InDepth InterView: Maureen McGovern Discusses 54 Below Show, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, Plus Broadway, Hollywood Memories & More
Today we are talking to a versatile performer first known to the world at large through her iconic early-career movie theme recordings - singing the Oscar-winning "The Morning After" from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, as well as the classic themes from THE TOWERING INFERNO, SUPERMAN and her memorable musical moment in AIRPLANE!; in addition to her many full-length studio albums later in life - who then emerged as a compelling theatrical performer with a string of roles on Broadway, Off Broadway and in regional theater - a replacement star of NINE, as well as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, as well as an original cast member of 1989's THE 3 PENNY OPERA, 1984's premire production of BROWNSTONE, and, most recently, a starring cast member in 2005's LITTLE WOMEN - the radiant and vocally resplendent Maureen McGovern. Looking back on her remarkable career and taking us on the journey from Hollywood to Broadway and beyond, McGovern reflects on some famous co-stars and her side of the riveting productions she participated in both onstage and onscreen, as well as opens up about some of her favorite recordings and composers to date insofar as her recording career is concerned, to say nothing of her proud position as the so-deemed self-confessed "Disaster Theme Queen". We also outline her cabaret work over the years, in anticipation of McGovern's week of shows at 54 Below, titled HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, beginning December 18 and running through December 23, where she will be sharing some of her favorite seasonal songs, new and old, as well as reviving some of her show-stopping standards and iconic movie themes and perhaps a surprise or two, too. Additionally, we touch upon her bio-musical, CARRY IT ON, her new women writer retrospective concert show and much, much more! PC: Tommy Tune just did this column prior to his 54 Below show, so you two have more in common than just NINE these days, it seems. PC: Had you seen the show prior to auditioning for it? PC: What was Kaye Ballard like as a co-star? PC: How did you become involved with PIRATES in the first place? PC: What happened? PC: Do you ever perform that in your concerts? PC: Countless in sheer volume during that era. PC: What was working together with him like, one on one? PC: So, will your 54 Below show be predominantly Christmas material given the title? C: What were your impressions of Garrison Keillor in performing live with him? PC: From live radio to your studio work: your STATE OF THE HEART album may be my favorite of all. What a striking cover image, as well. Who was behind that shot? PC: How so? PC: Your Jimmy Webb sequence is one phenomenal example. PC: What a rhyme! PC: Your most recent Broadway appearance was in LITTLE WOMEN, co-starring breakout Broadway star Sutton Foster. Did you enjoy your experience working with her on that show?
More information on Maureen McGovern's HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at 54 Below December 18-23 is available here.
More information on Maureen McGovern is available at her official site here.
The Evening After
MM: [Laughs. Sighs.] Oh, I loooove Tommy Tune!
PC: Was NINE the first time you two met?
MM: Yes. I will always be very grateful to him because auditioning is not one of my favorite things - not that it is for anybody, but for me, particularly, it really isn't - so, at the audition, I was waiting backstage and he came up to me and gave me a big, big hug. Now, Tommy is a very tall person...
PC: You can say that again! He's 6 foot 7!
MM: Right! So, big, big person; big, big hug - he threw his arms right around me and then he said, "Oh, don't worry about it! I've never gotten a show from an audition. Just go out there and do what you want!" [Laughs.]
PC: How alleviating that must have been to your nerves.
MM: "Just don't worry about it!" he said, I remember. And, after that, I didn't. But, Tommy is just such a gem.
PC: With such an iconic, legendary legacy.
MM: Oh, my gosh, yes. Oh, yes. You know, we did the Gershwin 50th Anniversary of his death a little while ago - there were celebrations at BAM and then we did one for PBS together with a million other people; that special was conducted by Andrew Litton. I love working with him whenever I get the opportunity.
PC: What song did you sing at your NINE audition?
MM: I did two songs - I did "My Husband Makes Movies" and "Be On Your Own".
MM: Oh, yes. I had seen it once. At the same time as I was auditioning I was still doing PIRATES OF PENZANCE, and, so, then PIRATES closed and a week or two later or so I went from, you know, this virginal maiden in white - Catholic Mabel in PIRATES - to this Italian wife, Luisa Contini, in her morose black. [Laughs.]
PC: Quite a juxtaposition.
