Quirky Q & A with Notable Names

by Matt Smith . . .

It’s certainly not an understatement to say life has been a rollercoaster throughout the last twelve months.  And as we’ve officially surpassed a year since the shutdown of our beloved Broadway and other theaters and performing arts spaces across the country, it’s safe to say we could all use a little reprieve.

So, we’re bringing back our quirky questionnaire with a brand new batch of notable names to offer music and musings on life amid the ongoing pandemic. (In other words, let’s have another round tonight!

And we’re kicking it off once again with two of our signature showtunes playlists. Who’s jammin’ out to JCS? Who would go the morbid — though topical — route in a quarantine concert? Who’s ready to embrace group numbers when it’s finally all over? Scroll through to see who said what this time around… and keep checking back for more reactions and reflections as the month goes on! 

And, as always, we urge you to continue keeping the faith. It’ll all be okay in the end. Because, at the end of the day, though it may be lengthier than all of us expected it to be, it’s still #onlyintermission. 

1. If you could only listen to one musical theatre song while in quarantine, which would it be and why? 

Christina Bianco (Funny Girl; Me, Myself and Everyone Else): “Heaven on Their Minds”

Why? Simply because it rocks! Whenever it comes on, I have to stop everything and sing along… and that sort of escape and distraction is essential during lockdown life. 

Todd Buonopane (The Play That Goes Wrong, #BathtubTheatre, #FridgeSongs): This is like having to choose a favorite child. Do I go inspiring? Silly? Sondheim? UGH!!!! I think I’m going to have to go with a group number. Something that features lots of voices. So I’ll say “Ragtime” from Ragtime, or “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George.  

Kevin Chamberlin (Seussical, Disaster!, Wicked, Ratatouille): The overture to Merrily We Roll Along

It always gives me energy and I really like trumpets.

LaVon Fisher-Wilson (Chicago, Newsies, SuperYou): “Mysterious Ways” from The Color Purple

It’s inspirational and uplifting. I listened to it for two years when I was in the show — and all through my pregnancy — and never got tired of it!

Kelsey Fowler (Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins, Bonnie & Clyde): “You Matter to Me” 

It’s one of those songs that has me in the moment from the first note. I love everything about it. There’s so much beauty in its simplicity.

Jenn Gambatese (Mrs. Doubtfire): Oh, this is hard! ONE song? I’m gonna go with “Wait for It”.

Both the song and Leslie Odom, Jr.’s delivery of it are brilliant, and it’s how I’ve got to hold space patiently until the vaccine is fully distributed!

Michael James Leslie (The Wiz, Little Shop of Horrors, Barrow Street Sweeney Todd): 

“Make them Hear You” from Ragtime.  

The pandemic has caused a great deal of self-analysis. In my case, I need to continue to speak out about injustice in all walks of life.

Bobbi MacKenzie (School of Rock: The Musical): “The Games I Play” from Falsettos.

My friend introduced this song to me and I fell in love. It’s just so beautiful and I love to harmonize with Andrew Rannells!

Michael J. Moritz, Jr. (Hadestown, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, On the Town): 

“Somewhere.” Enough said. 

Graham Montgomery (Kinky Boots, The King and I National Tour): “Livin’ It Up on Top” 

When I first saw the show, pre-COVID, Amber Gray had me on the edge of my seat. Her dynamic performance left me feeling like I was in a parallel universe. Listening to that song brings me back to the times when we could still enjoy live theatre. 

Donna Vivino (Les Misérables, Wicked, Cats): Anything from Bridges of Madison County

Especially anything Kelli O’Hara and/or Steven Pasquale sing. It is just that exceptional.

Cori Wilson (School of Rock: The Musical): “Figure Me Out” by Drew Gasparini, from his musical It’s Kind of a Funny Story.

As I approach adulthood and have been applying to college, with the added chaos and complications from COVID, I found myself doing a lot of introspection and trying to find out what kind of person I want to grow up to be — I’m literally trying to “figure me out!” It’s been a big comfort song for me recently for that reason… and one that I constantly belt out in my car whenever I need stress relief. 

If you could sing any song in a quarantine concert, which would it be and why? 

Christina Bianco: “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid

It’s one of my favorite songs of all time and it’s clearly fitting, as we ALL want to be part of that world now, don’t we? 

Todd Buonopane: Well, I’ve been singing quite a lot during quarantine… from my bathtub. My most requested bathtub number that I’ve done in the cyber-concerts has been “Ring Them Bells” (There’s a big gay reveal in it!), so why not that?!

Kevin Chamberlin: “Let’s Not Die” (Music by Joe Kinosian, Lyrics by Kellen Blair). 

The title speaks for itself.

LaVon Fisher-Wilson: “I’m Here” 

That song resonates differently now that I’m in the age range that Celie was when she sang that song in the show! I feel all the aches and pains, and to add quarantine to that! Good Lawd! No truer words were ever sung! 

Kelsey Fowler: “Wondering”

It’s beautifully haunting while pinpointing a familiar, forbidden, rarely-named feeling.

Jenn Gambatese: Also hard! I’d go with “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music

It’s so much fun to sing, uses a lot of my range (so I can stay nimble) and would keep me hopeful and positive until we get to the other side of this!

Michael James Leslie: “No One is Alone”  

I, you, and everyone has to believe that in order to put one foot in front of another.

Bobbi MacKenzie: “Back to Before” from Ragtime

The song works well with my voice and I think that that the lyrics are really well written and poignant.

Michael J. Moritz, Jr.: That’s tough to choose one…. I’m going to cheat and say it would be something from Sondheim. Too many to choose from! Maybe “Anyone Can Whistle.” 

Graham Montgomery: “Magic to Do” from Pippin

The thought of being able to perform for people again is “magic.” That number would be a great way to express how every performer feels. Even if it is online. 

Donna Vivino: Probably “Always Better” from Bridges.

Again, it’s my favorite cast recording. And I secretly wish to be a legit soprano. 

Cori Wilson: “You Will Be Found” 

As cliché as it may be, it’s a big group number, and I think doing something with a bunch of other performers whose art may have also been put on pause this past year would be a really [gratifying] way to usher in this new era of theatre. Not to mention, it’s a song with an uplifting message — and that’s something I think everyone could benefit from right now. 

When quarantine restrictions are lifted completely and Broadway reopens, what is the first theatre-related thing you’ll do? 

Christina Bianco: I will happily spend my money and go support my friends who are performing – in theatre or nightclubs – for a full night on the town! Perhaps cocktails at the Carlyle, a Broadway show, a late show at Birdland, and then open mic at The Duplex! Then, I’ll plan my return to the stage myself!

Todd Buonopane: See a show, of course! I just really want to be in an audience the first night that Broadway comes back! I tear up just thinking about it. 

Kevin Chamberlin: See the revival of Company. I have so many friends in it… and I’m kind of obsessed with the show.

LaVon Fisher-Wilson: I will go to the opening night of a great big Broadway show, attend a Broadway for Racial Justice concert, and finally, have a huge baby playdate party with all of my Broadway friends who have had, or will have, their babies in quarantine. As of this writing, there are ten of them and Auntie is ready!

Kelsey Fowler: I’d love to see something intimate again!! Perhaps a show in a small venue… not because of worry about the virus, but because I’m not sure how I might respond to a big Broadway show and its theater initially. I think it could be overwhelming… better for me to ease into it. 

Jenn Gambatese: Hug all my show friends!!!

Michael James Leslie: I will go to a theater every night of the first couple of weeks to be reminded of my passion and to watch others as they reacquaint themselves with the power of performance.

Bobbi MacKenzie: Go to see The Phantom of the Opera. I am so embarrassed that I have not seen the show yet, but I have wanted to see it for years! Soooo, definitely that!

Michael J. Moritz, Jr.: Once things are safe, I can’t wait to get back into a theatre. I miss performing, producing and just being an audience member. 

Graham Montgomery: I will drag everyone I know out to Times Square and make us all branch out to go buy tickets to every show! 

Donna Vivino: I’ve been doing nothing but theatre-related teaching all year, so I will probably go to a baseball game actually. 

Cori Wilson: I had tickets to the opening night of Hamilton on tour, which I am still SO bummed I never got to see. So, the first thing I’ll do is definitely try to see Hamilton live again, because as much as I loved the pro-shot on Disney Plus, it’s definitely not the same. 

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