Saturday, June 5, 2010


Barbra, Barbara, Judy & others (SOURCE Gregg Shapiro)

Barbra Streisand, who hasn't "sung in the Village since 1962," recorded her new live One Night Only (Columbia) CD/DVD set at the Village Vanguard in New York in Sept. 2009.
An intimate setting to say the least, the room was packed with many of her nearest (literally) and dearest friends. In fact, while introducing Jule Styne's widow Maggie, she points out that Phyllis Newman, "who won the Tony over me," is also in the audience. What a lucky audience they were, getting the chance to hear Barbra and quartet perform selections including "Gentle Rain," "If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas )" and "Make Someone Happy," from her Diana Krall-produced Love Is the Answer disc.
Streisand also digs into her past with "Evergreen," "My Funny Valentine" and "The Way We Were."

Streisand's between-song patter is priceless, including a story about winning a singing contest in a gay club in the early 1960s.

Broadway soprano Barbara Cook has become one of the great cabaret and concert performers of her generation.

The six-disc box set The Essential Barbara Cook Collection (DRG) draws from her illustrious output and includes both live (Barbara Cook at the Met) and Broadway-themed studio recordings (Close as Pages in a Book, Cook's tribute to Dorothy Fields). In one case, the concert recording DVD Mostly Sondheim, you get the best of both worlds.

A young Barbra Streisand can be heard on Judy on Broadway Tonight! with Friends: Rare Recordings from The Judy Garland Show (Savoy Jazz/SLG).
With selections culled from Garland's 1963-64 CBS-TV series, the disc features the now-legendary trio of Garland, Streisand and Ethel Merman performing "There's No Business Like Show Business."
Garland and Merman can also be heard performing a duets medley that includes "Let's Be Buddies," "You're the Top" and "You're Just in Love," while Judy and daughter Liza Minnelli try "Together Wherever We Go" on for size.

Laura Bell Bundy, who played Elle Woods in the Broadway production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, is a multiple threat. Not only is she an actress on stage and screen, but she possesses a powerful singing voice. As it turns out, she's a songwriter, too, with a hankering for contemporary country music, as you can hear on her newest album Achin' and Shakin' (Mercury).

Separated into "achin'" and "shakin'" "sides," the disc gives Bundy the chance to explore country-style heartbreak in songs such as "Curse the Bed," "Cigarette" and "When It All Goes South." On the "flipside," Bundy cuts loose with boot-scooting numbers such as "Giddy on Up," "Rebound" and "If You Want My Love."

Liz Callaway, sister (and sometime collaborator) of the recently out Ann Hampton Callaway, has been balancing a career as a Broadway performer and recording artist for nearly 20 years. Her latest disc, Passage of Time (PS Classics), finds her striking another kind of balance by including selections by singer/songwriters such as Carly Simon ("That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," a duet with Ann), James Taylor ("Secret o' Life") and Lennon & McCartney ("Eleanor Rigby") with compositions from musicals including Company ("Being Alive"), Wicked ("I'm Not that Girl"), Sunset Boulevard ("The Perfect Year") and Baby ("Patterns"), a show in which Callaway appeared on Broadway.

Michael Douglas To Play Liberace -

Michael Douglas is taking a sharp turn from his usual roles to tackle the lead in
a film biography of the campy musical performer Liberace, and Matt
Damon is playing his longtime lover,
director Steven Soderbergh confirmed.

"We've already done some costume and wardrobe tests on Michael, and
they're very, very, very good." Soderbergh told a French newspaper at the
Deauville Film Festival.
"I swear to you, Michael amazed me. He crushed it."

Born Wladziu Valentino, the flamboyant, piano-playing Liberace, nicknamed
"Mr. Showmanship" and "Glitter Man," was a staple of early 1950s
television, and was an institution in Las Vegas until his death from AIDS in 1987. At
his height, he made more money than Elvis and The Beatles.

Damon, Soderbergh said, has agreed to portray Scott Thorsen, the
assistant/boyfriend whose 1982 palimony suit for $110 million publicly outed the
"Matt accepted the challenge," Soderbergh said. "But I have to say I'd
already convinced him to gain 30 pounds for The Informant."
Liberace will be filmed off a script by writer/director Richard
Lagravense, who was responsible for The Bridges of Madison County. Soderbergh said
the budget will allow filmmakers to re-stage segments of Liberace's
spectacular stage act, which often involved elaborate stunts such as flying or
driving to his piano bench in a Rolls-Royce.

This Place I Know (PS Classics), the first album by Stephanie J. Block, who replaced Idina Menzel in Wicked and was recently seen in the musical version of 9 to 5, treads a similar path as the Callaway disc, right down to the guest duet. In this case, it's Dolly Parton who joins Block on "I Will Always Love You." Block is also joined on piano by Stephen Schwartz on "Making Good," and Marvin Hamlisch plays piano on "Smart Women." Be sure to check out the splendid same-sex marriage number "One Day," written by Andrew Lippa, who accompanies Block on piano. (Stephanie J. Block pictured here with Jim Caruso).
Return Of The Hollywood Musical (SOURCE:Michael St. John)

HELLO AMERICA! With the success of the film versions of “Momma Mia” and “Sweeney Todd,” the sudden acceptance of “Glee” and the return of “Fame” on the tube, it is obvious that the American audience is hungry to sing, dance and be, again, entertained. It is also very clear that the musical can be a big money-maker. Remember, in the ‘30s and ‘40s, that watching Shirley Temple, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, even George Raft, dancing on the screen, made a difference in how we perceived our lives and what the future might bring about.
More than ever, we need the powerful force of music that once helped to keep a nation believing, hoping and, yes, singing.

