Monday, April 23, 2012

Stephen Bogardus!

One day. One Life time. Live each day as if it is your last.

Happy Monday!

It is a rainy drizzly day here in New York. I sit here at 7:30 AM sipping my coffee listening to Judy Garland singing Stormy Weather from Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall which took place 51 years ago tonight and looking forward to tonight's Bistro Awards celebrating excellence in cabaret and music. 
I am celebrating Stephen Bogardus today. 
We chatted yesterday. 

Stephen is one of the most respected actors working in the theater today. It's been an interesting journey as you will see here. He is not a cabaret entertainer. However, he is no stranger to the concert stage. Randie Levine-Miller invited him to be part of her "Divo" night at Feinsteins next Sunday night. He was told he was only required to do 10 minutes and the responsibility of having to fill the room at Feinsteins is not only on his shoulders. Why not? This morning, I read a passage from David Friedman's The Thought Exchange:  When we take on a thought we’ve wanted to take on but which we’ve been resisting, it’s almost inevitable that uncomfortable sensations and protective thoughts will come up.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas Opening Night - Curtain Call and After Party
I am also looking at the above quote which is Stephen's philosophy through life. Let's ALL work through the sensations of change this week. As I celebrate Stephen today, you will see his life has always been about taking chances and we all are the better for it. I hope you'll join me next Sunday night as we celebrate Stephen AND Randie Levine-Miller (taking a chance on a new venue) at Feinsteins. 

with Kerry O'Malley
It's appropriate that he is appearing at Feinsteins next week. Stephen got into this business through music. He sang at a very early age and when he was in the third grade, he joined the school chorus. 
He was a boy soprano and loved singing. He became the soloist for a lot of events in school. When he was in the fourth grade, a violinist came to his school. He asked if anyone wanted to study the violin? Stephen was mesmerized and began taking violin lessons. He studied privately with an accomplished violinist for four or five years. He played in a lot of youth orchestras and went to music camp. Stephen went away to Prep school in Choate. While there, he continued to play the violin and sing. There was a drama department there that usually only did plays. However, they decided to do The Boyfriend. They realized that there weren't enough guys in the drama department that knew how to sing. They recruited Stephen because they knew he was a good singer and they asked him to play Bobby Van Husen. He remembers going out on stage and singing "Won't You Charleston With Me?" After the ovation he received, he remembers standing there on the stage and thinking, "This is really cool." He liked what he was feeling at that moment and that is what planted the seed. He liked acting. He eventually went on to Princeton where he did not do a lot of acting. He did continue to sing in an a Capella singing group. He did make up his mind in his junior year to go to New York and "give it a whack".
 Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'malley, Meredith Patterson

I began by asking Stephen who the most iconic person he ever met and whether or not that person lived up to his expectations. Leonard Bernstein, who Stephen met very early in his career. Stephen ended up being a part of Bernstein's inner circle, having a relationship with his children and family. Stephen knew Bernstein during his "iconic phase" of being the maestro, but he also saw him around Bernstein's house out of the spotlight. Yes, he did live up to his celebrity status as a titan in the business, both as a composer and conductor. Yes, Stephen also saw him behind the scenes connecting as a dad with his kids which was a whole other dynamic. 
I asked Stephen if he has ever lost his concentration on stage and he laughed. A resounding YES. When he was doing LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION!, in 1995, on Broadway. His wife and he had bought a co-op and they were renovating at the time. He was the general contractor on it. Every night after doing the show, he would go up to the apartment, take bails of debris and search for empty dumpsters. It was at a time where a lot of the upper West Side was being renovated, so he could always find a dumpster. 
There is a lot of time in the first act of LVC, where the entire cast was sitting around a dinner table. There were huge chunks of time when they would just be listening. He would constantly be thinking about what he had to do the next day. He had a move-out date from his previous place.                                                                                                               
Justin Kirk, Joe Mantello, Alan Muraoka, Francis Jue and Stephen Bogardus © Lia Chang
It was really difficult not to be thinking about that. He never missed a line, but in many instances, he WAS thinking about his "other" life rather than the "life" he was inhabiting on stage! He was constantly berating himself because of this. His inner dialogue was, "You're doing a Broadway show! People have paid a lot of money for this!" He would physically pinch himself  and say, "Get back to the task at hand.Yes, you know the show well and you can get away with this, but it's not right." 
Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O'malley, Meredith Patterson, Melody Hollis

