Before I get to the second day on board the Norwegian Dawn, I should describe the highly enjoyable end of the first night aboard the mammoth cruise-liner. I happened into one of the ship’s lounges, which was hosting a Karaoke evening. Among the brave souls attempting karaoke were a few non-singing vacationers plus a few stars from the recent musical Taboo, including Cary Shields and Jeffrey Carlson. The latter, who played Marilyn in the Boy George musical, offered a great, full voiced version of “My Funny Valentine.”
Now, on to day two. The highlight of the evening was “Rosie’s Variety Hour,” which the performer offered at 7:30 PM and again at 9:30 PM. The hour-long show began as actors — dressed in red, white and blue sailor’s gear — belted out revised lyrics to Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. Host O’Donnell, attired in a captain’s outfit, then appeared to wild applause and sang and danced a bit. After the number, O’Donnell offered a few remarks, thanking both her partner Kelli (O’Donnell joked that she hasn’t seen her partner in the few months leading up to the cruise) and Kelli’s business partner Gregg Kaminsky. O’Donnell said how moved she was when she boarded the ship yesterday and saw all the gay and lesbian parents with their children. “To all the families, gay and straight and those in between, I thank you. And tell all your friends to come back with you next year.” O’Donnell also said, “Kids, family, gay people and Broadway. For me, this is the perfect vacation!”
O’Donnell then introduced one of the stars of Taboo, Euan Morton, who portrayed Boy George in the short-lived production. Morton said that children are the most important people in the world, and dedicated his song, “Bless the Beasts and Children” to them. Morton’s rich voice was a perfect match for the touching song. O’Donnell returned to the stage to announce that the documentary about the making of Taboo would be shown at 10 PM Wednesday night in the Norwegian Dawn’s Cinema room. “Don’t bring the kids,” O’Donnell said with a laugh. “As some of you know, I like to yell a bit.” O’Donnell admitted that she hasn’t been able to bring herself to watch the documentary yet but hopes to this week.
Esera Tuaolo, an openly gay singer and football player, provided a spirited version of “Flying without Wings.” He was followed by the cast of “Schoolhouse Rock,” who performed the witty ditty about that important grammatical form, the interjection. Suzanne Buirgy, who combines country and pop, delivered a moving version of her self-penned song, “I Love the Trees.” O’Donnell then returned to the stage to discuss the casting of Big Sue in Taboo. After auditioning dozens of actresses who weren’t quite right for the role, in walked Liz McCartney. McCartney’s audition brought O’Donnell to tears, and she was offered the role on the spot. McCartney then proceeded to sing her show-stopping second-act ballad, “Talk Amongst Yourselves.”
Comedian, musical director, actor and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky offered a glimpse of his Deconstructing the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which he will perform later in the week on the ship. Roars of laughter echoed in the theatre as Rudetsky screened some of the clips from the TV series, commenting on each and every move throughout. Rudetsky introduced belter Julia Murney, who closed the show with a thrilling version of “All That Jazz.”
The purpose of the evening was to introduce audiences to the various events that will be offered throughout the week. The celebrity-sampling allowed audiences to decide for themselves which entertainments they would like to catch. O’Donnell concluded the evening, saying, “Every family is worthwhile and deserving of dignity and respect.”
After the show, I walked into the ship’s piano bar where singer Jennifer Krushkamp and pianist Bobby Peaco were entertaining the packed room. Krushkamp possesses a sizable belt and offered a mix of standards and pop tunes. I heard the singer wrap her powerful alto around “To Sir with Love” and the Helen Reddy classic “Delta Dawn.”
Tomorrow, the ship docks in Florida’s Port Canaveral. More to come, including a chat with actor-singer Darius de Haas.