ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Casting a Disaster and Joking With Varla Jean Merman

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01 Oct 2013

On the creative team, we have Drew Geraci, whom I met during Forever Plaid (1992) and Denis Jones whom I met during Grease (1994). Tom Farrell (whom I thought was amazing in Dirty Blonde on Broadway) beats everyone in the show because he and I met at my first job out of college. It was a show called Kiss Me Quick Before the Lava Reaches the Village and we did it at Musical Theatre Works in 1988! And on that note, I've never felt older.

Last week I filmed another episode of Broadway Game Night and this time I played with Debra Monk, Andrea Martin and married couple Jessica Stone and Christopher Fitzgerald. For weeks Andrea's been talking about her last performance of Pippin (where she swung upside down on a trapeze) and how she'll finally be able to eat something fattening. All we heard was her fantasizing about her upcoming banana split. Finally, at Game Night we all asked how her delicious banana split was. She told us that she did her final show, hightailed it to Ben & Jerry's, ordered a big, fat banana split...and they told her they were out of bananas. It sounds like an unfunny SNL sketch, but it's true.

Andrea helped redecorate our entire apartment, and she's still beautifying the joint. She called us before she left the show and told us we could have all of her dressing room furniture! It's so beautiful! She gave it to us a few days before she her last matinee, and I texted her to see what she had left in her dressing room. I hoped she'd be comfortable while backstage during her final performances. She sent me the picture on the side of the column.

Last Wednesday, I went to a big event for Rosie's Theater Kids at the Marriot. My date was Eden Espinosa and we both loved the opening number which featured all the kids involved in the program. There were so many on that stage and they were choreographed within an inch of their lives. There was one moment where they all kept running in two opposing direction circles that fed out from the middle and it seemed like a clown car because they just kept coming and coming. Amazing! The organization goes to the poorest 5th grade classes in NY and offers kids a chance to learn theatre in the beautiful brownstone Rosie O'Donnell had redone in midtown.

Rosie told a story about the time she first worked with the kids, and she told them all to bring bag lunches. The next day, hardly any kids brought lunch. She was very firm and told them that when she tells them to do something, they have to do it. Right after, one of the theatre teachers at the school told Rosie that if the kids didn't bring food, it's because they don't have any at home.

The program also takes the entire fifth grade class (and some parents!) from every school involved to see a Broadway show. Rosie is so saddened by the fact that many, many children live in the neighborhood where Broadway shows are performed and never get to see them. She did an amazing comparison and said it's like kids in Hawaii never seeing the ocean because the beach is only for rich people. Brava! Of course, between all of her fundraising at the event, she also did some comedy. She talked about her family and mentioned that she has a new baby because all of her other kids are teens. She told us that she needed the baby to remind herself that she likes children.


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