Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: It's Not The Work. It's The Stairs.

 
 
I'm ending 2012 more upbeat than when I started.  Looking back, I've worked pretty hard this year.  Was anything gained?  Not sure. 
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'll drink to that.

But I am reminded of the old quip with which the great Elaine Stritch opened her one-woman show At Liberty.  "It's like the prostitute said," Stritch deadpanned in her signature rasp, "It's not the work.  It's the stairs."

It's the appropriate description of my life in 2012.
Both metaphorically and physically, I spent 2012 climbing stairs. This is a picture of the first of THREE flights of stairs which I climbed to do A Midsummer Night's Dream. The year proved to me that such climbing is necessary to progress artistically and professionally.
The year was defined by my learning to straddle life in two cities at once.  I have not perfected bi-urban living (a term I believe I coined, I hope it catches on), but I'm getting better at it.  The first months of the year, I was always eager to return to DC if I spent any more than a few days in NY. 
At least I never had to queue up outside, like these actors.  But
the AEA required EPA process, correctly nicknamed the Cattle
Call, is not for the feint of heart.

That feeling of unease in Manhattan was exacerbated by the fact that I spent the early months of 2012 attending Equity cattle calls, which always provide proof that my chosen career is not for sissies.  By my count, I attended more than 60 of these ego-busters in 2012.  No wonder I was usually glad to return to the security of the DC Branch.

As time went on, though, I became more comfortable in the Big Apple and by year's end, a curious change had occurred.  I now find that, if I spend more than four or five days in one city, I start to think about the other one.  I take this as a good sign.
I played Gremio in this production, which wins the award for the Largest Number of Different Rehearsal Spaces (six, by my count).  The final performance space was one of hundreds of Black Boxes in the city, with lousy/non-existent backstage area and primitive air conditioning.  The audience actually entered through the loading dock of this building, and as the location was in Queens, our audiences were not robust in numbers.  But I was treated very very well by Titan Theatre's brass, with whom I shared many mutual colleagues.  I will be working with them again, stay tuned.
Whether it's healthy or not, I almost always judge a year by the amount of work I achieved, and by that standard, I had a good first year in NY.  I snagged three very different Shakespearean productions, and while each had its stairs to climb, as it were, I came away from all three considering them successful, at least artistically. 
The "stairs" I had to climb with Richard III all had to do with our rehearsal process, which took place outside.  In July. I am never comfortable in extreme heat, so I never rehearsed without being wet and sticky.  But an interesting reversal happened once we opened.  Our evening performances in August were a joy to do, with audiences and actors alike sharing nature's elements.  R3 holds the distinction of being this year's show which I hated the most to rehearse, and the one which I loved the most to perform. 
The fact that I made no money from these three projects means that I must consider them only marginally successful, professionally. After all, this is my vocation, not my hobby.  But in each of the three projects, I climbed those metaphorical stairs and did the work.
A Midsummer Night's Dream ended my performance year.  I only wish I had felt better during its brief run.  I had a nasty cold and cough throughout our performances, which sapped a lot of the fun for me.  And the stairs here were not metaphorical, as the theatre, another Black Box with limited back stage, was a fourth-floor walk-up. 
The new year will begin in the plus column, as I will start a project tomorrow in DC which actually furnishes a little bit of money.  It will keep me in the DC Branch of my life, give or take a night or two here or there, until early March.  My current plan has me returning to NY in the spring, to play with some of my new NYC friends in another Shakespeare.  I'm betting that that show, and any others I snag in this new year, will require me to climb more stairs. 

I've never been involved in anything worthwhile which didn't require it. If you can coast through a project by staying on the ground floor, it's probably not worth the effort.   Gotta keep climbing those stairs.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Waltzing With A Mensch

 
We lost two great character actors this week, so naturally, attention must be paid on the Dance Party.  Extensive research has turned up absolutely no record of the unlikely duet which Jack Klugman and Charles Durning performed back in the early 70s. 
A number from Annie Get Your Gun was the perfect
vehicle for these vets.  Sadly, no record remains.