MM: It was! It was. The theater for NINE was right across the street from PIRATES OF PENZANCE - so that was kind of funny. I just went right from one to the other side of the street. I don't remember which theater, though - I don't know the names of any of the theaters anymore, anyway! Now, when I go back to New York and I have to find one, I'm like, "What theater? I don't know that one!" [Laughs.]
PC: New York has changed a lot since then.
MM: I know! It has.
PC: Was PIRATES an enjoyable experience for you, particularly as a relative newcomer to the theatre?
MM: Yes, I think it was. You know, I didn't come to New York until '81, so that really was my first show in New York. I was new to everything.
MM: Oh, she was hysterical! Just so much fun to work with. As a matter of fact, on matinee days, Kaye would hold soirees in her dressing room and she would hire Patsy's to cater it with all these pastas and all this gorgeous food.
PC: How glamorous.
MM: Oh, my God, yes. It was fabulous. I remember that people would come to see her because they knew her and loved her - Marian Seldes; and, Ginger Rogers even came back! Tons and tons of people. Everyone you can think of would come back to see her and so we would all get to meet them, too, backstage - and, as a wide-eyed kid, that was so exciting, let me tell you!
PC: It sounds like it is a fondly remembered show to you.
MM: Oh, it was. PIRATES was a real valentine - it gave me a real second wind to my career. Just prior to that I had a little cameo in AIRPLANE! and I had done "Can You Read My Mind?" [for SUPERMAN]. But, prior to that, I had gone back to being a secretary - after "The Morning After" and everything - so, it was already my second time around by then.
PC: A second second.
MM: Yes. PIRATES was a real second second wind to my career, I guess! [Laughs.] It was just a delightful time for me, though. I mean, I had never even done a high school play, let alone something on the scale of this, on Broadway - theatre was all new to me.
MM: Well, first, I was contracted to do THE SOUND OF MUSIC at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, with Susan Schulman directing and on my way to Pittsburgh to do my one week of summer stock there, I was asked to come to New York to audition for Joe Papp. So, I stopped in New York first and auditioned and he was very gracious to me. Then, I went to dinner or lunch or whatever with my agent and my manager at the time and Wilfred Leach was walking by - we were just at this little restaurant in the village and he just happened to have walked by - and he poked his head in and just said, "Oh, by the way, you got the job. Bye!" And he was gone. [Big Laugh.]
PC: What a great memory!
MM: I know! That was it! And he just left!
PC: What was your reaction?
MM: I remember just screaming, "What!" [Laughs.] I couldn't believe it! So, I went back right after that dinner and did my one week of summer stock and then I did PIRATES OF PENZANCE on Broadway. And, truly, I had no idea at the time how terrified I should have been!
PC: You were replacing Linda Ronstadt in, essentially, the ingénue role - a theatre neophyte, as well.
MM: Right. They had essentially cast the role that way - and with me now as the ingénue. I'll always remember Joe Papp dubbed me "the nightingale of Broadway." [Laughs.]
PC: That makes for great copy, as well, no doubt!
MM: Yes, it does! But, he was really just a wonderful man.
PC: I have always wondered: do you ever remember any particular mishaps in NINE given the doves and other mildly unusual theatrical devices used in that production?
MM: Well, Liliane Montevecchi fainted one night! We were all just stunned. We kept thinking she was going to get up... and then she couldn't! [Laughs.]
MM: Well, everything had to come to a halt, of course, because it was a very sad and scary thing to have happen - I really shouldn't laugh about it. But to answer your question, with the doves, I remember that when I was in PIRATES, I would come in and watch NINE on Mondays, my day off, and then I would come see it every single night that I could after that. You know, there were so many things in that production to take in - you could see that show a hundred times and not see it all.
PC: It was so specifically designed.
MM: It was. I remember seeing something new every single time and saying to myself, "Oh, look at that! How gorgeous! I never saw that before." But, of course, the doves at the end were always my favorite - they were just so, so beautiful; it was magic every single night. I always looked forward to them. We actually never had any problems with them, believe it or not.
PC: NINE as a musical has only increased in its reputation since its debut, particularly in speaking of the original production's splendor. Do you look back on that experience fondly?
