CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.
Interviews: Red-Carpet Premiere of New Christmas Film ‘Scrooge & Marley’
CHICAGO – Bring up the immortal classic “A Christmas Carol,” by author Charles Dickens, then bring up how many film and TV versions have been done using its basic story. After a half hour of listing every conceivable production, a gay version won’t be found. “Scrooge & Marley” is the new film that takes care of that category. The premiere was last week in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre.
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com
Featuring an essential array of talent – including David Pevsner (Scrooge), Tim Kazurinsky (Marley), Bruce Vilanch (Fezziwig), Megan Cavanagh (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Richard Ganoung (Charity Solicitor) – “Scrooge & Marley” updates the story to present day, places its characters in the gay community and contains flashbacks to the disco era and the go-go 1980s. With a combination of camp and the main premise of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ the film puts a new spin on the old tale.
HollywoodChicago.com was at the red carpet premiere last week on November 29th, and got to interview many of the acting and production talent in “Scrooge & Marley.”
David Pevsner, Portrays Scrooge in “Scrooge and Marley”
Photo credit: Sam I Am Films
HollywoodChicago.com: Since this is a different take on a revered character, what did you want to take from the original story to make sure was in your interpretation?
David Pevsner: I read the book, and I really wanted to get a sense – instead of the nastiness and lack of heart usually associated with Scrooge – as to why he was the way he was. I got a bit of it from the book, but I had to get most of it by exploring the universality of all of us being a ‘scrooge’ at times in our life, and why we become like that.
HollywoodChicago.com: What is more fun about the character of Scrooge, his mean side or his redemptive side and why?
Pevsner: Honestly, I had a good time with both of them. Richard [Knight Jr., the director] wanted me to be really mean before the transformation, and at the end just to enjoy the redemption. So I got the opportunity on either end of those sides to go really dark, and really light.
HollywoodChicago.com: The original is set in Victorian London, your version is set in the modern day. In observing our world as it is now, in what time period do you think the character of Scrooge fits better and why?
Pevsner: The language that Scrooge uses makes him fit better back then, but my challenge was to make it fit for now. That was real fun, to find the level that works in the modern day. I hope I succeeded.
Bruce Vilanch, Portrays Fezziwig in “Scrooge & Marley
Photo credit: Sam I Am Films
Bruce Vilanch is a Hollywood legend, a comedy writer known for working up material backstage at the Academy Awards, and developing jokes for Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Billy Crystal, Roseanne Barr and Robin Williams. He also spent four years on “Hollywood Squares” and wrote/performed a one-man show, “Bruce Vilanch: Almost Famous.”
HollywoodChicago.com: You seem like you were born to play a party coordinator like Fezziwig. What impresses you about his character in the source novel that you wanted to make sure was in this version of the story?
Bruce Vilanch: I viewed him as being crazy, over-the-top and flamboyant, at least as far as Dickens could go with that character back then, and it seemed to coincide with what the writers did in this movie. My Fezziwig spends a lot of time in the 1970s, when it seemed like everyone was having a party, and he was the party provider. [laughs] It was a nice match.
HollywoodChicago.com: Which line or piece of written material first got you noticed as the joke writer that eventually got you backstage at the Academy Awards?
Vilanch: I started writing with Bette Midler, having met her in Chicago at Mr. Kelly’s nightclub, and my reputation grew as she started doing more. I don’t know if it was one single line, but I remember I sold Johnny Carson a one-liner a long time ago. There was a football player named Lance Rentzel in the 1970s, and he was arrested for exposing himself. So the joke was ‘it was cold today…how cold was it?…it was so cold that Lance Rentzel stopped me on the street and just described himself to me.’ It got me a lot of notice, and I started writing more jokes for him and other people. So I’ll use that line as a first.
HollywoodChicago.com: What was the most controversial line you’ve ever written, who said it and what was the circumstance and setting?
Vilanch: I can’t think about the specific line, but I was involved when Ted Danson did blackface at Whoopi Goldberg’s Friars Club roast. It was Whoopi’s idea, and Ted went along with it because their relationship at the time was ending, and they both thought it would be a good way to put a period on it. It was wildly controversial.
HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, if you had to write a saying on one of your famous tee-shirts that best describes this film, what would that line be?
Vilanch: We put the ‘dick’ back in Dickens. [laughs]
Megan Cavanagh, Portrays the Ghost of Christmas Present
Photo credit: Sam I Am Films
Megan Cavanagh – a native Chicagoan – made an auspicious film debut, portraying Marla Gooch, the memorable looking player on the Rockford Peaches baseball team in the film “A League of Their Own.”
HollywoodChicago.com: Given that you are playing one of the happiest ghosts ever, that of Christmas Present, what characteristic did you find in the source novel that you wanted to make sure was part of your persona in the role?
Megan Cavanagh: I didn’t take anything from the book, I played it as sort of a Chicago character because I also play ‘Terri’ during the present-day scenes at the bar. So I put on my South Side accent, even though my Mother said I was a little crass. [laughs] I love the source material, but I gave it my on spin.
HollywoodChicago.com: Of course, you are famous for the role of Marla Hooch in ‘A League of their Own.’ Since you were originally from Chicago, were you able to guide some of that famous cast through the Windy City when you shot part of the film here?
Cavanagh: Yes I did, even though we didn’t have a lot of down time, I was able to take the cast to my parents house in River Forest to play volleyball. We also went to some blues bars, but mostly the thrill was getting to play in both Wrigley Field and the then just-built U.S. Cellular Field.
HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve worked fairly steadily since your famous debut. What is the key to longevity in this business and how do you keep yourself active within it?
Cavanagh: Having a family is really great, I have a very big and loving family, which keeps me real as I navigate the business. I’m also a good interview at an audition, being able to do a good interview can get you jobs. Also just perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.
HollywoodChicago.com: What other professional roles do you want to be known for besides Marla?
Cavanagh: I did two Mel Brooks movies, including as Broomhilde in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” I was also married Al on the TV series, “Home Improvement.” [laughs] Those are two good ones.