Sunday, June 9, 2013

Broadway and the Tony Awards!

with Chita Rivera
"Adele has real talent and maybe Fred will come around to it someday too." —Fred and Adele Astaire's father

Happy Tony Awards Day!

For those of us in the theater, this is our Christmas! It is the Super Bowl, the triple crown, and every other major event rolled in one. I used to watch every year in Conway, South Carolina and dream of being a part of that world. I still haven't made it to Broadway, but I still am excited by that world.
I have gotten side tracked many times! For twenty years, I performed around the world as a bona fide Broadway legend, one that I am campaigning diligently for to win this year's 2013 Kennedy Center Award, Carol Channing (see below)
Performing as Carol Channing opened doors that I never dreamed of as I reluctantly had that career. I say reluctantly because I never pursued it, it pursued me.
 That's a blog AND a book in itself! However, as a result
with Edith Drake (wife of Broadway composer Ervin Drake)
of THAT career, I have met and become friends of many from THAT world of show business. The Broadway of today excites me but not in the way that it once did. There is a different feeling of  going to the theater these days. I don't go to the theater as much as I once did. It's not out of a lessened desire; I simply can't afford it. When I came to New York in 1979, I saw EVERYTHING!
 I now focus most of my energy on writing. I'm writing a blog celebrating people in the arts and their "body of 'worth'".Today's blog is no different. I have the utmost respect for ALL who work to make Broadway the expeience that it is. Unlike the now defunct Smash, I am more interested in celebrating these people than knocking them down.
 I believe the reason the series did not succeed is because it was SO NEGATIVE!

with Tommy Tune

I am currently writing a book celebrating the FIRST fifty years of Hello, Dolly! I still perform when the opportunities come my way. Having recently seen Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids recent benefit performance of David Drake's The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, Penguin Rep's production of Class starring Richard Kline, Mark Nadler's I'm a Stranger Here Myself (BRILLIANT!...thank you, Robert Goldberg!), and a few other shows BADLY miscast (I will not mention those out of respect to the "actors" involved), the bug is starting to bite again. Once my book sells, I will put my toes back in the water of auditioning and/or producing my next show. I am getting a lot of enjoyment out of the onstage interviews I've done and will continue to do. Last month, I interviewed Broadway legend, NINE time Tony Award winner Tommy Tune at Queensboro College. THAT was a real treat! Next month, I am interviewing one of my favorite television actresses at The Metropolitan Room, Jackie Joseph (details at the end of this blog). I hope
with Dan Sherman, Laurn "Coco" Cohen (currently in Mamma Mia) and Jackie Joseph
you will attend.
My interviews and writing have introduced me also to so many people. One such person is ChrissyFournier, a Broadway Gypsy and now writer. I first "met" Chrissy when I did a blog feature on her in January of last year. Chrissy was in New York in April and we met for breakfast. I felt as if I was once again with a long lost friend. We certainly were not at a loss for words and just hearing her stories of being a Broadway gypsy and the people she has worked with, I was in heaven. After breakfast, we walked over to a dance rehearsal for The National Asian Artists Project's production of Hello, Dolly that was being directed by a mutual friend of mine and Chrissy's, Broadway's and Tony
Marge Champion, me as Carol, Lee Roy Reams, and David Hartman
nominees very own Lee Roy Reams.
What an afternoon! Christine and Lee Roy were in Sweet Charity together with Gwen Verdon. Neither are one to dwell on the past although I am dying for Lee Roy to write his memoirs! He knows EVERYTHING!  Christine is now doing a series of books that accurately and realistically captures the world of the Broadway gypsy.
Chrissy Fournier as Tessy in Gypsy

Chrissy and Lee Roy performed on Broadway as a dancer during the 1960’s, a period now considered the golden age of Broadway musical theatre. Chrissy's mentors include renowned Director/Choreographers Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins.
In addition to national tours with a Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway show, How to Succeed...,Fournier was in the original company of Sweet Charity starring Gwen Verdon and performed with an International Company of ‘West Side Story’ in Japan. She returned to Minnesota in 1968 as the original choreographer of the renowned Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. The series of four books follows the careers, events and lives of ‘Gypsy’ chorus dancers who are rarely acknowledged.
 Join Christine Fournier on a journey into a world seldom experienced by the general public. The characters are composites of those she performed with and the events are based on facts. Relive the history of authentic people and go backstage into the lives of Broadway Gypsies, the dedicated dance artists who bring support and sparkle to musical theater.
 The first book, GYPSY NIGHTS - Lives on Tour, is based on Ms. Fournier's original route of cities and theatres played on her first national tour of a Broadway hit. Check our Chrissy's website and order her books!
 Based on an original route sheet of a ‘Broadway Hit’ national tour in the 1960’s, Gypsy Nights introduces two young women; one, a dancer from Minnesota, the other, born and raised in the Bronx, NY. They meet at a chorus dancers audition, are cast in the show and begin a friendship which, continues through the four-book series and, in reality, is ongoing today.

