Fynsworth Alley: 10 Questions with Rupert Holmes

Originally published on Fynsworth Alley.

10 Questions with Rupert Holmes


With his hit Broadway musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Rupert Holmes became the first person in theatrical history to be the sole winner of Tony Awards for Best Book, Best Music and Best Lyrics, with Drood also winning the Tony for Best Broadway Musical. After a record-breaking run in Los Angeles, the Broadway production of Holmes’ comedy-thriller Accomplice starring Jason Alexander and Michael McKean won the coveted “Edgar” Award from The Mystery Writers of America. His tour-de-force for actor Stacy Keach, Solitary Confinement, also set a new Kennedy Center box-office record. For the last five years, Holmes has created and co-produced the critically-acclaimed, Emmy award-winning television series Remember WENN. His latest play based on the life of George Burns (produced with the endorsement of the Burns & Allen estate) entitled Say Goodnight, Gracie starring Frank Gorshin is an out-of-town smash and will be coming shortly to New York. Currently he is collaborating with Broadway legends Charles Strouse and Lee Adams on a musical adaptation of the Academy Award-winning motion picture Marty… finishing his own epic musical based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray… and completing his first novel for Random House. Holmes’ popular songs have been recorded by many of our greatest vocalists, most notably and frequently Barbra Streisand, for whom he has written, arranged, conducted and produced multi-platinum albums, including Lazy Afternoon and his songs for the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of A Star Is Born. He is still probably best known to the general public as the singer and songwriter whose multi-platinum recordings include several Billboard #1 hits.

You’re both a writer and a performer. Are you more comfortable in one than the other, and how do those roles affect each other?

Let’s make those questions one and two.

One: in all my years of performing, no audience member has ever actually assaulted me. I consider this to be the singular triumph of my performing career. I did win “Best Performance” at the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and I assumed I’d receive a motorcycle. I got a medallion instead. It burns very little gas.

The truth is, I initially became a singer-songwriter while still in my teens because it was the only way to guarantee that somebody on earth would sing the songs I was writing. Since then, I’ve performed just about everywhere: rock clubs, concerts halls, arenas, TV… when I wrote the score for the movie No Small Affair they also had me play a bandleader who had five lines of dialogue with Demi Moore. (When people ask me what the film was about, I shrug, “Oh, it’s about a bandleader.”)

So I’ve always been comfortable performing. But if I had to choose between being a performer of other people’s work or a writer of words and music for other people to perform, I’d definitely opt for the latter.  Continue reading