Greg Zerkle Director

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Welcome

About Greg

Greg received much of his training as a director “On-the-Job.” During his 40 year career as a professional actor on Broadway, National Tour and in Regional Theatres he’s been fortunate to work with some of the very best directors in the business including: Hal Prince, Susan Stroman, Joe Mantello, Susan H. Schulman, Michael Grandage, Les Waters, David Lee, Sheldon Epps, James Lapine, Tommy Tune, John Caird, Morris Panych, John Jory, A. J. Antoon, John Bowab, Ray Cooney, Jeff Calhoun, Andrew Barnicle, Christopher Renshaw, Jason Alexander, Mike Ockrent and Garry Marshall.


He directed THE SECRET GARDEN for the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities and Bakersfield Music Theatre, the Orange County regional premiere of URINETOWN for the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse, which won the OC Weekly award for Best Musical and the Ventura County premiere for Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi Valley as well as their production of the Menken/Ahrens musical, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. He conceived and directed the benefit PHANTOM VOICES for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA national tour, created a one-whale show, THE WHALE AND JONAH, staged ALL IN THE TIMING for The Space Theatre Company and directed the celebrity concert CATS FOR CATS at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown LA, featuring Fred Willard as T. S. Eliot, in a benefit for Kitty Bungalow, a Los Angeles animal rescue center.


His production of GOD’S FAVORITE, staged as a live television taping, transported Actor’s Co-Op audiences back to a 1974 TV studio complete with vintage commercials. He directed GOOD IDEAS, BAD INTENTIONS at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, LEND ME A TENOR at the Morgan-Wixson in Santa Monica, and his BAREFOOT IN THE PARK for the Covina Center for the Performing Arts was the recipient of five StageSceneLA awards including Outstanding Achievement by a Director. 


Greg has shepherded several works in development, notably THE GLORY ROAD, featuring the songs of rockabilly pioneer Sister Fern Jones - whose music was featured in the Johnny Cash biopic WALK THE LINE with Joaquin Phoenix and COLLEGE RHYTHM, with songs by the 1930’s tin-pan alley team of Gordon & Revel.


He’s an alum of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, a member of the Lincoln Center Theatre Director's Lab West, taught undergraduate acting at the University of Washington, and served on the faculty of the Los Angeles branch of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy under Michael Sartor.

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Live Theatre is my passion,

so I have made it my profession.

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Show Gallery & Press



Tony winner is flush with talent

TOM TITUS 


The Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse has kicked off the new community theater season in rip-roaring style, mounting a terrific production of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical "Urinetown."


In fact, the playhouse's production compares favorably with the touring professional version, which played at the Orange County Performing Arts Center last season.


Packing such a sprawling show into the playhouse's limited dimensions is a Herculean task, but director Greg Zerkle -- himself a Broadway veteran -- and his talented and energetic cast have accomplished this mission splendidly.


"Urinetown" is not your typical evening of musical theater -- even the show's characters poke fun at the title. And when conductor-keyboardist Izumi Kashiwagi is led to her position in handcuffs at the start of the show, you realize you're in for something completely different…


The show focuses on a futuristic period following a lengthy drought, in which water is at a premium and relieving oneself comes at a price, with public "amenities" controlled by a greedy corporation, Urine Good Company. When the corporate vultures boost the tab, a miniature "Les Miserables" ensues, complete with a flag-waving peasant…


Officer Lockstock -- teamed with another cop called Officer Barrel (Cathy Petz) -- is the link between the show and the audience, doling out exposition to a teddy bear-tugging urchin, Little Sally. The latter is a standout performance by Zavala, an Estancia High School graduate following in the footsteps of another, Spencer Kayden, who created this role on Broadway…


The show's funniest musical moments come as [Cladwell] advises his daughter, "Don't Be the Bunny," as the cast congregates for a bunny hop; and the rebels' "Snuff That Girl," as bound-and-gagged hostage White joins in with her limited mobility, and the cast conducts a "Cool"-type riff reminiscent of "West Side Story."


"Urinetown" arrives just as the playhouse has eliminated Thursday evening performances. When word of this one gets around, they just might have to reinstate them.



