Monday, January 23, 2012

Christine Fournier and GYPSY NIGHTS...LIVES ON TOUR!

"Fear Quitting, not failing."  - Anonymous

Happy Monday!

I'm back! I had an incredible time in Palm Springs ,Los Angeles and Denver but boy, is it great to be back home!  
I actually love to be on the road. I love exploring new towns and reconnecting with old ones. Meeting new people. Making new friends and socializing with old ones. 
When you are a star, the excitement of fans wherever you go is a heady experience. However, for those that are not in the main spotlight, it can be either exciting or depressing. Judy Garland once said that it goes from 1000 hands clapping in the theater to the sound of a lonely shutter beating against the window pane.
 The life and the world of a gypsy is now explored in a new book, a novel, by Christine Fournier. She knows of which she writes.  
In the fall of 1962, Ms. Fournier moved to New York City, where she was cast in the Broadway and two national tours of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, under the direction and guidance of Abe Burrows, Cy Feuer, Frank Loesser, and Bob Fosse, the originators.

Let's go back to the beginnings for Christine.

In the summer of 1961 (Christine was a college student performing on the U of MN Showboat in BLOOMER GIRL) She ordered tickets with money saved for a few Broadway shows by referencing THE NEW YORKER magazine.  There were no web sites back then, so she called the theatre box offices to order.  She sent in her money, they sent back the tickets, and when the time came, she hoofed it off to NYC for a week by herself!  Her first live show was CAMELOT at The Majestic Theatre, the original cast! She had worn out the original cast recording before she had the opportunity to see it!  
She was 20.
NEW YORK, 1964. Photo by Kenn Duncan.
Growing up, Christine was passionate about classic ballet.  Her mother enrolled her in Classical Russian Ballet classes, the first of its kind in the mid west, taught by  Russian Ballet master and displaced person, who came with his family to the U.S. after World War II. He was sponsored by a local businessman, who brought him to Minneapolis.

 The first time Christine was on stage, she was five and danced with several other young girls in THE LOLLIPOP PARADE, a recital given by a local performing arts school, pre-Russian Ballet training. This first school had limited resources and teachers.
Christine's first professional job was when she was hired as a dancer for an off-Broadway show musical, WE'RE CIVILIZED, starring Karen Black. Christine was her understudy!  She joined Equity in order to work in it, the show ran three weeks, and it was an absolute bomb! Directed by director, Martin Cohen We're Civilized, which was about to open at the Jan Hus Playhouse on East 74th Street. Diane was exactly the type that he was looking for. If she could sing, she got the part. She did and she got the part. It ran for 22 performances from November 8th-November 24th 1962. Also in that show was Karen Black.
Interestingly enough, my friend Diane J. Findlay made her professional debut in the same show! I wrote about that in my blog on Diane!

Christine's Logo. The idea for the design came from Christine's husband Paul to signify 'the hatching of ideas,' or Christine's sub headline PROFESSIONAL HELP TO HATCH YOUR TALENT!
Since Christine works in so many areas including coaching for the stage, TV and film, directing/choreographing, (also reconstruction in choreography) and as an author, she thought this was a great brand for her. I agree!
 Christine's thoughts on Arts in Education
While I think it's important to have a basic education in the arts as a foundation, it's actually getting out and 'doing it,' in an environment that has no guarantees. Going from the safe, academic environment that creates 'big fish in small ponds,' to the ocean of the professional theatre is the ultimate test for young talent.  I once had a PHD theatre professor, at a university where I was hired as a part-timer to teach musical theatre dance styles, tell me I was the only one of the staff that had actually 'gone and done it!' His words rang true for me.  I had no degree of any kind, being hired for my life experience.  I hear this repeated constantly by kids with 4-year degrees in theatre, who express their frustration of having been taught little about what to expect 'out there.'  Bottom line, "Learn from the individual who has been there, done it!" 
What makes you cry out of the blue when you see or  hear it?
 (1) Animals, neglected, abused, or abandoned.  Their eyes staring out at you from cages on a TV ad. I have to leave the room while it's playing.  (2) Children, the world over, who are starving. (3) Adults and children with disabilities being abused physically, mentally, emotionally.

Your thoughts on Carol Channing (All my blogs focus on Carol Channing’s Foundation For The Arts)

I’m campaigning for Carol Channing to receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honor in 2012. If you agree that she should receive this honor, can you say why you think this should happen 
Carol Channing made it possible for more character women's leading roles in Broadway musicals.  Her unique presence, talent, and memorable portrayal of Dolly Levi set a trend that has kept so many women being recognized for their work. Several "Dollies"  followed, but none so recognizable and loved as Miss Channing. 

Christine's Most recent appearance
I did a radio feature interview for PROGRESSIVE VOICE OF MN, hosted by two theatre colleagues, John Command and Nancy Nelson, during which I was able to plug my recent publication of GYPSY NIGHTS on Amazon's Kindle store.

Next appearance
I'm looking forward to a mention on DANCER'S OVER 40 e-blast to its membership regarding GYPSY NIGHTS.

What is your biggest success in Show Business
Being a member of the original cast of SWEET CHARITY on Broadway, starring the late Gwen Verdon, with
"Big Spender" - Original Cast of Sweet Charity, 1966

direction and choreography by Bob Fosse, and the reopening of the Palace Theatre on January 29, 1966! Those dance lessons my mother scraped the money together for paid off!

What was your lowest low and how did you surpass that?
After three months in NYC, an Equity card, and acquiring great friends, I was too broke to stay there because of making so little ($37.00 take home per week off Broadway, and not yet qualifying for unemployment.) I had to come back to Minneapolis in the dead of winter using a one-way plane ticket my folks furnished at Christmas.  It was bitterly cold both weather-wise and all my pals reminding me that I "blew it!" I found a job working as a messenger in a local bank and saved every penny to return to NY in
time for spring summer stock auditions.  It was a lonely time, commuting to the suburb where my folks lived by bus and walking the mile to the house in 15 below weather.  I kept my spirit up by singing in the elevator as I made my rounds on mail delivery in the bank, and phone calls and letters received from my NY pals encouraging me to return as soon as I was able!

What one change would you like to see in today’s industry?
Big stars have become corporations, commodities!   The media has seen to it!  I miss the days where people had to work their way up, where times were simpler, where people were judged by their talent and not the hype.  It seems all one has to do these days is have your image posted on You Tube doing something outrageous and away you go!  Where are the genuine stars?  They are falling away too fast!   I would like to see a happy medium between instant fame without substance, and genuine talent nurtured, grown and matured without 'the quick and easy' path to success.  The legitimate theatre has always been a business, but it is too much of that now, quick and easy revivals, performers jumping from TV and movies to the stage.  I miss the 60's in the theatre, truly original pieces of work, performed by the best of the best!

Who are your TOP FIVE models and influences as an artist?

Bob Fosse, Jerry Robbins, Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Jacques D'Amboise.
The Rich Man's Frug from Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity (Film)

Gwen Verdon
Jacques D'Amboise
What do you think ultimately made you become a performer? 
THE BOYFRIEND - Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, 1968
As an only child growing up with a single mom, I was always subjected to the critical parent approach of her five sibling brothers, my uncles, who didn't understand nor have the tolerance for my hyperactive energy (ADD, I'm sure before they had a label for it.) I was imaginative, playful, wildly tenacious,  and a rebel without realizing it.  Because of all the criticism, scolding, strict rules etc., I think on a very subliminal level, I decided, 'OK, if you aren't going to accept me, I will perform for acceptance.'  And thank God, my mother encouraged me all the way! (Carol Channing is also an only child)

Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career?
Yes. I was always versatile as I could perform as well as create for performers. I grew into a mentor. I'm at peace with this.


Do you feel you have achieved what you set out to do?
Yes, however there are times when I think back and wonder if I hadn't married so young, gotten pregnant and left the NY theatre, where would I be today?  My choices took me down a different road, a satisfying and creative one, but different.

What do you do to remain positive when life's hiccups get you down?
I think about the grace in my life through friendships I've made and kept throughout my journey both in the arts and outside. I feel grateful for the wondrous opportunities I've had, the mentors who guided me, the fellow performers who influenced me, and above all of the mother who supported me, taught me humor and resilience through her example.  My dear husband of thirteen years, always there for me, is my greatest gift today.

How on earth do you reach theatre goers now that newspapers are obsolete and there are so many channels on TV you can’t pick the right ones to advertise on and with the web being so hit and miss?
GYPSY - Riverside Theatre, directed by John Command  1995
I would have to say for me, it's net working, word-of-mouth, going to see as much as possible and sharing insights and observations with friends and colleagues.  The web is hit or miss, as are all the social media sites. I  think it involves absolute discernment in the choices one makes. And yes, it is a daunting task.

A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?
(1)  Having health of mind, body, and spirit for as long as possible.  I turned 70 last July. There is still so much left to do!

(2)  Leaving something of lasting importance and contribution to the world.

(3)  Having the financial resources to travel with my husband anywhere we desire to go.

If you could travel anywhere in the world and spend some time there, where would you choose, and what would you do?
I would live in Paris and travel throughout France with my husband, conquer the language, and coach actors.
What would you ask God if you could right now?
Ms. Fournier instructing her cast while musical director, Steve Quesnel looks on.
For enough time to continue to make a difference in the lives of people I love.

What is the last stage show you saw.  Local or professional.

I AM MY OWN WIFE, at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN starring Bradley Greenwald. Brilliant beyond brilliant.  

What was the turning point in your career?
Bob Fosse rehearsing with dancers.
When Bob Fosse gave me a job in the national company of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS in the fall of 1963 in the 46th Street Theatre.

When do you know it’s time for a Christine Fournier show?
When I have caught up writing my second novel in the series, GYPSY CITY.  I'm focusing on writing after directing three shows back to back in 2011.

Please visit Christine Fournier's website.

Don't forget to check out Christine's first novel, GYPSY NIGHTS-Lives On Tour on Amazon in the Kindle Store! Based on Christine's first professional tour '63-64, readers will get an insider's look at life on the road with touring dancers! Add some sizzle to these cold, winter days and nights! Log on to Christine's site above and sample the first five chapters. Be sure to write her full name: Christine Fourner for author.
 Thank you, Christine, for the gifts you give to the world!

Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Follow me on Twitter If you've seen one of my appearances/shows, add your thoughts to my guestbook at

Christine and her husband, Paul

                              Tomorrow's blog will be...YOU TELL ME!  I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

  Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


 Become A Facebook friend of mine!

Richard Skipper,
Dir John Command
Riverside Theater — with Tracy Doheny Erickson, Chrissy Fournier, Mardi Grant, Angela Mannella, David Abrams and Joe Spencer.

                                                     Please read Gypsy Nights...Lives On Tour! Tell Christine I sent you!

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