Friday, May 9, 2014

A Fun Cast Brings "The Stinky Cheese Man" to Life

THE CAST; (l. to r. back row) Larry Bates, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, Matt McGrath, Brad Culver; (l. to r. front row) Erika Schindele, Amanda Pajer and Tracey A. Leigh
Seven actors portray nearly three dozen characters in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by SCR's Associate Artistic Director John Glore from the award-winning book of the same name. The actors are SCR veterans as well as new faces, including the original Stinky Cheese man (from SCR’s 2007 production), the voice of two popular shows at the Griffith Observatory and a former boy soprano from the Metropolitan Opera. Rehearsals are now underway, so take this opportunity to meet the cast of the hilarious play that turns popular fairy tales on their ear.

Larry Bates (Cow Patty Boy/Cocky Locky/Prince/Stepsister#1/Owl/Stinky) returns to South Coast Repertory where he has appeared in numerous productions—including Mr. Marmalade by Noah Haidle, Jitney by August Wilson and TopDog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks—and he has been in Theatre For Young Audiences productions such as Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and The BFG. Bates was in an earlier SCR production of The Stinky Cheese Man. He says he loves being part of productions that reach out to younger audiences. His television credits include “NYPD Blue,” “The Unit,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Huff,” “Dark Blue,” “Numb3rs” and “Boston Public.”

Brad Culver (Surgeon General/King/Frog/Rumpelstiltskin/ Little Old Man/Cow Head/Legal Guy)
is making his South Coast Repertory debut. He started acting when he was a child. At the age of five, he appeared in The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and fell in love with the stage. He is active in theatre, film and television, and has voiced characters on Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show.” He has performed in around the world, in venues in Croatia, Germany and Scotland. He writes music and is a bass player in a band. Culver grew up in Pasadena and earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts.

Tracey A. Leigh (Red Hen/Goosey Loosey/ Queen/Stepmother/ Little Old Lady) appeared previously at SCR Safe in Hell by Amy Freed and In the Next Room or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl. As a child, Leigh’s family moved frequently, following her father’s army postings. She says she “got really good at watching how people acted so I could fit in, so I went to school to become a professional actor.” She is active in theatre and television, including “Law & Order” and “Modern Family.” Leigh also has done numerous television commercials. 

Matt McGrath (Jack/Tortoise) returns to SCR, where he previously appeared in Raised in Captivity by Nicky Silver, Ridiculous Fraud by Beth Henley and Putting It Together by Stephen Sondheim. McGrath started taking piano lessons at age 5 and studied with the Mistress of the Children’s Chorus for the Metropolitan Opera and New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center, where he made his stage debut. He worked with vocal teacher Mildred Honor and won boy soprano soloist roles in operas such as Madame Butterfly, Carmen, Billy Budd, Hansel and Gretel, Street Scene, Tosca, Pagliacci/Cavaleria Rusticana and La Boheme. He credits Honer with giving him “the greatest gift of all: a life in the theatre.”

Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper (Foxy Loxy/Ugly Duck/Wolf/Giant/Stepsister #2/Fox) is a veteran of four SCR young audiences productions. Last season, he donned a squirrel costume and looked for cherries as Skuggle in The Night Fairy, another play adapted by John Glore. Mongiardo-Cooper also appeared at SCR in The Borrowers by Mary Norton, adapted by Charles Way; Lucky Duck by Bill Russell and Jeffrey Hatcher, music by Henry Krieger and lyrics by Bill Russell; and Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Joan Cushing. A favorite production of his was Ferdinand the Bull—where he portrayed Ferdinand—at the Lewis Family Playhouse. Born in New York City, Mongiardo-Cooper appeared there in numerous plays and musicals before moving to California. He attended the High School of Performing Arts and New York University.

Amanda Pajer (Chicken Licken, Princess #1, Little Red Running Shorts, Rabbit) grew up in Ohio, where she found her passion for theatre by being in plays based on fairy tales. She was in Pinocchio, Twelve Dancing Princesses and Sleeping Beauty. As an adult, she continued her work in well-known stories including Aladdin, The Phantom Tollbooth—directed by Stinky Cheese’s Jessica Kubzansky—and A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by John Glore. She is active in theatre, television and film. Pajer  narrates two shows at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles: “Water is Life” and “Centered in the Universe.”

Erika Schindele (Ducky Lucky/Princess #2/Cinderumpelstiltskin/Cow Butt) returns to SCR for this young audience production. She most recently portrayed Belle in A Christmas Carol and earlier was in An Italian Straw Hat by John Strand and Dennis McCarthy.  She has been in several Theatre for Young Audiences productions, including Jane of the Jungle by Karen Zacarias and Deborah Wicks; Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar; June B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! and Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business—both by Joan Cushing; The Brand New Kid, adapted from the Katie Couric book by Michael Friedman and Melanie Marnich; and A Year With Frog and Toad by Robert Reale and Willie Reale. As a child, Schindele says she loved the world of make-believe; she ran around pretending to be Alice chasing the White Rabbit. As an actor, she has met people and visited places that she says she could only imagine, such as being shipwrecked in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night or being married to Thomas Jefferson in 1776 by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards.

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