I’m back to sitting on the porch of the Anchor Inn. (That’s my go-to spot during my Broadway season at the Art House in Provincetown. So beautiful.) I just did a show with Alice Ripley where she sang up a storm. Of course, we discussed Side Show and I marveled at how she and Emily Skinner truly looked like conjoined twins. She told us, for a few days in rehearsal, she and Emily were actually corseted together. The director wanted them to really feel what it was like if Alice was talking to someone and Emily suddenly started walking away and how Alice’s body would be yanked up. They both had to commit to where they were going or one could physically control the other. Click here to watch how amazing they were!
Alice was the original Broadway ingénue in Sunset Boulevard and told us about the enormous Norma Desmond mansion that was hung above the stage and then lowered down. She remembers a crew person telling her that if it fell, no one underneath would survive. Alice thought that maybe her wig would protect her. She used to look up before the show and try to find the places on the bottom of the structure that had a small opening so if it fell, she could position herself in a space that wouldn’t result in her death. What a fun way to do a show…terrified you’re going to be crushed.
Alice told us that she now wants to play Norma Desmond. She also wanted to silence any naysayers who say she’s too young for the part by informing them that she is in fact older than any of the Normas who first did it on Broadway! (Glenn Close’s return with it this season not withstanding.) She did a great version of what she says is her favorite Broadway song: “As If We Never Said Goodbye.” I didn’t record her singing it at the Art House but I have a rehearsal video of it being sung at the Art House...by Gavin Creel! We recorded it for my sister Nancy, who’s a big fan, and we added a completely inappropriate ending just to give him a high note!
Alice talked about being cast in the early ’90s as one of television’s new “Hee Haw Honeys.” The new version of the show lasted a few episodes and was then unceremoniouslycanceled. Right away, Alice came to New York City and got the agents she still has today. After she was signed, she was in their offices and one of the bigwigs walked in holding Entertainment Weekly and opened it to a huge picture of Alice with the cast of Hee Haw. The magazine had gone to print with the story even though the show had already been canceled. The agent pointed to the photo of an Alice with lots of makeup and her hair sprayed into a country upsweep and simply said “We won’t be doing that anymore.” Direct and right to the point!
Here’s Alice discussing her time on the show, her hilarious marriage proposal, and giving an online audition for the title role in Evita.
Today is the sad anniversary of Elaine Stritch’s passing. There are so many amazing Stritch stories out there and I just heard this one from Faith Prince. Faith had a great role in the early ’90s musical Nick and Nora. Even so, there were many other people in the cast and Faith’s dressing room was many floors up. One night, as she was in her dressing room getting ready to leave, she heard a voice from four flights down. It was faint but it was also gravelly and baritone-ish. “FAIIIIIITH PRINNNNNCE!” It got louder and louder. “FAIIIIIITH PRIIIINCE!” It, of course, belonged to Elaine Stritch and Stritch was yelling her name as she slo-o-o-o-owly made her way up the stairs. “FAIIIIIITH PRIIIINCE!” Finally, she arrived in the door to Faith’s dressing room, panting, and said, “You’re going to be a huge star. Which is good because that’s the last time I climb all those f***ing stairs! Now, where’s the bathroom? I gotta pee.” Brava!!
Speaking of Elaine, here’s the deconstruction I did of her two years ago on this date:
And there is a video of the one time I got to work with her.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS asked me to write the opening number to the Easter Bonnet Competition. I had co-written the parodies for Grease and Forever Plaid, but I had never done a big opening number. It seemed so terrifying yet very, very exciting. They teamed me with an up and coming young choreographer: Kathleen Marshall! I wrote the parody and since it was about bonnets (a.k.a. hats), we all wanted to have a classic moment at the end. Well, we got one: After the entire number of everyone singing “Hats! Glorious Hats!” Stritch suddenly came out. Just her entrance brought the crowd to a frenzied applause that lasted for a least a minute. For reasons only she knows, she came out with an overcoat (?), pocketbook (?), and wearing gloves (!). It was so bizarre and had nothing to do with the number…yet it allowed her the stage business of taking off her gloves while she said her classic line. SO SMART!
Watch also how she doesn’t turn around to exit: She walks stage left and then circles back to stage right. BRAVA! The filming hasn’t aged well, but you can see her signature dry/mulling-over-something face and her inate/spot-on comic timing. She is indeed missed. Watch!
And finally, the next Playbill cruise is in August where we’re taking a fancy riverboat down the lovely Rhine River. Here’s Andréa Burns, one of our amazing performers doing a hilarious imitation of Stritch. Andrea worked with her in Sail Away and boy, does she have her down pat! Watch (and sign up for the cruise!) and then peace out!
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Playbill Travel operates the premiere vacation programs for discerning travelers with a shared love of exotic locales and the theatre. The Broadway on the High Seas series has become a hit with hundreds of theatre-loving travelers since its inaugural voyage in September of 2011. Entertainers aboard Broadway on the High Seas and its sister resort program, Broadway By The Sea, have included Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christine Ebersole,Tommy Tune, Andrea Martin, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Lewis Black, Sherie Rene Scott, Laura Benanti and others. Since its inception in 2011, over 1,000 Playbill travelers have visited over a dozen countries including Italy, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Poland, Germany, French Polynesia, Vietnam and beyond!
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