The story goes that Durning was slated to sing "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" with Bobbie Gentry on the Glen Campbell show, but at the last moment, Gentry had a hair emergency and withdrew.  Like the trooper he always was, Klugman, who was across the hall filming The Odd Couple, agreed to sub, and the duet went on.
Bobbie Gentry's hair malfunction led to
the infamous duet which has been lost.

This story is surprising for a number of reasons, chief being that Jack Klugman did not consider himself musically talented.  He had such a low opinion of his gifts in that area, in fact, that he actively discouraged writers Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim from creating a solo for his starring role in the original Gypsy.  Generations of subsequent Herbies have cursed Klugman for his resistance to singing;  the role is the very rare Leading Man In A Musical which does not have a solo song.
I won't sing, don't ask me. Klugman's refusal to sing has cursed future generations of Herbies.
Obviously, this leaves only one choice to star in this week's Dance Party.

Charles Durning
1923-2012
He was a decorated WWII veteran, participating in both the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge.  I always enjoyed watching his sober recollections and readings during the Memorial Day Concert held annually on the National Mall.  But of course, he was best remembered for his hundreds of performances on screen and stage. 
Durning's Broadway debut was in the flop
The au Pair Man, opposite Julie Harris.
They reteamed decades later for Gin Game.

He first gained recognition in the Broadway production of That Championship Season, and he won the Tony as Big Daddy in 1980's revival of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, in a production which was apparently sunk by Kathleen Turner's clueless performance as Maggie.  He moved easily between stage and screen, and between comedic and heavier roles.
Charles was harried as the cop dealing with Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.  The actor just over his right shoulder is Matthew Broderick's father.
I was privileged to see Durning twice on stage.  In 1997, I caught him in a revival of The Gin Game, opposite Julie Harris;  they were stopping by the Kennedy Center on their way to Broadway. 
When the revival of The Gin Game blew through DC, I took the opportunity to see Julie Harris in one of her final stage roles. Durning gave able support.
Earlier, though, I saw Charles in one of my favorite musical failures.
Durning romanced Maureen Stapleton in the TV film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.  When the piece was adapted for Broadway, Vincent Guardenia took his role.  When the show was revamped in Long Beach, Durning took the role back.
In 1992, the originators of the TV film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom attempted to revamp the Broadway musical which had been created based on that film (that musical was simply called Ballroom).  I saw this revamped musical, which starred Tyne Daly and, in a pretty inspired casting choice, Charles Durning.  The project was torpedoed by the LA Times critic, and a hoped-for move to Broadway did not happen.  But it was in that project that I first learned that Durning could sing a bit and dance a bit more.  For a hefty gent, in fact, he cuts quite a rug, as you can see from this week's Dance Party.
Tootsie is full of fine performances, including Charles Durning as the lonely widower who unexpectedly falls for a transvestite.
I've written about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas before.  When Miss Edna from the famous Chicken Ranch bordello died, I contributed this Dance Party clip, and when Signature Theatre in DC presented a pretty rare revival of this chestnut, I wrote about seeing it.  The film version, which was adjusted a bit to feature Dolly Parton even more heavily, contained this showstopper, delivered by Charles Durning, who received an Oscar nomination for his efforts (he lost the award to Lou Gossett in An Officer and a Gentleman).  A year later, he was again nominated, this time for the Mel Brooks film To Be Or Not To Be (this one he lost to Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment).  But Durning will always be a winner to me, playing expletive-filled games of cards with Julie Harris, or waltzing under a mirrored ball with Tyne Daly.  He died this week at the age of 89.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Night Before Christmas

I had regretfully decided not to put up a Christmas tree this year.  For the second year in a row, the timing just didn't seem to work out.  I never think I get enough out of a tree if it is only up for a week or so, I really need several weeks with the thing to get my full enjoyment.  This year, as last, that didn't seem to be in the cards.  I closed Midsummer in NY only a week ago, then packed up and drove to DC the next day.  My hacking cough has hung on tenaciously, zapping my energy and making me feel yucky, and all week I was busy getting things in order for my family Christmas.  In addition, I was trying to prep for an audition on Thursday.

So, I just did not have the time to get out to buy a tree, much less the energy. 
This is what my apt looks like when in full decorating mode.

My Honda is not built to carry a tree, so transport is always an iffy proposition. 
As I live alone, the hauling of the tree up to the third floor of the DC Branch is all on me, as is the retrieval of boxes and boxes of decorations from the basement, four long flights away. So I have a good excuse when I decide I must forgo a tree.

Today, Christmas Eve, I dashed down to the new DC Costco to pick up a few munchies for tomorrow's Christmas Dinner.  On the way home, I passed a Christmas tree lot, which still had lots of inventory but no customers.  Who the hell would buy a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve?  When I was growing up, I would occasionally see a TV episode where the family was trimming their tree on Christmas Eve;  it never made sense to me.  Why not have it in your home to enjoy longer than a few days?

For some reason, though, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for Christmas Eves past when I drove past the lot.  A couple of blocks later, I pulled a U-Turn and headed back.  Yes, I bought a Christmas tree.  On Christmas Eve.  What a yutz.

That tree, smaller than others I've had but just as lopsided, is now decorated and sitting in my bay window. 
If a tree leans to the left, is it still as pretty?

It's a tradition now, that all my trees lean sideways, there seems to be nothing I can do about it.  I've convinced myself it's charmingly eccentric, just like I convince myself that I am too.  I'm pretty lousy at decorating a tree, practice does not make perfect in this case.  The lights are invariably unevenly placed, and no matter how hard I try, the ones that blink always end up surrounding the bottom of the tree.  In the dark, it looks like half the tree disappears for a few seconds before rematerializing.  And don't get me started on my ornaments, which are mismatched, cheap, and pretty ugly.  I really need some new balls.

Today, my thoughts have gone back to the many years I worked on Christmas Eve.  I'm not talking about my performance work, though I've done my share of Christmas shows.  When I lived in Los Angeles, I spent 15 years in retail, overlapping with 13 years in food service, so I know a little something about working Christmas Eve.  You know what?  I usually enjoyed it.  There was a camaraderie among those of us who were at work on that holiday eve. 
Not Christmas, but Halloween. This pic always
reminds me of my Sears Ladies, the middle-aged
women in the office who tended to me while my
mother struggled, then succumbed, to cancer.

I worked 15 years in the Sears Customer Service Department during my college years and beyond (we didn't call it the Complaint Department, but that was what it was).  Christmas Eve was never a busy day in that office, as everyone was going crazy on the sales floor, but very few people were complaining.  (It was the day AFTER Christmas that you did not want to be on duty.)

I also worked many, many Christmas Eves as a waiter.  Customers were usually in jolly moods and had holiday generosity that day, and often felt sorry for the poor waiter who had to work, so it was a good day to make money. My family has never had a strong tradition on Christmas Eve, so I never felt as if I was missing much by working a Christmas Eve shift.   
I worked in 4 restaurants over a 13 year period, and each one had a staff which became a squabbling, unruly, but loving family. There was always a "Us vs. Them" feeling in the restaurant business, where everyone banded together to feed the hordes.  This was my first gig as a waiter, I'm on the lower right in the plaid shirt.
As I think of it, the only consistent Christmas Eve tradition I have had, at least in my adult life, was the movie outing a group of us used to take late in the night.  Lots of high class movies open during the Christmas season, and my buddies Valerie and Ronnie used to arrange to catch the late night showing of one of them on Christmas Eve.  It was always the last show of the night, giving everybody time to fulfill their family obligations before heading out for a midnight show, and we were usually the only people in the theatre. I don't know if that tradition is still ongoing among my LA friends, but I have lots of good memories of those nights. 
Year after year, our gang gathered for the midnight showing on Christmas Eve. It was lucky that we were usually the only ones in the theatre, for when we saw turkeys like A Chorus Line, we hooted, hollered, and talked back to the screen. My head only can be seen here, third from the left.
As I look at this lopsided tree twinkling with lights and tilting precariously to starboard, I'm happy to relive those memories of Christmas Eves past.  Good times.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday Dance Party: From Waikiki to Watergate

My high school senior picture displays the attitude I had toward my parents at the time, who moved our family cross-country after my junior year: to prove they did not have COMPLETE power over me, I stopped cutting my hair. Clearly, I was hurting only myself. In the first year of this blog, I wrote about this move, and my senior year at Kennedy High in Los Angeles, here.
The death of a longtime politico this week caused a flood of memories for me, of so many years ago it's embarrassing.  The spring of 1973 was a period of high drama in my life.  I had been informed by my parents that our family was moving to California at the end of the school year (in fact, my father moved in February to begin his new assignment at the Burbank Lockheed, but the family remained in Atlanta so we would not be forced to transfer schools mid-year).  

