ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, King of the Desert; Plus Josh Groban and Andréa Burns

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11 Feb 2013

Seth and Josh Groban
At Sirius/XM I hosted a town hall-style interview, which is an hour-long event subscribers sign-up for in a lottery. If they win tickets, they get to watch a celebrity interview up-close and ten of them get to ask a question. I interviewed Josh Groban, who's now in his early 30s, which made me realize that when I conducted him in the Actors Fund concert of Chess he was in his early early 20s. Holy cow, was he young! Chess was the third concert in the series I began in 2001 with Dreamgirls. Next was Funny Girl and in 2003 we scheduled Chess with Josh as the Russian, Adam Pascal as the American, Norm Lewis as Molokov and Raúl Esparza as the Arbiter. At first, Lara Fabian (a great Canadian pop singer) was supposed to play Florence and Julia Murney was set for Svetlana, but around a month before the concert, all the scheduling went haywire and Lara dropped out. We moved Julia up to the role Florence and therefore needed a Svetlana.

I was subbing in the orchestra of Thoroughly Modern Millie at the time and one night I hightailed it backstage to Sutton Foster's dressing room during intermission. I asked her to play Svetlana, she agreed and we wound up having an amazing cast! What's crazy is even though Josh was so young at the time, he was already super-famous. If you don't know about his rise to fame, it began when Andrea Bocelli got sick and couldn't do the Grammy Awards rehearsal with Celine Dion. Record producer David Foster was working with Josh (who was 18 years old!) and asked him to do the rehearsal. Josh sang with her and told me what an amazing experience it was. First of all, instead of all the nominees in their own little camps and totally sequestered from each other like they are these days, he said that they were all hanging out in the theatre…so he was able see all these incredibly famous people and they all heard him sing. Plus, Josh's dad asked Celine if he could videotape and she said yes (!) so Josh has a record of his incredible experience. Rosie O'Donnell was hosting at the time and she called him over (Her exact words were: "Hey! Opera boy!") and asked him to come on her show. He was then cast on TV's "Ally McBeal" and in 2007 he was charted as the best-selling American singer!

Josh told me that he loved doing the one night Broadway Chess and wants to do a full run of a Broadway show. Yay! He wants to originate a role (either in a new show or a revival) and has been talking to Tim Rice about bringing Chess back to Broadway. Here's a highlight reel of the Actors Fund concert…such a great cast and delicious full orchestra!

Speaking of live singing, I asked him about auto-tuning, which is rampant in the recording industry and on television, and he said that he never allows it on his recordings. He's had experiences where engineers have tried to auto-tune some of his songs and as soon as he finds out, he always insists on going back and re-recording them instead. Old school! I ended the interview with a "Name That Lyric" segment where Josh hauled out some amazing vocals. The first airing of the entire interview is Valentine's Day at noon (Eastern time) on SiriusXM Stars 107.


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