Idea, conception, direction and choreography
Jerome Robbins was born in New York City on October 11, 1918. He was trained in modern dance and ballet and began his career in 1937 as a dancer in musicals. In 1940 he moved over to ballet. The first time he created the choreography for a ballet was in 1944 for the show Fancy Free, which was later made into the musical On the Town. Jerome Robbins became famous as an innovative choreographer for Broadway musicals such as High Button Shoes (1947) and The King and I (1951). Other musicals included Peter Pan (1954) as well as the legendary West Side Story (1957) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964). In 1989 he produced an anthology of his earlier Broadway hits as a large Broadway show under the title Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.
Jerome Robbins was appointed the Associate Artistic Director for the New York City Ballet by George Balanchine in 1949 and from 1983 to 1990 he shared the position of Ballet Master in Chief with Peter Martins. He was a soloist in the New York City Ballet and choreographed nine ballets before he founded Ballets: U.S.A. in 1959. Many of his 66 ballets are still produced by the New York City Ballet, such as Dances at a Gathering (1969) and Goldberg Variations (1971).
Jerome Robbins was a member of the National Council on the Arts from 1974 to 1980 and from 1973 to 1988 was a member of the New York State Council on the Arts/Dance Panel. He established and partially endowed the Jerome Robbins Film Archive of the Dance Collection of the New York City Public Library at the Lincoln Center. He received numerous awards including the Handel Medallion of the City of New York in 1976, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1981 and the National Medal of the Arts in 1988. His academic honors included three Honorary Doctorates and an honorary membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1985.
Jerome Robbins died in 1998 in New York.
The composer, conductor, pianist, teacher and humanitarian Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1918 to Russian Jewish immigrants. After his studies at Harvard College and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (under teachers such as the legendary Fritz Reiner for conducting) he became the assistant to Sergej Kussewitzky in Tanglewood in 1942 and worked from 1943 to 1944 as an assistant music director at the New York Philharmonic. On November 14, 1943 he stood in for the ailing Bruno Walter in a Carnegie Hall concert and overnight became one of the leading conductors in America. After three years as the Musical Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra he assumed the same position in Tanglewood from 1951 to 1955 and then in the New York Philharmonic from 1957 to 1958, where in 1958 he succeeded Dimitri Mitropoulos as Principal Conductor. In the seventies, Bernstein was one of the pioneers to initiate the renaissance of Gustav Mahler’s work. In 1986, Leonard Bernstein helped Justus Frantz establish the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. On December 23 and 25, 1989 he conducted Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in both sections of Berlin to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Leonard Bernstein was the first superstar conductor in the USA. In addition to this work, which took him to all the major orchestras in the world and let him work together with the most famous soloists, he composed music for concerts, ballets, stage and films. He specialized in jazz and new music, with instrumental compositions that were just as successful as his vocal pieces. His best-known compositions include Fancy Free (1944), On the Town (1944), Peter Pan (1950), Trouble in Tahiti (1952), Wonderful Town (1952), Candide (1956), West Side Story (1957), Chichester Psalms (1965), Mass 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976) and A Quiet Place (1983). He was a dedicated patron of the world’s youth throughout his lifetime. From 1951 to 1956 he was a professor at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and in 1951 he began his television career as a music commentator and teacher on shows such as Young People‘s Concerts. His works refute the deep-seated prejudice that both serious and entertaining music cannot coexist in the works of a talented composer.
Leonard Bernstein died on October 14, 1990 at his house in New York.
Arthur Laurents was born in New York City on July 14, 1917. He is one of the most successful authors and created musical plays such as West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965), Hallelujah Baby! (1967 Tony Award for Best Musical), and Nick&Nora (1991); and the screenplays for The Snake Pit (1948), Rope (1948), Caught (1949), Anastasia (1956), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), The Way We Were (1973), and The Turning Point for which he reveived a Golden Globe Award in 1977, a Screenwriters Guild Award, a Writers Guild of America Award and a National Board of Review Best Picture Award. The last two screenplays were novels as well. His plays include Claudia Lazlo, Home of the Brave, The Time of the Cukoo, A Clearing in the Woods, Invitation to a March, The Enclave, Scream, Two Lives, The Radical Mystique, My Good Name, and Jolson Sings Again.
He has also directed plays and musicals for the theatre among them I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Invitation to a March (1960), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), The Enclave, The Madwoman of Central Park West (1979), Birds of Paradise, three revivals of Gypsy with Angela Lansbury in 1974, with Tyne Daly in 1989, with Patti LuPone in 2007 and La Cage Aux Folles, for which he was honored with a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical in 1984 and a Sydney Drama Critics Award for Directing in 1985. In 2009, Laurents directed the Broadway revival of West Side Story in New York. He has also written radio episodes for Hollywood Playhouse, Assignment Home, which received a Variety Radio Award in 1945, The Thin Man, Army Service Force Presents, The Man Behind the Gun, and This is Your FBI.
He has been honored with awards from many organizations, among them the National Institute of Arts and Letters, Writers Guild of America, Antoinette Perry (Tonys), Golden Globe, Drama Desk, National Board of Review and the Sydney Drama Critics. He was a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame, P.E.N., the Screenwriters Guild, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences and is an emeritus member of the Council of the Dramatist Guild.
Arthur Laurents died on May 5, 2011 in his hometown New York.
The composer and lyricist Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born in 1930 to a wealthy New York dress manufacturer. When his parents divorced, his mother moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and young Stephen found himself in the right place at the right time. His mother’s neighbor was Oscar Hammerstein II, who was at the time working on the musical Oklahoma!. It didn’t take long for the adolescent boy to discover his fascination with musical theater, and he consequently began studying music at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and later composition with Milton Babbitt. Like Oscar Hammerstein he would write the occasional pop song (with Jule Styne for Tony Bennett) and dabble in film, but like Hammerstein, his true love remained the theater.
His initial success came in 1957 as a lyricist to Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story, followed by Jule Styne on Gypsy in 1959. He wrote the music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Pacific Overtures (1976) and Merrily We Roll Along (1981). He collaborated on Richard Rogers’ Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965) and cemented his reputation as a genius lyricist and composer with Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1991) and Passion (1994). In 2003, his musical Bounce had its premiere in Chicago while the Off-Broadway version (2008) was named Road Show.
He was President of the Council of the Dramatist Guild from 1973 to 1981. In 1983 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was appointed the first Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University in 1990.
Stephen Sondheim is one of the most successful artists of the musical and theatrical world, who gained nearly all important prices and awards. He is the only composer in the world to win seven Tony Awards and has been honored with the special Tony Award for “Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre” in 2008 and won several Grammys and Olivier Awards. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985 for Sunday in the Park with George and also was honored with the Academy Award for his Song „Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)“ from the movie Dick Tracy.
To mark his 80th birthday there were numerous celebrations around the world: he received the accolade of having a London Prom Concert dedicated to his work. New York’s Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed The Stephen Sondheim Theatre and a new show Sondheim On Sondheim opened on Broadway. The Royal Academy of Music conferred on him an Honorary Doctorate of the University of London and volume two of his collected and annotated lyrics, Look I Made a Hat, was published. In July 2013 the Stephen Sondheim Society launched The Stephen Sondheim Society Archive.
Director and Choreographer
Joey McKneely was first introduced to West Side Story by Jerome Robbins himself, when he danced in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. He was then chosen to direct and reproduce his choreography for West Side Story at La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy, his directorial debut. Since then, his productions of West Side Story have been produced throughout the world, including two sold out runs at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London where it was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Revival.
On Broadway, Joey’s choreographic debut was Smokey Joe’s Cafe, followed by The Life, Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center, The Wild Party, The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman and the revival of West Side Story.
He has earned nominations, a Tony Award nomination, two Outer Critics Circle nominations, an NAACP Image Award, and an LA Ovation Award.
He has directed/choreographed US national tours of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Annie Get Your Gun, Crazy For You, & Smokey Joe’s Cafe, the new Shiki production of West Side Story in Tokyo, Japan, the world premieres of Love U, Teresa and Ah, Kuling! in China, Evita and Dusty in London, and his new Broadway musical, Josephine at Asolo Rep Theater.
A musician of diverse and accomplished talents, Donald Chan has worked as conductor, music director, and composer with the most esteemed names in American Music. He received his Master‘s degree from Juilliard School and completed his doctoral work at the University of Colorado. As music director, Dr. Chan‘s career has encompassed many of the most important, influential works of American Musical Theater, including West Side Story, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Pirates of Penzance, and Phantom of the Opera.
His work away from Broadway, at such prestigious organizations as the American Conservatory Theater, Cleveland Opera, Seattle Opera, and Seattle Repertory Theatre has received only the highest praise. For twelve years, maestro Chan served as music director for the historic St. Louis Municipal Opera, the largest theater in the United States. Over the span of his distinguished career, he has collaborated with such luminaries as Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Chita Rivera, Carol Lawrence, Joel Grey, Len Cariou, Sid Ceasar, Martha Graham, and a host of others.
With the San Jose Symphony, maestro Chan was the featured piano soloist for Leonard Bernstein‘s Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety. As composer, he has written for a wide variety of ensembles, has provided incidental music to the plays of Ibsen and Brecht, and contributed the score to the award-winning PBS documentary March of the Living.
Of the more than 100 musicals and operettas he has musically directed and conducted, West Side Story is the piece that he is most often called upon to direct, including special productions in 2000 and 2003 for the La Scala Opera Company in Milan, Italy. Maestro Chan has served as musical director for more than 3000 performances of West Side Story, more than any other conductor directed.
Paul Gallis created his first professional set design for the Holland Festival in 1974. For seven years, he was a member of the artistic board of Netherland’s famous Globe Theatre Group. In 1987, he co-founded the Theatregroup Amsterdam where he acted as a member of the artistic management team until 2001.
Ever since having started to work on a freelance basis in the Netherlands and abroad, Paul has created near 300 set designs for diverse productions in theatre, opera, ballet, for musicals and for around the world: the Schillertheater and the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, the Schauspielhaus Bonn, Hamburg’s Thalia Theater, the Colosseum Theatre Essen, the Apollo Theatre Stuttgart, the Opéra de Nice, Copenhagen’s Det Ny Teater, Milan’s Theatro La Scala, Het Eilandsje and Stadtheater in Antwerp and Brussels’ Opera de la Monnaie. For Broadway, Paul designed Cyrano the Musical. Other musicals include She Loves Me, Joe, the Musical, Evita and Elisabeth, which was awarded with a price for best design. Furthermore, Paul created sets for the musical Tintin based on the creations of Hergé, which was produced in French and Dutch – for this production he was nominated for Best Set Design for a Musical. His design for Anatevka/Fiddler on the Roof was awarded with the Johnny Kraaikamp Musical Award. Recent productions include the set design for La traviata at the opera Maastricht and in 2015 the set design for Madama Butterfly in Hildesheim.
He also received the prestigious Proscenium Award for outstanding services to the theatre, and for his design for the exhibition Holland Rama at The Open Air Museum in Arnhem, a „flying” capsule for an audience of 150 that visits over 20 panoramas, he was given the Thea Award, the „Oscar“ in the world of museums.
More theatrical exhibitions were created for the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum for Antiqueties in Leiden.
The Queen of the Netherlands awarded him the title Ridder in de orde van Oranje Nassau (Knight of the Order of Oranje Nassau) for his achievements in the Netherlands.
Renate Schmitzer studied costume design in Cologne. After working for several theatres and opera houses in Cologne, Dortmund and Ulm she’s working as a free lance costume designer for international productions of operas, plays and ballets.
Her international credits include Antwerp, Basel, Berlin, Bremen, Catania, Essen, Düsseldorf, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Copenhagen, Cologne, Munster, Munich, Paris, London, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Vienna, Zurich and Muscat/Oman, where she was working with famous directors such as Juri Lubimov, Peter Mussbach, Stefan Herheim, Giancarlo del Monaco, Klaus Emmerich, Dietrich W. Hilsdorf and Jean Louis Martinoty.
Renate Schmitzer has worked on operas including Der Meister und Margarita, Saul, Krieg und Frieden, La Traviata, Der Fliegende Holländer, Meistersinger, Alceste, Peer Gynt, Rusalka, Falstaff, Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor und Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Her experience of musicals and operettas includes productions such Jekyll und Hyde, Candide, My fair Lady, Victor und Victoria, Die lustige Witwe, Von morgens bis Mitternacht and Die Cardasfürstin. Latest productions were Falstaff in Cologne, Attila in Bonn and Fürst Igor in Vienna. Currently she is working on Von morgens bis Mitternacht in Linz and a production of Wagner‘s Ring at the Deutsche Oper in Düsseldorf
A trained hairdresser, Hannelore Uhrmacher completed her training as a make-up artist at the Theater an der Wien and, after working for several years in advertising, she moved on to film industry in 1975. She has collaborated, among others, with famous directors as Wim Wenders, Karin Brandauer, Axel Corti, Marvin Chomsky and Peter Patzak. She worked for several TV-productions and for the movie Klimt with John Malkovich. Additionally she also worked for Robert Dornhelm filming of La Bohème starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón.
Besides her substantial contribution to cinema and TV, Hannelore Uhrmacher has been working for numerous theater productions, including her designs for the Volkstheater in Vienna and productions such as My Fair Lady at the Deutsches Theater in Munich and Das Spiel vom lieben Augustin at the Etablissement Ronacher.
She was Make-Up/Wig Supervisor for WE WILL ROCK YOU, as well as for the critically acclaimed cult hit Rocky Horror Show and the German original production of Hairspray at Cologne’s Musical Dome. Recent productions include the German original production of BODYGUARD – DAS MUSICAL at the Musical Dome Cologne.
Original Sound Design
Rick has designed the sound for 42 London West End shows and over 60 worldwide. For the past thirteen years Rick has opened 17 productions of Chicago and his long list of numerous theater productions includes West Side Story, Rocky Horror Show, Our House, Peggy Sue Got Married, Spend Spend Spend, Crazy For You, Me & My Girl, Jesus Christ Superstar, Annie, Showboat, The Hired Man, Fame, High Society, Mack & Mabel, South Pacific , The Sound of Music, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Evita, Annie Get Your Gun, Fiddler on the Roof and Brigadoon. His other work includes designing the sound for live events as well as installed systems for new theatres, opera houses and clubs.
Rick Clarke died in spring 2016.
Tour Sound Design
Now in his 20th year working in theatre and the music industry, Matt Grounds continues to work on an eclectic range of musicals, plays, large events, and arena shows. Recent designs include: Sweet Charity (Athens), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (UK tours, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv), Fiddler on the Roof (Athens), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Athens), Steel Magnolias (UK tour).
Associate Sound Design: Grease (International & Australian tours), Chicago the Musical (China, Moscow, Korea, Madrid, Netherlands, Seoul), Dirty Dancing (International tour).
Other recent highlights include system design for Blur (UK, Europe & South America), Roger Daltrey’s Teenage Cancer Trust shows at the Royal Albert Hall and mixing John Grant & the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (Iceland Airwaves). Matt Grounds has also worked extensively with artists all over the world, including: Amy Macdonald, John Grant, Katy B, One Eskimo, Lee Ryan, Kubb, Elvis Costello, Super Furry Animals. Matt has also produced live recordings for Universal Music, Sony BMG, and iTunes.
