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BUZZED creator CJ Critt has decades of experience in multiple venues from New York City to Texas as a writer, actor, producer and now creator of a brand new musical getting lots of buzz! She plans to keep the buzz going about the musical throughout 2024.

What the Buzz? New Year, New Play

Veteran Theater Actor and Writer C J Critt has a new SHOW to Produce: BUZZED!

 

What do Don Rickles, Mathew Broderick, and Woody Allen have in common?

All had the opportunity to work with CJ Critt.

She was hand-picked by Woody Allen for a close-up scene in Start Dust Memories, a 1980’s hit. “I was on a gurney next to him, Tony Roberts and the female lead while he, like a mad scientist, created the perfect woman.”

Now living in Oak Cliff, CJ is a respected theater artist in both New York City and Texas, but she came a long way from home. Carol Jane Crittenden was born in Portland, Oregon, in a hospital while her father was out fishing. After her birth he declared, “We caught a big one!”

She was raised in Lake Oswego, Oregon, “A beautiful, woodsy suburb of Portland,” according to CJ. The baby of her family, she has an older sister and brother who live in the Pacific Northwest. Her sister retired from running a bookstore, Powells, in Portland, and her big brother, fromselling lumber where he lives in “the ultimate man-cave log home,” outside of Seattle.  Her eldest brother is retired fromthe Marine Corp. and resides in Washington, DC. 

No one in the family is a professional creative like CJ, so she’s had no breaks, CJ says, “There’s was no ‘Uncle Lou in the Business’ to help me.”

But she’s used to making her own way.

Now she’s preparing to launch her original musical comedy, a wild satiretitled “Buzzed,” one of many completed shows and the culmination of her many decades in the profession as an actor, singer, writer and occasionally a stand-up comic. She admits she wasn’t great at the latter. “I will always remember someone yelling from a crowd in downtown Los Angeles, ‘Too intelligent!  Tell a joke!’ And it was terrifying. If not ‘killing it,’ as the saying goes, one could suffer beaucoup flop sweat!”

GROWING UP

CJ attended school in Lake Oswego, and as she was growing, she remembers, “Every few years they would add a new school and split up the graduating class. You got used to being taken from your friends or your place as top dog.” CJ learned to roll with these punches, as the saying goes, to forge her strong character and career.

Even with the constant change, she thrived in school: she was a National Merit Scholar, competed in speech tournaments that took her to State and National competitions, sang with the Choir on a big trip to Europe in the 70’s, and wrote wild articles about it for the Lake Oswego Review - the first time she was published. She also did a lot of “hammy” parts in plays, using her gift of comic timing and love of the ‘funny’ to make audiences laugh.

CJ attended U.S.I.U. School of Performing Arts in San Diego and remembers, “It was fairly glorious. We would sing, walking down the streets of downtown San Diego, and the better tap dancers would dance. It gave the sailors something to ogle for sure.” After two years, CJ set her sights east and the New York Theater, and attended and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

In her first job out of college, CJ played Miss LaBouche’, wearing a giant towel with large, unreliable safety pins in the “less than stellar” dinner theater comedy called “Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath.”

“It was in the middle of Ohio, and oh so isolated,” CJ remembers, “We slept underground, and the stage would rise from the basement with the actors on it after they had cleared the roast beef out of the middle of the place.”

CJ explains, “I had done shows before but I consider “Ladies Night in a Turkish Bath” my first professional one, because they flew us to Ohio, fed us, housed us, and gave us our weekly dough - although there was nowhere to spend it! No Amazon or streaming for us back then!”

FAMILY BUZZ

CJ met David May, her Significant Other (from Grande Prairie) through Chuck Montgomery, a mutual friend,  Chuck was an aspiring actor and a “Guitar Comedian.” Then she and David wrote and performed a wild cabaret together, “Romped Out.”

David was a writer-actor-singer who also worked as a bartender at the famed New York Improv. CJ was an actress hawking Tide, Comet and Dr. Pepper for Madison Avenue by day and at night would go and watch the upcoming comedians in the area: young, funny unknowns, yet soon to be famous comedians including Larry David, Richard Lewis, Bill Mahr, and many future TV writers. 

“Chuck told David to work with - or hire me for - an ad campaign about underwear. He did, I started visiting the club, getting a peek at great comics and a cheap bar tab, and pretty soon staked my claim on him.” The two have been together ever since - 35 years and counting.