MM: Oh, it was just such a beautiful show. Tommy's vision, there is just nothing like it - it is so unique a vision to bring that movie and that story to life onstage the way that he did.
PC: You did BROWNSTONE a year or two after that, correct?
MM: Yes. That was in 1984, so a little after NINE and PIRATES.
PC: "Since You Stayed Here" is such a gorgeous song.
MM: [Sings.] "You'd never recognize the room," [Sighs.] Ugh, such a classic song.
MM: You know, I've always loved that song so much - truly - but, I haven't sung it, though. Bette Midler recorded it - and a lot of other people have done it since, too, which is great.
PC: Your recording of Laura Nyro's "When I Die" is sublime. Are you a fan of hers?
MM: Oh, yes. I love Laura Nyro. I love all those songs of hers. She was a one-of-a-kind performer and writer. Absolutely, absolutely amazing. You know, when I did that A LONG AND WINDING ROAD album, people kept saying to me; my agent said to me, "Do a boomer album! Do a boomer album!" And, I did an album years before called BABY, I'M YOURS, which was lots of fun - it was all centered on the more pop versions of those songs, though. But, anyway, people were doing lots of party albums at the time and I thought, "Well, if I can find a hook that really could make sense to me..." and, so, my musical director, Jeff Harris, and I just spent a summer going through about four hundred songs from both our respective youths and what came to the fore were all of these amazing singer-songwriters. That was our hook.
MM: Countless - and unlike anything else during any other generation. The second half of the Great American Songbook is so rich - if you look back at the Beatles and all that stuff, the craft of writing is really wonderful. Older people at the time looked at that as kids' music, of course - and it is very different than Rodgers & Hammerstein or Gershwin or whatever; but, it's very rich in its own way.
PC: Unquestionably. Who are your best-loved singer-songwriters to perform?
MM: I love James Taylor. Joni Mitchell is a goddess to me - she is just amazing.
PC: Also, there is quite a bit of Jimmy Webb in your back catalog, it seems.
MM: Yes, there is. Jimmy Webb is a real treasure, let me tell you. I've had the pleasure of knowing him for quite a few years - you know, just saying hello in passing at a benefit or whatever. We did a concert together in January in New Jersey, actually, and my musical director, who is a composer himself, just worships him.
MM: Well, Jimmy is just the nicest man - so down-to-earth and delightful. "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" is one of my favorite songs ever - I mean, it's up there with "Skylark" and "All The Things You Are"; it is a classic American art song to me. Just exquisite. One of my desert island discs, actually, in discussing all this, would be his album TEN EASY PIECES. I love his whole catalog, but I love TEN EASY PIECES because he took all of his hits, more or less, of the 60s and 70s and he stripped them down and treated them like a composer again - with just piano and with only an occasional additional instrument.
MM: I mean, to me, when he did a pop record, it was storytelling at its best, so to hear them that way... [Sighs.] it's just a great album.
MM: Yes. My 54 Below show is called HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, so it's songs from as far back as 1883 all the way to relatively recently with mostly a holiday, seasonal theme.
PC: That's covering a lot of ground.
MM: Yes. It's silly and it's fun and it's secular at times, too, and I like to say that it is just like putting a warm blanket around you. You know, we've had so many tragedies and triumphs and such huge ups and downs this year - I think it's been a hard year for everyone - and this show will hopefully make you feel like you have just lit the fire and you are having a nice warm beverage or a glass of wine by the fire with a blanket wrapped close around you.
PC: What a depictive description! Like a radio show.
MM: Well, you know, I did three seasons as a special guest on Garrison Keillor's show. I just love his show - it's such a throwback, of course, to the old days of radio and all of that. I mean, I can literally see my father's Philco radio that used to be up on our landing when I was a little girl when I listen to it! It's just so much fun - the silly scripts and the sound effects and it was just such a delight to do, too.
MM: Oh, he's a genius! A total, unabashed genius. He is just amazing. He writes a monologue for every single show and he writes it the day before or the night before and then he does it at the show without copy - he just remembers it all; and, it's usually this long story with plots and twists and turns and lots of details and layers and all of this stuff and he magically brings it all together at the end. Sometimes he will elaborate and go even beyond the twenty minutes, though - and, so, you have to pay attention and make sure you are following him because something will have to be cut if he goes over.
