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Entries in Broadway (371)


Call Answered: Amazing Grace Facetime Interview: Laiona Michelle

Laiona Michelle and Call Me AdamLive from NYC, "Call Me Adam" chats with actress Laiona Michelle about making her Broadway debut in the new musical Amazing Grace which starts performances at the Nederlander Theatre in NYC on June 25 (208 West 41st Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue)!

Amazing Grace is a new original musical based on the awe-inspiring true story behind the world’s most beloved song. A captivating tale of romance, rebellion and redemption, this radiant production follows one man whose incredible journey ignited a historic wave of change.

For more on Laiona be sure to visit!

"Call Me Adam's" Amazing Grace interview with Laiona Michelle:

Laiona MichelleMore on Laiona:

Most recently: First national tour of The Book of Mormon. Awards: recipient NAACP for Constant Star, Nominated Helen Hayes 2005 Best Lead Actress in Yellowman at Arena Stage. Theatre: Goodspeed Opera House, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Laguna Playhouse, Syracuse Theatre Company, Virginia Stage Company, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Theatre Festival. TV/Film credits: Law and OrderAll My ChildrenLife. MFA Brandeis University, Proud ASU Hornet.


Call Answered: Ann Hampton Callaway: On My Way To You at 54 Below

Ann Hampton Callaway"Call Me Adam" chats with multiplatinum artist and Tony nominee Ann Hampton Callaway about her brand new show at 54 Below entitled On My Way To You, an evening of love songs about the ups and downs of finding everlasting love. We also discuss her many career highlights including writing for Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Cole Porter, and the theme song to one television's biggest hit shows The Nanny!

Ann's show On My Way To You will play at 54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue) from June 18-20 and June 25 at 7pm! Click here for tickets!

For more on Ann be sure to visit and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

1. From June 18-20 and on June 25, you will be returning to 54 Below with a brand new show entitled On My Way To You, an evening of love songs about the ups and downs of finding everlasting love. What made you want to do an evening of love songs? It’s amazing to me that I finally found someone I wanted to marry and who I love being married to. I never want to take that for granted. I wanted to take a fresh look at love from this perspective and find new ways of embracing the good with the bad, the highs and the lows, and the "mistakes" that lead us to where we need to be, which actually turn out to be blessings.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Photo Credit: Bill Westmoreland2. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? I am excited to be singing a show I am still in the process of creating. I might be as surprised as my audience at some of my song selections. I know singers choose songs but I am asking my songs to choose me.

3. In addition to your own compositions, On My Way To You will feature songs by Cyndi Lauper, Cole Porter, Gershwin, and Rodgers. Why did you choose to mix in other composers instead of doing an evening of your own music? Out of all the composers out there, how did you decide which ones you wanted to include? These composers will be anchors in the show. Some for sentimental reasons and others because of the depth of their timeless creativity. I will do be doing my own songs, too. I am what I call a hopeful romantic and in this day and age it’s hard to find writers with my sensibility. Is it old fashioned? I don’t think so. I will be balancing many aspects of love and myself in hopes of creating something as luminous and multifaceted as a diamond.

4. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come see On My Way To You, what would that reason be? Love is the most important thing there is and music is one of the most sublime ways of experiencing it.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after coming to see On My Way To You? If they came in with a heart that was a little closed from the daily toils of life, I hope they walk out with more open hearts. If they walked in with someone they love, I hope they walk out, feeling a bit closer to that person, even if it’s their own self. I hope everyone feels inspired to take more chances in life and trust in the beauty of it all.

Kari Strand and Ann Hampton Callaway6. You have performed numerous times at 54 Below. What makes you want to performing there? It has a sort of chic intimacy. Its become a place where the family of this music reunites. And it is a family that keeps growing stronger.

7. From your own road of love, what advice would you give someone looking for love? I would say, instead of looking for love, realize love is already there. The important thing is to be love. To love, in all the ways your heart can love. If you can do this, you will find your true love - one perhaps, many in time, or different forms of lovers - an art form, nature, the world. Each person has many seasons of the heart. Embrace them all. Be alive and risk being who you really are in this world. Only then, will you find the fellowship to share the highest joys and sorrows with.

