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ActorQuest 12 - Kristin Takes Part in 'Dames' Benefit!

In November, Kristin Huffman made her Broadway debut as Sarah (flute, piccolo and sax) in John Doyle's production of Company.  The actress continues her collection of stories about a 15-year career that has led her to the door of the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

DAMES

Can I just tell you that I am still in awe of being on Broadway? The luster has NOT worn off!  Just this week the ladies of COMPANY participated in the "Nothing Like a Dame" benefit concert for Broadway Cares/Equity fights AIDS.  The fact that I was even mentioned as one of the "Ladies of Broadway" just blew my mind! 

There were such notables as Liz Callaway, Jennifer Holliday, Lynn Redgrave and our own Barbara Walsh!  And while I am sure that sitting in the audience was wonderful, seeing all those great ladies behind the scenes was the coolest thing ever.

I am a bit of a geek in this regard actually. "Star Struck" for all the biggies that I meet.   I have been keeping a list of all the celebs that have come to our own show.  It includes more than 50 names such as Bernadette Peters, Glenn Close, Helen Miren, Helen Hunt, Angela Lansbury, Judy Collins, and some famous men too. 

But for the Monday night charity gig, it was the woman who stopped me in my tracks.  All were just lovely and contributed their time so generously.  Mary-Mitchell Campbell was the conductor in the Pit and we felt a certain pride and ownership of her since she is our COMPANY arranger.  This brings up a good point though.  The Pit.  We don't have one in our show because we play all our instruments on stage and the first thing we all did when we walked into the Marquis theatre was go "Oooo a Pit!   And a curtain…and a backstage… and wings!…Wow".   

As you may know, in COMPANY we have none of those things and it works for us!  Simple and elegant. But it was the consensus among us the night of the benefit that it felt interesting being on a stage with all those 'real theatre' things.  Sometimes my friends will say, "Can you believe you are on Broadway?"  Most of the time I answer that sometimes I think of it that way, and sometimes I just think of it as a great, artistic job, that just happens to have its home on Broadway.

Hearing the announcer for the benefit call us the "Ladies of Broadway" really brought it all home though.  To imagine that I might ever be included in that list of real Broadway ladies is wild!   And the good cause that everyone was performing for was a huge incentive to keep doing all of this!

Behind the scenes, I got to meet Jennifer Holiday in the Green Room.  A few of us were eating some of the great food there and she came in to check it all out and say hello. When she went on stage to sing "And I am telling you I'm not going" we watched from the wings. A whole clump of us started watching in one wing, and as she moved forward on the stage that whole clump moved to the next wing.  It happened three times. Finally one of the backstage guys had to move us so that he could do his job, but it was amazing to see the performance that close up!   One of the men from SPELLING BEE was there and had seen COMPANY in previews and was just so sweet in his comments to us. As we were waiting to go on for our number I stood near Lynn Redgrave. Gorgeous in person. And tall! All the celebs seem to be so short, but she was my height and just lovely.  Gracious to all of us. 

While it would have made a great story, I can honestly say that there was not one Prima Donna in the crowd.  Even the glorious opera singer from the Met, Joyce DiDonato ,who sang an aria from La Cenerentola, was just as nice as she could be and complimented us on our number too!

Speaking of which, our very own Leenya Rideout  (Jenny, pot-smoking wife) arranged the Carly Simon song, "Let the River Run" for us.  Our very talented understudies got into the act as well.  We sang AND played of course!  In the middle of the piece Leenya wrote a little Celtic jig for the violins and flute. I played it on piccolo and imagined that the sound guys hated me for playing that high and loud.   We only had one rehearsal that day and I am sure it must've been hard for them to gage everyone's sound for both singing and playing.  We actually only rehearsed our number a few times before that as I am sure many of the acts did, but it all worked out fine. That was largely due to the terrific leadership of the director for the event, Donna Drake!

Wore my Opening Night gown again.  Got it on sale at Lord and Taylor and I was really glad that I had left it hanging in my dressing room since November so that I didn't have to lug it all the way from Connecticut. My dressing roommate in COMPANY, Kelly Jean Grant, might have felt differently about that though! Everyone wore a pretty, long gown for our number and just seemed like they were beaming to be a part of the event.  Since so many actors in our cast have gotten their Broadway debuts with COMPANY, I found that I wasn't the only one who was excited to be called one of the "Ladies of Broadway". 

Afterwards, we all headed to the party at Johnny's Pizza.  More free food and drinks! And THIS food was AMAZING.  I really piled on the calamari and pizza. No jokes about how much I am like my character, "Sarah". While we were there I got a chance to chat with Milena Govich, from Law and Order.  She is just as down to earth as can be, and STUNNING in person!  She performed in CABARET when it was on Broadway with some of our COMPANY folks and so we got a few pictures taken with her too.

As I left the party I started counting my blessings. Using your talents to make money for a great cause, meeting celebrities AND getting free food.  It just doesn't get any better than that!

Photos by Linda Lenzi
1) Leenya Rideout, Kristin Huffman and Elizabeth Stanley at "Nothing Like a Dame"
2) Kristin Huffman, Leenya Rideout, Renee Bang Allen and Milena Govich at "Nothing Like a Dame"


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