‘Allo from somewhere between London and NYC. James and I just finished our anniversary jaunt in London so we are headed back to the Upper West Side. We love it in London, so it was the perfect place to spend our anniversary. We were married October 15, 2012 so this was our ten year wedding anniversary. We met on December 26, 2006 and have been together for fifteen years.
Besides a lovely time, we were also able to see a few ex-pat friends including two-time Olivier winner David Bedella and Keala “Nobody Cares” Settle. If you are not familiar with that reference, please watch this ASAP:
James and I also always visit our pal Andy Nyman when we are in London. We first met Andy when he was playing Tevye opposite Judy Kuhn’s Golde in Trevor Nunn's Fiddler On The Roof.
Andy always has hilarious stories. One time, we were gabbing about being Jewish and how the Jewish people are often perhaps overly expressive. Other people might just call us loud. Here's a story to prove it.
Andy recalled a time when he and some of his friends were all staying in a house together for the weekend. He was hanging with some of them downstairs, having brunch, when he realized everyone in the room at the moment was Jewish. The only non-Jewish person in the whole group was upstairs and, they soon noticed, hadn't come down for brunch. Wanting her to join them, someone finally went up to get her and she said would come down after everyone finished arguing. Andy wasn’t sure what she meant. They hadn't been arguing. Suddenly, he realized their friend was concerned because she heard alarmingly loud voices and constant interjections. To some, that sounds like an argument. To others, it's just Jewish people having a casual chat over brunch!
Before London, I was on a transatlantic cruise. Darius de Haas, Christine Pedi, and Emily Skinner were scheduled to perform with me. Well, on the morning of the cruise, I got a text from Emily Skinner with two photos. Both of them were positive Covid tests! Emily is super careful about masking and ventilation, but she had been traveling a lot and, somehow, contracted the coronavirus. She was so looking forward to sailing with me, and was devastated she couldn’t come. After I told her to get better ASAP, I immediately started seeking out someone to take her place. I remembered that Come From Away had just closed, so I contacted Jenn Colella. Here’s my text exchange with her:
ME: Emily Skinner got sick! Our cruise leaves today! Would you possibly be able to join and sing?
JENN: I’m getting married tomorrow!
ME: Are you comfortable moving the wedding?
Well, I had run out of time for comedy. I had to get a third performer, and quickly. As I was texting other beltresses, I heard from the ship that we actually weren’t allowed to add anybody to the manifest on the day of sailing. Ugh! What was I going to do?
Suddenly, I remembered that one of my Broadway pals had overheard me mention on the radio that I was doing a cruise. When he heard, he texted me to say he happened to be booked as a passenger on my very same cruise. I texted him a “9-1-1” text (literally, I texted those numbers!) and he called me right away. I asked if he could turn his vacation into a little work and perform some shows with me. Thankfully, he told me "no prob!" The car was about to come pick him up to take him to the terminal, so he still had time to bring his book of music. That, folks, is how I got Christopher Sieber to perform with us!
This was the first full concert I had ever done with Christopher, and he performed so many great songs from his shows like “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life,” “Song on The Sand,” “All I Care About Is Love,” and “Sorry/Grateful." He also told so many wonderful stories.
Christopher mentioned that he often goes into Chicago as Billy Flynn, sometimes with as little as one days notice. At this point, he’s done the role on Broadway 9 times! Well, one time he was getting ready to take over Chicago and when he was on his way to see the show to refresh his memory, the Weissler producing office called and asked him to see La Cage Aux Folles instead. This was the Doug Hodge helmed production that had recently had Harvey Fierstein and Jeffrey Tambor take over the leads. Jeffrey wasn’t on that night, but Chris was happy to be offered a ticket because he’s so close with Harvey. He saw and loved the show, so when it was over, he went backstage to congratulate Harvey. Chris knocked on Harvey’s dressing room door and was quickly snatched inside by Harvey. The door shut and Harvey went straight into it, almost immediately begging Chris to star opposite him in the show! Huh? Didn't the show star Harvey and Jeffrey? Maybe not! Harvey explained that though they had both began performances the week before, Jeffrey had left the show. Harvey summed it up with his signature wit, “I’ve had one-night stands that have lasted longer.” Well, of course, Chris obliged. Peace out, Billy Flynn (for the time being)! One week later, Chris was onstage opposite Harvey in La Cage Aux Folles!