Speaking of Gypsies, I asked through Facebook for my friends to send their thoughts and memories. I am including a few of those here.
Tony Stevens
Don Stitt writes,Tony Stevens will always be my hero. Personally, because as my director for the Burt Reynolds production of Godspell, he made sure my 'ography looked top notch. And because he came in to try to "fix" Late Nite Comic before it opened, (not unlike the popular "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" analogy.) 
But his place in history is this: When Rachel Lily Rosenbloom...closed, he said aloud to Michon Peacock, "When a show is in trouble, why don't they ever ask the DANCERS? 
They always know what's wrong." With that, he booked a dance studio from midnight to 8 AM, and invited some of his gypsy friends. They did some barre and learned a combination...and then they all sat in a circle, and Tony turned on a cassette recorder. It went so well that they did it again about a week later...this time, inviting Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie. 
Those tapes would eventually be sold to Mr. Bennett for a dollar. Tony would play the assistant choreographer in A Chorus Line at The Public, but by the time it was ready to move to The Shubert, Tony had taken a job with Fosse mounting the London Chicago. Tony died a couple of years ago, and he didn't even get an obituary in the New York Times. But I think we should put up a statue of him someplace. 
Chita Rivera in rehearsal (Courtesy and photo: Stephen Mosher)
Maybe holding that cassette recorder.

Donna McKechnie (photo credit and courtesy: Stephen Mosher)
Stephen Mosher writes,  
My personal favorites are two extremely different ladies. It won't surprise you that it is Chita Rivera and Donna McKechnie. Chita is so incredibly precise and Donna is so fluid. they both have such astonishingly different styles of dancing -- and they are true originals. The things these women do.. nobody can do them quite the same. What really and truly inspires me, though, is that they are now members of the senior set and they can still do it! 
They have continued to honor their bodies and their craft by continuing to dance. 
As someone who is getting older, I look to them for inspiration. and inspire, they do.I am so honored to have photographed both ladies - what a thrill
with Donna McKechnie
to my career. now, as for GYPSIES, I love Ward Billeisen .. his absolute joy of his craft, of the moments he is dancing .. it translates from the stage to the audience. He is infectious to watch. Every movement says something. every movement means something. even when he is still. he is always present and in the moment and enjoying even the slightest shoulder shrug. another inspiration.


Robert Sacheli wrote: "I am lucky enough to count Buzz Miller, an early Fosse dancer and one of the original Steam Heat trio, among my teachers."

Christine Talbott Sutin wrote There are so many great ones, but I must say that my favorite is Cleve Asbury. When I saw the recent revival of "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" on
Broadway (with Reba McIntyre), Mr. Asbury was a true standout; his positive physical and emotional energy, along with his dazzling smile,
really lit up the stage!


Also from Don Stitt, an interesting bit of Broadway trivia! 
Did you know this?
 

As regards the poisoning of Tinkerbell:
Maude Adams was the one who added the bit where the audience is asked to clap if they believe in fairies—thus bringing Tinkerbell back to life.
“It wasn’t in the original script.It was something added by Maude. It just occurred to her and it was added to the production at her suggestion.That scene has remained in every production of PETER

Maude Adams
PAN ever since.


Here's another odd Tony Award story that I've come across via Facebook: David Merrick was set to attend a dinner honoring a publishing friend and he wanted to present the honoree with a joke trophy. So what did he do? He grabbed the Best Musical Tony award for HELLO DOLLY off his shelf, had it scraped to the surface, then re inscribed with "Publisher Of The Year". 
This award also showed up on eBay, with a photo of the medallion which still showed the faded HELLO DOLLY inscription.

A friend of mine, John Ellis', worked as a receptionist in his office prior to stage managing the Grable tour. 
He rarely came in then. One day the door burst open, Merrick and his entourage :

"Aren't you watching the door? I might have been an actor!"




And now a plea in honor of my favorite Broadway entertainer!



"Carol Channing's dedication and performance quality has entertained us through many decades. She is a comic genius and deserves this award!!”
 Lee Roy Reams
Carol Channing, Jerry Herman, Lee Roy Reams

And Terry LeBolt writes: "I would love to see Carol Channing receive the Kennedy Center honor, wouldn't you? Please consider signing. Carol's FIFTY PLUS years of bringing live theatre out on the road to practically every city in the US has been a rare gift to so many who might never have seen a live show otherwise. 
That energy was so powerful that it is still with me every single day. I think it was even one of the things that kept me alive through several rough patches. Please consider signing this; we're so close!"

I am campaigning to ensure that Carol Channing FINALLY receives a Kennedy Center Honor THIS YEAR!
 Carol Channing has brought joy, laughter and happiness to thousands of people in the world, tirelessly supported the arts in public education.
The iconic Dolly, is the creative genius of Carol Channing and she deserves the 2013 Kennedy Center Honor.
Carol's contribution to the arts embodies all the arenas of entertainment.  Her array of work ranges from Broadway, Movies, Television, CD's, Cabarets, Books and all are flawless.
Her unforgettable portrayals of Lorelei, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,  Muzzy Van Hossmere, in Thoroughly Modern Millie,(OSCAR NOMINATED and Golden Globe Recipient),  the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland and when you think of Hello Dolly only one performer comes to mind ---CAROL CHANNING!

In addition, let's not forget the  tireless effort  Carol has made  introducing the arts through her foundation to children in public school systems.
When one thinks of Carol Channing you smile, those big eyes, chiseled features, red ruby lips and mop of blonde hair. She is pure enchantment. CAROL CHANNING is one indelible  star who definitely deserves to be among your honorees.  LET'S DO IT!!

Her talent is historic. She must be recognized. Certainly she is overdue for this honor!
There is, in my opinion, no more deserving recipient of this fabulous award than the legendary CAROL CHANNING! Also her tireless work to keep the arts alive in our public schools should be mentioned.
 I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. She is a true STAR, unique, intelligent and created the iconic DOLLY. Carol Channing has brought joy, laughter and happiness to thousands of people in the world. Here is how YOU can help:
 Suggest and say WHY you think Carol Channing deserves the Kennedy Center Honor, and please pay it forward! http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/honors/?confirm=1

Also LIKE my page on Facebook with your comments IF you’re on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/CarolChanningDeservesThe2013KennedyCenterHonor


Then sign the petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-kennedy-center-honors-give-carol-channing-a-2013-kennedy-center-honor

Don’t forget to forward this to as many people as you know!

Please call me with any questions and/or suggestions!

If you have already signed the petition, please pay this forward…

Richard Skipper 845-365-0720

Looking back, I guess I really have been a part of Broadway! It certainly is a part of me!



Thank you BROADWAY for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!
Watch the Tonys tonight!


 With grateful XOXOXs ,

 
And don't miss my next special event!


RESERVE TODAY! Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC JULY 3rd at 7PM! A benefit for Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).
Richard and Jackie will sit down for an intimate chat to discuss her career and life and the people she has worked with for the first forty-five minutes.
Imagine "Inside the Actor's Studio" but with Richard Skipper's own personal style.
The last fifteen minutes will be comprised of questions from the audience.
Jackie will meet and greet the audience downstairs afterward.

RICHARD SKIPPER  is a Storyteller! He is also a popular entertainer, theater historian and pop culture blogger. He has conducted over 500 interviews for his daily blog celebrating people in the arts and is currently writing a book to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of Hello, Dolly!, based also in part on his award-winning callondolly.com website chronicling the Broadway classic. He has covered several opening nights as the voice of Feinstein’s at Loews Regency and has conducted on-stage interviews for Carol Channing, Tommy Tune, Ron Young and Peggy Pope at Barnes & Noble and Queensboro Community College. (RichardSkipper.com and CallonDolly.com ) 2013 has been a breakout year for Richard. Richard was the associate producer of the 2010, 2012, 2013 Bistro Awards. He recently produced Peggy Herman’s CD Release Party at Feinsteins, directed by Peter Glebo and Tommy Tune, and it was an SRO success. He also Pamela Luss’ run at The Metropolitan Room, NYC. Richard can be seen in Dori Berenstein's CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE. Richard is now focused mostly on his writing and producing this year. He has a highly successful blog called RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES, focusing on Artists and their body of "Worth" and what makes a great UNIQUE entertainer!

Jackie Joseph is an American character actress, voice artist, and writer known for portraying Alan Brady's niece Jackie on the Dick van Dyke Show, as well as the film characters of: Audrey Fulquard in the original The Little Shop of Horrors, Sheila Futterman in both Gremlins films, and the voice of Melody in the animated television series Josie and the Pussycats and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. She was a regular on The Doris Day Show portraying Doris' friend, Jackie Parker and also famously played the love interest of Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show as well as Imogene Harris, the eccentric love-interest of Mario (Jaime Farr) in Who's Minding The Mint…THAT’S JUST FOR STARTERS!
Fifty percent of every cover will benefit Actors and Others For Animals (http://www.actorsandothers.com).
$20.00. Cover ($10.00 of every cover goes to Actors and Others for Animals)/Two drink minimum. Reservations a MUST: 34 W 22nd St  New York, NY 10010
http://metropolitanroom.com/show.cfm?cart&id=104228
(212) 206-0440
Win a chance to win a fabulous gift basket!
Please call with any questions you may have 845-365-0720
TWEET: Richard Skipper Celebrates Jackie Joseph: LIVE at The Metropolitan Room in NYC! For Actors and Others For Animals 7/3 @ 7PM



Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with YOU!




If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.



NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!





When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000+ performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.”-Carol Channing

              
My next blog will be...Celebrating 91 Years of Judy Garland on the occasion of her birthday!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


  


TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            
 

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!





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