BWW Interview: Marcia Seligson Responsibly Reviving REPRISE
Los Angeles theatre lovers will see the welcomed return of the singularly entertaining Reprise productions, rebooted appropriately as REPRISE 2.0. Headed, as before, by producing artistic director Marcia Seligson, REPRISE 2.0 has already announced their first season, beginning June 20, 2018 with SWEET CHARITY, VICTOR, VICTORIA and GRAND HOTEL. Marcia availed herself from her multi-tasking REPRISE 2.0 duties to chat with me.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Marcia!
I love your new name REPRISE 2.0. Did you come up with that ingenious name yourself? Or does that credit belong to someone else?
A committee of us bounced around a few ideas and this one stuck. It seems appropriate, I think.
What year did you actually set up Reprise Broadway's Best - 1995 or 1997? Reprise's first production PROMISES, PROMISES opened in 1997.
1995. It took two years to get it off the ground, just like REPRISE 2.0 has. We started this in the summer of 2016.
I'd never worked in the theatre before. I was a journalist for several decades. So I was too dumb to be afraid and learned so much from all these actors plus our amazing Peter Matz. I couldn't have done a single show without him.
What universal forces aligned for you to choose and book SWEET CHARITY, VICTOR/VICTORIA and GRAND HOTEL, THE MUSICAL as REPRISE 2.0's inaugural season?
We put together a creative committee summer of 2016 - actors, directors, all musical theatre pros - and kept creating lists, and lists, and more lists. We all loved these three. The rights were available. All had been movies. And, most important, they met our commitment to produce rarely revived Broadway treasures with a focus on the glorious scores.
Any particular challenge through the Reprise years that you are particularly proud of surmounting?
I can only speak to my twelve years there, of course. But I'm proud that we stuck to our vision. Fabulous shows done with simple costumes and sets. Amazing performances. And only two weeks of rehearsal.
You must have a huge address book of celebrities wanting to participate in one of your productions, right?
Do you have a secret formula to juggling their schedules and prior commitments?
No, this is always tough.
Do you ever start with these available performers and find a suitable production to matching their talents? Or do you usually find the show first, and then go through your contact list?
We've done both, but generally pick the show first, then cast it. With PROMISES, I took Jason out to lunch, and he requested it. Right now, we're just beginning to talk about Season Two. Certain actors we'd love to work with, we're asking them which show they would like. But always, the show has to match our vision for REPRISE 2.0.
Have you found it any easier to re-boot Reprise now, as opposed to starting it up from scratch in 1995?
No! I'm twenty years older. There was no social media then and it's such a consuming force for marketing now. And I still don't know how to tweet!
Don't want you to make a Sophie's Choice, but out of the fifty shows Reprise has produced, does one particular show stand out above all the rest for you personally? And why?
This is very hard, but I'd have to say HAIR. We did it as a special event at the Wadsworth. It hadn't been done in L.A. in many years. Our cast was amazing. The audience was so excited they came in 60's costumes. Everyone there got into the spirit, danced in the aisles. We even got to do the nude scene with Veteran's Administration permission. It was truly a love-in.
Don't want to list all of Reprise productions, but can you share some memorable moments?
I still tell this story seventeen years later. We had just opened 1776 when 9/11 happened. We cancelled the performance that night, then re-opened. We didn't know if anybody would want to leave home, but we were packed for every performance after that. People wept throughout, especially when the Declaration of Independence flew in. After bows, Roger Rees, who played John Adams, asked the audience to meet in the courtyard and contribute money to the New York firefighters. The whole company came out in costume. All six hundred of us held each other and sang "God Bless America." We raised over $25,000. It was unforgettable! I still get weepy when I remember.
REPRISE will be returning to the Freud Playhouse on the UCLA campus and partnering with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television Department of Theater. Will UCLA students receive course credits to intern both onstage and behind? How does that work?
One of the department heads informed me that, yes; if they choose to receive credit, they can; depending if they have internship credits available.
What changes have you seen in the Los Angeles Theatre community from the 1990s to its present state?
It seems that a lot more innovative, experimental work is being done, both in large theatres and in the small. And, of course, we now have The Broad and the Wallis who bring terrific work from abroad. I think the L.A. theatre scene is particularly lively these years. For example, I just saw VIOLET at The Actors Co-op with the great Jeanine Tesori, brilliant local cast and direction.
What was your original intention in creating Reprise?
To create a theatre company unlike anything else in town, and I think (she says modestly) that we did that. Hopefully, we'll do it again and create the same community of audience and company that loved it and missed it when it shut down for the last several years. So far, our ticket sales are showing that to be true.
So your intent with REPRISE 2.0 remains the same?
It hasn't at all changed.
Thank you again, Marcia! I look forward to experience the theatrical magic again that I felt in seeing some of your past Reprise shows.
Thank you, Gil!
For SWEET CHARITY ticket availability through July 1, 2018; and more info on the current season's shows; log onto www.reprise2.org