Berkeley Rep Blog

April 2010

Sweet! Take a look at Girlfriend, our latest hit

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Apr 29


Now that the world-premiere rock musical Girlfriend has extended its run through May 16 at Berkeley Rep, we invite you to take a sneak peek at the show. The show, starring Jason Hite (pictured above at left) and Ryder Bach), features songs from Matthew Sweet's classic album Girlfriend as well as a couple songs from Matthew's Altered Beast and 100% Fun.

News flash! Jason, Ryder, and the band will perform songs from the show this Saturday (May 1) on West Coast Live. The show begins at 10 a.m. on NPR stations including KALW 91.7 FM. The show is being broadcast from Freight & Salvage Coffee House, just across Addison Street from Berkeley Rep.

Another news flash! Amoeba Music is giving away tickets to Girlfriend on May 5 and 6. Enter at either the Berkeley or San Francisco stores. Find more information.

There are so many great things about the Girlfriend, but we have to give a special shout out to the four women in the onstage band. Music director Julie Wolf (who also plays rhythm guitar and keyboard and provides backup vocals) has collaborated and toured with the likes of the Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, and Sia, among many others. Lead guitar and backing vocalist Shelley Doty has several bands, including Clair, Shelley Doty X-tet, and Sistas in the Pit. Bassist Jean DuSablon is in Clair as well, and drummer ieela Grant founded Sistas in the Pit, one of the Bay Area's great power trios.

You don't really see the amazing women of the band in this video, but you can hear them! Enjoy.

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Idiot heaven: opening night on Broadway

posted by Bert Reptile on Thu, Apr 29

Kristin Cato, Berkeley Rep’s bookkeeper, was part of the Theatre’s delegation to New York for the Broadway opening of American Idiot. You can see Kristin in the photo below (courtesy of Mina Morita), her head poking through almost dead center. The group includes, from left, Mary Susskind, Terence Keane, Sally Smith, Amy Potozkin, Kristin, Emika Abe, Maggi Yule, Tom Pearl, Andrew Susskind, Karen Racanelli, Christine Bond, and Susan Medak.

Below are Kristin's observations of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

AI Kristin group

Ah, the hum and beat of New York. Taxicab blurs and Times Square’s over-sized phantasmagoria of molten corporate psychedelia splatters across skyscraper. It’s the ‘hood where musical theatre still lives large. And it’s an ironically glamorous, frenetic, yet apt setting for American Idiot, a tale of an underbelly youth’s false start in the metropolis of his (broken) dreams. After all, the youth does belt out “One nation controlled by the media/Information age of hysteria” in the opening number.

Being a big fan of the show during its Berkeley run, I had been hankering for months to see the Broadway production, and had contemplated an overdue visit to the Big Apple. So naturally I was thrilled to win a ticket to opening-night festivities in a staff lottery. What a gift and opportunity! Thank you, lottery goddesses!

About a dozen of my fellow Berkeley Rep co-workers also flew in from the Bay Area. We met up at the legendary Sardi’s next door to the St. James Theatre for a pre-show reception, compliments of Board member Sally Smith. I gazed around at caricatures of the famous – past and present – plastering the walls of this dark-wooded restaurant. I easily spotted the hand-drawn faces of Sophia Loren, Tom Brokaw, Rosie O’Donnell, and Kermit the Frog. Many others looked vaguely familiar. I had seen them in something, somewhere. Little did I know, I would be partying with Rosie O’Donnell in a couple of hours, alongside Serena Williams, Michael J. Fox, a host of TV stars, and of course, Green Day and the American Idiot cast. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was time to head to the theatre!

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Roda Theatre transformed for ONSTAGE! Check out the festive photos...

posted by Chad Jones on Wed, Apr 28

The world premiere of the ONSTAGE! gala, held last Saturday in the spectacularly decorated Roda Theatre, made for quite a memorable evening. San Francisco Chronicle "Social City" columnist Catherine Bigelow wrote a wonderful piece about the event in today's newspaper.

Read the article.

For those of you who weren't able to attend, Cheshire Isaacs, Berkeley Rep's art director, was there with his camera and provides the following glimpses of the festivities...


Meet the chefs: (back row from left) Artistic Director Tony Taccone, Mattea Soreng, Jennifer Sherman, Charlie Hallowell, Jean Pierre Moullé, (front row) Board President Marjorie Randolph, Managing Director Susan Medak, Samantha Greenwood, Charlene Reis, Mary Canales, ONSTAGE! Committee Chair and Board Member Felicia Woytak, and Director of Development Lynn Eve Komaromi.


