Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Garth Kravits

Garth Kravits, Lauren Molina and Victoria Cook in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. (MANDEE KUENZLE/Bucks County Playhouse)

Garth Kravits, Lauren Molina and Victoria Cook in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. (MANDEE KUENZLE/Bucks County Playhouse)

Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Garth Kravits spent the holiday season in the Bucks County Playhouse’s world premiere of Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 South Main Street in New Hope, PA. Helmed by Playhouse alumni Gordon Greenberg, with choreography by Lorin Latarro, the cast of Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play also features Geoff Packard, Jay Russell, Lauren Molina, Chelsea Packard and Victoria Cook.

Garth Kravits, Victoria Cook, Geoff Packard, Chelsea Packard, Lauren Molina and Jay Russell in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa.(MANDEE KUENZLE/Bucks County Playhouse)

Garth Kravits, Victoria Cook, Geoff Packard, Chelsea Packard, Lauren Molina and Jay Russell in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pa. (MANDEE KUENZLE/Bucks County Playhouse)

Based on The Kensington Stories by Sally Benson and the MGM motion picture Meet Me In St. Louis starring Judy Garland, Meet Me In St. Louis: A Live Radio Play features songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine, including the classics such as: “The Boy Next Door,” “Skip To My Lou,” “The Trolley Song,” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The 2013 Radio Play is adapted by another Playhouse veteran, Joe Landry from the book by Hugh Wheeler.

From left, Mark Price, Jill Paice, Justin Guarini, Lauren Molina, and Garth Kravits in "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play." (MANDEE KUENZLE / Bucks County Playhouse)

From left, Mark Price, Jill Paice, Justin Guarini, Lauren Molina, and Garth Kravits in “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” (MANDEE KUENZLE / Bucks County Playhouse)

Last December, Garth made his Bucks County Playhouse as Harry Bailey and Hank “Jazzbo” Heywood at Bucks County Playhouse in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play with Justin Guarini, Lauren Molina, Jill Paice and Mark Price.

The Drowsy Chaperone's Garth Kravits and Jason Kravits.  Photo by Craig Schwartz

The Drowsy Chaperone’s Garth Kravits and Jason Kravits. Photo by Craig Schwartz

A gifted comic actor, Garth is also a versatile singer, a songwriter, a composer and a musician who has an affinity for tackling a variety of musical genres. He traveled the globe for seven years as a member of The House Jacks, an A capella rock band, and made his Broadway debut working in tandem with his brother Jason Kravits, as part of The Tall Brothers, a 1920’s-era comedy team playing gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, in the Broadway production of The Drowsy Chaperone in 2006.

Garth has appeared in the Off-Broadway productions of Old Jews Telling Jokes and Toxic Audio Loudmouth; regionally in The Producers (Gateway Playhouse) and Happy Days: A New Musical (Goodspeed Opera House), and as Benny Southstreet in the regional tour of Guys and Dolls. He guest starred on the television shows “30 Rock” (NBC), “The Carrie Diaries” (CW), “Nash Bridges” (USA), and most recently on “Hostages” (CBS) as a polygraph expert.

The cast of Guys and Dolls - Garth Kravits (center) plays Benny Southstreet.

The cast of Guys and Dolls – Garth Kravits (center) plays Benny Southstreet.

In November, I sat down with Garth at Ollie’s in New York during his lunch break from rehearsal for Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play. We chatted about his latest gigs -singing in a concert this summer in I Could Use a Drink  – an evening of songs featuring the music and lyrics of Drew Gasparini at Joe’s Pub in New York; working on the world premiere of Gettin’ The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse in New Bruswick, NJ, this Fall; Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play; and what it’s like to tour the world with an A capella rock band.

Garth Kravits in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA. Photo courtesy of Bucks County Playhouse

Garth Kravits in Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA. Photo courtesy of Bucks County Playhouse

Lia: How many different characters do you play in Meet Me in St. Louis?

Garth: I play two roles from the movie. Lon, the oldest child in the Smith family, is heading off to Princeton. I also play Warren Sheffield, a trust fund kid who is pursuing Rose Smith, the oldest daughter in the Smith family. He’s been trying to propose for the last 6 months, via letters and long distance phone calls, but can’t seem to get up the courage. Our production, however, is a live radio play so I also play Butch Popkin. He’s the Foley artist (sound effects man) at WBUX. So it’s really Butch Popkin that plays the other two roles from the movie. It’s very meta. So I guess the answer is three. I play three roles.

Jennifer Conner, theater critic for The Reporter writes, “Finally, Garth Kravits is radio actor Butch Popkin and also handles the sound effect table that helps to keep the on stage action authentic in the audience’s imagination. He also plays Ester’s older brother, while Victoria Cook plays Ester’s sister and mother. These two characters add a lot of comedy with their more extreme and expressive personalities.”

