I’m sitting on a balcony in Lisbon, Portugal, for real!
James and I are staying at the NH Collection Hotel and they upgraded us to this amazing room with a giant terrace. We overlook all these beautiful buildings in Lisbon and can see the ocean and the mountains as well. Take a gander!
Before James and I went to Italy, we stayed in Barcelona and, randomly, my West End pal (and Olivier Award winner) Jenna Russell happened to be there vacationing with her family. We all went out to dinner and had so many laughs. Jenna told us about the time she was doing Les Misérables on the West End and Grainne Renihan, who was playing Fantine, would make use of her downtime in Act One. After Fantine dies (spoiler alert?), she would keep on her Fantine death makeup and outfit. Grainne would then go to her dressing room and open up her window, which happened to be on the exact level of the upper level of double-decker buses. She would stare out the window with her terrifying makeup, unblinking, and whenever someone looked at her from the bus, she would slowly move her index finger in a “come with me” motion. Jenna said it was hilarious to watch people do a double take as they saw the scary lady corpse beckon them to her grave!
It was so fun to be with Bonnie the same day she found out she was nominated for a Drama League award for her performance in Kimberly Akimbo. Bonnie was on the plane home when she was also nominated for an Outer Critics Award. When I texted her congratulations, I wound up being the one to tell her she was nominated! Kimberly Akimbo is coming to Broadway in the fall and I’m so thrilled for everyone, especially my friend Jessica Stone who I’ve known since the early 90s. Jessica is also nominated for an Outer Critics Award and is receiving so many other accolades for her direction.
There are so many hilarious
stories Jessica and I have told each other and one of my favorites is
from her honeymoon with her then new husband, the brilliant Chris
Fitzgerald (who’s currently starring in Company). They
honeymooned in Costa Rica in a “we’re all one with nature” type of
hotel. The hotel was in a nature reserve and the roof of their room had
openings to let in the sounds of the outdoors and, as they would find
out, nature itself.
One night, Jessica and Chris tried to sleep. Chris was laying in bed in a state of anxiety about basically sleeping inside a zoo. As the clock kept ticking, his anxiety kept rising. Suddenly, BLACKOUT. Not quite an electrical blackout, everything became completely black. Why? Because something landed on his face. Yep, an animal came into their room and used Chris’s face as a comfortable resting place. Chris screamed, jumped up and, in his panic, wound up pushing Jessica out of bed “Laverne and Shirley” style. He then made a beeline for the bathroom and locked himself inside. The charming animal eventually left, but the “fun part” was that when he looked up the name of the animal that took up residence on his face he discovered it was called a "rat bat." Seriously. Look it up. The amazing part of the whole story is: the marriage lasted!
Back to our Europe trip. I heard so many fun stories from the
Broadway peeps who were with me. First of all, Jason Graae and I share
the fact that we were both classical music majors in college. I was at
Oberlin as a piano performance major and he went to SMU as an oboe
major, but he wound up not liking his teacher. When his teacher
would play the oboe, his whole face would puff out and turn red. Jason
decided to transfer to Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM) to get
away from him. Well, the year Jason transferred to CCM, so did his teacher. They both wound up in Cincinnati. It was like a wacky sitcom! Jason did not want to study with him anymore so he ixnayed the oboe degree and switched to musical theater instead.
he was at CCM, Jason met other amazing performers like Faith Prince,
her roommate Kim Criswell, and Vicki Lewis. After college, he and Vicki
auditioned for Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? Thommie Walsh, the original “Bobby” from A Chorus Line, was the choreographer and everyone had to do a dance combination at the audition. Jason was nervous about his dancing but Vicki
somehow found out the combination and taught it to Jason before the
audition. Jason went to the dance call and pretended to learn it, then nail it, so he could scam Thommie into thinking he quickly picked up
dance steps. Well, it worked!
Jason and Vicki were cast and the show went
to Philadelphia for an out-of-town tryout where wound up being a huge hit. However, any time Jason invited one of his friends to see it, they were decidedly not enthusiastic
about the future of the show. The show was supposed to open in one of
Broadway’s smaller houses, which would have been appropriate because
it was a small show about kids in Catholic elementary and high school. Because the show was an out-of-town hit,
the producer decided to move it to the larger Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon) when it suddenly became available. That was a
Jason later on realized that audiences in Philadelphia loved the show so much because so many people there attended to Catholic School. The same could not
be said for Manhattan. The quotes he remembers from the New York Times are
about how sad it is for the ushers of the Alvin theater because they had
to usher Merrily We Roll Along, The Little Prince and The Aviator, and Little Johnny Jones. Frank Rich then announced Patent Leather Shoes opening
as “another turkey has come to roost." Frank then explained that perhaps
audience in Philadelphia liked it because the Liberty Bell isn’t the only thing
Suffice it to say, Jason didn’t “roost” very long at the Alvin. Regardless, he went on to do plenty of other Broadway shows, including originating the role of Sparky in one of my favorite shows, Forever Plaid. I found such a charming video featuring Jason, George Dvorsky and Howard McGillin. Jason gets in so many great comedy bits. Watch how wonderful they are!
We traveled all over Italy and are spending the next few days in Portugal before then flying home. I’m excited to be making my Santa Fe debut when I get back to the states. I’m doing a concert with Ana Gasteyer on Tuesday May 10th and I hear it’s beautiful there. I haven’t been doing online deconstructions in a while, but Ana was one of the last ones I did and one of my faves. Take a gander at how amazing she is!
And come see our show!