Backstage Babble
#93-Bob Mackie

#93-Bob Mackie

January 9, 2022

It is a true honor to announce Backstage Babble’s first episode of 2022-and what better way to start the New Year than with the legendary Bob Mackie, a man who has created iconic outfits for all of the greatest names in entertainment: everyone from RuPaul to Judy Garland. Tune in today as he talks about his storied career: hear about what it was like to be an openly gay man in ‘70s Hollywood, what he liked and disliked about the ‘50s movie musicals, why fashion doesn’t really exist today, the secret to a great awards show dress, what he learned from Edith Head, why The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public didn’t work, Cher at the Oscars, the brilliance of Carol Burnett, how Ann-Margret is different from her on-screen persona, getting Lucille Ball into a harness, and so much more. Bob Mackie’s outfits have become synonymous with theatricality and grace, and you’ll find the man himself shares those very same characteristics. You won’t want to miss this conversation.

 

You can find more of Bob Mackie’s designs and anecdotes in the recently published The Art of Bob Mackie, available here:

 

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Art-of-Bob-Mackie/Frank-Vlastnik/9781982152116

#92-Joann M. Hunter Part 2

#92-Joann M. Hunter Part 2

December 31, 2021

There’s no better way to send off 2021 than by listening to Part 2 of my episode with amazing choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter. Tune in today for a revealing and fascinating conversation about her choreography career, which includes such shows as School of Rock, Disaster, On a Clear Day, and more. Stories and insights abound: what she looks for in auditions, why it’s hard to cast child actors, preparing the Tonys number for Spring Awakening, how she cast Prince Charming in Cinderella, why she never writes anything down, why Disaster didn’t find as much success as it could have, having a meeting with Jerry Lewis, what it’s like collaborating with Barry Manilow, and so much more.

#91-Joann M. Hunter Part 1

#91-Joann M. Hunter Part 1

December 29, 2021

Today, I am so happy to announce my episode with one of Broadway’s most in-demand director/choreographers, Joann M. Hunter. On this episode, she discusses her career as a Broadway dancer, including the prank she played on Jonathan Pryce, why she loves working with Susan Stroman, rehearsing for 6 months with Jerome Robbins, putting Bebe Neuwirth into Chicago, what it’s like performing on the Tonys, the two Broadway shows she got without auditioning, going on at the last minute in Kiss Me, Kate, having her pig kidnapped by Sergio Trujillo, her mishap-filled audition for Thoroughly Modern Millie, and much more!

#90-Randy Skinner

#90-Randy Skinner

December 25, 2021

I am so thrilled to announce my episode with one of Broadway’s best director/choreographers, Tony Nominee Randy Skinner. His work can currently be seen in the Irving Berlin Cheek to Cheek at the York Theater off-Broadway:

 

Buy Tickets Here!

 

And before you see the show, tune in today to hear him discuss getting advice from Ginger Rogers, the popular Broadway marketing idea that he had first, what was great about the Kenley Players, why he loved rehearsing with Nell Carter, star-spotting Eloise Kropp, the process of working at Encores, the lesson he learned from Angela Lansbury’s Mame, why movies are his first love, and so much more.

#89-Austin Pendleton Part 2

#89-Austin Pendleton Part 2

December 16, 2021

Today, I am so thrilled to announce the 2nd part of my episode with the great Austin Pendleton. Tune in today to hear him to tell more of the stories of his long and legendary career, including: being directed by Samuel Beckett’s assistant, why Barbra Streisand is a great scene partner, the number 1 mistake among actors at auditions, what he thinks it will be like to return to The Minutes, why he’s banned from doing any Neil Simon plays, how he had to be kept a secret from Tommy Tune, and so much more. You can't help but be inspired by Austin Pendleton: a true man of the theater who has collected countless insights and stories from his wide-ranging career.

