Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Interview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway Divas

Joseph Thalken will be accompanying Patti LuPone in her cabaret show Don’t Monkey with Broadway February 9th at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Interview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway Divas

Musical director Joseph Thalken will be accompanying one of his long-time collaborators Patti LuPone in her cabaret show Don't Monkey with Broadway February 9, 2023 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Joseph!

You're welcome!

How long have you been Patti's musical director? Since The Sonnet Repertory Theatre's Tenth Annual Benefit & Cabaret in New York City in November of 2011? Or before?

Since around 2008.

What cosmic forces first brought you and Patti together?

I first met and worked with Patti in 2003 for a performance with two pianos with Dick Gallagher, an old pal of mine and her long-time music director, who sadly passed away in 2005.

Do you lower keys of songs depending upon Patti's moods or physicality?

Through rehearsing, we find the keys that feel best for her. Over the years, a handful of songs have been transposed up or down, but in general, she's incredibly consistent with keys.

Would you say you were the co-creator of this act of Patti's? Or did Patti come to you after she constructed the program herself?

It's a real collaboration between her, Scott Wittman, Jeffrey Richman and me, but she's the driving force behind it all.

Patti seems so effortlessly spontaneous in her in-between-songs patter and stories. Are your music cues scripted to a set script of Patti's? Or is the program loose enough for improv?

A bit of both: I know where she's going with her patter, but there is always a spontaneity in it as well, which makes it fun for both of us.

Is it an easy switch for you to go from chamber and choral music to theatre compositions?

Mostly yes - they have different sets of demands and criteria, but the goal of always trying to do your best work remains the same.

Was music your first love growing up?

Yes, without a doubt. I was a music nerd from the get-go!

How old were you when you decided to pursue music as your career?

Interview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway Divas I started piano lessons at age 5, before I was even reading words. I never imagined NOT pursuing it, but I suppose I didn't start to think about it seriously until I was about 14 or 15.

You worked as musical director and/or arranger for an endless list of Broadway and classical singers. Can I name some and you give me one word or one sentence about them?

Sure, but I could honestly write "LOVE" for each one of the people you listed and not feel like I was exaggerating. Some I have worked with much more than others, but they have all been terrific. I feel very lucky to have had the honor to work with each one of them.

Julie Andrews:

Magnificent human being, and once made me the best scrambled eggs ever.

Liza Minnelli:


Bernadette Peters:


Renée Fleming:


Rebecca Luker, Marin Mazzie, Liz Callaway & Sierra Boggess:

Not to lump all these wonderful women together, BUT what comes to mind when I think of each of them is how much we laughed when we were supposed to be rehearsing! All very different from each other, but all funny as hell ... and with a much spicier vocabulary than their public personas would lead you to believe! And, needless to say, it was so tragic to lose both Marin and Rebecca way too soon.

Kristin Chenoweth:


Polly Bergen:

A classy and salty dame.

Faith Prince:

Charming and heartfelt

Hugh Panaro:

Huge heart and soooo funny

Michael Crawford:

A seasoned pro

Howard McGillin:

Deep, kind, and the best laugh

Jason Danieley:

Soulful and fun-loving

Nathan Gunn:

A voice like spun gold

Brian Stokes Mitchell:

Interview: Joseph Thalken Doesn't MONKEY With Any of His Broadway Divas Super curious and always looking for new ways to approach a song.

Patti LuPone:

Passionate and fun. We can musically read each other's minds during a performance and have a blast both onstage and off. I think she's incapable of giving any less than 100% on stage.

With all the types of music you perform, what genre of music do you relax to?

I'm a total classical music nerd, but also love a lot of jazz and pop music.

What's next in the future for Joseph Thalken?

There are a number of new and old projects: Tom Jones and I recently finished a major overhaul of our musical Harold & Maude, which had a very successful reading last year with Tony nominee/Obie winner Mary Beth Peil and Dear Evan Hansen phenom Andrew Barth Feldman, which has sparked a lot of interest. A brand-new musical of mine, Inventions For Piano, about the biggest scandal in the history of recorded music, had its first reading in December. Another musical (written with Ellen Fitzhugh and Ashley Robinson) called Fall of '94, a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the infamous Susan Smith case, is due to be produced next year by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. And I have a commission to write a multi-movement choral and instrumental piece for a church in Chicago.