Stephen's hobby is wood working. If he was not in this business, that is something that would also give him great satisfaction. He would love to create "one of a kind" pieces for people's homes. In New York, there is no such thing as a right angle in someone's apartment, especially pre-war apartments. When people want new additions, they have to be custom-built. That is something Stephen does with his own apartment.
Gregory Wooddell (left) and Stephen Bogardus in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 2006 production of Some Men.
Photo: Mark Gavin

I asked Stephen what he has learned about making his relationships in this business long lasting and resourceful. He told me that no matter where the relationship is, he tries to make a connection. Even if you're going into a situation where you're just doing a reading, try to know everyone's name, try to connect with everyone on some least once. This may be the only time you connect with them in your life. Stephen knows how much it means to him when people try and connect with him. Just comment on SOMETHING. Ask them something so that you have an experience with at least everybody that you're working with. As time has gone on, Stephen also tries and be very honest with everybody and tries not to lie about whatever a situation is. If he can't do a particular gig, he tries to be honest about why. He doesn't want to make something up and get caught in a lie. 

When I asked Stephen about his thoughts on arts in education, he said it makes him want to cry. The first budget cut in education all over the country is ALWAYS the arts. Stephen's son, who is 12 attends a private school and they have the funds. As he has gotten older in school, they have taken the arts further and further away. He now has fine arts twice a week. He has music for 1/3rd of the year. He has art for 1/3rd of the year. He has drama for 1/3rd of the year. Stephen remembers having that stencil of a piano put in front of him as a kid at least 3 days a week, maybe more. Learning how to play the piano even though you really weren't playing it. Learning about music. Having art class and art all through your elementary years and up through your middle years. Then Stephen went away to school and the arts continued to flourish. "Right now, arts is the first to go and its what the kids need the most. It's universal and its a language that everyone can speak. It feeds the soul and I don't think educators have any idea what they are depriving children of by taking it away."

Speaking of arts in education, Carol Channing's and MY platform, Stephen also believes that Carol should receive the Kennedy Center Honor this year! "Carol is an iconic figure. She is right up there with those that have received it in the past. They all have a body of work that is very impressive. She was 'IT" for a period of time. There aren't many people like her and there won't be many who will follow her like her."

I asked Stephen how he chooses his roles. In the early part of his career, he was never concerned about how much a job paid. He would read a script. If it was a musical, he would listen to the music. He would look at the role. If he thought the character had a really interesting arc, if he felt the music took him some place, and was fresh and new and not banal, if he thought the story intrigued him in some way, those were always the deciding factors.

The 1980 revival of West Side Story was Stephen's first Broadway show. The first 25 years of his career, practically everything he took was new. As he got a family, and as producers did more and more guarantee that a show would work, that was what was presented to him. As he moved into middle age and more character work, the emphasis has shifted to thinking of the pay involved to make a living and pay his bills. He continues to be drawn to material that is new. If he can afford to do those jobs, that's what he prefers. In 2004, when he was offered Man of La Mancha, he questioned whether or not he should do it. It would be his second revival on Broadway. It was a smaller role. He was always the lead or a featured role. He realized at that point that he was moving to a different place in his career. He is much more pragmatic about his career now. 

Next on his agenda is a play of The Exorcist this summer directed by John Doyle at The Geffen Theatre in Westwood, California. There are commercial producers attached to it with hopes of moving it to Broadway. 