I couldn't imagine a worse time to force a kid to change schools than the summer between his junior and senior year in high school, so I was having a bittersweet final semester at Riverwood High.  One of the bright spots of my day was the period during which I assisted the chair of the English Dept. 
I developed friendships with Riverwood High's English Dept
faculty, particularly with chair Gail Thompson (l) and
drama coach Peyton Potter (r).

I did this two years running, and was dubbed "Head Aide" by the English Dept faculty;  I spent fifth period every day in the small A/V room adjacent to the faculty offices, running off tests (does anybody remember mimeograph?  The smell of the ink was intoxicating) or doing other menial tasks for the English Dept..  If the TV was not otherwise engaged, I was allowed to flick it on to keep myself company;  it was thus that I became aware of the gent who inspired this week's Dance Party: 

Daniel Inouye
1924-2012
The Watergate hearings, during which a special Senate committee investigated and ultimately dismantled the Nixon presidency, were broadcast live on TV, and they were usually playing in the background during that tumultuous spring of 1973.  Just like everybody else, I was riveted by these hearings, which included hours and hours of drudge but always held the promise of a stunning surprise.
The Senate Select Committee on Presidential Activities convened to investigate the Watergate break-in and cover-up. The networks took turns broadcasting the daily proceedings.  Decades earlier, the McCarthy hearings had also been televised, but very few households had TVs at the time.  In 1973, the Watergate hearings turned the senators into celebrities.
The characters who appeared on the witness stand, and on the committee dais, were worthy of a theatre piece. 
"What did the President know,
 and when did he know it?"
 Sen. Howard Baker (at left) repeatedly
inquired, launching his career and a
national catchphrase.

The senators included Howard Baker, who was just beginning a stellar career in the Republican party, and cranky loon Herman Talmadge, one of my own Georgian senators.  The panel was headed by a guy right out of central casting, Sen. Sam Irvin from North Carolina, whose folksy Southern drawl masked a relentless inquisitor.  And who could forget some of the characters on the witness stand?  Mousy John Dean's revelation that Nixon had a long hit list of enemies for whom he had directed the FBI to create files rivaled the astonishment that a geeky guy like Dean could have such a glamorous wife.
Nixon chief counsel John Dean and his hot wife Maureen, who became a minor celebrity at the time.  Before their marriage, Mo Dean was linked to a high class ring of call girls in DC.
When Alexander Butterfield, another geeky clerk, revealed the existence of hours and hours of tapes of Oval Office conversations, the Nixon presidency was effectively done. 
Mouthy Martha Mitchell became famous for her
late-night, alcohol induced calls to the press.

And no one could forget the running commentary provided in the press by Martha Mitchell, the wife of Attorney General and Chief Conspirator John Mitchell;  Mrs. Mitchell would get drunk at night and call members of the press with her hilarious observations.
If they ever made a Women of Watergate memorial calendar, this gal would be on the cover. When the Nixon tapes were finally released, there was an obvious 18 minute gap in one covering a crucial meeting. Secretary Rose Mary Woods assumed responsibility for part of the "accidental" erasure, claiming she inadvertently pressed the erase button on the foot pedal of her Dictaphone while answering the telephone. This hilarious reenactment of the event, which required unlikely contortions, was dubbed "the Rose Mary Stretch."
I loved all this stuff, it was better than As The World Turns.  Since I never watched The Fugitive, it was during these hearings that I first saw a one-armed man, Sen. Daniel Inouye. 
Our hero receives the Medal Of Honor.

He was one of the most reticent of the senators on the committee, and at the time I had no idea he was already an American hero.  He lost that arm in WWII combat, and became Hawaii's first congressional representative when those islands became a state.  When he died this week, he was the sitting senator with the most seniority, and in fact he served in the Senate longer than anyone else in history except that old Byrd from West Virginia.  He served with quiet distinction as he rose in the ranks.  He chaired several prestigious committees, including the one which investigated another Republican president's ethical lapses, the Iran/Contra affair. 
At the far left is the Watergate committee minority counsel,
responsible for maintaining legal integrity for the
Republicans. He is now known as actor Fred Thompson.