Thank you again, Joseph! I look forward to hearing you and Patti on February 9th.

For tickets for Don't Monkey with Broadway February 9th, click on the button below:

Review: TWELFTH NIGHT At The Broadwater Studio Theater Photo
Notwithstanding that this production falls into many classic Shakespeare traps, Foolish Production Company's 1-hour, high-camp, rendition of TWELFTH NIGHT is very well done.

ACCOMPLICE to Open at The Sherry Theater in April Photo
ACCOMPLICE will open at The Sherry Theater in April!

Review: THE THIN PLACE at Atwater Village Theatre Photo
Tony-nominated playwright Lucas Hnath’s THE THIN PLACE is an eerie meditation on grief, regret and the need for closure, though it is undermined by the lack of a satisfying conclusion despite phenomenal performances.

Luke Hawkins, Sareen Tchekmedyian & More to Star in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Musical Th Photo
Musical Theatre West has announced the cast of its spring production, An American in Paris. See who is starring, and learn how to purchase tickets!

From This Author - Gil Kaan

      Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas of film, television, and stage in... (read more about this author)

Interview: Ed F. Martin Leaving His Indelible Mark With His KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMANInterview: Ed F. Martin Leaving His Indelible Mark With His KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN
March 21, 2023

Next up at A Noise Within, Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman beginning April 1, 2023 (with previews starting March 26th). Michael Michetti directs this classic two-hander with Adrián González and Ed F. Martin. Ed, a familiar face on the Los Angeles stages, managed to squeeze out some time between rehearsals to answer a few of my queries.  

Interview: Alli Miller-Fisher Is Most Definitely Not Clueless in CLUE-LESQUEInterview: Alli Miller-Fisher Is Most Definitely Not Clueless in CLUE-LESQUE
March 17, 2023

Cherry Poppins latest show Clue-lesque has taken up residence at Tranny Tramp Granny’s through April 26, 2023. This burlesque musical parody of the cult-favorite ‘80s Clue is powered by the cast of Lauren Avon, Heath Butler, E.K. Dagenfield, Kim Dalton, Shanera Denae’, Kristyn Evelyn, Everjohn Feliciano, Bianca Gisselle, Brin Hamblin, Emma Hunton, Carly Jibson, Janaya Mahealani Jones, Meredith Lim, Alli Miller-Fisher, Matthew Scott Montgomery, Camel Pugh, Cory Robison, Michael Shaw Fisher and Sarah Wines. The very busy performer/ director/ writer/ choreographer/ producer Alli managed to take a breather to answer a few of my queries.

Interview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited FriendsInterview: April Stewart Sending LOVE LETTERS To Her Reunited Friends
March 11, 2023

A.R. Gurney’s classic Love Letters plays for one weekend at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex beginning March 31, 2023. Wendy-Marie Martin directs this two-hander with Courtney R. Hall and April Stewart.  The multitasking April managed to find some time between her voiceover gig, raising her daughter and volunteering for NAMI to answer a few of my queries.

Interview: Larry Eisenberg Directs Not ONLY A PLAY, But All That It EncompassesInterview: Larry Eisenberg Directs Not ONLY A PLAY, But All That It Encompasses
March 9, 2023

Up next for Theatre 40’s current season, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play opening March 23, 2023. Larry Eisenberg directs the cast of Todd Andrew Ball, Peter Bussian, Fox Carney, Joe Clabby, Cheryl David, Mouchette van Helsdingen and Jeffrey Winner. Larry was most gracious in carving out time to give serious thoughts to answering my queries.

Interview: Rosie Narasaki Is UNRIVALED In Continuing Her Family TraditionInterview: Rosie Narasaki Is UNRIVALED In Continuing Her Family Tradition
March 7, 2023

Boston Court world premieres Rosie Narasaki’s Unrivaled beginning March 16, 2023. Boston Court Associate Artistic Director Margaret Shigeko Starbuck directs this co-production with Playwrights’ Arena featuring: David Huynh, Katie Kitani, Cindy Nguyen and Chelsea Yakura-Kurtz. Rosie was most gracious in answering a few of my queries.