ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Close-Up at Closer Than Ever, Plus Megan Mullally, Kristine Zbornik

By Seth Rudetsky
27 Aug 2012

On Tuesday, I took Eliana to see Bring It On and I'm completely obsessed with Ryann Redmond's voice. Sass! Plus all I want to do is become a cheerleader but because of lack of flexibility and advanced age, I'm now constantly asking Juli if she'll become one so I can live vicariously through her. Not since Mama Rose. On Wednesday, James and I saw Into The Woods and I first have to say that it's so beautiful to be sitting in the middle of Central Park watching a show. You feel like you actually are into the woods. Secondly, I was so proud of my friend Kristine Zbornik. Kris and I worked in Rose's Turn piano bar for years and we've done tons of comedy shows together. She plays Jack's mother and was such a stand-out. So funny and then so real in Act Two. Watching her I got my signature tears in ye olde eyes. Also, I'm now obsessed with Sarah Stiles. Brava on the Little Red Riding Hood comedy! P.S., if you've never seen Kristine in action, watch this. Hilarious! 

Christopher Jackson
Wednesday was my radio show and I brought on Chris Jackson from In the Heights. My 15-year-old niece has the biggest crush on him, which is adorable… but so does Nancy, my 51-year-old sister which then makes it creepy. Nancy told me that they life is like Grey Gardens but without the cats. During one long car trip, they changed the lyrics to a school song to be about Chris. Since they're constantly singing it, I made them perform it on my show in front of Chris! Watch the inappropriateness

On Thursday, I high-tailed it up to Provincetown to do three (sold-out!) concerts with Megan Mullally for my Broadway at the Art House series. People think of Megan as a comedy actress only, but I first met her (almost 20 years ago!) when we did Grease on Broadway. She played Marty and I was the sub pianist. Or, as she said during our interview, "Janitorial services." But before she was an actress and singer, she began as a ballet dancer! She was in a ballet company in Oklahoma City (as a soloist) and spent the summers studying at the School of American Ballet. This was during the time when ballet stars were celebrities. She remembers being in the ladies locker room and seeing Gelsey Kirkland constantly running in with smeared make-up and "crying about something Barishnikov did." There're no videos of Megan dancing, but in this clip you can see her amazing line in the first shots.

Megan's music teacher in high school discovered she had a good voice and asked her to perform for the students. She did "Don't Rain On My Parade," "People" and "Razzle Dazzle." Unfortunately, the only time everyone was assembled was for morning mass (it was an Episcopal school) so, as she said, she was "doing fan kicks inside a chapel and basically giving the principal a lap dance."

All she wanted to do was go to NYC after high school, but her mom asked her to apply to one college. If she got in, she had to go. But if not, she could go to New York. Megan remembers sitting on the floor of her bedroom and putting no effort into writing a moronic college essay for Northwestern. She was then outraged to find out that she got accepted! After college she lived in Chicago and did a lot of theatre and grew her hair all the way down to her waist. She said there were many days on the Chicago T where she'd have to turn to the person next to her and say, "Excuse me, sir… you're sitting on my hair." She wanted to move to NYC but her boyfriend asked if they could try California for a month. She wound up getting a great agent right away and stayed. Her first big film audition was for the lead in "Risky Business." "Spoiler alert," she said, "I didn't get it." But then she auditioned for her first pilot and was cast on "The Ellen Burstyn Show" (1986-87). Her mom was played by Ellen Burstyn and her grandma by….Elaine Stritch! They wound up becoming friends and staying in touch since then.

When Megan was in Young Frankenstein she got two tickets for opening night; she gave one to her husband and one to Elaine. Megan said that she was bowing onstage for an extended curtain call and when the curtain finally came down, Stritch was standing there. Megan was giddy from the thrill of opening night and standing in full costume. Stritch hugged her and said in her signature voice, "Megan you were wonderful." One second pause. "The show is horrendous." Happy opening?