"Brian Michael Hoffman plays the Cowardly Lion. He confidently struts about the stage in "If I Were King of the Forest" and performs "If I Only Had the Nerve" hilariously and dramatically. Hoffman elicits nonstop side-splitting laughter from the audience with each and every squeal, roar, and line."
- Natasha Ashley, Broadway World
"The Oz-bound quartet are more than satisfying...they're sensational. None are a carbon copy of their film counterparts; they make their characters their own. The four leads are a fist-pump for the Department of Drama, a victory lap proving why the program ranks in the top ten of musical theater schools. Three are current students and one is a graduate. Brian Michael Hoffman may be 20 years out from SU graduation, but he's as youthful in spirit, movement and energy as the current students. While Lahr's Cowardly Lion was a poorly-put-together drag queen in a Chewbacca suit and a bad Shirley Temple wig, Hoffman is far cuddlier. He's an endearing lion with a furry headpiece that suggests Hollywood's idea of a shaman. No Brooklyn accent here. Hoffman plays it straight and sells it on singing and acting, not schtick."
- Linda Lowen, Syracuse.com
"The cast is top notch...with the hysterical Brian Michael Hoffman as the Cowardly Lion. Hoffman’s performance has a special panache. Everything works in this production from the brilliant sets, scene transitions, gorgeous costumes, heartfelt performances to great production numbers. This production has its own look, its own vision and it is so good you forget the movie as you are watching it. This isn’t an easy feat, considering the vividness and reputation of the original. The brilliant Technicolor MGM 1939 film may be emblazoned in the culture lexicon forever, but this production is a living, breathing, beguiling spectacle that has pizzazz and heart."
- Craig Thornton, WWNYTV News
"The world created by actor Brian Michael Hoffman as the Cowardly Lion is particularly committed...charming and willing to embrace the insanity that characterizes Oz."
- Joe Allen, News House
"Innovative staging is nothing without a professional and well-rehearsed cast. This production showcased some outstanding performances. Brian Michael Hoffman performed the comic relief role of "Luther Billis," capturing the audience with his blunt humor and dramatic stage presence."
- Jessica Clifford, The Carolinian
“South Pacific” brings in comic and cultural relief in the character of entrepreneurial Seabee "Luther Billis," Brian Michael Hoffman, (who) delivers (his) pivotal entertainments and songs well."
- Bill Cissna, The News & Record
"Don Quixote's adoring servant and companion, Sancho Panza, is played as a gentle soul by Brian Michael Hoffman with perfectly understated and well-timed humor as well as his finding the truth in dramatic scenes. And when Sancho is accused of blindly following Quixote by Aldonza, he so sweetly sings "I Really Like Him," that the audience spontaneously responds with such thundering applause to express it really likes Mr. Hoffman's characterization as well."
- Don Church, World News
"The comic side of the show is handled splendidly by Brian Michael Hoffman as Sancho. He has a strong tenor voice which he uses in the opening number with David Pittsinger, the hilarious "I Really Like Him" where he tells Aldonza why he follows his master and "A Little Gossip" where he tries to help Alonso remember he's Quixote. Brian not only sells his songs but also leaves you in stitches with his one liners due to his comic mannerisms, line delivery and facial expressions. The poignant last scene and the tenderness of the three leads garners the empathy of the whole audience. This topnotch cast is rewarded with a standing ovation and many tears along the journey by show's end."
- Tony Annicone, The Theater Mirror
"Brian Michael Hoffman makes for an ideal Sancho Panza, putting over his big numbers, particularly "I Really Like Him," excellently; his performance is quite endearing and appropriately comical."
- Zander Opper, Talkin' Broadway
"As the loyal but put-upon squire Sancho Panza, Brian Michael Hoffman is a comic delight with his upbeat optimism and an endless supply of maxims! I have not seen a better cast and staging of this classic save possibly the original Tony-winning Broadway production. If any show this season deserves a "must-see" rating, it is this one."
- The Clinton Patch
"Brian Michael Hoffman as his manservant, Sancho Panza, while at first coming across as more a fool, quickly demonstrates he is a man not to be trifled with. His love, admiration, and genuine caring for his master rings true."
- Stuart Brown, On Broadway CT
"Brian Michael Hoffman, who infuses his Sancho Panza with a delightful guilelessness, brings his vocal and comic chops to the lighthearted "I Really Like Him" and "A Little Gossip."
- Kristina Dorsey, The Day
"Quixote also needs his Sancho Panza, and Brian Michael Hoffman quickly eases into his character and delivers a delightful "A Little Gossip" to try and cheer up his companion."
