Thursday, November 19, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Fun Facts About Disney's Newsies

©Disney.  Photo by Deen van Meer.
  • Newsies is inspired by the real-life “Newsboy Strike of 1899,” which began when newspaper publishers raised the price for newsies, charging a dime more per hundred papers.  
  • The strike was led by a charismatic young newsboy Kid Blink, who rallied orphan and runaway newsies on a two-week-long action against Pulitzer, Hearst and other powerful newspaper publishers.
  • Pulitzer did finally concede and agree to the exact deal that Harvey Fierstein’s book dramatizes.  As a result, not only were the boys considerably better off, it was in many ways the beginning of child labor movement.  

  • Based on the book Children of the City by David Nasaw.
  • Two screenwriters Bob Tzudicker and Noni White (Tarzan, 101 Dalmatians, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) fictionalized this story as a non-musical screenplay, which eventually turned into the film musical released in 1992.
  • Newsies was the most requested MTI title of any Disney film musical not yet adapted to the stage.
  • Though intended only as a pilot production before the title was licensed for regional, professional and amateur productions, Newsies’ Paper Mill Playhouse run engendered extraordinary interest from the media and public alike, sparking the transfer to Broadway.
  • Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Jack Feldman wrote six entirely new numbers for the stage, while keeping many of the beloved songs from the film. New songs include:
  • ‘The Bottom Line’ for Joseph Pulitzer
  • ‘That’s Rich’ and ‘Don’t Come A-Knocking’ for performers at Medda Larkin’s Bowery theatre
  • ‘Watch What Happens’ for Katherine, the reporter who first tells the newsies’ story to the world
  • ‘Brooklyn’s Here’ for the newsies who join in the struggle
  • ‘Something to Believe In’ for Jack and Katherine.
  • While Harvey Fierstein’s book keeps much of the movie’s plot, he realized that every good musical needs a great love story. Fierstein created a wholly new character, who serves as both a crusading reporter for the newsies and a love interest for the leading man.
  • The Broadway production was originally scheduled for limited 12-week run of 105 performances, however, due to popular demand, Newsies went on to run for 1,005 performances or two and half years.

Newsies was nominated for 23 major theatrical awards, and won:  
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Tony® Award Best Original Score – Alan Menken & Jack Feldman
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Choreography – Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music – Alan Menken
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Choreography -- Christopher Gattelli
  • 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding New Score – Alan Menken

  • Newsies has a large group of dedicated fans, called Fansies, whose enthusiasm helped push the show to Broadway.
  • When the Broadway engagement of Newsies was announced, chatter on Twitter reached 14 million people
  • The official Newsies Facebook page reached 100,000 fans before the show opened on Broadway.

  • Christopher Gattelli’s Tony® award winning choreography steals the show each night with 31 backflips, and countless spins, leaps and tap steps.

  • The 16 newspapers that feature in the dance break are torn in advance to separate down the middle easily and consistently.
  • 42 sheets of paper are danced on or torn during the riot sequence each night. These single-use sheets are either recycled or given to audience members during the performance.

  • The Newsies’ newsboys each have two pairs of identical shoes—one for the majority of the performance, and a pair for this number with taps attached.
  • There are five microphones lining the edge of the stage, with three additional microphones attached to the Deli tables, so that all of the tap dancing is heard.

  • The antique Chandler & Price printing press used in the show was manufactured in the early 1900s and is 1200lbs of solid steel.  It is fully capable of printing, and an expert printer, who specializes in vintage machines, was brought in to train staff and actors in its intricate workings.  
  • There are approximately 150 newspapers used every performance, specifically printed with the headline “Trolley Strike Enters Third Week.”  These papers are carefully cared for, to avoid tearing, so they can be used for multiple performances.
  • The 11 newspaper bundles at the newsstand and in the fight scene are foam-filled with a paper outer layer, to avoid injury and reduce the amount of paper used in the show.
  • The 18 “Newsie Banner” bundles are composed of 300 pages of legal paper glued together and covered with contact paper to avoid tearing as they are tossed around the stage.

