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InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & More

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MoreToday we are talking to a legendary Tony Award-winning leading lady famous for a few of the most iconic roles in some of the most memorable musicals of the 1980s and 1990s as well as a versatile vocalist and concert performer set to make her solo cabaret debut later this month - the ingratiating Randy Graff. Looking back at originating the role of Fantine in the original Broadway production of mega-hit mega musical LES MISERABLES and singing the unforgettable "I Dreamed A Dream" eight times a week (and on the best-selling cast recording) as well as recounting her Tony Award-winning work in the endlessly entertaining Cy Coleman/David Zippel musical comedy CITY OF ANGELS, Graff share stories from behind the scenes and gives us a rare look at theatrical history in the making byway of her elemental role in both productions. Additionally, Graff opens up about some of her other most fondly remembered work, including her fantastic turns in Ed Kleban's A CLASS ACT, William Finn's FALSETTOS, Cole Porter's HIGH SOCIETY, the stage play and documentary MOON OVER BUFFALO co-starring Carol Burnett, the most recent revival of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and much more. Most importantly, Graff generously outlines what we can expect from her upcoming solo shows at NYC hotspot 54 Below titled MADE IN BROOKLYN, in what will actually be the stalwart star's solo show premiere. In addition to all of that, Graff also touches upon some of her big screen and small screen work, ranging from LAW & ORDER to RENT, as well as recounts some theatrical tales involving theatre greats such as Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Cy Coleman, William Finn and more. All of that and much, much more awaits in this rich resume-recounting retrospective with one of Broadway's best!

More information on Randy Graff's MADE IN BROOKLYN at 54 Below on February 17 and March 5 is available at the official site here.

You Can Always Count On Her

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: This is your solo 54 Below debut, is it not?

RG: Oh, yeah, baby! This is my solo cabaret debut, actually - I've never, ever done this and I have been thinking about it for over 30 years now. It's hilarious how long it has taken. I almost did it back in the '80s because David Friedman is a dear friend of mine and he was going to be my musical director, so we went to Alan Menken's apartment - and this was Alan Menken before he was the Alan Menken - and they gave me a song called "Juan" and then some friends of mine wrote me a song, but then it all kind of went away. So, I would go see friends of mine do their cabaret acts and everything - and do them really well - but, the desire for me to do something in that arena just never was there for me then. It just never was there for me. So, I felt like you really had to have a desire to do something like that. With the opening of 54 Below, they asked me when I was going to do something and then more and more of my friends were doing shows there and saying to me, "Oh, Randy, you have to do a show there! You have to do a show there!" Judy Kaye, actually, used to constantly say to me, "When are you gonna do a show there?!" And, I'd say, "Eh, I don't really want to do it - I am not really into cabaret, I just want to do a book show!" [Laughs.]

PC: It took a while to convert you.

RG: Yeah. So, for about the past year I have been seriously, seriously thinking about it - and, also, my husband agreed to do it with me. And, I have to say, Tim [Weil] agreeing to be my music director brings the whole cool quotient way up! He's just a lot cooler than I am - in the sense that I am the Broadway girl and he's the, you know, RENT guy. We are a good match - we make a good team.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Is your husband how you became involved with the RENT movie in your cameo role?

RG: Well, they actually called me up to do the RENT movie to play the voice of Mark's mother, Mrs. Cohen - but, I don't know why they wanted me. I am a big fan of RENT and a big fan of Jonathan Larson, but I always just thought, "That's not a show for me - I'm too old!" But, when they needed someone to play Mrs. Cohen, Bernie Telsey called me in and I auditioned without showing myself at all - just using my voice. So, then, Chris Columbus actually hired me! I remember talking to Michael Greif about doing the movie and he said, "Just remember, she's Midwestern!" So, I basically just modeled it on Barbara Barrie, who is one of my acting idols - we met during FIDDLER and became friends on that; we actually have the same birthday. So, doing the voice of Mrs. Cohen, I had the voice of Barbara Barrie in my head the whole time.

PC: You pay tribute to another Barbara - this one spelled Barbra - in your new MADE IN BROOKLYN show, do you not?

RG: Yes, I certainly do. Here's the thing: she's my biggest influence. I mean, I am a Jewish girl from Brooklyn and she is a Jewish girl from Brooklyn and any girl who grew up in Brooklyn wanted to be her - wanted to be Barbra Streisand. I don't want to give away too much because I tell a great story about this in the show, but all through my life she would be who I would be singing along to in the car and always trying to emulate all the time. I remember straining - straining - to try and hit some of those notes and not even coming close, though! I remember listening to "The Way We Were" with the windows down and just thinking, "How does she sound like that?"