Fortunately, there are those still around who understand this, and eager to recapture the feeling and spirit that saved a country from emotional devastation. Raymond Singleton, British producer, is one on that list who has decided to try and make a difference. “I’m very excited about the film because it will reintroduce a lot of the old as well as the new,” Singleton offered.
“There will be cameos, big production numbers, you name it. It’s going to be a blast.”

The producer has a potential cast list including the likes of George Chakiris, Mitzi Gaynor, Debbie Allen, Russ Tamblyn and Rita Moreno to name a few.
“Hopefully,” Singleton said, “it will be a musical to be remembered. Everything will be shot in Hollywood, working with those artists who helped to make the business the way it is.
I want to remind people how exciting – how wonderful it is to spend an evening in a theater, listing to beautiful music, and watching dancers that takes you away from all the troubles and stress of the outside world. That’s what I want – what I dream of.”

When speaking with choreographer Bobby Banas, who was also featured in West Side Story, he made it quite clear that he agreed with Singleton that without a doubt the nation is ready to dance and sing again.
“The musical represents our energy, our absolute joy of being alive and free,” he noted.
“It was music that got us through the Depression and all the hardships, when simply trying to survive.
I believe that Singleton is on the right track.
I’m with him all the way.”

The producer is set to begin production of “The Way It Was” early in 2011. “This is a dream come true for me – I hope it will make a difference!”

Actress Rue McClanahan died early this week: she was 76.

Rue was born February 21, 1934 in Oklahoma & graduated w/ honors
from the University of Tulsa w/ degrees in German & theater arts.
She would go on to have 1 child (Mark Bish) & to marry 6x: Tom Bish,
Norman Hartweg, Peter D'Maio, Gus Fisher; Tom Keel & Morrow Wilson

Rue was known for her roles as Vivian Cavender Harmon on Maude, Fran
Crowley on Mama's Family & Blanche Devereaux on The Golden Girls, a
role that won her an Emmy Award.

Rue began acting on Off-Broadway in NYC in 1957, but did not make
her Broadway debut until 1969 when she portrayed Sally Weber in the
original production of John Sebastian & Murray Schisgal's musical:
Jimmy Shine, w/ Dustin Hoffman in the title role.

She replaced Carole Shelley as Madame Morrible in the musical Wicked
on May 31, 2005. She played the role for 8 months & departed the
cast on January 8, 2006.

She was replaced by Carol Kane on January
10, 2006

Her role as Caroline Johnson on Another World (July 1970 - Sept.
1971) brought her notoriety. On the show, while taking care of twins
Michael & Marianne Randolph, Caroline fell in love w/ their father,
John & began poisoning their mother, Pat. The short-term role was
extended to more than a year before Caroline was finally brought to
justice after kidnapping the twins. Once her role on Another World
ended, Rue joined the cast of the CBS soap Where the Heart Is, in
which she played Margaret Jardin

McClanahan’s manager sited the cause of death as a “massive stroke."

Rue had undergone treatment for breast cancer in 1997.

After her recovery, she spoke to cancer support groups about “aging
In 2009, Rue had heart bypass surgery followed by a minor stroke in
Rue was nominated for an Emmy as the man-crazed Blanche Devereaux on
The Golden Girls in 1986, 1987 (won), 1988 & 1989

In 1985, Rue spoke to The New York Times about the success of the
beloved series: Golden Girls that when people mature, they add
They don't turn into other creatures.
The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent & your
young woman living in us

Originally, Rue was cast as Rose & Betty White was cast as Blanche,
but both actresses felt the roles were too similar to ones they had
played previously. Betty had portrayed man-hungry Sue Ann Nivens on
The Mary Tyler Moore Show, while Rue had co-starred as sweet but
scatterbrained Vivian Harmon opposite Bea Arthur in Maude. Anxious
not to be typecast, they took the suggestion of veteran comedy
director Jay Sandrich & switched roles.

Rue is the 3rd Golden Girl in as many years ~ Estelle Getty,
(Sophia) passed in 2008 followed by Bea Arthur (Dorothy) who died in
This leaves Betty White as the sole surviving 1985-92 sitcom.

In 1971 she played in the film: Some of My Best
Friends Are. SOMBFA was set in a gay bar.

An animal welfare advocate and vegetarian, Rue was one of the 1st
celebrity supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Thanks to Wikipedia, IMDB,

(SOURCE: Mark Nelson)

Retro Radio
A Rockland County actress brings old-time radio back to the Valley

The moment you begin a conversation with radio show host Judy Stadt, you just know you’re talking to a bona fide star. Though she’s likely perched in front of the mic at WTBQ studios in Warwick — where she delivers her weekly variety program, The Lunch and Judy Show — she speaks dreamily, as if waltzing across a Broadway stage. Not that that is much of a stretch: an accomplished television and theater actress (who’s appeared in Spin City, All My Children, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, to name a few), Stadt certainly knows how to shine in any spotlight.
“Honey, I was born to be an entertainer,” she points out with a throaty chuckle. And entertain, she does: Stadt’s radio show covers just about everything, from renditions of jazz hits and spoken word poetry, to interviews with celebrity friends (like Renee Taylor from The Nanny), to heartfelt (and occasionally provocative) discussions about life in general.