- Geary Danihy, Connecticut Critics Circle
"And then there's Brian Michael Hoffman's interpretation and delivery of Uncle Fester. He's in love with the moon and his inclinations and desires are sweetly made apparent in his sincere delivery of "The Moon and Me." "It's a dream that's coming true when the moon says "I love you!" Thematically, (Hoffman's) "Fester" is THE ADDAMS FAMILY Musical!"
- J.A. DiBello, The Greenroom
"The roles in this show lend themselves to the artistic creativity of the actors. Brian Michael Hoffman exudes the overjoyed and energetic Uncle Fester in his quest to find love for all.
Director Michael Rader insures that his talented cast takes every advantage of every possible comic line or move whether it be in song or dance. I really enjoyed his choice to substitute a few hilarious lines that brought the story right into 2016; even goofing on the current campaign trail. (Fester's "Is Donald Trump right for 2016? Who's to say?")
You won't hear well-known show tunes, but you will take pleasure in strong vocals that belt out bizarre and outlandish lyrics that will make you smile and guffaw out loud. In its own campy and over-the-top way, "The Addams Family" succeeds in delivering larger messages like the importance of family, honesty and acceptance with a coffin full of laughs along the way!"
- Bill Moloney, Sullivan County Democrat
"The cast truly shines when the lights come up. Flawlessly directed by Michael Radar, the entire company is having a ball on stage, and the joy they exude while acting, singing and dancing their way into our hearts is infectious.
No family reunion is complete without the relatives snapping their fingers (especially) Brian Michael Hoffman ("Uncle Fester"), whose performance is hilariously superb."
- Jonathan Fox, The River Review
"A plaintive Brian Michael Hoffman presents an earnest Horton...a compassionate pachyderm who not only baby-sits an egg for flighty Mayzie La Bird but struggles to save the microscopic world of Who from destruction. (Brian's) poignant "Alone in the Universe" and lyrical "Solla Sollew" are
just a few of the gems that are a genuine pleasure to hear."
- Michael Sommers, The Star-Ledger
"To symbolize his
elephanthood, the likable Mr. Hoffman wears baggy gray sweats and
a woolen cap with floppy ears."
- Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
"The performers terrifically
embody their iconic characters, with (an) especially fun contribution
from Brian Michael Hoffman."
- Joe Dziemianowicx, New York Daily
"Equally fine is Brian
Michael Hoffman, whose bountifully embodied Elephant is as memorable
as the real beast is supposed to be memorious. He had everything
you could wish for in a pachyderm."
- John Simon, Bloomberg.com
Michael Hoffman....take(s) the honors as Horton the Elephant."
- Steve Suskin, Variety
baloon-figured Brian Michael Hoffman as Horton catches the (audience's)
attention and holds it."
(is) the heart, soul, and conscience of the show."
- Stephen Flaherty, "Seussical" Composer
"Lead roles Seymour and Audrey were cast by Gresham in New York earlier this year; he asked contenders for the roles to read in pairs.
"When I brought in Brian Michael Hoffman and Tessa Faye, … there was just an absolute, undeniable, exciting chemistry between them," he recalled. "It was funny, it was moving, and I literally — this is not hyperbole at all — was covered in goosebumps the entire time. I might have gotten a little teary at one point, and at the end, I burst into applause, when normally I'd say, 'Thank you very much.'
"It was very funny because at the end of it they are supposed to passionately kiss. They actually did not in the audition, but just shy of it, the gentleman auditioning for Seymour extended his hand and said, 'Hi. I'm Brian. Nice to meet you.' You really would have thought, watching it, that they had known each other forever. It was just one of those things that was perfect," he added. "I knew after that audition that we really had found the people for the romantic leads: the boy and the girl in the 'boy-meets-girl-meets-man-eating-plant' story."
- Amy Wilder, The Columbia Tribune
"The musical's finest actor is Brian Michael Hoffman as the blustering, lovable lion, who elicited plenty of laughs from both young and old."
- Kerry Clawson, The Beacon Journal
"Brian Michael Hoffman, who...channeled Bert Lahr for many of his mannerisms, gave a solid and pleasing turn as the Cowardly Lion"
- Joseph Ledford, Sugarcreek Budget
"'The Wizard of Oz' is filled with delightful performances. Ben Franklin, Chad Coudriet and Brian Michael Hoffman are perfectly cast as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Their vocals are excellent."
- Rex Huffman, The Times-Reporter
"All the musical numbers are good, but opening night, Hoffman's overconfident character (who hilariously) illustrates in his bump-and-grind "Magic Foot" how that foot will help him win, stood out."