PC: Do you have a favorite album if forced to choose just one?

RG: MY NAME IS BARBRA. It's still my favorite after all these years. And, they are theatre songs, most of them! "My Pa" is just thrilling. "I Can See It", too. I love it all.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: What is the actual theme of MADE IN BROOKLYN?

RG: Well, my concept for the show is that all the songs are either written by or made famous by someone born in Brooklyn - that's the through-line. It's anecdotal and I tell stories about growing up in Brooklyn, too. The songs are eclectic - it goes from Harry Nilsson to Betty Comden to George Gershwin through to the Brill Building songwriters like Carol King and Burt Bacharach, too.

PC: What are some specific songs we can anticipate hearing?

RG: "Once In A Lifetime" from SUBWAYS ARE FOR SLEEPING. Also, we do a Brill Building medley - "One Fine Day" going into "This Magic Moment" going into "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" going into "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do".

PC: Were you an Eydie Gorme fan, then, I take it, too?

RG: Oh, yeah! I do "Blame It On The Bossa Nova" in honor of Eydie - absolutely.

PC: What else?

RG: I do "Isn't It A Pity?" and "Somebody Loves Me" by the Gershwins. We also do "What Matters Most", with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman - Marilyn Bergman is from Brooklyn, of course. We do three Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs, too - we do "Close To You", "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" and "Alfie"; I just love that music so much.

PC: Will "Next Best Thing To Love" from A CLASS ACT make an appearance?

RG: Unfortunatley not - I couldn't find a Brooklyn connection for that. Since you asked about it, though, I'll tell you that I remember the first time I ever heard that song - it was on an audio cassette and Lonny Price played it for me and I said, "I'll do the show if I sing that song." I hadn't seen the script and didn't know anything about the show. [Laughs.] It's just such a beautiful, beautiful song. The only song from my past that will be in the 54 Below show will be "You Can Always Count On Me" [from CITY OF ANGELS], though.

PC: Will you be bringing MADE IN BROOKLYN to other venues in the future?

RG: That's the hope! That's the hope - to bring it around to other places around the country.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Could you recount the story about you and famed theatre critic John Simon for us? You two seem to have quite a famous association, no?

RG: Of course. Let's see, I remember that Michael Bush had put together an evening of songs and I sang "I Won't Mind". Afterwards, there was a reception. Now, I didn't know what John Simon looked like; I didn't know what he sounded like - come to find out, he is Eastern European and has a thick accent. So, I see this elderly man coming up to me and then he says, "Randy Graff, I am John Simon." And, then, he broke down in tears! He was so moved by my performance of Jeff Blumenkrantz's song that he absolutely broke down in tears in front of me, weeping. So, you know, I just held him!

PC: What a visceral reaction to your performance!

RG: Yeah! It was something. But, after that, everything changed. He became a big fan of mine. After that, he came to see me in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at the Kennedy Center, too.

PC: What happened then?

RG: I remember that I was in costume - we were in between shows, at the cafeteria. I remember I had full make-up on and a scarf over my head for my wig prep. He came up to me on the cafeteria line and he said, "Randy, I am John Simon." And I said, "Yes, I remember meeting you, Mr. Simon." And, then, he said, "I just wrote a piece on you," and, let me tell you, it was like the best piece written on me ever! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: I remember reading it - it is rare for a critic to praise a performer quite so highly as he often did with you!

RG: It is. I wish I could find it now! It was in OPERA NEWS - an interview he did. They asked him who his favorite performer was and he said it was me. Then, they asked him why and he said something like, "Because she isn't beautiful in the sense that you would do a double-take if you saw her on the street, but when she gets onstage it's everything that wasn't physical that makes her special." It was much more eloquent than that - but that was what he said about me, more or less.

PC: High praise, indeed!

RG: At the time, a girlfriend of mine said, "Aren't you offended?" and, I said, "No! He's talking about my soul - he's not talking about physical beauty but everything else that I bring to the stage. That's the biggest compliment anyone can give me!" To me, if someone can claim to see my soul onstage - like he did in that - then, really, my job is done. But, yes, he became my biggest fan after that. It was an incredible moment for me to meet him like that, too - I mean, this man who had just written the cruelest things about me over the years was here, in front of me, absolutely weeping! Weeping! I didn't know what else to do but embrace him like one person comforting another - and that was the moment that changed everything.

