Jeffery Roberson aka Varla Jean Merman Stars in THE MEDIUM and WELL-STRUNG, 10/25-11/11
Jeffery Roberson, better known on stage and screen as his drag icon alter-ego Varla Jean Merman, will appear in New York this fall in the title role of Menotti's musical thriller The Medium at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater.
The production makes the move after a summer preview run at The Art House in Provincetown, Mass., and is directed by Donna Drake. Elizabeth Hastings, who has conducted for both New York City Opera and the Liederkranz Opera Theatre, also returns as music director.
The cast again includes Stefanie Izzo as Monica, Edmund Bagnell as Toby, Shannon Carson as Mrs. Gobineau, Peter Kendall Clark as Mr. Gobineau and Maria Elena Armijo as Mrs. Nolan. The producing team is Provincetown Counter Productions in association with Mark Cortale, and will run from Oct. 25th – Nov. 11th.
Jeffery Roberson aka Varla Jean Merman starred most recently Off-Broadway in the musical Lucky Guy opposite Leslie Jordan at the Little Schubert, prompting The New York Times to say "If Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman had stood in front of the right pair of funhouse mirrors, they might have resembled Ms. Merman and Mr. Jordan in stature as well as comedic talent." He played the role of Mary Sunshine in the revival of Chicago on Broadway and in 2010 won Boston's Elliot Norton Award for Best Musical Performance in The Phantom of the OPRAH. He returned to Boston last past fall to star as Mother Superior in SpeakEasy Stage's The Divine Sister by Charles Busch. Jeffery recently completed shooting the feature films Girls Will Be Girls 2012 and Varla Jean and the Mushroomheads, which played the 2012 festival circuit including most recently at Frameline in San Francisco and is currently available exclusively via Seth TV. He made his network television debut on All My Children, guest starred as Varla Jean in Ugly Betty's final season and on Bravo's Project Runway Season 5 as the winning model for the show's drag challenge.
Well-Strung, a second production directed by Donna Drake, will also make the leap to New York after a successful summer run at Provincetown's Art House. Described as a 'mash-up of string quartet and boy band,' the all-male string quartet Well-Strung features classical musicians who sing, putting their own spin on the music of Mozart, Vivaldi, Pink, Lady Gaga, Adele, and more. Joining Drake in bridging both the theatrical production of The Medium and the pop/classical cabaret-style show by Well-Strung is first Violinist Edmund Bagnell. Together with his group-mates second violinist Christopher Marchant, cellist Daniel Shevlin, and violist Trevor Wadleigh, the foursome had a sold-out debut at New York's Joe's Pub in NYC this past May, prompting Time Out NY to note that "this hunky string quartet finds The Common ground between Mozart and Rihanna." The group's recent Provincetown production extended for a three-month summer run, and will now be performing at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre from October 27th through November 10th, each night following the performances of Menotti's The Medium.
The Medium was commissioned by Columbia University and first performed there on May 8, 1946. The Broadway production took place on May 1, 1947 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with Marie Powers in the title role. The composer Gian Carlo Menotti is best known for his Christmas work Amahl and the Night Visitors, which was commissioned by NBC in 1951 and became the first opera written for television. With the help of filmmaker Alexander Hammid, Menotti made a film version of The Medium in 1951 starring Anna Maria Alberghetti as Monica.
Director Donna Drake has appeared in the original Broadway casts of A Chorus Line, Sophisticated Ladies, Woman of the Year, The Wind in the Willows, 5678-Dance, It's so nice to be Civilized and the original production of The 1940s Radio Hour. She was an Emmy nominee for Dear Alex and Annie, and received 4 Drama Desk Nominations, a Mac Award Nomination and a Theatre World Award. She also directed John Tartaglia's Imaginocean, which ran Off Broadway at New World Stages.
Photo Credit: Michael Von Redlich (top) and Michael Wakefield (side).