Peter Halbsgut studied lighting design at the University of Hamburg and is counted among the best lighting designers in Germany. After touring with various rock bands, he began working at the Frankfurt Opera in 1977. During his time in Frankfurt – first as Lighting Designer and later as Lighting Director – he created designs for Der Wald (directed by Adolf Dresen), The Magic Flute (directed by Wolfgang Weber) and Troades (directed by Kurt Horres), amongst many others. He also collaborated with William Forsythe on his ballets, including Artifact, LDC and The Loss of Small Detail. Peter Halbsgut left the Frankfurt Opera to become Lighting Director at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where he worked for four years. There, he created lighting designs for Lady Macbeth von Mzensk (directed by Volker Schlöndorff), La Damnation de Faust (directed by Thomas Langhoff), Parsifal (directed by Peter Konwitschny), Anna Bolena (directed by Jonathan Miller) and the world premiere of Schlachthaus 5 (directed by Elke Gramms), to mention just a few.
Since 1997 Peter Halbsgut has worked freelance and, among others, he created the lighting designs for The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny at the Leipzig Opera and The Comedy of Errors at the Maxim Gorki Theater in Berlin. Working for some of the most renowned theaters and opera houses in the world, he designed the lighting for Tosca at the Opera de Montpellier, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tel Aviv Opera House, Venus & Adonis in Genoa at the Teatro Carlo Felice and for Porgy & Bess at the Bregenz Festival. At the Cape Town Opera, he created the designs for Tosca and Werther and currently he has collaborated with James Sutherland on his BOLÉRO-EXTASE project.
It takes a certain amount of courage to complete a degree in Business Administration and then to leave seeking a long-term adventure. The fact that Ralf Kokemüller took over the management of two hotels on the Venezuelan Isla Margarita in the Caribbean testifies not only to his curiosity to discover new things and his substantial desire for adventure; the fact that he tackled his tasks under difficult conditions over a long period demonstrates his professionalism.
The greatest adventure for Ralf Kokemüller began after his return to Germany: his interest in what brings people together in enthusiastic crowds, whether football, rock concerts or stage shows, spurred him to take the opportunity to join BB Promotion (forerunners of today’s BB Group) in 1995.
Through his close collaboration with the group founder, Michael Brenner, who appointed him as Managing Director after a year, BB Group became one of the most successful live entertainment agencies in Germany and Europe, and the two men’s business acquaintance flourished into a strong friendship which turned into an obligation for Ralf Kokemüller following Michael Brenner’s tragic death.
Passion, pragmatism and a significant portion of dry humour have proven to be a successful combination for Ralf. Responsible for scouting and booking, he has been in charge of numerous internationally acclaimed productions, such as STOMP, Marcel Marceau, Tanguera and YAMATO – The Drummers of Japan, as well as numerous other internationally-acclaimed productions.
As CEO of the BB Group, Ralf Kokemüller, upholds the BB Group’s maxim to discover new and fascinating shows and artists and to realise the high-quality shows with great passion. The productions and co-productions, whose realisation he has been able to celebrate in German-speaking countries, include spectacular show experiences, such as THRILLER – LIVE, Irish Celtic or Soy de Cuba, as well as stage performances and dance productions like Traces or the world-famous Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Added to this are musicals such as the English-language production of Disney’s The Lion King. His latest success is the German original production of BODYGUARD – DAS MUSICAL which premiered in the Musical Dome Cologne in November 2015. Beforehand he had already been involved in the original production of the musical in London’s West End by British producers Michael Harrison and David Ian. In April 2016 he recorded another big success in Paris with the Cuban musical Carmen la Cubana, co-produced with the renowned Théâtre du Châtelet.
Successes like these are not just an expression of Ralf Kokemüller’s passion for first class stage events, they are also a powerful confirmation of his understanding of live entertainment as a “people’s business”, as a business area in which – looking beyond the solid contractual and financial management – personal contact and mutual trust are absolutely essential and indispensable conditions for long-term collaboration.
This understanding of the human factor allows Ralf Kokemüller to lead an increasing number of highly competent and passionately committed staff, the most important capital of BB Group alongside a long tradition with a portfolio of high-quality productions and an extensive international network of artists and producers all over the world.
Innovative projects, such as the cuban productions Ballet Revolución or the recent adaptation of the original CATS show as a theater tent production in German language, which could extend the Group’s portfolio into new areas, all testify to Ralf’s undiminished desire to try out new things.
As Ralf Kokemüller leads the BB Group combining innovative spirit with long experience, the agency succeeds in its ambitious goal to always deliver top-quality groundbreaking live entertainment. Let us enjoy the thrill!
With music and theatre having played an active role throughout his life, Martin Flohr was already gaining experience in the world of international entertainment while studying economics at the University of Regensburg and the École Supérieure de Commerce in Marseille.
For example, he worked at Richard Frankel Productions on New York’s Broadway for their productions of STOMP and The Rocky Horror Show, and also in London’s West End for the musicals Les Misérables, Fame and Kiss Me, Kate.
In 2004, he organised the 22nd Bavarian Theatre Festival before taking over as STOMP tour manager at Glynis Henderson Productions. There, he was responsible for tours in Europe and the Asia-Pacificregion.
Since 2006, he has been part of the BB Promotion GmbH team, where, as Head of Project and Booking, he has overseen both the development and tours of the company’s own productions of West Side Story and Richard O‘Brien‘s Rocky Horror Show as well as international guest performances of CATS, Evita, Porgy & Bess, Disney Beauty and the Beast, Tanguera and many others.
As a result of his area of activity becoming more creative, he took over as Artistic Director in 2014, becoming responsible for the BB Group’s own productions and taking charge of Richard O‘Brien‘s Rocky Horror Show and We Will Rock You, among others. In addition, he has assumed responsibility for the German production of BODYGUARD – DAS MUSICAL, which premiered in Cologne in November 2015.
Founder, Producer and Impresario (†)
One singular sensation
Every little step he takes.
One thrilling combination
Every move that he makes.
One smile and suddenly nobody else will do;
You know you’ll never be lonely with you know who.
“One” from the musical A Chorus Line
As in the plot of the world-famous revue production of the Broadway classic A Chorus Line, which Michael Brenner brought to the German stage in an award-winning original production for the first time in 1987 – the year that BB Promotion was founded – in a similar manner he made his first steps with the most celebrated dancer of the twentieth century, Rudolf Nureyev, and the core of the ballet elite, and in the same twinkle of the eye and a generously charming nonchalance, presenting three open-air concerts with the magnificent rock icon Tina Turner.
By no means a newcomer to the entertainment industry, this event was the only accolade missing in his success record. This success was only outweighed by the personal triumph of bringing an unforgettable experience to an enthusiastic audience every evening. The path was predetermined: to achieve in an unprecedented way high artistic quality combined with financial success, a solid foundation for the BB Group, an agency operating in the international top league.
His pure passion for emotive, immersive entertainment theatre, coupled with an unerring instinct for what really works on stage as well as his open admiration for fascinating artists fuelled the tireless engine that motivated Michael Brenner to take risks.
In order to establish upscale live entertainment at an appropriate level for the longer run, it was also necessary that adequate theatres and venues were available. Already in 1988, Michael Brenner won acclaim hosting the 1st Summer Festival in Cologne with the European premiere of the celebrated US production of Evita at the newly built Philharmonic Theatre. The festival, which always boasts highlights from the world dance and show business scene, evolved far beyond the region and quickly became a magnet for audiences, celebrating its 25th jubilee in 2012.
The fact that across the country the golden gates of the most prestigious theatres, opera, concert and festival halls crowned by jewels such as the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Dresdner Semperoper or the Hamburg Staatsoper were now open for extended guest productions by BB Promotion is ultimately due to Michael Brenner’s long-cherished dream and his personal merit, merging successfully the demands of high culture with those of sophisticated live entertainment, thus reconciling two phenomenally genres. With this the entire industry was given the inexorable momentum to expand further in this market which opened up brand new dimensions.
Michael Brenner was first and foremost a visionary entrepreneur. His unfaltering credo was to offer a spectrum of all stripes, trendy but never banal and never picking material up arbitrarily. The same quality criteria that he had set for his precious team as benchmarks for the success of an ever-growing and expanding business applied also to him personally. Considering his vast and diverse portfolio and each and every one of his productions they were all a unique artistic achievement, whether new productions, premiering on a German stage or an international hit at some of the most prestigious theatres in capitals such as London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Tokyo or Sydney, whether newly discovered or brand new productions developed from scratch.
A top producer of successful long-standing musicals such as Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Chicago and We Will Rock You, Michael Brenner was at the same time inspired by an irrepressible joy at discovering innovative show formats and led him for instance to market an exceptional performance by STOMP or to establish and produce The Harlem Gospel Singers. Thus he delighted audiences with numerous shows from all cultures around the world, each unique in itself, under the seal of BB Promotion.
The inspiration and major source of Michael Brenner’s creative enthusiasm were his numerous encounters with wonderful artists such as, to name but a few, Gospel star Queen Esther Marrow, incomparable Marcel Marceau, ballet icons Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev, the rock giants QUEEN with Brian May and Roger Taylor or the charismatic Judith Jamison and, not least, his extraordinary friendship with his mentor Paul Szilard, the great dance producer and impresario. Kindred spirit, as Michael Brenner shared his enthusiasm for the universal language of dance and the ballet world, Paul Szilard played a decisive role in Brenner’s continuous audacity to bring celebrated dance companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater or the Martha Graham Dance Company to Europe and to impress a wider audience. And there are more than a few dance companies of international standing that boast to have been under the aegis of Michael Brenner, proud to have entrusted him as their impresario.
That artistic intuition, technical know-how and the courage to invest in international touring business produces diamonds can be gauged by first-class productions such as Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show or and the award-winning West Side Story with performances in the best theatres in Europe, Asia and Australia and sold-out shows in Israel: expensive, electrifying productions put together by carefully selected creative teams guarantee the wholehearted approval of critics and audiences alike. This is proved by guest appearances, for example, at London’s Sadler’s Wells or at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris where West Side Story in the original choreography of Jerome Robbins reached the top against all competition, including the highly subsidized musical theatre or the market-leading musical entertainment.
