Broadway Boy Toy
BY John Carroll
January 16 2012 4:00 AM ET
Just when you thought it was safe to go to the theater... I’m baaack!!
Last time I was here, I was in the Broadway show Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Remember that show.... no? Moving on. I am now back on “The Broadway” in the critically acclaimed Kennedy Center production of Follies starring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein, Ron Raines, and Elaine Paige.
It’s amazing. The last show I did was with Patti Lupone and now this show I'm with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Paige. Talk about an embarrassment of gay riches! I spend all of act one in Follies-land playing the 26-year-old boy-toy of Ms. Paige. I get to walk around in a tailor made tuxedo with "The First Lady of the British Musical Theatre" on my arm, dripping in mink and stand on stage with her as she belts out Stephen Sondheim's iconic anthem, "I'm Still Here". Let me just tell you, this English diva is everything you would want her to be and more. She is funny as hell, witty, generous; an all around beautiful spirit and EP can rock a pair of Christian Louboutins like no one’s business! Let's just say, I've had worse jobs.
Follies takes place at the first (and last) reunion of the Weismann Follies before the theater is torn down to make way for a parking lot. All the showgirls and their significant others gather to reminisce and pay homage to the "shoulda-coulda-woulda's" of yester year. At the beginning of the show, the door at the back of the stage opens to fire off a procession of Broadway big shots as they arrive at the party, one by one. Bernadette, Jan, Danny, Ron, Elaine, Jayne Houdyshell, Terri White, Don Correia, Susan Watson, Rosalind Elias, and Mary Beth Peil are all waiting behind the set, gearing up like thoroughbreds before they are off and running through the gate. I am fortunate enough to be backstage, waiting in line with Elaine Paige to enter. It is amazing to see how everyone gets ready for his or her performance. The energy is palpable. It is something quite magical that the audience never gets to see.
When Elaine and I enter, the audience inevitably erupts. I love to tell her that they are actually applauding for me. …cricket...cricket... It usually doesn't go over very well.
From day one Follies has been a magical journey. I mean meeting Stephen Sondheim is the equivalent of meeting the f-ing Wizard of Oz. At the end of our dress rehearsal at the Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C., our director, Eric Schaeffer introduced him to the company. Though we had seen him from time to time during the rehearsal process, this was the first time he had seen a run through of our production. Mr. Sondheim made his way to the edge of the orchestra pit to address us all standing there on the stage. We waited with bated breath to hear what the wizard himself was about to say. Musical theater performers wait their whole careers to work with this genius and most never have the chance, so you could image the weight this man’s words have. After our thunderous applause and cheers for him died down, he looked at us all and said, "You all look like you're having a lot of fun."