Earlier this afternoon I was channel surfing and landed on the Ovation channel where they were showing A CHORUS LINE…THE MOVIE. What perfect movie to be screening on the same day as the evening telecast of the 2012 TONY AWARDS.
So many memories flooded through my mind while watching this film. Mostly, how sad I was that one of the most brilliant dancers I ever had the pleasure to watch and meet, Gregg Burge is no longer with us. Gone waaaay too soon:( I was also reminded that this was the first film of my dear friend and fellow St. Louisan Janet Jones, who is now known as the wife of award-winning hockey player Wayne Gretzky.
Back in St. Louis, Janet and I were two of many hopefuls wishing and dreaming about being on Broadway. Janet went on to become a featured dancer on the 70’s hit disco show DANCE FEVER and the films STAYING ALIVE, A CHORUS LINE and a few more before her path would lead her to fall in love with Wayne Gretzky. I eventually moved to New York to pursue my dream of singing and dancing on Broadway after graduating from Howard University.
It would be 7 years of performing on cruise ships, USO Tours, national tours, regional theatre, singing back-up around NYC in cabaret shows for my friends and working as an entertainment publicist before I would finally get a break. I was cast in the ensemble of the Tony winning hit THE WHO’S TOMMY 1st National Tour and had the extra bonus of understudying the role of the Acid Queen. I left TOMMY to make my Broadway debut in the ensemble of a revival of HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, where I got the opportunity to work with Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, LIllias White, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Stamos, Victoria Clark, Martin Moran and some of the most fabulous ensemble members on Broadway at the time who were all the true meaning of a “triple threat”. Not to mention having the opportunity to execute the choreography of the fabulous Wayne Cilento and be directed for the second time by Des McAnuff. I will be forever grateful to them both for making my dream a reality.
Opening on Broadway was exciting, exhausting and a dream come true!!! I learned about and got to participate in the such rituals as Gypsy Of The Year, Easter Bonnet Competition, Gypsy Robe Presentation, THE TONYS, going in the studio to record on my first cast album and participating in the most important ritual of all…understudy rehearsal….LOL. Let’s just say all that activity assisted me in maintaining a size 2, the likes of which I have not seen since becoming a transplant in Los Angeles….LOL.
Tonight, I am excited for my colleagues and friends Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald for their nominations. Norm, Audra and myself all came to New York at the same time. I would hear through the grapevine about Audra and her amazing voice. I remember being called in to audition for a national tour of The Secret Garden, which luckily for Audra I cancelled at the last minute…LOL. It was that show tour, which started her on her way to the brilliance we are able to witness today.
Norm and I would meet like most actors…at an audition.. Over the years we have become great friends running into each other at many more auditions and have many, many mutual friends in common. The last time I saw Norm, he was contemplating staying in LA to pursue a television career. Thank goodness he stayed in New York, so thousands can enjoy him opposite Audra in the revival of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.
The theater is my first love as it was on the stage that I learned to foster my imagination, creativity and it affords me the opportunity to work when the television folks stop calling…Please keep live theater a viable source of entertainment and support plays and musicals when they hit a city near you!!!