BWW Interview: Donna Vivino Talks New Album BEAUTIFUL DREAMER, Off-Broadway's STARS OF DAVID and More!
Donna Vivino, who starred for two years as 'Elphaba' in the First National Tour of WICKED and also in the role on Broadway, just released a jazzy new album called "Beautiful Dreamer" via Ghostlight Records.
This is Donna's first album, which came about in a spur-of-the-moment collaboration with her father, Jerry Vivino, who is part of Conan's Basic Cable Band on the host's late night show on TBS.
"Beautiful Dreamer" reinvents Broadway tunes and selections from the Great American Songbook while weaving together improvisations from Jerry's all-star jazz quartet and inspirations from Donna's childhood.
Donna is also currently performing off-Broadway in the song cycle STARS OF DAVID, in which she portrays Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gwyneth Paltrow and Fran Drescher. Plus, she plays 'Serena' on the popular web series "Submissions Only".
Donna recently spoke with BWW about recording with her father, her off-Broadway run, and the upcoming third season of "Submissions Only".
I wanted to ask you first about your process and how the album came about. I know you worked with your father on it.
My father has been a professional musician since as long as I've known him, and he's a wonderful jazz and blues musician -- he's in the Basic Cable Band with Conan O'Brien, and he lives out in Los Angeles now. And he and I had actually never collaborated together. And I went to Los Angeles in April to visit my family and my grandmother -- his mother -- who was living out there. She passed away kind of unexpectedly while I was there, and my father and I were there with her. We had talked in the past about going to the studio to record a couple of songs sometime. And I was singing to her, as she was so ill, and we just sort of decided a day or two later to go into a studio in the Los Angeles area and put down some songs with a few of his friends -- Mitchel Forman, Ray Brinker and Kevin Axt, who are part of the jazz quartet on the album.
It was sort of this catharsis, this grieving process, and we put the songs down in one day. At that point, it was really just for us. We thought, "Why don't we do some of her favorite tunes?". "Beautiful Dreamer" is a song from the 1800s that she sang to me when I was a child -- it's an old lullaby. So we definitely wanted to put that down. But we weren't even talking about an album yet.
And I had to go back to New York and back to work, and my father called and said, "There's a lot of good stuff in here, and you sound great, and I think you have an album." And I was like, "What?" It just kind of happened. So I flew back on a Sunday night, recorded on a Monday and flew back that evening. We did five more songs. It all happened really fast, and it was just one of those things where it chose us. I don't really know how else to say it. It really is a love letter to not only my grandmother but also to family and history.
That's amazing, I would have had no idea! I was listening to some of the tracks before our chat, and you've got some Randy Newman on there -- the song from Toy Story 2 that always makes me cry.
It makes me cry, too. And that's definitely about my grandmother. And there are some tracks that seem morose, but there's a lot of celebration in there as well. It's funny, I'll listen and remember, "Oh gosh, I was crying when I sang that." It's one of those things where we did capture that experience.
And working with my dad was just unbelievable. My father didn't really know "When She Loved Me" that well, and the magic of the Internet is that you can download sheet music right away from the studio. And the bass player, Kevin Axt was like, "I love that song so much, let's do it. Just follow us." [Laughs] That's definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album for sure.
Do you have any other favorite tracks?