Kathy Lauer-Williams, theater critic for The Morning Call, writes, “Garth Kravits is playful as Esther’s brother “Lon” Smith Jr., as well as frustrated Yale suitor Warren Sheffield.”

Lia: How many instruments do you play?

Garth: Currently I play piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, mandolin and I’ve learned to play the banjo for Meet Me in St Louis. I’m always looking to learn something new so the number, hopefully, will keep growing.

Lia: You had such a joyful experience in last year’s Bucks County holiday show It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, that you have returned for a second season for Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, which were both adapted by Joe Landry. What do you love about working at Bucks County Playhouse?

Garth: It’s so picturesque and quaint down there, especially around the holidays. Also, there is so much history with BCP. Even through all the renovations, you can still feel the ghosts of past productions. Grace Kelly, Bea Arthur, Walter Matthau, Uta Hagen, Leslie Neilson, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn together, Helen Hayes, Kitty Carlisle, Bert Lahr, to name a few that have played on the BCP stage. For me it’s also a special treat since I have family that lives nearby and I get to spend the holidays with them while I work.

This Fall, Garth appeared as Ritchie Lorenzo in the world premiere of the new musical Gettin’ The Band Back Together (formerly titled Garage Band) helmed by Tony Award-winner John Rando (Urinetown, GSP’s The Toxic Avenger) at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ, with a cast of Broadway vets including Heather Brave, Evan Daves, Michelle Duffy, Ryan Duncan, two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser, Deidre Goodwin, Christopher Gurr, Mitchell Jarvis, Jay Klaitz, Adam Monley, Emily McNamara, Manu Narayan, Tad Wilson, and Brandon Williams.

Gettin’ The Band Back Together boasts a book by Ken Davenport and The Grundelshotz, with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg, and music and lyrics by Mark Allen. Gettin’ The Band Back Together is the tale of Mitch – recently forty and cut loose from his job on Wall Street. Forced by finances to move back to his childhood home in Sayreville, NJ, Mitch – a fine musician thought to be the next Bon Jovi – reunites with his high school band mates in a high-stakes battle of the bands. Best buddies, old girlfriends, high school bullies who never grew up and one hot New Jersey momma make for fast times and the ultimate “do-over” for this Jersey Boy. The cast and creative team had a mini-reunion recently when they gathered in a recording studio in Brooklyn to lay down tracks for a cast album.
Click here to preview the album.

Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What was your experience like working on Gettin’ The Band Back Together?

Garth: I’ve wanted to work with John Rando, the director of GTBBT, for a long time. He has such a great understanding of this kind of comedy and I was so excited to finally get into a rehearsal room with him. This was such an amazing and talented cast, as well. It’s often the case, when you fill a room full of comic actors and screaming high rock tenors, you’ve also filled the room with egos and a somewhat competitive vibe. I was instantly dispelled of this notion when we sat down to read through and sing through the show. Everyone was so happy to be a part of this production and egos were clearly checked at the door. It was a very collaborative experience. John Rando gave Brandon Williams (Tygen Billows) and I a lot of leash. Once we worked through a particular scene a few times, Rando let us goof and play and there was plenty of improvised lines being thrown around. Some stuck, some did not but it always feels great when you get to work with that kind of creative energy flying around. With any luck, we’ll get to keep moving forward with the play and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for Broadway.

Lia: Who do you play in Gettin’ The Band Back Together?

Garth: Ritchie was one of my favorite roles I’ve played. He’s the best friend and sidekick to Tygen Billows, the villain of the play. I love playing bad guys. The challenge is finding a way for the audience to hate them but also care about them as well. Despite being 40, Ritchie is emotionally stuck in the 80’s (his wardrobe usually reflects this as well.) He’s been playing bass guitar in Tygen’s band, Mouthfeel, for the past 22 years and I’m pretty sure he’s the assistant manager of a pool cleaning company or a tanning salon in town. I think we’ve all met this guy at some point in our lives. I took a day and went to Sayerville, NJ, where the play is set, and saw at least 4 Ritchies at the local sandwich shop.

Sherri Rase, theater critic for qonstage.com writes, “Ritchie Lorenzo (Garth Kravits) is a jack of all trades and Kravits who masters many. He and Ryan Duncan, who himself is a man of a thousand faces, are the Yes-Men Tygen’s Power Lead demands.”

Lia: Who are The House Jacks?

Garth: I spent seven years in an amazing band called The House Jacks. While we wrote our original music on rock instruments, we performed them A cappella. So we were a rock band without instruments basically. Close your eyes and you’ll hear drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, horns etc…I got to travel the world and eat great food, which is really what being on tour is about. The band is still performing and I get to sub in from time to time.

