Hello from New York!
I’ve been travelin’, but I’m back here for a delicious week. As a matter of fact, I’m doing a show in ye olde tristate area this Saturday night. I'll be performing withChita Rivera at NJPAC where she will besinging songs from so many of the Broadway musicals. The amount of hit shows she’s done is incredible. In fact, Chita was once walking around the theatre district and passed posters for the revivals ofChicago,West Side Story, andBye Bye Birdie, all playing at the same time that season. As she walked by, she couldn't help but ask herself, "Am I supposed to be performing tonight?"
Her impact on American musical theatre is so incredible to me. This is the woman who originated Rosie Alvarez in bothBye Bye Birdie and the sequelBring Back Birdie, which, by the way, I have to discuss with her. Instead of running a few months, it ran for just a few performances. While we are the topic of Rosie Alvarez, Chita was not able to do the film version, but she did get to perform one of her big songs on television. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, Chita issogreat.
After Saturday, I fly to Los Angeles for a concert with Lillias White at the Wallis on Thursday March 30. That very night, I'll take the redeye home so I can perform in a concert with Brian Stokes Mitchell at Molloy College on Friday March 31.
On Saturday April 1, I hightail it up to Foxborough, MA to do my comedy showdeconstructing Broadway performances. If you want to know what Deconstructing is and how amazing Lillias White is when she performs, watch this video!
In the last few weeks, I've had two shows in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thefirst waswith Ramin Karimloo and Jessie Mueller.
A few years ago, I had a showwith Ramin and Sierra Boggess. Richard Jay-Alexander came to see it. A few weeks later, Richard was directing Barbra Streisand’s concert in London. When they became in needof a male singer, Richard thought Ramin would be perfect. He called Ramin and asked if he wanted to sing with Barbra. Foolishly, Ramin replied, “Barbra who?”
As Ramin recounted this to me, I nearly passed out from disbelief. Once I was revived, Ramin explained that he wasn’t aware that Richard worked with Streisand, so he didn’t know theBarbra that Richard was referencing was the Barbra! Ramin told us that when Barbra came onstage, he was scripted to say, “Hello, gorgeous." The second he said it, the crowd laughed, leaving Ramin miffed. He thought to himself, “Oh, that must be a famous line."That’s right, Ramin Karimloodidn’t know Funny Girl.Ugh.
Okay, I get it, Ramin. You grew up playing hockey in Canada, and didn’t sit at home in your room listening to Broadway show albums over and over because you loved them (and had no friends) likesome of us.
As we all know, in an ironic twist, Ramin wascast in the Broadway revival of Funny Girlas Nicky Arnstein. Ramin told me that when they gathered to do the first read-through of the script and the revival's then-Fanny Brice, Beanie Feldstein, read the line, “Hello, gorgeous." Upon hearing it, Ramin was momentarily confused, thinking,“Wait, I thought that was my line.”
In conclusion, and in a plug for myself, Ramin needs to get his hands on my brand new book,Musical Theatre For Dummies. Yes, this is theperfect time to segue to the news that my book has finally been released and already went into its second printing. #StillGotIt
So,I’m Jewish, and I'm always dreading or stressed about something. In this book-writing process, I went from thinking the book was so hard to write to thinking the book was so hard to record.Yes, it's true.I was hired to record the audio book for my over400-page guide to musical theatre.I know it sounds cool to record an audio book, but the reality of it is thatyou’re in a booth by yourself speakingslowly withnobody laughing at your asides. Speaking slowly iscompletely against my natural rhythm which, for you classical music buffs, is vivace a la presto. While this is the tempo that works for me, my SiriusXM listeners struggle to keep up. I can't tell you how much fan mail I've received that reads, "I cannot understand a word you're saying."
My husband James and I just celebrated the thirdanniversary of Stars in the House and broadcast it from the fabulous Drama Book Shop. We’ve now raised around $1.2 million for the Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actors Fund) and thousands upon thousands of dollars for other charities we’ve featured like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Waterkeepers Project, The Trevor Project, The Humane Society of NY, Bet Simchat Torah, The NYC Gay Men’s Chorus and many more.
