Non-profit entrepreneur, Marcia Seligson, has had quite the multifaceted life. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in music and is classically trained on the piano after having studied under the tutelage of Danish pianist/composer Gunnar Johansen. Years later, she became an award-winning journalist, and has written several self-help books on relationships, sex, exercise, and diet. Even more impressively, in the latter part of her life (since the mid-1990s) she has continued to add to her already prolific legacy by involving herself in musical theater by founding Reprise! Broadway’s Best.
Up until it ended in 2012, it had the highest subscription rate of any regional theatre company in Southern California because it combined renowned stage talent with the material of compelling musicals. Now, due to popular demand, Seligson is back and more driven than ever as the Artistic Producing Director of REPRISE 2.0 – a return to what made the original Reprise! so appealing. REPRISE 2.0 will both capitalize on Seligson’s relationships with star performers, who are slated to star in future shows, and on her eye for curating new and fresh talent.
Though she was Co-Executive Producer of The Foundation for New American Musicals – which is dedicated to supporting and developing musicals in high schools and in universities across the country – Seligson’s REPRISE 2.0 will take it a step further. The company will not only house its three musical theater productions this season at a familiar stomping ground in UCLA’s Freud Playhouse, but partner with the campus to promote an opportunity for theater majors to intern behind the scenes and on the stage, beginning with “Sweet Charity” on June 20th.
Written by the legendary trio of Neil Simon (playwright), Cy Coleman (music), and Dorothy Fields (lyrics), “Sweet Charity” is a dramedy that focuses on Charity Hope Valentine, a dance hall hostess in New York City, and her struggle to find love. The narrative follows her as she meets an Italian film star, Vittorio Vidal, and then later the timid but kind, Oscar Lindquist, who takes issue with her profession. Amid rousing musical numbers, Charity and the characters around her charismatically convey feelings pertaining to romance, life, and loss.
REPRISE 2.0’s production will be directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award-Winner Kathleen Marshall, feature musical direction by resident conductor Gerald Sternbach, and star Broadway luminary Laura Bell Bundy (e.g., “Legally Blonde,” “Hairspray”) in the eponymous role. Additionally, among many other talented performers, Barrett Foa of “NCIS” will play Oscar, Robert Mammana will portray Vittorio, Jon Jon Briones will be Herman, and Terron Brooks will fill the shoes of Daddy Brubeck.
On the heels of “Sweet Charity’s” opening on June 20 (it will run through July 1st), Marcia Seligson recently chatted with LAexcites:
You’ve worn many hats throughout your life, but what compelled you to get involved in theater?
It’s an interesting story. I was a journalist for 20 years living in New York and out here (Los Angeles). Though I still love to write, I got tired of working alone. After I got married, my husband, who is a business consultant, would often tell me about all the exciting things he was doing for interesting clients. In comparison, I would be at my typewriter and would tell him about how I wrote four pages and walked the dog. I didn’t want to work alone anymore.
So, I found a woman (Marta Vago), a consultant, who is still around, and works with people who are experiencing a crisis in their careers or just want a change. I went to see her and told her I didn’t want to write another word, and she looked at me, my resume, and all the volunteer work I had done, and she said, ‘You’re not a natural writer; you’re a natural producer.’
I’ve loved working with people and managing projects, and since I had previously studied voice and musical theater, I started thinking about doing something in that, which is how I came to start Reprise! (in 1995).
What is your biggest priority with REPRISE 2.0, and what is your ideal vision for it?
Just two years ago, we talked about bringing it back and rebuilding Reprise! We wanted to go back to the original vision of simple sets and costumes that focus on the music. What we might want to do differently next year is adding new musical stuff in the form of one-night, semi-staged readings. Previously we had the ‘Dark Mondays Series’ and we did these readings, including Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Assassins.’ At this time, however, it’s difficult to do three main musicals and three semi-staged readings, but it’s something to look forward to down the road.
Is there any reason why “Sweet Charity” was chosen to lead REPRISE 2.0 as its inaugural production?
Absolutely! It’s sort of a big and great show. I’m sitting at rehearsals right now in Burbank, and it’s just got fabulously wonderful numbers with music and dance that are very familiar. The musical is from 1966 and it has so many well-known songs, like “Big Spender,” “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” and “The Rhythm of Life,” which also speak to musical theater people.
Any thoughts on the all-star cast members of the show, like Laura Bell Bundy, Barrett Foa, Jon Jon Briones, and so on?
There have been one or two people I’d worked with before, but this is the first time I’m working with Laura Bell Bundy and she’s terrific. She is so much the character – she’s vulnerable, funny, sad, kind, and lost but also tough. I think it’s a tremendous show to open with.
The director and choreographer, Kathleen Marshall, has made quite the name for herself on Broadway and around the world. Given that she has a very brisk and energetic vision, how do you foresee her rendition of “Sweet Charity” playing out?
I can’t really speak to her vision. We hired her for hundreds of reasons, and the last thing I saw of hers was ‘Mamma Mia’ at the Hollywood Bowl – which was incredible. My own feeling is that we’re blessed to have her, as she is divinely talented. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I’m very excited to find out!
It’s fantastic that REPRISE 2.0 will partner with The UCLA TFT’s Department of Theater, and even allow theater students to take part in productions behind the scenes and on stage. How did this partnership come about?
We’ve always used the Freud Playhouse because we love the theatre; we had no question that we wanted to go back there. I knew Brian Kite (UCLA TFT’s Department of Theater Chair) very slightly when we started this, but he had known about the (original) Reprise! very well. When I went to his office one day he acknowledged that we’d been renters for 20 years and mentioned that he wanted to partner with us. I responded with ‘This has been the best meeting I’ve ever had in my life.’
It’s been a very beneficial relationship, as we’re doing an internship program and have between 7 and 10 UCLA students in artistic and tech areas. We get a lot of help and it’s also fabulous for them. If I’m a lighting student, my college experience is usually going to be limited. But by offering tech, sound, and props majors the opportunity to intern and come to the rehearsals to help, observe, and when appropriate, act, dance and sing on stage, it’s a win-win for everybody.
On top of that, we’re doing fully staged productions after two weeks of rehearsal – and you’ll be amazed at what we accomplish. This morning, I saw the cast working on a number, and I was astonished how far they’d come in only a few days of rehearsal.
Last, but not least, as a writer, musician, and as one who has successfully mobilized the means to bring fine talent together for the sake of presenting musical theater productions to the general public, what do you want your lasting legacy to be?
I really don’t want to answer it blithely. It depends on the time in one’s life and what you’re doing. When I was a journalist, I had wonderful assignments, and I think I would’ve answered the question differently then. Now, I think of myself as one who creates projects out of nothing and from scratch, and as one who works with people whom I adore. I love show business.
As a theater rat, it’s all about the music for me, and I hope my legacy is about bringing musicals that people love.
For tickets to “Sweet Charity” and future REPRISE 2.0 productions, please visit Reprise2.org or call 800-982-2787.