A few days ago, while I fought through snot and emotions leading up to my departure to the arctic, I got a phone call from my friend Michelle Dorrance with a very special offer. Last month Michelle became a full time member of "Stomp," and Tuesday afternoon she was merging with my favorite show
Rock 'n' Roll "Xanadu" for the 19th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition. After months of fundraising for Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids, all the shows gather together each year to put on an afternoon of skits, musical numbers, and over dramatic lyrical dances, all in the name of this incredible cause.
I've always watched these events from afar, through photos and accounts of other theater goers on websites, but despite my cold I was ecstatic at the opportunity to sit in the audience. The proceedings were hosted by none other than "Xanadu"'s reining goddesses Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman, who were hindered by the addition of Bob Sagat. The ladies elicited a barrage of laughter from the audience (mostly industry insiders) while Sagat proceeded to bring things down with his low-brow, and quite frankly, unfunny comedy schtick.
Regardless of Danny Tanner's hindrance of the hosting duties, they were not the reason anyone was there. Several shows (notably "Mamma Mia," "The Ritz," "Legally Blonde," and "The Color Purple") pulled out hilarious (and in the case of "Purple," dramatic) musical numbers spoofing various events in the theater world. Despite their efforts, nothing could even come close to touching the main attraction of the afternoon: a reunion of the surviving members of the original Broadway company of "West Side Story."
Only a day earlier, I had discussed the brilliance of this show with friends of mine, and suddenly there I was watching theater history. To say that it was chill inducing, emotional, mesmerizing, touching, or mind-blowing are all vast understatements. Being the sneaky blogger that I am (and seeing as everyone else around me with cameras noticed that this was an event not to go undocumented) I filmed the "West Side" sequence in its entirety.
Chita Rivera continues to amaze me. The amount of energy and passion she brings to her sections rivals that of the dancers surrounding her who must be almost 50 years younger. (A fun tidbit: the dancer standing directly to Rivera's left during the Mambo section is her daughter.)
Before the show I had the chance to go backstage with Michelle. We waded through a sea of jazz-pants wearing, vocalizing, splitting, and twirling dancers before arriving at none other than Annie Golden. For those of you not aware of Golden, she's a fantastic singer who was discovered at CBGB's in the 70's before going on to star in "Hair," "The Full Monty," and most currently as an understudy in "Xanadu." In addition to those wonderful credits, she did a TV show with my dad years ago while we lived in L.A.
Michelle introduced me to her, and I had a vague recollection of my dad's association with her, so I figured I would give it a try. The moment I mentioned my father's name, her eyes lit up and she launched into a recollection of his "big beautiful curly hair," and the fact that he was "moving his family to somewhere like Montana." My jaw dropped to the floor as she continued to get a kick out of the bizarre connection. She's such a vivid character and a warm presence that I wanted to spend more time around. In addition to her glorious singing voice (she starts off the "Stompadu" video below) she speaks in a kewpie doll meets 10-packs of cigarettes rasp that is endearing. While I can't quite explain the reasoning behind the Stomp/Xanadu merger, I'm not complaining. Check it out for yourself below.