This coming Sunday, my concert series has Ali Stroker, who won the Tony Award for playing Ado Annie in the recent Oklahoma revival. I first met her when she was in the revival Spring Awakening, directed by Michael Arden. Ali is the first performer to use a wheelchair for mobility on a Broadway stage. She’s got such a great voice and is so funny, too. If you don’t know her sass, she is a pioneer. Here she is with Krysta Rodriguez when they were both on my SiriusXM radio show. They wrote a parody of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” about the fact that they were starring as high school students, yet were decidedly not high school aged. Sample lyric:
I play 16 going on 17, innocent as a rose /
Bachelor dandies, drinkers of brandy /
What don’t I know of those?
Last Sunday’s concert starred the talented Matt Doyle. He not only sounded great but had fabulous stories about his Broadway career—starting with the original Spring Awakening when he was still a teenager. If you remember, the entire cast is on stage the whole time so they all see when something goes wrong, which makes it that much more mortifying for the person making the mistake.
Matt talked about the letter Jonathan Groff's character, Melchoir, read during the show. It's fairly lengthy and ends with him finding out that Wendla has died. Sometimes prop letters are fake and people “read” them but recite memorized lines. This letter was fully written and Jonathan would always read it. Cut to: one night he was handed the letter…and it was another letter used in the show. It was completely blank. Jonathan went to read it and saw nothing. Matt remembers exactly what happened next. Jonathan looked at the letter and went “OH!....Oh, no.” Then, because he couldn’t remember any of the actual letter (but he remembered the gist of it), he just exclaimed “Wendla’s dead!”
Matt also talked about playing Elder Price in The Book of Mormon and not being in great voice one night. Nonetheless, he pushed through. However, he couldn’t fully control his voice and when he got to the final note in “You and Me but Mostly Me” his voice cracked. But it cracked up a fourth, which, amazingly, was in the chord. He just held it for that entire ending! So, instead of ending the song on an A-flat, he ended on a soprano D-flat. Watch Matt tell the story during a virtual Company reunion on Stars in the House here.
I told him that I obsessively watch the 54 Below video of Bonnie Milligan singing “The Wizard and I” where she ends the song up a fifth (on a G!) and Matt sings Madame Morrible at the beginning. I love it. I then asked him how he and Bonnie met and he said they connected on the very first day of the reading of Jasper in Deadland by Ryan Scott Oliver. He said that someone was tracking “dog mess” all over the room. It was obviously on someone’s shoe and kept appearing in spots in the room. Bonnie finally made a big announcement that someone had it on their shoe and everyone needed to check their shoes, right now!
Everyone started looking under their shoes and within 10 seconds they discovered the culprit was Bonnie. Yes, the one who made the big pronouncement was also the perpetrator. But the hilarious way she announced it is what made Matt love her. Basically, she told everyone to check to find out who it was…and then suddenly they all heard Bonnie belt, á la “Defying Gravity,” IT’S ME-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E! And they’ve been best friends ever since.
We had game nights all last week on Stars in the House and there were two nights dedicated to teams from our favorite reality show, The Amazing Race. They gave us such fun inside scoop. Chris Marchant and Trevor Wadleigh asked us if we were ever annoyed watching the show when teams were lost but didn’t stop to ask directions. Of course we were! Well, the reason many teams don’t ask for help is because it takes forever. Any person who is filmed must sign all these papers allowing their image to be used. So, any time you stop to ask, you have to assume you’re going to lose 20 minutes. And you also have to hope the person speaks English. So, you may stop, ask the person if they speak English, they say no, and yet they still must sign all that paperwork. 20 minutes lost and no help. It makes for a very calculated risk. I will stop raging at my TV as relentlessly as I often do.
On Saturday, we had a game night with stars of the film DIVOS (including Marissa Jaret Winokur) and our game moderator was Paul Castree. Paul starred as Bobby C in Saturday Night Fever on Broadway back in 2000 and I was a piano sub. On his night off, I got him tickets to see Betty Buckley in concert. After the show, we were in her hotel room and we began discussing the difficulty of singing emotional songs. Paul told her that he would often start to cry when he sang “Tragedy,” which he liked because it meant he was in the moment, but the crying would close up his voice. He wanted to know how she was able to get so emotional when she sang “Memory” but always sounded amazing.
Well, she went into an amazing lesson about breathing, acting, singing, etc. At one point, she demonstrated by literally crawling on all fours like Grizabella. The next day, Castree was back in the show and as soon as the song began, he began thinking of what Betty had told him and how to apply it. Unfortunately, because he was thinking about something else, he completely forgot his lyrics. There was total vocal silence for around 8 measures. He then remembered the lyrics, finished the song, and walked offstage. He was ready to be busted by everyone for clunking, but instead, a stage manager ran up and apologized. Huh? He told Paul he was very sorry that Paul’s mic had suddenly gone out. Paul immediately told him the mic hadn’t gone out. He explained that he had simply forgotten the lyrics to the song he’d been singing eight times a week because he was thinking of Betty Buckley. Just kidding! Instead, Paul magnanimously said, “That’s OK” and accepted his apology. #TwentyYearSecret
This week is my sister Nancy’s birthday and we’re going to dedicate Thursday night’s show to her and feature her favorite stars. When I was a kid, my sister Beth got me interested in classical music. That’s why I became a piano major at Oberlin Conservatory. My sister Nancy got me interested in Broadway, and that’s why I was constantly never practicing at Oberlin Conservatory, instead running to the library to use their VCR and watch things like Judy Kuhn at the White House. Have you seen it? AMAZING!
Here’s a video I made with Nancy years ago where you can see why people always say we talk alike. Watch then peace out!