Playbill On-Line's signature Q&A feature, the Brief Encounter interview, gets put on hold this week so we can take you back for a sampling of quotes read here in 2001. Think of the following as a buffet of bite-sized Brief Encounter morsels. Did they really say that? They did. And you read it here first. Happy New Year.
Classical actor Brian Bedford on having voiced the lead in the 1973 Disney animated film, "Robin Hood": "Oh, that's what I'm most famous for! Especially from a lot of children about two feet high. [The video] still sells like hotcakes. And the kids watch it all the time. Little mites in supermarkets come up to me and ask me to do 'Oo-da-lay-lee.'"
Actor Judd Hirsch on who he wishes he got a chance to work with: "Jose Ferrer. I was preparing to do Herb Gardner's Conversations With My Father back in 1991 at Seattle Rep, and then on Broadway. While we were putting it together, I came to New York. I was at Circle in the Square and I forget what play I was seeing then, but I was desperately trying to find the perfect 'old Russian Jewish actor.' It was during intermission and I looked up and there he was...Jose Ferrer. He was such a famous stage actor and director that I hesitated to approach him. But I thought he'd have a flare for this man and a certain amount of strength in the role. So, I went over to him and said, 'Mr. Ferrer, I'd like to ask you a question.' And he said, 'What's that?' I described the play and he said, 'Why don't you send me the play?' Now, we were going to do the play in 1991 and into 1992, so I called Herb and told him Jose Ferrer was interested and to send him the play. We had a wonderful meeting with him, the director and the playwright. We talked for quite a while. He had a great sense of humor and he was a tremendously opinionated guy. It was an experience I never expected to have and, of course, he died in early 1992. I always felt I had missed one of the big experiences of my life. He was one of the door-opening people who said, 'If you act, do play the height of your intelligence.' I always wondered what other little gems he might have shared."
Kate Burton on her marriage to director Michael Richie and how they try not to immerse themselves in theatre 24 hours a day: "If you came to our home, you would not see one theatrical thing. The only theatrical posters we have up—we both worked at Lincoln Center quite a bit and we have three huge Lincoln Center posters up. But in the back hallway. And then there are some costume renderings in my office and that's it. We're just not those theatre types. We like to do theatre and we like to leave it at the theatre. It's good to have your head clear and not be consumed by the work or you can't have a fresh approach." Songwriter Carol Hall, who scored the hit, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, on the disastrous flop sequel, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public: "It was about two years before I could talk about it without cryin'. Yes, it was a very serious mistake. And what I learned from that is what Moss Hart said. Moss Hart said he didn't know the reason for any of his successes but the reason for all of his failures was the same reason: He said 'yes' when he meant 'no.' What I remember Pete [Masterson], Tommy [Tune], Larry [L. King] and I doing was saying, 'No, no, no, this is a terrible idea, we don't want to do this, no we don't!' And so the real question in my mind is, 'How did we get to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre? How did that happen?'"
Actress-choreographer Ann Reinking, on Gwen Verdon: "I wanted to be as good as she was. I knew I couldn't be her, because she's unique. She was a real artist. It was beyond good dancing. There was just a spirit in her. She was a master craftsman. If I could be good like that, in my way — she was like a hero. Margot Fonteyn is that way. And Katharine Hepburn."
Playwright Alan Ayckbourn on playwright Neil Simon: "I've always admired him very much, and I've directed quite a bit of his work. They lump us together, but we're different as chalk and cheese. The problem: When his plays come to England, everyone expects an Alan Ayckbourn play. And when my plays are done in New York, they expect Neil Simon. But one is New York sharp humor, the other is laid-back British situation comedy."
Hal Linden on how Broadway has changed since he started there 40 years ago: "It's gotten bigger and not as good. The concept of 'spectacular' took over for finer work. I don't think we've heard lyrics, for instance, to match Sondheim or Harnick in two or three decades. We substitute spectacle. I find that to be a major loss to the theatre. How much ground fog can you look at? A laser beam is a laser beam. Also, the whole era of rock and roll dulled our ear. Our creative ear, our listener's ear. It makes us think 'night' rhymes with 'life.' When the most important element of a musical is a lyric, it's hard to explain when it doesn't quite work. We want more. There are some talented people out there, but the audience didn't appreciate them. It's just gonna take time to get past that. Maybe a new generation'll pop up eschewing spectacle."
Actor Gary Beach on one of his first theatregoing experiences: "I was about 11 years old. I grew up in Alexandria, VA, and the National Theatre in Washington D.C. had the national tour of The Music Man starring Forrest Tucker [of 'F-Troop' fame]. I'll never forget it. My aunt took me, and we sat way up in the second balcony. I remember the footbridge scene. I remember thinking, 'These people are here right now doing this. The orchestra I hear is live, right now, playing.' The immediacy struck me as incredible. So I had no choice. I wanted to do theatre. I never thought, 'Oh boy, I want to do television.'"
