Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Happy Birthday, Lee Roy Reams and Charles Busch!
Happy Birthday, Lee Roy Reams and Charles Busch!
I have been a fan of both Lee Roy Reams and Charles Busch for as far back as I can remember.
I first saw Lee Roy on Broadway in the original production of 42nd Street. I also saw him in The Producers on Broadway and most recently in The Papermill Playhouse's wonderful production of Hairspray.
I have also been lucky enough to see him in many benefits and special appearances over the years and I have been even luckier enough to share the stage with Lee Roy on more than one occasion.
He has been a great supporter of mine and has always been there for me when his schedule permits. I am proud to call him a friend and this blog today is a celebration of his wonderful career.
Born in Covington, Kentucky, Reams earned a Master of Arts degree and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He made his Broadway debut in Sweet Charity in 1966.
Reams was nominated for both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance in the original production of 42nd Street in 1980.
He played the role of Frank Schultz in the 1989 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Show Boat, which was televised on Great Performances by PBS .
Reams has appeared on concert stages and in cabarets throughout the country.
(AT SEA Susan Powell (Miss America), Richard White, Bob and Lee Roy. 2010)
1966: Sweet Charity (Young Spanish Man)Far and away the most successful musical Dorothy Fields wrote, Sweet Charity is the only Fields show which gained lasting public recognition. It was adapted from a Fellini film Nights of Cabiria, and tells the story of an eternally hopeful but repeatedly disappointed dance club hostess. The team of Fosse, Verdon, Simon, Coleman and Fields created the classic Sixties musical. It was the first time since Stars in Your Eyes that Fields had written for contemporary characters, and the first time Fields had worked with a composer of a younger generation (Coleman was 25 years her junior).
She relished the challenge, and produced a series of fresh, vital lyrics for the appealing heroine and her more brash streetwise associates.
1969: Oklahoma! (Will Parker)Oklahoma! is the first musical written by composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is based on Lynn Riggs' 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs. Set in Oklahoma Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906, it tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance concerns cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie, a friend of Laurey's.
The original Broadway production opened on March 31, 1943. It was a box-office smash and ran for an unprecedented 2,212 performances, later enjoying award-winning revivals, national tours, foreign productions and an Academy Award-winning 1955 film adaptation. It has long been a popular choice for school and community productions.
This musical, building on the innovations of the earlier Show Boat, epitomized the development of the "book musical", a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that is able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter.
In addition, Oklahoma! features musical themes, or motifs, that recur throughout the work to connect the music and story more closely than any musical ever had before.
A special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for Oklahoma! in the category of "Special Awards And Citations - Letters" in 1944.
1970: Applause (Duane Fox)
Originally, Lee Roy didn't get the role. He auditioned and it was intimated that he had it. The agent called and said that they were waiting for the offer. Lee Roy thought he had it, but he didn't. On New Years Eve he was very depressed and the next day the phone call came; they fired Garrett Lewis and wanted him to come in. The show was in run-throughs. He had a lot of time to catch up. But the wonderful thing about that show was his friendship with Lauren Bacall.
He knew the first day of rehearsal when he went in, he had to do catch up and he said "I should at least fluff Miss Bacall's hair because then they'll know why I'm in the scene. I have to have a line for the end of the scene."
And he said "Miss Bacall, I promise I won't mess up your hair." And she said, "My friends call me Betty." That was it; I can't explain it to you. It's as if I had known her in a former life. We really became close that very moment and remained so during the years."
1974: Lorelei (Henry Spofford)
Lorelei is a musical with a book by Kenny Solms and Gail Parent, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Jule Styne. It is a revision of the Joseph Fields-Anita Loos book for the 1949 production Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and includes many of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin songs written for the original.In was in Lorelei, that Lee Roy met Dody Goodman. Years later, Lee Roy and I were both asked by Dody to perform when she was honored by The Caring Community. Lee Roy and I both presented her with a Lifetime Achievement Award from MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). It would turn out to be her last public appearance.
And Lee Roy spoke at Dody's memorial that I put together.
1978: Hello, Dolly! (Cornelius Hackl)
1983: La Cage aux Folles (Albin/Zaza)
1994: Beauty and the Beast (Lumiere)
1995: Hello, Dolly! (Choreographer/Director)
1998: An Evening with Jerry Herman (Co-star & Director)An Evening with Jerry Herman is a musical revue of Jerry Herman's work and consists of songs written by him for several of his musicals and anecdotes about Herman's career. It ran on Broadway at the Booth Theatre from July 28, 1998 until August 23, 1998, after 13 previews. Directed and choreographed by Lee Roy Reams, it starred Reams, Florence Lacey, and Herman, with Herman also providing piano accompaniment, along with Jered Egan on bass. Herman received a Theatre World Award Special Award. The show first played at the Westport Country Playhouse in July 1997.
