Mark MilanoMark Milano is an actor, singer, longtime AIDS activist and showtune queen. He will be performing The Lyrics Left Behind, a cabaret show composed of "trunk songs," "dummy lyrics," and other unused lyrics from many well-known songs to benefit Health GAP, an organization that campaigns for drug access and the resources necessary to sustain access for people with HIV/AIDS across the globe.

The Lyrics Left Behind will take place Saturday, February 8 at 7:30pm at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC (407 West 42nd Street) and include such well-known songs as "The Man That Got Away," "A Star Is Born," "Tomorrow," and "You're The Top," but performed in their original arrangements and lyrics. Click here for tickets!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? I've always sung - it has literally kept me alive. When I'm walking down the street, I'm singing. When I'm at work, I'm humming. On the subway, I'm silently singing.  I sing everywhere except the shower, I think. But my introduction to musicals began when I was five, and waited to watch Singin' In The Rain on TV every year (back when they only showed films once a year). I dreamed of being Gene Kelly - but unfortunately, I can't dance!

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? My dream has always been to sing with a big band, so I'd say the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

3. On February 8, you will be performing The Lyrics Left Behind at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC. What made you want to create this show? I was amazed to find the backstories to some of the most famous songs in history. Who knew that "The Man That Got Away" was not written for Judy Garland? Great performers make songs their own, so you assume they were written with them in mind - but often that's not the case at all.

4. What are you looking forward to most about performing this show? Doing some classic showtunes in arrangements that breathe new life into these chestnuts, and surprising people with what they don't know about the songs they love.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after The Lyrics Left Behind? An appreciation of the craft of songwriting. I've done a ton of research into the stories behind songs like "Blue Moon," "Tonight," "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," etc. and am fascinated by the creative process composers and lyricists use. Many standards have stories behind them that are completely contrary to what you would expect.

6. What does The Laurie Beechman Theatre offer you as a venue that another one might not? It's a wonderful, intimate setting that makes me think of the great nightclubs of the 30s and 40s - people sitting at tables, having a drink, and enjoying a floor show. I think I must have been a nightclub-goer in a previous life, since I so regret missing those days.

7. Tickets to The Lyrics Left Behind benefit Health GAP, an organization working to widen access to HIV/AIDS treatment. What made you want to do a fundraiser for this organization as opposed to other HIV/AIDS organizations? How did you first get involved with them? I've joined Health GAP in 1990, when I discovered that it actually was possible to get HIV treatment to people in Africa. I'm amazed by the dedication and expertise its members bring to the fight against global AIDS. These people have the smarts and the passion we need to end this crisis - I wish they were in charge of U.S. AIDS policy!

8. You have been an activist in the fight against AIDS for more than 25 years now. What has it been like to watch the progress being made in the fight against this disease? What more do you feel can be done? It's been exciting and disheartening at the same time. My work with ACRIA has been so exciting, especially teaching people that HIV can now be controlled with meds that have very few side effects.  But it's so depressing that rates of HIV infection continue to rise in gay men. And the stigma that gay men with HIV face from HIV-negative gay men ("Are you clean?") seems to be getting worse.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Think for yourself." I think it should be carved in stone over the door of every school in the world.

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? I've learned about taking care of myself. I now understand why performers have "people" to take care of them. For my first cabaret show, I did everything myself, right up to showtime. That made it very difficult to get into the right space to give the best performance. So now I understand that you have to have someone else handle all the little problems that pop up before a performance, so you can calm down, focus, and be in the right space to connect with your audience.


11. If you could have any super power, which one would it be? Probably the same one "Pee-Wee Herman" wanted: to fly!

More on Mark:

He has been active in ACT UP/NY, Health GAP, and the AIDS Treatment Activist Coalition for over 25 years. He sang with Cantori New York for ten years, performing at Carnegie Hall with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and at Avery Fisher Hall with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. 

Call Answered: Facetime with Donna Vivino, Beautiful Dreamer and 54 Below Interview

Call Answered: Factime with playwright John Pastore and director Maria Riboli