URINE LUCK

Costa Mesa’s Urinetown is far better than last year’s version

By JOEL BEERS


About a year ago, I stared at Urinetown, the latest mega-hyped Broadway musical sensation, and yearned to set off a weapon of moderately mass destruction. The bombastic production at the cavernous Orange County Performing Arts Center felt like Rent all over again: brain-dead, insipid, and far too in love with its own cleverness and self-importance.


After seeing a vastly stripped-down and intimate production at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse, I need to revise my opinion. Urinetown isn’t a good musical: it’s a phenomenal one. It comes close to being the Great American Musical because it’s the first that seems to really get it. It gets the limitations and soaring possibilities of this most muddle-headed of mediums; it also gets that the rhetoric from the left and the right about the way Americans live is equally hypocritical and self-righteous. It gets that, based on our collective track record of embracing an unsustainable lifestyle, we’re all fucked.


Urinetown is both goof and paean to the American musical and American music. Rodgers and Hammerstein corn-fed naiveté, Bob Fosse jazz palms, church hymnals, Southern gospel, mournful Irish ballads, beatnik jazz, syrupy odes, cheesy musical anthems, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof. Name your musical genre or cliché, and chances are Urinetown riffs on it.


…The beauty of this production, frenetically directed by Greg Zerkle with ample assistance from Lisa LeMay’s musical direction, Nicki Peek’s exuberant choreography and a great ensemble, is that it gets Urinetown. The intimacy and immediacy of this production show that Urinetown isn’t a satire of musical theater but of power and corruption. That truth shines far more brightly in this small Costa Mesa theater than it did in that leviathan of glass and steel a few miles to its north. The reason could be that Urinetown was birthed by Chicago storefront-theater types in a New York garage. When Broadway plunged its greedy hooks into the show, it may have amped up the wattage and spectacle, but at the cost of the play’s soul. With this production, Urinetown smells like the soiled rose it apparently always was.




THIS 'SECRET GARDEN' IS BEAUTIFUL 

F. KATHLEEN FOLEY 


…A top-notch producing organization, the Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities again sets a high standard of professionalism in this production.


Director Greg Zerkle and his team, including choreographer Kay Cole and Musical Director Jeff Rizzo, hewout a production that is impressive on almost every level, with a finely houned sound, cameo-perfect staging and solid acting.


…of course, the mystical forces of nature and the verdancy of a Yorkshire spring eventually restore all to full health, hope and vigor. The reunion of Colin and his tormented father in the secret garden, at plays end, is genuinely moving.

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STEVEN STANLEY 


AN ABSOLUTE JOY.

From the moment I took my seat inside the Covina Center (one of the plushest and most state-of-the-art 99-Seat theatres in LA County), I knew I was in for a treat. Angelo Collado and Jerry Marble’s set is a textbook perfect envisioning of the play’s 1962 nth floor New York City walk-up apartment, complete with broken skylight. Most exciting of all was the realization that Collado and Marble’s set its the top part of the five-flight climb in full audience view, thus allowing the audience to see the parade of gasping-for-breath visitors, not just as they enter the apartment, but even before they ring the doorbell. This ingenious design doubles the laughs of each entrance, and maybe even triples them when only the top of the gray haired delivery man’s head… pops up to stage level, his trembling arms holding up the packages he’s brought with him, unable to ascend a step further.

What better way is there to spend an evening than with an oldie-but-goodie given fresh new life by an absolutely terrific cast under the direction of a comedy master like Greg Zerkle? 

Jessica Marie Smith brings pertness galore to Corie, and as Paul, the lanky blond 6’4” Mark Schroeder proves himself a young Dick Van Dyke. Besides offering its young leads a pair of dream roles, the play is a character actor’s dream come true, Simon having written three of the best roles ever for 50something performers. Harry Pepper, telephone repairman, is masterfully brought to life by Sean Everett. As Victor Velasco, Nick Santa Maria milks every laugh imaginable from Simon’s jokes. Beth Robbins underplays Ethel to perfection.

Zerkle’s direction is so imaginative and inventive that it makes me wish to see more of his work as a director. (Zerkle spends much of his time acting under the name of Gregory North, recently as Emile De Becque in South Pacific.) Many of the laughs in this production had me wondering, “Was that Simon’s idea or Zerkle’s?” and I think the answer was often the latter.

