I love the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists series. They always have the best artists perform! In this next installment, I got to interview Book of Mormon's Lewis Cleale who is returning to the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists series in Let's Misbehave: The Sensational Songs of Cole Porter, which will be taking place Saturday, 2/11 at 8pm, Sunday, 2/12 at 2pm & 7pm, and Monday, 2/13 at 2pm & 7:30pm at the 92Y (1395 Lexington Avenue, 92nd Street & Lexington Ave). Click here for tickets!
"Night and Day," "I’ve Got You Under My Skin," "You’re the Top": Behind Cole Porter’s famous wit and sophistication lay an artistic genius’s mastery of the American popular song. How did this wealthy scion from Peru, Indiana thwart familial legal-career expectations to join Berlin, Loesser, and Sondheim on the very short list of iconic composer-lyricists? Artistic director David Loud leads a stellar Broadway cast — Allison Blackwell, Lewis Cleale, Nikki Renee Daniels, Rebecca Luker and Matthew Scott — through Porter’s most exquisite creations, including songs from such smash-hit shows as Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate.
1. This February you are performing in 92Y's Lyrics & Lyricists concert featuring the music of Cole Porter. What made you want to be part of this month's show? What are you looking forward to about performing with Allison Blackwell, Nikki Renee Daniels, Rebecca Luker and Matthew Scott? I have been performing in the Lyrics and Lyricists series since 1994. My first appearance was with Nancy Lamott and Kitty Carlisle and KT Sullivan and it actually led to my getting cast in my first Broadway show, because our musical director for that program was the famous Peter Howard. Peter is a Broadway Legend who did the dance arrangements for not only Swinging on a Star, which was my first show on Broadway but for Cabaret, Crazy for You, Chicago and on and on and on. I've known many of the cast members in our current show for a long time and they’re some of my favorite singers around. Nikki Renee Daniels and I have been doing the Book of Mormon together for a while now. And finally the host, narrator, arranger and man-about-town David Loud is singularly one of the most talented people in our business. His arrangements are spectacular and always a great joy to sing.
2. What do you think 92Y audiences will love about this installment of Lyrics & Lyricists? What will surprise them? David Loud, in addition to entertaining the audience with the beautiful music, also will give a great deal of insight into the construction of the music from a musical and lyrical standpoint. Many of the songs everyone knows, but when you break them down and you look at the mechanics behind the songs as David will show you, it's quite fascinating.
3. As a current cast member of the Tony Award winning Book of Mormon what is it like to go from singing those lyrics to performing the music of Cole Porter? I'd say what the writers of Book of Mormon and Cole Porter have in common is a great and devious wit. I personally am fairly devious so it's not a great switch to go from the lyrics of Book of Mormon to Cole Porter.
4. How has Cole Porter influenced you? What was it about his music that you relate to? I wouldn't say I've been influenced by Cole Porter but his music has been a constant through-line in my musical career. I first sang some of the very songs I'm singing now on the stage in college. When you're that young you're singing about things that you don't understand. Now I comprehend a great deal more because of life experience. I would say now as an adult I can relate to the longing for love, loss, lust, wit, sarcasm, honesty, and sheer unbridled joy in some of his lyrics. They are very much alive and relatable even in our modern world.
5. Of the songs you are performing, did you jump up & down with excitement over one of them? If so, which one? I have been singing all of the choruses to "It's De-Lovely" for many years now and it's one of my favorite songs to sing. In fact, I've booked many shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway using the song. So I know it inside and out and it's very joyful to do and it's a very upbeat song and it tells a great story and it ends on a big high note so it's fun to do.
Broadway: Sondheim on Sondheim, Spamalot, Amour, Once Upon a Mattress, Swinging on a Star (Drama Desk nom). Off-Broadway: The Fantasticks, A New Brain, Time and Again, Call Me Madam (Encores!). Tours: Sunset Boulevard, South Pacific, Mamma Mia! Regional: more than 30 leading roles including Giant (Signature), Passion (Helen Hayes Award), 1776 (Ford’s Theatre, Helen Hayes nom.). Recordings: Infinite Joy: The Songs of William Finn, Encores From Encores!, Myths and Hymns, Great Musicals, Call Me Madam, Amour, Once Upon a Mattress, Swinging on a Star. Film: Frozen.