"Call Me Adam" catches up with the legendary Charles Busch and Carl Andress as they bring you their evening Here's to the Girls: Hollywood's Leading Ladies to the 92Y's Lyrics & Lyricists series which will celebrate the leading ladies of Hollywood's Golden Age musicals from February 7-9. This installment of Lyrics & Lyricists will feature the talents of Nancy Anderson, Andréa Burns, Cady Huffman, Erin Maguire, and Zakiya Young. Click here for tickets!
1. The second installment of the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists concert is taking place from Feb 7-9, entitled Here's to the Girls: Hollywood's Leading Ladies. You both co-wrote this concert together. What made you want to write a concert about the Leading Ladies of Hollywood's Golden Age of musicals? What is it about this genre that you like best?
Charles Busch: This series has become such a fixture of the NY cultural scene, it's wonderful to part of this tradition. To be perfectly frank, I'm not an expert on the lives of the great songwriters, but I do know quite a bit about actresses. I've wanted to murder a number of them and yet still find the species endlessly fascinating. And even invite a few of them over on Christmas Day. I hide my most valuable possessions. Seriously, there is something valiant about a woman who commits herself to a life on the stage or screen and none of the great woman stars had it easy. They share not only great talent but a kind of gallantry and vulnerability and have to use that vulnerability in their work.
Carl Andress: When the call came inviting us to create a new show for the Lyrics & Lyricists series, we immediately thought it would be fun to take the opportunity to salute our favorite leading ladies of the musical silver screen and the songs that are associated with them as well as to explore some of the myth and lore of Hollywood itself. It’s a subject that we both find endlessly fascinating, plus what could be more enjoyable than to create an evening dedicated to these fascinating ladies, with songs written by the crème de la crème of composers, to be performed by some of the brightest talents of the New York stage?
Charles Busch: That was tough. There is of course the pantheon of brilliant female musical stars that you have to include, Garland, Marilyn, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Doris Day, Alice Faye, Ann Miller. But there are so many. You want to include some of the famous sopranos, but if you have Jeannette Macdonald and Jane Powell and Deanna Durbin, do you leave out Kathryn Grayson? It ain't easy. Ultimately, it comes down to choosing your favorites but not excluding stars who fit your theme.
Carl Andress: There are so many celebrated female movie musical stars, but the problem was how do you narrow down the field? We had to set ourselves some limits. For instance, we decided to focus on the years 1930 to 1960, considered the Golden Age of the movie musical, and on original movie musicals rather than film adaptations of Broadway shows. Within that framework, we would focus on women who had honest-to-goodness movie careers within the studio system. We also decided that since we made the rules, that we had full authority to break them!
Charles Busch: It's a very brief rehearsal period and so in those cases, it's always best to work with people you know and have worked with before. It's great having a kind of short hand and not risking having a nut aboard the ship. Carl and I both are friends with a number of wonderfully talented ladies who don't mind working very hard and memorizing a ton of lyrics.
Carl Andress: Since we were focusing on the leading ladies of Hollywood musicals it was pretty clear that our cast would be comprised of 5 supremely talented women with the ability and talent to evoke the comic and vocal styles of the past while bringing their own personal and contemporary flair to the material. Fortunately, our five incredible leading ladies said yes without a moment’s hesitation. They make our work incredibly easy.
Charles Busch: These shows have been very successful for many years. They don't need us to reinvent the concept but it is fun to twist it around a bit and it really is a subject that I love. In the narration, we've been able to delve into our favorite show biz books and share some of our favorite anecdotes about these fascinating women and the songwriters who gave them some of their finest work and the studio heads that turned them into stars.
Carl Andress: I love working with the folks at the 92Y. The leadership of the program is incredibly passionate and completely supportive and it’s an honor to be back with them. I created a show with Phyllis Newman celebrating the work of Comden & Green for the series a couple of years ago and being invited back to develop a new show with Charles and our maestro John McDaniel this year has been a total joy. It’s like having our own production unit at MGM!
Charles Busch: Rather than telling the history of the Hollywood musical chronologically, we're dividing the evening into explorations of each major studio and how the immigrant background of each studio boss affected their aesthetic choices and thus the kind of musical female star they developed.
Carl Andress: I hope people come away with a desire to seek out the films and biographies of the delightful women we are celebrating. It’s important to remember and cherish the glories of the past and we are honoring the legacies of these women and their gifts in a fresh and rather personal way.
Charles Busch: Naturally all the girls in our show. I'm in the show as well and I've gotta share a dressing room with these dames. Other than them, hmmmm. I think Lady Gaga has all sorts of potential and it's fun seeing her experiment with more traditional looks and material.
Carl Andress: Nancy Anderson, Andréa Burns, Cady Huffman, Erin Maguire and Zakiya Young for starters! Plus I’m crazy about Emma Stone, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Maybe we could do a remake of "The Opposite Sex!"
Charles Busch: We're so in sync, we rarely have an opposing point of view. Carl sometimes has to tone down some of my more outré notions. For instance, a few years ago when we did a biblical epic play called Judith of Bethulia at Theatre for the New City in the East Village. I wanted to have an enormous cast of extras for the opening scene where, I as the beautiful "Judith," first enter the market place in Ancient Bethulia. I thought it would be cool to place a weekly ad in Backstage. "Be in an Off-Off Broadway show! No experience necessary! Call this number!" And then whoever shows up, we'd hand them some rags and have the assistant director show them where to enter and exit and voila, a cast of thousands. Oh, Carl nixed the idea with all sorts of objections such as how would we pay them, where would they dress, what if they were insane, that sort of thing. I still think it could have worked.
Carl Andress: Well, we certainly laugh a lot! And Charles is never anything less than an inspiration. He’s incredibly smart, so I’m always learning something new. And even though putting on a show requires a great deal of hard work, focus and concentration, we always have a great time. When work doesn’t’ feel like work, you’re doing something right.
Charles Busch: I wish I could divide myself into several highly energized and motivated people who could write many different projects simultaneously. I get so many ideas and can't seem to work on more than one of them at a time. Most of them just drift away.
Carl Andress: I have to answer this question a lot when taking those Buzzfeed quizzes on Facebook that will supposedly tell you what your spirit animal is or what you should have for dinner. I always choose the ability to fly.
Charles Busch: Well, I've only recently discovered that I'm mad for Jack Daniels on the rocks. Maybe I could add some extra little ingredient that might turn it a vivid fuchsia and then set it aflame. What would I call it? The Charlot Volcano.
Carl Andress: Well, vodka would most definitely be involved -- Tito’s because it’s my current brand of choice. Add in a little bit of the classic liqueur Crème d’Yvette and a little bit of lemon and you’ve got something rather special. I’d call it Dignified.
10. How do you want to be remembered?
Charles Busch: I'd like to be remembered as good company, a tough hard working pro and that there was more to me and my work than met the eye.
Carl Andress: I’d like to be remembered as one who was a kind and sensitive friend, who was a smart and sensible professional possessed of unique sense of style.
Making his Lyrics & Lyricists debut – is the author and star of such plays as The Divine Sister, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, You Should Be So Lucky and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom; one of the longest running plays in the history of Off- Broadway. His play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife ran for 777 performances on Broadway; it received a Tony nomination for Best Play, and Charles won the Outer Critics Circle’s John Gassner Playwriting Award. In 2003 Charles received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright, and he was given a star on the Playwrights Walk of Fame outside the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Given his love and knowledge of film and theatre history, Charles has been invited to appear in numerous documentaries for Turner Classic Movies, including programs on Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, and he has lectured and conducted master classes at many colleges and universities including NYU, Harvard, UCLA and Amherst. He is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, The Lady in Question is Charles Busch, and he is the author of the auto-biographical novel Whores of Lost Atlantis. For more on Charles visit http://www.charlesbusch.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter!
Is an American theater director whose credits include the world premieres of Charles Busch’s critically acclaimed comedies The Tribute Artist; The Divine Sister; The Third Story, starring Kathleen Turner; Judith of Bethulia; the children’s musical Bunnicula; and Shanghai Moon. He has also directed New York productions of the Busch plays Die! Mommie Die! and Queen Amarantha, as well as regional productions of The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. Other credits include Carmen Pelaez's Rum & Coke, Douglas Carter Beane’s The Cartells, the New York concert premieres of Kander, Ebb and McNally's The Visit; Sheldon Harnick and Joe Raposo’s A Wonderful Life and Bob Merrill and Jule Styne’s Mister Magoo’s A Christmas Carol all for The Actors Fund, as well as productions of Tenderloin, Harold & Maude, I Love My Wife and The Mad Show all for "Musicals in Mufti" at The York Theater Company. Carl made his Lyrics & Lyricists debut in May 2011 as stage director for Phyllis Newman’s Carried Away: Being Comden & Green. For more on Carl visit http://www.carlandress.com!