Some Men, Terrence McNally’s ran Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre after having its world premiere in Philadelphia. From left to right, Barbara Walsh, Stephen Bogardus and Suzzanne Douglas in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production.
Photo: Mark Gavin
Falsettos is the show that Stephen feels he is most identifiable. Followed by LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.LVC won Best Play. They were both ground-breaking shows, in their own way, when they both came out. There had never been a gay protagonist in a musical until Falsettos came along. It was the first time that AIDS was being addressed in a musical. LVC, ALL the characters were gay and also dealt with the ravages of AIDS in the early 90s. 
FALSETTOLAND002  (with Stephen Bogardus) (Photo by Gerry Go)

The lowest low took place when he was fired during the Broadway revival of West Side Story for an indiscretion because he supplied some of the cast mates with some "bad" quaaludes. They took them after a show one night but they were still in everyone's "systems" the next day. He ponied up to it and was fired. He was blackballed within casting circles that went on for about a year. He made amends with everyone in that show. It was his first big break, in a Broadway show. He made a mistake. It was a time when drugs were rampant. He was young and he was doing what "everyone" was doing. He spoke to all the people involved at that time and explained that this was not indicative of who he was. It was the mistake of a young person and he was prepared to move on. There were some people who were not willing to leave it behind at the time. Ultimately, he got hired by other people. Michael Bennett hired him to work on Dreamgirls.Then March of the Falsettos came along and he was able to put this behind him. He was ultimately asked back to do the international company of West Side Story with the same producers. He did have that moment of being stopped in his tracks in his career. He felt for about a year that he would never get going again. But, he did AND he put him behind him. Again, he made his amends but learned a hard but valuable lesson. The one change Stephen would like to see in this business is to relinquish the choosing of certain celebrities to gauge what shows are produced or not. He means film and television people who may not be suitable for a role or may not have the background or experience to lead a show for eight times a week.

That is not to say that there are those out there who are wonderful and excellent. Stephen understands the business and he understands why you have to have those actors in place. We have put it in the minds of our audiences that if there is not a big star there, it is not an event. Suddenly, we've created eighteen week events on Broadway. It's a shame that we cannot support our artists, our writers, our composers by putting a big fat star in the midst to drive ticket sales. Stephen is practical. It's great when those stars do come in because it will support in upwards of a hundred people. He laments that producers can't just produce what they love. That they have to get someone who might not be necessarily right with the show to drive it. 

When it comes to what he'll be wearing at Feinsteins, he is particular and not particular about what he'll be wearing. The bottom line for Stephen is that he needs to be comfortable in it. That should be true of anyone appearing in cabaret and/or theater. Most costumers and designers take that into consideration.

Is Stephen happy at this point in his career. Yes, but he could also be lying. We, as artists, are always looking for more choices in our careers. He wishes that more was being done on Broadway with roles that he could just step in to. There are tons of good people out there who do the same thing. It's just a matter of the right person saying YOU'RE the one I want for this project. Yes, he's happy but he could be happier. 

With Kristen Beth Williams
What makes him unhappy? His own constitution is that he is not an unhappy person. He can be frustrated. He can be frustrated, for example, when he is close to a role and he doesn't get it. One of the most important things we can learn in this business is how to overcome rejection. He generally gives himself 24 hours and then he moves on. He understands how this business works and that there is another job out there for him if THIS one doesn't work out. That doesn't mean that you don't suffer real heartaches on roles that you have invested your time with, that you thought you were really good at, that you were close to, that you don't get. Any actors who have been in this business as long as Stephen has, or even as short as a year, have those moments. You just have to learn to get over them. Stephen is somewhat of an optimist. Just live one day at a time. What is past is past. 
 The biggest change that Stephen has seen in this industry since making his debut in West Side Story is that producers are now "putting the cart before the horse".  They are almost always looking for the actor that can sell a show and then figure out what show they are going to do verses finding a show and inhabiting the best people they can find to create that world.

I asked Stephen what he does in terms of getting an audience to come in and see a show that he is in when there are so many options available to him. Since I am doing this blog on behalf of Randie Levine-Miller's show Sunday night in which he is guesting, what is he doing to help bring in that audience.