PC: The Sondheim Celebration itself was a momentous occasion.

RG: [Sighs.] It was! It was the most magnificent Fourth Of July I've ever seen - I mean, the fireworks over the Capitol Building?! It was just magical - a magical summer. It was the highlight of my professional life.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Would you like to do A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC again, perhaps as Desiree?

RG: Absolutely! Absolutely. To be honest, though, I'd want to play the Countess again, probably - I don't want to play Desiree! [Laughs.]

PC: The first theatre actress to ever utter those words!

RG: I know! I know. Obviously, I'm too old now, but I only got 13 performances as the Countess and I just wanted more. More!

PC: Did you get to work with Sondheim one-on-one at all working on that show?

RG: He is so generous - and, Hal Prince is the same way. They're totally comfortable with themselves - there is no ego there. Working with Stephen Sondheim is terrific, though - he really knows how to talk to actors and he really understands the actor's process. On A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, he gave me a note about an adjustment for the Countess - a big adjustment, and this was going to be a preview performance. So, I thought, "Oh, God," and I said to him, "Is it OK that, since this is such a big adjustment, can I kind of just creep up on it?" and, he said, "Absolutely!" And, he could see I was nervous, so as he was walking away, he said, "Don't worry - it's just a musical." Can you believe it? Stephen Sondheim saying, "It's just a musical!" like that?! So, after the preview, he gave me a hug and said, "Good girl!" and I thought, "All right! My life is complete! I got a 'Good girl' from Steve Sondheim!" [Big Laugh.]

PC: How delightful.

RG: As a matter of fact, now that I am thinking about it, I have a funny story about being an acting coach for Stephen Sondheim, too... you know the movie CAMP?

PC: Of course! A great modern movie musical, for sure.

RG: Well, he has a cameo in it and it was written and directed by my cousin Todd [Graff], and my husband Tim [Weil] was the musical director on it. This was a little after Steve and I had worked together on A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and I was there for the filming of the scene where he gets out of the car - it was a night shoot - and Steve said, "My dear friend and acting coach, Mia Farrow, is not here." Then, he turned to me and said, "Hey, Randy, you know something about this, what would you do in this scene?" And, all I said to him was, "Well, how do you feel coming back to camp?" And, he put his hand on his chin and said, "Hmm. Interesting!" So, I got to see it from his point of view. But, isn't it wonderful that he did that scene? That was all real - when he pulls up in the car and the kids start screaming and everything. All real. There was no acting going on there, obviously! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Anna Kendrick made an early mark in that film, as well.

RG: I know! I call her Anna Banana because we worked together in HIGH SOCIETY before that, too - when she was 11-years-old!

PC: You two are like old friends! Were you immediately impressed with her when you first met?

RG: Oh, of course! From the minute she opened her mouth, it was like Elaine Stritch or something - she had that same kind of brilliant comic timing, even as a child. I remember that some of the cast and I would just be studying - studying - her in rehearsal! [Laughs.]

PC: Trying to pick up a few tips, right?

RG: Yeah! Like, "How did she get this good?!" She was always right on the money and some of us would exchange looks when she really nailed something - we just knew the minute that she opened her mouth and landed her first joke like that that she was going places. And, she got a Tony nomination! I remember we took her out dress shopping at Betsey Johnson.

PC: Was it a particularly wild Betsey Johnson creation?

RG: Oh, no, no - this was a tame Betsey Johnson! [Laughs.]

PC: She is starring in two movie musicals coming out this year, INTO THE WOODS and THE LAST FIVE YEARS - what are your thoughts on the modern movie musical revolution?

RG: I think it's fantastic - just fantastic! It's turning people on to musical theatre - especially all these kids out in the boonies who never get to see it. It's carrying on the great tradition of movie musicals, too. I think it's great that it's happening - I'm really glad.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Would you like to be a part of one of the filmed or live productions now regularly being shown in movie theaters, perhaps?

RG: Oh, I think that would be so exciting and fun!

PC: Perhaps there will be a role suited to you in NBC's upcoming PETER PAN!

RG: Oh, I'd love to do that! I think what Craig [Zadan] and Neil [Meron] are doing is just fantastic.

PC: On that topic, what does the original Broadway Fantine think of the 2012 film adaptation of LES MISERABLES - especially the live singing aspect employed in it?

