ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Peter Gallagher Makes Music; Lonny Price Talks Company

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19 Nov 2012

Donna Murphy

Speaking of replacements, Donna Murphy told me that when she was at NYU, she auditioned to be a replacement in the Hair revival and her audition went really well. She pretty much knew she was cast, and just had to wait for the official phone call. Well, she went back to her dorm and obsessively kept asking the dorm monitor if she had gotten any phone calls. No. This went on for days. She was devastated! She was so certain she was cast and then had no contact from them. It was like an amazing first date followed by complete silence (AKA me in my 20s). Finally, Donna found out the reason why her phone was silent; the show had closed! It reminded me of the early '90s when I was asked to come learn the piano part to Cy Coleman's Welcome to the Club on Broadway and was mind-boggled that the stage door was so hard to open. I pulled and pulled but it wouldn't budge. Rude. Finally, I checked the main doors to the theatre and saw the notice that the show had closed the night before. Thanks for telling me! Where was I supposed to go dressed all in black? An open call for Masha in The Three Sisters?

P.S., that's a call-back to my previous column's mention of my AP English teacher. We had a meeting about my report on The Three Sisters and she kept asking me about the characters and I sat silently. I remember the conversation went:

Mrs. Jaffe: "Who's always dressed in black?"
Me: Silence
Mrs. Jaffe: Masha!!!!!!
Me: Shrugging

Gallagher in "American Beauty."

I told Peter how great he was in "American Beauty," and also how much older he looked! Turns out, he felt his real estate king character should have grey in his hair, but his hair is so black that when you strip it to dye it, it turns yellow. So, they decided to wig him. He was nervous they wouldn't find a wig for him because he thinks he has a really big head. Well, they tried one wig on him and it was way too big for his head! He asked why there was a wig for someone who obviously had a non-human sized head. The wig designer sheepishly told him that it had been a wig for Charlton Heston. That still didn't make sense until she explained further: Turns out, Charlton Heston wore a toupee but didn't want people to know. Therefore, all of his wigs had to be big enough to fit over his head and the wig he was wearing. I guess whenever Charlton was in a film, his toupée became a two-pée! Yeah! Now we're having pun!

Peter did musicals in college, too, and his college was the first to get the rights to Follies right after it closed! They invited Stephen Sondheim to see it, but he wrote them back a great letter saying, "We lost $800,000 on our production. I hope your does better!" When Peter got to meet Hal Prince a few years later, he told him the story. Peter decidedly did not get the big laugh he thought he'd get from Hal. Instead he got a glare while Hal walked away muttering, "We did not lose $800,000!" Yowza. Don't make "investors-lose-massive-amounts-of-money" jokes with a producer.


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