He is honest in saying that he is really not taking on that obligation. He does cabaret work from time to time but he's never created his own show. The reason he hasn't done that is because he feels it has to be a real desire. A desire that comes from him. You don't go into a career in the arts, theater and music, without a hunger and a desire to do it. Getting up in a cabaret setting, to Stephen, is a very different thing than from doing theater. It's much more intimate. It's your journey and you have to have something to say about it. He doesn't want to get up and just sing a bunch of songs. He wants to tell a story, whatever that story is and have the audience share that with him. Up to now, he hasn't had that hunger. When Randie came to Stephen and said, "I have five guys coming aboard (see below), and you're only obligated to do ten minutes." Stephen felt that this was the perfect start for him to think about what he wants to say, and what he desires to do. Ten minutes for him doesn't put the ownness on him of having to fill the venue. That's not to say that he doesn't think he could! He hasn't made an effort to put the word out there to let people know they should go see him in this. For Stephen, this is a first step to get his toes wet. He has performed many times just doing a song or two. He has performed with symphony orchestras. To perform in a venue as small as Feinsteins where the audience can see your nose hairs, and every breath you take, and see the beads of sweat on your brow is a different experience. 
Elegies cast: (L-R) Keith Byron Kirk, Celia Bolger, Stephen Bogardus, Maureen McGovern and Brian Beacock.

A genie pops out of a lamp and grants Stephen three wishes. His and his family's health..."If we don't have our health, we have nothing. Since we're talking about it, the perfect fifty minutes of song. His three or four piece band on stage. Take people on a journey, not to necessarily to bask in their adulation, but rather, as they are walking home at night, that the couples turn to each other and say, "Wasn't that a splendid night." 

Stephen's favorite song? (He was only allowed to pick one). Something's Coming  which he will be singing at Feinsteins.
Stephen Bogardus and Dana Moore
The last stage show Stephen saw was Peter and the Starcatcher

How does Stephen prepare for a performance? When he's in previews or early in a run, he is generally very nervous. He will eat lightly at least two hours before show time, get to the theater early, at least an hour before curtain and go through the entire script in his dressing room. He takes a moment to meditate and to breathe just to calm himself. Adrenaline is a good thing for that energy. He tries to calibrate how much adrenaline he will let course its way through his body. 
When he gets into a run of the show, he no longer feels the need to read through the script. He arrives at the theatre, grabs a cup of coffee, schmooze with his cast mates. He may take the last fifteen minutes to go into his dressing room for some "alone" time. He may even read or do a crossword puzzle. He's not thinking about the show in the same way that he is early on. Generally, he will get dressed at five minutes and literally walk on stage. 

Marilynn Wick of Costume World gives me this question: You do an iconic role on Broadway. Do you hold on to an iconic costume piece as a memento or do you donate it to a museum for others to enjoy?
Stephen likes the idea of it being donated to a museum. That being said, we all take little things away with us. For Stephen, personally, he has never done a role in which he wanted to hang on to the costume. There are roles in which he wanted to hang on to the shoes and the socks!

On Sunday night, Stephen will be sharing the stage with Myles Savage, of Platters fame. His question is Have You Shared Any Love Today? At the time of my interview yesterday morning at 10 AM, in the two hours that he had been up, Stephen said he had NOT shared any love but that he would before the day was over! 

Leonard Bernstein
The best compliment that Stephen has received in this business came from Leonard Bernstein. It may not  be the best, but at the time it came, had the biggest impact. In 1978, Stephen was selected to be a soloist at a Leonard Bernstein Celebration, it was Bernstein's 60th birthday and telecast live on PBS nationwide in front of 6000 people at Wolftrap. Huge stars attached to it and younger people singing the younger songs. Stephen sang Something's Coming and  the Tonight  duet with Jossie de Guzman who ended playing Maria in the 1980 revival of West Side Story and he sang Make Our Garden Grow from Candide at the end. There was a party afterward. As Stephen was walking towards the house, Bernstein was getting out of his limousine. Bernstein stopped him and said, "I think that is the most eloquent version of West Side Story I have ever heard". The compliment that came from Bernstein seemed to come genuinely. It wasn't made up and Stephen was on a high from that! He was only two years out of college. It was a huge thing! He has always remembered that!

Stephen, I've learned so much from you in this interview and I cannot wait to celebrate you in person next Sunday night at Feinsteins!

Thank you, to Stephen, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world.