- Shreveport Times
"Brian Michael Hoffman is a cunning, rather malevolent, Mr. Grimes, superintendent of the insane asylum, eager to do Demetria's bidding."
- NJ Arts Maven by Ruth Ross
"Brian Michael Hoffman make(s a) strong contribution in (an) important supporting role."
- Talkin' Broadway by Bob Rendell
"Several individual performances were each alone worth the price of admission. Brian Michael Hoffman – popping up as a gruff, pot-bellied Cupid who gives up on the bow and just chucks the arrow of love – is a scene stealer!"
- The Times Record
"The Theatre Gods have smiled down on Maine State Music Theatre with a solid gold show called XANADU! The entire cast (was) individually fun-tastic but the night truly belonged to…huggable scene-stealer Brian Michael Hoffman, a hysterical Cupid – "Strange Magic" another show stopper!"
- The Portland Daily Sun
"Omigod, nothing this fun should be legal! The entire ensemble played multiple roles, led by the multi-talented and hilarious Brian Michael Hoffman (as "Dewey," "Dad" and "Winthrop"), with energized enthusiasm and commitment. Their singing and dancing excels in every musical number."
- Broadway World - Maine
"Brian Michael Hoffman was hilarious in his many roles, especially Dewey, Paulette's Ex, and the news anchor. Hoffman even gave MSMT staff a great hoot when he gave a surprise shout out from the stage 'back to you Kat & Susie.'"
"The ensemble of five are perfect choices to complement the leads. Brian Michael Hoffman (Sheldrake), as usual, makes the most of every second on stage."
- Broadway World - Maine
"Andrea McArdle gets her name above the title in ANNIE, but other stars in this stellar cast also shine bright. Brian Michael Hoffman amuses as orphanage laundryman Bundles McCloskey and FDR’s foul-mouthed Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes."
- The Triangle: Arts & Entertainment
"...but it was the smaller performances
that shone just as strongly, in particular Brian Michael Hoffman as the
irritable and resigned Sound Effects Man in the Bert Healy Radio Show
scene and then later as fuss-budget FDR cabinet member Harold Ickes who
is ordered to sing 'Tomorrow,' as well as ('Bundles,' the laundry man)
and as a member of the ensemble."
- The Saginaw News
"The 'Bert Healy' interlude (features)...a hilariously surly Sound
Man (Brian Michael Hoffman)."
- Syracuse Herald-Journal
"(Another) standout performance (at Maine State Musical Theatre) from the multi-talented Brian Michael Hoffman in his many roles (of Bert Healy, Bundles and Harold Ickes).
"And yes, the dogs were show-stealing adorable. Broadway's Snickers (soon to be "Toto" in THE WIZ) gave us an all too short "aaawww" moment and Mikey (Sandy) was pull-at-your-heart brilliant! Kudos to trainer William Berloni and handler Brian Michael Hoffman!"
- The Portland Daily Sun
TRAVELS WITH SANDY
For one starring role in 'Annie,'
excellence is all about loyalty,
training, and knowing when to bark.
By J. Wynn Rousuck
Sun Theatre Critic
March 18, 2007
The two stately blond actors are standing in a parking garage
across from the theater when a minivan rolls by and slows
down, the driver's mouth opening with the shock of recognition.
The vehicle backs up and stops. The driver opens the doors
so two little girls inside can get a look.
It's a moment they will never forget. After all, how many
times do you catch a glimpse of the stars before the show?
And make no mistake about it -- these furry, four-legged
beauties are the stars of Annie. Well, to be honest, one
is the star; the other is merely the understudy. Or, as their
roommate, driver, fellow cast member and handler, Brian Michael
Hoffman, puts it, "the underdog."
A few hours later, when the curtain rings down on the matinee,
the final bow will be taken not by Marissa O'Donnell, the
adorable moppet who plays the title character. Instead, that
honor will go to Lola, the wolfhound/Airedale terrier mix
who plays Annie's dog, Sandy. And, Lola's curtain call will
earn whoops and cheers in addition to applause.
Annie's engagement at the Hippodrome Theatre this week isn't
just another stop along the road. It will mark the end of
a two-year adventure for the dogs and their handler. The
threesome shared thousands of miles and hundreds of performances,
during which Hoffman was frequently poised in the wings,
treats in hand, out of sight of the audience.
"I'm invisible," acknowledges Hoffman, a 1993 Baltimore School for
the Arts graduate. "But they take good care of me and pay me very well
to be invisible." The actor has served as the self-proclaimed "dog-boy" in
touring productions of the Little Orphan Annie musical on and off since 1999.