RG: [Laughs.] When I went to see it, I went with my cousin, Todd, to see the very first screening of it in the US. So, Tom Hooper came out and he said that he had just finished editing it at 3 in the morning - it was the day after Thanksgiving. So, we were the first audience to see it. I remember that after Anne Hathaway sang "I Dreamed A Dream", I turned to my best friend who was there with us and I said, "She is going to win the Oscar."

PC: And, she did!

RG: I said it - and I meant it! I thought Anne Hathaway was just fantastic. Honestly, I had some problems with the movie, but I thought Anne was just great.

PC: Did you think the shifting of some of the material worked well, particularly for "I Dreamed A Dream"?

RG: Oh, absolutely. She starts singing that song after being raped in a coffin - I mean, what a place to start that song!

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Do you think those changes would work well onstage?

RG: I think they should try it - at least for that scene. I think that it ups the stakes even more - I mean, being through all that? I think it makes it even more powerful.

PC: Looking back, what would you do off-stage as Fantine given the character's very short amount of stage time?

RG: Well, I actually talk about this in my new 54 Below Show, even though it is not a show business act - it's really about me growing up in Brooklyn - but I do tell one show business story in it about when Barbra Streisand came to see LES MIZ.

PC: What is the story?

RG: First of all, you have to know the profound impact that Barbra Streisand has had on me - since I was 12-years-old and I first heard her sing. I remember I got chills and I had never gotten chills listening to someone sing before. So, then, to be singing "I Dreamed A Dream" for her - with her sitting in the audience, in the fifth row on the aisle?! I remember they ushered her in in the dark when the house lights came down and she was wearing a pink angora beret - I remember it like it was yesterday! She was all curled up in her seat like a little girl - not sitting straight up like a regular person. It was so cute.

PC: Were you anticipating her arrival? Did you know she would be coming to see the show at that particular performance?

RG: Oh, I knew! I knew! [Laughs.] And, I knew she was going to be wearing a pink angora beret, too, so I was scoping out the theater.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Did you assume she would cover "I Dreamed A Dream", then?

RG: We all took bets backstage, actually! We ended up agreeing that she should probably sing "Bring Him Home".

PC: She recorded "On My Own", as you probably know.

RG: I know, I know - but, wouldn't she sound amazing on "Bring Him Home"? I'd love to hear her do that.

PC: Speaking of theatrical greats, tell me your Leonard Bernstein story.

RG: Oh, it was very brief - very brief! We were both at a preview for SWEENEY TODD - the original - and it was intermission and he had a pipe and he was emptying his pipe into one of the ashtrays at the Uris Theater, now the Gershwin. So, we had all just come out for intermission and I said to him, "Good, right?" and he looked at me and said, "I'm jealous."

PC: Another great composer you have worked with is William Finn - how did you first become involved with him?

RG: A long time ago, upstairs at the old Playwrights Horizons - before it was all remodeled and fancy - they were doing a show about the Depression and a soup kitchen... I don't even remember what it was called.

PC: The proto-ROMANCE IN HARD TIMES - was it then called AMERICA KICKS UP ITS HEELS or was it even before that?

RG: It was even before that! I remember I was in it with Julie Budd - before they did it with Patti [LuPone] - and we were in this tiny little room up at Playwrights Horizons, where MARCH OF THE FALSETTOS originated. I remember that there was a guy directing it named Ben and it was a really unique kind of show.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: I'd wager it's probably Finn's finest score.

RG: Gorgeous! Gorgeous. "That's Enough For Me"? Gorgeous.

PC: Did you enjoy working with Finn on a personal level?

RG: I think he's a genius. I am very, very fond of Bill Finn. I remember the first time I ever auditioned for him I sang "Where Or When" and he jumped up and said, [Gruff Voice.] "I love your voice! I love your voice!" [Laughs.]

PC: Just the reaction you were looking for!

RG: Yeah! I remember thinking, "Wow! This guy is a little hyper!" But, yeah, I am very, very fond of Bill. So, anyway, after the soup kitchen show, I read Trina in the very first reading of FALSETTOLAND and then I read Trina in the very first reading of FALSETTOS, when they put the two shows together - over at the West Bank Theater. A long time ago now. Also, I remember I used to do backer's auditions with Bill trying to get backers for ROMANCE IN HARD TIMES and I would do "That's Enough For Me". So, I was his go-to girl for a long time. Then, when Barbara Walsh left FALSETTOS, they asked me to do Trina.

