Home, sweet home! I’m back in NYC after spending the weekend in New Orleans with Audra McDonald and Will Swenson. As you can see in the photo below, I was the shortest person onstage, but I still had a great time!
I always think it’s interesting to know what roles people almost played…and I asked Audra about any roles she was close to that she didn’t get. The two that came to mind were: She was up for Marcee in Jerry Maguire (Regina King got it) and she was up for the role of the distraught mother in Doubt (her Juilliard classmate Viola Davis got that one). I asked her how she deals with disappointment. She told everyone that she definitely felt pressure to perform at a certain level until she heard the great Beverly Sills reveal that she only sang the way she wanted to sing around five times. Meaning that 99 percent of the time, she wasn’t satisfied with her performance. Hearing that freed Audra and took the pressure off of being perfect. As for dealing with the disappointment of being fired (she was ixnayed from The Cosby Show—she did the pilot and was then replaced) she felt that it wasn’t her role and being ixnayed led her to the right role. I asked what that meant, and, basically, because she didn’t do The Cosby show, she was able to play Sarah in Ragtime (third Tony Award, if you’re counting!).
We were talking about bizarre auditions and he remembered going in for Flamingo Kid (with a score by Henry Krieger and Susan Birkenhead) and, for some reason, the bathroom was in the audition room. So, they were running behind, Santino had to go to the bathroom and the only way he could was to actually enter the audition room and ask to use the bathroom. He decided to hold it in…and by “it” I mean his pee AND his annoyance. Furthermore, he was miffed at his fellow actors because they were all singing very contemporary Broadway songs with lots of lyrics and quick melodies/recitative-style and he knew that was totally not Henry Krieger’s style. (Henry wrote the music for Dreamgirls and Side Show.) The casting director came out and apologized for being late and asked if everyone was OK. Santino said, “What’s the deal with the bathroom?” which I think is hilarious. There’s actually no answer to that question except “We booked a bad audition space.” Then Santino went in and they asked him, “Do you want to go the bathroom now? ” and he said “No. I’ll use it.” He made a comment about how his song was going to be different from everyone else’s and sang a song from Golden Boy. Well, he got applause from the director (Michael Mayer) and was then offered the lead! He clarified he wasn’t rude, but he was just completely honest a.k.a. “What’s the deal with the bathroom?” and being so totally himself paid off!
Santino talked about playing Hans in Frozen and said the whole thing took around five days to record. And one recording day was just making weird sounds…like being out-of-breath, lifting something, tripping etc. In terms of its success…he said he almost feels like a sperm donor…meaning, yes, he had to do with the creation of this wonderful thing but he was pretty distant from the whole process. He talked about his (brilliant) idea for the audition. He was told that the character is charming and funny…yet conceited and may be the villain. He decided to sing “I Feel Pretty,” which is such a hilarious choice! P.S. Here’s a version I did with Ashley Park from Mean Girls and Lindsay Mendez sounding amazing on the back-up!
He recorded this song by Jason Robert Brown (who he never met) and it was released online before the CD came out. He then got a message on Facebook from Jason that simply said (all caps) “I SENT YOU AN EMAIL!” Marty, of course, went into a panic and assumed it was a “cease and desist” email, but instead it was an email telling Marty that he’d been a fan for a while and asking him to join Jason’s cabaret series at SubCulture! Brava surprise ending! Here’s the song:
Marty grew up on a farm in the Midwest and, when he was a kid, he did a production of Annie at Starlight Theater in Kansas. Marty approached the agent of the girl who played Annie and that agent started representing him. He wound up getting an audition in New York, but to get there, his family had to get a mortgage on their farm! I love his parents!
The audition was for The Secret Garden and, thankfully for the farm, he got it! He replaced in the role of Colin, the young boy. His mom lived with him in the city; his dad stayed on the farm. He was treated like an adult in the show (doing his own make-up, bringing himself to the stage for cues, putting on his own mic), but he wasn’t always up-to-snuff. One night during the show, Daisy Eagan (who played the lead of Mary Lennox) stood extremely close to him during a scene. He didn’t know what the hell was going on until he realized that he forgot to put his mic on and she was being extra-professional because she knew he’d be heard if he spoke into her mic! Brava quick thinking!
You may recognize Marty from yesteryear because he was on Star Search Junior, back in the day! I remember watching him before I ever knew him, because it was the same year Billy Porter was on. Amazingly, Marty (like Billy) won! Interestingly, the girl he won over was…Britney Spears! Watch. He sounds amazing!
And finally, not only do I have fabulous concerts with Rachel Bay Jones coming up in Provincetown (tickets here), but I always have an auction for Your Kids, Our Kids, the non-profit I run with James. We have VIP seats (and backstage visits) to Hamilton and Frozen and/or you can guest-host with me on the radio. The auction ends tomorrow! Get thee to CharityBuzz.com.
I also joined this thing called Cameo, where I make video shout-outs for people. I just started and it’s so fun! Someone had me recreate my Barbra Walters “Well, as they say in the business, just don’t quit your day job” for their friend! If you want a shout-out, click here!
And finally, we just started booking our stars for Voices for The Voiceless, which is our annual concert for You Gotta Believe, the only NYC organization that helps foster youth find loving families. So far we have Kelli O’Hara, Megan Hilty, Laurie Metcalf, Judy Gold, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jenn Colella and Javier Muñoz on the roster. More stars to-be-announced, as they say! Get thee to YouGottaBelieve.org for tickets. Here are some amazing clips from our first one with Tituss Burgess, Eden Espinosa, Megan Hilty and more!