One of my idols, Charles Busch, made a guest appearance at the anniversary broadcast. Hespoke about writing his soon-to-be-released autobiography and about interviews he had conducted with collaborators from his career.He’s been working with Julie Halston ever since his first play,Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,so he brought her to his apartment and interviewed her at length. Charlespurchased a recorder that can both record the entire session and transcribe when plugged into a computer. Charlestold us that between Julie's strong Commack, Long Island accent, and what he calls his “rather grand” way of speaking with the vowels of a 1940s MGM contract player, the computer had a breakdown. It literally couldn’t transcribe anything they were saying because it had no reference for either accent!
If you haven’t heard Charles’ movie star way of talking, watch this video!
Here is Julie Halston telling a hilarious story. Her accent is in full bloom!
Charles’ book is called Leading Lady: A Memoir Of A Most Unusual Boy and is available now. Go forth and get it!
The Stars in the House anniversary show also featured the triple-threat Brenda Braxton, who was an indirect part of the excerpt I readbelow from my book. Here’s the first section I readfrom Musical Theatre For Dummies, which detailshow producers jockey to put actors in various Tony Award categories.
"The hilarious and high-belting Megan Mullally was starring as Rosemary opposite Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Now, one could opine that How to Succeed is a show with a leading man and twofeatured actresses, but, in my opinion, Rosemary is the leading lady. She’s the romantic interest of the leading man leaving Smitty, her sassy best friend, squarely in thefeatured actress category.
See, this is where producers jockeying for a Tony Award can get in the way. Why? My understanding of what happened is thus
You see, 1995 was also the season of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s giant Sunset Boulevard. After that show opened, everyone knew that Glenn Close would win Best Actress in a Musical. She had a string of wonderful reviews from each and everycritic. On top of which, audiences were going crazy for her.
How to Succeed's producersthought Megan was fabulous in her role and deserved a chance to win a Tony Award. They figured if she were nominated as Best Actress, she wouldn’t win because Glenn had that award in the bag. Instead, they asked the Tony nominating committee to consider Megan in the Best Featured Actress category, which would mean she’d actually have a chance of winning. Luckily for them, and for Megan, the Tony committee agreed. She was put in the Best Featured Actress category.
Smokey Joe’s Café, an ensemble musical opened that same season as well. Instead of submitting all four Smokey Joe’s female actresses in the Best Actress category, the producers submitted them to be considered in the Best Featured Actress category. Guess what? Three of the fourwere nominated with the fourth slot goingto Gretha Boston for Showboat. Sadly, that meant there was no room for Megan!#Backfire
Glenn did indeed win Best Actress, but that category only had twonominees, Glenn and the late, great Rebecca Luker. Of course, this meant there would have been room fortwo more nominations. If the meddling producers of How to Succeedhad left Megan in the Best Actress category, she wouldn’t have won, but she no doubtwould havebeen nominated.
As Max Bialystock yells at Leo in The Producers, “Don’t help me!”
Before you shed a tear for Megan, let me tell youit all worked out for her in the end. She soon had two Emmy Award wins for her amazing and hilarious portrayal of Karen Walker on the television showWill and Grace."
Then I introduced Brenda…one of the women who got that Tony Award nomination! Shesurprised me with a story I hadn't heard before.
Smokey Joe’s Café was nominated for Best Musical that year. All the women from the show were scheduledto sing “I’m a Woman" at the awards ceremony. Well, right before they were about to perform, they were told that the show was running long and they had decided to cut the number.
Brenda, DeLee Lively, Patti d’Arcy, and B.J. Crosby were all offstage in their costumes waiting to go on when that bomb dropped. Talk about being all dressed up and having no place to belt!
Well, while they did not get to perform that songat the Tonys,they did get to perform it elsewhere!Here is a great video of that performance. I love it,especially the incredible arrangement by the late, great Louis St. Louis.
Before leavingStars in the House,Brenda read from her fabulous book The Little Black Book of Backstage Etiquette.
This book is so perfect for anyone in theatre, those studying it and those performing it. Truly. Put it on your wishlist!
Also part of theStars in the House bookclub wasRupert Holmes, whoread from his amazing new bestselling book, Murder Your Employer, but I’m going to write about that next week.
Until then, here’s a great Rupert Holmes song sung by the amazing Liz Callaway who is performing concerts absolutely everywhere. Some of her shows even featureher brilliant sister, Ann. Go to LizCallaway.com to see where they'll be singing next!
Enjoy and peace out!