Hello from backstage! And by “backstage,” I mean the wing of a stunning mansion where I’m getting ready to do a fundraiser for the Hudson Stage Company. Liz Callaway’s wonderful husband, Dan Foster, is the co-producer and director there and they’ve assembled a great group of ladies (myself included?) to perform: Capathia Jenkins, Christine Pedi, Lindsay Mendez, and Julie Halston as host. The bathroom is so enormous, we all had to take a “nude” shot in the tub!!! (See above.)
Naturally, we’re now all telling theatre stories. First, Julie told us about a tour of Mame where the leading lady forgot the lyrics to her opening number “It’s Today.” Instead of:
Light the candles!
Get the ice out!
Roll the rug up!
It sounded like this:
Light the candles!
Light the candles!
Light the candles!
And then when it got to the lyric “It’s today”…the title of the song, which you’d think she’d remember, she just kept it three syllables, went with the theme and sang;
“Light ‘em up!”
Backstage we also got to see the true Liz Callaway—the singing voice of Anastasia in the animated movie. Yes, the sweetest voice in the world (and just sang aboard Playbill Travel’s Broadway on the Rhône River cruise) yet, in real life, the sassiest lady.
She told us that there was a very long period where she and her husband would always tape the National Anthem at ball games. Because she’s patriotic, you ask? Actually, it’s because the song would always be sung live and she was hoping there’d be a mess up! She told us she’s always wanted to share them on Facebook, but she was worried it was mean. Well, we all begged her to show us a link to one of them on YouTube and, under duress, she showed us this one. Amazing melody change and adding of extra syllables. It all happens on the final eight measures around 1:21. Watch it here.
We were all talking about how old we were and joking about people who say they’re younger than they are. Capathia calls that your “press release” age, which I think is hilarious. We all went on to perform and Julie Halston regaled the audience with her mother’s trip to Hamilton. Julie was able to not only get tickets for her mom and family, but the house manager, the caring Timothy Pettolina, opened early to let her mom (who’s in a wheelchair) in. After the show, he took her mom backstage to meet the cast. Well, that night Julie and her mom went out to dinner after and Julie asked what she thought of the show. Her mom’s response was “Well, it’s not CATS.” We still don’t know if that was positive or negative.
Then her mom lauded…the stagecraft. Julie was mystified that her mom knew the word “stagecraft” and/or what it means. P.S. I barely know. Julie asked her mom who her favorite person was in Hamilton and her Mom replied: Timothy Pettolina. Brava!
But, the most amazing moment was when her mom was getting into the cab. She turned and said, “Just when you think there are no more adventures in life…this happens.” Cut to Julie weeping.
I had William Daniels, the original John Adams from 1776 on my SiriusXM. He just turned 90 (!) and he told us that back in the day, he was a child performer.
Read More: DID YOU KNOW BOY MEETS WORLD’S MR. FEENY WAS 1776’S ORIGINAL JOHN ADAMS?
It actually wasn’t a very fun experience for him and he was basically under his mother’s control the entire time. He said that he had no say in whether he was going to perform or not. He also remembered one time when he forgot his lyrics on a radio show. Stage mother-style, his mom ran up to the mic and sang it til he got back on track. Cut to the 1950s and his good friend was supposed to assist Jerome Robbins. Well, his friend got another gig for a few days so William assisted in his place. His friend came back and William stayed home only to get a call telling him that Jerome Robbins wanted him to come back and keep assisting. So, William Daniels wound up being at every rehearsal for…Gypsy! Can you imagine how thrilling that was!? He was so curious what his mom would say when she saw it, considering that the line between her and Mama Rose was very thin. After the show, William asked her what she thought of Mama Rose and his mom answered, “I think she was a wonderful woman.” Not surprising!
Last week was the Tony Awards, so I asked William what happened with 1776. Turns out, there was an actor that year who was promised he’d get a Tony nomination for Best Actor if he did a certain show. So when 1776 opened late in the season, all the Best Actor nomination slots were full so they put him in the Featured (or supporting) category. He responded with “Whom am I supporting?” He famously withdrew his name from the category. In his very direct and, dare I say, cranky way he writes that he stayed home on the night of the Tony Awards and his wife watched them on TV. He then ends with “I did not.”
The same thing happened with The Ritz. Although Rita Moreno had the largest female part in the show, she was nominated in the Featured category. She didn’t withdraw her name…and she won! But she gave some sass during her speech. Listen here!
He told me that Jack Warner, the producer of the 1776 film, was regretful he hadn’t used Julie Andrews for the film of My Fair Lady so he used the entire Broadway cast of 1776 for the film! You can rent the whole thing, but here’s a clip of William Daniels and Virginia Vestoff live on the Tony Awards in the early ’70s. Watch it here.
Ok! I have to work on the two almost back-to-back performances of Concert For America this Saturday, June 24 in San Francisco at the Curran, for which we just added Shoshana Bean. Find tickets and the link to the livestream at ConcertsForAmerica.com and if you wanna see my obsession for her, watch this:
Our next Concert for America is July 6 in Seattle, for which we just added Maureen McGovern. I’m sure we’re going to have her haul out the amazing and inspirational “Morning After” that we all love, but I was recently listening to this and, boy, do I love it. It’s so joyful, hopeful and her high notes are amazing! Watch it here!