By Brian Scott Lipton
Taylor Dayne has long been one of pop music’s most distinctive voices –- which may be why she has sold over 70 million albums and singles worldwide, including her mega-hits “Love Will Lead You Back” and “Tell It to My Heart.” She’s also a devoted single mother of teenaged twins (born via surrogate), the author of a well-received memoir (also named Tell it to My Heart) and an outspoken activist for women’s rights. But, as they say, that’s not all. Dayne is also a Broadway veteran – having played the role of Amneris in Disney’s Aida – as well as a lifelong theater lover. TheaterPizzazz recently caught up with Dayne to talk about these subjects and more.
Q: Did you see a lot of Broadway theater while growing up in Long Island?
TD: My parents were avid theatergoers, so once my brothers and I were older, we went into Manhattan most Sundays. We called it “the drag into the city day.” I have to admit that we saw some incredible shows, like Runaways and Ain’t Misbehavin’. I also remember being taken to see a production of Waiting for Godot, which was so grueling that I never wanted to see theater again!
Q: In the 1990s, there was a lot of talk about you playing Fanny Brice in a revival of Funny Girl. How did that happen?
TD: Jule Styne, who composed the music for the show, was actively looking for someone to do the role. Someone I knew also knew him and set up a meeting with him. As much as I knew it would be the role of a lifetime, I have to say I took the meeting mostly to make my parents happy. They were first-generation Holocaust survivors and I knew if I got the part it would make them proud. Anyway, the accompanist at the audition suggested I sing “The Music that Makes Me Dance” but with a little Taylor in it. Jule did not like the way I did it; he wanted it sung the way he wrote it. So then I sang something else, with a lot of anger if I recall, and he loved it. And then he asked me to do the show. While it never happened, we had a great relationship until he passed away.
Q: What was your most memorable experience while performing in Aida?
TD: Honestly, I have so many, but they really concern things that happened backstage and offstage. You know, the reality of theater is your cast who become your family. I hired my surrogate while I was in the show, and immediately the production office began knitting booties. I remember Adam Pascal (who played Radames) kept putting Whoopie cushions on my seat; it took me forever to figure out where all these noises were coming from. And Heather Headley (who played Aida) always used to try to make me laugh right before the show started and the curtain went up. It really was one of the most memorable years of my life.
Q: Getting back to pop music, when did you realize your voice was so unique?
TD: I was getting solos in school when I was eight, so that was a clue. But it wasn’t until later that I decided to make my voice really special. In school, I just imitated a lot of Stevie Wonder.
Q: Other than Stevie, who do you consider your early musical influences?
TD: It’s a very eclectic list. As I said, theater people, like Barbra Streisand, were really important to me. But I’d also have to list Karen Carpenter, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Paul Rodgers and Neil Young. And I have to single out Joni Mitchell, who had a huge influence on me as a singer and songwriter; everything she did was so haunting in her choices of music and lyrics.
Q: Once we’re all out of isolation, what do you foresee in your future?
TD: It’s hard to feel creative right now; my focus is on my family. But I would definitely come back to the stage for a great role, although I want the universe to show me the perfect part. And music is always there for me and always will be; it is what gives me pleasure and purpose!