8. As a songwriter, you have written music for several other artists including Barbra Streisand, Carole King, and Cole Porter. Do you remember the first time you were asked to write a song for someone else? No, I don’t! I remember wanting to write a wedding song for a friend in college. I remember wanting to write a song for a baby I hoped to someday have. I don’t remember people asking me to write songs. Maybe Fran Drescher was the first! When Fran asked me to write for her, I thought, how fun! She wasn’t the big star then that she is now. She was totally endearing and I knew it would be delightful working with her.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Photo Credit: Bill Westmoreland9. How did you get to write for Barbra Streisand, Carole King, and Cole Porter? With Barbra it began as an inspired song about world peace that I knew she was meant to sing. Ten years to the date I wrote it, she recorded it, thanks to Amanda McBroom bringing it to the attention of Jay Landers, Barbra’s A & R man. Later on, she asked me to write for her. With Carole King, I audaciously invited her to write a song with me for my CD Slow and she said yes! We didn’t write it till the day I was to record it. I couldn’t believe she sang back up vocals on it - what a thrill. And as for Cole Porter, my friend Bradshaw Smith found a lyric in the Complete Book of Cole Porter Lyrics that had apparently never been set to music in his lifetime. I did my best to channel Cole and composed the music which I never dreamed would be published by The Cole Porter estate.

9a. What did you learn from collaborating with them? From Barbra I learned to try to make a lyric "Simple but profound" - her exact words to me when I was revising "At the Same Time" for her. From Carole, I learned to write from the heart, not the head. From Cole, I learned that music is the bridge between heaven and earth.

10. You also wrote and sang the theme song to one of TV's biggest hit shows, The Nanny. How did this come to be? It was destiny! But really, as I mentioned, Fran came to a show of my original music at Don’t Tell Mama and afterwards asked me to write songs for her pilots. Years later, The Nanny pilot came along and she invited me to try write the theme - but this time the top Hollywood writers were also in competition. So I wrote two songs to have an edge.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Photo Credit: Bill Westmoreland10a. Was your process for writing the theme song different for you than when you write other music? I guess it was unique. I interviewed Fran about who "The Nanny" was in a nutshell. At one point she said, "She’s the lady in red when everybody else is wearing tan." I knew that had to be in the song. Listening is how a good song gets written. Listening to what people say, how people feel, how you feel. There are so many nuggets in daily life that are just dropped down like gifts. You have to notice them.

11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? It might sound trite but "never give up on your dreams" has been pivotal. Like for so many of us, there have been so many obstacles to my dreams and there still are. But I no longer feel they have to happen in a certain time or way. I now trust that each dream has its own mysterious life and plot and now I simply focus on the day to day of fulfilling each step of them and have faith. If an olive tree knew it might take 15 years to bear olives would it still want to be an olive tree? I now embrace the olive tree within!

12. What have you learned about yourself from being an entertainer? I have learned how good it feels to share honestly who I am - to allow people to connect with me and allow myself to connect with them. As Sondheim says, "No one is alone." I have also learned what a goof ball I can be one minute and what a spiritual seeker I can be at the next. And I have learned how glorious music is - what an honor it is to work every single day to be a vessel of its quirky and awe inspiring beauty.

Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway13. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? What do you still want to do that you haven’t? Oh come on, why haven’t I done a show with Tony Bennett? Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d like to get in the studio and record something with Barbra Streisand - will you call her up and suggest that? I’d love to do a CD with Yo Yo Ma - that would be crazy beautiful. I’d like to write a Broadway musical and I think I’m actually in the beginning stages of doing that. I’d like to have a radio show about great singers that becomes so successful it turns into a TV show. I’d like to do a Broadway run with my sister Liz. I’d like to publish a book or two of my poems. I MUST do a CD of my original songs produced by someone brilliant. I’d like to get thinner and healthier and have fun doing it. I’d like to write a children’s book about our hilarious and wise cat we now call "Angel Muffin." And I’d like to be a real ambassador with my music and go around the world doing concerts, improvisations and songwriting that helps to bring people of differing beliefs together. And I’d like to sleep better and have more time to just have fun.


14. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? The ability to awaken people’s hearts to their divine loving spirit.

15. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? Wow, what a fun question! I call club soda and cranberry nectar a "Hampton Fizz." But I guess I might concoct a two drink "experience" called "Hampton the Callaway" where it starts cool like a minted, icy martini and then spins into part two of a cognac in a big round snifter warmed with a whisper of Frangelico, lit up for just an instant with blue flames.

16. How do you want to be remembered? Lovingly.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Photo Credit: Bill WestmorelandMore on Ann:

Ann Hampton Callaway is one of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, having made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer. A born entertainer, her unique singing style blends jazz and traditional pop, making her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television, and in film. She is best known for Tony-nominated performance in the hit Broadway musical Swing! and for writing and singing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny. Ann is a Platinum Award winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand's recent CD's. The only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, she has also written songs with Carole King, Rolf Lovland and Barbara Carroll to name a few.

Ann's live performances showcase her warmth, spontaneous wit and passionate delivery of standards, jazz classics and originals. She is one of America's most gifted improvisers, taking words and phrases from her audiences and creating songs on the spot, whether alone at a piano or with a symphony orchestra. Ann has been a special guest performer with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood and is featured at many of the Carnegie Hall tributes. She has sung with more than thirty of the world's top orchestras and big bands, and has performed for President Clinton in Washington, D.C. and at President Gorbachev's Youth Peace Summit in Moscow. Ann performed with her sister, Broadway star Liz Callaway, in their award-winning show Sibling Revelry at London's Donmar Warehouse. Their newest act Boom!, a critically acclaimed celebration of the babyboomer hits of the 60's and 70's, was recorded on PS Classics which debuted in the top 25 on Billboard Jazz. Ann was featured in the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade telecast watched by 6 million people singing Emmy Award winning song "Yes, Virginia." Recently Ann debuted her latest symphony show The Streisand Songbook with The Boston Pops and continues to tour the show with top orchestras across the country into 2015. Said Randall Fleischer after conducting the show with The San Francisco Symphony, "Ann's tribute to Streisand is a glorious evening of great songs, brilliantly orchestrated and sung magnificently." After performing the show at 54 Below, she garnered two Awards and the 2013 MAC Award for Show of the Year.

Ann's new recording The Sarah Vaughan Project: Live at Dizzy's was released on September 16th. She is featured on her sister Liz Callaway's holiday EP Merry and Bright as well as Arbor's Records CD Johnny Mandel: The Man and His Music. Her recent solo CD's At LastBlues in the NightSlow and Signature have received high critical acclaim. She has recorded two popular holiday CD's - Holiday Pops! With Peter Nero and The Philly Pops, and her solo CD, This Christmas. Ann's other recordings include Easy LivingTo Ella with LoveAfter OursBring Back RomanceAnn Hampton Callaway, and the award-winning live recording Sibling Revelry. Ann has also been a guest performer on more than forty-five CD's including Kenny Barron's CD The Traveler.

Ann's dream of working in film, TV and radio has been realized in several recent projects. She made her feature film debut opposite Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon in the Robert De Niro film The Good Shepherd, performing the standard "Come Rain or Come Shine". She recorded "Isn't It Romantic?" and "The Nearness of You" in Wayne Wong's Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah. Ann recently wrote songs for the upcoming movie musical State of Affairs, to be directed by Philip McKinley. And, as a part of her mission to keep the American Songbook thriving, she has produced and hosted two TV specials called Singer's Spotlight With Ann Hampton Callaway with guests Liza Minnelli and Christine Ebersole for WTTW National which will dovetail into her radio series for NPR in development.

Ann Hampton Callaway and Liza Minnelli on "Singer's Spotlight With Ann Hampton Callaway"Ann devotes much of her time to philanthropic causes, both as a singer performing in numerous benefits, and as a songwriter composing songs in times of need. In September 2005, Ann performed her original composition "Let the Saints Come Marching", written to honor Hurricane Katrina victims, on a national TV broadcast on the Fox News Channel. Her song "Who Can See the Blue the Same Again?" was released earlier in 2005 as a single, paying tribute to the tsunami survivors and raising much needed money for The Tsunami Fund of The PRASAD Project. In the aftermath of September 11th, Ann composed the stirring anthem, "I Believe in America", which she performed on Larry King Live and released as a CD single. Just days after the tragedy, Ann heard an 8,000 year old prayer from the Rig Veda and composed the world renowned "Let Us Be United." Ann recorded the song with Kenny Werner, The Siddha Yoga International Choir and five-year-old Sonali Beaven, who sang in honor of her father who lost his life on Flight 93. It was released on CD and DVD and its proceeds continue to benefit Save the Children and The PRASAD Project.