  • Jess Goldstein has designed 150 costumes to evoke the NYC populace of 1899, from the poorest newsies to the richest publishing titan.
  • The actor with the most costume changes plays seven characters, including a cop, Nunzio the barber, a photographer and Governor Roosevelt.
  • The fastest full-body quick change is the character of Darcy switching to the Newsies character Jo Jo during “Carrying the Banner.” The change is 56 seconds and requires two dressers to assist.

  • Tobin Ost’s imposing three level set rises over 24 feet high and features three completely automated towers. Built of steel and aluminum, it weighs seven and a half tons.
  • Separately or in unison, its three towers can move 14 feet up and down stage, revolve 350 degrees and re-configure to create – among the show’s many locations – tenement fire escapes, a theatre’s backstage and the Brooklyn Bridge.  
  • The cast climbs 75 steps to reach the set’s nine distinct playing areas.
  • The three towers move 40 times, traveling a cumulative 676.5 feet per performance, or more than 47 miles a year.

  • Jeff Croiter’s constantly shifting lighting design uses a total of 672 instruments (304 conventional lights, 51 moving lights and 328 LED fixtures) to create a total of 468 lighting cues.
  • Sven Ortel’s projections (adapted by Daniel Brodie) create 12 projected looks throughout the show, with two projectors operating simultaneously to create a brighter image.
  • Using cutting edge technology, the projections are able to appear and disappear with the retractable projection screens, as well as maintain a steady image as the towers travel around the stage.

On tour, there are 175 people directly involved with the show in each city:
  • 33 Cast members – including 5 “swings”
  • 3 Stage Managers
  • 2 Company Managers
  • 11 Musicians – 6 touring; 6 local
  • 1 Conductor
  • Road crew:
  • 4 Carpenters – Head Carp, Automation, Fly, Deck
  • 2 Props
  • 3 Electricians – Head/Board Op, Deck/Projections, Lead Spot Op
  • 2 Sound
  • 1 Wardrobe
  • 1 Hair/Makeup
  • Local crew: 60 people for the load-in and nearly 70 for the load-out in each city
  • For the running of the show: 2 Deck Carpenters, 3 Fly Carpenters, 2 Props, 4 Electricians (2 Deck, 2 Spot Ops), 2 Sound, 7 Wardrobe, 1 Hair/Makeup

Newsies – North American Tour Fun Facts (October 18, 2014)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Fun Facts about Pippin

 Take a look at King Charlemagne, John Rubinstein.
He starred in the title role of PIPPIN in 1972.

•    There are 6 yoga balls used in the show.
•    The acrobats usually spend an entire hour warming up before a performance.
•    There are 15 hula-hoops used throughout the show.
•    There are 4 gym mats used in the show. 2 of them are for warm-ups before curtain.
•    Diane Paulus sang "With You" at her brother's wedding.
•    This isn't Andrea Martin’s first Stephen Schwartz musical. In 1972, she did Godspell in Toronto. Guess who else was in the cast? Victor Garber, Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, Dave Thomas, and Martin Short.
•    PIPPIN was originally called PIPPIN, PIPPIN
•    The curtain drop at the top of the show is 26 feet high.
•    7 feather fans are used in the entire show.
•    There are 17 acrobatic tricks in Magic to Do.
•    Gypsy Snider, who created all the circus elements, said "The life of an acrobat is how far we go to be extraordinary."
•    The Manson Trio is named after Charles Manson. Bob Fosse was very interested in Manson.
•    Stephen Schwartz was only 24 years old when he wrote the show.
•    Stephen Schwartz saw “Glory” as a commentary on the Vietnam War, happening during PIPPIN’s creation.
•    The Leading Player and Charles Manson have something in common. Charismatic, cult Leaders.
•    There are 10 swords used during “War is a Science”
•    Take a look at King Charlemagne, John Rubinstein. He starred in the title role of PIPPIN in 1972.
•    Take a look at Fastrada, Sabrina Harper. She was part of the Broadway Revival cast having also played Berthe and Catherine!
•    Pippin’s name, historically speaking, is actually spelled Pipen. Stephen Schwartz changed it so it wouldn’t be misperceived as an adaptation of the Steinbeck novel, “The Short Reign of Pepin IV”. They liked the word “Pippin” because it suggested the slang meaning of “pip” – something nifty.
•    It took about five and a half years for Pippin to grow- from the college version of PIPPIN at Carnegie Mellon to Broadway.
•    Pippin had try-outs in early fall 1972 in Washington D.C. It opened at the Imperial Theatre in NYC on October 23, 1972 and ran until 1977.
•    Bob Fosse had seen Ben Vereen perform in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and asked Ben to audition for PIPPIN. They were so impressed by Ben’s audition that they combined several small roles into the one role of Leading Player.
•    Hal Prince was approached to direct the show at one point.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Bringing Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella to Broadway

