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BWW Interview: Marc Shaiman Preps for THE 54 BELOW SHOW and Wraps Up ROCK BOTTOM! Plus- Will CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Arrive on Broadway?

54 Below, Broadway's Supper Club, presents its newest late night event, THE 54 BELOW SHOW. The new series launches on Friday, October 17 at 11:30PM with inaugural host, Tony Award winner Marc Shaiman (HAIRSPRAY, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN). Cover starts at $20 with a $25 food & beverage minimum.

Before "The Tonight Show," before "Saturday Night Live," before "Your Show of Shows" and "The Ed Sullivan Show," variety shows played live in venues across America. Matching the humor, quick pace, and familiar faces of a televised variety show with the intimate, underground feel of a supper club, "The 54 Below Show" brings the live variety show back to its roots with an only-in-New York experience not to be missed.

Shaiman recently chatted with BroadwayWorld about what to expect from the upcoming show, and you can check out the full interview below!


How did this come about? Was this your concept or did 54 Below come to you?

They came to me. I think we are still formulating what it is. We want something that will appeal to the theatre community as a place to go after the shows. There are a lot of great things happening in the city- whether they're at Birdland or Joe's Pub or even there at 54 Below. This is going to be an experiment of a loose version of a standard show. There's not a host introducing one singer after another. They're hoping to create a more relaxed version of that- where people can schmooze and hang out and realize, "Oh, look! There's so-and-so singing a song!"

I think people are expecting some awesome guests, considering the amazing people you've worked with throughout your career. Can you give us any hints as to who might be stopping by?

Well I think they came to me because they think of my phone book as some Holy Grail [Laughs]. So I did ask some people from my phone book to join me and I honestly don't even know who might show up on Friday. I know of a few who might. I cast a large net. They are hoping that this will happen a few times, so I can say to my friends, "Well if not this time, maybe the next!"

If Friday night doesn't embarrass me or 54 Below, it might happen again, or it might happen again with other hosts. I think some of the press has made it seem like I'm the new Ed Sullivan and I'll be there every night. That's not the case.

So you're not necessarily going to be a part of this series throughout?

No, I might bail after 20 minutes on Friday night [Laughs]! I don't think I will though. I have enough songs in my back pocket that if no one shows up and it's just me, I can sing all of my party favor songs. Whether it be a song I wrote about my mother being excited that my sister married a doctor, or my weight problem- the song I wrote with Bette Midler...I've got enough.

I don't want it to be like the shows that I've done in the past or the ones I want to do in the future with symphony orchestras, where it's truly a retrospective of everything I've ever worked on. I don't want it to be a: "And then I wrote..." I have plans for that kind of show. I'm sure there will be a lot of laughs.

Will there be a lot from the Shaiman/Wittman songbook?

No. I told people, "If you can show up, that's the most important. If you can sing something I wrote or something from me or Scott, or even a standard that we love that'd be great." I'd imagine that something might come up in the moment. In my younger days I used to know every song ever written and could play it in any key, but my mind has atrophied since then [Laughs]. Let's hope I can pull it off!

Do you have favorite host that you'll been channeling?

All I can ever hope to be is just half of Seth Rudetsky- that's all I can ever hope for. No, after reading the description of the show I thought, "Well do I need to hire a ventriloquist and work on my plate spinning?" I hope that by Friday night there won't be a terrible disaster.

I know you and Scott [Wittman] were a big part of ROCK BOTTOM, which I think wraps up later this week. What was that experience of creating that like for you?

It's been absolutely phenomenal. The kind of material that Bridget does and what we co-wrote with her is what Scott and I used to do when we first moved to New York. It was kind of the beginning of the East Village art performance scene. Like the birth of Wigstock and the Pyramid Club- they were all places where freaks could cohort. We were happily amongst that group of people who were too theatrical for rock and roll and too rock and roll for theatre. We just found our own niche there and that's where Scott and I started writing together.

It really wasn't until the South Park movie that I got to revisit that side of my sense of humor in a bizarrely mainstream way. HAIRSPRAY was even a descendent of that, because the people that used to see and be a part of our shows in the East Village, when they came to see HAIRSPRAY twenty years later were just like, "Wow, it's just like a Club 57 show but with a budget." John Waters' sensibility was very much like the kind of stuff that we were doing, which is why we were a perfect match to musicalize it.

Bridget has been so phenomenal for Scott and I to get back in touch with that side of ourselves. It's been too long under-wraps as we've gotten into more and more corporate entertainment, either on TV with SMASH or with CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. They've been wonderful, but you can't quite talk about the things that we talk about in Bridget's show, which I couldn't possibly even say to you now!

People have come up to us and said "Oh, it's so great how you've helped Bridget." And we're like "Are you crazy? We're so grateful for what she's done for us!" Just to have so much fun working on something and to not be scared about what you're gonna write and say and sing about... there are no boundaries. She's so fearless that we've gotten so much more out of it than anything we have brought to her.

Other than THE 54 BELOW SHOW, what else are you working on?

Yes, I have a Bette Midler record that I produced that's coming out soon. So I'll have to do some appearances to promote that. It comes out in November and it's called 'It's the Girls.'

Yes, we've been getting very excited about that here!

It came out great and we are very proud of it. I hope people like it. And I hope people BUY it! I really wanted to be a part of making a Bette Midler album like the ones that made me a Bette Midler fanatic when I was fourteen. One that you just want to put on and lip sync around the living room to.

So that will take up the rest of the year, and then Scott and I are moments away from saying 'yes' to any number of musicals that we've been flirting with to write. And then, I'm happy to say that CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is most definitely coming to America, and we're going to get to work on making adjustments for its Broadway unveiling.

Bottom line -why should people head to 54 Below to see the 54 Below Show?

For my ego! If people don't show up I'll walk straight into the Hudson River that night [Laughs]! I like to have a good time and my friends like to have a good time and that's the only goal. We want to share music and laughs. And if people like it then we'll eventually get through my whole phone book, A to Z!


To make reservations for "The 54 Below Show," visit www.54below.com. Cover starts at $20 with a $25 food & beverage minimum.

Shaiman along with Scott Wittman, was recently honored by The NY Pops at Carnegie Hall. Shaiman is a Tony, Grammy, Emmy winning and Oscar-nominated composer/lyricist, producer, arranger and orchestrator. His Broadway credits include Hairspray, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me andCatch Me If You Can. His West End credits include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Television credits include "Saturday Night Live" ("The Sweeney Sisters"), Johnny Carson's final "Tonight Show" with Bette Midler, multiple Billy Crystal and Neil Patrick Harris Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award numbers and most recently NBC musical drama "Smash." Film credits include When Harry Met Sally; Beaches; Misery; The Addams Family; City Slickers; A Few Good Men; Sister Act; Sleepless in Seattle; The First Wives Club; Patch Adams; South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; Hairspray; The Bucket List; andParental Guidance. Recording credits include Bette Midler, Harry Connick Jr. and Mariah Carey. He wrote music & lyrics for Prop 8:The Musical for Funny or Die. His concert and cabaret credits include Christine Ebersole, Patti LuPone, Darlene Love, Jenifer Lewis, Andrea Martin, Barbra Streisand and Luther Vandross.


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