Ann, Shirley, and Liz CallawayAnn's father was Chicago's legendary TV and radio journalist, John Callaway. Her mother, Shirley Callaway, a superb singer, pianist and one of New York's most in-demand vocal coaches, was recently featured at New York's Town Hall, singing with Ann and her sister, Liz.

Ann resides in New York. She lives by the creed best expressed in the Andre Gide quote: "Art is the collaboration between God and the artist and the less the artist does, the better."


Call Answered: Janine Nina Trevens: TADA! Youth Theater

Janine Nina Trevens"Call Me Adam" chats with TADA! Youth Theater founder Janine Nina Trevens about celebrating TADA's! 30th Anniversary. We discuss TADA's! current season of shows, the founding of TADA!, TADA's! hardships, celebrations, and accomplishments!

Their latest production of this anniversary season is Princess Phooey, which will play from July 10-August 1. Princess Phooey is a musical fairy tale like no other with a rebellious princess, and a gaggle of kooky chambermaids and stable boys- and of course a handsome prince! Click here for tickets!

For more on TADA! be sure to visit and follow them Facebook and Twitter!

1. TADA! Youth Theater is currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary. What does this milestone mean to you? Did you ever expect that when you opened TADA's! doors in 1984, that you'd be celebrating 30 years of shows, education, and entertainment for families? I am lucky that I have been able to do this work for the last 30 years. I love meeting and working with these talented kids year after year. I can't imagine my life without TADA!

I honestly can't believe it's been 30 years. I'm shocked and honored. It's hard work - keeping a non-profit theater going year after year. The fundraising is what's hard -- not the programming. I have many more ideas for new musicals and know great writers. There are always so many kids auditioning for TADA!, and taking our classes, and schools that want our programs. It's just very hard to raise the money needed to support the programs. TADA! is currently looking for additional Board Members who can help.

When I started TADA! in 1984, I didn't think about the future. I was 23 and I just knew that I wanted to create TADA!. I wanted to give kids and teens a theater that was created for them to share their talent, to learn, to help make growing up a little easier, and be a part of a second family. I also wanted to develop new musicals specifically for family audiences and performed by kids and teens 8 - 18. I'm glad TADA! has been able to stick to our mission and programming.

Janine Nina Trevens and TADA! Resident Youth Ensemble2. Going back to the beginning of TADA!, what made you initially want to start a place for professional children's theatre? Did you always have in mind to also have an educational component to TADA!? I majored in psychology and education in college. I knew I wanted to work with kids to help make growing up easier by giving them a place to feel better about who they are. During school I started to work in the theater as a stage manager. I realized that I wanted to direct and create new musicals and that I wanted to do that with kids and teens because they were my passion.

I believe theater is educational - it makes people think, explore new topics and ideas and dreams. TADA!'s in-school programs began right away. At that time we were in one school. Our on-site classes and camps began a few years after that - these are TADA!'s greatest source of earned income and help TADA! meet its yearly budget.

3. How do you generally decide which shows you want to produce at TADA!? I'm lucky at TADA! that we get to produce our musicals more than once since our audience is comprised of families with young children ages 3 - 12. As our audience gets older there are always new kids to come and see our shows.

So, I decide which revivals it's time to do again and then I always like to have at least one world premiere a year. I look at the composition of our Ensemble  - the actors who are part of TADA!'s free year-long theater training and youth development program - and pick musicals that are right for their talents. I also like to do at least one production per season for our older audience members.

