ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Getting Arty with Joanna Gleason and Hosting a Laugh Riot at the Chatterbox

By Seth Rudetsky
01 Jul 2013

Joanna Gleason
Joanna Gleason
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

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Ahhhh. (Second) home, sweet home. That's right, I'm in my second home… Provincetown! I'm beginning a summer of going back and forth from New York to the "Broadway at the Art House" series I started two years ago with Mark Cortale. Right now, I'm on my veranda at the beautiful Anchor Inn, overlooking Commercial Street with the Pilgrim monument to my right and delicious Joe's coffee to my left.

We began this year's series two nights ago with a show that has the most different format from any other show this summer. It all began last year when Joanna Gleason was on her first visit to Provincetown. She was walking down the street and someone on a bike rode by and yelled "I love you!" She responded by yelling, "Come back!" He indeed rode back and they chatted in front of the Art House and she saw the poster for the Broadway series. She then contacted me and Mark and told us her idea; essentially, she's like Angela Lansbury, who once told me that she loves to sing as a character but is very uncomfortable singing as herself.

Joanna asked if she could do an evening where the first act is a short play written by Michael Patrick King (who wrote "Sex and the City" and "The Comeback") and the second act would be me interviewing her a little and her singing a few songs. Last Friday and Saturday were her shows, and they were great! The first act was a play called Bloom where Joanna plays a soul in heaven who's giving a lecture to a large group of souls who are about to be reincarnated.



The play has so many funny parts, and the ending is quite moving. At the start, you find out that every soul has been given a random body just so they can get a sense of what it feels like to work one. Seeing Joanna try to walk with her new body was hilarious, unlike anything I've seen since since Robert Reed danced on the "Brady Bunch Variety Hour." Also, the souls, including Joanna, are wearing bodies that were all sorts of races and professions. Joanna has a tag attached to her side that gives info on what body she's wearing. "Let's see… two eyes, one nose, one mouth and breasts are… real! (She feels them to be sure.) I'm just surprised because it says I'm wearing an actress."

Gleason and Chris Sarandon
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

After the play, we took a little break and then act two began which was Joanna singing a song, backed up by her son Aaron, her husband Chris (Sarandon) and the singing string quartet known as "Well-Strung." After the opening, we chatted about her life and career. If you don't know, her father is Monty Hall, creator/host of "Let's Make a Deal," who is now 92 years old! Joanna said that the initial audiences for "Let's Make A Deal" used to arrive in suits and dresses with pearls until they realized that the crazier the dressed, the more likely they were to get picked. I asked her about her early days of TV ("Hello, Larry") and she told me that she did a lot of game shows during that period and she loved them because she's very competitive and always won. I found an episode of "Password" where she was on with McLean Stevenson, but they were playing the game as their characters from "Hello, Larry." Who were they playing against, you ask? Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence as Mama and Eunice! So fun...and bizarre!

Joanna spent her teenage years in California and went to Beverly Hills High School. I asked her if she had any classmates that became famous. She listed Michael Lembeck, Julie Kavner, Albert Brooks and Richard Dreyfus. I immediately said, "So many Jews"! I then asked if she went to Beverly Hills Yeshiva. Of course, we eventually got to Into the Woods and I asked if she influenced any of the writing. First, she said that when the show was out of town, she would finish singing "Moments in the Woods" and an apple would roll onstage. Later on, the audience would find out the apple was poisoned and she had died. She told the director that the audience was invested in her character and seemed to be disappointed that her death happened offstage. So, she soon got killed onstage and then came back as a ghost!

 Continued...