2006: The Producers (Roger DeBris)
"It was fun to have that entree with Mel Brooks. When I saw the show and told Mel he would sweep the Tony Awards, he responded, "What part do you want to play?" I was in the first national tour. Lewis Stadlen who played Max on the tour...we'd known each other decades, but had never worked together, and with him I found another best friend. I think that's so important: that you always take friends with you from each show."
I have reached out to a few of Lee Roy's colleagues to see if they had anything to share. Lee Roy, This is for you! Happy Birthday!
No two shows are ever the same!
The first couple paragraphs lay it out.
I didn't know who it was at the time. Then a couple weeks later I'm onstage at Birdland with Carole Demas and others, the host was Lee Roy. As I was trying to gracefully exit the stage while he was addressing the crowd he stopped me, "not so fast there, Harkness", then proceeded to tell the story. I was stunned! "It was YOU!!" Funny stuff. So many people think it was planned. I didn't even know him. He just has a knack for good theatre. Anytime, anywhere, and who cares about convention.
I love him for it.
And from Laura Peters at the MUNY, "Lee Roy's Muny family is frankly shocked to hear that Lee Roy is HAVING a birthday...time seems have been holding still for him for...oh...three or four decades now.We wish him the very happiest, look forward to seeing him next summer!""
Lee Roy with unidentified actress, at The Muny in Applause (1971).
And from Matthew Sipress (who I did stock with at The Hampton Playhouse)
"Lee Roy hired me for the FIRST job I got after moving to New York in September of 1992 (I was 20 years old and had only been in the city for about 2 weeks). Well, first he cut me, but the audition showed up in BACKSTAGE the following week, so I went again and I was the last boy hired for the Paris premier of HELLO, DOLLY! AND, come to think of it, he gave me my second job as well: While in Paris, he offered me the assistant choreographer gig for HELLO, DOLLY! at TUTS which began rehearsals 1 day after we closed in Paris. Lee Roy kept me gainfully employed for the early part of my professional life and for that, and his friendship, am eternally grateful."
"I have so many fun memories of working with Lee...some much too racy to relate in a blog...We did THE PRODUCERS together...I was the "Max Bialystock" cover and had performed the role quite a few times with Lee playing his wonderful Roger De Bris...we laughed a lot backstage and had a very similar take on things and one day after a particularly good laugh, he turned to me and said "why aren't you MY understudy?" I replied, "I AM!" And we laughed some more...(although after that, I never did get the chance to go on for him--I think he'd perform in a full body cast if he had to. I loved every minute of our time together. Happy Birthday, Lee." Love, DAVID EDWARDS
"When we were doing The Producers in Las Vegas, we could all eat before the show in the employee dining room of The Paris. Lee Roy would hold court! The pre-show show was every bit as entertaining as what went on later on stage. We all loved story hour with Lee Roy...especially hearing that he was Ethel Merman's date for the notorious opening night of Lauren Bacall in WOMAN OF THE YEAR where Merman was heard commenting "Jesus Christ" after Bacall finished her first big number. Golden Rainbow is the big AIDS fundraiser for the Vegas arts community and I directed a medley of Mel Brooks musical numbers called It's A Mel, Mel, Mel World. Lee Roy brought down the house with "The French Mistake" demonstrating the choreography and then screaming the classic line "watch me faggots". He was brilliant! And fearless. And those two qualities make him ever so exciting to share the stage with. Lee Roy loves to shop and he found Dillards in Las Vegas. They had one store which was the end of the line for unsold goods. He never wore the same outfit twice in 8 months! Lee Roy had never had a martini till I mixed him an ice old Henrick's martini one night after the show in my dressing room. He loved it. Send all my love to Lee Roy and tell him we'll celebrate his birthday with a martini soon!"
"The only time I met Lee Roy personally (sort of) was at an audition so many years ago - and he was bright, full of light and so generous with each of us shaking in our boots (as it were). Helped me to feel comfy since a dance I have never been - and felt blessed to actually be in 'his presence' at that moment. Blessings on your project! Bonny Hughes
And from Ken Page, "Lee Roy Reams has become a part of my year every year for the past 18yrs. I am of course speaking of our shows at THE MUNY. He makes me laugh harder than anybody since CHARLES PIERCE.
Watching him work is always a special joy for me...especially in rehearsal...and then there are the stories. All great and filled with love for the wacky world that we inhabit THE THEE-AA-TUH ! My dear Lee Roy you are unique, you are loved...especially by me...and as PEARL BAILEY would say " That's a lot of lovin' honey " Happy Birthday...a thousand more."
And from Margo, Lawless, "Hey Richard! I think one of my fondest memories of Lee Roy is watching him in 42nd Street from the lighting booth when I was just a kid. I thought I was soooo cool!"
