DIVA TALK: Chatting with Tony Winner Faith Prince Plus News of Friedman, Eagan and McDonald

News   DIVA TALK: Chatting with Tony Winner Faith Prince Plus News of Friedman, Eagan and McDonald News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Faith Prince
Faith Prince

FAITH PRINCE

Faith Prince has appeared on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in her acclaimed solo act, Leap of Faith, but the Tony Award-winning actress had, surprisingly, never toured. That all changed last month when the multi talented performer began a limited tour with Tom Wopat celebrating the music and the centenary of Harold Arlen. Entitled Over the Rainbow, the tour continues through Feb. 20 when it plays its final evening at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA. It's been a busy year for Prince, who recently relocated to California with her husband and nine-year-old son. Since her arrival in Los Angeles, the Broadway belter with the impeccable sense of comic timing has already landed a recurring role on the new Showtime series "Huff" and has also appeared on USA Network's "Monk" and FOX-TV's "House." I recently had the chance to chat by phone with Prince in the midst of a hectic tour schedule that moves almost daily to a different city. It was a pleasure to speak with Prince, who sprinkles her conversation — and that inimitable, singular voice — with much laughter. That brief chat follows:

Question: So, where are you now?
Faith Prince: That's the question of the day! [Laughs.] "What day is it?" is more like it? [Laughs.] We're in Greenville, South Carolina.

Q: How is touring going?
Prince: [Laughs.] Oh my God! Who booked this is what I want to know? They've never been on tour, and they don't have a singing voice. [Laughs.] Q: Have you toured before?
Prince: No, I never have. I've never even done a national tour.

Q: And, you don't even get a week in each city.
Prince: Are you kidding? I travel in the bus at night to get to the next city. I feel like Rosemary Clooney in the 1940's with the band in the back. [Laughs.]

Q: How did the Over the Rainbow tour come about?
Prince: It came about a year and a couple months ago. Columbia Artists was booking it, [and] they somehow hooked up with Festival Productions. It had a few different incarnations. It was originally put together for Tom Wopat and myself. We had done a couple of shows together — we get on and have great chemistry. We did Carousel at the Kennedy Center — he did Billy Bigelow and I did Carrie Pipperidge. That was years ago, and then he replaced Peter Gallagher in Guys & Dolls. So you file away those experiences when you work well with somebody and they're great to be with both personally and professionally. Our agent at the time came to me and said, "How would you like to do something with Tom," and I said, "I'd love to." Then it . . . became a jazz thing, which is exciting for me because I've never done anything like that. I hold down the Broadway standard line, while I have all these jazz artists around me. I'm sort of soaking that up. I feel like I'm in jazz school, which is fun. And, I'm going to make an album at the end of May, early June, out in L.A. with a great big band writer named Gordon Goodwin. He has his own big band called the Big Phat Band, and he scores films. He worked for Johnny Mathis. He's done lush [arrangements]. I had this idea to do a big-band symphonic album, like what Linda Rondstadt did with Nelson Riddle and Natalie Cole did with "Unforgettable" but all Broadway stuff.

Q: Do you know what label will make the recording?
Prince: Actually, I've got a private person investing, and we're going to do it ourselves, and then I'm going to maybe take it to somebody just for distribution — or not. Now, with iTunes and the internet you don't have to [have a label]. I'm going to play it by ear, but I have a couple of people interested, but I really wanted to see my vision come to fruition and not get a million cooks in the kitchen.

Q: Had you always been a fan of Harold Arlen's work?
Prince: You know, I have, but I've never done one Arlen song. Isn't that weird? I literally learned like 15 tunes in two weeks. They do things very differently in the jazz world. [Laughs.] I'm like, "Guys, where's the script? Where are the arrangements?" So, it was put together in a jazz way. I just allowed myself to enter their world. My husband's a jazz trumpet player, but he also plays sessions. Nowadays, you have to do everything, but I'd been around that world somewhat, but it's really funny. For the first couple performances — I'm not used to whether it's going to be an eight-bar solo for the saxophone player or the guitar player or the bass player. And I was like, "Is it four, is it an eight?" I thought, "How does anybody tell?" So I had five musicians looking at me, shaking their heads, "Not yet, not yet!" [Laughs.] They're all kind of clueing me in.

Q: What are the some of the songs that you are doing?
Prince: I do "Get Happy," "Down with Love," "The Man that Got Away." We do a "Wizard of Oz" set, and I came up with idea of doing Glinda, the Good Witch, so I start with her and then go into a jazz version of "the house began to pitch . . ." It's really fun. That's one of my favorite segments. Then I do "Lydia [the Tattooed Lady]," the Groucho Marx number, so I get a little of my humor in there.

Q: How do you find doing a concert versus doing a musical? Do you enjoy more of the freedom that you have in a concert?
Prince: I think I just look at it as a different . . . it's like reading. I like comic books, I love incredibly intense novels. Whatever I'm into at the time is the thing I invest in. I think this has been an incredible experience. It was given to me right before I do this album, so I'm soaking up the different styles that there are out there, even though they're standards.

Q: How do you go about trying to protect your voice with this tour schedule?
Prince: Honestly, eight shows a week for 20 years has prepared me for this. I'm kind of a warhorse. [Laughs.] I have my little ways of tweaking. When you go down to Florida, it's the mold, so you bring your products for that. And you go up to the cold, and you bring your products for that. It's little tweaking because it's your instrument. It's just taking care of it.

Q: You recently moved to Los Angeles. What spurred that move?
Prince: Well, I have a nine-year-old son, and, honestly, he really got tired of me doing eight shows a week all the time. I would definitely go back to Broadway to do something specific and great. But what happens is Manhattan Theatre Club would call me in for a reading or I'd do something at Lincoln Center. He would just say, "Mom, could you put to me bed?" And, I was like, "I hear you." I had also been wanting to do more television and film. It used to be you could get your pilots from New York, and it was no problem. But the business has really changed in the last few years. I had gotten a pilot the year before I moved out that didn't go with Delta Burke called "Sweet Potato Queens." And I thought, "You know, I think I really need to be out there for this." So, we moved out. And, it's funny, I do my concerts — I toured with the Boston Pops this summer. I did the Philly Pops. I've done the New York Pops. I do my own show, Leap of Faith, in a lot of different performing arts centers. And, now I'm going to do this album and have a whole different program, but this is my live fix. I have that as my staples throughout the year, and then I'm freed up to be able to pick TV and film when I feel it's the right thing for me. I came across a show called "Huff."

Q: You have a recurring role in that now. . .
Prince: Yeah, and I was [originally] just a weekly guest person. [Creator and executive producer] Bob Lowry came up to me at the end of it, and I said, "You know, I really like your show, and I'm so glad to be on it." He just looked at me, and he said, "I have an idea!" Well, Lord knows, what came out of that little character and where it's gone and where it's going is so funny. . . . It's a great show. It's incredible writing. It's dark, but it has great comedy.

Q: Tell me about the character you play on the show.
Prince: Well, she came from working at a Best Buy. Now, we're not talking about a 20-year-old. She sells Oliver Platt [who plays Russell] a plasma TV and one of those Blackberry phones, and he says he'll buy it if she and other people will come to his house and set it up. She comes to his house, and then he breaks out the drugs and alcohol. He's a lawyer, but he's definitely got a problem. They all do the drugs and the drinking. She's not the brightest bulb in the box, but goes with it. I don't think she's ever done any drugs. She likes to drink, but can't — one drink puts her under. They all get into this incredible party, and it ends up that they have these chicken fights, and they destroy the TV and the house. She comes back on, and we learned last week that she's pregnant. Where their relationship goes is so unique. . .

Q: Have you signed on for more episodes?
Prince: Yes, they've asked me back for next season.

Q: Getting to some of your musicals. One of my favorite shows that you've done is Falsettoland. What was it like revisiting it not too long ago at Playwrights Horizons?
Prince: I loved it. I loved being back with those people. I adore Bill Finn. Lonny Price directed that particular one, but it just brought back very loving memories. It was truly a special experience. Every once in awhile you hit those casts where the people just connect in such a deep way, and you want to savor those moments.

Q: I know Bells Are Ringing was a show you had wanted to do for a long time. I know it probably didn't run as long as you would have liked, but were you able to enjoy the experience?
Prince: I definitely enjoyed working with [director] Tina [Landau] and the cast. That was an incredible experience. The producing of that show was tricky, so that wasn't my favorite. I think, honestly, in my life, I just take the good and go on. That's just my theory, and everything's grist for the mill.

Q: And you're doing a concert of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. . .
Prince: Yes, I am in Seattle with Lucy Lawless. That's going to be the first week of May.