Of course, Stadt’s varied background — or the fact that audiences have dubbed her the American Judi Dench — might have something to do with her celebrity demeanor, too. A quick look at her résumé reveals that she’s appeared in more than a dozen films and 80 plays (several of which she wrote herself); produced illustrations and greeting cards for her company, JudyStadt Graphics; designed fashion jewelry for JStadt Jewelry (found at high-end retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue) and clothing for the now-retired Judith & Charles boutiques in Rockland County. She’s even a licensed real-estate sales representative. Throw in a handful of awards (including Rockland County’s “Entertainer of the Year”) and skills in jazz-singing, character-voicing, puppeteering, ballroom- and tap-dancing, and you’ve got a regular Renaissance woman.
Which begs the question: Why does Stadt limit herself to radio?

“All of my life I’ve been a devotee of radio,” she proclaims. “I grew up with it in the Golden Age, as they say, with all of the wonderful programming and comedies and entertainment. It’s always been a part of me.”

So it’s only natural that The Lunch and Judy Show, which celebrated its first year on-air this past May, pays tribute to Stadt’s upbringing, when she listened to 1940s and ’50s broadcasts featuring hosts like Arthur Godfrey and programs such as Let’s Pretend.

“No one knows how to communicate anymore — there’s too much hate in the world,” Stadt sighs, referring to today’s talk radio.
“I want everybody to laugh. The ’40s were so naïve and very sweet. I’d like us to get back to that kind of closeness, the way it used to be. We’re so lucky in this country that we have such a diverse population — there’s so much to learn from each other. So let’s chat!
The Lunch and Judy Show airs at 3 p.m. on Saturdays on WTBQ 1110AM, Warwick (call 845-651-1110 to chat live), and at 11 a.m. on Thursdays on WRCR 1300AM, Spring Valley.

Listen live at
Let's talk!
JUDY STADT, Entertainer

Advertise on the show/website: (845) 406-3338

EQUUS' Baldwin, Schaffer & Underwood in Conversation

It's sad, but many times when the topic of Peter Schaffer's Tony Award Winning play Equus enters the conversation at cocktail parties, someone invariably remarks, "Isn't that the show about the naked English kid and the horses?" Well, on the surface, that's true, but the play is so rich in ideas and subtexts that it would take a blue ribbon panel to discuss the play and its content-to say nothing about its interpretations.

Such was the case on a recent sunny morning in East Hampton, Long Island. Guild Hall's John Drew Theatre will be presenting Equus for a rather lengthy run beginning on June 8th and ending July 3rd.
Gathered beside a table laden with cupcakes and croissants, were the production's director, Tony Walton; Alec Baldwin who will essay the role of Dr. Martin Dysart; Sam Underwood, the young English actor who will play the troubled Alan Strang; Josh Gladstone, the theater's artistic director; and the play's author, Sir Peter Schaffer. In attendance were journalists and photographers from all sides of the media.

Serving as the discussion's moderator, Josh Gladstone opened the program by asking Alec Baldwin what attracted him to the role of Dysart. Baldwin responded that Equus was a play he'd wanted to do for a long time commenting, "Peter's plays are considered some of the greatest dramatic works of the last 50 or 60 years, whether it's Amadeus or this play. It's a difficult play to do, I think. There are very challenging roles for Alan and the actor who plays Dysart. I tend to want to do a show and ask myself, ‘Is it hard?' I don't want to go out there and do something that's easy every night because it can get a little boring.
You have to go out there and ‘be' and think there's a very good chance you may not get it right.

There has to be some kind of a challenge and this is a very challenging piece."

Baldwin, who is also one of the play's producers, went on to explain how Equus, was chosen for presentation at the Guild Hall: "Tony [Walton] and I wanted to do a show here and work together. The conversation was about a lot about shows that were typically summer fare; Noel Coward, Hecht and MacArthur's The Front Page and things like that. Finally Tony looked at me and asked what I wanted to do and I said, ‘I've always wanted to do Equus' and within a matter of days I was at his dining room table with Tony and himself [Peter Schaffer] but no one really said what we were doing. Tony and I were kind of positioning Peter so he might give us the rights to the play.
I'm very, very grateful that he did"

Tony Walton originally didn't plan to do Equus in East Hampton. He wasn't keen on doing it and told Baldwin he was "completely nuts" because there had just been the "Harry Potter version" of it on Broadway. "Besides," he explains, "There's no reason to do it unless you have an unbelievably brilliant young foe. It turns out that actually that day I had just cast Sam Underwood in Candida [for the Irish Repertory Theatre] and Marchbanks is the other most difficult role for a young man. You'll recall that Marchbanks was Marlon Brando's first major part on Broadway opposite Katherine Cornell. In Underwood I realized I would have the right actor for Alan Strang." Later in the discussion, Walton would go on to call Underwood "a brand new genius."

Baldwin, who has been nominated for an Oscar as well as for a Tony Award, was awarded an Emmy for his work on television's 30 Rock, had great praise for his co-star, "You can tell when people are very good as actors. I mean, some of them will stumble along for five or ten years trying to take shape and then they ‘emerge'.
When you work with them, you can tell they're good right away. The better ones are good pretty much from the get-go. And Sam Underwood is very good!" Baldwin emphasized his words by patting the knee of the young actor who was sitting beside him.

"I work hard!" was Underwood's sole retort.

Having the two leads cast was encouraging enough, but the even more extraordinary part was when the playwright had several thoughts trickling around in his head for the past 40 years or so and wanted to re-address some portions of the play.
Baldwin states, " Internationally, Equus is known as one of the great, great plays of our lifetime and here we have the author who is still interested in fiddling with it. This is so exciting! He has, indeed, been working very hard on it."
Sir Peter Schaffer explained what he's been doing with this particular work: "It's something tedious for me to watch people enjoying the play and it's new to them. Well, I wanted something that's new to me! Let me get this straight: It's not an enormous re-write of the play at all. There is a core shift that flickers in and out.
Be assured, I haven't arrived with an entirely different script. Not at all. I wanted to try different things along the path." Later it was learned that most of the revisions concern the character of Frank Strang, Alan's father.

Working with Schaffer, Walton and Baldwin is a humbling experience for Sam Underwood. "I'm still learning a lot and it hasn't really sunk in yet," the young actor comments. "In regard to this piece of theatre along with the challenge it presents and to meet that challenge every day has been absolutely extraordinary.
To be part of a revised piece of the same play is an incredible opportunity for us all."
When questions were taken from the assembled crowd, the first one concerned whether there is any intentional form of homosexual attraction that Dysart has to Alan, especially at the end of the play. Specifically, could this be what Dysart refers to in his last soliloquy when he talks about having "this sharp chain in my mouth and it never comes out"? The play's author was adamant that such a relationship wasn't his intention, claiming that Dysart is soothing the young man at the denouement and not embracing him as some may be seeing it, but Baldwin had a slightly different take on the matter:

"Well, a lot of people could easily go that way," the actor explained. "We've talked about it. There's so much in the text that you can interpret. I've learned in the theatre, especially with an enormously well-written and smart piece like this one, that people are really listening. There's a percentage of the audience that is going to come and is not going to understand much of what is going on. That percentage is small. Most people know what the play is and they're going to really, really listen and you can never hope to influence what they're going to take away from it.
They'll take away their own personal thing. I could do a certain set of things and one person would walk out of the room and say, ‘The psychiatrist is in love with Alan. It was apparent.' Or not, as the case may be. I have my own beliefs and I set sail in that direction." The dialogue continued with Underwood offering his views on the matter: "We touched on that when I was working with the horses because there are men playing these horses and no matter what happens, there is Alan worshipping these men who are portraying horses on stage. How is that going to look from the audience? At the end of the day my thought process as Alan is that I'm doing something that's homosexual and I'm worshipping with my body, soul, mind and everything. If that comes across to anyone in a particular way, then that's what they take away from it. It's not up to me to enforce something onto an audience member. As long as I believe in what I'm doing, however it reads to anyone else.

I mean, that's the beauty of theatre, surely; that everyone can come and take something different away from it. It's not just one thing. Certainly that's true of certain movies as well. That's the beauty of art. Everyone sees something different in it"

Baldwin stepped in again to comment, "When you look at certain playwrights, let's say where some of their work has sort of a gay tone to it, like McNally and some of the plays he wrote, those plays are about the human condition; they're not about gay peoples' lives. They just happen to be that tableau. Where a play is less of a play is when it's specifically written for a gay audience or when it's written for another specific audience.
This is a play that I don't think of in those terms, but as a human condition that applies to everybody."

It was the play's director, Tony Walton, who reflected that one play which always enters this sort of discussion is Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "People love to imagine it's about a gay relationship, just transformed for the purposes of popular theatre. Albee, though, is very clear about it. He's said that he wouldn't have had a problem writing that play if that was the one I wanted to write and it's not. It's about this man and this woman and their heterosexual relationship."
Going on to another topic, Sam Underwood was asked about how he lives with the character of Alan Strang. Alan is somewhat likable even though he's committed an act that quite horrific. How can such an act be justified? Underwood paused for a moment and replied by saying, "The only thing that Alan knows about what he's done comes from this deep passion, this fiery passion. An actor can never judge a character he's playing... We can't afford to do that because of the human condition.

People do bad things all the time and for whatever reasons. To try and analyze that or make logic out of it is silly. It's not worth doing. All I know is that it's come from this huge passion inside Alan. Passion is the worship and the only thing for Alan. That's all he's got. That's what he lives for. Where else can I try to live with that type of passion other than on stage in a play like this? I don't try to sit there and justify what he's done to these horses as a bad thing. It's draining at the end of this play to go on that journey but it's the biggest high ever!"