With David Hartman (with Robert Fitch and Lee Roy Reams looking on) Dancers Over 40 tribute to Gower Champion March 2008
Actor, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director, drag legend,
Star of the film Die Mommie Die and
Author of Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife,
I've seen Charles more times than I can include in a blog. Just want to say publicly how much I love you!
"Please join me for a joyous trip into my public and private worlds. It's always a pleasure to share them with you. Have fun and hold onto your hats!"
(Taken from Charles Busch's website)
In 1988, he wrote a new libretto for the 1955 musical "Ankles Aweigh" for Goodspeed Opera and has also adapted the book of the Truman Capote/Harold Arlen musical "House of Flowers" for a tour with Patti Labelle. On film, he's appeared in "Addams Family Values", "It Could Happen To You" and "Trouble on The Corner." He wrote the screenplay and starred in the film version of his play "Psycho Beach Party", which is available on video and DVD. In June of 1994, Mr. Busch starred in "Charles Busch's `Dressing Up', a one night sold out extravaganza at Town Hall featuring guest stars Milton Berle, Beatrice Arthur and the late Charles Pierce. In 1995, he co-authored and appeared in a critically acclaimed run in the Off-Broadway musical "Swingtime Canteen." 1997 saw him performing his one man show "Flipping My Wig" at the WPA Theatre and writing the book for the musical "The Green Heart" which was produced by Manhattan Theatre Club at the Variety Arts Theatre.
During this time, Mr. Busch starred as the fabulous Mame Dennis in a memorable staged reading of "Auntie Mame" at the American Place Theatre along with Marcia Lewis, Kelly Bishop, Maxwell Caulfield, Juliet Mills, Barbara Feldon, John Davidson and the late Peggy Cass recreating her original role of Agnes Gooch.
In the summer of 2004 he once again played Mame in a full production at Maine's Ogunquit Playhouse and at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York. In 2000, Manhattan Theatre Club produced his play "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" starring Linda Lavin, Tony Roberts and Michele Lee. It was nominated for a Drama Desk for best play and won Mr. Busch the Outer Critic’s Circle John Gassner Award for Playwriting.
It reopened on Broadway in November, 2001, was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play and ran 777 performances. He starred in the film version of his play "Die Mommie Die" for which he won a 2003 Sundance Film Festival award for best performance. In the winter of 2003, Charles starred in a new production of his play "Shanghai Moon" for which he was nominated for a Lucille Lortel award and a Drama League Award.
He was also given a special award for career achievement at the 2003 Drama Desk Awards.
For two seasons he appeared as Nat Ginzburg in the HBO series “Oz”.
In 2004, Charles wrote the book to the Broadway musical Taboo (which I LOVED, BTW).
His first novel "Whores of Lost Atlantis" was published in hardcover by Hyperion Press and released as a Penguin paperback and republished in May 2005 by Caroll & Graf. In April, 2005 Charles reunited with his long-time stage partner, Julie Halston, for a Gala Benefit for the Actor's Fund of America at Broadway's Music Box theatre, entitled Charles Busch and Julie Halston, Together on Broadway. The evening featured the 20th Anniversary performance of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. Mr. Busch made his directorial debut with the film A Very Serious Person, which premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won an honorable mention.
He directed L.A. Theaterworks' radio production of The Tale of the Allergists' Wife starring JoBeth Williams, Richard Kind and Amy Aquino.
He appeared as a guest artist in the off-Broadway play Spalding Gray Stories Left to Tell.
His play Our Leading Lady was presented by Manhattan Theatre Club in 2007 and starred Kate Mulgrew as the 19th century actress Laura Keene. He performed in a revival of his 1989 play The Lady in Question with Julie Halston at The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor New York in August 2007. The New York stage premiere of Die Mommie Die opened at The New World Stages for a limited engagement in 2007-2008 with Charles reprising his role of Angela Arden. His latest play The Third Story premiered at the LaJolla Playhouse and was produced in 2009 by MCC at the Lortel Theatre. In June, 2009, Charles played the formidable Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest" for LA Theatreworks in Los Angeles. He is also the subject of the documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch. Mr. Busch graduated from Northwestern University and is a member of the Dramatist's Guild.
"After being a fan for years -- and even working with him MANY moons ago on a one-night-only mounting of "Auntie Mame" in LA -- it was great to finally "hang out" with him a bit this summer in Provincetown. Happy Birthday, Miss Busch!"
And from Mark Childress, "He is such a wonderful, generous friend. Don't really have anything to add -- except maybe my observation that Charles is one of the hardest-working writers I know. He writes dozens, hundreds of drafts of his plays before he is satisfied. I really admire him."
Thank you ALL who contributed to this blog, and especially to you, Bob!
Charles and Lee Roy, thank you both for the gifts you have given me over the years!
To read more, Go to WIKIPEDIA, A Main Source of this blog!
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