One of Zerkle’s great inspirations is to turn the interval between the original play’s first and second acts (combined here into a single) into a scene-change “ballet,” as the actors methodically transform the Bratter’s bare ochre-painted apartment into a veritable feast for the eye, with curtains, chairs, wall-hangings, etc. in Technicolor blues and reds. The scene change gets arguably the longest, loudest applause of the evening, and there are many long, loud bursts of applause...


A production as fine as this one makes it clear why BAREFOOT IN THE PARK is no creaky relic, but a classic one can revisit again and again. I’m pleased as punch to have had the chance to do just that.

Charming ‘Barefoot’ at Covina center has an easy flow

Frances Baum Nicholson


Now... the human comedy of the piece can shine through again.

At Covina Center for the Performing Arts, that’s just what happens:

a fine production lovingly set in just the right time period concentrates on character — always a Simon strong suit — allowing the comedy to flow without being forced. The results are charming, funny and gently touching.


Director Greg Zerkle has captured the right feel for the piece, from its genuine humanity to the period style.


The use of Swingle Singers music as background gently places the work in its own era. The costuming and set decoration... evoke the general time period well.  The... set design even allows all the staircase humor to be funnier than in most productions, as one gets to see the last leg of the five flights of stairs.


The ensemble assembled at CCPA shines brightly, aiding the comedy by simply playing the characters as genuinely as possible.


In short, and especially considering the production budget of a theater the size of CCPA, this “Barefoot in the Park” is one worth going out of your way to see.  Gently funny, it manages to speak universal truths about the nature of new relationships...

TheGuide
What a funny show in a great theatre!          4 Stars

I didn’t know what to expect, but walking into that theatre really got me excited.
I’ve never been to a nicer theatre outside Westwood, Downtown LA or Pasadena.
This is a first class venue. And the show was really funny.
I’ve seen Barefoot in the Park over the years, and adding the stairs to this production was really brilliant.
It’s funny and touching from the very first entrance to the final kiss. I can really recommend it.

STEPHEN LEE MORRIS


“God's Favorite” is based on the book of Job — the forlorn protagonist is named Joe Benjamin — which is really going back some. Simon sets it in 1974, an era that director Greg Zerkle drives home in a blend of nostalgia, whimsy and vintage video broadcasts of commercials (for RC Cola, "light on the gas," and for Bic Bananas, a lightweight pen that veterans of the disco era may recall with affection). The videos are more than justified by the comedy's setting: "a soundstage of the Co-Operative Broadcasting System." so the play itself attempts to transform a theater audience into a TV studio audience.This may sound anti-theatrical, but it's actually just the opposite. When some of the actors ham it up with oversized one-liners accompanied by mugging expressions as though waiting for a laugh track, the moment becomes infused by a commentary on the sitcom form.

STEVEN STANLEY


“God’s Favorite”, a lost 1974 gem by the master of the one-liner, has been rescued from relative obscurity by Actors Co-Op, and guess what? It’s every bit as hilarious as the better known Simon comedy classics…


Under Greg Zerkle’s spot-on direction, and featuring a bunch of bravura performances, god’s favorite sparks laughs aplenty, a tear or two, and ample food for discussion…


Zerkle and his cast bring Joe and the madcap Benjamins to outrageously funny life from the play’s uproarious first scene on.  As funny as god’s favorite reads on the printed page, it’s when seeing it performed by a group of actors as sensational as the ones assembled at the co-op that Simon’s comedy truly takes flight.


Gustafson does tour de force work as Joe, a role which demands comedic gifts, dramatic chops, and oodles of stamina, qualities which the frequent co-op star possesses in abundance. Alternately hilarious, courageous, harried, tragic, and heroic, Gustafson is out-and-out brilliant here.


Baldwin’s wacky manic whirlwind of a performance as Sydney is another one to cheer, as is Hayes’ outrageously funny and utterly endearing work as rose, a performance that transcends caricature, with Hayes’ accent alone (classic Noo Yawk with a speech impediment) nearly worth the price of admission.  Guilfoyle gives David sweetness, goofiness, and considerable depth in addition to the requisite inebriation.  “Twins” Dlugolecki and Kohl do dimwitted to perfection, and in perfect sync. Walker and Harvey are  wonderful as Mady and Morris, the play’s two wisest characters, Mady’s West Indian accent a nice added plus.