Baldwin interjected his own feelings on the subject, "When you have a great play and you know that it works, you just feel there's this tremendous opportunity for you; the words are there and the piece is there. I have this one image when I start a show at the beginning of the evening: I dream of surfing the wave all the way to the shore. I say all the lines as written, the way I believe they should be said and I'm fully connected with the people I'm doing scenes with. When I can really live that fully in a performance of a show, it's like the greatest experience anyone can have as an actor. I want to enjoy every minute of this because when it's over I have to realize that I may never say these words again."

Underwood agreed upon that point and added, "The process is, in its way, as much fun as the performance. So the moments in rehearsal when I hear Alec exclaim, ‘I got that!
I got that!' brings such a feeling of excitement to the room--and that has been a continuously occurring thing no matter how horrible the event, there's something thrilling about planning how to represent it."

This production of features some very special casting. During the original 1975 Broadway production of the play, the role of Alan Strang was assumed by a young actor named Tuck Milligan who performed the part opposite Anthony Perkins' Dysart. In the Guild Hall version, Milligan will appear in the role of Harry Dalton, the stable owner. Has this intimidated Underwood? "Intimidated? No. It's been fascinating to talk to him about the original production and hear what that was like."

Equus was suggested by an account of the blinding of several horses in England and film director Sidney Lumet was planning to shoot the movie version very near to the actual locale. Tony Walton was the costume designer for the project. "Sidney had just had an enormous success with Murder on the Orient Express so he couldn't go back to England without being in an enormous tax situation. We got shifted to Ireland and wound up getting bombed out of Ireland with a heavy IRA attack. We wound up in Canada. What was very useful to me working on the film as a costume designer because it allowed me to get very close to the characters and discover who they are--otherwise there's a risk that the actors will have a meltdown the first time they see themselves in costume." All of his research comes to good use as he molds the piece in preparation for its East Hampton debut.

The play has always found audiences saying very odd things about it. Schaffer recalls, "In England the people who were upset about it were--being English and very sensitive people--angry because it was unkind to horses. In America, it caused a sensation of the wrong kind as well, because it was unkind to psychiatrists!"

It will be interesting to discover what odd things audiences will find to comment about at Guild Hall commencing on June 8th. Will they decry the play's alleged animal cruelty? Will they be offended by its representation of the psychiatric profession? Will they rail against its depiction of Fundamentalist Christianity? This production promises to be so dynamic and thoughtful that they surely won't be calling it "The play about the naked English kid and the horses."
This Equus will eenable them to realize it's substantially more than that.


Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street, East Hampton (Long Island) New York. The phone number is (631) 324-0806. To order tickets go to

Actor Sexuality: A Career Impediment?
By Paul Russell

May 28, 2010

Homosexuals can be the biggest homophobes in our industry. Several weeks ago I received a disturbing note from a reader:
"I've heard that sexuality can keep you from getting represented and/or cast. One of the friends I was talking [to] told me he was going for theatrical representation and the lady didn't want to rep him because she heard he was gay. So, his team had to cast doubts on what she heard and she ended up taking him. He has a boyfriend, but now he is staying out of the gay scene and trying to put out the 'sex symbol-type image' for the females. This wears me out."

It wears you out? As an openly gay man, I can't believe that a community in which we work and share our lives—which is supposedly progressive on issues such as sexuality—can still behave like the near adolescent mind-set on Fox News.

But we're enablers. And by "we" I include the entire entertainment industry—from actor to producer and every job in-between. We're fine with sexuality assignment within our ranks, but often try to mask or discourage on-screen and stage talent from openly having an offstage life so as to appease an insecure segment of society that hastily bangs the Bible to bash the GLBT community.

Because we all know that seeing a known homosexual is a threat to continuing the populace—an asinine thought process, of course. But people who follow that line of thinking conveniently overlook that in their daily lives they meet homosexuals everywhere they go. They're just not aware of the pink in the air. It's not like we glow with a lavender or green aura (although I'd prefer navy blue myself).

So to placate this segment of small mindedness we ourselves have that same brain shrinkage when we toil at our labors in entertainment. God forbid little Jimmy or Jane see a man or woman happily confess their love for someone of the same gender. (Oh horror! Catastrophe! Appalling! Call Sarah Palin's witch doctor!)

But we do, many of us, hide what is native to us and transform instinctive yearnings into a learned shame. Too many in our populace have been taught to hate and fear that which is different. And sometimes if that difference is within ourselves then we self-deprecate, which then gets transferred into our lives and work.

Long ago I worked for a casting director who was (and remains) a big 'ole—oh hell, let me unfortunately give voice to stereotype—'Nelly-girl.'
As he would often make comments about his desire for me (sexual harassment, holding on line one) he would in the same breath deny consideration of a gay actor for a role citing that the actor was "too much of a big fag," even though the actor could play 'straight'. (And just what the hell is the breakdown for 'straight'? 'Likes country music, sports bars and Kevin Spacey?' And yes, there is a contradiction in that description [cough].)

Another casting director in that office—now operating his own casting agency—would rebuff hiring gay actors for straight roles despite after meeting Harry Hamlin he rushed to Mr. Hamlin's canvass director chair, picked it up, inhaled deeply and announced to the rest of us with vigor that he loved the smell he sniffed. Uhm, hello pig, this is the monkey's ass. You're pink.