4. Since this year is TADA's! 30th Anniversary. What made you want to produce Everything About A Family (almost), The Trials of Alice in Wonderland, and Princess Phooey, which will be playing from July 10-August 1, for this special anniversary season? This season was the first of the two-year 30th Anniversary Celebration of TADA! so I decided, along with Joanna Greer, TADA!'s Associate Artistic Director, to revive three musicals from our repertoire that explore growing up since TADA! is celebrating a big birthday. The first was "Everything About" A Family (almost), which was conceived a number of years ago by members of the Ensemble at that time. TADA! has a series of Everything About musicals and this was one that we hadn't done in a number of years so it was time to do it again. The Trials of Alice in Wonderland also hadn't been produced in 12 years and we had the talent that was right this year to produce that again. Both of those musicals explore the theme of growing up and family which is also true of Princess Phooey, so we decided that would be a great show to round out the season.

Joanna suggested that next year honor me so we're producing two shows that I wrote - Odd Day Rain with Deirdre Broderick and The Little House of Cookies with Joel Gelpe which was our very first show. We are also doing Everything About TADA! (almost) to celebrate 30 years of original work.

5. What are some of your favorite moments from the past 30 years? Getting to know the kids and the families  and watching kids grow up. Working with writers creating new musicals. Writing Odd Day Rain with Deirdre Broderick. Watching a show develop over the course of the run. Seeing a shy kid transform on stage through becoming a character.

Watching families who never would have met get to know each other through TADA! and become close friends.

Cast of "Princess Phooey"6. What have you learned about yourself from running TADA!? I can stick with something for a long time. I truly care about children and want them to be successful and feel good about themselves. I want them to realize that they have a voice and can do things now as kids and not have to wait until they grow up. I have very strong opinions about education and how the current system is not working for our kids - especially those who are creative.

7. 30 years is a long time to keep a theatre going strong. Have you had any struggles over the past 30 years and if so, how did you overcome these struggles? Running a non-profit theater is like riding a roller-coaster - there are a lot of ups and downs - it's harder going up and faster going down but you know there's another hill up ahead. There just isn't an end to the ride. I used to think there was going to be a time when it would all be smooth sailing but that hasn't come yet and I don't think that it will.

Fundraising is a constant struggle. TADA! is looking to expand its Board of Directors which will help with fundraising and networking. The more people who know about TADA! the more people who can help us.

A personal struggle was keeping TADA! going while I was going through chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma which I actually had twice. I remember getting up and staying in my pajamas and calling groups to book them to come see our show.

8. If you could have any child or adult actor/actress come perform at TADA!, who's on your wish list? I always think who I would like to see in the audience or on our Board because I know they love musical theater and/or see how the arts can change kids live. Those people are Whoopi Goldberg, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kelly Ripa, Raven Simone, Rosie Perez, Brooke Shields, then there are the celebrities who have kids that are the right age to be in our audience and who knows maybe one of them would audition to be in the Ensemble: Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, Michael Strahan, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller, Katie Holmes, and Michelle Williams. There are many more and all are welcome - these are just the names that came to mind right now.

I look forward to doing something with our Alum both the famous actors and those working actors and musicians and dancers that aren't household names -  Kerry Washington, Josh Peck, Jordan Peele, Ricki Lake, Azealia Banks, Sasha Allen, Mizuo Peck, Amar Ramasar, Adam and Ryan Metzger of AJR, Aurora Nonas-Barnes, Sean Nelson, Laurence Mason, Kyra and Tori Green, and Victoria Platt Tilford are just some of our talented working Alum.

There are also composers that I would love to have write for TADA! - both Jason Robert Brown and Jeanine Tesori are past TADA! Musical Directors. They are both so busy and sooooo talented and I hope someday will write a show for us. Also, Stephen Schwartz who is a member of TADA!'s Artistic Advisory Board as is lyricist Sheldon Harnick. I would be honored if any of these talented people would write a show for TADA!.

9. What do you see for TADA! in the next 30 years? I see TADA! doing five productions a year so that we could have shows for specific age audience members. I also want to do inter-generational productions meaning that the actors are of all different ages - kids through adults. These would be musicals and plays as well as dance productions. I see TADA! to have it's own building where the classes, camps and performances take place, a second stage to do readings and workshops of new works, house the offices, have a set and costume shop so kids interested in work off the stage could be involved and learn. I'd also love to have a cafe on site so families would come to eat and then take class or watch a show. I also see TADA! having an endowment and a cash-reserve so that finding money or loans would not have to take up so much time and allow staff to think big picture and creatively more often. I also see the musicals that we have created being produced at other theaters, camps and schools across the country and internationally. I would love to do more co-productions with other youth theaters and to take the Ensemble Members to visit and work at other youth theaters both nationally and internationally. I could go on and on with this answer.

