DIVA TALK: A Chat with Scoundrels' Sherie Rene Scott Plus Tonys '05 and Kitt at the Carlyle

By Andrew Gans
03 Jun 2005

Q: You mentioned about the old way of creating a cast album. How is it different with Sh-K-Boom?
Scott: Before, you would get a big label to be interested and come in and basically own the cast album. . . . If the show's a success, the cast album sells itself, the record label doesn't put any money into it. And if the show's not a success, the record label shelves it. . . . Now, Kurt talks to the producers from the beginning of the show. It includes the cast album in the beginning process rather than giving it over to a label. [Also], certain cast albums can be done for a lot less money and eventually make more money because you're not paying back a big record label. So the producers and our label [own] the show. Now there's Amazon.com, there's our website [and] we have a major distributor so it's in all the record stores, so there's no reason to go outside our community.

Q: On the Scoundrels recording, you have a great bonus track with Bill Charlap on piano. How did that come about?
Scott: Bill Charlap is probably the greatest living jazz pianist right now, and he's a friend of ours. Joel Moss, who won the Grammy last year for the Ray Charles album, has been our partner in Sh-K-Boom and has produced a lot of stuff. And, we were fans of Bill and [were] actually talking about a project with Bill, and Bill was a fan of the label and what we were doing. His father [was] Moose Charlap, who wrote Peter Pan, so he came to jazz through musical theatre. . . [Joel] hooked Kurt up with Bill for the Frankie and Johnny production, where he did "Claire de Lune" for the show, and since then Bill's been a friend . . . He doesn't accompany people, but he loved David Yazbek's music, and Kurt said, "I think we should do a jazz version of 'Nothing Is Too Wonderful,'" and Bill came up with the arrangement, and after an eight-show week, we went in on a Sunday for half-an-hour, and we knocked it out.

Q: How has it been combining motherhood and doing eight shows a week?
Scott: [Baby crying in the background.] You can hear! [Laughs.] There's no saving my voice during the day. There's no, "Let me sleep and rest until the show starts." The show is the most-known quantity of my day. We are all really in love with each other. I'm just blessed with this kid because he makes this really easy. Other people said, "I don't know how you're going to do this." It's hard to do eight shows a week anyway, let alone with a two month old baby when I started back to work. But Kurt is also the most gloriously beautiful father, and he understands what I do for a living, so he understands how we have to team up. That's the only reason I can do this. It's not the easiest thing I've ever done, but it's certainly the best thing I've ever, ever done. Eight shows a week were hard for me before, but somehow I'm having more of a ball doing it now than I ever had before.

Q: Are you excited for Tony night?
Scott: The reason why it's fun for me is it sounds corny, but it's really true I don't get to see anybody because I have a baby who's not sleeping through the night yet. And, one of the main reasons I do what I do is because of the people, just to be able to hang out with them and laugh with them. So, just to have an excuse that I have to go out, I have to get dressed up, and, "I'm sorry I have to stay out late. It's just my job." [Laughs.] That's really what I'm looking forward to.

[Dirty Rotten Scoundrels plays the Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street. For tickets call (212) 239-6200.]

TONYS 2005

Well, it's that time of the year again. The Broadway theatre's biggest night is upon us. On June 5, the 2005 Tony Awards will be presented at Radio City Music Hall with CBS-TV broadcasting the three-hour event live from 8-11 PM ET. In addition to the nominated musicals and musical revivals, the evening will also boast performances from Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters, Grammy Award winner Aretha Franklin and original Rent star Jesse Martin. The Boy From Oz, Tony winner Hugh Jackman, returns as host for the third consecutive year.

Nominees in the Leading Actress in a Musical Category include Christina Applegate in Sweet Charity, Victoria Clark in The Light in the Piazza, Erin Dilly in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sutton Foster in Little Women and Sherie Rene Scott in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The Featured Actress in a Musical nominees are Joanna Gleason in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Celia Keenan-Bolger in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Jan Maxwell in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Kelli O'Hara in The Light in the Piazza and Sara Ramirez in Monty Python's Spamalot.

Last year's winners in the Leading and Featured Actress in a Musical categories were, respectively, Idina Menzel and Anika Noni Rose. Rose, who won for her heartwarming performance in Caroline, or Change, could barely control her tears during her acceptance speech, when she explained, "[Co-star] Chandra Wilson told me to write a speech. I didn't do it! My middle name, Noni, means 'gift of God,' and I just want to thank God so much for the gifts I have been given my voice, the cast of this amazing, amazing show, this opportunity to be here today, the fact that my grandmother is here for me and with me and my brother is sitting there, next to me, and I'm so thankful for all of that. . . I would like to breathe, I would like to do that. . . Thank you so much, for my cast, for everyone. God bless, and thank you."