It's not so much that there is a self-loathing alone that prevents gay casting directors, directors, writers, producers or our heterosexual counterparts from hiring gay actors for straight roles; it's audience reaction. If the audience knows an actor to be gay and the actor is portraying a heterosexual more often than not a portion of the audience can not disconnect that the actor is playing a role and not the actor's real life sexuality. Those viewers believe that to play straight one must be straight.
But then comes a hypocrisy with those same audience members who view a known straight actor playing a gay role; they can accept that. Why? Because in the back of their mind they know that when the actor goes home he's not facing another man on his back who has his legs up to heaven. (Although for me, when Keanu Reeves played the ambiguous gay drifter in "My Private Idaho," I was praying that his off-screen heterosexuality was just myth.)

As an audience member I find myself sometimes shamefully falling into this heterosexual mind trap of "I can't believe he's not buttah." Since Neil Patrick Harris came out (bravo Mr. Harris!), my head does tilt to one side when I see teases on CBS for "How I Met Your Mother" with him making straight overtures. When I viewed Anne Heche on HBO's "Hung" I just kept thinking, What the hell is up with that girl? Was Ellen DeGeneres a phase, or is James Tupper just a partner du jour?

What business is it of mine? None. Where do these thoughts originate? Societal instruction. Once again we're back to the learned behavior of fearing what is different. (And by-the-by... for a number of us in the GLBT community heterosexuals are different. The street of what's 'normal' and what is 'not' can be traversed in both directions.)

The industry can, at times, be very back-room-whispering quiet about its gay membership (which is very large). When writing my book one of The Group of Eight I interviewed began talking about what he/she termed as 'The Gay Mafia.' A creative-coterie behind the scenes he/she believed to be comprised of influential same gender-groping-groupies (producers, directors, casting directors, agents, et al.) that control many aspects of the industry. The person I was interviewing asked that none of it be attributed to him/her. So in the end I had to cover up by cutting out several pages of contentious material.

Another section of the letter from the reader which prompted this mussing also represents this hush-hush mentality within our ranks:

"I'm not the 'out type of guy,' but I do go to the bars and clubs on the weekends. I also have a few friends up-and-coming who were told recently to stop going to the bars and clubs and stop having pictures taken with other men... in that way. These guys are in their mid-20s. Hell, I'm 37 now and I know there are pics out there with ex's and others so me trying to 'change' how I am seems a little late unless I try to play that I am bisexual (even though I haven't been with a female since high school). I don't like to advertise and don't want folks to know my business, but I've heard that sexuality can keep you from getting represented and/or cast."
I hadn't an instant reply. But then I thought, as long as members of the GLBT community hide behind masks of heterosexuality, others who fear us will continue to think our born sexual identity to be something strange, different or an immoral choice. And that pronoun 'us' bothers me. We are of the same species but segmented. How much of that do we bring upon ourselves?

So, to the reader who came to me for an answer, I have none. The answer you're seeking has to come from you. Are you going to allow others to marginalize your existence and keep you from being who you are? Will you let others change your behavior which does no harm and is part of your genetic make-up? Is not who you are more important than your choice of a career?

I give you and everyone else reading a question in return. When was the last time you ever heard of a 100% heterosexual having to come out of the closet announcing (not defending) they were straight? Or hide their assigned attraction of the opposite gender?

Oh, the double standards of life that we sometimes kneel to.

Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit

Hope everyone is having a wonderful June! All is well here in Rockland County! The heat is already stifling. I am going to be having a busy June which is great and I hope I am coming someplace near you this month!! I will be in at The Iguana every Wednesday Night, also The National Arts Club this Wednesday night, The Laurie Beechman Theatre on the 14th with SARAH RICE AND FRIENDS, Dana Lorge and I will be receiving our MAC AWARDS this Thursday, and next Saturday, I will be taking part in a "READ-IN" in defense of all the librarians who have lost their jobs due to Paterson's budger cuts. Please come see me if you can! All the info is at

June 23

IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th Street, NYC
Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass.
Tonight's guests include: Linda Fields, Meg Flather, Bob Levine, Jennifer Litt & David Alpher, Julie Reyburn ...
...and a few other surprises as well! $12.00 Music Charge/No food or drink minimum!
Reservations a must (212) 765-5454

June 30

IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th Street, NYC
Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass.
Tonight's guests include: Jack DeMonte, Elli Fordyce, Barbara Gurskey, Evan Lawrence, Fran Leonardis ...
...and a few other surprises as well! $12.00 Music Charge/No food or drink minimum!
Reservations a must (212) 765-5454

July 7

IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th Street, NYC
Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass.
Tonight's guests include: David Alpher & Jennifer Litt, Jon Burr & Lynn Stein, Hector Coris, Janice Hall, Cindy Marchionda ...
...and a few other surprises as well! $12.00 Music Charge/No food or drink minimum!
Reservations a must (212) 765-5454

uly 21

IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th Street, NYC
Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass.
Tonight's guests include: Terese Genecco, Jillian Laurain, Jennifer Litt & David Alpher, KT Sullivan, Joanne Tongret ...
...and a few other surprises as well! $12.00 Music Charge/No food or drink minimum!
Reservations a must (212) 765-5454

