BWW Interview: Scott Coulter Helms The Latest Iteration Of Michael Childers' One Night Only
Michael Childers' presents One Night Only benefitting the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. "The Way We Were: Songs of the '70's" features the best of Broadway and pop music from that era, for one performance only on April 22 at 6:30 pm, at The McCallum Theatre. With Direction & Choreography by Scott Coulter and Music Direction by Todd Schroeder, the cast features the best of Broadway and Hollywood performers. I had the chance to catch up with director, Scott Coulter, as he was preparing the production for rehearsal. Here are a few excerpts from that conversation:
DG: Where are you from and how did your life lead you into a career in entertainment?
SC: I'm originally from a small town called Hixson, Tennessee -- a suburb of Chattanooga. My family moved to Hendersonville (outside of Nashville) when I was in the eighth grade. When I graduated high school I wanted to pursue a career in music but my folks weren't keen on that idea initially. When they realized I was serious they insisted I go to a good music school. I auditioned for the musical theatre program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, got accepted, and that was that. CCM marked the real beginning of my musical journey.
DG: Do you remember the first time you ever performed in front of an audience?
SC: I do. I sang the second verse of "Away in a Manger" at a church concert when I was four years old. Our preacher accompanied me on the guitar.
DG: Who were your professional mentors and/or role models?
SC: Many years ago (more than twenty) I was interviewed for a publication and asked this same question. My answer now is the same as my answer then. All those years ago I named Stephen Schwartz as my musical hero. My dream was to one day do a show of all of his music. Not long after that interview, I got to meet him and he asked me to be part of a touring concert production of his work. Needless to say, that was a life-changing event. What hasn't changed is the fact that he is still me professional-mentor and role model -- not only for his musical gifts but for his generous heart and his nurturing spirit. He has given opportunities to so many young, unknown artists and performers -- and continues to do so. It is that spirit of helping others that most inspires me now. He's a gem of a human being. He is a living example of the idea that when you get where you're going simply turn around and help the person behind you.
DG: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you regarding a career in professional theatre?
SC: When I was at CCM the school's most revered drama teacher -- a teacher I never actually studied with -- said to me, "You belong on a stage. Don't ever let anyone tell you any different." That has stayed with me not simply because it was something I wanted to hear but because in this business there are always people who want nothing more than to tear you down or make you question your abilities. Her words have been a sort of mantra all these years and a reminder of how important it is to remember the gifts we've been given even when others aren't appreciative of or receptive to what we have to offer.
DG: What is it you love about the "cabaret" genre of performance?
SC: I actually don't like the word "cabaret." Odd, right? People don't understand what the word means -- in many parts of the world a cabaret is a strip club. I prefer to think of what I do as concert-performance.
And what I like about that genre of performance is that the performer gets to be his- or herself. What you bring to the evening is what you uniquely are as an artist and a storyteller and a person. No one else can play that role. It's all you. It's your own essence. It takes guts to put all the parts of yourself out there but there is nothing more rewarding. There is nothing like communicating with an audience and being given the opportunity to take them on a journey of your choosing.
DG: You have been Awarded the MAC and Bistro Awards as "Outstanding Male Vocalist"; both high praise. What would you consider to be your biggest professional highlight thus far in your career?
SC: I think the biggest highlight of my professional career is the fact that I make a living doing what I love. There's really no greater career gift than that. To be able to travel the world making music with people that I love for people I've never met is just about as good as it gets. (Though if I had to pick a highlight it would be the fact that I've been able to work so closely with so many incredible songwriters like Stephen Schwartz, Marcy Heisler & Zina Goldrich, Bob Christianson, and Alisa Klein, Tim DiPasqua, Tom Andersen, Carol Hall, Jerry Herman, David Friedman, and many more. What a kick to perform their works WITH them! Two of these collaborations led to Emmy nominations which is just icing on the cake.)
DG: What would you like to achieve in your career that you have not yet accomplished?
SC: You know, I'd really love to have one of my show's on Broadway. (I'm putting that thought out there because it worked so well all those years ago when I named Stephen Schwartz as my musical hero.)
DG: You are a theatrical performer, director, and producer. Which hat do you prefer to wear, and why?
SC: For me, nothing compares to standing on a stage and singing a song. I just don't think you can top that.
DG: Talk about ONE NIGHT ONLY. How did you become involved and how did you end up helming this magnificent production this season?
SC: Several years ago my buddy Jason Graae was directing a Jerry Herman evening "One Night Only." He asked me to join the cast and that's how I met the force of nature that is Michael Childers. Michael's body of work as a photographer and a producer is staggering. He had seen some of my shows at Feinstein's/54 Below and gave the Jason the okay to include me. Jason directed the following year's edition of "One Night Only" as well and once again asked me to take part. I've done three ONO's in a row as a performer and last year Michael asked me if I would direct this year's show. I, of course, said I would and I'm thrilled to get the chance. I will forever be indebted to Jason Graae.
DG: What is this years' theme, how was it chosen, and who are your celebrated guest- stars?
SC: The last few editions of ONO have focused on specific Broadway composers -- there was a Jerry Herman night, a Sondheim night, a Hammerstein night -- and Michael wanted to try something different this year and go in a non-Broadway direction. He had great success a gw years ago with a tribute to the '60s. Since 2020 marks fifty years since the beginning of the '70s it seemed like a tribute to that groovy decade was fitting. The cast is a who's who of the entertainment world and includes Debby Boone, Sam Harris, Lucie Arnaz, John Barrowman, Ken Page, Freda Payne, Liz Callaway, Anita Gillette, Jason Graae, Tony Award-winner Faith Prince, and Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie to name just a few. It's an incredible cast.
DG: Is there a particular artist/ moment in the show you are especially looking forward to? What do you hope audiences take away from their evening spent at ONE NIGHT ONLY?
SC: There are MANY moments I'm looking forward to. I think the opening number is going to be thrilling. I get excited just thinking about it. And there are several '70s icons who are singing their signature numbers. (And we're obviously going to have a nod to disco in there.) I'd have to say that young Hixson, Tennessee Scott is most looking forward to being offstage while Debby Boone sings "You Light Up My Life." I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to make it through that moment. :)
My hope is that the audience leaves with an appreciation of that incredibly diverse decade. It really was something else -- from pet rocks to the first summer blockbuster ("Jaws") to "A Chorus Line" to disco. It was the last time we as a country all consumed the same entertainment via three television stations. It seems almost quaint now but oh, what a legacy it gave us.
DG: What advice do you give to young people who might want to pursue a career in professional theatre?
SC:: Always say "yes." Whenever you're given an opportunity say yes. If you don't, someone else will. If you're not entirely sure how you'll do it say yes anyway and figure it out as you go. It's all about showing up.
Also....always practice gratitude.
Michael Childers' One Night Only, benefitting the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, "The Way We Were: Songs of the '70's" features the best of Broadway and pop music from that era, for one performance only on April 22 at 6:30 pm, at The McCallum Theatre. For tickets visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.