PC: The creator gets carte blanche, no doubt, in that regard.
MM: [Laughs.] Actually, I remember this one time, as he was tying up the story and tying up all the loose ends and bringing the story all together and stating the moral and everything in this eloquent way, he was going to each one of our music stands with a black magic marker editing out stuff.
PC: The work is never done.
MM: Never! Never. I couldn't believe he could even focus on two things at the same exact time like that, but he did.
PC: Have you seen Robert Altman's film of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION? It's quite an achievement.
MM: Oh, yes! I love that movie.
MM: She's a brilliant, brilliant photographer who did that - Joyce Tenneson.
PC: "On My Way To You" is an original Michel Legrand song composed for that album - another superb songwriter you have sung more than once.
MM: Oh, yes - and with lyrics by the Bergmans, too, of course. I worship the ground that they walk on - as a singer, to have those exquisite lyrics to wrap your instrument around... [Sighs.] Of course, the Bergmans have written with just the crème de la crème of composers of the 20th century - from pop to jazz; and, of course Marvin [Hamlisch], too. I will be doing "Ordinary Miracles" in my 54 Below show.
PC: Did you and Marvin ever get the chance to work together?
MM: We worked together many times, actually - and he was so wonderful. You know, he was just one of those innately, innately funny people - if you just gave him a piano and a stage he could have been a stand-up comedian. He was just so, so, so funny. But, years and years ago, we did symphonies and corporate things and benefits together. I remember that once we went to Portugal and we did a show for the international travel agents' convention. Now, most of the people in the audience did not speak English at all or did not speak it very well, but, before the show began, he did about twenty minutes of stand-up and people were falling on the floor, in the aisles, laughing hysterically! [Laughs.]
PC: What a fantastic memory.
MM: And, for me, A CHORUS LINE is just one of those shows that changed my life. It really did.
MM: Well, I'll never forget it: I was flat broke, living in Los Angeles, and I really didn't have two dimes together, so I got tickets in the very back of the house at the Shubert in LA because that's all I could afford and when Cassie sang "The Music In The Mirror" I just burst into sobs and I couldn't stop crying for the rest of the show and all the way home - it was one of those life-altering moments that theatre at its best can do and he was responsible for it, musically. And, also, I think "Ordinary Miracles" has such a profound message to it, too - the Bergmans are incredible with those kinds of things, I think.
PC: Do you ever perform any CHORUS LINE material live?
MM: Yeah, I do "At The Ballet" sometimes - I love that one, too.
PC: Your recording of Stephen Sondheim's "I Remember" is so ethereal.
MM: Thank you. The album that I did that that is on is from 1986, and, even though "The Morning After" is forty years ago this year, that album, ANOTHER WOMAN IN LOVE, that has that Sondheim piece on it - which I love - was the first album I did that the producers did not have a lot of sway over arrangements and material like they did and I really consider it my first album because of that. I remember I went into this little studio and we made the album on the basis of, "If you make your money back, fine; if you don't, fine." A friend set us up and let us do it. And, so, we recorded only songs that we loved and that was how the album was born - we recorded twelve songs and that's what is on the album. You know, they had wanted me to do a rock crossover album before that - they'd say, you know, "We just got this steel drum band that plays the 1812 overture and you have to record with them!" [Laughs.] So, at that point, that's when we said, "No. Let's do this album small-scale in a little studio on the cheap." And, so, after we recorded it, I gave the album to an executive at CBS Masterworks and I said, "Please, just listen to this away from the office, on the weekend, with a glass of wine and tell me what you think." And, she actually did and they ended up releasing the album. When that CD was released, it was the first time people stood back and said, "Oh, she really can sing - it's not just about the song, it's about the singer."
PC: You put a lot of effort into the scheme of an album, in general, clearly, then.
MM: I try to sequence the experience as best I can - you know, sometimes I will put three or four songs together to build a sort of story out of them strung all together. But, of course, then I can pull them out and sing them live individually, too. [Laughs.]
MM: Oh, yeah - with "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". Thank you.
PC: Another great contemporary songwriter you have worked with is John Bucchino, on the animated film JOSEPH: KING OF DREAMS.
MM: Oh, yes! Of course. He was wonderful to work with - so talented. That was a lot of fun to do.