10. If you had to give someone one reason as to why they should come to a show at TADA! what would that reason be? It's fun and it's really good. It's an hour of great original musical theater written by talented playwrights, composers and lyricists and performed by extraordinary kids and teens that the whole family can enjoy for less than the price of one ticket to a Broadway show.


11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Hard question. If you loan someone money think of it as a gift and be happy if and when it comes back to you because friendship is more important than money.

Did you want advice about work or theater?  If you can, do work that you love. Realize that there are parts of every job that you won't like, but if you love why you're doing it, then it is easier to get up and go to work everyday.

12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Sometimes, I think I'm already pretty good at being invisible - I'm actually trying to be better at being seen and heard. I always wanted to be Bewitched, but I don't think she had super powers, she had witch powers. Teleportation would be great - I hate spending time getting to places. I just want to be at my next location doing what I need to do there.

Janine Nina TrevensMore on Janine Nina Trevens:

Co-founded TADA! in 1984 with Linda Reiff. She has served as the Artistic Director for all of the works produced by TADA!, many of which she commissioned specifically for the company. For TADA!, she has written Heroes, The Little House of Cookies, Sweet Sixteen as well as Odd Day Rain and The Perfect Monster with composer/Lyricist Deirdre Broderick and The History Mystery. She directs many of TADA!’s musicals, numerous staged readings and Ensemble appearances at various locations and events in and around NYC. Nina was selected as one of 10 Parenting Leaders by Parenting Magazine, and she was one of only five women nationally to receive Family Circle’s First Annual Halo Award for women who make a difference. She has served on funding panels for NYSCA, DCA, ART/NY and TCG and is a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women. 


Call Answered: William V. Madison: Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life

William V. Madison, Photo Credit: Nathaniel Goodman"Call Me Adam" chats with author and producer William V. Madison about his new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life and panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC (250 West 40th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenue) on June 11 at 6pm! 

The panel discussion is composed of Madeline Kahn’s colleagues and friends, including comedian Robert Klein, (Kahn’s most frequent co-star - New Faces of 1968The Sisters RosensweigMixed Nuts, etc.),Martin Charnin (lyricist, Two by Two), Lee Roy Reams (director, Hello, Dolly!), Scott Ellis (director of Kahn’s final theatrical appearance and of the current Roundabout Theatre revival of On the Twentieth Century), Jonathan Lynn (writer/director, Clue), Walter Willison (Tony-nominated co-star, Two by Two), Joan Copeland (co-star, Two by Two), Maddie Corman (Kahn’s niece on the George C. Scott sitcom, Mr. President) and Lawrence Leritz (guest star, Cosby).

For more on William be sure to visit and join his Facebook Page Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life!

1. You just released your new book Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life. What made now the right time to release this book? The sassy answer is that the time was right because I'd finished -- after seven years of research and writing. A better answer is that people still miss Madeline. Her death came as a great shock to so many people, and I remember vividly the way New Yorkers particularly responded to the sad news on December 3, 1999. We felt cheated, and we still want some kind of connection with her. Also, the time was right because many of the most important witnesses are still around to share their memories. Just before I began work on Being the Music, Harvey Korman and Dom DeLuise, two of Madeline's favorite co-stars died, so I didn't get to talk with them. Maddie Corman, who's on the panel June 11, is almost the only surviving member of the regular cast of the sitcom Mr. President; she's the last best witness to a full year of Madeline's career. If I hadn't been able to talk with Maddie, and with Mel Brooks and Hal Prince and Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett and Gene Wilder -- and so on -- my job would have been almost impossible.

2. Why did you want to write a biography on Madeline Kahn? What was it about her career and life that fascinated you so much? The basic outlines of Madeline's life and career are there for the world to see, but there's a great deal that she kept concealed by design. In her acting, I saw something remarkable, even when the character is cartoonish: she locates the seriousness, what she called the "truth" of the character, and makes that the foundation of the comedy. Even to "Lili von Shtupp" in Blazing Saddles, she brings nuance and dimension. That ability had to come from some place, and I wanted to find and understand the source.