#88-Austin Pendleton Part 1

#88-Austin Pendleton Part 1

November 27, 2021

I am so excited to announce my episode today with a true man of the theater, the great Austin Pendleton. With countless legendary stage and screen credits including Fiddler on the Roof, The Little Foxes, My Cousin Vinny, and others, Austin has achieved fame as an actor, singer, playwright, director, teacher, and more. He’s very much still part of the theater community, and you can go see him now in The Dark Outside at the Theater for the New City:

 

The Dark Outside

 

Tune in to hear some of the stories of his legendary career, including why Barbara Harris didn’t want to be a star, a frank conversation with Jerome Robbins, what it was like being friends with Lillian Hellman, how Fiddler on the Roof almost closed in Detroit, his long partnership with Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, the role he asked Mike Nichols to play, directing his mother in The Glass Menagerie, conversations with Otto Preminger, and so many more.

#87-John Rubinstein Part 1

#87-John Rubinstein Part 1

November 25, 2021

Today, I am so happy to announce my episode with the amazing John Rubinstein. John is currently starring off-Broadway in the wonderful new production Morning’s At Seven alongside Tony Roberts, Alley Mills, and more. You can buy tickets here:

Morning's At Seven

Tune in today to hear him tell some of the stories of his legendary career, including playing “Soliloquy" for John Raitt, watching rehearsals of Funny Girl, advice from Laurence Olivier, early Shakespeare roles, a late night visit from Bob Fosse, how he almost got Cabaret—twice, what it was like to return to Pippin in 2013, and his advice for everyone else who plays the role.

His wisdom and charm are part of what has made him one of theater’s top stars from the 1970s to today.

#86-David Staller

#86-David Staller

November 20, 2021

Today, I am so excited to announce my episode with artistic director of the Gingold Group David Staller. The Gingold Group is the only one in the world to have presented all 65 of George Bernard Shaw’s plays, and today is your last day to see their mounting of MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION staring Karen Ziemba and Robert Cuccioli. Upcoming is a reading of Jay O. Sanders and MaryAnn Plunkett in VILLAGE WOOING. Tickets can be purchased here:

 

Village Wooing

 

Mrs. Warren's Profession

 

Tune in to hear David tell some of the stories of his legendary career, including: an early shaw reading with Olivier, Fairbanks, Loos, and more, how he became friends with Pearl Bailey, turning down Hal Prince, the majesty of Rebecca Luker, why George Bernard Shaw was a pistol at 94, why he longs for the day when Shaw is no longer relevant, growing up around Hermoine Gingold, the art of editing Shaw, interviewing Rex Harrison, casting over Zoom, his advice to young performers and so much more.

#85-Howard McGillin

#85-Howard McGillin

November 14, 2021

I am so honored today to announce my episode with one of Broadway’s best leading men, Howard McGillin. In addition to being the longest running Phantom, his starring roles include Anything Goes, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, She Loves Me, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and more. Tune in today to hear some of the stories of his career including auditioning for Stephen Sondheim, why the phantom’s mask is more comfortable than you might think, singing through Mack and Mabel with Jerry Herman, doing a dress rehearsal with a broken rib, why The Secret Garden resonated personally with him, the many changes of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a fateful email from Charles Busch, learning to play piano, a backstage conversation with James Lapine, and so much more.

#84-Sherman Yellen

#84-Sherman Yellen

November 1, 2021

Today, I am so thrilled to announce my episode with Emmy Award Winner Sherman Yellen. On TV, his projects include Beauty and the Beast, An Early Frost, and The Adams Chronicles, and on stage he has written the book for Rex, The Rothschilds, and more. Tune in today to hear the many stories of his long career, including sitting under a piano with Marilyn Monroe, why he thought he caught tuberculosis from Harold Pinter, hiring Nicol Williamson, revising The Rothschilds, how he thinks theater has changed, his hit sketch for Oh, Calcutta!, analyzing Richard Rodgers, why he related to Sinclair Lewis, the antisemitism of Maureen O’Hara, why he thinks his newest plays are the best yet, and reflects on the world of opportunity in which he grew up. Mr. Yellen’s new book, Absent Friends, will be available soon.

#83-2020 Tonys Extravaganza!!

#83-2020 Tonys Extravaganza!!