PC: Did you work one on one at all?
MM: Not on that project in particular, but we have worked together at some benefits and things. He wrote "Grateful", which is a song that I absolutely love and recorded on one of my albums, also. He's a lovely, lovely writer and man.
PC: Randy Newman is another songwriter you have sung quite a bit over the years. Have you been singing any of his material recently?
MM: Well, I do "Cowboy" at my symphony engagements usually - and that song is just so, so beautiful to me. I love Randy Newman's stuff so much. [Pause. Sighs. Sings.] "And, I will always love you, Marie." That is so gorgeous. But, I love his satirical stuff, too, though - I love performing that kind of material; Tom Lehrer, too.
PC: A bit of "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park", perhaps?
MM: [Big Laugh.] Oh, yes! The one I really love, though, that I do in this 54 Below show [Sings.] "I'm spending Chanukah / In Santa Monica". [Laughs.]
MM: I am doing that in this show and I am also doing a song by another wonderful musical satirist, Jay Leonhart - you know, since it's the fortieth anniversary of "The Morning After" and I have sort of become the "Disaster Theme Queen" for life and since we seem to be going over the fiscal cliff, but hopefully not, and because of the Mayan calendar and all of that; it's an auspicious December... [Pause.] I mean, December 21 is while I'm there at 54 Below!
PC: A little eerie - and a lot ironic!
MM: I know! But, you know, I am not worried in the least - as I said, I am doing this Jay Leonhart song that addresses it all. It's called "They're Coming To Get Me" - this deliciously demented song. It's so much fun - I mean, how many times can you do "White Christmas" over and over again anyway? So, I figured, "Let's have something a little demented in this show; a little something else." So, the audience will have something a little timely and fun on Friday when we do it. It's about me communicating with... well, you'll have to see. [Laughs.]
PC: Your show certainly will cover all the bases, then! Aliens to 1880s Christmas carols.
MM: I guess so! The song from 1883 is "Mrs. Fogerty's Christmas Cake", which was written in 1883 and then became a hit later on in the 1930s because the McNulty Family used to sing it; the Irish Rovers have done it, too. It's a silly and fun little song not a lot of people know.
MM: Oh, absolutely! Sutton is just so astounding. She is Jo in her heart of hearts, I think. I mean, I saw a read-through of it early, early on, with everyone standing around reading from scripts, and, even then, she just embodied the character.
PC: You had some memorable material in that show, as well.
MM: Yeah, I really loved the two songs that I had in that - "Here Alone" and "Days Of Plenty"; they were written especially for me, too.
PC: And you can tell! They fit your voice like a glove.
MM: Jason Howland wrote such a beautiful melody for me and the lyrics by Mindi Dickstein are so moving. "Here Alone" had about five different melodies and four different sets of lyrics by the time we opened, I remember, though! [Laughs.]
PC: Such is the state of the art, no?
MM: Yes. They are both stunningly beautiful songs. I actually had a lot of fun doing the tour, too - 32 cities in a year.
Today we are talking to a versatile performer first known to the world at large through her iconic early-career movie theme recordings - singing the Oscar-winning "The Morning After" from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, as well as the classic themes from THE TOWERING INFERNO, SUPERMAN and her memorable musical moment in AIRPLANE!; in addition to her many full-length studio albums later in life - who then emerged as a compelling theatrical performer with a string of roles on Broadway, Off Broadway and in regional theater - a replacement star of NINE, as well as THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, as well as an original cast member of 1989's THE 3 PENNY OPERA, 1984's premire production of BROWNSTONE, and, most recently, a starring cast member in 2005's LITTLE WOMEN - the radiant and vocally resplendent Maureen McGovern. Looking back on her remarkable career and taking us on the journey from Hollywood to Broadway and beyond, McGovern reflects on some famous co-stars and her side of the riveting productions she participated in both onstage and onscreen, as well as opens up about some of her favorite recordings and composers to date insofar as her recording career is concerned, to say nothing of her proud position as the so-deemed self-confessed "Disaster Theme Queen". We also outline her cabaret work over the years, in anticipation of McGovern's week of shows at 54 Below, titled HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, beginning December 18 and running through December 23, where she will be sharing some of her favorite seasonal songs, new and old, as well as reviving some of her show-stopping standards and iconic movie themes and perhaps a surprise or two, too. Additionally, we touch upon her bio-musical, CARRY IT ON, her new women writer retrospective concert show and much, much more!
