Patti Murin, who charms audiences eight times a week at the St. James Theatre with her natural gift for comedy in the new Broadway musical Frozen, is cast as Anna in Disney's latest stage musical, based on the blockbuster film of the same title. The acclaimed singing actor, nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her work in Frozen, has also been seen on Broadway in the title role of Lysistrata Jones as well as in Xanadu and the national tour of Wicked.
I recently asked Murin to pen a list of her most memorable nights in the theatre. She said that although “opening nights and celebrity visits were special and amazing,” she wanted to share “more fun backstage moments that people would enjoy hearing about.” Murin’s responses follow:
The night I crashed the golf cart in Love's Labour's Lost
During the 2013 Shakespeare in the Park production, someone decided it was a good idea for me to drive a golf cart full of other humans up a narrow offstage ramp and onto the stage. It went shockingly well until the first night that it rained, and the wheels slid on the turf on the ramp, and I rammed the golf cart into the side of the set piece we were hidden behind. But because the show must go on, I just redirected and got us all onstage so we could do the scene. Every single person in that golf cart sustained minor battle wounds that night, but it was mainly our stomachs that hurt the most because we were all laughing so hard.
Being Tommy Tune's spot
I was lucky enough to work with the legendary Tommy Tune in the Encores! production of Lady, Be Good! in 2015. While we were very quickly teching the show onstage before our week of performances, he asked if there was anyone who was free to hold a sheet of white paper in the stage left wing during “Fascinating Rhythm,” so he could spot his turns [with it] without being thrown off by the lighting. I happened to have a break in my own show, so I volunteered, and held that piece of white paper for every performance. I've been fortunate to do some truly incredible things in my career, but playing a small part in making sure that Tommy freaking Tune could execute his turns as well as possible is very high on my list of favorite moments.
Getting stuck in a stairwell with Jason Tam
During our downtown run of Lysistrata Jones at the Judson Theatre, we were working with a very nontraditional space. So there were moments when we had to use the stairwell/hallway door on stage right as an exit, even though it meant that whoever went in there literally couldn't come out again until their next entrance. On the night that the New York Times was there to review the show, Jason and I exited through the door, and waited through the next song to reenter. When the time came, the doorknob was stuck. Would not move. It seemed like a solid minute that we were fighting with it, but it was probably only about five seconds before Jason body-slammed the door and forced it open. Luckily our entrance had to be passionate and slightly panicky, so it's safe to say that we were not acting at all that night.
Dance parties with Caissie Levy
We've mentioned this in multiple interviews, but every night when the curtain goes up on Frozen, Caissie and I have about ten minutes before we have to go onstage. So we meet in her dressing room for a ritual dance party. We skip, we hop, we make up terrible lyrics to the opening number, we stretch in ways that professional dancers would be horrified to see. I use up all of her tiger balm and throat spray, and she graciously allows me to. We are the same kind of goofy and weird, and this is the three minutes where we just let it go (see, I can make Frozen puns, too) and run around like children with each other. I already loved her when we started working together, but this ritual cemented her place in my heart and soul.
When the clarinet broke…
When I was playing Glinda on the first national tour of Wicked in Hawaii (yup, Hawaii), Dee Roscioli and I were singing “For Good,” which is, of course, always an emotional and fairly quiet moment in the show. But right towards the beginning of the song, we heard this enormous squawk from the orchestra pit. As singers and musicians, we are all used to hitting a bum note every so often, and normally you don't think twice and just move on. But this sounded like someone had actually murdered a clarinet. Dee and I looked at each other, and let's just say, we were done for. We lost it. And as most former Elphabas and Glindas know, when you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having a giggle attack during “For Good,” you must pretend you are crying so hard that you cannot possibly sing the song. Yes, I am a professional, but I am also a human, and sometimes I need to let the giggles happen.
BETTY BUCKLEY’s HOPE (Palmetto Records)
Sometimes a great song that has been out of the public's consciousness for a few decades is waiting for the perfect interpreter to be brought back to glorious life. Such is the case with the terrific Joni Mitchell ballad “Shades of Scarlet Conquering” that Tony winner Betty Buckley infuses with a heartbreaking tenderness on her latest solo recording, Hope, now available from Palmetto Records. The song is just one of many gems featured on Buckley's 18th album that boasts tunes by an eclectic mix of composers, including Mitchell, Paul Simon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, T Bone Burnett, Jason Robert Brown, and more.
The 17-track recording from Buckley, who hits the road this fall in the national tour of the Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly!, is a powerful and ultimately hopeful meditation on the world in which we now live. As Buckley recently explained, “All [songs] were chosen as a response to all that we, as a World Community, have experienced from late 2016 through 2017 until now. I hope this musical journey will allow listeners to experience, feel, dream and, hopefully, inspire you to claim your highest hope for brighter days for our beautiful planet and our united human family.”
The centerpiece of the new disc is Jason Robert Brown's “Hope,” which the Tony-winning composer wrote the morning after the presidential election. Brown's song is a startlingly honest depiction of the emotions many felt that morning, and Buckley brings them all to full life, inserting her own vision of a hopeful tomorrow as she sings, “So maybe I can substitute ’strength’/ Because I’m strong/ I’m strong enough/ I got through lots of things I didn’t think I could/ And so did you/ I know that’s true.”
Other highlights include Lisa Loeb's “Falling in Love,” which Buckley imbues with a tender ache; a dreamy, almost meditative rendition of the Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin standard “Long Ago and Far Away”; three songs written by T Bone Burnett (“My Least Favorite Life,” “Every Little Thing,” and “Dope Island”), who produced Buckley's epic Ghostlight recording; Steely Dan's ”Don't Take Me Alive,” about a hostage-taker who considers her fate while negotiating with the police; and “Except Goodbye,” from Judith Shubow Steir’s new musical Only a Kingdom.
Buckley also rocks out with a thunderous take on Mary Chapin Carpenter's “I Feel Lucky,” and then switches gears for a beautiful reading of Paul Simon's “Quiet,” again offering a sense of optimism in a world that sometimes seems to be spinning off its axis. Just listen to the way Buckley's gentle tones caress the Simon lyric, “I am heading for a time of quiet/ When my restlessness is past/ And I can lie down on my blanket/ And release my fists at last.” Buckley concludes her recital with a stunning take on JD Souther's “Prisoner in Disguise” followed by a lilting version of Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh's “Young at Heart” that is filled with honest belief and joy.
This new recording from the Broadway favorite runs the gamut of emotions—from loss and anger to fear and heartache and ultimately hope and redemption: Buckley tears at the heart like few others can, offering stories in song that are not only entrancing, but wholly worth repeating. As the theatre world eagerly awaits Buckley's take on matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, we can sit back and enjoy her stirring message of Hope.