First of all, I must recommend the two books I just finished: Truly, Madly, Guilty, which is by Liane Moriarity with whom I’m obsessed and Master of Ceremonies by Joel Grey! Both so great! And, of course, Joel Grey’s book has lots of showbiz stories that you will love. It’s fascinating to read about filming Cabaret. Turns out, Bob Fosse did not want him to do the role. At all! They were completely at odds almost the entire time. Cut to, Joel wound up winning the Oscar!!! Here’s the opening number.
And now, I’m reading Barbara Cook’s autobiography, which I’m loving! Here’s a deconstruction of one of my favorite songs:
So many high C’s and an E flat!
OK! This week I had the cast of Spamilton on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM radio talk show. Spamilton is an homage to Lin-Manuel Miranda and parody of Hamilton, as well as some other Broadway shows of the season. It was created by Gerard Allesendrini, who also created Forbidden Broadway, and, even though the show hasn’t had it’s official opening night, it’s almost selling out! And they do a lottery like Hamilton…but for 10 cent tickets. Gerard is using the brilliant Fred Barton as his music director, who was the first music director of Forbidden Broadway. AND it’s at The Triad, which used to be called Paulssons where the first Forbidden Broadway was! Fred said doing the show has been like entering a time warp…especially because one of the cast members is named Nora (…and she’s an amazing singer!) and one of the original cast members names is Nora Mae Lyng. So, Fred said he’ll be at rehearsal at the same theatre and hear Gerard call for Nora, and it’s like it’s 1982 again. I have a deconstruction about Nora, Carolee Carmello and many more here. Watch!
I asked Fred to tell my favorite story of his, and he did! When he was a little boy, he was obsessed with Ethel Merman and one night he had a dream that Ethel Merman came to his house. His childhood home had a huge staircase that Ethel walked up, and when she got there, he played piano for her. He woke up and thought, “Ethel Merman will never climb a big staircase and come hear me play the piano” and he was devastated. Cut to ten years later, he’s playing Forbidden Broadway, which is the toast of the town, and many of the stars who were being skewered came to see it…including Ethel Merman! So, not only did Ethel Merman come to hear him play the piano, but the theatre at The Triad is on the second floor, so she actually literally climbed a big staircase to hear him play the piano!! He was a young Jeanne Dixon!
They have guest stars in Spamilton, and Christine Pedi has been the featured diva and done her signature Liza Minnelli. Here she is recording “Down With Rap” (based on “Down With Love”) for my radio show!
I also had cast members from the upcoming Off-Broadway production of Fiorello!, which is transferring to the East 13th Street Theater from the Berkshire Theater Festival. Find tickets here!
Here they are doing “Little Tin Box”:
My big news is that James and I are putting up another Voices For The Voiceless concert on Monday September 12! This is the concert we did last year to “You Gotta Believe,” an amazing non-profit group that helps older foster kids find a home. Once a foster kid hits age 8, they are deemed “special needs” because it’s so hard for them to be adopted. Many adoptive parents only want babies or toddlers and they think if a kid is older, it’s because he/she is a problem child. The deal is, the main goal of the Administration for Children Services is to keep families together. So, if there’s an issue with a kid’s parents, the ACS will try over and over again to keep the kid with his parents. When it becomes impossible for the child to remain with his parents and when every other relative is contacted and none of them can help, then he/she is finally available for adoption. In other words, it’s very rare for a baby or toddler to be available for adoption because it’s a lo-o-o-o-ong process. So, once these kids are available, they’re older than the desired age and, often, they go from foster home to foster home and by age 21, they “age out” meaning they’re on their own. P.S. In some states, they age out at 18! So, many hit young adulthood and have no trusted adult they can go to for holidays, no one they can rely on for advice, for money, for encouragement, for comfort etc. Not surprisingly, 50 percent of them wind up homeless or in prison. You Gotta Believe “believes that no one ages out.” There have young people of all ages who are looking for an adult they can rely on. I had board president Gretchen Biedl on my radio show to promote our concert and asked her for an update on one of the kids that’s happened since our last fundraiser. She said that one young man was approaching his 21st birthday, which meant he was about to age out of the system. Naturally, he was getting more and more anxious about his future…but instead of aging out on the day of his 21st birthday, it wound up being the day he got adopted! We have so many great people performing in this year’s concert, and the coolest news is: we have three original artists performing their iconic hits! Gloria Gaynor will sing “I Will Survive,” Chita Rivera will sass “All That Jazz”….and the concert is set up so that former foster kids talk about their experiences and what song brought them hope. Rosie Perez will be one of the speakers because when she was a toddler, her mother took her away from the aunt who was raising her, and put her into what is basically an orphanage. Rosie grew up there for many years and it was an extremely unpleasant experience. Rosie will talk about her early years and then tell people about the song that always made her feel better, which was “Home” from The Wiz. Well, guess who’ll be singing that song onstage? The original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills! James called Rosie to tell her Stephanie would perform the song and Rosie started crying. You can get tickets at YouGottaBelieve.org, and here’s a preview of what it’s going to be like when Stephanie sings “Home.” This is from the TV show Sammy Davis Jr. had in the ’70s, and what I love is that, right at the end of this clip, two women come out and congratulate Stephanie… Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera! And Chita is going to be performing at our event! Stephanie and Chita together again! Not since 1978!
And finally…my mother. So, my sister’s friend, Joe, was doing some grocery shopping for my mom. He called and left her a message saying they didn’t have fish and he was going to buy her chicken. After she heard the message, she realized he didn’t know that particular supermarket had a separate fish department and she wanted to make sure he bought some. She called him back and told him not to get chicken and exactly where the fish department was in that supermarket (Basically the conversation was “Joe? You have to walk past the kosher meats and it’s behind the produce section. You can barely see it but it’s there! I do not want chicken so please make sure you get fish!”) Cut to, she hung up and then happened to look at her phone. Yes, she had called “Joe”….but it wasn’t my sister’s friend. It was Joe Benincasa, the president of the Actors Fund. And mind you, she didn’t leave a message. She called the president of the Actors Fund, he answered and then she proceeded to give him exact instructions on what to buy and where to buy it. She called me and was mortified. I immediately texted him and he sent this: