Archive for September 8th, 2011
After watching the film ”The Life of Reilly,” a remembrance and personal memorial for Charles Nelson Reilly who was so kind to me and gave me a chance in my first cabaret show.
I moved from Indianapolis to NYC on Labor Day of 1992. My parents dropped me off at my cousin’s house on east 62nd Street (a very fancy place) on the way home from a family vacation in Maine and then continued on to Indiana. My dearest girl-friend Susie had arrived in NYC a few weeks previous. We enrolled in classes at HB Studio, enthralled by the acting books of Uta Hagen. I enrolled in both acting and song performance classes.
HB Studio is a magical place on Bank Street in the Village:
At HB Studio, you can take classes from some of the best teachers around and in rooms which have nurtured the talents of some of the best actors of our time, in the company of serious students of theatre crafts, within an organization that is dedicated to affordability and accessibility. It is a very special place. Authenticity and inspiration vibrate off the walls.
My song performance class was taught by Michele Grace and accompanied at the piano by Noel Katz. It was a great fortune that they nominated me to audition for a cabaret that was being put up as a benefit to raise money for HB Studio that autumn, directed by Charles Nelson Reilly and Donna McKechnie. I nervously went in to audition and belted out “Story Goes On” from the musical BABY by Maltby and Shire. Mr. Reilly liked it. I still thrill to remember he said, “Finally! Someone who can sing!” That made my heart FLY! He cast me in the cabaret, my first. I don’t remember how many students were cast, maybe between 5 and 10? Most of the performers were well-known HB Studio alumni. Stiller & Meara performed. Donna McKechnie sang “One for My Baby and One More for the Road.” Pamela Blair sang “Dance 10, Looks 3.” I was enthralled, smitten, and star struck. Somehow, during the rehearsals, I found myself sitting alone with Mr. Reilly and chatting. He was so kind and gentle with me and, of course, hilarious. I ended up yammering on about how I saw Julie Harris and Brock Peters play “Driving Miss Daisy” when I was at Indiana University and even attended their curtain talk. Of course, though I didn’t know, they worked together many times and he spoke so glowingly of her. I think many people did not realize what an accomplished actor and director Charles Nelson Reilly was. The next day at rehearsals for the cabaret, Mr. Reilly brought for me a clear plastic, slip envelope filled with two vintage Julie Harris playbills, one, autographed by Julie Harris, from “I am a Camera” (1951) and the other from “The Lark” (1955). I’m looking at them now, what treasure they are. Mr. Reilly singed the cardboard insert “You Dear Emily – Love Charles Nelson Reilly - X.”
The cabaret show was a fabulous experience for a girl fresh out of Indiana. Mr. Reilly took us all out to Manatus Restaurant on Bleeker Street afterwards and we laughed well into the night. Another of the nights, there was a party somewhere and I was talking to Mr. Reilly and a very good-looking young man (blond, blue eyes, who had an Australian accent). That young man walked away for some reason and Mr. Reilly (who could clearly see the attraction) said to me, “Well! Go do something about it!” Ha!
All of this is to write that just today I saw the filmed version of his stage show, “Life of Reilly” and was incredibly touched by it. I’d gotten to see his show in person when my husband and I were in San Francisco in 2000 or 2001. It was an amazing experience in the theatre, but wonderful to see it again, remembering him now he’s gone, and watching closely, learning more about him this time than the last. I remember the funny experience in the little San Francisco theatre that it was the only show I’ve ever gone to where the line for the men’s room was much, much longer than the women’s! The audience was filled with gay men and very few women and I just waltzed right into the toilet. It was such a delight!!
My experience with Mr. Charles Nelson Reilly was brief, but rich. I will never forget him. And I’m forever grateful for the chance he gave me to perform in that cabaret at HB Studio (I sang “The Waitress Song” from the musical WORKING). It was my first experience with the art form of cabaret. The experience (and the man) clearly made an impression on me!
I researched a little and found that Michele Grace performs in Connecticut and surrounding states and teaches at the Darien Arts Center (http://arts.darien.org/music/musicClasses.php)
Noel Katz writes musicals. Famously, he and his wife Joy created a musical for their wedding. Yes, their wedding was a musical (amazing!).
Here’s the link to their wedding musical: http://www.weddingmusical.com/
Here’s a link to Noel’s blog about musicals and writing musicals: http://noelkatz.wordpress.com/
More about Charles Nelson Reilly and “Life of Reilly,” here:
A terrific bio of Charles Nelson Reilly’s work, here:
Informative wiki article about Charles Nelson Reilly, here:
A blog about the creation of the filming of Charles Nelson Reilly’s play “Save It For the Stage: The Life of Reilly,” (including wonderful filmed footage):
I’m attending a Master Class today with Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway. Here are thoughts from a post I wrote, musing about the Master Class, regarding Liz Callaway and her performance of the great song “The Story Goes On,”
Liz Callaway played the original Lizzie in the Maltby/Shire musical BABY. I originally saw BABY at Starlight Musicals Indianapolis when I was an intern there in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I ran out and got the Broadway soundtrack and Liz Callaway’s performance of “The Story Goes On” was a revelation to me. She taught me the song. I hope to have made it my own over the years, but have sung that song in many shows and auditions, including the audition for Charles Nelson Reilly, who cast me in a benefit cabaret at HB Studio in 1992. The song is important to me and so is Liz Callaway.
MUSINGS FOR A MASTER CLASS