One of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most beloved scores was not written for the stage, but for television: Cinderella. First aired on CBS in 1957, with a young Julie Andrews in the title role, it features such classic songs as “Ten Minutes Ago,” “In My Own Little Corner,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?,” among others. “Rodgers and Hammerstein tapped into a timelessness in their score that has made people revisit it time and time again,” says Ted Chapin, president of organization that bears the songwriters’ names, “ it’s been remade twice for television; it’s been done in the theater in various ways.” And now, it’s made its way to Broadway and a national tour.

Chapin asked Robyn Goodman, whose credits include the Tony Award-winning musicals Avenue Q and In the Heights, if she wanted to produce a new version of Cinderella.  A fan of the Lesley Anne Warren version, she said yes, but with a caveat; Goodman told Chapin she would only do the show if Cinderella “can save the Prince as much as he saves her. She’s gotta be a more active character.”  Chapin agreed and Goodman hired playwright Douglas Carter Beane, writer of cheeky comedies like The Little Dog Laughed and the hit stage version of the cult film Xanadu, to adapt the book. In addition to making Cinderella more active, Beane wanted to make the Prince less an ideal and more of a human being. “He needs somebody in his life to show him the right way,” explains Beane.

While many critics have commented on how Beane’s humorous script is revisionist, the playwright says he went back to the original source, Charles Perrault’s 1697 fairy tale, for inspiration. It was a thinly veiled satire of French politics, says Beane: “The court was overwhelmed with ridicule and sarcasm and Cinderella was kind, and brought kindness to the court.” Also, in the original version, Cinderella met the Prince several times and “actually saved the Prince from the viciousness of the court.” And, finally, in the original story, “one of the evil stepsisters, turned out to be okay; she helped Cinderella and even had a boyfriend,” says Beane. “And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein second couple.’ Will Parker and Ado Annie, right there!”

In writing the new script, Beane says “it was all about tone. I knew that an audience, coming to see the show had to have a good time. And, they have seen so much; they have seen Wicked, they have seen Shrek, they have seen Fractured Fairy Tales. All these things have happened since this television version.” Beane says he knew “I had to have a little snark to it and I took inspiration from Oscar Hammerstein’s lyrics. He was using contemporary colloquial speech in these situations. ‘Why would a fella want a girl like her?’”

Since Rodgers and Hammerstein had only written songs for a 90 minute television musical, Beane scoured their catalogue for material which could fill out the score for a full-length stage version. He sat down with The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein, and circled any lyric he thought might fit: “I found lyrics that corresponded to the story I was telling and prayed that Richard Rodgers had written music for it!” Working closely with Bruce Pomahac, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization’s music director, Beane found several little-known gems; among them, “Me, Who am I?,” a cut song from Me and Juliet, which was given to Prince Topher, and “There’s Music in You,” from the film Main Street to Broadway, which the Fairy Godmother sings.

Director Mark Brokaw says he was immediately taken by Douglas Carter Beane’s approach to the material: “The first thing I thought was that Doug had done a fantastic job of taking the traditional story of Cinderella that everybody knows and keeping to the heart of it, but upending our expectations of who the characters were and how the story unraveled.” Brokaw has created a lavish production, where Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother magically transform from rags to ball gowns, not once, but twice, aided by William Ivey Long’s Tony Award-winning costume design. The result not only delights children, but adults, he says: “There really is something in it to appeal to everyone.”

