Ruff, above, and Luke Forester, below, handled this role with finesse.

Both young men are veterans of multiple Random Farms' Mainstage productions. Their talent and experience bring invaluable contributions to our shows. They've grown so much since I first saw them in "Cinderella" (for Luke) and "Little Mermaid" (for Noah.)

Overall, I just can't say enough good things about the guys in "Legally Blonde." Congratulations to you all!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Girl Scouts at Legally Blonde!

Although we were very pleased with the audience turnout at Legally Blonde, (we sold out the orchestra at nearly every show!), we were especially delighted to welcome several local Girl Scout troops to Cast A and B. Did you know that when you bring a large group to Random Farms Kids' Theater shows, you can arrange for a short meet-and-greet afterwards with the actors with a little planning ahead of time? Our leads from Cast A came out to answer a few questions and sign lots of autographs following the show.

It was particularly endearing seeing the tweens clamor for autographs from the male leads, calling out, "Oh, look! It's the UPS guy!" Sam Stein, Cast A's Kyle (and other roles), is a pretty modest guy,  but he took it all in stride and obliged every Girl Scout who approached him to sign her program. 

We thought the show's message about self-improvement through higher education and hard work, as well as the emphasis on the bonds of female friendship, made "Legally Blonde" a great fit for older Girl Scout troops.  Elle gets a lot of support and encouragement not only from her Delta Nu sorority sisters, but also from smart, strong women characters from very different walks of life, like Enid, Vivian and Paulette.

Tenth-grader Olivia Battinelli, Cast A's Enid, below, is also a cadet who is still active in scouting. "I'm a Girl Scout, too," she told the scouts from Scarsdale. Olivia is currently working on her Silver Award, one of scouting's highest honors, as well as juggling school and theater. The younger girls seemed excited to hear that, and it was a nice moment of connection all around.

Although Legally Blonde is over, auditions for our summer Mainstage start on Sunday! School groups and camps with 20 or more people can save 40% on tickets, so if you or your kids are active in summer programs, come see "Shrek The Musical" the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August.  To learn more about bringing your group to a Random Farms show, click here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Unseen Moments from "Legally Blonde"

We hope you got to see one of our four casts' performing "Legally Blonde" these past two weekends, because our kids and teens were just amazing. We are so pleased and proud of how everyone did, and we appreciate everyone who was in the audience. It was particularly nice to see kids from different casts come to support their friends.

I want to show you some of my favorite offstage moments that happened behind the scenes, because the crew, band, volunteers and staff put in so much time and energy. Here are some random, funny and touching moments you didn't get to see on stage.

Production coordinator Stephanie Rubino closes the curtain and makes sure everything is set before opening the house to the audience.

Musical director Charlotte Evans warms up the band during dress rehearsal.

Lighting designer Ania Parks works behind the board. She worked so hard on this show.

Hadley Durkee, Cast B's Elle, gets a kiss from Sara, the chihuahua who played Bruiser.

Bella, Cast D's Rufus, wears a Random Farms Kids' Theater t-shirt as she waits with her owner to be part of the cast photo.

Producer Anya Wallach works her magic, lit by bright stage lights.

Jonah Halperin checks on his props backstage before dress rehearsal.

Athena Ripka, Cast A's Elle, presents director Alexis Grausz with flowers before giving a bouquet to musical director Charlotte Evans.

Faith Lyle, who came to nearly a month of rehearsals, tech week and shows altogether, gets her dog Sara (Bruiser) ready for the cast photo.

Halle Mastrobernardino, Cast A's Paulette, signs autographs for a young fan.

Cast B gets notes on the stage before dinner break during tech week.

Associate director/choregrapher Julia Moss strikes a pose (while wearing a wig) before warming up the jump-ropers for Act 2 during dress rehearsal.

Last but not least, Cast C had an amazing dress rehearsal. They were so focused the entire time, even with one of the dogs barking in the house during their run-through. At the very end, Noah Ruff spontaneously began re-enacting the scene from the Lion King where young Simba is presented to the animal kingdom with the pillow that serves as Paulette's baby bump. I'm not sure why this happened, exactly, but it was hilarious.

Then, Maggie Brennan, Cast C's Elle, came up with the idea to pretend Sara/Bruiser was Simba, which was even more hilarious. It's truly the kids' personalities, humor, creativity and sense of fun that make our programs special. I hope this gives you a little peek at that. :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

RFKT Q&A with Megan Bartula

Random Farms Kids' Theater recently started offering dance classes in theater jazz and tap for our students in grades 2-4 and 5-9. I sat down with our dance instructor Megan, the latest addition to the Random Farms family, to learn more about her approach to teaching.

You're brand new to Randfom Farms Kids' Theater. Tell me about yourself.

This is my first season with Random Farms. I grew up in Michigan and did competitive dance for ten years. I started teaching dance and ran a competitive dance program there. I went to the University of Michigan. I was in a couple different dance companies, including a tap company and a lyrical dance company, when I realized I loved to tap dance.

