Last week was a double whammy at The Town Hall! Monday night was my concert with Patina Miller, and Thursday was our annual Voices For The Voiceless concert to help You Gotta Believe, the only organization to focus solely on helping older foster youth find families.
Watch this fabulous montage filmed and edited by Paul Ewen!
We opened with Jenn Colella singing “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and, ‘natch, she was thrilling. Jenn is so supremely talented, but had been cast in a multiple of shows that haven’t run very long. Her shortest was Lucky Guy (which I LOVED) that ran for just 10 days. Because of her bad luck, Jenn made it a point to never decorate her dressing room because her shows had such short runs. It was depressing to constantly take stuff down right after they went up. Finally, after doing Broadway for 15 years, she originated the role of the American Airlines pilot Beverley Bass in Come From Away, and this time, the show is lasting longer than she’s stayed in it! She just left after more than two years! Here’s her fantastic performance on The View.
Back to the benefit concert: We then had a former foster kid named Ricardo Vasquez speak about going from home-to-home as a kid until he was finally adopted. When he was a little boy, his biological mother wanted to protect him and his siblings, so she locked their apartment with a padlock on the outside, thinking it would keep them safe. She didn’t realize it was a fire hazard for them and soon, the kids were taken away from her. His mom had difficulty speaking English and the stress of losing her children caused her mental deterioration and he was finally adopted at 18 and is now married with a family! He told the audience that when the cop car first took him away from his mom, the radio was playing “All My Life.” It was a horrific moment in his life, but since that moment, he’s always used that song to give him strength and peace. Right after he spoke, The Broadway Boys came out and sang an amazing arrangement of the song by Jesse Nager, and Ricardo watched with his wife and adorable twins!
P.S. Have you heard they’re version of “Defying Gravity”? So many stunning voices!
Then Andrea Martin and Santino Fontana came out and cleansed the palate with “Funny” from My Favorite Year. In the show, the song is sung by a production assistant who works for a big comedy show on TV. She is officious and prim and asks Andrea, who played a comedy writer, how to be funny. Andrea and Santino obviously had to change the premise.
So, it began with the two of them coming out and Andrea telling everyone that she and Santino had been at the first Voices For The Voiceless concert five years ago. Santino then laughed uncontrollably. Andrea was confused but soon explained, “Oh! I get it. It’s nervous laughter. Your show just closed and you’re wondering if you’ll ever work again.” Santino kept laughing and gasped, “You’re a comedy legend, Ms. Martin.” Andrea was like, “Santino. We know each other. We did a show together.” Then, “You know what it is? You’re a new father, you’re exhausted, and you’re wondering if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life.” Santino explained, “It’s not that. Well, it’s not just that…I want more. I want…” and then he launched into the song. If you’ve never heard it, listen here.
What’s amazing is that My Favorite Year had a very short run—opened in December and closed in January. Usually, those shows are forgotten by Tony Award time. But, amazingly, months later, Andrea was nominated for a Tony Award. And then, she won! Not only does Andrea now have a Tony Award from that experience back in the early ’90s, but she has a lifelong friend. Why? Well, Debra Monk also won a Tony Award that night for the show Redwood Forest. Like Andrea, Deb’s show closed many months before. What did that mean? It meant that none of the press was interested in speaking to either of them. So, after they won their Tony Awards, they both just sat in the press room with nothing to do. So, they wound up chatting up a storm….and have been best friends ever since!
The fabulous Liz Callaway performed as well, singing “Journey To The Past” from Anastasia. She told everyone that he has sung the song many, many times before, but the lyrics have taken on a brand new meaning ever since she sang it at a fundraiser for You Gotta Believe. Home, Love, Family…it’s what You Gotta Believe it all about. Here’s a video of Liz performing it in Orlando during the concert we did after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I love how all the comments underneath are asking how the hell she still sounds exactly the same as the ’90s film!
Then we had Ty Montgomery and his mom Lisa. Ty is a running back for the New York Jets and told us he was born in Texas. Lisa told us that after she gave birth to Ty, she separated from her husband, but Ty wanted siblings. So, Lisa decided to get him some brothers. She wanted them to be older kids because she didn’t have time to deal with diapers, etc. and loved how older kids could communicate and tell you about their feelings.
She made a point that they were all treated as her children. She noted that sometimes parents treat their biological kids differently, but all of her children were treated the same. If Ty got a cell phone, they all got a cell phone. Soon, she said that word got out about her mom skills and kids were clamoring to be raised by her. All in all, Ty wound up having 17 brothers! The song she sang to her kids as they grew up was “Your Love Is My Love,” which Whitney Houston recorded. We brought out Anika Larsen to perform the song with (another) amazing arrangement written and performed by The Broadway Boys.
Anika was a perfect choice because she grew up with 10 brothers and sisters…half biological and half adopted. I asked Anika to tell my favorite story about how Halloween was handled in their house growing up: Anika told us that at one point, there was a multitude of children all under the age of seven. So, at Halloween, her parents would take all of their candy and throw it in a giant bathtub. All the kids would strip, jump in the tub and eat like crazy. At the end of the night, they would get hosed down in the tub and they’d end the night clean and full of candy. Of course, that was it for the candy and it wasn’t until Anika was older that she realized Halloween candy lasted longer than one day!
While Anika was singing, Lisa joined; I was not surprised considering what happened a few days before on my radio show. I had our fabulous New York Attorney General, Letitia (“Tish”) James on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show. I am so impressed by her non-stop lawsuits in pursuit of justice. Every day it’s something new. She just filed a lawsuit against the current administration for denying New Yorkers the chance to renew their global entry status. Even though she is a no-nonsense attorney, she is so fun-loving. Whenever she comes on my show, she always says she wants to sing. Well, this time, I held her to wish and she chose “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.” Ty and Lisa also happened to be on the show and they all wound up performing it together!
Tish has just gone through a break-up and used the song to do an impromptu monologue about ending her relationship…adding the caveat that she would have begged if he had been a running back like Ty. Watch!
I have more anecdotes from our You Gotta Believe show, but you’ll have to wait for a future column.
I want to give a shout-out to Farah Alvin who was just on Seth Speaks to promote her upcoming show Farah Alvin On Vinyl,where she sings my favorite music: songs from the ’70s!
Speaking of the ’70s, her dad created the posters for films of that decade, starting with Blazing Saddles and including so many more incredibly iconic movies like Victor/Victoria, Beauty And The Beast, and E.T. Look!
And speaking of E.T., my high school friend Terry Heyman just wrote a hilarious article from the perspective of Mrs. E.T., who does not want him to phone home or ever show up again. Read it here.
Back to Farah: Here she happened to be on Seth Speaks when I also had the incredible Neil Sedaka. I had her sing her version of Solitaire, which I arranged to end on an F. You can see Neil come up at the end and give her a hug. He flipped out over her performance!!! Watch it here.
Speaking of belters, come see me and Stephanie J. Block Saturday, February 22 at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her range is incredible and here is one of those amazing, incredibly-researched videos that splices together all of her belted notes…from a Bb to a high F#. Brava to the clinical research!
Get tickets to see me and SJB here, and peace out!