Randy Laroche and David Laudon dressed to the nines for ONSTAGE!

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Celebrating the next generation of theatre professionals

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Apr 27

Fellows 2009-10

At Saturday night's wonderful ONSTAGE! gala in the Roda Theatre, guests were asked to "raise the paddle" in support of the Berkeley Rep fellowship program. Each season, more than a dozen fellows spend 11 months directly involved in the Theatre’s daily operations and learn alongside an accomplished company of artists, administrators, guest directors and designers.

At the gala, guests watched this remarkable video (created by Pauline Luppert, our marketing and multimedia manager).

Then, in about five minutes, guests donated an impressive $55,500 to support next season's fellows! Our thanks to all who gave so generously.

Visit our website for more information about the fellowship program.

Above photo: The 2009-2010 Berkeley Rep fellows: (standing) Emily Hartman, Seth Fly, Rachel Viola, Viqui Peralta, Mina Morita, Matt Avery, Silvie Deutsch, Elana McKernan, Euphrates Dahout, Elizabeth Guzman, Alexandra Friedman, Kashara Robinson (kneeling) Katherine Wepler, Beryl Baker, Nora Merecicky Not pictured: Sarah Nowicki

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Girlfriend extends through May 16!

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, Apr 23

GF 3

Critics and audiences are in love with Berkeley Rep's new Girlfriend, and now this world-premiere musical event is extending for one week, through May 16! Tickets go on sale today!

Added performances are

  • Thursday, May 13 at 8pm
  • Friday, May 14 at 8pm
  • Saturday, May 15 at 5pm & 9pm
  • Sunday, May 16 at 7pm

Visit our online box office or call the box office at 510 647-2949 to order your tickets today! Box office hours are noon to 7pm Tuesday-Sunday.

Critics have been writing love notes to Girlfriend, which features music and lyrics by Matthew Sweet and a book by Todd Almond. The San Francisco Chronicle calls the show "an exhilarating joy," while the San Jose Mercury News describes it as "a delicate gem." The San Francisco Examiner raves, "A rare treat—authentic, intimate and romantic, and, as the ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ lyric goes, ‘perfect in so many ways.’"

And the great reviews just keep coming. Here are a few more.

Above photo: Jason Hite (left) and Ryder Bach in the world-premiere musical Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of

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American Idiot opens on Broadway to rave reviews!

posted by Chad Jones on Thu, Apr 22

American Idiot nearly blew the lid off the St. James Theatre when it opened in New York Tuesday night. From Berkeley Rep to Broadway, and the reviews are amazing! Here are a few.

"Invigorating, moving, and thrilling! Performed with galvanizing intensity by a terrific cast, the emotional charge is as memorable as the music. A true rock opera!" — Charles Isherwood, New York Times

American Idiot 1
"A groundbreaking musical event! Told with a soaring theatricality that stretches the boundaries of what's possible on Broadway, American Idiot is a global knockout!" — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"It will electrify and overwhelm your senses! This adrenalized gut-punch of a musical holds you in its white-knuckle grasp." — David Cote, Time Out New York

"The first great musical of the 21st century!" — Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Times-Star

The cast recording was released Tuesday as well. Green Day appears on the album, and Billie Joe Armstrong sings alongside the actors you saw in Berkeley.

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Video message to the Broadway Idiots

posted by Chad Jones on Tue, Apr 20

The Berkeley Rep School of Theatre's Teen Council created a message to the cast, creative team, and crew of American Idiot, which opens tonight at the St. James Theatre.

To catch you up on all things American Idiot, here are a few good links:

Billboard's cover story, which includes a good video interview

USA Today's feature

And here's an MTV clip called From Punk Rock to Rock Opera (some of the shots are from Berkeley Rep rehearsals, and if you look sharp, you can catch a glimpse of Artistic Director Tony Taccone — in a red tie):

Green Day - MTV Shows

Watch MTV's half-hour documentary American Idiot on Broadway.

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Great Girlfriend coverage in the LA Times

posted by Chad Jones on Mon, Apr 19

GF -Les & Todd

A fantastic feature about the creation of Girlfriend appeared over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times. Read the story.

Writer John Horn spent time in the rehearsal hall and interviewed director Les Waters, playwright Todd Almond, and composer Matthew Sweet.

Talking to Todd about how he took a favorite album of his youth, Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, John writes: "Almond says he designed the show so that audience understands the loneliness of being gay and alone. 'I want those boys to feel isolated, like I did,' he says. And yet Sweet's music gives them (just as it did for Almond) hope."

John's story captures Matthew Sweet's reaction to the show as well: "I thought it was really cool — to show how they are trying to put across all of these feelings in a sideways way," Sweet says. "I wanted the album to be really universal. The songs were very personal to me, but it makes me proud and makes me glad that other people could relate to it. That somebody who is gay could relate it — that's fantastic."

Charles McNulty reviewed the production for the Times. Read his review.

Here's a sampling:

High schoolers have a knack for turning even banal occasions into karaoke moments, which is why Will and Mike’s eruptions seem perfectly natural. Granted, most such spontaneous outpourings aren’t backed by a band as hard-charging as the all-female one led by musical director Julie Wolf that accompanies the boys, but the effect of hearing “I’ve Been Waiting” and “You Don’t Love Me” will bring you back to your own awkward age, even if this is your first encounter with Sweet’s accessible sound.

Above photo: Girlfriend director Les Waters and playwright Todd Almond. Photo courtesy of Robert Durrell for the Los Angeles Times.

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Critics have a crush on our Girlfriend!

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, Apr 16

Here at the Theatre, we've been crushing on Girlfriend for weeks. Now that the show has officially had its world premiere, we're sharing the love -- and so are the critics!

GF boys hug
Here's a sampling of what they had to say. Click on the links to read the full reviews.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Beguiling... Love is in the air at Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage. Throbbing teen hormones burst through the power-guitar chords and yearning anticipation trembles in the lyrics of Matthew Sweet's songs. The flayed-skin raw nerves of adolescent insecurity and the awkwardness of first romance inform every glance, gesture and warbled note in the performances of Ryder Bach and Jason Hite...  It's a very different, much more intimate musical than the Rep's previous two, Stew's dynamic, art-rock Passing Strange and the extra-high-powered American Idiot, both of which moved to Broadway. Author, vocal arranger and co-orchestrator Todd Almond uses the melodic rock ballads and mood of Sweet's 1991 album, Girlfriend, to craft a gentle, heartfelt, two-character chamber musical that celebrates the pain and joy of first love between gay teens in early '90s small-town Nebraska... The music, two attractive actors, and music director, keyboard player and vocalist Julie Wolf's electrifying four-woman band make it an exhilarating joy."

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Bid online for American Idiot items!

posted by Chad Jones on Wed, Apr 14

AI guitar

Today, as Green Day’s American Idiot takes Broadway by storm, the Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre announces a rare opportunity for fans to bid on exclusive items from the show’s world-premiere run in California. Four collectors’ items — including a guitar autographed by Green Day and the Berkeley Rep cast — will be available for 10 days on eBay beginning today, Wednesday, April 14. All proceeds from the auction benefit Berkeley Rep, a nonprofit theatre company dedicated to developing exhilarating new plays like American Idiot, Girlfriend, and Passing Strange.

The auction — which can be accessed at — begins at 7pm PT today (Wednesday, April 14) and concludes at 7pm PT on Saturday, April 24. Berkeley Rep will receive 100 percent of the auction’s proceeds.

AI guitar 2

The auction includes the following hot items:

  • A brand-new Epiphone LP Jr guitar autographed by all three members of Green Day and the Berkeley cast of American Idiot as they recorded a new version of “21 Guns” at the band’s Jingletown Studios in November 2009.
  • A framed 20" x 30” photo of the original rendering for the show’s four-story set — with its sky-high walls, rolling stairs, punk posters, television monitors, and dangling car — created by Scenic Designer Christine Jones, who earned a Tony Award nomination for her work on Spring Awakening.
  • A mixed-media collage of fabric swatches, photos, and sketches created by Costume Designer Andrea Lauer as she invented the outrageous outfit — including striped armband and pink combat boots – worn by Obie Award-winning actress Rebecca Naomi Jones, who portrays Whatsername (the collage is signed by Ms. Lauer and framed alongside a photo of Ms. Jones from the Berkeley run taken by renowned theatre photographer Kevin Berne).
  • A similar collage by Ms. Lauer that features photos, drawings, and images of Whatsername alongside other characters from the show portrayed by Tony Vincent (St. Jimmy), Joshua Henry (The Favorite Son), and Libby Winters (ensemble).

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