Now that we're talking about La Cage, one of my favorite stories happened during the original run. This is the story of the lipstick miracle. Watch!
Chris has done so many Broadway shows but he began performing on a stage most theatre-loving kids will find familiar, the living room of their house. The Minnesota town in which he grew up is super small and there wasn’t a lot of theatre for Chris to see. The living room in his house had a giant picture window with drapes that opened like a theatre curtain. The window looked out over their yard, so Chris could see people passing by. Chris would corral his brother into being his “stage manager." His brother would open the drapes, revealing Chris on the stairs. After making his grand entrance, Chris would perform a show for the neighborhood. I love that fact that he could have been outside doing the show and the neighborhood would have noticed, but that would mean he wouldn’t have the drama of the drapes opening. I guess that was the most important part? He said his parents would occasionally wander into the living room and he’d asked them, “Do you have a ticket?”
Of course, I always love hearing about onstage mishaps, and Chris gave me a doozy about his time in Into the Woods. Chris was in the early 2000s revival, which featured Vanessa Williams as the Witch, and he played Rapunzel’s Prince opposite Gregg Edelman as Cinderella's Prince. Well, one night in the middle of Act One, Gregg got sick. Chris also served as Gregg's understudy, so the stage manager told Chris he was on for the rest of the show. Chris had not rehearsed Gregg's role at all at, but was feeling extremely cocky. He told the stage manger it was no problem for him to step in because he grew up listening to the album. That meant he knew everything.
Chris nailed it during the first act. It was all amazing, right up to the end. You may recall that Cinderella’s stepsisters mutilate their feet in order to fit into the shoe, so there’s supposed to be a little bit of blood in the show shoe. Whoever played Cinderella's Prince would wear a little blood pack attached to his back and would pump blood into the shoe. When it came time, Chris began pumping the blood. The only issue was, no one had told him how many times to pump. Turns out, he pumped it a lot. Once the blood was pumped, there was just no way for it to go back into the blood pack. Soon, blood started spewing out first onto the audience and then, because he changed the direction the shoe was pointing, all over the other actors.
Soon, Laura Benanti, who was playing Cinderella, innocently entered, not knowing what the hell she was seeing. Why did the cast look like they were in the prom scene from Carrie? They continued with the show, and Chris held out the shoe for Laura to put on. When he did so, he noticed it was filled with blood. She put her foot in as she normally did, and, to this day, Chris remembers the sound of horrific sloshing.
The shoe was basically these elevators:
On a related note, please come see me and Laura in concert at Malloy College on November 5th. Hear her amazing singing and her side of the story!
Okay, back to the boat! The way a transatlantic cruise prevents jet lag is effective, but bizarre. London time is five hours later than NYC time. Instead of arriving in London and suddenly having such a significant time difference all at once, the ship takes away one hour each day. I assumed that meant every night before you went to bed, you would “spring ahead” one hour. Nope. Instead, every day at noon the captain will come on the loudspeaker and tell everyone it was now 1 PM. This not only prevented jet lag, but also made you feel like you were in the novel 1984. “It is not noon. It is 1 PM." You must be precise!
On the ship, when I was about halfway between America and England, it occurred to me that I was finally ready to star in Phantom of the Opera. Why? Well, as you know, it takes place at the Paris Opera House, but does anyone use a French accent? No. Okay, the show opened in London, so is it a British accent? Nope. Everyone in the show uses a mid-Atlantic accent, meaning half American and half British, as if the cast was actually from in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!
Speaking of Phantom, former Christine Ali Ewoldt joined me Sunday for a live streaming concert. She is such a great singer. Here she is in a wonderful piece about being the first Asian-American to play Christine. Take a look!
Check out upcoming streaming concerts here and peace out!