This week his coffin was lying in state at the Capitol building, a very rare honor usually reserved for dead presidents. 
 

Inouye came from a long ago era when elected officials felt an obligation to Do Good, rather than Make Headlines;  I'm ashamed to say I did not know he was still in the Senate. But I make up for my lack of awareness with this week's Dance Party, dedicated to the man who, after Don Ho, Barack Obama, and King Kamehamehais the most famous Hawaiian ever. The star of this week's clip is another moderately famous Hawaiian, singing the song which is considered the official state song of Hawaii.  As Senator Inouye is being laid to rest in Hawaii this weekend, I imagine this gentle tune will be playing in tribute.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Dance Party: Everybody's Got The Right

There was no Friday Dance Party last week.  Friday was not the day for dancing. Or a party. 
 

All weekend, in the midst of joyously performing A Midsummer Night's Dream (and telling ourselves we were doing a good deed by lifting spirits), I only occasionally stopped by Facebook.  Amidst the outpouring of emotion regarding the school massacre was the expected blip from the usual suspects, those who regard any restriction of gun ownership to be a violation of their constitutional rights.  Sometimes my brain hurts from this stuff.  When the White House spokesman, of all people, proclaimed that this was "not the time to debate gun control," I thought my ears would start bleeding.  When exactly IS the best time to debate gun control? 
 
The current fiscal cliff stalemate proves that our legislators  cannot accomplish anything unless in crisis mode (actually, they are YOUR legislators, since, as a citizen of DC, MY legislator does not get to vote in Congress...so all this stuff is YOUR fault).  I would call last weekend's slaughter evidence of a crisis, and encourage action.

Wow, I didn't mean to get into all that, but you can now see how impossible it would have been to create a Dance Party last Friday.  But I've been feeling bad that I skipped a week, the only time that has happened in over four years of Dance Party silliness, so I shall make up for the loss with a special Monday edition.

Believe it or not, there is actually a piece of musical theatre out there which deals with violence in America.  That theme alone is reason enough that the show is not widely appreciated, and its history is one of lousy timing and disconcerting content.  The show is Assassins, one of Stephen Sondheim's most controversial works. 
In 2006, Signature Theatre in DC, renowned for reexamining Sondheim's flops, presented Assassins. As if the piece itself wasn't unsettling enough, this staging placed the actors in theatre seats facing the audience.  There was no escape.
A lot of Sondheim's shows have had, shall we say, "checkered" histories, and Assassins may be at the head of a list which would probably also contain Passion, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, and Road Show.  All these shows had limited appeal in their initial runs, and divided audiences into lovers and haters (I've heard that, during the Broadway run of Passion, there was an actual fistfight in the audience between someone who hated the show and someone who was defending it!).

My favorite Cassidy, Patrick, co-starred in the
original, with Victor Garber.

But back to Assassins, which made its debut Off-Broadway in 1990, with a cast which included Victor Garber, Patrick Cassidy, Terrance Mann, and Debra Monk.  It's no surprise that the show sold out its limited run of only 73 performances, as everybody clamored to see Sondheim's first show since the well-regarded Into the Woods.  The surprise here was the fact that the show did not make its anticipated move to Broadway (the NY Times pan had a lot to do with that). 
In the 2004 revival, Neil Patrick Harris's
performance as Lee Harvey Oswald was
creepily enhanced by his t-shirt, upon
which the Zapruder home movie of JFK's
assassination flickered.