Actor Andre de Shields on his inspiration: "The epiphany that set me on this road was John Bubbles [aka John William Sublett]. Mostly he's forgotten, but Fred Astaire could tell you about him. They were contemporaries. John Bubbles was one of the stars in the Vincente Minnelli film 'Cabin the Sky.' When I was 9 or 10, I saw that movie and there was this guy dressed in white from head to toe, doing this dance with Lena Horne and he was so hypnotic. It was the first time I was intoxicated. I wanted to grow up to do what that guy John Bubbles did."
Director Jack O'Brien on whether he was intimidated or confounded by the dense material on Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love: "No. No, no. First of all, Tom explained everything to me. Number two: There is extant on the internet a 43-page glossary to all that's gone on in this play. You can log on and get it. And in the third place, when I had done [Stoppard's] Hapgood [at Lincoln Center Theater], which was about quantum physics, I was really out of my depth. But Tom was extremely patient with me and very careful at explaining over and over and over again what these concepts were about. Well, if you've gotten through Hapgood unscathed, anything else, as Sondheim said, is a laugh."
Director Frank Galati, who was replaced as the director of Seussial, the Musical, on the troubled creation of the show: "I thought that its virtues were in the simplicity of the story and the playfulness of the language and the sweetness of the theatrical convention that the show embraced, which was all about narration and storytelling and poetry. But I think that the producers were thinking about something else. They were thinking about the Almighty Buck and reaching the widest possible audience regardless of age or taste. They wanted something that would be sexy and colorful and would really rock. And many of those qualities are not inherent in the work of Theodor Geisel, who was a really droll guy and went to Dartmouth and actually believed that less was more. So we parted company in Boston."
Composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown on what winning the Tony Award for Parade did for him: "Without seeming churlish about it, the Tony Award has done little to nothing for me. I mean, it gets me interviews. It's used for publicity. I make less money now than I did then. It certainly hasn't assured me of a long and fruitful career in the theatre. It's nice, it's fine. It sits up on my mantlepiece and I'm very proud of it and I feel very lucky to have it."
Composer John Kander, on writing for actress Chita Rivera: "First of all, you take your own natural baritone voice and drop it down about three notes. It's a very low voice. It's hard to be totally objective about Chita because we've been working with her for over 30 years and she's a great, great friend. She's wonderfully musical and disciplined. Forget about the voice for a second. When it comes to singing she brings to it not only a terrific voice, but a dancer's innate sense of rhythm. She "gets it" really fast. She's also, I think, probably the most focused, disciplined performer I've worked with in my life. Her voice, which I love, like her dancing, is a result of that discipline. She works at her craft."
Actor-monologuist John Leguizamo on the possibility of writing a play with more than one actor in it: "I wouldn't write it. I'm not built that way. My chemistry doesn't work that way, but I'd love to be in a regular play. I've been in a couple of regular plays: A Midsummer Night's Dream with F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern. Then I did La Puta Vida with John Turturro [at the New York Shakespeare Festival]. Writing a real play, I couldn't even imagine that."
Actress Polly Bergen on the difficulty on mastering Stephen Sondheim's work: "His songs start at the bottom of anybody's range and go to the top, and a couple of notes beyond. And they're the most intricate lyrics known to man. I thought I'd never learn 'I'm Still Here.' Elaine Stritch once said to me [imitating Stritch's gravelly voice], 'I sang that song in concert in London, and I had this really tough time with one part of the lyrics. So I called Stephen, 'cause I'm prone to do that. 'Stephen,' I said, 'I'm having a really hard time with the lyrics: 'First you're another sloe-eyed vamp...' Stephen said, 'That's because you've never been another sloe-eyed vamp!'"
Actor John Cullum on taking a role in Urinetown!: "I didn't know why they would want me to do it. Then, after I saw what it was, I realized that I could make a contribution simply by being myself. The character is really a combination of roles I've played very recently — it's a parody of Oscar Jaffe of On the Twentieth Century, it's very similar to the character of the father of All My Sons, a big businessman who is a real crook — a charmer and a murderer at the same time. It was a logical choice to pick me to parody myself. So what I'm doing is John Cullum playing John Cullum being a fool."
Actress Christine Baranski on an embarrassing on-stage situation: "Well, I won't name names. But someone in a rather serious, really serious moment of a four-character play, someone broke wind very loudly. It could not have been a more serious moment. We all thought we'd die. We didn't know where to look. We were putting our faces into our armpits. And the first few rows of the audience were in on the joke, too. It was physically painful. You know how it is: the more you try to control it, the worse it is. Then you see your colleagues heaving and you think, 'How will we possibly get back on track?'"
— Kenneth Jones, Robert Simonson, Murdoch McBride, Christine Ehren, Ernio Hernandez and David Lefkowitz