The most exciting speech of the 2004 Tonys was, perhaps, delivered by Menzel, who nabbed a surprise victory for her performance as Elphaba, the green-faced witch of Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman's Wicked. Menzel breathlessly paid tribute to the four other women in her category, including co-star Kristin Chenoweth, who she said was "the grace and the light" each night on the Gershwin stage. Menzel, whose husband (Taye Diggs) adoringly wiped away tears during her acceptance speech, also gave thanks to director Joe Mantello, composer Schwartz and book writer Holzman for "giving the green girl a heart." She finished by thanking her parents for "taking me to see Dreamgirls and Annie . . . and my beautiful, beautiful husband who tells me he loves me every time I feel like the biggest loser."

If three hours of Broadway aren't enough this Sunday, there are a slew of Tony-related programs also set for June 5. "Breakfast with the Arts" (A&E, 8-10 AM) will feature interviews with Edward Albee, John Lithgow, Sutton Foster, Marc Kudish and Elizabeth Ashley as well as a remembrance of the late John Raitt. "On the Aisle at the Tonys" (CBS2, noon-1 PM) will include chats with Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, John Lithgow, Alan Alda, Kathleen Turner and James Earl Jones. Roma Torre and Patrick Pacheco will lead NY1's 90-minute pre-Tony special from 6:30-8 PM, and from 7-8 PM the TV Guide Channel will offer exclusive coverage of the Tony Awards red-carpet arrivals on "TV Guide LIVE at the Tony Awards."

Eartha Kitt may be the most unique presence on the concert/cabaret circuit today. Certainly, she possesses the most unique voice, one that can purr gently on "You've Got That Thing" or growl fiercely on the Piaf classic "Hymn L'Amour (If You Love Me)." And, at the Carlyle, Kitt is currently purring and growling not to mention belting, flirting and simply having a grand old time. It's been a few years since the 78-year-old Kitt has graced the intimate boite, and her return is a reason to celebrate. In a generous, 70-minute set, the star of Broadway's The Wild Party performs an eclectic mix of tunes, which climaxes with a tribute to the late songstress Edith Piaf that includes an emotional medley of "La Vie En Rose," "Lilac Wine," "What Is This Thing Called Love," "If You Go Away" and "Hymn L'Amour." Kitt also scores with Portia Nelson's wonderful "Hate/Love New York," a Japanese translation of the Rosemary Clooney signature "Come On-a My House" and one of her own signatures, "Just an Old Fashioned Girl." Backed by Daryl Waters on piano, Calvin Jones on bass, Brian Grice on drums and Tony Clinton on percussion, Kitt concludes her evening with another string of songs that she has polished into gems: Johnny Mercer's "When the World Was Young," Ervin Drake's "It Was a Very Good Year," Kurt Weill's "September Song" and Butler and Molinary's "Here's to Life." Here's to Eartha, who'll be playing the Carlyle through July 2; call (212) 744-1600 for reservations.

A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim will be presented June 16-18 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA. Celebrating the famed composer's 75th birthday, the weekend of concerts will feature the Boston Pops under the direction of Keith Lockhart. Guest vocalists will include Broadway favorites Gregg Edelman, Marin Mazzie and Faith Prince as well as Tanglewood Music Center fellows Abby Fischer, Chris Herbert, Lawrence Jones, Charles Temkey and Chanel Wood. Show time is 8 PM. For tickets, call (888) 266-1200. Visit www.bso.org for more information.

Although the new musical Little Women ended its Broadway run May 22, members of the cast will assemble June 20 for the latest installment of the Monday Nights, New Voices series at the Duplex Cabaret Theater. Tony winner Sutton Foster, who starred as Jo March, will host the 7 PM evening, which will also feature the talents of Jenny Powers (Meg March) and Amy McAlexander (Amy) as well as Little Women standbys Anne Kanengeiser, Larissa Shukis and Andrew Varela. Produced by composer Scott Alan, the concert will feature musical direction by Barbara Anselmi. The series, created to spotlight lesser-known talents working in the city, will continue with two other celebrations of this season's new musicals: On July 25 Cheyenne Jackson will host an evening featuring members of the All Shook Up cast, and on Aug. 19 Sara Gettelfinger will welcome members of the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels company. The Duplex is located in Manhattan at 61 Christopher Street. There is a $12 cover charge and a two-drink minimum; call (212) 255-5438 for reservations. Visit www.theduplex.com for more information.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.