I’m on plane ride number one out of four this week. All I can say is I’m in heaven because I just got the signature warm cookie. YUM! However, there is a couple behind me that is holding what everyone dreads on a flight; a baby. AND the mother literally lifted the baby over the seat so the baby could pull my hair! The only reason I’m not furious is because it’s Sally Swenson…aka the baby of Will Swenson and Audra McDonald! Yes, we’re all flying to Chicago and Audra just lifted Sally up and her little fingers are basically trying to pull out my weave. Hands off, sister!
The three of us (Sally will be backstage) have two shows in Chicago at Steppenwolf and when we got on the plane, a woman with her daughter walked by and told Will she had just seen him in the Waitress matinee! Will is loving doing Waitress and, while discussing it, we wound up talking about one of his first Broadway experiences: Lestat.
That was based on the book The Vampire Lestat with a score by Elton John, and it starred Hugh Panaro in the title role. Will understudied all the men, including Hugh, and, even though it had a short run, he had the chance to go on for the lead! I say “had the chance” because Hugh indeed was out of the show and they had to put on his understudy. However, even though they had costumes for Will to play many of the roles he covered…they didn’t have any ready for the leading role! So another understudy went on instead.
Speaking of understudies, I had Ann Harada on Seth Speaks and she told me she would never understudy again. She covered Allison Janney in 9 to 5 and she told us all it’s so not fun; you basically always feel unprepared. Anika Larsen, who went to Yale and, therefore, has that “what is the root of the word” mindset, says “being an understudy literally means you’re under studied.” How fun! And terrifying.
After Chicago, I fly to L.A. for the next Concert For America, which is this Wednesday (!) at Royce Hall at 7PM Pacific Time. You can get tickets (or watch the livestream) at ConcertsForAMerica. Tickets start at $25 and the livestream is free!
We just added more Hairspray people, so we’re not only going to do “Good Morning Baltimore” with Marissa Jaret Winokur, but we’re gonna add Paul Vogt (Edna), Laura Bell Bundy (Amber), and Mary Bond Davis (Motormouth Mabel!) for “Big Blonde and Beautiful”! And for those of us who grew up in the ’70s, we have Helen Reddy singing “I Am Woman”! I love how she sounds here and I can’t wait to teach this sassy harmony to my back-up singers tomorrow!
We also have the amazing Ben Vereen opening the show and I just found this fabulous clip from a ’70s TV show he did which is like a version of Fame and A Chorus Line. I love seeing what a trained dancer he is.
P.S. Speaking of the ’70s, I was going to make a joke feigning that I myself wasn’t around back then and then remembered this amazing faceoff Jane Krakowski had with Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock.
And then I remembered this string of videos Jack Plotnick and I did when Disaster! was Off-Broadway. For instance, here’s Santino Fontana:
Then Jane Krakowski came up with this amazing one:
I also had Brandon Uranowitz at Seth Speaks and he told me that he desperately wanted to play Mendel in Falsettos, but when he auditioned, he was told he didn’t get the part—four times! He literally kept going in and then the feedback to the agent wasn’t “we’ll see.” It was “he is no longer being considered.” Over and over again! He would go through the process of letting the part go…and would then be called in again. It’s like the guy who breaks up with you and then suddenly wants you back. Basically, Falsettos kept calling him for a booty call, but he just kept going back and they finally gave him the role. And then he got a Tony nomination for it!
He also talked about how his met his boyfriend Zachary Prince. Turns out, Zach was his understudy in Baby, It’s You.
He said the show was problematic and they were constantly texting after rehearsal commenting on what was going on…including the fact that one of the powers-that-be would end rehearsal by giving tips. Literally! An actor would be approached with the ol’ “Hey! Great job today,” and then would be handed a $20 bill. It’s so bizarre and hilarious!
Anyway, Brandon said he and Zach texted and texted and suddenly they were like “Wait. Are we in love?” and, turns out, they were! And are! Here they are singing together in Brandon’s recent act at 54 Below:
Also! I forgot to write that I saw Hello, Dolly! about a week ago. First I want to say that someone in the audience recognized me and said, “I can’t believe it took you this long to see it.” Huh? It had literally opened the week before! I didn’t know people expected me to be so cutting edge. Anyhoo…it was great! Such an homage to old school musical theatre. I’m obsessed with the simplicity of the choreography. Literally a whole stage of people at one point bouncing on their heels. So simple but effective!
To purchase Hello, Dolly! tickets, click here.
And, my friend Jennifer Simard, who got a Tony nomination for playing the Nun in Disaster!, was hilarious as Ernestina Money. It’s such a cra-za-zy characterization. And for anyone who doesn’t know how committed Jennifer can be to get a laugh, please watch this amazing Obsessed in which she is the star!
I loved chatting with Gavin Creel after the show; he was fantastic. I told him that when I hear “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” I’m used to people who play Cornelius singing “Listen BarnaBAY!” instead of “Listen BarnabY!” He knew exactly what I meant and told me that he learned how to sing E vowels from doing Book of Mormon. Eight times a week he had to sing the phrase “I Believe” over and over again. Of course, the best E vowels on Broadway are from Betty Buckley. Listen to her amazing “Touch MEEEE” from “Mem’ry” on the Jerry Lewis telethon. SO GOOD! And then peace out!