Beyond Madeline's own talents, she also worked with some of the most important creative minds of her time: everybody from Leonard Bernstein to the Muppets, from David Rabe to Neil Simon, from Charles Ludlam to Gilda Radner. Exploring her career meant learning more about their careers, too.

Finally, Madeline was extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and cultivated. I never imagined that I'd spend seven years on Being the Music, but I knew she'd be good company for the journey, and I was right.

Madeline Kahn on "The Muppets"3. What do you hope people come away with after reading Madeline Kahn: Being The Music, A Life? Certainly I hope they'll come away with a better understanding of a beloved yet misunderstood performer. I hope, too, that they'll appreciate the challenges specific to working actors who -- unlike Madeline's friends Lily Tomlin and Gene Wilder -- aren't also writers. (Or directors, like Wilder and Barbra Streisand.) Actors really don't have much control over their destinies: the real control lies with casting directors, writers, directors, producers, whose choices can define an actor's career. More generally, Madeline's experience as a single working woman, on whom her mother relied for financial support, really resonates for a lot of people today.

4. What was something you discovered about Madeline that you did not know before writing this book? There were many discoveries, but perhaps the biggest was the extent of her operatic training and ambitions. Though she sang professionally only once, in La Bohème in 1970, Madeline was still fielding offers for operatic engagements in the mid-1980s, long after she'd won fame in Hollywood. You can hear even in Young Frankenstein that she's got a real voice ("Not living-room bull****," as her friend Robert Klein says), but I hadn't realized the degree to which she'd studied. Every one of her early breaks as a performer came to her because she could sing.

Madeline Kahn on "Saturday Night Live"5. On June 11, you are having a panel discussion at The Drama Bookshop in NYC. What made you want to do a panel discussion as opposed to a regular book reading? Really, the panel discussion reflects the book. In my research, I interviewed about 120 people -- this isn't just a collection of my personal observations and pontifications. The book isn't my voice, it's theirs -- and of course it's Madeline's voice, because I quote extensively from her interviews and from a private notebook she kept for 20 years. Madeline can't join us on June 11, but her friends and colleagues can, and this way the audience will get some sense of the enjoyment I got from talking with them while I prepared Being the Music.

6. How did you decide who you wanted to be part of this panel discussion? Right now we've got Robert Klein, Martin Charnin, Scott Ellis, Lee Roy Reams, Joan Copeland, Maddie Corman, Jonathan Lynn -- and more -- on the panel, with other terrific people in the audience. It's a combination of who's in the New York area, who's available, who has an interesting perspective on Madeline's career, and who's fun to spend time with. I've never organized or moderated a panel like this before, so I wanted to be sure to invite people who'd make my job easy. Three of them -- Betty Aberlin, Walter Willison, and Lawrence Leritz -- have been heroic in helping me throughout my writing, and they've become my dear friends. So, even beyond the great stories they have to share, having them with me will be comforting!

Madeline Kahn and John Cullum in "On the Twentieth Century" 19787. What made you want to have this event at the Drama Bookshop? The Drama Book Shop is a terrific space, it's in the theater district, and it's the first place people think of for an event like this one. So many people asked not whether but when I'd do something there, that we felt we had to ask the shop for a date!

8. What's the best advice you took from Madeline's life or career? Persistence. Madeline had an extraordinarily difficult relationship with her mother, her first music teacher, who gave her not only the means but the need to express herself. Madeline was effectively abandoned by not one but two fathers when her father and stepfather in turn divorced her mother; when working relationships didn't go well or petered out, when Mel Brooks stopped working with her, she felt genuine pain. Yet Madeline didn't really want to be a performer in the first place, and she hated being typecast as a bawdy comedian. All of these elements are roiling in the background of her life -- but she didn't let them stop her. Even after her disastrous experience in On the Twentieth Century (the most complex story and the longest chapter in the book), she kept going. She had to work, to make money to support her mother. Now, when we want to forget our own cares, we can turn to Madeline's work -- but obviously, if she hadn't persisted, we wouldn't have these opportunities.