October 11, 2021

 Today on Backstage Babble, I am so thrilled to present my celebration of the 2020 Tony Awards. The four-hour ceremony can still be viewed on Paramount+ and the CBS App. The evening begins with a few photos and video interviews from the red carpet. I was also invited to be part of the virtual press room for this year’s ceremony, and you can see the questions I got to ask to the night’s winners including Lois Smith, Alex Timbers, and Anthony Veneziale. You can also see longer interview clips that include my questions with director Kenny Leon and playwright Matthew Lopez, because what they said was so powerful it had to be shared. Following this, my extended 40-minute interview with legendary Broadway press agent and producer Irene Gandy, who shares many stories of her career, including learning from Douglas Turner Ward, walking into the New York Times office wearing hot pants, why attitudes about press have changed, the magic of August: Osage County, and the way in which she saw racism in the publicity industry.

 

This program is best viewed in a video format, which is available here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1p91K_oSS9U/

 

You can watch Ms. Gandy’s Tonys speech here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffx2MRRCzPY&t=81s/

#82-Meg Bussert

#82-Meg Bussert

October 2, 2021

Today, I am so honored to announce my episode with the amazing Meg Bussert. Meg transitioned from being one of the most active ingenues on Broadway in the 1980s to one of the most sought-after character actresses today. Hear her tell some of the stories of her amazing career on our interview, including a suggestion she got from Meredith Willson, the direction from Michael Kidd that left her speechless, how she made Debbie Reynolds nervous, why John Raitt wasn’t right for Petruchio, figuring out an accent for South Pacific, her go-to audition song, the magic of Tessie O’Shea and Gemze De Lappe, how she set off a fire alarm at the Westchester Broadway Theater, a telegram from Mary Martin, plus Edward Gorey, Barbara Cook, Alan Jay Lerner, and more!! You can also see her in a celebration of Jonathan Tunick happening October 2 at the Sharon Playhouse. Tickets are available here: https://www.sharonplayhouse.org/2021spotlight

#81-APPLAUSE Reunion!!

#81-APPLAUSE Reunion!!

September 25, 2021

Today, I am so excited to bring you the audio version of my recent reunion of the 1970 hit show APPLAUSE, which is available in full video with photos included here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex5cr3T7ASc

 

Participants include Tony Winner and Broadway Legend Len Cariou, Previous Guests Penny Fuller, Lee Roy Reams, Brandon Maggart, and Susan L. Schulman, 9-Time Tony nominated Lighting Designer Ken Billington, Arranger and Orchestrator Mel Marvin, and dancers Michael Misita, Marilyn D'Honau, and Patti D'Beck.

 

Wonderful stories abound about the creation of this legendary musical.

#80-Julie Budd

#80-Julie Budd

September 13, 2021

Today, I am so thrilled to announce my episode with the fabulous Julie Budd! She started at the age of 11 in the Catskills, and since then has performed at the Kennedy Center, Caesar’s Palace, Birdland, and many other illustrious venues. She also has made many notable appearances on Broadway and in Hollywood. And today, she joins me on Backstage Babble to tell some of the stories of her legendary career, including: conversing with a pantsless George Burns, the advice Frank Sinatra gave her, doing homework in Ed Sullivan’s apartment, the philosophy of Bob Hope, why she thought everyone on Broadway was crazy, getting discovered by Herb Bernstein, Marvin Hamlisch’s odd sleeping habits, why working for Disney was the highlight of her life, and so much more.

#79-Ethan Mordden

#79-Ethan Mordden

September 9, 2021

Today, I am so excited to announce my episode with one of the foremost theater historians and one of my personal heroes, the great Ethan Mordden. You may know his legendary decades series or his myriad other books, but today we are here to talk about his newest release, Pick a Pocket or Two: A History of British Musical Theatre. The book is a must-read and can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.com/Pick-Pocket-Two-History-British/dp/0190877952/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= Mr. Mordden tells quite a few tales on today’s episode, including watching a sedentary Elaine Stritch, a brilliant change by Alan Jay Lerner, a shocking fact about Eva LeGallienne, how Oliver revitalized the British musical as a form, performing his own songs for Richard Rodgers, the differences between Gilbert and Sullivan, how a Madame Tussaud’s wax dummy opened a musical, why he doesn’t conduct interviews for his books, and the shows he classifies as pop operas (some may surprise you). Plus Ivor Novello, Susan Johnson, Charlie Stemp, and more!