CJ and David have two rescues, “puppy children,” she says are “who arewildly spoiled and run our lives,” she admits. “Alice is a zillion years old and I am keeping her going on pain meds, cooked vegetables, flax seed oil and lots of compliments.  She is fond of purple and being told she’s pretty. Seriously. She also lunges at the TV if dogs appear in commercials or if she sees scenes on horseback.” CJ adds, “Even with reduced mobility, Alice is still all personality.”

Their second pup, Archie, is middle aged. “He’s over 70 pounds and zips through the house like a rodeo animal with boundless jumping and charging energy. Both came to us via the frontyard. Both demanding and getting lots of attention, plus couch time to heal us and slobber over themselves.”

INSPIRATION

CJ said Mid-century musicals made into movies, such as My Fair Lady and The Music Man, and even Peter Pan starring Mary Martin, inspired her to become an actress. She also enjoyed the Disney teen stars of the 60’s, “F-Troop” on TV and cartoons.  When she was very small, she thought, “we could grow up to be cartoon characters and I really wanted to do that.”

CJ felt lucky to have a favorite aunt who was a natural comedian, Charmaine, called Aunt Chick. “She had a lot of kids and great confidence as the matriarch of her home and was very funny to boot, probably a necessity in Oregon where it rained all the time and we were stuck inside.”

Success in the theater industry comes hard, and CJ admits to a few flops or “Maybe too many to list them all because in a 45 year-longprofession as a performer and voice artist, stuff IS going to happen!”

For example, “There was a national tour of the Rocky Horror Show, where Riff Raff dropped me during the Time Warp and I just had to hop up like it was nothing and tap dance away.” CJ recalls. “And there were kids in Canada who rushed the stage and stole souvenirs from our dressing rooms.” 

When she was in her 40’s she played a 70-year-old, wicked Irish matriarch in a professional production with no help at all on the age make-up or a lesson or a prosthesis or a subscription to Face Off, “and the local theatre scribes kept bringing up kabuki (a form of traditional Japanese drama with highly stylized song, mime and face make up) in the reviews. CJ admits, “It was not a happy comparison!”

Besides the long hours of writing, rehearsing, late nights honing her craft while watching others, she does it all for one simple reason: Joy.

“It brings me JOY! And because I can, and so many would love a creative life if they only knew they could - and then, bravelytook action.”

What’s the BUZZ?

Through it all CJ says she is most proud of her persistence. “I’m not giving up on my dreams. Just because I am a certain age, a female, or people told me no. So maybe I am less than 100% physically - or any of the usual excuses -  I stay focused on onward momentum and am celebrating joy every day. Choose it or lose it!”

Her biggest challenge now is getting her bucket list fulfilled “while body, budgetand the fates' still allow.” 

She admits to living frugally so she can pay the bills, travel, support both her and other’s art, pay for Sling, vet meds, tip well when she dines out in Oak Cliff, and “compensate talent when we work together.”

When she's not working on her own production, she offers assistance with Musical Writers Academy when they have festivals or need actors to volunteer for table reads, an early step in the development of new stage works, like plays and musicals.

THE FUTURE BUZZ

Her Bucket List may be fulfilled soon as “Buzzed,” her hilarious musical about bees which carry a certain libido altering sting, comes to fruition.

“Buzzed!” is the culmination of her decades of experience in the theater, as a staff writer for Disney Radio, and a storytelling of over 200 audio books as ace narrator CJ Critt. Never a dull moment or a boring second act. The challenge, CJ says, is building the right team of creative partners, “cultivating the area relationships that thrive,” including friends she still has in New York City.

She points out that the show is meant to make people laugh –and let go, be unafraid ofhaving fun, and experience joy. “It’s a bit like those sci-fi pop-rock delights like ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’”

But at the end of BUZZED! no-one dies because CJ delivers the satisfaction of a happy ending.

“I want people to leave feeling good about the play, themselves, and the joy of life.”

She wants to make sure the audience leaves the theater with "a happy glow from letting go!"

If CJ Critt has her way, that will be a buzz that lasts for days.

 

Want to learn more or Bee involved in the production of this new show? 

Check out: cjcritt.com or contact cjcritt@mac.com

Cable Ace Winner & Voice of 200 Audio books

 

Judy Porter, MBA, is a writer in Dallas who focuses on individuals, non-profits and small businesses which are making a positive difference in their community.

The original cast of BUZZED included:

CJ Critt
Natalie King 
Rebecca Cordes (Composer and Musical Director)
Joshua Kumler
Alexandra Daniels
Jamal Houston
Ellen Eberhardt
Barry Young (Composer)

 

 

 

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