As a leading promoter of major concerts in South-West Germany, Michael Brenner’s agency presented among others Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, Sting, The Rolling Stones and many more.
Under Michael Brenner’s leadership, BB Group, with over 100 staff and its headquarters in Mannheim, became one of the leading companies in the high-quality live entertainment sector. This is the life work of a visionary.
Kevin Hack can look back on a substantial repertoire of roles: He has played Gabe in Next to Normal and Captain Billy Pierce in The Civil War, which brought him a nomination for “Best Lead Actor”. He was nominated for a NJACT Award for his portrayal of Enjolras in Les Misèrables and has participated in The Broadway Concert: Live, where he shared a stage with Broadway superstars such as Natalie Toro, James Barbour, Ron Sharpe and Barbara Russell.
Jenna Burns comes from the region around Kansas City and now lives in New York. She is delighted to return to the world of West Side Story after having recently played the role of Maria at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Further professional engagements include Cinderella in Into the Woods, Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Vivienne Kensington in Legally Blonde the Musical.
Keely Beirne studied at the Pennsylvania State University and has acted in numerous touring productions, among them After Midnight, Memphis and Smokey Joe’s Cafe, where she performed the role of Brenda. Further professional engagements include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 42nd Street, Mary Poppins and Phantom of the Opera at the Pittsburgh CLO, and Hairspray at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.
Lance Hayes originally hails from Texas, but grew up all over the United States. He just spent this past year traveling the states, touring with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. He has also performed at many regional houses, in shows that include; Disney’s Mary Poppins, The Producers and Disney’s The Little Mermaid at Olney Theatre Center, Carrie: The Musical at Studio Theatre in D.C., and the pre-workshop run of Dames at Sea with Randy Skinner at Infinity Theatre Company. He also had the privilege to dance with West Side Story legends Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno at The John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C..
Quinones-Villanueva has already performed in WEST SIDE STORY on Broadway and during its first US tour. His large repertoire includes parts in Zorba, Man of La Mancha, Billy Elliot and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. He has performed in renowned opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Opera and the Ópera de Puerto Rico. He has worked with dance companies including the Ballet Concierto, Ballet Juvenil Puertorriqueño, Ballet San Juan, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Ballet Teatro Nacional de Puerto Rico and Staten Island Ballet. Waldemar has shared a stage with famous artists such as Marc Anthony, Olga Tañon, La India and Celia Cruz, and has performed in front of Pope John Paul II. His own choreographies have been shown at Objetivo Fama, the Jodi McQueen Project and Nuestra Gente. His work in front of the camera includes Law & Order: Criminal Intent, the Billboard Music Awards and the Grammy Awards.
Dennis Holland was born in Washington DC, where he attended the Catholic University. Already during his studies he took part in a tour around Germany. After moving to New York he performed in Music Man with Dick Van Dyke, both on Broadway and its US tour, and was then offered the role of Detective John Wolfe in the TV series One Life to Live. Following this, he performed in the touring production of Peter Pan, in numerous Off-Broadway productions and in theatres such as The Guthrie, Goodspeed, Papermill, Folger Shakespeare and Arden. His performance in Parade was nominated for a Barrymore Award and his portrayal of William Maldon in Rope won him the award for “Best Actor” at the Venus Adonis Festival in New York. His film career includes parts in films such as Concurrence, which was shown at the 2016 Film Festival in Cannes, Off the Rails, Stardom, Slapdash Vendetta and Lions. Having recorded more than 200 books, Dennis is a successful audio book reader who won the AudioFile Earphone Award in 2012.
Michael Scott is a seasoned Broadway performer whose work includes parts in 110 in the Shade, Showboat, Pirates of Penzance, Happy New Year and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He performed in Off-Broadway productions such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Fantasticks, Dadsworth, Abby’s Song, China Doll and The Drunkard. He toured the US with Guys and Dolls, Showboat and Camelot, and also played parts in Plaza Suite, Deathtrap, Stormy Weather, Healing Wars, 1776, Chicago, La Cage aux Folles, 42nd Street, Little Shop of Horrors, Buddy and Madama Butterfly. Michael’s work in front of the camera includes One Life to Live, Stella and Proud.
Kenn Christopher graduated from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and completed a Master’s degree in acting at the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory. He was part of the first US tour of Victor/Victoria with Toni Tenille and toured internationally with Enter the Guardsman. Following this he played Jean Valjean in Les Misèrables and ensemble parts in Catch Me If You Can, Next to Normal and Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby. Only recently he performed the dual role of Officer Krupke/Doc in the Asolo Repertory Theater’s production of West Side Story.
Glad Hand, Jets | Resident Director
Eric Rolland attended Temple University and studied acting and directing at the Atlantic Acting School in New York City and at various studios. His most recent professional theatre engagements include the title role in Becket, Dorian in Opus, Serge in Art, Robert in Proof and Glad Hand on the European tour of West Side Story in 2013/14. He appeared on TV screens all over the world as J.P. Morgan in the Emmy-Award-winning show The Men Who Built America, as Thomas Edison in Genius: Edison vs Tesla, as Thomas C. Durant in Robert Redford’s The West and as Dan Montecalvo in The Perfect Murder. Other film work includes I Origins, 19 Steps and the award-winning production Alibi. Eric is working as acting teacher and has directed plays such as Glengarry Glen Ross and Popular Monsters.
Joe Bigelow is from Welch, Minnesota, and graduated from the Actor Training Program at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater with a Bachelor of Arts. In the USA he has performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, My Fair Lady, Roman Holiday and H.M.S. Pinafore at the Guthrie Theater, in Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story at the Luna Stage, in Too Marvellous for Words: A Salute to Johnny Mercer at the Florida Repertory Theater, in All Shook Up at the Hope Summer Repertory Theatre and in Arsenic and Old Lace at the Black Dirt Theater.
Ryan P. Cyr is currently working towards his degree in dance at Point Park University. During his studies he has already appeared in choreographies by Jim Cooney, Doug Bentz, Septime Webre and Mathew Powell. He was Dance Captain on the productions of Singin’ in the Rain and Chicago at the Park Playhouse and has appeared in the Broadway-Method-Academy production of Carousel and as Berger in Hair.
Baby John, Jets
Daniel Russell played the lead in Billy Elliot The Musical on a US tour and in Melbourne in Australia. He has already performed in West Side Story at the Asolo Repertory Theater and has appeared in Sydney Dance Company’s Le Grand Tango at the Sydney Opera House. In 2014 he received the McDonald’s Ballet Scholarship. His work in front of the camera includes The Price is Right, Sonoran Living and New Day, as well as music videos such as Tori Kelly’s Should’ve Been Us and Jetty Road’s World Keeps Turning.
Snow Boy, Jets
Logan Scott Mitchell trained at Virginia School of the Arts, Arizona School for the Arts, and at Ballet Arizona. In the USA he has performed in Bye Bye Birdie at the Goodspeed Opera House, White Christmas at the Arvada Center, West Side Story at the Palace Theater, All Shook Up at Ivorytown Playhouse, La Cage aux Folles with the Lake Dillon Theatre Company, My Fair Lady with the Phoenix Symphony and Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre.
Big Deal, Jets
Andy Frank is from St. Louis, Missouri. Among his most important roles are the parts of Rolf in The Sound of Music and Gideon in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Other professional theatre engagements include Crazy for You at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Cinderella at the Gateway Theatre, Spamalot at Geva Theatre and 42nd Street at Paramount Theatre.
Kyle Weiler has recently graduated from the Juilliard School, where he performed choreographies by José Limon, Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Kyle Abraham, Camille A. Brown and Brian Brooks. His professional engagements include Dame Yankees at the Ordway Theatre and Mamma Mia and Dear Edwina at Theatre Aspen. Kyle has participated in the Arts Powers Arusha, a cultural exchange project in Arusha, Tanzania. Back in Minnesota he has created his own choreographic works for local dance groups and the Hennepin Theatre Trust. He also acted as assistant director and choreographer on a production for the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre. His choreography was shown nationally, among other places at the NYC Jazz Choreography Project. Kyle is a founding member of the Arts Fusion Initiative.
Lauren Guerra is coming from Texas. After training at The Ailey School in Manhattan Lauren has been able to work with artists such as Todrick Hall and Carrie Underwood. Lauren’s professional engagements include the piece In the Heights (ensemble), industrials for YouTube and Southwest Airlines, and dance festivals around NYC.
Jill Gittleman is a graduate of Broadway Dance Center’s Summer Professional Semesters. She has performed in renowned theatres and concert halls such as the Symphony Space in New York City and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, where she danced in choreographies by Richard Hinds, Cornelius Carter and Geoffrey Doig-Marx. She has also already performed the parts of Velma/Teresita in the Asolo Repertory Theater’s production of West Side Story.
Carleyn Ingold is working towards her bachelor degree in jazz dance at Point Park University, where she has performed in a variety of student productions. On top of this she has been cast in several professional productions, performing ensemble parts in The Fantasticks and Little Shop of Horrors at the Cresson Lake Playhouse and in CATS, Oklahoma and White Christmas at the Historic Mishler Theatre.
Veronica Fiaoni is a Canadian native who is now based out of New York City. She recently received her BFA in Musical Theatre from Montclair State University, where she was last seen as an Usherette/Dance Captain in their production of The Producers. Other credits include Theatre Aspen and The Mac-Haydn Theatre: She would like to thank her mom and dad for all of their endless love and support!
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Natalia Sanchez studied dance at the New World School of the Arts, where she trained in Limón, Graham, Cunningham, Horton techniques and also classical ballet. During her time there she was funded by a scholarship from the Young Arts Foundation. She then attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she graduated with a bachelor in dance and business.
Julio Catano-Yee received his bachelor degree in dance from the Ailey/Fordham Program and studied singing at CAP 21 with Dr. Pam Philips and Michael Hicks. He has performed with the Ballet Hispanico, MOMIX, San Diego Opera and the City Ballet of San Diego, and at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. He toured internationally with the musical The Addams Family, performed at the Musical Theatre West and Lambs Players Theatre, and played ensemble parts in shows including Les Misèrables, Little Mermaid and Into the Woods.
