Hello from New York! I'll soon be saying hello from Provincetown. I just left P-town, but I’m on my way back soon to do two concerts with Victoria Clark!
I played in the pit for How To Succeed back in the 1990s, but I’ve never done a full concert with her. I remember Vicki’s hilarious story about her son coming to see her on Broadway for the first time. He was very young, and was sitting in a box seat with his dad. When Vicki began her first scene a with Matthew Broderick, she suddenly heard a loud, "Hi, Mommy!" The audience started laughing, but Vicki tried to stay in character. The scene continued and so did another "Hi-i-i-i-i-i, Mommy!" Finally, she heard the sound of a muffled "Hi, Mommy." Her son had obviously be taken out of the box seats and spoken to sternly by his dad. The scene finished, her son came back, and Vicki exited out the big double doors onstage. Phew. However, as she was walking out, she heard, "Bye-e-e-e-e, Mommy." Yes, her son ran the gamut of greetings!
Vicki went on to win a Tony Award for her amazing performance in Light In The Piazza and I did a video deconstruction of the debacle she had at the Tony Awards. Watch it here!
Speaking of the Tony Awards, come see Vicki before she’s nominated for next year’s Tony Award for her critically lauded performance in Kimberly Akimbo. Get thee to P-town this weekend!
Last weekend I was in P-town with Andrea McArdle and we had a great time. She sounded amazing. Andrea talked about Liberace wanting her in his Las Vegas show after she played Annie in London. Of course, I was researching to see if there was any video clips of them together. I found this bizarre clip of “Mr. Echo,” a man who literally says what you’re saying as you’re saying it. It’s a bit of a headache, it's also but riveting!
Andrea said Liberace was an amazing person to work with and he got her incredible outfits for her performance. She told us it was a stunning change from her previous costume as she was used to being dressed like a poor orphan. Suddenly, she was in bugle beads!
A few months into the run, Andrea was backstage with her Mom playing Boggle. Her Mom had had it listening to the show through the dressing room “squawk box," and she lowered the volume to get a break. Well, it was so low that they wound up unable to hear Andrea’s cue. Liberace was onstage for two minutes waiting for her. When the stage manager finally came to get her, Andrea raced onstage. However, she had taken off some of her costume to sit backstage, so she ended up performing the big, “New York, New York" number with the Rockettes wearing her bedazzled tuxedo top and lime green shorts. Liberace could not look her in the eye for the rest of the show because he was so upset, but he never yelled at her.
Andrea said he was always so sweet. As a matter of fact, he threw her a Sweet 16 birthday party. Andrea did become slightly annoyed when he gave her something he already owned as her birthday present. She had played Judy Garland in the TV movie Rainbow, and the gift was an homage to that role. Initially, she thought it was so cheap of him to “recycle” a gift, until her mother explained how crazy expensive it was. Liberace had given her a ring that was a jeweled carriage encircled with diamonds. When you opened the carriage, inside there were ruby slippers. Holy college tuition! When her mother explained to her how valuable the ring was she immediately took it from Andrea for safekeeping. Quite frankly, Andrea has ADD, like me, and, like me, loses everything. That ring has been sitting in a safety deposit box since the 1980s and Andrea’s totally onboard with that choice!
Andrea also talked about performing in the "Leading Ladies" concert at Carnegie Hall in the late 90s. Her performance in the concert led her to a role in a Broadway show. If you don’t know, that concert was amazing and featured so many stars. I got to play for Audra McDonald, and we performed a version I arranged of Barbara Streisand’s version of “Down With Love." Watch:
Andrea also said that Bernadette Peters wound up having a conflict with the concert so Scott Ellis, the director, asked Andrea is she would fill in. Scott wanted her to do a combo of “Look For The Silver Lining” and “Tomorrow," he wanted it sung without too many belts. She did it and it came out great!
Well, that performance led to Disney calling and asking her if she wanted to join Beauty And The Beast. Andrea was in her 30s at the time and assumed they wanted her for Mrs. Potts. Turns out, they wanted her for Belle so she took the gig. She sang with the sweet sound she used for the Carnegie Hall concert, using the voice of a Disney ingenue during rehearsals.
Finally, she had her put-in rehearsal, when she finally got to run her entire show in her costumes and wigs. If you’re a star, you get the full orchestra to join you. If not, you get the rehearsal pianist, aka me! After Andrea ran the show, she saw Michael Eisner, then Disney's CEO, in the audience. Andrea called him over. She knew that there was still time left in the rehearsal and asked if she could try something. She wanted to show him how she would sing the score in her McArdle belt instead of a Disney mix. Michael gave her the go-ahead and she belted that music. As soon as she stopped, he came over and said, “I don’t ever want you to sing it the other way again.” Andrea wound up being the first Belle to belt the whole show! Listen:
I want to tell you about a conversation I had last week with James Monroe Iglehart about our mutual obsession with Dreamgirls.
When James was in his late 20s, he auditioned for a production of the show in California. He really wanted to play Jimmy Early, but was cast as Tiny Joe Dixon. Tiny Joe only has a solo in the first scene and it’s interrupted by dialogue. Luckily, James had another offer and he took that instead. The offer was to join a brand new show he knew nothing about in development. Well, after that initial run, the show continued development and eventually moved to Broadway, allowing James to create his first original role! It was an incredible turn of events as the only reason he took the role was because he didn’t get the role he wanted in Dreamgirls. Yes, the rejection of Tiny Joe Dixon led to his performance in the original cast of the Tony Award winning Best Musical Memphis. Here he is being amazing: