|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
He met Sondheim through Hastings, who was his boss for the road company of Zorba as well as musical director of a new 1971 Sondheim show called Follies. On the road with Zorba, Gemignani was musical director and conductor. Hastings "called and said, 'I have a perfect show for you. Could you come back to New York and do it for me?' I said, 'Is it a conducting job?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'I'm not interested. I've stopped playing. I'm a conductor.'"
Hastings persevered. "He said, 'You'll meet everybody you'll ever need to meet in the business on this show.' I said, 'Who?' He said, 'Hal Prince.' I said I already knew him. He said, 'Michael Bennett' [Prince's co-director and choreographer on Follies]. I didn't know who that was. He said, 'Steve Sondheim.' I had no idea who that was. Remember, I didn't come from that world."
Gemignani still wouldn't agree, so Hastings said, "'Listen, if you don't do this I'm going to fire you the minute your contract's up because you're making a mistake.' I definitely said no, hung up, and talked to friends. They said, 'Are you out of your mind? Go to New York.'"
So he went. "That's when I first met Sondheim. I was a drummer in Follies. I took that show over when Hal Hastings left."
The Mystery of Edwin Drood — Rupert Holmes' music-hall romp based on the unfinished Charles Dickens novel — is a joy, he says. "Somebody said [a show like] this is the reason he went into musical theatre. It's fun, spirited, good-natured."
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