And, after over a year on Broadway, and with a national tour booked for close to two years, producer Robyn Goodman thinks this melding of superb traditional songwriting and a playful new script has found a sweet spot for contemporary family audiences: “I want those mothers out there to know that it is the classic Cinderella; the glass slipper is there and he has to find her, and the Fairy Godmother and the Wicked Stepmother are there. It just has a slight modern spin on it, so that girls feel that princesses can save the world; that they are proactive, they’re compassionate and that the basic theme of the show is kindness.”


Monday, September 21, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Creating the magical world of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella

How do you create a magical world for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella? William Ivey Long, who won the Tony Award for his costumes for the show, says you have to think of it as a period piece: “It’s a fairy tale. In fact, that’s the period: fairy tale.” Long has designed 330 sumptuous period costumes for Cinderella, which is presented in Anna Louizos’ equally sumptuous forest-inspired setting. “The scale of this show is big, because it’s a grand fairy tale,” says Louizos. “This is not story-theater. It’s a Broadway show.”

Both designers say they had long discussions with director Mark Brokaw for this contemporary telling of the traditional story, which features Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic songs with a cheeky new script by playwright Douglas Carter Beane. “Mark wanted to create a whole new world that was unique to this production,” says Louizos. “Nature was very important; the thought that we would see Cinderella in the forest became a prominent component of the design.”

Louizos says she and Brokaw sifted through a lot of visual material to share their emotional response to this version of Cinderella. “There was this image that Mark kept going back to; one of the first things he showed me – I think it was from a fashion shoot – a photograph of chandeliers hanging in a forest.” In addition, Louizos says they were both struck by another photo: “There were these depictions of a home, but the ceiling was gone and you could see the trees and vines were creeping into the house.”

So, Louizos quite literally brought Cinderella into the woods. Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters live in a cottage, both surrounded by and invaded by the forest. “You can always sense nature around the house,” she says, “even the vines are crawling up and covering up some of the wallpaper.” When the scene shifts to the Prince’s palace: “It’s a more majestic depiction of nature. The trees that form the arches are kind of a silvery brown. I wanted to give it a slight metallic feel, or a shimmery feel to it.” And, of course, there are chandeliers in Louizos’ forest castle, just like the picture which served as inspiration.

William Ivey Long’s costumes – which reference medieval knights, the Flemish painter Breughel, and the French court of Catherine de Medici – are also inspired by nature. One of the main colors he uses is leaf green. “The whole world of Cinderella takes place in the forest,” he says, showing ink costume sketches in his Tribeca studio. “There are dragons, and, of course, going and collecting mushrooms. And when you start with the forest, that means everything’s growing, and flora and fauna, and so, by extension, butterflies and moths.”

Of course, butterflies and moths transform from caterpillars, and transformation is a big theme in Cinderella. Long has designed jaw-dropping costume changes in both acts, where Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother go from rags to ball gowns in the blink of an eye, right in front of the audience. How are these changes accomplished? Long won’t say: “I would have to kill you, if I told you,” he laughs, but he shows his initial sketches of how Cinderella’s costume morphs: “The idea is that all the changing is done by a magic wand spinning her around. So, I tried to include the spinning in all these sketches, so you constantly saw movement. And doesn’t that sort of look like you’re whipping up a merengue?”

Anna Louizos, of course, with the help of smoke and lights, has a pumpkin transform into a carriage. And her forest constantly shifts and reconstitutes itself into new settings. She says the basic idea of putting Cinderella in a world filled with moving trees has captivated audiences. “There’s something so breathtaking about seeing nature onstage,” she explains. “You can go outside the door of the theater and there’s nature, but somehow when you put it onstage, it creates a different visceral response in audience members.”

And, Louizos adds, she thinks this version of Cinderella is a fairy tale that will appeal to everyone: “We approached it as any other brand new musical. It’s not a children’s show; it’s a Broadway show that adults should be able to appreciate and enjoy and be entertained just as much as children would.”

Friday, July 31, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Linda Boston

Linda Boston
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our fourth and final entry is from Linda Boston, who plays the Professional Woman.
Challenges build integrity, while integrity builds fortitude.  Is there any chance of it all building character?

Well, that's a spiritual concept that must be seen intuitively to be recognized externally.  In my life, cancer, Alzheimers, relocations in and out of state, marriage, child birth, mortality and divorce lumped themselves together.  Unfortunately at the same time.  And when your anguish is tied to and with those you love, you question all of what 'challenges' are supposed to build.  However, I know love is MAAT which is the Kemetic, Dogon or Egyptian word for creativity. There is no destruction in the midst of creativity regardless of the challenge; other than what is rectified through the process of balance and harmony.  And then, even in that, there is no destruction, only correction.  It's simply the processes of change.  And the only thing constant is the change.

Our family was raised in Chicago.  Knowing that two of my aunts and other friends and family members had passed on via their challenges with breast, uterine and other cancers, my sister Lorna boston had been working at MCI Telecommunications for eight years when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.   Additionally, our mother began showing signs of Alzheimer's disease. Yes, 1985 began the race toward the test.  Lorna endured three years of chemotherapy and nine surgeries.   At that time I was living in Detroit but I would go to help care for her as her marriage was dissolving.  Trials and stress led to her unemployment and divorce, but it also grew her into the world of self-employment via the music industry.  She formed her own band and began working in Chicago's well known music establishment, Lonie Walker's Underground Wonderbar, where she is still employed today and hosting the Tuesday Night Pro Jam.  Simultaneously, our older brother, Lamonte was a major music influence to us both and was a integral part of the Wonderbar fabric, as well, known as LB's Machine, which made a major impact throughout Chicago's Rhythm & Blues community.  Ironically, he was diagnosed with Lymphatic Leukemia in 1994.

You can bet, much had been happening.  In 1988 I moved our mother, Pearline Boston to my home in Detroit to manage her care. I married, gave birth to a daughter Aziza Gilbert, divorced and learned of the beauty, inspiration and strength in-home hospice can and will provide. Our mother made her transition in 1998 and my intuitive awakening became clearer.  'Purpose' was in the process of revelation so incidentally, her passing encouraged me to start a non-profit 501c3 organization called PEER Inc. (  Then, after a long hard fight and several moments of remission, a virus further complicated our brother's immune system and he made his spiritual transition in 2007.

There was more to come.  2008 to 2011, I had severe health challenges myself.  One battle, in particular, brought me to the ebb of my own transitional mortality.  Had stress caused dis-ease?  No doubt, my past, present and future purpose had become evident?


Yes, we ARE spirits having human experiences.  And though we may leave this earthen ancestors, we really go no where.  This is just a training ground for the next phase.  Now, more than ever, it is encouraging for me to surround myself with those who fervently seek the need to know and heal themselves from ALL diagnosis', by changing their diets, aligning themselves holistically and meditating spiritually and metaphysically. 

You may ask, "Why....when the doctor knows best?"

Well, you can bet I realized something was going on, making the picture much bigger, greater, grander than the past pains, wars and challenges anyone in my family had been through, and music was a healing tool for all of us.  Most importantly for my brother and sister.  Our mother and father planted in us, the seeds of healing embedded in creativity.  In fact, the songs I've written on my CD "Permission: The Power Of Being" reflect the spiritual walk I've been on.  Through each and every challenge, to religious independence, onto metaphysical enlightenment...a paradigm shift, if you will, has taken place.  Now, I seek the need to see myself as being part of the whole...incapsulated with past, present, future, earthen and cosmic realities.  I now know I have the chance and choice to manifest my own intentions.   And through my very own imagination, I WANT and WILL, to share in a process that manifests YOUR healing as well, regardless of the challenge. 

In the words of master physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, "....we're all connected to each other biologically, to earth chemically, and to the rest of the universe atomically....".   To over-stand and maybe even inner-stand my walk and connection to the Creator Of All Things, visit PEER's satellite division at  There, you will see why and how I choose to KNOW LOVE IS MAAT...MAAT IS ETERNAL... and we have the power to heal the land, ourselves and each other...holistically. 

