THEIR FAVORITE THINGS: Tony Winner and Nothing Like a Dame Creator Phyllis Newman

By Andrew Gans
March 7, 2012

Playbill.com's new feature series, Their Favorite Things, asks members of the theatre community to share the Broadway performances that most affected them as part of the audience.

This week we spotlight the choices of Tony winner Phyllis Newman, whose annual fundraiser, Nothing Like a Dame, a benefit for the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative, will be presented March 26 at 7:30 PM at The Gerald Lynch Theatre in Manhattan.

The theme of this year's Dame is "Their Favorite Things," based on this feature series. "Through engaging stories and songs, favorite performers from stage and screen will take the audience on a tour of their favorite shows and performances, highlighting those unforgettable nights in the theatres that have that influenced their careers," according to The Actors Fund. For more information click here.



Barbara Harris in The Apple Tree. 

 

"During the so-called Golden or Hey-Hey Days of the Broadway musical… I had a number of jobs in the theatre… One season I performed at the matinees of The Apple Tree while the brilliant Barbara Harris did the evening shows. Although she had an understudy, they often called me to come in at night. She was going through an illness, and the show consisted of three separate short musical plays with complete change of makeup, costumes, et. al. It required an enormous amount of energy; sometimes she did one and I did two or vice versa… or none and… well, you get it. The point being (oh, you want a point?) I was in Shubert Alley a lot of nights...."

 

 

Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing.

 

"Years before, I was Judy Holliday’s standby in Bells Are Ringing… same theatre, same alley... I had to be there for the first act, but during the second I was free to wander, and wander I did. In and out of theatres. So, I was lucky enough to see some stunning performances over and over. Those two superb actresses were consistent and yet fresh every show. Both, uniquely comic, yet off stage, complicated, troubled, shy and highly intelligent."

 

Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer.

"While I was working full time in another show, The Entertainer, by John Osborne, came from London for a limited run. Its star, Laurence Olivier, played Archie Rice, a seedy, unsuccessful, aging vaudevillian. They arranged a special performance for the working actors who couldn’t get to a regular show. It’s impossible for me to describe the profundity, skill and chops, yes chops, that Olivier sent out across those fabled footlights... He took that entire audience with him on his sad descent. We remained in our seats for a long time after the curtain calls. Most of us there had chosen the same kind of profession as Archie, and we saw things we didn’t want to face, at the same time seeing one of the greatest actors of all time."

Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury in Sweeney Todd.

 

"Then there are the 'Well... of course!' groupetto of the Sondheim works... Hal Prince… Len Cariou… Angela Lansbury and all the rest who brought the unimaginable right there to the stage. To be terrified and entertained and moved at the same time... in Sweeney Todd."

 

 

Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin in Sunday in the Park With George. 

 

"Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin and Sunday in the Park With George. Well, dear Playbill readers… you can argue about the rest of that [Sondheim] group, and whatever you vote for, you’ll be a winner."

 

 

Judy Garland.

"Now I’m going to wrap up with one of the few, and I mean few, reasons for having been around and working for sooooo long. Most of you whippersnappers are too young to have seen some of these thrilling entertainers grab you and never let you go in their concerts. How about Judy Garland at the Palace? Judy at Carnegie Hall? Live… live… live… only in the theatre."

 

 

Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music.

"Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music... A whole life, one of the most interesting and complex lives as told and sung by one of the most compelling and beautiful entertainers of all time."

 

 

Hugh Jackman.

"This list could go on for days. The magic of great theatre stays with you forever. But I have shopping to do, lashes to dye, and, by the way right in our midst was one of my all-time favorite things, Hugh Jackman. He combines the best of the old and the new. How grateful I am that he keeps doing theatre. Now if only his next show features a quirky, yet still beautiful grandmother. Now, THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT."