Hello from my Phoenix to San Francisco flight…also known as my Christine Ebersole to Jeremy Jordan flight. Yes, last night I did a show with Christine in Scottsdale, Arizona and now I’m on my way to the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco to perform with Jeremy Jordan.
Let me first write about Friday night when I had a show at NJPAC with Mano Felciano, Andréa Burns, and Rachel York. Rachel is in the middle of rehearsals for Head Over Heels, the new musical featuring music by the Go-Go’s! Rachel and I wound up talking about the two shows she did with Julie Andrews, which happened to be two shows that I played for in the orchestra: Putting It Together and Victor/Victoria. During Putting It Together, Rachel said that she actually shared a dressing room with Julie! She told our concert audience that Julie would often feel too tired to go on near the end of an eight-show week and Rachel then proceeded to do an amazing imitation of Julie’s speaking and singing voice…and also showed us that Julie didn’t have Maria Von Trapp’s nun-like vocabulary offstage. She would basically imitate Julie until Julie gave in. Here is what Rachel said happened all the time:
JULIE: Oh, Rachel, I’m exhausted. I don’t think I can go on today.
RACHEL: Julie…Do I have to sing it?
JULIE: PLEASE don’t.
RACHEL: (doing a flawless Julie Andrews) “Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Julie…”
JULIE: Drop it.
RACHEL: (sings) “Julie makes your heart so light…”
JULIE: No more!
RACHEL: “When the day is gray and ordinary…”
JULIE: Oh, f*ck it all, I’ll go on.
Mano sang from Sweeney Todd (he got a Tony nomination for playing Tobias) and told us about having to play an instrument as part of that cast. Normally, when you’re in a Broadway show orchestra, you have the sheet music in front of you. And, boy, do you rely on that music. I remember playing keyboard for Grease on Broadway and well into my second year, my music fell to the floor. I’m sure I knew that score backwards and forwards but when the music suddenly disappeared I went into a full state of immobilization and had no idea what was next. Well, Mano knew that the actors would be doubling as the band throughout the show and assumed the sheet music would be hidden around the set. Turns out, they were required to have the entire score memorized!
He recalled the first day of rehearsal when they were all sitting and playing “Kiss Me.” After they played it once or twice, John Doyle (the director) walked around the room, approached random music stands, and slowly slid away their music! Terrifying! If I couldn’t remember the four chords to “Summer Nights” after two years of playing it, how they hell were they supposed to remember the crazy only-Sondheim-would-think-of-them chord changes of Sweeney Todd after ten minutes!?
Here is a video the cast hauling out the vocals and playing their various instruments.
Anyhoo, because I had to work Friday night, I flew to Scottsdale Saturday morning. Christine Ebersole also had to work the night before and we wound up being on the same flight. Well, at 7:30 AM, the plane started zooming down the runway for take off….and then stopped. It was bizarre. And scary. Something I’ve never experienced before. They then made an announcement that the cockpit door wasn’t closing and maintenance had to come fix it. We waited around for a few hours….and finally panicked and got another flight. Well, because we booked it at the last minute there were barely any seats left, let alone fancy first class. I wound up being assigned a window seat in Row 20, which was cramped but fine. Christine got a window seat in Row 30. Row 30 sounded fine until she got on the plane and found out that there were only 30 rows! She was in the very last row. In a seat that didn’t lean back. And a seat directly in front of the toilet! So, for five-and-a-half hours, she heard steady flushing. Relentlessly. She also got the brunt of the turbulence because she was in the back of the plane. We had both woken up at 4:45 AM Eastern time and by the time we got to Phoenix, it was 6PM Eastern time. She was exhausted and nauseated from the turbulence. We were nervous that the show would be a clunk fest. Well, it was that old chestnut of “Dr. Theatre.” The minute she stepped onstage she became bright, sunny—transitioned into the best mood—and sounded AMAZING! She was belting and singing crazy high soprano and, man, her voice was flawless. I want to do the exact same songs when we perform together again this Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets and info here!
Here’s our promo that we filmed backstage:
And here’s my deconstruction of her amazing performance in the fantastic Grey Gardens:
Apart from my concerts, at SiriusXM, I had a full hour dedicated to composer Charles Strouse, who’s about to turn 90! I loved when he told us about writing a song for a big scene change in Annie. When he watched it performed the first time, he went up to director Martin Charnin during the applause and complimented him. He knew by the audience response that they were really impressed by the stage craft of the scene change. Martin promptly told him that they weren’t applauding the scene change…they loved the song they had written together which facilitated the scene change… “Tomorrow”! Watch original Annie Andrea McArdle sing it on the Merv Griffin Show here.
Charles Strouse’s first big musical was Bye Bye Birdie and the creative team had written the role of Rose for Carole Haney who wound up not being able to do it. He doesn’t exactly remember, but would like to think it was he who recommended an actress he had worked with Off-Broadway in The Shoe String Revue…Miss Chita Rivera. Everyone loved the idea and took out all the Polish references in the show that were written for Carol Haney and made them Spanish references for Chita! Here she is (before she was even 30 years old) doing “Spanish Rose” on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Maybe I’ll ask Chita to sing it March 29 during our shows at the Wallis in L.A.! We’re definitely doing songs from West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and more!
I had a wonderful time with Jeremy Jordan and his stunning voice during our show in San Francisco. He’s going to join me in Provincetown this summer. The only annoying part was being backstage with him and seeing that he also knows how to play the piano. There’s such a thing as too much talent. Not cool.
I was searching for a clip of him singing and turns out someone already uploaded our concert from yesterday! Here he is, singing from Smash.
And now, all about our new addition. When James and I were on our cruise in Puerto Rico, he arranged a trip for everyone to visit the Humane Society near San Juan. We filmed the whole thing for Facebook Live to help promote the fact that a lot of animals needed help since Hurricane Maria; many people fled the island and had to leave their animals behind. Well, I was touring the facility and immediately fell in love with one of the doggies who kept licking my hand through his cage when I went to pet him. I later found out his name was Mateo and he had been abandoned in a Walmart parking lot last December. Not surprising to anybody who knows us, we told the shelter we wanted to adopt him and, through All Sato Rescue, he got flown here last week and just joined our menagerie. We had Bill Berloni (the original dog trainer of Sandy from Annie and now the animal trainer for practically every Broadway show) on FaceTime so he could lead us in how to introduce Mateo to our other three doggies. It worked! He’s getting along great with all the other doggies. However, the less said about his first night in the house and his lack of knowledge about what constitutes a bathroom, the better. Peace out!