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Atlanta by Harper s.

Sandra DeNise

Also see Harper's review of Rent.

Sometimes, during the course of conversation, a particular person's character can seem to reach out and grab you; to clearly separate itself from the other 5.9 billion or so lone personalities on this ever-fascinating little rock of ours. I recently had the pleasure to share a few moments with such a person, the endlessly charming Sandra DeNise.

Sandra DeniseSandra was still on the rebound from an unpleasant kidney infection as she spoke from her Charlotte hotel room. She is a relatively new member of the "Benny" touring company of Rent and takes her fair share of roles in the lauded rock-opera. "Working as a swing and understudy, I am responsible for covering 'Maureen,' 'Mrs. Cohen,' and different ensemble members. Also, I cover the "Season's of Love" solo, which can be pretty nerve-racking, if you think about it. That is sort-of the song from Rent, and many fans know every word and inflection by heart."

The Atlanta native has been involved in the theatre since a very early age, getting her start in local church productions. Sandra spent her childhood involved in community theatre, and after high school she was accepted into the Tisch School of Drama at NYU. At New York University she participated in school productions, which eventually led to her casting in Rent. "I was in the school's production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and a casting director for Rent was in the audience. She talked to a few of us one day, got our names and stuff, and that was about it for then. About a year or so later, I decided to call up and see if anything had come up. It just happened that there was a spot open, and I came in for an interview and made it."

While Sandra continues to enjoy her time in Rent, the future holds many options for this talented, young performer. "After Rent, I know that I want to return to New York City. I guess I'll just start looking into things, going to auditions and all that. I would love to get back into the legit theatre, so hopefully something will come up!"

Rent is presented by the Mastercard Broadway Series of Atlanta.

1999-2000 Season Preview

Just as the scorching summer weather is coming to a close, one of the hottest theatre seasons in Atlanta history is preparing to kick off. Below are the season lineups for three of Atlanta's premier theatre producers: Mastercard Broadway Series, Alliance Theatre Company, and Actor's Express. Also, the Theatre of the Stars , a primarily summer-season producer, will have a few special productions running throughout the year, such as Richard Chamberlain in The Sound of Music, September 10- 15, and a planned anniversary production of Grand Hotel, starring Liliane Montevecchi (dates are TBA).

The Atlanta Broadway Series commences its season with the revamped tour of Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde, starring Chuck Wagner, Andrea Rivette, Sharon Brown, and Brian Noonan. J&H will run November 9 - 14 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (all Broadway Series shows play the Fox unless otherwise noted). Ringing in the New Year is Rob Becker's acclaimed one man show, Defending the Caveman, playing January 4 - 9.

From February 29 - March 5, the four time Tony Award-winning Titanic docks in town. The Maury Yeston/Peter Stone tuner shuttered on Broadway in March after playing a respectable 804 performances. Atlanta will relive The Civil War March 21 - 26. Frank Wildhorn's latest musical, which had a disappointingly short run in New York last season, tells the powerful story of the Civil War through wall-to-wall musical numbers, ranging from pop and power ballads, to country, gospel, folk, and traditional Broadway.

The redesigned and recast national tour of Ragtime will follow The Civil War into the Fox for a special two-week engagement (presented in association with the Theatre of the Stars) from April 18 - 30. Ragtime took home four 1998 Tony Awards, including Best Score (Steven Flaherty/Lynn Ahrens) and Best Book (Terrence McNally). Concluding this all-star season is Sam Mendes' Broadway hit revival of Cabaret, June 20 - 25. Co-directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall and with a classic Kander & Ebb score, this raunchy re-imagining of Cabaret will no doubt start the summer of 00' off with a bang.

In addition to the above subscription season, Riverdance will play an encore engagement at the Civic Center from September 23 - October 3. For season ticket information, call the Atlanta Broadway Series at (800) 278-4447.

Take a walk down Peachtree, and you will undoubtedly stumble upon the Woodruff Arts Center, where the Alliance Theatre Company is brewing an exciting season. Chess, starring Kim Huber and Brian D'Arcy James, runs August 26 - September 26 on the Alliance Theatre Mainstage. Next up is a world premier by Atlanta playwright Janece Shaffer, He Looks Great in a Hat, which will be presented in the Studio Theatre September 15 - October 17. Jitney, August Wilson's look at the lives of cabstand owners circa 1977, plays the Mainstage October 7 - 31, directed by Kenny Leon.

The Alliance's wildly popular production of A Christmas Carol takes the Mainstage from November 19 - December 26. The production celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Alliance, and will be helmed by David H. Bell. William Nicholson's Shadowlands follows, from January 13 - February 6. Directed by Susan V. Booth, Shadowlands concerns the relationship between C. S. Lewis and a young American poet. The Studio Theatre will house Two Sisters and a Piano, by Nilo Cruz, beginning February 5 and playing to March 12.

George Bernard Shaw's witty masterpiece Heartbreak House inhabits the Mainstage March 2 - 26, followed by the 1999 Pulitzer Prize winner W;t (Wit), playing an extended run from March 25 - May 28 in the Studio. Written by Atlanta kindergarten teacher Margaret Edson, W;t eloquently portrays the life and death of a brilliant professor of poetry, struck down by terminal ovarian cancer. Closing the season is Sheldon Epps' Tony-nominated revue Blues in the Night, which runs from April 20 - May 14 on the Mainstage.

In addition to the above productions, the Alliance Children's Theatre will be showing Cyra and Rocky, a hip retelling of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (November 14, 2:00PM and 4:00PM, 14th Street Playhouse), and James and the Giant Peach (February 20, 2:00PM and 4:00PM, Alliance Mainstage). Subscription information for the Alliance Mainstage, Studio, and Children's Theatre can be obtained by calling (404) 733-4600. Single tickets can be purchased at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office (Peachtree and 15th Street) or by calling (404) 733-5000. This and other information can be found at

Actor's Express, the brainchild of talented actor/director Chris Coleman, begins its season with Stephen's Play, a world premier by acclaimed playwright Sandra Deer, October 21 - December 11. Next, Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Robert Schenkkan premiers his latest work, Handler, January 21 - March 4. Violet, winner of the 1997 Drama Desk Award for Best Musical and written by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, plays March 22 - May 13. Featuring the influences of country, bluegrass, and gospel, this soaring musical chronicles the like of Violet, a woman, physically and mentally scarred for life, who searches for redemption and understanding of her painful existence. Dael Orlandersmith brings her powerful one-woman play, The Gimmick, to the Express stage from June 1 - 24. In a southeastern premier, Burning Blue completes the season with a thoughtful look at a troubled gay relationship in the Navy. Burning runs from July 13 - August 23.

Call (404) 875-1606 or email for ticket information.

All productions are subject to change. Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about the exciting new season.

Next week, Rent!

Harper ;-)