PC: That was easy!

RG: Oh, it's so fantastic when that happens - when they just ask you to do something and you don't even need to audition. So, Bill was very loyal to me. But, then, I rehearsed for two weeks and went into the show and lost my voice.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: What happened? Was it one song or section in particular? "Holding To The Ground" alone is a pretty tricky sing.

RG: It was the whole thing - going in in two weeks; and, not having sufficient rehearsal to work that score into your voice. And, if I ever had to sing Trina again, I'd do it differently - your voice changes so much as you get older and you sing differently; and, women don't belt the way they used to anymore as they age. I mix a lot more than I used to now, you know? So, if I had the voice that I have now, I maybe would not have lost it. But, you know, Bill likes his belting girls and he likes that sound - he really hears those notes a certain way in his head and he wants to hear them belted. So, when you have a full rehearsal period, then you have a chance to work all that stuff into your voice, but I only had two weeks - which is what everybody has, but it wasn't about learning to act the role or sing the role, it was mostly about learning how to move the furniture around! [Laughs.]

PC: That was a big part of the original staging, of course.

RG: I felt like a furniture mover! [Laughs.] But, yeah - I lost my voice. The stress in replacing and getting it up that fast added to it all. So, I went on Prednisone and came back and did the show. I didn't have any damage or anything.

PC: More recently, you also performed Finn's ELEGIES, yes?

RG: Oh, yeah - I loved ELEGIES. I did that in 2007 - me, Liz Callaway and Malcolm Gets, out in LA. That's another gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous score. I sang Betty Buckley's part.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Did performing "Looking Up" pose any problems? It's written awfully high for a belter like yourself!

RG: I mixed it! I mixed it. I think that was my favorite song to do, though - it's just beautiful and so moving.

PC: The sort of mini-musical about the mother is a great sequence of songs, too.

RG: You're right - it is. I just loved doing ELEGIES.

PC: Looking ahead, is there a role in particular you are dying to take on? You have recently done HELLO, DOLLY...

RG: Oh, I would love to do Dolly again! I only got to do it for two weeks at the Muny when we did it. Lee Roy Reams directed and thank God he did because we only had two weeks to do it and he knows every step and every beat of that show so well. But, yes, to answer your question, I would love to do DOLLY again - indoors! [Laughs.]

PC: Another DOLLY, just not at the Muny.

RG: Yeah - I prefer to do my theatre indoors.

PC: I was curious: could you take me through your vocal warm-up?

RG: Well, I don't believe in over-warming-up - I only do a 5-minute routine for vocalizing; I think you get tired otherwise. So, I do one that warms me right up that my original, original, original voice teacher in college gave me to do - I studied with this woman for about 20 years and I still do the same warm-up that she originally gave me. I've sort of come up with my own slightly altered version, but that original routine from the late-70s is still part of my warm-up to this day.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Touching upon another legendary original Broadway production you participated in - CITY OF ANGELS. Did you have any idea that the staging effects would be so amazing when fully rendered?

RG: None! But, it was all Michael Blakemore's genius - all of it. He devised that whole concept of having half the stage in black and white and half the stage in color. And, let me tell you, that book stayed intact, rehearsals to opening night! I mean, maybe a couple of words here and there changed, but that's it.

PC: Very unusual for a new musical, particularly one that didn't even have an out-of-town tryout.

RG: You're right - it is. I do have a funny story about the score, though - "You Can Always Count On Me" didn't originally have a verse. It originally started with, "If you need a gal...," and we were in tech and on a break and Cy and David were at the piano - during tech they put the piano right on the floor of the orchestra. I remember that we were at the Virginia. So, we were on a break and they said, "Randy come down here!" and so I did and they started teaching me the verse that they had just written. David had the lyrics that he had just scribbled down on this tiny piece of scrap paper and Cy was at the piano playing through it - they had written it on a break during tech. Cy said to me, "It was missing something - it was missing a verse! Now it has a verse." So, I had rehearsed it all during rehearsal without the verse, and, then, the verse was born during tech.

PC: No doubt your voice was in their heads when they wrote it.

RG: And I always have Cy's voice in my head whenever I sing it! [Laughs.]

PC: And what an indelible voice he had! I love his last album.

RG: Oh, I love it, too! I have that in my car and listen to it all the time. Isn't that arrangement of "It Amazes Me" and "I Love My Wife" just beautiful?! I love it.