Jul 27
9:30 pm

with John Fisher on piano, Steve Bartosik on Percussion and Jeff Carney on Bass. Martina Vidmar will be opening for Richard and joining "Carol" on one number as Bernadette Peters! Please note this will be Richard's only NYC appearance with this show this year. Tickets available at or call TicketWeb 866-468-7619. Tickets are $60, 55, 50, 45, 40. Doors open 50 minutes before every performance. Drinks and snacks available before each show. No serving during performances. ONE NIGHT ONLY

Jerry Herman Praises LA CAGE, Talks New MAME & More

Broadway legend Carol Channing is fond of telling the story about a group of Russian diplomats who came to see the original production of Hello, Dolly! in 1964. Although they spoke virtually no English, they sat through the show and visited with the star in her dressing room afterwards. Talking through an interpreter, they told her that they loved the musical because it was filled with so much optimism. Although they couldn't understand the lyrics, the ebullience of Jerry Herman's music allowed them to experience and enjoy what producer David Merrick touted as "the world's happiest musical".

Speaking with Jerry Herman in a recent phone conversation, found the composer/lyricist more buoyant than ever. He had just returned to California after attending the opening of his musical La Cage Aux Folles which is being revived at the Longacre Theatre. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for the production. "It's so different, it's its own thing," he said. "It's not what we've seen through the years but it's so right for 2010. It's funnier and more touching than it ever was before. What this production has done is to really accent the story and the three people: the two guys and the son. It's about them and its amazing how taking a few sequins away can make a show stronger."

Herman continues: "In 1983 we were expected to do a lavish, beautiful show. You know, with gorgeous Theoni Aldridge costumes and Arthur Laurents' direction. It was a stunningly beautiful production and was very right for its times. Remember, we were dealing with very sensitive material, so we gave the audience something to look at as well. Twenty seven years have passed since that opening. Now we have a show that's actually stronger in the heart department. It's much more touching and I was bowled over by the number of people crying near the end.
It's a very interesting thing that these people from London did, because they didn't change a word of Harvey's or a note of mine. All the lines are the same. However, they've focused on what it's all really about. It's a very interesting phenomenon!"

When questioned about his feelings about Kelsey Grammer's switching from the role of Georges to that of Albin in a few months, Herman is quite enthusiastic. "I tell you, I think so highly of Kelsey Grammer that I think he can do anything. He's just wonderful in this show. I love him as Georges and he's enjoying playing that role. I'm not sure that he's going to want the change when the time comes because he's getting such great reactions, as well as the Tony Award nomination. Oh, he and Douglas Hodge are great!
They're wonderful people and wonderful actors. Actually, it's quite a company of great American actors and actresses who are supporting the two leads. They're all just marvelous!"

As this production of La Cage Aux Folles is smaller than the original, the show features scaled down orchestrations as well. "They're perfect for this," comments Herman. "They wouldn't have been right in the original and the original orchestrations wouldn't have worked in this show. When you see it, you'll know what I mean. Actually, this production is like going to a nightclub and really sitting there. The orchestrations are really perfect for this new environment. In fact, everything they've done has hit me as being so right for this version."

The topic of John Doyle's pared down version of Sweeney Todd entered the conversation as a source of comparison, and Herman was not shy about sharing his opinions on that show. "Sweeney Todd didn't have any reason to be cut down," he suggests. "It's a beautiful opera and Jonathan Tunik's orchestrations for the original were magnificent. In my opinion, there was no reason to scale any of that down. The new La Cage is done for all he right reasons and that's the difference."

Many people are hoping that this new production of La Cage Aux Folles will yield another, more complete, recording of the score. "No one has come up with any offer," comments the composer. "I'm not sure what will happen. The original recording is really quite beautiful. I love the "Promenade Sequence" and it would be good to have that and the "Entre Acte" recorded, though."

In Herman's book, Show Tune, he describes how he felt that Angela Lansbury was so very right for the title role of Mame, but other members of the production team really weren't sold on her. Herman worked privately with her and secretly snuck into the orchestra pit to accompany her during her final auditions for the role. Of course, she landed the role and not only was theatrical history was made but a lasting friendship was forged between the two. Was Herman able to catch Lansbury's acclaimed performance in A Little Night Music while he was in New York? "She was in Los Angles while I was in New York. Can you believe that? We just missed each other, but we've been talking on the phone. I have to tell you about something wonderful that she did for me, though," he says. "She went out in front of her theater [the Walter Kerr] , which is across the street from the Longacre and took a picture of the marquee for La Cage Aux Folles when it was put up. Then she sent it to me in an e-mail so I'd know what it looked like! Isn't that something? She's the best!"

Speaking of Angela Lansbury and Mame, the composer has very exciting news to impart: "There's a great interest in doing a new Mame. I have wonderful producers who are interested in doing it and we're going to have a couple of meetings next month to see if we can come up with a star. It's so difficult to cast that show. Of everything I've ever written, I think that's the toughest one. It's because she has to do everything. She has to, first of all, be a LADY and then she has to be a comedienne, then she has to sing her ass of, then she has to dance her ass off. She also has to be a beautiful, sensitive actress. Now where do you find all that in one person if it's not Angela Lansbury? It's very tough."