Join me, won't you?  Ase.

LINDA BOSTON (Professional Woman) - Multi-talented performer with theater, film, music credits and a long run with MTM. Her theater accomplishments include “Crowns,” “Sophisticated Ladies” and the award-winning one-woman-show “Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley: The Naked Truth.” (  As a singer-songwriter and requested vocalist, she's sung before Pres. Bill Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, requested opening vocalist at the 2006 Detroit Mayoral Inauguration and much more. “Boston’s chops carry the set. Serve this one with moonlight and good conversation,” says Ambassador Magazine about her music CD, Permission: The Power Of Being. She’s heard in local, regional and national commercials, has over 20 supporting film credits, been recognized by the San Diego Black, Uptown and New Harvest Film Festivals, and has worked with performance greats including Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, Bencio Del Toro, Anthony Mackie, Whitney Houston, Tamala Mann and Pearl Cleage. Her 501c3 nonprofit, PEER Inc. (, collaborates with organizations helping individuals develop their creative experiences. Linda says: “For everlasting change to come, KNOW we are all connected as ONE.” Thanks GFour, for connecting.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Judy Blue

Judy Blue
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our third entry is from Judy Blue, starring as the Soap Star.

Ah, the story.  I am so grateful for here and now.  I feel like the luckiest person.  My breast cancer in 2011 could be removed with a lumpectomy and controlled with radiation and (seemingly) endless medication.  All around me are other women who have gone through a similar experience and those women who are forced to embrace a much deeper battle.  

I remember the daily fear of not knowing, and the happiness and sweet smile of my surgeon, Dr. Jeruss, when she reassures me that my surgery was successful and I can begin to feel normal again without the worry.  I will never forget the friend who called and simply said, “well, … you’re in the club.”  Gee, that’s exactly how it feels.  Now there is a responsibility to myself and to others to do what I can to keep the disease from returning.  And a responsibility to pass on the information that is flooding to me, that has taken me out of denial. I am ready to find the answer for my nieces, their children, my friends and their children – I am not ready to welcome any more women into this club.   We have better places to be.

JUDY BLUE (Soap Star) is once again delighted to be a part of this celebration of women with this incredible company.  She is proud to have been a part of the Chicago company of Menopause, the Musical for over 2 years and a veteran of many adventurous MTM tours.  Some of Judy's credits include: Gary, and The Way West (Steppenwolf Theatre); Talking Pictures/Blind Date, Frank's Home, House/Garden, and A Little Night Music (Goodman Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and Winter's Tale (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); I Am Going to Change the World, Grande Hysterie, and Liquid Moon (Chicago Dramatists). Most recently having directed a well-received production of Mia McCullough’s Impenetrable at Clockwise Theatre she is currently narrating the audio book series of The Sleuth Sisters.  Favorite musical roles have included the Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Edith Piaf in Piaf and Eva Peron in Evita.  Other theatre's include: Writers Theatre, Collaboraction, Theatre At the Center, Dallas Theater Center, B Street Theatre, Syzygy, NY Henry Street, Arkansas Rep, Theatre Three and Stagewest. TV/Film includes: Chicago PD, Breakfast with Joe, The Onion, and Hollywood Jerome. An Actors' Equity member for almost three decades, she is also a member and served on the board of SAG-AFTRA. She is an associate of The Shakespeare Project of Chicago, Chicago Dramatists and Syzygy Theatre of L.A.   Love to the Girlie Girls.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Menopause The Musical Survivor Story: Megan Cavanagh

Megan Cavanagh
In celebration of the courageous cast of breast cancer survivors and co-survivors performing in Menopause The Musical this weekend, each weekday we will be sharing their stories, in their own words, of their battle with breast cancer. Our second entry is from Megan Cavanagh, the Earth Mother, remembered fondly as Marla Hooch in A League of Our Own.