Cameron Mitchell Jackson is currently training at Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has already performed with companies such as RWS & Associates and Hershey Entertainment. His most recent professional engagements include Footloose, The Drowsy Chaperone and Oklahoma.
Georgios Maniadis Metaxas is from Thessaloniki in Greece. He began his dance training aged 14 years old under the supervision of Aspa Foutsi. During high school he attended intensive summer courses at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Orlando Ballet and Brenau University, as well as performing in classical and contemporary works in the US and in Greece. He has recently graduated with distinction from New York University, specialising in dance and classics/art history. He has performed in pieces by choreographers such as James Martin, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Seán Curran, Vita Osojnik, Gregory Solbashian and José Limon, and has also worked as a dance instructor and choreographer.
Nahum McLean is from Manchester in Great Britain. He started his dance training with a scholarship to the Hammond School under Sarah Durrant and went on to study at the ProDanza Ballet Academy in Cuba. He then went to the Ailey School and in 2015 received the Alvin Ailey Scholarship. A further scholarship enabled Nahum to take part in the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive. He has already performed with the George Faison Universal Dance, Ballet Laura Alonso, Alma Dance Company, The Broadway Dance Lab, BlackBoysDanceToo, Harambee Dance Company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Other professional engagements include The Wiz 40th Anniversary Concert.
Nibbles, Sharks Ensemble
Jonathan Quigley graduated at Wagner College, New York with a BA in Theatre Performance. Jonathan has already performed a varied repertoire of roles while studying, including parts in A Chorus Line, CATS, Hello Dolly and Guys and Dolls. Further professional engagements include Seussical at Westchester Broadway Theatre, Strange Vibrations at Manhattan Repertory Theatre, Mary Poppins at Dutch Apple Theatre and Big: The Musical at Yorktown Stage, where he also worked for as Dance Captain.
A.J. Lockhart calls both Chicago and Atlanta home. In the USA he has played the parts of Cameron in the touring production of Bring it On! The Musical and Wailin’ Joe in Memphis. He has also performed in regional productions of Dreamgirls, Chicago and Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Natalie Ballenger recently gave her debut in the double bill Aleko/Pagliacci at Lincoln Center. She has already performed solo roles at Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Room and at the Symphony Space, as well as participating in the Victor Herbert Renaissance Project. Lead roles include Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls, Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Josephine in H.M.S Pinafore. Natalie Ballenger is a laureate of the Lotte Lenya Competition.
Kelsey Elisabeth Holley is from Durham, North Carolina, where she began her training in West African and modern dance at local dance studios and the American Dance Festival. After graduating from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, her first professional engagement as a dancer and aerialist took her on a cruise with the Royal Caribbean Line. While studying she had already worked with renowned choreographers and dancers such as Kim Bears Bailey of Philadanco, Eiko Otake of Eiko+Koma and Matthew Neenan of Ballet X. She took part in master classes at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Alonzo King Lines Ballets, and in the SpellBound Contemporary Ballet’s International Contemporary Workshop in Rome.
Hailing from the Hawaiian island Oahu, Kayla Moniz began her dance training aged three years old at the Ballet Hawaii. She continued at the Applause Performance Academy, where she discovered her love for musical theatre. Her most important roles include Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Liesl in The Sound of Music, Rose in Alice in Wonderland, Mayzie in Seussical and ensemble parts in Peter Pan. In 2015 she moved to New York, where she attended the renowned Professional Semester at the Broadway Dance Center. Only recently she played Annie/Go-toHell Kitty in Chicago at the Highlands Playhouse in New York.
Lauren Soto is currently studying commercial dance at the Pace University in New York City.
Most recently, Lauren performed with RWS and Associates at the Hersheypark Summer Shows. Her most important credits include the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker and ABC’s The View where she was seen dancing with The Crystals.
Nikki Croker, originally from Melbourne, Australia trained at the ‘Australian Ballet School’ and Victorian College of the Arts Secondly School. Once moving to New York participated in ‘Broadway Dance Center’s’ renowned Professional Semester. Nikki has performed for many events, concerts and music videos across the globe and most recently in New York. She performed in West Side Story at STONC, was part of the original cast of Mamma Mia at RCCL and performed as aerialist on RCCL, Disney Cruise Line, Spirit Productions and ALMA Dance Company.
Nick Raynor graduated at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University with a B.M. in voice performance, and minor in dance. He has toured the US with A Chorus Line (Mark), Guys and Dolls (Scranton Slim, u/s Nicely Nicely) and The Producers (Ensemble, u/s Carmen Ghia/Lead Tenor). He was part of Beauty and the Beast at Ogunquit Playhouse and Chicago at Ivoryton Playhouse. For the part of the Leading Player in Pippin he was nominated for the Wilde Award.
Kelly Methven is originally from Atlanta, Georgia and a graduate of the Unviersity of Oklahoma’s Weitzenhoffer School for Musical Theatre. His previous credits are Rock of Ages (ensemble, Drew U/s, Stacee u/s) in Las Vegas, and the John W. Engeman Theatre, where he played Big Deal and Understudy Tony in West Side Story.