The very broad, farcical dimensions director Zerkle has his cast give to their roles are absolutely right for god’s favorite.

MELINDA SCHUPMANN 


Director Greg Zerkle integrates his supporting actors well… the pairing of Gustafson and Baldwin is inspired, as both are instinctive comic actors. Baldwin mines every nuance of comedy in his goofy characterization, enlivening the show as he comes and goes throughout the play. Act 2 gives Gustafson his moments to shine, as Joe is beset with torment from every quarter. His house and business have burned down, his money is gone, and he suffers physical agonies that are absurdly hilarious.

5 STARS

“God's Favorite” at The Crossley Theatre - Actor's Co-Op Production - Was amazing!!

This production, the acting, the set, the production, everything was so far above and beyond any other theatre being done out there.The cast could not have been better. They were more like a Broadway cast than any 99 seat theatre cast i have ever seen. Loved the vintage 1970's commercials shown on T.V. monitors of products mentioned in the play.. We really enjoyed that touch, since we remember those commercials! It was like a fun, added bonus to the production... At the beginning and during intermission… a really nice touch.

Don't miss this one.We laughed so hard we could barely catch our breath. Another reminder of Neil Simon's genius, one that is not often done, but it is wonderful and the best choice for this theatre that selects material very carefully - things that are entertaining but also deliver some kind of profound message. The message you can take or leave - it is in the play, as the play is based on the story of Job - a modern day Job - but bottom line is you will have a the best time. They picked a true winner with this one, and picked the best cast that any production of this play could ever have! I cannot say enough about this cast, but you must go and see them for yourself.

I guarantee, you will have a wonderful experience.

“I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry - just making them feel - is paramount to me.”

 Stephen Sondheim

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Show Clips

URINETOWN WELCOME

URINETOWN THE MUSICAL

ACTORS’ REPERTORY THEATRE OF SIMI 


OFFICER LOCKSTOCK: ED MCBRIDE

LITTLE SALLY: JESSICA STONE

WITH -

JOSH ZIEL, SAMANTHA MILLS, FARLEY CADENA, MICHAEL GERMAN, DAVID DANIELS, DEREK HOUCK, DYNELL LEIGH, ELIZABETH STOCKTON, PAUL BARTLETT, 

JENNIFER FENTON, JOHN SARKELA, JOHN DOWNEY III,

KAILEY SHORT, ALEX OCAMPO, & JIM MCNICHOLS

DON’T BE THE BUNNY

URINETOWN THE MUSICAL

ACTORS’ REPERTORY THEATRE OF SIMI

CLADWELL: MICHAEL GERMAN

HOPE: SAMANTHA MILLS

WITH -

FARLEY CADENA, ED MCBRIDE, DAVID DANIELS, DEREK HOUCK, ELIZABETH STOCKTON, JENNIFER FENTON, JOHN SARKELA, JOHN DOWNEY III, KAILEY SHORT,

PAUL BARTLETT, ALEX OCAMPO, & JIM MCNICHOLS

COP SONG

URINETOWN THE MUSICAL

ACTORS’ REPERTORY THEATRE OF SIMI 


OFFICER LOCKSTOCK: ED MCBRIDE

OFFICER BARREL: DAVID DANIELS

WITH -

DEREK HOUCK, DYNELL LEIGH, ELIZABETH STOCKTON,

JENNIFER FENTON, JOHN SARKELA, JOHN DOWNEY III,

KAILEY SHORT, ALEX OCAMPO, & JIM MCNICHOLS

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

URINETOWN THE MUSICAL

ACTORS’ REPERTORY THEATRE OF SIMI

BOBBY STRONG: JOSH ZIEL

HOPE: SAMANTHA MILLS

OFFICER LOCKSTOCK: ED MCBRIDE

LITTLE SALLY: JESSICA STONE

Résumé

“The director, ultimately, is the guy in front of whom the buck stops. So, he has to have the courage to prevail. But, he has got to have a huge amount of respect for his collaborators.”

Harold Prince

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Todd M. Eskin

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Copyright © 2020  Greg Zerkle