I recently had the chance to catch up with the multi-talented (and Tony-nominated) Stephanie D'Abruzzo, who, of course, brings to life Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut eight times a week at the Golden Theatre. We spoke about what it was like returning to Avenue Q after it won the Tony Award for Best Musical as well as her favorite moments in the show and the musical's journey to Broadway. That brief interview follows:
Question: What was your initial reaction to Avenue Q winning the Tony for Best Musical? What has it been like performing in the show since the Tony win?
Stephanie D'Abruzzo: I have to be honest, very soon after the initial shock and surprise wore off, after I embraced my fellow castmates and the tears started to flow, as we stood on the grand stage of Radio City behind our producers as they accepted the Tony, I looked out at this huge standing ovation through a veil of mist and thought to myself, "Hey, now America gets to see the bottom of my dress!" [Laughs.] Since the Tony win, you have no idea how floored I am at the number of people who have called, written and emailed to tell me that not only were they watching the Tonys — most for the first time — but also that when Avenue Q won Best Musical, many, many neighbors in many, many cities were awakened at 10:57 PM. I mean, I knew people liked the show, but I could not begin to imagine how many people all over the country were actively pulling for us, rooting for us, and crying with sheer unadulterated joy for us. How amazing is that? And I must say that now I think there's a tad more performance pressure being in a Tony-winning show. Because I know that despite us being open for a year now, many people got their first taste of Q through the Tony telecast and have come to see us simply because we won. So I never want to disappoint anyone! But the first show after the Tony win was special. We all got entrance applause, and I made a sign to bring out at curtain call that read, "Thank you Broadway." The response was so overwhelming, and it was probably was one of the most touching, emotional moments of my life, holding that crudely made sign like Sally Field in "Norma Rae." But gone are the days when I could walk out the stage door unnoticed and hop right into a cab [Laughs.] . . . There are a lot more people hanging out afterward asking for autographs and telling us all about how the entire state of Oklahoma (or Florida or California. . .) is so happy for us.
Q: What are some of your favorite moments in the show that you are a part of? Is there one song/moment that you look forward to?
SD: For me, I personally love the backstage antics at Avenue Q. We have all sorts of rituals, most of which date back to our days Off Broadway. They're all silly and none of them worth mentioning specifically, but what I love about them is that they always make me smile or laugh, and sometimes that makes all the difference between a tired performance and an energized one. Plus, it always makes me realize how lucky I am to share a stage with these people. Our band beneath our stage has an even greater list of rituals . . . maybe someday we should auction off a trip to the pit during a Q performance — that's a whole show in itself! [Laughs.] My favorite part of the onstage show, however, is when I am in the middle of a particularly good rendition of "There's a Fine, Fine Line." I am most critical of myself while singing that song, because it has to be perfectly right for so many reasons. It ends the act. It's the only song in the score that is not meant to evoke a laugh. It's Kate's emotional core on display. And it's a little rangy. But I love to sing it when I'm healthy, and when I score what I believe to be a great one, I feel as though I could fly. And when the audience is really with me on top of all that, I feel like I just won the World Series. [Laughs.] The sad part is that when it's over, it's flown out into the void forever. So every night is a new battle and a new rendition to carve out. I love to meet that challenge every night, but I will beat myself up a little if I feel it's subpar. And I don't feel that way about any other song in the entire show.
Q: You've been with Avenue Q since its first workshop. What has the journey to Broadway and through this year been like for you?
SD: The road to Broadway, as many will tell you, is long and arduous. It is paved with many talented souls who literally gave their blood, sweat and tears to make it possible for something wonderful to be created. I often think about the people we started our workshops with, or who we worked with along the way, who for whatever reason did not continue on with the rest of us. That is the bittersweet part. This has been a most incredible year, if for no other reason than I feel I have become part of the Broadway community. Actors whom I previously admired from the stage door now say hello to me on the street. It's funny — it's as though Midtown has become campus-like. It feels — and I know this sounds maudlin and horribly cliched — but it feels like home. And, there are no words to describe how one feels after attending the Outer Critics Circle Luncheon and seeing Mister Frank Langella, who says, "I just saw you on 'Pyramid' this morning!" [Laughs.] ALISON FRASER
Two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser returns to the cabaret stage this Sunday, June 27. Fraser, who recently scored raves for her work in the George Street Playhouse's production of Lips Together, Teeth Apart, will offer tunes from her theatrical career — including her show-stoppers from March of the Falsettos, Romance/Romance and The Secret Garden — as well as songs from her two solo recordings, "New York Romance" and "Men in My Life." The singer-actress will also perform several tunes by her late husband, Rusty Magee. Show time is 9:30 PM.
Backed by musical Christopher McGovern on piano, cabaretgoers can expect to hear Fraser's renditions of "Romance/Romance," "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," "Getting Too Old," "The Blonde Song," "Crazy," "New York Romance," "Smoke," "Yes It's Love," "The Night It Had to End," "Gainesville," "Wrong for Me," "Pain," "I'm Breaking Down," "Hold On" and "Young at Heart."
Fraser also told me that she is at work on a songbook that will feature several of Rusty Magee's acclaimed tunes. Magee, who passed away in February 2003, penned such musicals as The Green Heart, Flurry Tale, Ubu Rock, Servant of Two Masters and The Czar of Rock and Roll. He also wrote songs for Nickelodeon's "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss" and received the Outer Critics Circle James Fleetwood Award for his music and lyrics for Moliere's Scapin. Visit www.sweetappreciation.com for more information.
Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets, priced at $20, are available by calling (212) 239-6200; those wishing to dine before the show should make reservations at (212) 539-8778.
An upcoming Steven Spielberg film may be of interest to readers of this column. Variety reported earlier this week that the Academy Award-winning director will turn his attention this winter to a new drama penned by Robin Swicord. The DreamWorks film, entitled "The Rivals," will concern fighting stage divas of the nineteenth century. No word on casting at this point. Spielberg, who just finished "The Terminal," has one other film project before he helms the diva flick: "Troy," about the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Sonia Friedman, producer of the upcoming Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Woman in White (co-starring Maria Friedman and Michael Crawford), answered several questions on that show's official site. Here are two of them:
Question: What can I expect from the show?
Friedman: The Woman in White is a great, melodramatic, thrilling, romantic story full of surprise, intrigue and suspense. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is sublime, containing huge sweeping melodies, great soprano arias, chilling crescendos and haunting refrains. Because The Woman in White is both a romantic love story and a gothic thriller, it provides the perfect opportunity to blend a whole range of musical styles and ideas. All the writers have found that mix exciting and intoxicating and it has given them scope to be at their most creative.
Question: Is it true the casting of Maria Friedman as Marian is because she is the sister of the show’s producer? How about the age difference between Maria and her character?
Friedman: Maria Friedman is a 6 time Olivier Award nominated musical actress and has won it 3 times. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn are two of the most successful artists to ever work in musical theatre. Quite simply they chose the best person for the role. Marian is a modern woman, strong and complex plus the role also demands a singer of huge skill and range who also has the ability to tell stories, brilliantly, through song. That is why Maria Friedman was cast. We have made amendments to the novel to suit our theatre production and the playing ages, the descriptions of the characters and narrative in the Wilkie Collins novel may not be what you end up seeing in our production.
Tony and Olivier Award winner Patti LuPone recently answered several questions from her fans on her official site. Here are a few: Question: Out of all the shows you have done, what has been your favorite line to deliver?
LuPone: "Screw the middle classes...", from Evita
Question: Have you, before or since Master Class, seen any other actress in that role? Zoe? Dixie? Faye? Was it difficult for you to let go of Callas when you left the show?
LuPone: I saw Zoe Caldwell. It was not difficult to leave the character when the play was over. It's only inexperienced or egomaniacal actors that carry their characters out of the stage door and into the bar.
Question: Are you one to redecorate your dressing room when you move into a theatre? Do you do it yourself? What kind of atmosphere do you require during a run?
LuPone: Yes I do. First I burn sage and incense to purify the dressing room. Then I look at the space and I mix it up, like Courtney would say.
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: The upcoming production of Side by Side by Sondheim at the Rubicon Theatre will feature a rotating cast of narrators, including "Golden Girls" star Rue McClanahan, Follies stars Betty Garrett and Polly Bergen, stage and screen actor Richard Kline and Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie. The production, which stars Davis Gaines, Teri Ralston and Tami Tappan Damiano, will play the California theatre July 22-Aug. 22. Directed by Nick DeGruccio, Side By Side will feature choreography by Lee Martino with musical direction by David Potter. The Rubicon Theatre Company is located in Ventura, CA, at 1006 E. Main Street. Tickets are available by calling (805) 667-2900. . . . Eden Espinosa, who is currently playing Elphaba in Wicked while Tony Award winner Idina Menzel films "Ask the Dust," will star in the new Broadway musical Brooklyn. Espinosa, who also headed the cast of the five-person musical at the New Denver Civic Theatre, will play the title character. The Mark Schoenfeld-Barri McPherson musical will begin its Broadway run Sept. 23 at the Plymouth Theatre with an official opening set for Oct. 21. Jeff Calhoun, the director and choreographer of the Denver production, will handle the same duties on Broadway with musical supervision by Taboo's John McDaniel. By the way, Espinosa is currently giving a star-making performance in Wicked; her co-star, Kristin Chenoweth, remains as thrilling as ever. Not one misstep by either actress. . . . Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole will play Mame's boozy friend, Vera Charles, in the all-star Mame concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Ebersole replaces the previously announced Jean Smart in the Aug. 1 concert — starring Michele Lee as Mame — at the famed outdoor theatre. Ebersole, of course, has a history with the Jerry Herman musical, having played the title role at the Paper Mill Playhouse. The Hollywood Bowl is located at 2301 Highland Avenue in Hollywood, CA. Tickets for Mame are available by calling (323) 850 2000. Go to www.hollywoodbowl.org for more information. . . . Three stars of the stage and the recording studio — Ruth Brown, Maureen McGovern and Ute Lemper — will headline Le Jazz Au Bar this year. Brown, a Tony Award winner for her performance in Black and Blue, will play the new jazz club July 14-25. Brown has entitled her show "The Book of Ruth," which will include such tunes as "5-10-15 Hours," "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean," "Teardrops From My Eyes" and "Have a Good Time." Brown will be backed by Rodney Jones (guitar), Bill Easley (saxophone, flute), Jesse "Cheese" Hameen II (drums), Paul Ramsey (bass) and Oliver Von Essen (keyboards). Show times are 8 PM Wednesday-Sunday evenings with an additional 10 PM show Saturday nights. Brown will be followed by Maureen McGovern, Aug. 11-22; Karrin Allyson, Aug. 24-Sept. 5; and Ute Lemper, Sept. 14-19. Le Jazz Au Bar is located in Manhattan at 41 East 58th Street. Cover charges range from $30 to $40; there is no minimum. Call (212) 308-9455 for reservations. . . . A DVD of the recent Standing Ovations concert held at Joe's Pub is now available for sale. The May 23 concert featured a host of Broadway gals, including The Secret Garden's Alison Fraser, The Boy From Oz's Stephanie J. Block, Beauty and the Beast's Susan Egan, Wicked's Laura Bell Bundy and original Annie star, Andrea McArdle. The sale of the recording, priced at $25 (plus a $3.95 shipping charge), will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Standing Ovations has a running time of two hours and thirteen minutes and is NTSC format. To purchase the video visit Click Here .
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!