Your devoted fan,

Please join me on April 29th as we celebrate Randie Levine-Miller and her Divos in person at Feinsteins!
Myles Savage and his wife Karin

Jim Brochu
FEINSTEIN’S AT LOEWS REGENCY, the nightclub proclaimed “Best of New York” by New York Magazine and “an invaluable New York institution” by The New York Post will continue its Spring 2012 season with Randie Levine-Miller’s “SHOWSTOPPER DIVOS – A SWELL PARTY” on April 29 starring Tony Award nominated actor Stephen Bogardus, Drama Desk Award winner Jim Brochu, Bistro Award winner Nicolas King, star lead singer from The Platters Myles Savage, and acclaimed vocalist/actor Kevin Spirtas. With musical direction by Richard Danley and Mike Renzi, “SHOWSTOPPER DIVOS – A SWELL PARTY” presents an extraordinary night of entertainment with an all-inclusive dinner, show and after-party. The special event will be held at the Loews Regency Hotel (540 Park Avenue at 61st Street).
RANDIE LEVINE-MILLER has produced, hosted and/or performed in over 80 star-studded events featuring celebrities from legendary composers Charles Strouse, Marvin Hamlisch and Ervin Drake, Tony and Oscar winning producer, Marty Richards to award winning entertainers Tovah Feldshuh, Jim Dale, Len Cariou, Tony Roberts and Lee Roy Reams. Her Showstopper Divos and Divas, spotlighting the crème de la crème of Broadway and cabaret, always draw a sell-out crowd and is consistently a fun-filled party atmosphere. Randie’s shows at the prestigious Friars Club earned her the reputation as a modern day "Hostess with the mostess"! As Director of Special Events for the Drama Desk and Drama Desk Awards, this is her 16th year producing the Drama Desk Nominations and Breakfast, to be held at Feinstein's at Loews Regency for the first time, with Donna Murphy and Brian d’Arcy James on Friday, April 27.
STEPHEN BOGARDUS is a Tony nominated theater veteran. Broadway and Off-Broadway credits include White Christmas, Falsettos, Les Miz, Love! Valour! Compassion!, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland.
JIM BROCHU is a multiple-award winning actor/author and director. He authored and stars in Zero Hour for which he received every major theatrical award, including the coveted Drama Desk Award. He also wrote and directed the Off-Broadway Hit Musical, The Last Session, as well as The Big Voice -- God or Merman?, in which he co-starred with composer/partner Steve Schalchlin.
Nicolas King
NICOLAS KING is a cabaret wunderkind. At age 20, as an opening act for his mentor, Liza Minnelli, he's one of the fastest rising young musical performing talents in the U.S. He will open for her Ms. Minnelli in Las Vegas in May. As an actor, Nicolas is a veteran of three Broadway shows, Beauty & The Beast, A Thousand Clowns and Hollywood Arms. King was honored this season with a 2012 Bistro Award.
MYLES SAVAGE the star lead singer from The Platters (1990 Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame inductees) is proud to be part of their legacy. Myles is known as the International Ambassador of Romance! Broadway credits include The Wiz and Bubbling Brown Sugar.
Kevin Spirtas
KEVIN SPIRTAS, who starred for seven years as Dr. Craig Wesley on NBC's "Days of Our Lives", first appeared on Broadway in A Chorus Line. Immediately after co-starring in Hairspray in Las Vegas, Kevin was cast as Hugh Jackman's standby in The Boy From Oz! Currently touring the country, as well as the high seas, Kevin stars in his one-man show, "Night and Days".
FEINSTEIN’S AT LOEWS REGENCY will present Randie Levine-Miller’s “SHOWSTOPPER DIVOS – A SWELL PARTY” on Sunday, April 29 with dinner at 6:30 PM and the performance at 8:00 PM. The all-inclusive evening costs $125.00, which includes tax, gratuity and service charge. Festive attire is suggested. The club is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street in New York City. For ticket reservations and club information, please call (212) 339-4095 or visit us online at and

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Tomorrow's blog will be.. 
Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly! (On the occasion of her 70th Birthday!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

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

Richard Skipper,                            

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