As Backstage Babble approaches it’s year anniversary, I will be airing some of the episodes that best exemplify what I have been trying to do with this podcast. And certainly my conversation with the legendary Alan Bergman fits in that category. At 95, he was able to offer incredible wisdom and stories that are a must-hear for younger generations. He shares the secret to movie scoring, how Fred Astaire made an exception for him, Frank Sinatra’s nickname for him, the unusual prompt that led him to “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” which comes first: the lyrics or the music, the secret to his long-lasting partnership with his wife, Marilyn Bergman, how the idea for Something More! Came about, his musical influences growing up, and the two books every young songwriter must read. Plus: Norman Lear, Barbra Streisand, Michel LeGrand, and more!
After a short break, Backstage Babble is BACK, and I am so proud to present my episode with the extraordinarily talented singer, actress, and comedian Christine Pedi. With a career spanning three Broadway shows, a daily radio show on Sirius XM, long-running stints off-Broadway in two hit parody shows, several York Theater revivals, appearances on quite a few hit TV shows, and an ever-growing cabaret career, how could she not have stories to tell? Tune in to hear her talk about how she surprised her parents with her role in Chicago, the Forbidden Broadway skit that she suggested, the magic of Alvin Colt, the advice Jerry Herman gave her, getting compliments from Helen Gurley Brown, imitating Suze Orman to Suze Orman, the logistics of putting together a radio show, how Act One affected her Father, and what she hopes everyone will have learned from Covid. Plus: Angela Lansbury, Gerard Alessandrini, Rick Crom, Fran Weissler, and more!
For the last episode of Backstage Babble’s Pride Month, I welcome Broadway legend Ken Page, star of Cats, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Guys and Dolls, and more, as well as a regular actor at the St. Louis MUNY for over 25 years. His on-screen appearances include The Nightmare Before Christmas, Torch Song Trilogy, and Dreamgirls. On July 1 (because Pride should continue to be celebrated throughout the year), hear him share some beautiful words about his coming out journey and what the concept means to him. Plus, lots of showbiz stories: the moment in Cats that he created, what was missing in the revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’, the joke that Abe Burrows taught him how to land, how a cabaret medley got him a role in The Wiz, getting an early lesson on how to cry, the favorite award he’s ever won, being introduced by Gillian Lynne, plus Harvey Fierstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Nell Carter, and more!
For the penultimate installment in Backstage Babble’s Pride Month, I could not be more thrilled to welcome the amazing Steven Brinberg. As the premiere Barbra Streisand impersonator, he has performed in such venues as the Kennedy Center and Avery Fisher Hall, plus on Broadway with the concert of Funny Girl. Today, he joins me to tell some of the stories of his amazing career: how he edited Terrence McNally, making quips and eating ice cream with Marvin Hamlisch, competing offers from Barbra and Bette, a disappointing appearance with Rosie O’Donnell, writing a song with Stephen Sondheim, how Barbra sometimes takes his suggestions, what his dream show would be (hint: in Las Vegas, and directed by the lady herself!), and what makes Barbra a gay icon. Plus: Diana Rigg, Lainie Kazan, Jerry Springer, and more!
Today, I am so excited to welcome the extraordinarily funny Jason Graae to the podcast. He has put smiles on the faces of anyone who’s ever seen him perform, be it on Broadway in Stardust and Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up, off-Broadway in Forever Plaid and Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, or on screen! Tune in to hear him talk about his legendary career, including: a cryptic comment from James Lapine, his two favorite Friends, getting comedy advice from Jerry Herman, how Jose Ferrer messed up his debut, the show that Vicki Lewis misjudged, teasing Thommie Walsh, imitating Ken Jennings, changing the plot of Camelot, and more! Plus his imitations of William Finn, Karen Morrow, and Valerie Cherish!
I am so happy to be joined again by the legendary Lawrence Leritz. In the second part of our conversation, he discusses his choreographic and singing career, including getting career tips from Patti LaBelle, a call from Jimmy Carter, being manipulated by Berry Gordy, speaking Hebrew with Herschel Bernardi, setting up a dance between Beverly Sills and Peter Martins, and doing comedic dancing with Harvey Keitel and Carly Rae Jepsen! Lawrence is a man of the theater through and through, and you can’t miss his enthusiasm about or dedication to his craft.
I am so happy to be joined today by the amazing dancer, choreographer, actor, and producer Lawrence Leritz. With the amount of varied and prestigious projects he has been a part of, it’s no wonder that our conversation turned into two parts! Tune in today to discuss the movie that Bob Fosse got him, his brief involvement with the American Dance Machine, Alvin Ailey’s wild lifestyle, yawning in front of Alexandra Danilova, the problem with the Uris/Gershwin Theater, getting picked from a dance class by Sir Frederick Ashton, bonding with Tommy Tune, and more!
Here it is: Part 2 of my conversation with the brilliant Tony Sheldon! Tune in today to hear him discuss his New York career, including roles in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Amelie on Broadway, Charles Busch’s Cleopatra, and The Band Wagon at Encores. Stories abound: A false promise from the Weisslers, giving suggestions to Charles Busch, how Beth Leavel helped him at the Tony Awards, his cut number from Priscilla, an odd backstage visit from Cloris Leachman, the Encores! show he had to turn down, why he thought Amelie on Broadway was a mistake, and living in Audra McDonald’s basement. Plus: Roger Rees, Jordan Roth, Jerry Mitchell, Shirley MacLaine, and more!
I am so happy to be joined for the latest installment in Backstage Babble’s Pride Month series by international musical theater star Tony Sheldon. His immense body of work in Australia including starring roles in productions of TORCH SONG TRILOGY, I HATE HAMLET, INTO THE WOODS, PRIVATE LIVES, FALSETTOS, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, COMPANY, THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG, NOISES OFF, ONCE IN A LIFETIME, and more. Today he talks about all of that and more in Part 1 of the in-depth conversation. Hear him talk about singing on TV at the age of 7, growing up with performing legends Toni Lamond (his mother) and Helen Reddy (his aunt), how he accidentally exposed the homophobia of a major casting agency, why it took a bomb scare to meet Harvey Fierstein, Cyd Charisse’s unexpected shortcoming, why The Producers was “a nightmare,” the basic history of Australian musical theater, plus stories about Yvonne DeCarlo, Bob Fosse, Mel Brooks, and more.
For the second episode of Pride Month, I welcome the designer of the original production of one of the most seminal gay works, The Boys in the Band. Among his numerous other credits include Dames At Sea, The Mad Show, Johnny Johnson, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, and more. Tune in to hear him talk about why Lotte Lenya wouldn’t fire Jose Quintero, how Joe Papp ruined a show in Philadelphia, how Shelley Winters tried to sabotage Carol Kane, how Mart Crowley came to appreciate his set, creating the iconic design for Dames at Sea, the hardest Broadway theater to design for, why Lee Strasberg had no creative vision, plus stories about Richard Gere, Tallulah Bankhead, Bernadette Peters, and so many more.
Today, I am honored to present to you the interview I did with Rob W. Schneider and Kevin David Thomas, hosts of the hit theater podcast Behind the Curtain (https://broadwaypodcastnetwork.com/podcast/behind-the-curtain/) to celebrate their amazing accomplishment of having over 500 episodes now available for listening. They are certainly masters in the field of podcasting, so I was a little intimidated to turn the tables on them, but it turned out to be a LOT of fun! Listen to the episode above or on their podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/podcast-crossover-backstage-babbles-charles-kirsch/id1080144159?i=1000524446082
And then go hear their interviews with Nathan Lane, Lainie Kazan, Matthew Broderick, Charles Strouse, Victor Garber, and so many other musical theater legends.
This is the first episode of Backstage Babble’s Pride Month, a series of enlightening conversations with LGBT artists whose careers span over 60 years of gay Broadway history. And what better way to kick it off than an interview with a legend like dancer/choreographer Grover Dale. He has lent his talents to such shows as West Side Story, Sail Away, The Magic Show, Li’l Abner, Rachael Lily Rosenbloom, and more and he discusses it all today on Backstage Babble. Hear him talk about dancing with Gene Kelly, the Broadway hit he almost turned down, the Jerome Robbins’ Broadway that never was, volunteering to swim with Esther Williams, getting a dressing room visit from Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich, playing poker with Tommy Steele, plus his relationships with Elaine Stritch, Anthony Perkins, Anita Morris, and Larry Kert. You won’t want to miss this.
The icon that is Brenda Braxton joins Backstage Babble today to discuss her legendary career from replacing in the 1976 revival of Guys and Dolls all the way up to the pandamndemic (as she refers to it). Hear her talk about mass fainting during the filming of The Wiz, learning valuable lessons from Vinnette Carroll, spending her birthday with Tom Hanks, serenading Peter Allen, the moment when she realized she was becoming a cat, and the impetus and interviews for her amazing book The Little Black Book of Backstage Etiquette. Plus: Harvey Fierstein, Mike Nichols, Usher, George C. Wolfe, and more! Ms. Braxton was a total joy from start to finish, and her sparkling wit and charm never fail to come through.
I am so thrilled to announce Part 2 of my episode with the amazing Broadway legend Karen Morrow. Tune in to hear her talk about a cryptic conversation with Michael Bennett, singing a love song with Gordon MacRae, how Ed Kleban begged her not to quit a show, being thrown a birthday party by Joseph Papp, watching Howard Keel flub an important line, last-minute fixes in The Selling of the President, what advice she would give looking back at her older performances, meeting with Sid Caesar under a table, duetting with Joanne Worley and James Brown, asking John Raitt for money, and why she decided to leave the business. Plus stories about Loretta Swit, Jerry Herman, John Kenley, Carl Reiner, Ron Moody, and more.
Today, I am thrilled to be joined by Broadway legend Karen Morrow, star of I Had a Ball, The Grass Harp, I’m Solomon, A Joyful Noise, The Selling of the President, Edwin Drood, and more. Tune in to hear her talk about holding hands with Nat King Cole, dating John Davidson, how Buddy Hackett broke her up onstage, having Frank Loesser as her agent, why she blames herself for Lloyd Richards’ firing, replacing Celeste Holm, watching Charles Strouse helicopter out of the MUNY, and her advice to musical theater students today!! Plus, stories about Richard Rodgers, Luba Lisa, Charles Nelson Reilly, Claibe Richardson, Dick Shawn, and more.
Today, I am honored to be joined once again by the luminous Christine Andreas. In Part 2 of our conversation, she discusses her much-lauded cabaret career as well as her stage performances in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Fields of Ambrosia, La Cage Aux Folles, and more. Hear her talk about collaborating with Frank Wildhorn, overestimating the British, sharing a dressing room with Veanne Cox, embodying Judy Garland, how she crafts a cabaret show, the meaning behind “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” plus stories about Terrence Mann, Kelsey Grammer, and her husband Martin Silvestri.
Today, I am honored to be joined by the radiant Christine Andreas. In Part 1 of our in-depth interview, hear her discuss her legendary career as a Broadway star—you’re sure to fall under her spell and see why she was one of the pre-eminent stars of the 1970s and 1980s, leading the revival movement with such shows as My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!, and On Your Toes. She tells never before heard stories about the backstage politics at Rags, why she dreaded going to work as Eliza every day, turning down George Abbott and Billy Hammerstein, finding chemistry onstage, why she believes in mystical presences, rolling out the red carpet backstage, plus stories about Agnes De Mille, Peter Allen, Radie Harris, and more.
Today, I am honored to welcome to the podcast as the second installment in our Memoirs and Rising Stars week, the fabulous Martin Milnes! Martin is the author of the new memoir Wild Card: How I Learned to Have a Friend, Be a Friend, and Finally Love My Birthday, which can be purchased here: https://www.martinmilnes.com/product-page/wild-card-signed-copy. Tune in today to hear many of the stories of Martin’s life and friendships with older legends: the secret he learned from Stephen Sondheim, why Sandy Wilson could be “very tricky,” getting guidance from Leslie Bricusse and Gyles Brandreth, meeting your idols, and the “divine madness” of the Thursford Christmas Shows!
Today, I am honored to be joined by Samantha Hahn, author of On The Roof, the recent book about Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. In addition to playing Beylke in that production, she has also appeared in Nella the Princess Knight, and the virtual Mystery of Edwin Drood. Tune in today to hear her talk about all things Fiddler, why Joel Grey was very smart, the most exciting celebrity visit she had, learning Yiddish phonetically, plus stories about Jackie Hoffman, Sheldon Harnick, and more! Buy her book here: https://www.amazon.com/Roof-look-inside-Fiddler-Yiddish/dp/1784658642/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=on+the+roof+Samantha+hahn&qid=1618858466&sr=8-1
Today, Backstage Babble is not crazy for YOU but crazy for the wonderful Karen Ziemba, today's guest! Tune in to hear her talk about her legendary career including her long professional collaboration with Susan Stroman, how Jerome Robbins made her cry, the compliment Woody Allen gave her, playing a nun, being directed by Hal Prince, the off-Broadway show she wishes could have transferred, plus stories about John Kander, Debra Monk, Michael Bennett, and more.