Happy New Year! Last week I did my favorite (a.k.a. funniest) moments from 2016, and this week I thought I’d do a year in review through video.
January started with rehearsal for Disaster! and we did a slew of videos featuring various cast members trying to haul out their “signatures.” Here are two of my favorites:
Jennifer Simard doing her Nun character as Bernadette Peters:
We all loved performing on The Today Show even though we had a show the night before and then our call time at NBC was for 5 AM! Seriously!
It paid off, however, because it gave everyone five hours to warm up. Listen how great they all sound!
I was also doing my concert series around the country throughout the year and heard some amazing stories. Here’s one of my faves with accompanying video: Judy Kuhn and I did a concert and naturally she sang “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. She told us that on the day of the film debut she did Good Morning, America, which was filmed that day in Central Park. She had to be there at 5 AM to sound check and then sit for two hours getting hair and makeup. They had set up tents for everyone because it had rained like crazy the night before. As she made her way to the stage to sing, someone touched the top of a tent and all the water that had accumulated on the roof splashed down in a deluge on top of Judy! Not since Carrie at the prom. She was literally about to go on and her hair was sopping wet! Suddenly, the hair guy ran out with a hair dryer and fixed it up in two minutes. She was so happy…til she thought “Wait…if you did that in two minutes, why did I have to sit for two hours to get my hair to look the same!?!?” P.S. I just found the footage and you can see her hair is still wet. Of course, she sounds amazing! Favorite note is the D flat on “How high does the sycamore grow?” then “And you’ll nev-er hear the wolf cry…”
When spring Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraising began, Disaster! auctioned off after-show performances that raised thousands of dollars. We had so many amazing ones! Roger Bart (“Hercules”) and Vanessa Williams (“Pocahantas”) sang their Disney theme songs, Adam Pascal and Daphne Rubin-Vega recreated “Light My Candle” from Rent on the very stage where they first did it! Speaking of the Nederlander stage, Jeremy Jordan sang his end-of-act-one song from Newsies on the stage where he first performed it on Broadway, and France Jolie made her Broadway debut singing her big ’70s hit “Come To Me,” which is featured in Disaster! All those videos are on my YouTube channel and here’s another one of my faves: original cast members from Hairspray with the composer himself at the piano!
In May we got to record the cast album of Disaster! and, wowza, everyone sounded amazing. Listen to Adam’s crazy high B! And Jennifer Simard’s!
In June, James came up with the idea of recording “What The World Needs Now Is Love” to help the victims and families of the Orlando shooting and we teamed up with Broadway Records to get it done in a matter of day. So far, it’s raised over $100,000 for them.
Here’s my deconstruction of all that amazing singing:
Here is some amazing behind-the-scenes video footage of the day of the recording, filmed and edited by Janie Willison. At 4:19 is classic Kelli O’Hara sass when someone asks (even though I just clarified) if they should sing the lyrics “What the“ and Kelli pipes up “He said that already!” I love it! And it also shows Lin-Manuel Miranda trying to do his solo as the “tuneless” Bob Dylan from “We Are The World.” Plus phenomenal solo singing from Lillias White, Orfeh, Jessie Mueller, Carmen Cusak and Keala Settle, which Rosie O’Donnell sums up as being “annoying” because it’s so effing good!
A few weeks later, we traveled down to Orlando for “From Broadway With Love,” an amazing benefit featuring SO many Broadway stars! And now the whole thing is out on DVD and CD at BroadwayRecords.com.
Here are highlights from that concert:
A few days after that we took a star-studded bus down to Philadelphia and performed at the Democratic National Convention. For a few weeks before, our stage manager, Karen Evanouskas , James, and I were gathering tons of personal info from every performer because each one had to be screened by the secret service. Finally, a few days before the performance the DNC security folks told us we absolutely, could not add anymore people. Then we got a call from Sharon Gless. She hadn’t been available because she was doing a reading, but then her husband Barney (who created Cagney and Lacey) told her she was missing a once-in-a-lifetime event and had to do it. So, we decided to beg the secret service to let her in. It worked! Phew. The last one. Then… we heard from someone else who had been out of town when we first emailed: Tyne Daly! Turns out, she was also available. I thought it was pushing it to ask again, but James knew how to play it; he wrote the secret service and said he knew that it was past the deadline but he felt he should ask in case Hillary found out later that there had been a chance for a Cagney and Lacey reunion at the convention and we didn’t try to make it happen. Well, the passive-aggressive threat worked, because both Cagney and Lacey were approved. And, I’m happy to say, they got major applause during the performance! And, that night, Cagney and Lacey was trending on Twitter! There was one more addition: Ben Vereen who hadn’t been available, became available. He already had clearance because he was invited by the DNC but I had no solo for him! Then Rachel Bay Jones, whom I love, had to cancel. Yes! I could give Ben her solo. But, wait…she’s a woman, you say. Well, I say “No problem!” Ben has a woman’s range! Seriously! He not only sang her solo up the octave, he added extra high notes. WATCH!
In September, we filmed a video of the dance remix of the song, which was on the dance charts for weeks and made it to No. 8 on Billboard! I’m the most obsessed with the trio of Fosse dancers featured in it: Ben Vereen, Bebe Neuwirth, and Chita Rivera.
Speaking of Chita, James, Juli, and I joined a slew of stars on the Playbill cruise through Italy. For the final show, I convinced Chita to play Anita again and do the West Side Story “Tonight Quintet” with Peter Flynn as Tony, me and James as Jets, Laura Osnes and Kate Baldwin as Jet Girls, Lisa Mordente and Lindsay Mendez as Shark girls, Adam Pascal and Nathan Johnson as Sharks and Andréa Burns as Maria. Here’s a little highlight reel from rehearsal…watch Chita’s sassy Anita pose at the end.
Then James and I hightailed it to London to do Disaster! as a benefit for TheatreMAD, which is the West End version of Braodway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. We wound up getting amazing reviews and are dying to do the show again there! Here’s a little clip of Simon Lipkin, who played Tony, singing his Act I number but using one of the killer rat puppets and hauling out the skills he learned when he starred in Avenue Q.
Because of “Broadway For Orlando” and the two foster child events we’ve produced, James and I were both given National Leadership Award from the National LGBTQ Task Force. However, there was a hurricane (!) when the awards ceremony was supposed to happen. So they rescheduled it…for when we were in London! Blimey! Here’s our acceptance speech from in front of London’s National Galley.
And finally, I started deconstructing again! Here’s my deconstruction of the opening number from Evita (obsessed since I got the album for my bar-mitzvah):
and Jennifer Simard’s (Tony nominated) performance of “Never Can Say Goodbye”:
Now on to 2017! This Saturday I’ll be at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco with two-time Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole and we’re going to do one of my favorite numbers from Grey Gardens. Here’s my deconstruction of her brilliance!
And next week on January 12, I’ll be at the Van Wezel in Sarasota, FL with the multi-talented (and cute!) Matt Morrison. Here’s our video promo.
And now…peace out!