Lia: What inspires you most?

Garth: Passion. Whenever I see someone doing something, anything with passion, it inspires me to work and create. It could be acting, dancing, singing, cooking, rollerskating (like the guys in Central Park) anything. I get really addicted to YouTube and watch all kinds of people singing. Some of them are amazing and some are horrible, but they all share this passion to create and share. I find it really inspiring and it makes me want to be better at everything I do.

Megan Minutillo of A Write Teacher(s), writes, ” Garth Kravits absolutely took the house down with his performance with I Love You Too Much. Outstanding doesn’t do him justice. Neither does excellent. Nor does phenomenal. Transcendent might do the trick, but even then…it does not encapsulate what happened on that stage. I could gush for hours, but just know, it’s a song that you should know, and a performance that you should not have missed.”

Lia: Where do you teach?

Garth: I’ve taught performance, songwriting and improv workshops all over the world. I’ve also been running an after school theater program at Glen Ridge High school in Glen Ridge, NJ, for the past 6 years. We do a straight play in the fall and musical every spring. Its so fulfilling to see these young actors grow as people and learn to work with one another. I also get to hire my very talented friends to choreograph or music direct for me.

northjersey.com: Glen Ridge High School to stage fall show

Lia: How do you balance your academic life with your very active theatrical career and your family?

Garth: This is always tricky. I think the key is to make sure that when I’m home, I’m home and present and active. It’s easy to want to spend my day off just crashed on the couch. But its so important that I make the most of my time at home. It pays off during those times when I’m not working. My family is so supportive and that only happens when they feel that support from me, even at my busiest. They are my biggest fans and you always have to appreciate and give back to your fans, right?

Lia: What are you working on next?

Garth: I’m in the middle of writing an original score for a charter school’s Midsummer Night’s Dream production. I’m working with some amazing people and writing so many different styles. It’s keeping me very busy in my downtime from performing. After that I’m going back to work on my own original musical. It’s a full rock score for Macbeth. Sounds crazy, but I love it and I hope it continues to grab attention in NYC. It was originally a project with my student in Glen Ridge and now it’s really expanded. So keep your eyes open for ‘M.’ next year. I also have to clean out my garage, my attic and my basement and re-organize my office.

Garth Kravits sings “A Song for You” at Michael Raye’s Soulgathering

Garth Kravits sings “Ribbon in the Sky” at Michael Raye’s Soulgathering

Other articles on Garth Kravits:
Garth Kravits on Showtime’s NURSE JACKIE on May 24
Jun 25: Garth Kravits, Britt Bonney, Erik Jareth Ransom, Julia Meinwald, Claire Fornarola, David Ingber Set for TUNE IN TIME at Stage 72
Late Night Singing with Garth Kravits at 54 Below with The Skivvies, at Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland and Michael Raye’s Soul Gathering
Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis’ ‘it could be worse’ Series Featuring Adam Chanler-Berat, Alison Fraser, Gideon Glick and More Airs on Pivot TV in June; and on Hulu in July
June 4: Garth Kravits, Lena Hall, Lesli Margherita, Wesley Taylor and More Strip Down with The Skivvies at 54 Below
Garth Kravits, Suzzanne Douglas, Erin Dilly, Gavin Lee and More Set for “From Carousel to Kinky Boots”, Bickford Theatre Guild’s annual fundraiser
Dec. 4 – 29: Garth Kravits Returns to Bucks County Playhouse for Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play
centraljersey.com: Clang Clang Clang!’Meet Me in St. Louis’ in Bucks County
BWW Interviews: Garth Kravits Talks about Bucks County Playhouse’s MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS: A RADIO PLAY
nj.com: Jersey actor Garth Kravits sings the praises of appearing on Broadway and closer to home

Other articles on Meet Me in St. Louis:
Mainstreet.com names Bucks County Playhouse’s Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play as One of Ten “Top Holiday Shows”, Performances through December 29, 2013
Dec. 24: Garth Kravits and Lauren Molina, Stars of Bucks County Playhouse’s Holiday Show Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play, to Appear on Good Day Philadelphia
The Reporter: Bucks County Playhouse presents a flawless, picturesque “Meet me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play”
The Morning Call: Bucks Playhouse’s ‘Meet me in St. Louis’ is delightfully nostalgic
New Hope Free Press: Review: ‘Meet Me In St. Louis’ At Bucks County Playhouse
phindie.com: MEET ME IN SAINT LOUIS: A LIVE RADIO PLAY (Bucks County Playhouse): 60-second review
philly.com: Review: Meet Me in St. Louis, A Live Radio Play

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