Well, it’s still my birthday—in the sense that I still refuse to open my presents. For reals! I'm extending it as long as I can so I have fun things to look forward to. I opened just a few so far: a stunning bouquet delivery from Betty Buckley (see below) and fabulous books from Andréa Burns and James. Andréa and I always get each other books we've read and loved. I just got her The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver and she got me Such a Fun Age by Kiley Read.
Whenever James and I go to London, he knows I love shopping for tons of books at Foyles, but since we haven’t traveled in a year and I haven’t had my fix, he got me some best-selling books from the U.K. Then, I found this old column, where I talk about shopping for books there!
This year, my birthday started the day before when James arranged a party for me on Stars in the House. All the guests were surprises to me. He told everyone that my birthday parties usually consist of me showing videos of performances I'm obsessed with, so the whole virtual party featured amazing videos of stars I would normally show, but this time the stars were actually there!
The first guests were Chita Rivera and her daughter Lisa Mordente. I was so happy to see them. I told everyone that when I was 11, my chorus took a bus into the City and saw Lisa starring in Platinum. And, a few years before that, when I was still in elementary school, my Mom got us tickets to see Chita in Chicago. How cool that both women who were part of my early Broadway obsession were at my party?! Here’s Lisa on The Merv Griffin Show when she was starring in Platinum with Alexis Smith. Sitting next to Merv is Shelly Winters and Ethel Merman. (P.S I love that it was still in the days before body mics were de rigueur, so in order to get an amplified sound, everyone is a holding a mic—with a cord! And speaking of my Chita obsession, here’s one of my deconstructions.
The hilarious Andrea Martin came on as well and I found out after the show she had already delivered my gift(s) to the house! Yes, I still haven’t unwrapped them all, but I did a deep dive into the amazing Levain cookies she sent. My fave! On a side note, I recently discovered eCreamery.com…where you can send ice cream to people and name each flavor whatever you want on the carton. I sent some to my friend Stephen Spadaro and named it “Does The Man Make The Meowzik?” based on this hilarious Andrea Martin story:
Later in the show, it was so great to see Kevin Chamberlin who reminded me that we’d worked on four Broadway shows together. I was a piano sub on My Favorite Year in the early ‘90s and Seussical in the late ‘90s and we were both in The Ritz in 2007 and Disaster! in 2016. James showed a photo and Kevin and I remembered how much fun we had doing The Today Show with Disaster! …even though it was realllllly early. A.M. or not, though, Adam Pascal was still able to hit his signature high B!
My good pals Andréa Burns and Peter Flynn made an appearance and Andréa played clips of songs we were both obsessed with as kids. We laughed about the time we visited our friend Dev Janki in Salem, Connecticut, and, on the way home with our friends in the car we rented, we sang giant sections from Ain’t Mishbehavin’. Just us. Acapella. It’s one of those things that was so fun for us but I’m sure our friends were raging that Uber hadn’t been invented yet. Here’s a deconstruction of one of my favorite segments from that show.
I’m going to give more highlights from my birthday in my next column, because I also want to talk about the concert I just did with Eva Noblezada. It was part of The Seth Concert Series which happens live every Sunday at 3 PM ET and then repeats at 8 PM that night. Eva is such a skilled performer and she’s not even 25 years old yet. She got her first big job because she was up for a Jimmy Award. It led to an audition for Miss Saigon, which led to a final callback for Cameron Mackintosh at the Majestic Theatre, where Phantom plays.
I really hope we can go back to auditioning on Broadway stages after the pandemic. That’s how it was always done during the Golden Age of Broadway and even when I moved to NY—I remember playing piano for auditions happening on the stages of The Martin Beck for Into The Woods and Grand Hotel. It’s so much better to give a Broadway performance on a Broadway stage instead of trying to figure out how big you should be in a rehearsal studio, standing 7 feet away the creative team.
Anyhoo, after she sang, Cameron asked her if she would be OK with moving to London. She was only 17 and was so happy to be cast as an understudy for Kim. A month later, she was talking to her local agent in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her agent showed her the contract and that’s when Eva realized she was not cast as the Kim understudy—she was Kim. She moved to London and that’s when I first met her. I saw her go on and she was incredible in the role. She later went on to play Éponine on the West End in Les Misérables as well originate Eurydice in Hadestown on the West End and on Broadway.
I asked her about having to sing to the little kid who played Tam in Miss Saigon and she told me that she would place her hands on either side of his head which gave the illusion of clutching her to him in love, but was really to cover his ears from her belting! Watch her technique here. Eva sang so many songs in our concert and even though we did songs from shows she’d done, we also sang from shows she wants to do. Here she is singing from Mean Girls.
This coming Sunday is the incredible Emily Skinner. I remember when I first moved to NY and met my Disaster! co-writer Jack Plotnick, who had recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon. I told him I was going to coach someone named Emily Skinner who graduated a little after him. He told me she was the most talented person he knew and, boy, I can see why he said that. She’s so fantastic! Get tix for our concert at TheSethConcertSeries.com.