A White House Cantata
John J. Cali School of Music | Department of Theatre and Dance
Music by Leonard Bernstein | Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner | Directed by Gary John La Rosa | Music Direction by Meg Zervoulis | Music Supervision by Gregory J. Dlugos
A concert presentation of master composer’s Leonard Bernstein’s 1976 musical, 1600 Pensylvania Avenue, White House Cantata features beloved songs that embrace the gamut of styles from anthems, blues, drinking songs, Dixieland, jazz, hymns, marches and a cappella barbershop harmonies. The New York Times calls the work “quintessentially American.”
Few composers capture their time and become the iconic voice of their age. Leonard Bernstein found his “voice” in the early 1940s and projected the sound of urban and urbane America from the period of World War II to the anti-war movements of the 1970s and the restoration of freedom in Europe, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet communism.
Writing for small ensembles, symphony orchestras, Broadway, film and opera houses, Leonard Bernstein projected a simple message of understanding and hope employing both complex and simple forms and styles – yet always sounding like “Bernstein,” a voice best known in his score to West Side Story.
Exploring his output, one finds the famous and obscure — works that both are reflective of their times and somehow also preserve and encapsulate them. Everywhere one hears his internal struggle to sound inevitable as the tumultuous era of the second half of the 20th century unfolded itself. He is as once linked with the music of Benjamin Britten and Dimitri Shostakovich, as well as George Gershwin and Aaron Copland.
While his music finds its spiritual home in his world view, his music speaks with a New York accent, even though he was born in Massachusetts. His love affair with Europe and his sensitivity to his Russian and Jewish roots are never far from his lyrical expressivity, with its fragile sense of optimism, its loneliness, its humor and its demand for acceptance. All of this is wrapped in the rhythmic propulsion of a great American urban landscape. He has left us an aural image of his time and place and, at the same time, an eternal voice of humanity.
In addition to writing On a Clear Day with Burton Lane, lyricist/librettist Alan Jay Lerner and Lane wrote the movie musical, Royal Wedding. With his frequent collaborator Frederick Loewe, he created some of the world’s most popular and enduring works of musical theatre for both the stage and on film, including Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Gigi. Lermer also wrote the libretto for An American in Paris, the first musical film to win an Academy Award. He won three Tony Awards and three Academy Awards, among other honors.
GARY JOHN LA ROSA has worked successfully as a theatre professional for over twenty-five years. A New York City native and UCLA graduate, his diverse career has brought him to four continents.
Formerly a performer, La Rosa considers extended engagements in Hollywood, Las Vegas, South Africa and on Broadway/National Tours to be highlights. Since then, as an in demand SDC director-choreographer, he has enjoyed working in hundreds of venues including Broadway, Off-Broadway, Regional Theatre, Opera, Cabaret, Stock and Industrials. He enjoys the variety and challenges they each present and loves creative collaboration.
A guest artist at many universities and colleges, Gary John is also an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State University in NJ. He especially enjoys developing and nurturing young talent. He is also a busy private coach and conducts theatrical workshops and seminars, nationally.
La Rosa frequently stages productions of Fiddler on the Roof, and is sought after to recreate the original Jerome Robbins direction and choreography. He performed in the 25th and 30th anniversary productions on Broadway/National tour and has been involved in well over two dozen productions worldwide. He also conceived and directed the star-studded, sold-out 50th Anniversary Gala celebration of the show on Broadway.
Over the years, Gary John has received multiple BroadwayWorld, Ostrander, Kennedy Center ACTF, Clifton Webb, Phoenix, Judy, and Connecticut Critic’s Circle Awards, along with two Loewe fellowships. He has received numerous nominations for the Kevin Kline, Robby, Perry, ACT and ariZoni Awards, as well.
Meg Zervoulis is a versatile music director, arranger, educator, and pianist in the NYC/NJ area. Broadway: As assistant conductor: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. As a keyboard/accordion sub and/or rehearsal pianist: American in Paris, Bandstand, Bright Star, Bronx Tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland, Matilda, and Something Rotten. Off-Broadway (Music Direction): Rated P…for Parenthood (Westside Theater, now in development with ABC Family), Chuckleball: Jailhouse Jocks (Snapple Center), Cagney (Westside Theatre, as sub conductor). Regional: A Christmas Story, Bandstand, Ever After, Elf, Mary Poppins, and Oliver! at Paper Mill Playhouse. Meg has served as the music director/arranger/orchestrator for Paper Mill’s Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory annual concert, New Voices, for the past 9 years, after 3 additional years as staff accompanist.
Broadway-Bound New Works: Meg is thrilled to be on the music teams for the following Broadway-Bound Musicals: THE PROM by Martin/Beguelin/Sklar and directed by Casey Nicholaw, MEAN GIRLS by Tina Fey, Nell Benjamin, and Jeff Richmond, Fiasco Theater’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG,, and HEAD OVER HEELS directed by Michael Mayer with Music Supervision by Tom Kitt (featuring the music of the Go Go’s!). Other Selected New Works: Buñuel (Public Theatre) by Stephen Sondheim, Kooman and Dimond’s Dani Girl in the ASCAP/Disney Workshop, OTHER WORLD by Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen, and Ann McNamee, Stu for Silverton (NAMT 2014) by Peter Duchan and BREEDLOVE, TEETH (Sundance 2017) by Anna Jacobs and Michael Jackson, and Andrea Grody’s Strange Faces (directed by John Rando.) Other: She also helms Hotel Elefant, a chamber ensemble in NYC, and played keyboard for the Big Apple Circus. Meg frequently appears as pianist/bandleader all over the country with the Nunziata Twins (www.willandanthony.com) and Bryce Pinkham. She is also on the rosters of Sing for Hope, Sing for Your Seniors and Concerts in Motion (three wonderful service organizations through the arts). She has been the musical theatre accompanist for National YoungArts Week for the past two years, in collaboration with Michael McElroy. Meg is a proud member of the Lilly Power Network and Local 802 AFM.
For 2 years, Meg served as the music supervisor for Sheri Sanders’ ROCK THE PERFORMANCE enterprise, which provides top notch audition and performance resources for today’s musical theatre actors. Other past residencies: Midtown Direct Rep, Mile Square Theatre, NJPAC, Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Ballet. Meg has served as music director at Kean and Montclair State Universities on a seasonal basis and was the collaborative pianist for the Multiple Woodwinds MM program at New Jersey City University under the supervision of Dr. Ed Joffe, Giuseppe Fusco, and Dave Noland. Education: Carnegie Mellon University – B.F.A. with University Honors, inaugural classes of the Goodspeed Opera House Musical Direction Intensive and the Marvin Hamlisch/ASCAP Broadway Conductors’ Program. Meg served as a music therapist and educator in the Hudson County public schools for 9 years and was a sacred music director for 13 years.
Meg is represented by Jonathan Mills at Paradigm Talent Agency.
Greg Dlugos, a graduate of Hartt Conservatory of Music, has worked extensively on Broadway and has served as conductor, associate conductor, musical director, pianist and keyboardist for numerous shows. Within the last few years, he has been engaged by the Broadway productions of Young Frankenstein, Fosse, Thou Shalt Not, Chicago, Nine, The Blonde in the Thunderbird and In My Life. Between steady engagements, he has performed as Conductor or Keyboardist for Beauty and the Beast, The Phantom of the Opera, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Producers and The Wedding Singer among others. As a composer, he has written industrial music for IBM, American Airlines and McNeil Labs. As an arranger, orchestrator and dance arranger, he has worked with personalities such as Betty Buckley, Antonio Banderas, Elaine Paige and Chita Rivera. He also serves as an organist for Sunday services in New Jersey.