What brought you to New York?

Tap! I'm a professional tap dancer. I'm in a big company called Dorrance Dance. It's run by Michelle Dorrance. She's awesome. It's mostly tap, but it's also inspired by other forms of dance. 

What do you like most about teaching?

Oh my goodness, there's not just one thing. I just love it. I love being around kids. They have such great energy. It's really fun teaching here. It's not the first time I've worked with theater kids, but it's the first time I've taught specific types of dance to theater kids. Everyone is so eager to learn. It's great!

If you were talking to a parent who was considering getting their children into dance lessons, what would you say the top benefits are? Would you say, for example, coordination and exercise?

Definitely the things you mentioned, but also structure and discipline. Having something that ties together music and movement is so important. It's more than just exercise and just getting fit, because you can go to gym class or do sports for that. There are great benefits in those things, too, of course, but having the musical aspect of it adds a whole other level of understanding the world around you. It's so important.

Is there anything you want people to know about your philosophy as a teacher? You know, you see the show "Dance Moms" on television, and it's really negative. This is obviously the opposite of that.

Absolutely, this is absolutely the opposite of that! It's all about having fun and learning. It's all about learning the basics and making the kids more comfortable, especially since there's a huge theater program here. Maybe a child wasn't as comfortable dancing in a show as he or she could be. Maybe they were doing a show that had tap choreography, but they didn't know how to tap before. This is a great way to learn the basics and then go from there.

Thank you so much, Megan. And welcome!

Thank you!

You can check out the class schedules here and sign up online.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Doggy Dog Weekend

Legally Blonde's opening nights are right around the corner (do you have your tickets yet?) which means that the pieces of the show are really starting to come together. For this show, that means it's time to bring on the dogs.

Most people remember that Elle Woods' sidekick is her chihuahua Bruiser, who is played by Faith Pyle's dog Sara, above. However, there's another dog in the show who belongs to Elle's hairdresser, Paulette. In her first legal accomplishment as a law school student, Elle helps Paulette get custody of her dog Rufus.

The Random Farms Kids Theater has not one, not two, but three different dogs playing Rufus, including Stella, above, and Oliver, below.

So this past weekend, the actors got to meet the dogs, and the dogs got to meet each other.

Rufus in Cast D will be played by Bella.

Full disclosure: Bella's owner is yours truly, the resident Random Farms photographer and blogger. I don't have kids yet, but I officially became a "stage mom" this weekend when I bought a Legally Blonde cast t-shirt for my dog.  For the record, director Alexis Grausz took one look at Bella in her Random Farms apparel and declared it the moment that I officially lost my mind. This is probably true.

Bella meets Sara... Sara was an angel all weekend long, attending rehearsals for all four casts for hours at time. Bella totally barked and interrupted Noah Ruff, Cast D's Emmett, in the middle of a monologue. In her defense, a parent knocked on the studio door to deliver dinner for their child. Hopefully, no one will knock on any doors or deliver any pizzas backstage during the show.

We also did a quick shoot with each of the three Rufuses with all four Paulettes, including Cast C's Eliza Benfer with her dog Oliver. Keep an eye out for this photo to appear somewhere in the show!

The truth is, the addition of live animals to the production really requires all four casts to bring a whole new set of skills to the stage.  As always, Random Farms' young actors have risen to the challenge. The dogs add a layer of unpredictability to the action on stage, and the cast is learning to adjust on the fly while staying in character. Frankly, it's pretty impressive. I can't wait to see this show, and I can't wait for you all to see it, too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Legally Blonde... in the press!

Legally Blonde opens in a little more than two weeks, and we are starting to get some great press! Check out this feature on, for starters.

We also have lots of local coverage featuring our Legally Blonde actors on 21 different Patch sites from our performers' hometowns, including New City, Nanuet, Nyack, Pearl River, Mahwah, Chappaqua-Mount Kisco, Bedford-Katonah, Yorktown-Somers, Peekskill-Cortlandt, Scarsdale, White PlainsPort Chester, Rye, New Rochelle, Pelham, Pleasantville-Briarcliff, Ossining-CrotonLarchmont-Mamaroneck (Michael Albert is the top photo on the front page right now!), Wilton, Greenwich, and New Canaan.

We had a great day shooting hundreds of press photos in the Elmsford studio back on December 9th. Many of those photos are up on Patch! (They're also on Zenfolio if you want to purchase them.)

We had more than 100 kids and teens from four different casts photographed in groups by town, region and coverage zone in three hours. I had so many photo subjects, all of whom need coordinating caption information to go out with press releases, that each person held up signs for the first shot.

The cooperation was nothing less than stupendous.

I was so appreciative of the number of families who dropped off kids before family weddings, in between Nutcracker performances around the region, and so many other things. We know how busy you all are. Parents and teens who carpooled, your efforts to make this happen didn't go unnoticed.

We've had about half a dozen press inquiries in the last few days, so there's more to follow. Thank you all! See you at dress rehearsal!