broadway-celebrities

Neil Patrick Harris delighted a packed audience at 92Y on May 27 when he sat down to discuss his multifaceted career with Jonathan Tisch. The showbiz renaissance man, perennial award show host, and Tony Award winner reflected on his child-star beginnings as Doogie Howser, M.D. through his meteoric rise to fame and up to his recent stint at Oscar host. Here are five things we learned.

1. Harris is cool with Doogie Howser, M.D. “I’m really appreciative of that chapter,” he said, before quickly adding, “The name sucks.”

2. He stalked David Burtka. When he met his future husband through a mutual friend, NPH was immediately taken with him and showed up at bars where he knew Burtka would be. “Oh hey, fancy seeing you here!” Harris said. “Like a vulture, I circled.”

3. Gone Girl director David Fincher made a lasting impression on Harris. “I kind of have a boner for David Fincher. Not a real boner; like, an actor boner.”

4. He’s annoyed you didn’t like the How I Met Your Mother finale. “I was a big fan of the ending of that show and a lot of people weren’t and it annoyed me,” Harris said. He did offer some insight into Barney’s fate though. “He probably lives vicariously through his daughter and treats her like a queen. He probably ends up dying of over consumption.”

5. Hosting the Oscars was “super duper hard.” NPH hosted the 87th Academy Awards ceremony last February and spoke about the experience with a sense of exhaustion. “The Oscars were really hard by design,” Harris said, citing the awards-circuit fatigue of the nominees by the time Hollywood’s biggest night approaches. He spoke about “the amount of time and energy spent on every second of it” and how segments that have been in the works for so long can fall apart at the last moment. “But you look really good with your shirt off,” interjected Tisch, to great laughter. We couldn’t agree more.

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Here’s one for fans of little-known celebrity trivia. Julie Andrews and Maggie Smith, those fellow Dame Commanders of the British Empire, so similar in certain respects but so vastly different in others, have a bit of a shared history together.

Back in the mid-1950s when Julie was the newly-crowned Queen of Broadway, riding high on her star-making turns in The Boy Friend and My Fair Lady, Maggie Smith was making her own debut on the Great White Way. ‘Discovered’ by Broadway impresario, Leonard Sillman in a minor London show, Smith was brought over to New York to appear in his New Faces of 1956, the latest installment in a musical-comedy revue series staged by the producer every four years or so (Coveney, 59-61). As suggested by its title, New Faces was designed as a showcase of ‘up-and-coming theatrical talent’ with, in the case of the 1956 edition, Smith, Inga Swenson, Jane Connell, Billie Hayes and a troupe of other bright, young things performing a mixed bill of comedy sketches and musical routines.

While critics complained that, by 1956, the New Faces revue format was fast becoming tired, they had generally kind words for the performers themselves, including Smith. ”One of the show’s great moments,” enthused one critic, “and certainly one of the funniest things in our theater, is Maggie Smith’s descent of a staircase as a Follies Girl draped in thousands of oranges” (Coffin, 290). By most accounts, however, it was T.C. Jones, described as “the finest female impersonator since Julian Eltinge” who stole the show and kept the revue running for 220 performances (Bordman, 142; also Coveney, 63).

During her New York tenure, Maggie Smith socialized with many of the other members of the expat British theatre community, including Broadway’s Fair Lady, Julie Andrews, and boyfriend, Tony Walton (Coveney, 64). Less than a year apart in age, with not dissimilar social backgrounds and fiercely private, even shy, personality types, Julie and Maggie reportedly struck up a firm friendship and spent quite some time together (Stirling, 84). Maggie was, for example, one of the select guests at Julie’s 21st birthday party, held, fittingly enough, at the 21 Club on 1 October, 1956 (Stirling, 87). Julie was also instrumental in introducing Maggie to Lou Wilson, her managing representative in the US at the time, who became Maggie’s agent; as well as Alice Ghostley who would become “a lifelong friend” of both women (Coveney, 64). 

Just before Maggie was due to return to the UK in April 1957, Julie took a short break from her gruelling schedule with My Fair Lady and the just-completed TV spectacular Cinderella, and the two Brits vacationed together in Palm Springs at the Bonaire Village (Crawford, 11 April: 7). One newspaper report spied the pair partying at the famed Dunes Club (Crawford, 5 April: 7). While another featured a photograph, taken by Palm Springs celebrity photographer, Paul Pospesil, showing the two gals lounging together by their hotel pool, perched toe-to-toe like inverted bookends. A rarely seen historical document, the photograph is a fascinating study in contrasts: Julie, perfectly poised and straight of back, all peppy smiles and face full to the sun, as she plays with her Kodak SLR (imagine seeing the holiday snaps from that camera); while Maggie slouches hunch-shouldered to the side, holding a cigarette aloft and drawing her sun hat down against the glare, nursing what one fancies looks like a slight hangover. “Julie, dahhhling,” she can almost be heard to drawl, “must you really be quite so bloody cheery this early in the day?!”

The two chums went on to spend more time together after Julie transferred back to London in 1958 for the West End production of My Fair Lady. Maggie was a guest at the show’s legendary opening night (Stirling, 94), and she also attended Julie’s post-show gathering afterwards, described by Life magazine as “supper at the Savoy with family and a few close friends” (“Britain is Smitten”, 24). When Julie married Tony Walton the following year on 10 May, 1959, Maggie was invited as a friend of the bride (Andrews, 262). Newsreel footage from the wedding, shows Maggie greeting the newlyweds warmly and giving Julie a congratulatory kiss.

