Fynsworth Alley: Guy Haines

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

The enigmatic Guy Haines has finally burst forth from simply being one of our repertory singers, finally releasing his very own solo album, Haines His Way. For more information on Guy’s history and background, you can read this interview from last June.

Guy HainesDL: How did you first meet Bruce Kimmel?

GH: Well, let’s see… How does anyone first meet Bruce Kimmel? He just sort of shows up and insinuates himself into your life and then he never leaves. We’ve been friends for as long as I can remember, ever since we were young boys. We used to sing show tunes together and do performances for our parents. One of our great successes was the two of us doing the entire “Dance At The Gym” from West Side Story. Amazing, really, as neither one of us can dance a whit.

DL: Bruce Kimmel has mentioned that your first appearance on one of his albums [Unsung Musicals] was a happy turn of fate involving another singer’s inability to record. How did Bruce approach you for the album? Did you have any time to learn the song? Do you have any idea why he asked you to step in rather than someone with Broadway credits?

GH: Well, that is an interesting story. I guess the original singer of “Her Laughter In My Life” was not feeling well during the sessions and was having vocal problems. I know that Bruce tried to put together a usable vocal out of the ten takes he did, but it just wasn’t working. I happened to be visiting the studio when all this was happening and finally, in desperation, he turned to me and asked me if I’d do a new vocal. Since the song only has a range of about five or six notes I felt comfortable doing it and besides I’d been hearing the thing for three hours in a row and it was already in my head. I’m sure he would have preferred someone with Broadway credits, but frankly I was the only game in town. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Doug Haverty

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

10 Questions with Doug Haverty

Doug Haverty is a graphic designer and playwright. He’s designed many Fynsworth Alley albums, including Cole Porter’s You Never Know, The Stephen Sondheim Album, and Brent Barrett’s Kander and Ebb Album.

inside outYou are both a graphic designer and a songwriter. Which did you get involved with first, and do the two world ever meet?

I started writing plays in high school. I started doing graphics in college. The two worlds met occasionally when I designed flyers for my own plays, but they really merged when I art directed the CD package for my musical (written with Adryan Russ), the Off-Broadway/Cherry Lane Cast Recording of “Inside Out” with Ann Crumb, Kathleen Mahoney-Bennett, Harriett D. Foy, Jan Maxwell, Cass Morgan and Julie Prosser.

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Fynsworth Alley: Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging QueensI’m sure that many of the people involved in last night’s benefit performance of Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens looked on the event as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not me. I hope this is but the first of many future projects that I’ll be able to take part in that bring together so many talents for the purpose of making a statement about the values of our community, and to benefit those in need of some extra help. Clearly, this was not your run-of-the-mill benefit performance. I’m willing to bet that almost everyone involved in the show has been touched in some way by the AIDS epidemic, but the real point of coalescence for me was that our performance not only raised money for AIDS-related care, but the content of the performance itself paid tribute to those who have gone, those who survive, and those who support. Powerful stuff. During the dress rehearsal, when I heard most of the monologues for the first time, I was brought to tears countless times… the elderly lady who contracted HIV through a transfusion and learns to overcome her own prejudice to die with grace alongside a drag queen… the couple whose families are incredibly supportive until the first partner dies… the street punk drug user who finds an unlikely friend in a gay social worker… and on and on. The songs have never sounded better, surely, but I hope the final album product will be able to convey at least a taste of the scope of this work – gay, straight, bisexual, nonsexual, black, white, Latino, old, young, and unborn AIDS deaths.  Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Tom Jones (Part One)

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Tom JonesTom Jones is the book-and-lyrics half of the team that created The Fantasticks, 110 in the Shade, I Do! I Do!, Celebration, Philemon, Colette Collage, and more.

DL: Let’s start right at the beginning. Before you met Harvey Schmidt, what were you doing? How did you guys get to know each other?

TJ: We were both students at the University of Texas. I was studying drama, studying to be a director, not a writer. Harvey was studying to be a commercial artist, as he eventually became very successfully, as I’m sure you must know. I tried to make as much money as I could by picking up directing jobs, directing the melodrama at the local civic theatre, so forth and so on. But there was the annual college musical, put on by the fraternity connected with the journalism department to raise money. They paid the director, and they paid a very modest fee for the book and score. I got the job directing it, and the scripts that I got and the songs that were sent to me were so terrible that I contacted Harvey, whom I knew through a group called the Curtain Club, and I said, “Look, would you like to write an original musical with me? We’ll write it in three weeks or so, and it will be put on a month after that.” He said yes, and we did.

DL: What was it about Harvey that he was the one who sprang to mind?