Years later, Roundabout Theatre's plan to finally produce the show on Broadway was derailed by the September 11 attacks;  they rightly surmised that nobody wanted to see a show which humanized the people who, throughout history, attempted and/or succeeded in murdering American presidents.  Yes, that's what Assassins is about.  In a carnival setting, the show gives voice to the most heinous (and occasionally hilarious) villains in American history.  John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald tell their stories (and argue with each other), while John Hinkley sings a love song to Jodie Foster before shooting Reagan.  The lesser known assassins of presidents Garfield and McKinley are also featured, as well as those loony ladies who each tried to kill Gerald Ford, Squeaky Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore.
Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore meet on a park bench.  Fromme was a member of Charles Manson's "family," and oddly, Moore went to high school with him. Individually, they both attempted to shoot Gerald Ford, and they have both currently been released on parole.
The connecting thread of all their stories seems to be a desire to be noticed.  But there is another major character in Assassins: the gun.  The show opens with The Balladeer, who acts as our narrator, handing out guns to all the assassins;  there is even a ballad ABOUT the gun.  As you can imagine, the piece is dark and unsettling;  it's no surprise that Assassins is not considered a classic. 
The 2004 Broadway production won the Tony, as did Michael Cerveris as Booth. You can also spot previous Tony winner Denis O'Hare, as well as comic Mario Cantone in the Santa suit.  My man Neil Patrick Harris played the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald. The cast reunited this month for a concert staging in New York.  The casual way in which the cast handles their guns is truly disturbing, and is indicative of the American attitude toward weaponry and violence.
This week's Dance Party (or rather, last week's, appearing several days late) features the clip presented on the Tony awards when the revival finally made it to Broadway in 2004.  The yucky theme of the show has always doomed Assassins, and though the revival won five Tonys, it was not a hit.  It probably never will be, and after last week's gun violence, I pity any high school or college theatre department which was presenting the show as its Christmas musical.  This clip certainly illustrates the difficulty of producing Assassins for a wide audience, and the final image, which is the last moment of the show, has traumatic significance this week.



Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Dance Party: Affecting The Upper Respiratory Tract

Faith Prince was a replacement Ursula in Disney's attempt to put The Little Mermaid onstage.
There are lots of stage actors out there who claim that the rehearsal process is their favorite part of putting on a show.  For them, it is more enjoyable and rewarding than actually performing in front of an audience.  Not me, baby. 
My current gig.

While I hope to always enjoy the rehearsal process (a hope which is sometimes dashed, unfortunately), the real fun for me is always in the final performance.  Because of this, I am being robbed.  My current production, A Midsummer Night's Dream, opened in Manhattan this week, for a brief, two week run.  Our houses are growing (we were full last night, at only our third performance, very unusual for this kind of showcase production), and the crowds have been warm and receptive.  I love the role I'm playing and should be having a ball.  I'm not.  I have a creepy croup which is causing me misery.
You must look very closely to see me in this picture.  The boys are kissing my hand.  I'm told I'm giving a solid performance as Wall.
I've been very lucky in that I have not been sick for a moment in the past two years, a personal best for me.  But last week, I came down with the illness which has plagued me, off and on, throughout my adult life. 
This ugly root is supposed to work wonders
for the common cold. I'm drinking gallons of
this stuff boiled into a "tea."

The tickle in the throat grew to a raging soreness, but soon disappeared, replaced with a very liquid cold.  That, too, has gone, leaving behind a hacking, racking, insistent cough.  That kind of cough really takes the fun out of everything, and I've been unable to socialize with my cast, as I must dash home every night to drink that lousy ginger root drink which everybody swears by.
Faith Prince as Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.
The star of this week's Dance Party also suffers from a cold, brought on, in her case, by an unhappy love life. 
Prince had success in the role which
made Judy Holiday a musical star.

It's a great character number from Guys and Dolls, and here is delivered by Faith Prince, who won the Tony for one of the revivals of the show.  She has a very specific style which works well for roles such as Adelaide;  her voice is lodged solidly in the mask of the face, which gives her a decidedly nasal quality but with lots of power.  That quality has been put to great use for years on the Broadway and cabaret stage. 
I own the recording of Faith's club act, which
proves her a skilled song stylist, but
unfortunately, her nasality begins to wear.

She first made a splash in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, in which she hammed it up as dresssy Tessie Turra in the Gypsy segment.  She headlined Bells Are Ringing and A Catered Affair, and she did replacement work in Falsettoes, The Little Mermaid, and Billy Elliott (in which she toured).  I'm told she now lives in Sacremento, but she continues to maintain a bit of a presence even off the beaten path.  

Sadly, nobody really sounds this good when they develop a cold, or in my case, hack up a lung.