Hello from Icelandic Air! We’re looking down on tons of snowy mountains because we’re flying over Greenland. So cool!
We’re finally heading for home after our Playbill cruise all around Iceland and here are the highlights of a Broadway-packed week:
The first show featured (four-time Tony nominee) Judy Kuhn, who sang songs from all almost all of her Broadway shows including “I Know Him So Well” from Chess (joined by Sierra Boggess).
She just walked by my seat on the airplane and I told her I wanted to tell a fun story about her for the column but I feel like I’ve written all of her show biz stories. She agreed. However, I added, I have not told our latest adventure.
Last week, James and I joined Judy plus an older couple from the cruise on what was billed as a three-hour hike, difficulty level three. The use of “three” in both descriptions was erroneous. We first met our tour guide who assessed our physical capability for the hike by asking if we could walk. He set the bar high! Judy was so happy that she recently bought waterproof boots, but I suddenly realized—though my sneakers would be fine for a hike in a temperate climate—they were not ideal for one of snow and ice. I naively—and I mean naively—hoped my socks wouldn’t get wet. Within three feet of starting the hike, I had stepped in an area that looked like land but somehow was a sponge. It was “fun” having wet socks for a hike in cold weather. After around an hour, we approached what could possibly be described as Mount Everest. I soon realized we were expected to climb it. What happened to “can you walk?”
I’m not saying it was as scary as the mountain I ascended with Vanessa Williams in Arizona, where I was laying completely flat on the ground, hoping not to plunge to my death, but I was certainly crawling on all fours for a lot of it.
Finally, finally we reached the top. I was excited to celebrate our ascension by lazily walking down the other side of the mountain, which would undoubtedly be much easier. Well, I didn’t realize that the other side of the mountain was, what looked like, a wall. It wasn’t straight down…but it basically was! We were told to grab a rope (!) and use it to hold ourselves as we went down. At this point, I was wondering if a med-evac helicopter could get me. And more importantly, James! He just had shoulder surgery three weeks ago and couldn’t use his left arm! Who the hell knew we had to hold a rope to lower ourselves down a mountain?!?! Difficulty level three! “Can you walk?”
We finally got to the ground and I was overjoyed! We then started walking through a snow-covered field. Where was Judy in all this? Turns out, she’s a nature girl.
All I heard was a torrent of non-stop “Isn’t this beautiful?” And “Wow! Look at that view!” I get it. You played Pocahantas and want me to take in all the “colors of the wind” around me. Well, I’d had it. It’s been three hours and…wait. I realized it 11:30 am. We started at 8:15 and the literature on the boat said we’d be back by 11:45 AM. How would we finish and be back on the boat in 15 minutes when there was nothing resembling civilization anywhere near us? When we inquired, our guide told us he was under the impression that was supposed to get us back on the boat by 2 PM! What’s happening!?
I’ll tell you what’s happening: We started crossing streams that had cropped up everywhere because snow had melted. Soon, we had to get into the actual river itself. Seriously! It was “Climb Every Mountain Ford Every Stream” style. Literally walking in a river (which, if you don’t know, is made of water).
The end of the story is: We got back to the boat by around 2:30 and as Judy “Pollyanna” Kuhn just confirmed to me in the airplane aisle, it was her favorite excursion of the week. If you want to get a sense of the Icelandic terrain, my crankiness, and Judy’s non-stop joy, watch some of the Facebook live video we did:
P.S. Also! If you want to see Judy sing up a storm, come see us in Provincetown this weekend!
Anyhoo, Paulo Szot performed the next evening and beautifully sang tons of Broadway songs, including Rodgers and Hammerstein classics with a samba sassafrass in honor of his Brazilian heritage. He’s about to perform in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, as Perón in a new production of Evita directed by Hal Prince! And Evita will be played by Tina Arena. I know who she is because she sang “Enough Is Enough” with Donna Summer on the live album that came out around 15 years ago. She’s great! Watch this amazing footage.
