Here’s the follow up to my Playbill Cruise recap. Part 2 and we’re up to Brandon Uranowitz. He did great songs in his show, including a bunch by Bill Finn (who wrote Falsettos, which Brandon got a Tony nomination for this year) and he told everybody how he was obsessed with quick changes. When he was a kid, he would try to recreate the quick change that Christine Daee does in Phantom during “Think of Me.” In that number, she goes from being a ballet chorus girl to a leading lady by suddenly having an enormous bustle dress put on her before the big ending of the number. Since Brandon didn’t have a dresser when he was 11 years old, it was easier for him to do the reverse; he’d begin in a big bustle dress and then remove it before the end of the number. ‘Natch.
During his Chatterbox with me, he told the audience that it’s easy to make your own bustle dress with household items. Well, for his big show, he sang “Dressing Them Up,” which is from Kiss Of The Spider Woman and sung by Molina, the window dresser. (It’s also the number he sang recently in Prince of Broadway ). We decided it would be fun to get a member of the audience and actually “dress them up” as the song says…in a bustle dress! So, he picked a passenger and performed the whole number while putting her in a stunning bustle made out of the various sheets and towels from his room. It was perfect!
Julia Murney did the next show and, speaking of quick changes, I just found this clip of her online from a show I did a few years ago. It’s called Broadway 101 and each segment gives the audience inside scoop on Broadway, which is demonstrated in front of them. Here’s Julia showing how quick changes are done. I’m obsessed with this because it’s such a simple way to show how it’s done but it’s so deliciously satisfying.
Julia sang a variety of tunes including Kander and Ebb’s “Ring Them Bells” (she worked with John Kander on First You Dream) and, naturally, she hauled out some Wicked with “Defying Gravity.” And speaking of Wicked, she also told everyone the time the whole plot almost didn’t make sense. Spoiler alert: Near the end of Act 2, one of the flying monkeys hands her a letter. She reads it, gasps, Glinda asks her what’s wrong and she tells her that Fiyero is in severe trouble. Well, the flying monkey came up to Julia…and had no letter. Uh-oh. He couldn’t relay the information in the letter verbally because in the world of Oz, flying monkeys do not speak. How was she going to find out about Fiyero? He approached Julia and she hoped he was going to whisper her an idea like, “I’ll fly offstage, get the letter and fly back!”. Instead he whispered this helpful nugget: “Figure it out.” Wonderful. He then fled the stage. Well, Julia had no letter but she had to find out about Fiyero or else the rest of the show would make no sense. Could she have faked a phone call? Does the witches castle have a landline? Thankfully, she’s very smart; there’s one moment and one moment only when Elphaba has a feeling, gasps and psychically knows that her sister is in danger. So, instead of one psychic moment that evening there were two! Julia stood by herself, held her hands to her stomach, gasped and Glinda therefore had reason to ask what was wrong. She then psychically knew that Fiyero was in danger. Brava quick thinking! And bad monkey.
Rachel Bay Jones put together a very eclectic show with all different types of music. The one thing that I demanded she add to various numbers were buttons! A few songs just sort of ended. How do you get applause?! Here’s my deconstruction on the importance of buttons. Watch!
Rachel told me that’s why we’re a good team because we’re such opposites. I agreed and said that I’m like BROADWAY!!!!! and she’s like “…am I on stage?” (P.S.: If you’ve never heard Rachel’s stunning singing, here’s the Obsessed we did a few years ago.)
James and I went out with Rachel’s family and my friend Jack and Jim to this amusement park in Vienna that’s open all night (!). This weird pop song kept randomly playing at odd moments and we decided we would video us waiting til it started playing again and then launch into a dance. Here’s the video. I’m at the far right and Rachel is second from the left.
Laura Osnes was the final performer and sang so many beautiful songs. She rehearsed a Nora Jones-esque arrangement of “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” and I told her that the audience would want something more standard and she needed to ixnay it. Well, Marc Cherry (who created Desperate Housewives) heard the rehearsal and told Laura he loved that arrangement and couldn’t wait to hear it in the show. Naturally, we had to do it and it was a big hit. Here it is:
On the final day, I put together a variety show and it was so great! Laura and Julia sang “For Good,” my friend Jack showed his brilliant comedy chops with “I Love a Film Cliché” from A Day in Hollywood/A Night In The Ukraine, Marc Cherry made a guest appearance singing “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat” (he’s got a great tenor voice!), and Julia sang “All That Jazz” with the audience singing the ensemble counterpart! I asked Rachel to haul out a song from Dear Evan Hansen that wasn’t her own and basically strong-armed her into doing “Waving Through a Window.” It was fantastic! She told us afterwards that she really didn’t know the lyrics that well because she’s normally walking behind Evan Hansen during the song and singing a weird harmony line. She then demonstrated what she does: We all got to watch an emotionally shut down person, walking random patterns, singing extremely elongated straight-toned AHHHHH’s. So hilarious.
Michael Feinstein wanted to dedicate a song to all the long-term couples on the boat and sounded wonderful. He made the valid point that most songs are about people breaking up, new love or unrequited love. But very, very few about long-term love. (That’s why I was so glad to find “Still The One” for Disaster! . It’s one of the few ones out there.) He sang a gorgeous one: “How Do You Keep The Music Playing.” So good!
And then I decided to do a tip o’ the hat to my dad, who was there on the cruise with his wife Gloria. My dad loves Gershwin and especially “Rhapsody In Blue,” so I ended the whole show by playing it for him as a solo. However, there’s one section where you really need an orchestra so Michael Feinstein ran up from the audience and joined me for 16 bars! Afterwards, everyone came up to me and said they loved watching my dad throughout the performance!
OK everyone…Don’t forget to watch the Concert For America livestream Monday, November 27! We’re at the Signature Theater in D.C. with Chita Rivera, Maureen McGovern, Christine Pedi, Judy Kuhn, Andrea Burns, Kerry Butler and Kate Rockwell from Mean Girls and more! Get thee to www.ConcertsForAmerica.com for livestream info (tix are already sold out).