Thereafter, public record on the friendship grows faint. One suspects that – with Julie moving back to the US and her film career blossoming in the 1960s, while Maggie’s career continued to be principally UK and theatre-based – life and geographic distance intervened. The only other real public documentation of the two together is when Maggie and then-husband, Robert Stephens were introduced by Julie at the 1970 Tony Awards, barely a few days after Maggie had won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. No doubt, the two would have renewed acquaintance backstage but close viewing of the ceremony footage shows Maggie casting a fond acknowledgement to Julie, nodding and briefly reaching out towards her, as she and Stephens come onstage.

While the two stars’ lives and careers took very different paths, there were moments of professional crossover. In coming posts, the Parallel Juliverse will consider a number of projects slated for Julie over the years that had Maggie Smith connections of varying degrees including The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Public Eye and, most recently, Crooked House. In return, Maggie seemed poised at one point there in the early-70s to wrest Julie’s crown as Hollywood’s resident English sweetheart. It didn’t quite materialize – essentially due to a series of under-performing ventures on Smith’s part and the fact that Glenda Jackson suddenly came on the scene as the English box-office queen – but for a few short years Maggie was bordering on becoming the new Julie Andrews of Tinseltown. She even essayed a ‘Julie and Carol’ pairing when she appeared – twice, no less – on The Carol Burnett Show. In her first 1974 guest spot, Maggie and Carol reprise the classic “You’re So London” duet from Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall , while on her second appearance a year later in 1975, Maggie and Carol do a mock-Cockney number in which Julie, literally, becomes the punchline!

In more recent years, Julie and Maggie both seemed to have enjoyed renewed fame and even iconicity in pop cultural spheres, becoming twin, if competing, institutions of English ‘grande-damerie’: Julie, the Queen of Serene and Maggie, the Dowager of Tart. All of which makes one wonder why these two enormously talented stars have never worked together?! Surely, it’s not too late and might even make for a welcome change from the wonderful but increasingly obligatory Maggie Smith-Judi Dench pairing that seems to habitually manifest whenever a couple of British matrons are called for. Just think of the inspired casting possibilities: Dames Andrews and Smith in Arsenic and Old Lace at Drury Lane, in Lettice and Lovage at the Old Vic…in The Two Gentlewomen of Verona at the National Theatre! 

Hey, Mr Producer! I’m talkin’ to you, sir…!

Sources:

Andrews, Julie. Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. New York: Hyperion, 2008.

Bordman, Gerald. American Musical Revue: From ‘The Passing Show’ to ‘Sugar Babies’. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

“Britain is Smitten by ‘Fair Lady’.” Life. 44: 19, 12 May 1958: 20-25.

Coffin, Rachel W., ed. New York Theatre Critics’ Reviews, 1956. Vol. 27. New York: Critics’ Theatre Reviews, 1956.

Coveney, Michael. Maggie Smith: A Bright Particular Star. London: Victor Gollancz, 1992.

Crawford, Hildy. “Society.” The Desert Sun. 11 April, 1957: 7.

Crawford, Hildy. “Around Town.” The Desert Sun. 5 April, 1957: 9.

Stirling, Richard. Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography. London: Portrait, 2007.

Broadway To Celebrate Katy Perry

On July 13th over a dozen of Broadway’s most distinctive voices will celebrate larger-than-life recording artist Katy Perry at 54 Below, singing many of her most fun-loving and heartfelt hits.

Katy Perry burst onto the scene in the summer of 2008 with the scandalous smash hit “I Kissed A Girl” and has since become a mainstay of popular culture. She became the first female artist to have 5 number-one singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 from the same album – the mulch-platinum “Teenage Dream.” Now, over a dozen of your Broadway favorites are beating the summer heat as they take the 54 Below stage to bring new life to her greatest hits! Audiences can expect to hear the hit singles
“Firework,” “Roar,” “Hot ‘N’ Cold,” “Waking Up In Vegas,” “Last Friday Night,” as well as some of her more introspective tunes, “Not Like The Movies,” “By The Grace of God,” and more. Kitty Purry and Left Shark might even make a guest appearance!

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One of the most memorable nights of my life was going to see the Boy From Oz with my best friend Jessica. We were so excited to see the show that before we left we decide to make special T-shirts that were play on words from lyrics in the show. She made hers to say, “Quiet please Hugh is onstage.” I made mine to say, “I need an older man like Hugh” #shamess and not only did he sign our shirts, when the crowds wouldn’t let us come up to him, he actually made his bodyguards part the crowd at the stage door so we can get to him. He got to read the shirts and loved them! he laughed and as you can see, Nice enough to sign the back of our shirts. It was probably one of the greatest celebrity experiences I’ve ever been apart of and I will never forget @thehughjackman and the kindness heart he has 😘

(via Malcolm X 90th Birthday)

Malcolm X 90th Birthday.

On Tuesday, May 19, the 90th anniversary of the birth of El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X, will be celebrated at The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Harlem, New York (165th and Broadway). This wonderful birthday celebration, which is free and open to the public, will feature a short creative program and bring together leaders and community members to reflect, celebrate and commemorate the life of a visionary man whose legacy continues to inspire and instruct.

Malcolm X’s 90th birthday comes at a time when our country is grappling with the crisis of police violence, with cities rising up to demand with no uncertainty that Black lives matter. “My father was a man who fiercely loved his people and fought for justice locally and internationally,” said Malaak Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X.

http://theobamacrat.com/2015/05/19/malcolm-x-90th-birthday/