Christine Ebersole was our next singer and I’m obsessed with how she uses her voice like a musical instrument. Here’s my deconstruction of her brilliance.
She is always cracking jokes about getting older and happy that Broadway welcomes her and how horrific Hollywood is about aging. She claims she used to be “Broadway: 40, Hollywood: 60.” But now she’s “Broadway: 60, Hollywood: In Memorium.”
Christine is going to be performing with me soon in Provincetown, Cotuit, and Nantucket, AND at Steppenwolf in Chicago! Details here.
Comedian Lewis Black was an amazing amuse bouche in the middle of the week. We loved how he deconstructed our tour guide from one of the eight-hour days we went sightseeing. Like when Lewis also gave details of the lullaby our tour guide told us about. If you don’t know, Icelandic people come from generations of hard weather and hard living. They have a very no frills view of life. The lullaby was a song that all parents sing to their children. The lyrics are about a mother who didn’t have the means to keep her child alive so (naturally) she threw the baby into a waterfall to drown. Sweet dreams! Lewis also performed his typical hilarious political humor and told us that interviewers have asked him if the current administration is good for comedy. He responds that this government is good for comedy the way a stroke is good for a nap. Brava!
Then the lovely Sierra Boggess did her show filled with songs from shows like The Sound of Music, The Phantom of the Opera, The Little Mermaid and a childhood film she loved, Tom Sawyer. Anyone remember that film? With Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster? Turns out, the songs were by the Sherman Brothers of Mary Poppins fame! Michael Jackson even recorded one of them.
Sierra told us all about being flown to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sydmonton estate to sing for the Queen (of England). She claims the Queen’s skin is stunning and that is has no pores. If that’s true, I totally regret dropping off my birthday gift of Biore nose strips at Buckingham Palace. P.S. Sierra is also going to be singing with me in Provincetown!
The final show was Rob McClure, who the audience loved! He is charming with a capital cC (call back to his name). He came with his wife, Maggie Lakis, who just starred with him in the national tour of Something Rotten!. He told us about the two of them doing Avenue Q (he played numerous roles including Princeton/Rod) together and how Maggie would often play the second hand (when someone is holding/voicing a puppet and another person is doing the second hand on the puppet). The second-hand person isn’t voicing anything, she’s there to make the puppet’s other arm move. Well, Rob said that after one performance, someone came up to Maggie at the stage door and proclaimed, “You were the best one up there! You were the only one whose mouth never moved!” Right. Because she wasn’t saying anything.
I also did Chatterboxes with everybody, including Lilla Crawford who talked about getting the role of Little Red Riding Hood in the film of Into The Woods. They had first cast another girl in the part and then, a few weeks into rehearsal, they called Lilla and offered her the part instead! They also told her she had to accept the offer by the end of the day because they had a second choice Little Red Riding Hood who was ready to go! AH! The pressure!
Well, she obviously accepted it and they were then panicked to get her into rehearsals right away. Everyone else had basically been staged in everything and Lilla had to learn it all as quickly as possible. But Lilla wasn’t nervous because during Annie (she played Annie) they completely changed “Hard Knock Life” twice and then put it into the show on the night they taught it! So, she was used to learning stuff on the quick. She remembers doing a number with Meryl Streep, who played The Witch, and they told Meryl she could just mark it because it was really just for Lilla to learn her part. Well, Meryl did indeed mark it…but Lilla said that Meryl Streep marking was at the level of anyone else give the best performance of their career! Here is Lilla’s fabulous performance in the film with Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, James Corden as The Baker, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, and Meryl Streep (not marking).
The Broadway vet and hilarious Lee Wilkof, the original Seymour from Little Shop Of Horrors, did the Chatterbox, as well, and we closed the show doing my favorite thing: singing “Suddenly Seymour” with me as Audrey!
Next up I’ll be writing from Provincetown! Peace out until then!