PC: It's such a shame that Coleman isn't given the respect he deserves - he wrote so many masterful scores.

RG: I agree. I have a friend who is a lyricist who says that since Cy Coleman didn't have one person he wrote with all the time that that is a lot of the reason for that - he says, "It's because he played around!" meaning he had a lot of different lyricists over the years. So, that's probably it.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: Do you remember any musical material being cut during rehearsals?

RG: Well, Donna, my character, used to sing in Buddy's song - she had a verse that they cut. I remember that. I didn't care, though - it was such great show that I was just happy to be in it.

PC: What was the first time you remember hearing your big song, "You Can Always Count On Me"?

RG: I remember that about a month before we started rehearsals I ran into David Zippel outside of Lincoln Center and we were talking and he said, "Cy and I wrote you a showstopper last night," and I said, "Oh? No pressure." [Laughs.]

PC: What a fabulous memory!

RG: Those were his exact words - "We wrote you a showstopper last night." No pressure, right?!

PC: None at all! Who would you cast as Donna/Oolie in a revival today?

RG: [Pause.] I think Jessie Mueller is just fantastic. I am a big fan of hers. I think she would be really good.

PC: Let's hope a revival comes to fruition some year soon!

RG: Selfishly, I sort of don't want a revival purely because of the cast recording - I think the original cast recording we did is just perfect. It's such a great recording - you can really hear the jazz in the score. I remember people would always be standing at the edge of the orchestra pit looking in at them playing after the show.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: What are your thoughts on another LES MISERABLES revival coming in so soon after the last one?

RG: Oh, it's such a phenomenon. Who knew? Who knew. Honestly, I think almost everybody today knows it now because of the movie, so I think people will come to see the show. Apparently, it's been re-imagined, so I'm curious to see it. Funnily enough, I actually worked with the girl who is going to play Fantine in the revival - Caissie Levy.

PC: When was that?

RG: Well, what's funny is that I think she knew she was going to be playing Fantine at the time, but she didn't want to say anything to me about it! [Laughs.] Having worked with her, I think she's perfect casting for it, though.

PC: Will you be attending opening night?

RG: I hope they invite us! If they do, I'll be there.

PC: What are your thoughts on reduced orchestras and the budget-conscious productions so popular on Broadway today?

RG: Oh, I think it's horrible. Why are you going to a Broadway show and not hearing 30 musicians in the orchestra pit? When I did the revival of FIDDLER, we had 30 musicians - 30; or close to it! Our producer fought for that - and got it. You can hear how large and lush the orchestra was on the album we did of it, too.

PC: Touching upon a lesser-known credit from your past: do you have any memories of Brittany Murphy from working with her on the sitcom DREXEL'S CLASS in the early 1990s?

RG: Tragic - so tragic. She was in it and Jason Biggs, too. They were kids - kids! How old were they then, 12? I remember reading about her passing away and how tragic it all was. She was such an adorable little girl. She had a very vulnerable quality to her that I remember, too - like Marilyn Monroe - and she brought that to her work and it was so interesting to see. It was just so tragic that she died like that.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & MorePC: One last thing I was curious about was your reaction to the documentary MOON OVER BUFFALO? It's not very pleasant, all told.

RG: There were some tough moments there - some tough moments. I actually did a Q&A after a screening of it. I'll tell you something, though, it made me angry that they were trying to make Carol Burnett into something other than Carol Burnett - she was hired because she was Carol Burnett and that's what the audience wanted to see. So, as soon as we got into previews and she was doing what she does they were gobbling it up and then they backed off and said, "You keep doing what you're doing." Before that, they were trying to make her into Dame Edith Evans or something - Marian Seldes or something. That's not who they hired! They hired Carol Burnett and I know she was very upset by it. I sat next to her at the first screening and I cringed. I remember that I kept my distance from the cameras because I realized that in the heat of the moment you forget that the cameras are there. Look at the COMPANY documentary, too - in the heat of the moment, you just forget that the cameras are there. So, I just kept to myself whenever the cameras were around. But, I think if you want a little entree into the theatre then you should watch it - I think everybody interested in the theatre should.

PC: This was absolutely spectacular, Randy. Thank you.

RG: Oh, Pat, you are so sweet and this was fantastic. Really, really fun. Bye bye.

InDepth InterView: Randy Graff Talks New 54 Below Show MADE IN BROOKLYN, Plus LES MISERABLES, Broadway Memories & More Photo Credits: Walter McBride, Jennifer Broski, etc.

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