It was 1991, and Judy Kaye (she's the multiple award-winning Broadway musical and opera star) and her husband David Green (he's an actor, director, acting coach, and, she says, " a wonderful guy") had had their fill of living on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
"I was tired of people going through our garbage," she says. "And there were homeless people sleeping in our vestibule. The city finally just got to us."
So they looked for, and found, an apartment high over the New Jersey side over the Hudson River. It looks down at a wide swath of the river, many of the city's most iconic buildings, and, she says, "The Empire State Building is our night light."
But she didn't completely give up on the city.
"I'm on the West Side all the time now," Kaye says. "I love it more now than when I was living there. But I would really like Donald Trump to build a walking bridge across the Hudson, so we could walk across and go straight to Zabar's."
Zabar's aside, Kaye who's currently playing the role of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella and who counts The Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, Mamma Mia! and Nice Work If You Can Get It among her Broadway credits, managed some feats of her own magic in the apartment. For a place with such a quintessential New York view, the apartment has a very Southwestern look — like Arizona, where she grew up.
It's all light woods, sunny colors, paintings and art work by both her grandparents and Native American artists, a rug from her grandparents' home that she used to play on when she was an infant, a dresser from Kaye's childhood covered in fanciful designs painted by her mother and, everywhere you look, photos of both Kaye's and Green's families.
"I take my family with me," Kaye says. "That becomes more and more important to me as the years go on."
As for the apartment, "We own it," she adds. "We'd owned the place on the West Side and when we sold that, we bought this. It has two bedrooms (we made one into an office), two and a half baths, a living room, dining room, and an open kitchen. And the building has an outdoor pool, an indoor pool and tennis courts."
Some restoration work was needed before they actually moved in, but Kaye managed that in the easiest, most luxurious way possible.
"The apartment was a loft with raised areas," Kaye says. "And we took all that out. We also redid the kitchen and the bathrooms. My husband and I were both working at the Santa Fe Opera at the time, so I hired someone to run this job. I flew back here for three days in July to shop all the paint colors, and then I went back to Santa Fe.
"We bought the apartment in the spring of 1992 and moved in that November. So it was all easy for me. I'm glad I wasn't here."
She did do the decorating herself, though. "Is this decorated?" Kaye asks. "I don't know. My style is a little bit of this, a little of that. The dining room set is representative of the times I've sung at the Santa Fe Opera. The table and chairs and the server were all made for us in Santa Fe. And the main painting is by a Native American painter and sculptor named Dan Namingha."
There's also a cabinet that looks very Southwestern, but is actually from Ikea. "It houses all my sheet music, my scores, some opera stuff and my cabaret material," Kaye says. "I always said I was never going to do it, but I had to get a storage unit for my costumes, road things, dressing room stuff and more music. Some of it I keep as a library for myself and others. If friends don't have a copy of such-and-such, I can take it out and make one for them."
Crowded on top of a baby grand piano are photos of two members of her family — Jack and Phillip Kaufman — who were part of a vaudeville team, a photo taken by their friend Bruce Morrow, more family photos, and just some of her awards, including two Tonys, Drama Desk. Outer Critics and Los Angeles Ovation Award, among others.
The walls are full of paintings by Ed Mell, more by Namingha, and paintings by both her grandparents who were commercial artists. (Including a rosy cheeked watercolor of Kaye as a toddler by her grandmother.)
Then there's the wall she calls "Ego Walk," which features show posters that both Kaye and Green performed in. Kaye laughs: "When we're out of work, I come here, look at the posters and tell myself: ‘Keep your head up. You'll be working again.'" Right now that work is the sheer pleasure of Cinderella. "I just love being in it," Kaye says. "It's a gift from out of the blue. The story of my career is that your life changes with just a phone call. It happened again with Cinderella.
"The music is so beautiful; I'm singing better. That's because it's Rodgers and Hammerstein. It's like vocal massage. To do that eight times a week is so wonderful. I'm backstage humming everything I'm not singing on stage. It just makes me want to sing and dance all the time."
Asked if it's true that she's been singing since she was six years old, she says: "No, I came out singing." So, right now, Kaye's life is working out just way she's always wanted.
Now if only Donald Trump would get to work on that bridge to Zabar's, it would be just about perfect.
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