John Stamos' New York Times Bestseller If You Would Have Told Me was released October 24, and the memoir includes plenty of anecdotes from the actor's extensive career onstage and onscreen. Get a sneak peek of the Emmy winner's Broadway stories with excerpts from four of the book's chapters.
Besides his television career on General Hospital and Full House, Stamos also had a healthy stage resume. He made his Broadway debut in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as a replacement for the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in 1995. He accumulated several more Broadway credits over the years, including runs as The Emcee in Cabaret, Guido Contini in Nine, and Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie. Below are some anecdotes from those jobs.
1. Stamos replaced Matthew Broderick in How to Succeed....
In the chapter titled "I Can!," Stamos spills the details on the audition, coaching, and nerves that came before what he calls the start of his acting career—his Broadway debut. In 1995, his agent called and told him the team behind How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was interested in Stamos as a replacement.
"The next words out of my mouth should be 'Are you fucking crazy? I've never done anything like this before!,'" Stamos writes. "But instead...'I'm in!' I tell my agent."
Having never worked on Broadway before, Stamos had to train. "The acting and comedy chops required to play J. Pierrepont Finch come easily to me, the singing and dancing, not so much," he remembers. "I’ll rent a dance studio, hire a teacher, and work day and night. I’ll do the same with a singing coach. I’ve never been a great singer, and the thought of singing live feels very scary."
The work paid off, Stamos landed the role, and he recalls details of his Broadway debut like listening to Frank Sinatra's "Soliloquy" from Carousel as a pre-show ritual. On the night of his first performance, Stamos shares that he was full of both nerves and adrenaline.
"The overture starts and my heart begins to pound," he writes. "This is it, first time on the Great White Way. And although it was never really a dream of mine, it should have been. It took a lot to get here. And regardless of what happens in the next few hours, I’m proud of myself. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and...As my feet hit the ground, and I begin the opening song, that blast of adrenaline is better than any high I’ve ever experienced."
2. Before starring in Cabaret, Stamos visited the real Kit Kat Club.
After How to Succeed..., Stamos was more confident in his musical abilities, but Cabaret was new territory. "A lot of the time, actors will see a movie, TV show, or a play
and think to themselves, 'I could do that,'" Stamos writes of his first time seeing the musical. "In this case I thought, 'I could never do that!' You will never see me on that stage in black culottes,
sock suspenders with military boots, and painted-red nipples."
But of course, Stamos ended up auditioning in front of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, and landed the role of the Emcee in the 1998 Broadway revival. As he shares in the chapter titled "Life is a Cabaret," the Emcee's expression of sexuality was daunting for Stamos at first.
"There are no cute smirks, hair flips, or double takes in this role," Stamos writes. "And that's exactly why I should be doing it. I need to continue challenging myself. Win or lose, success or failure, I'm taking the artistic leap."
On a trip to Europe with his mother, Stamos decided to visit Berlin to do some research. They tried to visit the real Kit Kat Club, but were "not dressed properly," and the pair was turned away at the door. After a glimpse of the club atmosphere, Stamos changed his mind about the visit—"Nobody wants to see their mom in latex with a dog collar," he writes, "so it's probably best to skip this part of my prep and just read a book or two."
In the same chapter, Stamos shares that as a straight man playing The Emcee in the early 2000s, he was in a unique position. "Straight performers playing gay roles might be called out for appropriation, but at the time, it was important for main-stream actors—familiar faces—to bring issues of equality to Middle America," he writes. "Sometimes you need to start in the heartland to change hearts."
Stamos also shares stories like his experience with a pair of scandalized tourists who purchased Cabaret tickets to "see Uncle Jesse on Broadway." The couple stormed out mid-show, offended by his raunchy ad-libs. It was then that Stamos knew he was doing the role justice.
3. Stamos once did Bye Bye Birdie with Bob Saget.
On opening night of the 2009 Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie, a mechanical train set piece malfunctioned, and the show came to an awkward pause, until a stage manager asked Stamos to go out and improvise. Comedians Don Rickles and Bob Saget (also of Full House) were both in the audience, and helped out with the improv. Saget even joined Stamos on stage.
"[Gina, a stage manager] whips out an old poster of me, some glory shot from the teen idol days," Stamos recalls. Ghina then said, "I finally saw Full House for the first time at the dentist's office. What was that about?" Then Saget replies, "Oh, it's basically just like Brokeback Mountain–but as a sitcom."
4. According to Stamos, "Theatre is life and life is theatre."
In the chapter titled "Curtain Call," Stamos professes his love for his time onstage. He breaks down the lessons learned from each character he played on the Main Stem, from How to Succeed... to Gore Vidal's The Best Man in 2012, which was his most recent Broadway appearance.
"There's nothing better than a curtain call where the audience keeps applauding and you're drawn back to the stage for your ovation," Stamos concludes. "There's nothing worse than a curtain call because it's the end."
The chapter doesn't indicate whether or not Stamos will return to Broadway. But If You Would Have Told Me makes it clear, the actor cherishes his time on the stage.
If You Would Have Told Me debuted at number four on the New York Times Best Sellers list. The memoir was also included on Audible's Best of the Year roundup, and was named a USA Today Best Memoir to Read in 2023.
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