Happy “I can’t believe it’s almost May!” week. This week, I have Andrea McArdle in concert with me on The Seth Concert Series. I’m so lucky that when I started subbing on Les Misérables, my first long-running Broadway show, Andrea was the Fantine. Such a fantastic singer. Here she is singing that Act One classic, “I Dreamed a Dream.” Get tix at TheSethConcertSeries.com.
Last Friday, we had Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. on Stars in the House. Holy cow! What long and amazing careers they’ve had. Their first hit was “Go Where You Want to Go” with The Fifth Dimension and it was a song first made famous by The Mamas and The Papas. Interestingly, they correct the grammar from the original. I know in The Mamas and The Papas version, they sing “You gotta go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do…with whoever you wanna do it with.” The First Dimension, however, sings “…with whomever you wanna do it with.” Yes—see you in AP English!
Marilyn and Billy recalled seeing Hair on Broadway and told us that as soon as they heard Ronnie Dyson sing “Aquarius,” they knew it was the song for them. Their arranger paired it with “Let the Sunshine In” and it became a huge hit. James and I told them that we had always loved their version and Billy told us that he “went to church” at the end. Listen to his fabulous riffing.
Marilyn told us that Jimmy Webb presented “Up, Up, And Away (In My Beautiful Balloon)” but she thought it would never be successful because, at that point in the ‘60s, everyone was doing protest songs and this was too cheery. It turns out when there is great strife, people often want some respite in their music. The Fifth Dimension recorded it and, again, had a huge hit.
Billy and Marilyn finally decided to take a chance and break out on their own and they soon topped the charts with “You Don’t Have to Be a Star.” I love their version, but for comedy reasons, I showed them this version by The Brady Bunch. They had not seen it…and I don’t think they’ll ever watch it again.
Marilyn had always wanted to do Broadway and in the mid-90s, she was asked to replace Lonette McKee in Showboat. Marilyn told us she was so impressed with the skill level of everyone in the show, being able to do the same thing every night yet keep it fresh. She told us that she would change up the song “Along Came Bill” whenever she would sing it, in terms of back-phrasing and changing her riffs. Finally, the conductor told her that Broadway meant being consistent and she stopped. However, she performed the song on a talk show and felt that she wouldn’t be throwing off fellow actors or the orchestra if she switched it up, so she added some amazing riffs. Listen!
They have a new album coming out of Beatles covers and they sound fantastic. This is their new recording of “Blackbird,” a song Paul McCartney has said he wrote because of the racial tensions in America. The singing is stunning and the video is so incredibly moving. Watch it here.
On Thursday, we did a Stars in the House for a different charity. Normally, we raise money for The Actors Fund, but we were approached by Gloria Reuben to help Waterkeeper Alliance (she’s the president), which is a way for local communities to safeguard clean water. Get thee to Waterkeeper.org and find out how you can help, wherever you live. Gloria brought together a reunion of ER and we had such a great time.
Everyone was talking about how old their kids were; for instance, we watched a scene with Ming-Na Wen and she told us she had been pregnant during it. She then told us her baby is now 20 years old! Everyone kept saying how old their kids were and people were in shock over how many years had passed. Finally, George Clooney said “Here’s some fun. In about ten days, I’ll be 60, so f--- off, all of you!”
Gloria spoke about her character, Jeanie Boulet, becoming HIV positive and we all spoke of how important and groundbreaking it was back then to show a professional, working woman with HIV. People had preconceived notions of who got HIV and she really helped break that stereotype. Here is her character telling Dr. Weaver that she is HIV positive.
I asked George about the episode where he has to rescue a young boy from swirling flood. He told us the boy told him “I don’t rehearse,” to which George replied, “Tell you what, when I come on your show, we won’t rehearse!” He also told us that it was a delicious 70 degrees in Chicago on the afternoon of filming. But when night came, it was snowing! It must have been so cold in the water.
George also remembered the time there was a young woman cast on one episode who had to cry in the waiting room. They had a frantic director that week and he announced they had to film the crying scene right then. He kept imploring her to cry, which she had done at her audition, but there was just too much pressure and freneticism, and she couldn’t do it. They didn’t get the shot and moved on. She turned to George and said, “I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t cry.” He said, “I bet you will in the car home tonight!” Devastating and hilarious.
The entire cast talked about what a prankster George was and the time someone had the chutzpah to pull a (very basic) prank on him. There was a director who brought his hand to George and asked him to sniff it. Once George brought his face close, the director pushed his lotion-covered hand into his face. The whole cast remembered being in shock, all thinking “You don’t know who you’re pranking.” They knew there would be retaliation. They also knew that George was patient and they kept waiting for his revenge. Finally, at the end of the week, Julianna Margulies was walking through the parking lot where they filmed and saw something rather vulgar written on the director’s car. She had no proof George was the culprit, but knew he did it.
Even though our reunion of The Producers was last week, I have an additional story. Marc Shaiman and I spoke after and he told me that both Nathan and Matthew were visiting his and Scott Wittman’s house on Long Island in 2003. It was right before Nathan and Matthew were going to go back in The Producers and there was incredible excitement about it. Marc remembered it was around 10:30 at night and they were in the backyard and both Nathan and Matthew were wondering whether or not they remembered the show.
They started doing their first lines and suddenly they were running the whole show. Marc said it was hilarious/amazing to watch them do the show full out. Suddenly, he began to hear a noise from a nearby bush. Was it an animal? A tire losing air? It sounded like an elongated CH sound. Finally, they realized the sound they kept hearing was SHHHH. Yes, it was the next-door neighbor literally shushing them! Marc was like “It’s not that late and people are literally paying $450 per ticket to see them and you are getting the show for free!!!!”
Tune in this week for Stars in the House this week! Thursday, we have a preview of the Rebecca Luker tribute, starring so many amazing Broadway singers that will raise money to fight ALS (get tix here). Friday is a reunion of The Mystery of Edwin Drood with original cast members Betty Buckley, John Herrera, Patti Coenhour, Howard McGillin, Donna Murphy, Judy Kuhn, and composer-lyricist-book writer Rupert Holmes. And Saturday is a reunion of the 2013 Cinderella with Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana, Peter Bartlett, Harriet Harris, and Ann Harada. Watch these episodes (and all our previous ones!) on our YouTube channel or at StarsInTheHouse.com. Here’s my deconstruction of some Drood to get you in the mood. Watch then peace out!