Baryshnikov shook my hand and said, “Bravo!”. Gush. It was a good week: A Gala honoring Susan Stroman (More about that later) and five invited performances of a workshop of Jonathan Bernstein and Suzie Misner’s, Give Me Up. This play is being backed by Kevin McCollum the producer of Rent, Avenue Q, Drowsy Chaperone and developed at Baryshnikov Arts Center. Hence the encounter with MIsha. In 1986 I got my first big show, Cats and moved from Melbourne to Sydney. I adorned my walls with four large and very beautiful framed photographs of Mikhail Baryshnikov. They were quite stunning and a wonderful source of inspiration. At the time I never imagined I might one day meet the man himself, let alone have him sit five feet away from me (right next to Stroman) as I performed. I played Bernard, a hollow man and reformed alcoholic hoping to return to the wife and baby he had abandoned a decade earlier. What he doesn’t anticipate is how his daughter, now 11, will desire and effect him and how thoroughly his wife will reject him. Leading to a spiral of self-destruction. The creators have found a beautiful way of telling their story. Unique: A turgid family drama that uses a modern dance form to punctuate and highlight moments, flashbacks and story-tell. Just as a song should in a traditional musical. The whole play is underscored by two amazing musicians, C.J. Camerieri and Rob Moose on muted trumpet/piano and violin/acoustic/electric guitar, respectively. They each can loop a musical phrase live and repeat it while playing a harmony over it, a phrase later; at times atmospheric like a film score at times highly melodic. Stro was blown away by how original the form is. Many were. It is a devastating play that deals with addiction, dependency, suicide. Suzie Misner, is the genius choreographer behind it and I play opposite her. She is both one of the most astounding actors and beautiful dancers you will ever see. She was in the revival of Guys and Dolls when I was at the Shubert in Crazy For You in the early 1990s. For a few years were part of the germination of the show that would become ‘Fosse’. We spent hundreds of hours in a studio with the great Gwen Verdon, recreating Fosse’s dances. In Give Me Up we dance a duet the ends the first act – it’s a flash back to a happier moment in our lives; stunningly beautiful that devolves into an equally stunning decline of the relationship. I truly hope this play continues to develop and gets produced. Bravo to all involved.
The Vineyard Theater hosted a Gala for Susan Stroman at the Hudson Theater this week. I was part of two numbers, I Got Rhythm with Karen Ziemba and the cast of Crazy For You and Simply Irresistible from Contact, with Boyd Gaines and Leigh Zimmerman. It was a funny, joyous evening, hosted by Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick with numbers from many shows, including The Music Man, The Producers and Scottsboro Boys, her devastating musical that ran both on and off Broadway last year. The reunion of the cast of Contact was both exciting and hilarious, because we are all a decade older! Once we got over the giggles it felt like 1999 all over again. And Stro was absolutely thrilled. She is such a great lady and pleasing her is all we who are blessed to work with her want. Speaking of Stroman, she’s got a new show up her sleeve. It’s a musical set in the world of Degas and the Paris Opera Ballet. It will be workshopped at Lincoln Center Theater this summer.