Unfortunately Jerry Herman has no news to report on with his still unproduced musical Miss Spectacular, "I really believe that right now Las Vegas is only interested in Cirque du Soliel- type productions. You know, with swimming pools and acrobatics and Miss Spectacular isn't anything like that. There really hasn't been any interest expressed in it, but the show is still very much alive and one of these days we'll do it. I just hope I'm around to see it!"

There is very promising news on the horizon though, Jerry Herman may well be in the mood to write another show. "Well, I tell you, I still have it in me! If I had a great idea-you know, source material, it's not impossible. I'm at the piano several hours every day anyhow, so all that is very possible. I still have my marbles and I'm sure I could do a new score." Herman roars with appreciation when the idea of musicalizing Arsenic and Old Lace as a vehicle starring Carol Channing and Angela Lansbury as the dotty Brewster sisters and Eric McCormack as their nephew Mortimer. "Oh, my God!" Herman exclaims. "Let me read it and think about it. We may be on to something here!"
Very possibly Broadway may once again be blessed with another new show boasting music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.

Perhaps Herman's music reflects the very essence of his personality. By nature he is optimistic and enormously positive. The man who wrote "It's Today!" "I'll be Here Tomorrow," "The Best of Times Is Now," "We Need a Little Christmas" and "Hello, Dolly!" is someone who certainly sees the glass as half-filled rather than half empty. Although Dr. Norman Vincent Peale published his book The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952, Jerry Herman has been embodying its principles since he was born in 1931.
With luck and continued Grace from Above, he'll be with us for a long time to come and his music and lyrics will fill our hearts with the same optimism Carol Channing talked about those Russians experiencing in 1964. Let's hope so.

Support THE ARTS! LIVE THEATRE! Go see a LIVE show this week!

Send me your reviews and suggestions and I will put them in my next blog coming out June 10th. (JUDY GARLAND BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!)
Here's to an ARTS-filled June! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper

It was great to see Richard Skipper perform last night at Tudor City Greens AND The Iguana. He is the perfect host and has proven he is a great host anywhere. We can't wait to see his show in July. I'm getting some others to join us.
Oh...and a friend of ours in California just LOVES him. She sees the reviews and testimonials and thinks he is pretty classy. We hope they will be out here in the fall and she can't wait to meet him. Mary Lahti

I had the privilege of seeing Richard Skipper perform for the first time in Darlington, Maryland Sunday evening (5/30/10). As a little boy of 11, I first saw Carol Channing in "Hello Dolly" and she was exquisite. The very same can be said about Richard. He not only channeled her best qualities, he was Carol Channing with all of the quirkiness, humor, engaging conversation with the audience as well as the best set of pipes you have ever heard. His theatrical persona only validates that Richard is capable of anything on stage. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had in a long time. If they ever bring back "Dolly", I know who the title role should go to. If you want to enjoy yourself with tremendous singing, story telling and wry wit then you must go to any of Richard's performances -- he's an angel. He left a lipstick mark on my cheek and in my heart. Thanks Richard!!
Will Schneider, NYC

I saw CAROL CHANNING IN CONCERT STARRING RICHARD SKIPPER Sunday evening at a private event in Darlington, Maryland (5/30/10).Once again Richard dazzled and amazed me with his brilliant ability to manipulate his audience right into the palm of his hand. I have had the privilege of seeing Richard’s show several times and it is as fresh and invigorating now as it was the first time for me. What was unique for me with this revisit was that because of the heat, the venue had to be moved from inside to outdoors. "Carol" was driven by car to the pavilion, immediately embraced the audience as if the curtain came up and she floated onto the stage. Richard’s ability to connect with the audience is intense. I think a big part of my enjoyment is not only the wonderful singing but also the interaction with those attending. If you have the opportunity to catch him at the Broadway Emporium in NYC on July 27th...don't miss him!
Brian Ballone, Saddle Brook, New Jersey

Dana Lorge and I have put our OWN spin on the variety show format and are now hosting every Wednesday night in NYC at The Iguana VIP Lounge ( in the heart of NYC (240 West 54th Street 8-11PM/with an intermission).

Cover: $12 - no food or drink minimums – but remember – the food is great!
or more info, please call 845-365-0720 or visit _www.RichardSkipper.com_
RESERVATIONS A MUST!!!!!!!! 212-765-5454.

June 9

IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th Street, NYC
Barry Levitt on keyboard & Saadi Zain on bass.
Tonight's guests include: Glen Charlow, Susan Eichhorn-Young, Earl Levit, Dora Rubin, Maureen Taylor ... (Carol Channing aka Richard Skipper will be making a special appearance)
...and a few other surprises as well! $12.00 Music Charge/No food or drink minimum!
Reservations a must (212) 765-5454

June 16th: 2010 Frederique Bessone, Meg Flather,Julie Reyburn, Lisa Raze returns and Lorinda Lisitza joins us for the first time!

JUNE 23rd: CELEBRATING ONE YEAR OF WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE IGUANA!Daryl Glenn, Sigali Hamberger, Bobbie Horowitz, Dora Rubin, Pam Tate,and Catt John

June 30th: KEVIN DOZIER!, Evan Lawrence, TRAVIS MOSER RETURNS, Frank Torren!





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