#78-Nancy Dussault Part 2

#78-Nancy Dussault Part 2

September 1, 2021

I am so happy to release today Part 2 of my episode with the amazing Nancy Dussault, where she talks about the latter half of her career, including Into the Woods and Side By Side By Sondheim, plus Too Close For Comfort, Good Morning America, and more. The stories abound once again: her quintessential New York experience, hectic times on the sets of Barney Miller and Mad About You, how doing the weather on TV turned into an unplanned comedy routine, why Ted Knight could be very controlling, how she found the character of the Witch, why she forgot where she was one night on the stage of the Martin Beck Theater, her involvement with the show Cabaret, plus Dick Van Dyke, Hermoine Gingold, Stephen Sondheim, and more!

Find PICK A POCKET OR TWO: https://www.amazon.com/Pick-Pocket-Two-History-British/dp/0190877952

#77-Nancy Dussault Part 1

#77-Nancy Dussault Part 1

August 29, 2021

I am so thrilled today to announce Part 1 of my episode with Broadway star and Tony Nominee Nancy Dussault. She’s done it all: from starring on Broadway in Do Re Mi, The Sound of Music, and Bajour, to her memorable appearances on screen in Too Close for Comfort, The In-Laws, and more. In this candid and funny conversation, she shares just some of the stories of her amazing career. Those include a quip from Judy Garland, how Garson Kanin made her cry, why she felt uncomfortable around Richard Rodgers, why it’s so rare to be a Broadway star, the art of putting together a cabaret act, watching her name go up on a marquee, the brilliance of Joseph Papp and John Kenley, the kindness of Lady Bird Johnson, the one project of hers she would love to see a video of, her signature audition songs, compliments from Lena Horne and Jule Styne, plus Liza Minnelli, Marc Blitzstein, Burton Lane, and more!

#76-The Cast and Creative Team of THE SIXTH REEL

#76-The Cast and Creative Team of THE SIXTH REEL

August 19, 2021

I am so happy to be joined for today’s episode by the cast and crew of the new film THE SIXTH REEL: co-writer, co-director, and star Charles Busch, co-writer and co-director Carl Andress, and actor Doug Plaut. The movie premieres at OutFest in LA today, August 19th, and streams online through the 22nd. It is a fabulous movie which you can find tickets for here: https://outfestla2021.com/the-sixth-reel/. But before you watch, listen to all the behind-the-scenes stories only on Backstage Babble. They talk about the rocky road to getting the movie produced, how the idea evolved from 2012 until now, ideas from other cast members, how they explain the positive response so far, the way they all got interested in classic movies, hidden easter eggs, Covid precautions, virtual casting, the editing process, and more. You can also find stories about cast members Margaret Cho, Julie Halston, Tim Daly, and Heather MacRae, plus Edie Adams and more!

#75- Brandon Maggart Part 2

#75- Brandon Maggart Part 2

August 16, 2021

I am so happy to announce Part 2 of my episode with Broadway legend Brandon Maggart. He discusses the second half of his amazing career with me, including: how he almost missed a performance of Lorelei, the machinations of Carol Channing, the reason One Night Stand didn’t play well to audiences, the most touching audience response he ever received, how a nightclub performance led to Sesame Street, the TV show he almost originated (hint: it happens every Saturday night), playing a trick on Howard Keel, and the Broadway show he contributed to. He also opens up about his struggle with addiction and the loss of his daughter. Brandon is inspiring, thoughtful, funny, wise—-truly one of a kind. You can’t miss this!

#74-Brandon Maggart Part 1

#74-Brandon Maggart Part 1

August 9, 2021

On August 4th, Backstage Babble celebrated its 1st anniversary. And I can’t think of a better way to kick off Year #2 than my conversation with Broadway legend Brandon Maggart, of Applause, Lorelei, and so many more. In Part 1 of our conversation, he tells some of the stories of his long career, including: his unusual audition for Kelly, an accident at Radio City Music Hall, why Lauren Bacall did not get along with stagehands, obnoxious comments by Leonard Sillman and Robert Klein, the starring role he turned down, a moving moment with Anita Gillette, an onstage mistake by Arlene Dahl, how Lee Roy Reams covered for him at the Cherry Lane, having to fire his future wife, plus stories about Helen Gallagher, Karen Morrow, John Cullum, and more! Through the lens of his own career, Brandon also offers helpful insights for young performers.

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