How invisible is he? Well, despite repeated appearances in
the show's ensemble -- as a bum, a milkman and a liveried
servant in Daddy Warbucks' mansion -- Hoffman doesn't even
show up in the Annie curtain call. He can't. He's just off
stage performing his most important "invisible" task
-- sending silent signals to Lola.
In Hoffman and Lola's human-to-canine language, the signals
are primarily a private matter between man and dog. One example,
however, is the command for "stay": Hand raised
chest-height, palm outward. All the signals are noiseless,
so as to not be overheard.
Man and dog have grown so close over the years that when
the script calls for Sandy to walk across an empty stage,
sit in the center and stare straight ahead, Hoffman, poised
in the wings, turns his back to the dog. That's the only
way to keep Lola from gazing at his face instead of at the
Sandy has just one line in the show. The dog barks when the
character of a policeman says,"All right, all you bums,
Lola knows this cue so well that if Hoffman says the line
anytime, anywhere, the dog will bark.
Annie and Sandy
Performing tricks is only part of what sets this breed of "show
dog" apart. "There are so many elements of what
we do that a normal dog would never experience -- lights,
2,000 people clapping, the floor vibrating from the orchestra," says
Hoffman, a jovial 31-year-old whose navy polo shirt is liberally
dotted with blond dog hairs. "It's seeing how the dog
reacts to a little girl when 2,000 people scream when she
hits that note -- 'a day aWAY.' The girl is entirely in charge
of that dog."
In the current production, that girl is Marissa, a 13-year-old
from Westchester, N.Y., who has been performing with Lola
for the entire tour. Fifteen minutes before each performance,
Hoffman brings Lola on stage to commune with Marissa. As
sounds from the audience mount on the other side of the curtain
at Philadelphia's Academy of Music, Lola and Marissa share
some quiet time on one of the cots from the opening scene
in the orphanage.
"Marissa makes my job incredibly easy. These two are like the 'dream team'
of Annie and Sandy," Hoffman says.
The girl with the dark red pageboy and the dog with the shaggy
champagne-colored locks are clearly buddies. Rolling on her
back to have her tummy tickled, Lola registers nothing short
of adoration for Marissa. Giggling, however, the Annie actress
reveals that Lola sometimes passes gas during the curtain
call, "and I'm afraid people think I did it."
"If that's the worst, I'll take it," says Hoffman, who worked with
Marissa and Lola for an hour each day during rehearsals.
"Lola wasn't the only one being trained. I was," Marissa says.
Lola makes her entrance during the second scene, when Annie
finds a stray running from the dogcatcher and sings "Tomorrow." Hoffman
stands just off stage right, dressed in his raggedy bum costume
and signaling to the dog. At this particular performance,
the lights suddenly malfunction, flashing on and off rock
concert-style. Lola raises her head and looks around. Without
missing a beat, Marissa eases the dog's head back toward
her face, which Lola peers into with devotion.
Lola and Mikey
Lola, who is 8, was rescued from the same animal shelter,
the Connecticut Humane Society, as the original Sandy was
-- a dog who starred in the musical's entire Broadway run,
from 1977 to 1983, and whose obituary ran in The New York
Times in 1990.
Bill Berloni, who discovered the first Sandy and
went on to found William Berloni Theatrical Animals,
doesn't know too much about Lola's history. A little
more is known about her understudy, Mikey, who
comes from a municipal Connecticut dog pound.
Mikey is 4 and could almost be Lola's twin -- except
that her ears flop down, and his are semiprick
ears; they stand upright with the tops folded.
Mikey spent his first three years closed in a small
pen, walking in circles. When he's on a leash,
he still tends to circle. Hoffman is working on
that. For now, Lola has proved to be such a trouper,
Mikey has yet to appear on stage.
As befits a star, Lola is the alpha dog. But both are extremely
affectionate. Lola leans lovingly against a visitor to the
dressing room, and neither wants to miss friendly pats from
Lola and Mikey share Hoffman's dressing room, hotel room
and bed. They travel the country in a van with a mattress
and a sofa inside and the Annie logo on the back. Berloni
refers to them as "ambassadors for the show."
"I think rescue animals know they're getting a second chance," says
Hoffman. "It's the true Annie story. They go from rags
to riches. ... They're orphans just like Annie starts out,
and then by the end there are people in parking garages clamoring
to get out of the van and pet them or touch them, and they're
Actor and handler
Hoffman's experience with theater and animals began at age
9 when he played a raccoon in Sleeping Beauty at Liberty
Showcase Theatre. His father, a salesman, occasionally appeared
on stage with him. And Brian and his younger brother always
had dogs -- a shepherd mix, a couple of black Labs, a springer
spaniel -- at their Randallstown home.