PC: Tommy Tune just did this column prior to his 54 Below show, so you two have more in common than just NINE these days, it seems.
PC: Had you seen the show prior to auditioning for it?
PC: What was Kaye Ballard like as a co-star?
PC: How did you become involved with PIRATES in the first place?
PC: What happened?
PC: Do you ever perform that in your concerts?
PC: Countless in sheer volume during that era.
PC: What was working together with him like, one on one?
PC: So, will your 54 Below show be predominantly Christmas material given the title?
C: What were your impressions of Garrison Keillor in performing live with him?
PC: From live radio to your studio work: your STATE OF THE HEART album may be my favorite of all. What a striking cover image, as well. Who was behind that shot?
PC: How so?
PC: Your Jimmy Webb sequence is one phenomenal example.
PC: What a rhyme!
PC: Your most recent Broadway appearance was in LITTLE WOMEN, co-starring breakout Broadway star Sutton Foster. Did you enjoy your experience working with her on that show?
PC: What was that like? Yet another new experience.
PC: What was that like? Yet another new experience.
MM: Well, it was a lot of hard work and sometimes it really was exhausting, but, when you are on tour, you really all bond like a family - it's a wonderful experience for me to have had, I think. PC: Speaking of which: what liturgical Christmas material is a part of your HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS 54 Below show? You have a little bit of it all. PC: Coming up next: is there a future for your bio-musical, CARRY IT ON? PC: "The Morning After" appears in the show, no doubt, yes? PC: As someone who has crossed multiple genres, I'm curious what you think of GLEE and SMASH and the new era of performance-based entertainment on TV in general? PC: An instructive point. Will HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS this be your first time at 54 Below?
PC: Kim Scharnberg is so talented, as well, as far as the music end of that show goes.
MM: Oh, his arrangements and orchestrations are just spectacular.
PC: His work with Linda Eder is spectacular, as well.
MM: Oh, her "Do You Hear What I Hear?", especially, is just thrilling! She is fantastic.
MM: We are doing an adaptation of "O Holy Night" that my musical director did that is combined with a setting of a poem that he found that he wrote - it's like a classical art song that leads into "O Holy Night". It's beautiful. One Christmas I was in New York and I had donated to Covenant House and they said, "If you'd like to come to midnight mass, we have our donors and everyone come together for that," and, so, I thought, "That would be a lovely thing." And, so, I called and said, "I will be in town and I'll be coming and I'd love to sing." And, so, they said, "No. We're sorry. We have it all set already." And, so, I said, "Could I talk to the musical director? Could you have him call me?" And, so, they did. The next day I got a call and I answered the phone and he said, "Is this the Maureen McGovern?" and I said, "Yes. It's the Maureen McGovern. Can I be a part of your show?" and, he said, "Oh, by all means! We would love you to be!" And, so, I did - and it was really sweet and we did some carols and that "O Holy Night". I'll always remember that, at the reception afterwards, these two little biddies came up to me and said, "You know, young lady, that is not how that song goes!" And I said, "Merry Christmas to you, too!" [Big Laugh.]
PC: You can't win sometimes! What else can we expect in HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS?
MM: Well, I will be doing "Mary, Did You Know?", which I think is just a beautiful song, too. I love that song. I remember seeing Reba McEntire sing that song on a Christmas special that I had on in the background while I was packing to go away for Christmas and just stopping everything and going, "Oh, my God! What is this song?!"
PC: It's so powerful.
MM: It is! It really puts a point onto a Christmas carol, which I love.
PC: So, is this show specially designed for 54 Below or do you have a Christmas show?
MM: Well, I have a regular Christmas show that I usually do, but this has a part of that in it and a lot of material we are doing especially for here, as well.
MM: Yeah, I think so. We had a wonderful time doing it at Arena Stage and that was basically just the concert version of it. Then, after that, we went up to Huntington and I received an award for it, actually - we had a great time and even broke some records up there for it. So, after that, we did it in Rochester and just this last spring we did it in New Jersey and had a great time doing it there, so we'll see what happens. At this point, we are just looking for a producer to help us take it on the road. You know, most of the time, people go way, way out of town to do something, and, me, I go to Arena Stage! [Laughs.]
PC: Is it even more challenging to do than a standard musical given that you perform such a large amount of material all by yourself?
MM: Oh, it's like walking a tightrope every night! The train leaves the station and for 100 minutes I am talking and singing, more or less - the only break is to have a quick drink of water or to have a quick aside. So, it's basically my life experience along with the life experience of the rest of the boomers, all set to the music of the boomers. We're really anxious to do it on the road.
MM: I do "The Morning After" at the end - yes. I do have to say, I still get letters about that song from people - I guess because it is kind of a generic kind of hope song, it is a kind of panacea for all the suffering out there in the world for people groing through all kinds of suffering. People write to me to this day about it. I have to admit that, while I was always grateful for the song and loved the song, that I was always kind of amazed by the way people reacted to it. You know, I did the Jerry Lewis telethon for many, many years and I did "The Morning After" almost every year, but, one year, my youngest niece was diagnosed with one of the forty or so diseases that they cover - and, luckily, one of the MDA doctors was in Ohio, so, now, she is in remission and she is thriving and is doing great; swimming and biking - but, when she was first diagnosed with it, I had to sing "The Morning After" that year and I could barely get through it - and that was my a-ha moment for what that song really means. We have so much thanks to give as a family to the MDA - my family is so, so grateful to them.
PC: What a touching story. What can we expect from your upcoming engagements following 54 Below?
MM: Well, I have two shows that I am currently doing at the moment - THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD is one and I am also working on an all-woman composer/songwriter show called MAKE YOUR OWN KIND OF MUSIC.
PC: What can we expect from that new show as far as musical material, specifically?
MM: Oh, so much. It starts with Ella Fitzgerald, who, of course, wrote some of her own material; then, Kay Swift - we cover so much material in the show; Cyndi Lauper to Dolly Parton to Joni Mitchell. A great wealth of songs.
MM: Well, I think GLEE and SMASH, particularly, motivate more bodies to be in theatre and to go to theatre - and, you know, for example, a lot of the symphony companies in this country are in a lot of trouble, so I always try to get people to go to the symphony as much as possible so it will still be there when you want to go and I think those shows help all of that. And, I think GLEE is an incredible show and SMASH is just great, too. As for AMERICAN IDOL and all of that, though, I don't even know how to put it - I try to tune in from time to time, but I just get so nervous for the kids that it is too much for me! I mean, I know what it is like to be at the beginning of your career like they are and... [Pause.] I just hope they are protected.
PC: You can commiserate since you were so young when you had your virtual overnight success, undoubtedly.
MM: And made a contract with a manager who took forty percent of my earnings! [Laughs.] Yeah! So, I just send good vibes out into the universe for those kids that they don't have that happen to them - I wish them all the luck in the world, because the journey really is worth it.
PC: What are your thoughts on the over-singing so prevalent these days - pervasive melisma and scales and so on?
MM: Listen, I am a storyteller, so anything that gets in the way of the story I am not interested in. You know, for instance, Ella Fitzgerald would state the melody and then take us somewhere else after that, rather than just start off going someplace else! [Laughs.]
MM: Yes! And, I am so excited. Friends who have played there have just raved about it, so I can't wait to do it and I hope I'll be able to come back.
PC: Lastly: AIRPLANE! lives on for a whole new generation to experience now on DVD and Blu-ray, in case you weren't aware...
MM: [Laughs. Sings.] "R-E-S-P-E-C-T. / Find out what it means to me."
PC: Perfection! This was marvelous, Maureen. Thank you so much for this today.
MM: Thank you so much, Pat. This was so much fun. Happy Holidays! Bye bye.
PC: Speaking of which: what liturgical Christmas material is a part of your HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS 54 Below show? You have a little bit of it all.
PC: Coming up next: is there a future for your bio-musical, CARRY IT ON?
PC: "The Morning After" appears in the show, no doubt, yes?
PC: As someone who has crossed multiple genres, I'm curious what you think of GLEE and SMASH and the new era of performance-based entertainment on TV in general?
PC: An instructive point. Will HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS this be your first time at 54 Below?
Photo Credits: Walter McBride, etc.