TJ: Well, he played the piano. And he also composed. The organization we belonged to called the Curtain Club had just done a revue called Hipsy-Boo! (That’s Hipsy-hyphen-boo-exlamation point.) in which some girls in little pants and mesh stockings and bras came out on a runway… actually, it was a revue of American popular theatre music from 1900 to 1950, it took place in 1950. Harvey arranged music from all of these different periods of time, and played it. And he also wrote an original piece of music called “Hipsy-Boo!” – a wonderful, terrific, sensational, sleazy piece of music. I loved it so much. I was connected to the show writing and directing the comedy material involved. That’s how I met him and knew his talents as a composer, really just through that one song. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Musiography – Jason Graae

Musiography - Jason GraaeWe receive dozens of customer e-mails each week asking about the origins of songs on our albums, so we thought it would be fun to occasionally devote a column to analyzing the selections on our albums. This week, we’re kicking off the series with Jason Graae’s Evening of Self-Indulgence

But Alive / I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You
Since most everyone knows each of these songs (the former from Strouse and Adams’ Applause, the latter from Lloyd Webber and Rice’s Evita), we decided to ask Jason how he decided to combine the two into an unlikely medley. “Well, I already knew the words to ‘But Alive’, but it was too short, so I figured I ought to add something else,” says Graae, “But actually, it was [director] Heather Lee’s idea to put in ‘I’d Be Surprisingly Good For You’. That was her only contribution to my act.” Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Patrick Brady

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

What exactly do you do in your role as Musical Director for a new Broadway show like The Producers?

On The Producers, we have a musical supervisor, Glen Kelly, who created all the piano and dance arrangements and has been working closely with Mel Brooks for the last two years. I have written the vocal arrangements for The Producers and serve as musical director and conductor. My job has been to help cast the show, choose a drummer and assistant conductor, rehearse and teach the music, find the best keys and tempos, prepare the orchestra, make sure the orchestration is correct, conduct seven shows a week, watch the eighth show, give notes to the cast and keep the understudies prepared.

How did you become a Musical Director?

I’ve been accompanying singers, dancers and instrumentalists from the fourth grade on… I’ve played for Christmas pageants, children’s theatre, high school choruses, gymnastics, magic acts, dance classes, voice lessons, auditions, churches, community theatre, college degree recitals, summer stock, private parties, dinner theatre, rock ‘n’ roll bands, cabaret acts, night clubs… it’s too scary to think about… anyway, often the piano player ends up as the leader of the band and that’s what happened in my case.   Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Debbie Gravitte

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Debbie GravitteDebbie Gravitte’s association with Bruce Kimmel extends back twenty-five years to The First Nudie Musical, in which Debbie’s voice is heard (although she’s never seen) on several of the songs. Since then, Debbie has gone on to become a Tony-Award-winning Broadway star, appearing in They’re Playing Our Song, Zorba, Blues in the Night, Perfectly Frank, Ain’t Broadway Grand and, of course, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, for which she won her Tony. Debbie is also a star of the concert stage, having appeared in the Encores productions of Tenderloin and The Boys From Syracuse, as well as concert versions of shows, including Louisiana Purchase and Billion Dollar Baby in other venues. She has toured extensively with her cabaret act, and is currently appearing with Stephen Schwartz in an evening of his songs. She has appeared on many Fynsworth Alley albums, including two of her own: The Alan Menken Album and The MGM Album. You can visit her on the web at DebbieGravitte.com.

DL: Let’s start with your start. How did you get started in show business?

DG: Oh, it’s going to be one of those kinds of interviews? Well, I always loved to sing, and I was always loud. I started doing shows in school. The musical theatre department at my high school had been not happening, and for some reason the year I started high school, they started it again. But my first big thing really was this: When I was a teenager, I auditioned for the LA Civic Light Opera. They were doing Annie Get Your Gun starring Debbie Reynolds, directed by Gower Champion. It was Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell and Gavin MacCleod. I did that, and Gower Champion loved me! He wrote me a part, and we went on tour for a month. They wanted to bring it to New York, so I would have made my Broadway debut in that, but Debbie Reynolds was all flipped out because she had just opened at the Minskoff or something, or she was doing her act, and she bombed in New York, so she didn’t want to go back to the city.

That was great, though – the first director I professionally worked with was Gower Champion! One of the greatest! I did that, and in the process of that, I met a man named Tony Stevens, who was the co-choreographer. And the music director was a man named Jack Lee. And they said to me, “Debbie, we’re doing a show in New York, why don’t you come and audition (hint, hint).” I didn’t know what they were talking about, of course, but they meant if I came to New York I would get the show. So of course I flew to New York, I auditioned for the show, and I got it – it was a show called Spotlight. I’m trying to think if there was anything really incredible about it. No. It starred Gene Barry and I understudied the lead. It would be one of two times I understudied in my career – the other time was They’re Playing Our Song. Anyway, the show bombed in Washington, DC. I came back to LA, actually, because I’m born and raised in Los Angeles – for those readers out there who don’t know that, who think I’m a New Yorker because LA has spurned me. Anyway, I came back to LA, and then through James Mitchell, who also worked on Annie Get Your Gun, I got set up with an agent in New York who ended up signing me. A man named Bruce Aven, who was really one of the great agents. When I walked in his office, he said, “I’m going to take you on, but it’s going to take a while for your talents.” He knew I was never an ingénue, which is why I got to be a big slutty girl in The First Nudie Musical. And to answer the question of why I wasn’t actually in the movie [Debbie is heard but not seen], I was probably too young and not pretty enough. At the time.
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Fynsworth Alley: David Shire

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

David ShireDavid Shire is composer of Starting Here, Starting Now, Closer Than Ever, Baby, and Big, as well as an Emmy and Oscar-winning film composer whose work includes Saturday Night Fever, Return To Oz and the recent television film These Old Broads. He is currently working with longtime collaborator Richard Maltby, Jr. on a new Broadway-bound show called Take Flight.