Hoffman's Annie duties include driving the dogs to each city
in which the show plays. Though the rest of the cast flies,
the dogs are too large to travel in the passenger section,
and Berloni feels putting them in the cargo compartment is
Caring for Lola and Mikey is a 24/7 responsibility, and sometimes
the drama takes place off stage. Before Philadelphia, Annie
was in Portland, Ore. After Sunday night's final performance,
Hoffman, Lola, Mikey and two other company members began
the 3,000-mile cross-country drive. Two hundred miles east
of Portland, the van hit a patch of black ice and spun in
The humans were stunned, but no one was injured. And the
dogs were unfazed. Hoffman learned later that the site of
the near-accident is appropriately called Deadman Pass.
Although Hoffman came away from that incident without a scratch,
he does have one permanent dog-inflicted scar -- a badge
of honor that demonstrates the loyalty of a dog. A half-dozen
years ago, he was in a production of Annie in San Gabriel,
Calif., with a dog named Cosmo, one of five dogs he has worked
with in various productions. The director invited the actress
playing Annie and her family, along with Hoffman, Cosmo and
Lola (who was then the understudy), to his house on Lake
Arrowhead. The actress and Hoffman were swimming when the
girl suggested they pretend they were drowning.
"Cosmo, who just hated water, ran in and pulled me out," says Hoffman,
showing off the scar he bears on his upper left arm from Cosmo's lifeguarding.
Talking about Cosmo, who died while the actor was working for Disney in Japan
before this tour, brings tears to his eyes.
In their two years on the road, Lola, Mikey and Hoffman have
occasionally encountered people who fail to understand the
life and duties of a stage dog.
Annie's Philadelphia engagement is the tour's second visit
to that city. A year ago, Hoffman came out of the stage door
with the dogs after a performance and was met by a well-dressed
man holding a blank check. "He said, 'How much for your
dog? ... How much for Sandy? We're taking the dog home with
us tonight,'" the actor/handler recalls.
"I said, 'I'm really sorry. It's such a lovely thought, but she's got
a contract and she's a little busy.'"
Then there was the time Hoffman and Lola were on a TV news
show and the anchor asked whether Lola was a robot. "I
thought maybe you contacted Disney and they built you an
animatronic dog," he said.
"She's a real dog," Hoffman explained. If Lola's feelings were hurt,
she was too polite to show it.
The tour that ends Sunday at the Hippodrome has taken Hoffman
and the canine cast members from Ohio to Oregon, from California
to Canada. Afterward, Lola and Mikey will return to Berloni's
Connecticut home for some R&R. Hoffman will join the
Broadway company of the new musical Legally Blonde, where
he will be in charge of a pair of Chihuahuas.
Berloni, who has known Hoffman for more than six years, describes
him as "exactly what I hope for in all the people that
work for me. They are emotionally engaged. It's not just
a job because we're not really animal trainers; we're caretakers
for sentient beings that perform, and it's a big difference."
Hoffman has worked without dogs before. One of his longest
dogless stints was the three years he spent as the lead singer
in a quartet at the Tokyo Disney Sea theme park. However,
he began adding dog handling to his acting responsibilities
after spending quality time with Lola and another dog in
a 1999 Annie tour.
His sideline as "dog-boy" has been rewarding. Besides
the pleasure of working with the animals, he paid off his
Syracuse University undergraduate loan, thanks to Annie.
"Does he want to be an animal handler the rest of his life? No," says
Berloni. "But he loves dogs, and this is a great phase in his life right
At the moment, however, the thought of parting with Lola
and Mikey is almost more than Hoffman can bear. Discussing
this while he takes the dogs for their evening constitutional
-- Mikey sporting a black leash decorated with paw prints
and Lola sporting a red one decorated with stars (of course)
-- the actor gets choked up.
Then he approaches the stage door with the two dogs strutting
proudly in front. A crowd has gathered for the 8 p.m. show,
and across the street a saxophonist plays "Tomorrow" for
tips. Heads turn as Lola and Mikey stride by. No one seems
to notice Hoffman. Tonight, like every other night, when
the show ends, Lola will get the final curtain call and Hoffman
will again be invisible. But that's OK.
"When she goes out and the audience just goes nuts, that's kind of for
me, too." he says. "That's my applause.