Q: Do you have any other projects in the works?
Prince: We're booking [engagements for] this album that I'm doing. And then I'll be doing "Huff." I also have a movie coming out, "Our Very Own," that I was in with Allison Janney and Cheryl Hines. We made it last summer in Tennessee. It's a personal story — Cameron Watson directed and wrote it. He's a longtime friend of Allison Janney, and she's the one that got me involved with it. It was so fun because it was Southern, and I am Southern, but people think I'm a Jewish gal from New York [laughs], and it was just so funny to finally play a Southern woman, and I just fused all the women I grew up with in Lynchburg. This character was the president of the women's club, so I had a field day with this character. So, I've really done some interesting stuff this year — I had a guest spot on "House" with Brian Singer. That was the only episode he was directing. He's executive producer of it, but he happened to direct this episode, so that was a very unique experience. Then I did [an episode of] "Monk." It's been an eclectic year, but it's what I wanted. I really wanted to swing left and try some other things. I feel sort of enlightened by the whole thing, and they've asked me to come back a couple times to do certain [Broadway] shows, but I just feel it's not the right one yet. Q: And do you feel — being in L.A. — that you've had more time for your family?
Prince: Totally, and I'm [also] rested to be able to think of what I want to do next. I think for so many years I would just go, "Oh sure, I'll do that role. Absolutely." I think you don't even realize how tired you are. I think I needed a switch — just to think about what do I want to do and what do I want to create, and that's how this album came out of wanting to do something very specific.

Q: Last question. When people hear the name Faith Prince, what would you like them to think?
Prince: [Long laugh.] A multi-faceted talent.

The remaining tour dates for Over the Rainbow: A Concert Celebrating a Century of Harold Arlen — with Faith Prince and Tom Wopat — follow:
February 4 at the Grand Opera in Wilmington, DE
February 5 at the Staller Center for the Arts in Stony Brook, NY
February 6 at Purchase College in Purchase, NY
February 8 at the Maine Center for the Arts at the University of Maine in Orono, ME
February 10 at Proctors in Schenectady, NY
February 11 at the Hershey Theatre in Hershey, PA
February 12 at the Tilles Center of North Fork Hall in Greenvale, NY
February 13 at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
February 15 at Strathmore in Rockville, MD
February 18 at UA Centennial Hall in Tucson, AZ
February 19 at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ
February 20 at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA

DIVA TIDBITS

Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman and Tony Award winner Daisy Eagan will head the cast of a production of Gypsy this summer in Odessa, Texas. Friedman, who is currently starring in the London production of The Woman in White, will play that stage mother of stage mothers, Momma Rose, and Eagan will portray her daughter-turned stripper Louise in the limited engagement at the Ector Theatre. Directed by Tony Georges, Gypsy will play Aug. 11-28. "Both [Friedman and Eagan] are extraordinary. And, the roles [in Gypsy] are so well written that everyone wants to do them," director Georges told me earlier this week. Gypsy will be the final production in a three-musical season at the Ector that will also include Beauty and the Beast and Little Shop of Horrors. Georges will direct all three musicals; ticket information will be announced shortly.

Kate Shindle, recently seen in the all-star benefit concert of Pippin, has been cast in the new musical Himself and Nora. Shindle will play Nora Barnacle opposite Matt Bogart's James Joyce in the world premiere of the new musical at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. Himself and Nora, which is set to run March 16-April 4, features music by Jonathan Brielle, a book by Sheila Walsh and lyrics by Brielle and Walsh. Joseph Hardy will direct. Visit www.theoldglobe.org for more information.

Four-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald will be among the Broadway stars gracing the stage of Carnegie Hall during the 2005-2006 season. McDonald, who recently opened Lincoln Center's American Songbook season, will return to Carnegie Hall's Isaac Stern Auditorium April 29, 2006. And, the New York Pops season at Carnegie — under the direction of founder and musical director Skitch Henderson — will present "Broadway: The 20th Century" on Friday, Oct. 21, 2005, at 8 PM. The concert will feature the talents of Jekyll & Hyde's Christiane Noll, Jerome Robbins' Broadway's Debbie Gravitte and The Phantom of the Opera's Jan Horvath. For more information about the upcoming Carnegie Hall season, visit www.carnegiehall.org.

After an eight-year wait, the "new" Nancy LaMott recording — taped live at Tavern on the Green just weeks before her untimely death — arrived in stores earlier this week. The superb "Nancy LaMott—Live at Tavern on the Green" is now available in record stores around the country. To read my earlier review of the CD, visit Click Here. Would love to hear your thoughts about this beautiful disc, which features LaMott's renditions of "The People That You Never Get to Love," "Waters of March," "The Promise," "Sailin' On," "Listen to My Heart" and more.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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