January 24, 2014 I had a routine mammogram and a 9mm node was discovered. I had a biopsy and was told I wouldn’t hear the results till Tuesday at the earliest,  so when my phone rang at 8am Monday morning I knew it probably wasn’t good news. And I was right -  “invasive carcinoma,” was the diagnosis. My head reeled. I was on tour with Menopause the Musical in Springfield, IL and I started to google what “invasive carcinoma” meant.

I returned home and met with my surgeon, Kristi Funk at Pink Lotus (she sounds like a rock star) and she explained that given the size of the node I was probably Stage I ILC (Invasive Lobular Carcinoma) and wouldn’t have to undergo chemotherapy just radiation, but we would have to go in and get the lump out and get it looked at under the microscope to see what we were dealing with.  After a MRI five more nodes were found and I was scheduled for surgery March 3rd.

I had a partial mastectomy and four lymph nodes removed from under my left arm.  Three of the four lymph nodes tested positive for cancer so I was back under the knife a week later to remove seven more lymph nodes - which, thankfully, all came back negative. But those blasted three positive nodes meant I was going to have to endure chemotherapy. I was now Stage II ILC. 

I had four chemotherapy sessions every three weeks, and lost all my hair everywhere, then thirty radiation treatments. The radiation was intense but I got through it without a rash. During my treatments I discovered a cancer support center called WeSpark, in Woodland Hills, CA. Finding this place helped me so much! I joined an in-treatment support group and had a harp lesson. I got Reiki and acupuncture for free. I did mindful meditation and hypnotherapy.  WeSpark is my new best friend and when I’m home between tours I race right back there to join my post treatment support group. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having this kind of support when you are facing something as daunting as cancer.

The day after my last radiation treatment, I was on a flight to the east coast to attend my nephew’s wedding and then join a new Menopause the Musical tour. I was bald and worried that I wouldn’t have the energy, but with the support of my spouse and the cast and crew I did it — followed by forty-eight more shows!

I now am dealing with lymphodemia of the left breast. I undergo physical therapy two to three times a week and have to wear a device to help (the liquid that the lymph nodes would normally take care of) drain properly, along with a compression shirt.
I also have to take Tamoxifen for five years. This drug inhibits the estrogen production in my body, as my cancer feeds on estrogen, but it also majorly increases hot flashes and night sweats. While traveling on tour I single-handedly steam up the van windows near me and I have totally become my Earth Mother character - dripping and dropping!!

October 23, 2010 my sister, Mary Cay, died from brain cancer (gliablastoma). I miss her every day and I’m grateful that my cancer could show myself and my family that a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t necessarily mean death. My living through this has made me so much more alive - living each day and loving my life. Thanks to my immediate family, my WeSpark Family and my Menopause the Musical G4 family for being so supportive. 

MEGAN CAVANAGH (Earth Mother) is most recognized  as Marla Hooch, from the Penny Marshall movie, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. Other film credits include: Mel Brooks’  ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (Broomhilde) and (Essie) DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT. She starred with Tim Allen and Kirstie Ally in FOR RICHER OR POORER (Levinia Yoder).  She also starred with Christina Ricci in Disney’s remake of THAT DARN CAT (Lu). Megan voiced Judy Neutron in The Academy Award Nominated Animated Feature JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS, and she also had the pleasure of doing the Nickelodeon TV series. Other Cartoon voices are: Queen Luna on the Nickelodeon animated series, WINX CLUB, Slog on TAK AND THE POWER OF JUJU, and Amy Poehler’s animated series THE MIGHTY B, where Megan played Hillary Higgenbottom (Bessie’s Mom).  Other TV credits include: Recurring character Trudy (who married Al on the last episode) on HOME IMPROVEMENT.  Guest Starring on FRIENDS, WILL & GRACE, JUST SHOOT ME, WEST WING, ER, ROSEANNE and many others. Megan did eight episodes with Betty White and Bob Newhart in his series, BOB.  She has performed in MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL® Since 2004 as Earth Mother and Iowa Housewife in San Francisco and Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. Noted Regional Credits include: Blithe Spirit (Madame Arcati), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Pseudolus), Jubilee (Queen/Butch), High Spi its (Madam Arcati). Megan is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association Since 1987.