Madeline Kahn and Carol Burnett9. What did you learn about yourself from writing this book? That I had that kind of persistence, too! Putting this book together meant challenges, obstacles, disappointments, and a tremendous investment in time, money, and effort. Now I look back and think how easy it would have been to give up and walk away, but at the time I really didn't see any alternative. I had so much of Madeline's story already -- I had to finish.

10. If you could have a conversation with Madeline Kahn today, what would you say to her? I'd say something much like the things said to Madeline by two of the people I spoke with, the choreographer Joseph Patton and the film director Eric Mendelsohn: "I get it. I understand how hard it is to be you." Madeline tried to insulate herself from unpleasantness, but she went through a lot of hardship in her life, beginning when she was a tiny child, and in her career she experienced some terrible disappointments. She was in some ways very fragile -- which is not what we think of when we remember her performances. Often she was afraid that audiences were laughing not at her characters or the funny things she said, but at her. It really wasn't easy to be Madeline Kahn -- but look what treasures she left us!

William V. MadisonMore on William:

William V. Madison is a former producer at CBS News and a former Associate Editor of Opera News. He was also the lone production assistant on the Broadway musical Rags in 1986. A native Texan, Madison is a graduate of Brown University & the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.


Call Answered: Facetime Interview Stephen Cole and David Evans: Merman's Apprentice

David Evans, Klea Blackhurst, and Stephen Cole at Birdland Jazz"Call Me Adam" chats with writer and lyricist Stephen Cole and composer David Evans about their NEW musical Merman's Apprentice which will be presented as a one night only concert at NYC's famed Birdland Jazz on Monday, June 15 at 7pm as part of Broadway at Birdland. Click here for tickets!

In Merman's Apprentice, The Golden Age of Musical Theatre is drawing to an end, although twelve-year-old "Muriel Plakenstein" doesn't know that. So she runs away from home to become a Broadway star, meets the Queen of Broadway "Ethel Merman," who takes her to a Hello, Dolly! rehearsal, where they sing together. When legendary producer David Merrick hears the kid, he decides to star "Muriel" in the first all-child cast of Dolly! Naturally, "Merman" takes her under wing to teach her the ropes of being a star...making little "Muriel Plakenstein" Merman's Apprentice!

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Call Me Adam's Merman's Apprentice interview with Stephen Cole and David Evans:

Merman's Apprentice is a new musical fable lead by Klea Blackhurst as "Ethel Merman," with Tony nominee Anita Gillette as "Ethel’s Mom," Tony nominee Richard Kind as "David Merrick," P.J. Benjamin as "Ethel’s Pop" and 13 year-old Elizabeth Teeter as "Muriel Plakenstein": Merman's Apprentice. Additional cast members include Adam Grupper, Eddie Korbich and Brian Charles Rooney.

Stephen ColeMore on Stephen:

Stephen Cole is an award-winning musical theatre writer whose shows have been recorded, published, and produced from New York City to London to the Middle East and Australia and Edinburgh, Scotland. Stephen’s creations include: After the Fair, The Night of The Hunter (Goodman), Saturday Night at Grossingers, Casper (Chita Rivera), Dodsworth (Dee Hoty, Hal Linden) and The Road to Qatar. Last season Cole wrote and directed Inventing Mary Martin, which played Off-Broadway starring Emily Skinner, Jason Graae, Lynne Halliday and Cameron Adams.

Stephen Cole’s The Black and White Ball, written with Todd Ellison, was produced by Chicago's FWD Theatre Project this past January. This year, Stephen conceived and wrote and hosted an evening of his songs entitled Cole Mining: The Songs of Stephen Cole at off Broadway's Urban Stages. This evening featured numbers from many of his shows sung by Marni Nixon, Klea Blackhurst, George Dvorsky and Sara Zahn. Stephen has also collaborated with David Krane, Todd Ellison, Susan Kim, Claibe Richardson, Jeffrey Saver, Steve Silverstein, Billy Straus and Matthew Ward.

David EvansMore on David:

David Evans is a composer and musical director/conductor whose credits include: A...My Name is Alice, Children’s Letters to God, Wicked, Company, Flower Drum Song, Bells are Ringing, Marie Christine and As Thousands Cheer. For the past 11 years David has been associate conductor of Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.