DL: Let’s start out talking about your days at Yale, and how you began working with Richard Maltby.

DS: When I went there, I knew I wanted to write shows, and so did he. He came from a prep school in one place, and I came from a prep school in another place. We were looking for collaborators to write what in those days were called Varsity Shows, to be produced by the Yale Dramat. A mutual friend introduced us in the freshman dining hall one day. He thought I was a hick from Buffalo, and I thought he was a theatre snob. We were both kind of right. We started writing together, and 40-plus years later, we still are. We wrote two shows at Yale which were produced by the Yale Dramat in rather elaborate productions. One of them was later done at Williamstown. And that’s how we met.

DL: Those shows at Yale helped launch your career and brought you some professional notice…

DS: A little bit. They didn’t really affect anything. We were trying to get further productions of the shows. Theatre people came up, and though they thought we were talented and promising, neither one of those shows went any further. Curiously enough, the people in the shows who we worked with at Yale were more valuable in terms of future work, even in films. The stage manager of one of the shows was John Badham, who I later scored a lot of TV movies for, and finally Saturday Night Fever, which was my biggest financial windfall. There were people like Dick Cavett in the show, and Austin Pendelton and Peter Hunt, who I’ve either worked with or stayed pretty close with through the years.

We pretty much had to get to New York. After we got the National Guard out of the way – the six month reserve program – we moved to New York and started writing an Off-Broadway show there which was produced about a year after we got there. That attracted professional notice. It was like a calling card, even though the show didn’t run that long. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: Karen Morrow

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

Karen MorrowKaren Morrow is perhaps best known as “one of the most flop-prone performers of recent musical-theatre history,” (according to Ken Mandelbaum), having appeared in I Had A Ball, The Grass Harp, I’m Solomon, A Joyful Noise, and The Selling of the President on Broadway. Since then, she has gone on to success as a television star and cabaret performer. Additionally, Karen is a great teacher of performance, currently on the faculty of UCLA’s Musical Theatre program. Karen Morrow appears on the Fynsworth Alley CDs A Hollywood Christmas, Lost in Boston IV, and The Grass Harp.

DL: How did you get your start in show business?

KM: I went to Milwaukee when I graduated from college to teach school. I had five roommates because I was poor – they certainly didn’t pay much to teach school. I would brag all the time about how I could sing and how I had played all the leads in school. There was an audition at the Equity theatre in town for Brigadoon, so my roommates said, “Okay, smarty, if you’re so good, go over there and audition.” I went “Oh my God…” and went over there an auditioned and got the job! I was in the chorus at the Fred Miller theatre in Milwaukee. Then right from there, I did just about everything in town there was to do. There was a revue in a restaurant called “Highlights of Musical Comedy,” and I was in the original group for that. Then I starred in the big show in Milwaukee with the symphony, and then I went to New York and that was it.

DL: So you gave up teaching?

KM: Oh gosh yes! It was grade school – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! It was just something to make a living. As I do in my act, there’s a whole song Billy Barnes wrote for me… I have this voice and I didn’t know what to do with it. It never occurred to me that I might be able to earn a living using my voice. And suddenly, there I was earning a living. Continue reading

Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Barrett Foa

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley. 

10 Questions with Barrett FoaHow did you get your start in the business? What brought you to New York?

I was born and raised in New York. I went to the University of Michigan musical theatre program. When I graduated, along with everyone else I came here to make it big.

What did you think of Godspell before you were cast in the show? How did this production change your idea of the show?

Actually, I’ve never seen it. I owned the recording and knew some of the songs, but I definitely had pictures of flower children and face painting, hippy-dippy stuff. It was refreshing to revisit it and make it our version of hippy-dippy.

Godspell is the kind of show where the cast really shapes a lot of the action. What was the rehearsal process like for you?

We stripped the script of all of the old jokes. We had our first read-through, and I’ll never forget it, because it was the most boring thing ever. It was Jesus talking for ten pages, with someone saying a line here or there or telling a small parable. We were all falling asleep, it was just atrocious. Then we broke the script down into the separate parables, we sat in a circle and said, “Okay, this parable about the Pharisee and the Tax-Gatherer, what could this be?” We thought, “This could be an infomercial, this could be a football game.” “Football game! All right, someone go out into the hall and make this a football game.” So Chad Kimball jumps up and says, “Hello everybody, and welcome to Synagogue Stadium…” And then Tim would jump up and it would just go on from there. It took about three days just to do the first one, but then we found a rhythm and it just clicked.   Continue reading