Tell us a bit about your professional background.
When I was in 1st grade, I played “Doll 1” (there were 3 of us Dolls) in the school Christmas Play. I had one line to exclaim while walking forward and backwards with my arms straight out – “Mama! Papa! I’m here!” I got very bored waiting for my turn, and it was hot onstage and I fainted, – a show-stopping forward topple off a riser – and landed perfectly downstage center, quickly surrounded by my worried parents, horrified gaping audience, nuns with rosaries unpocketed in quick prayer, and extremely annoyed cast members. I got up unsteadily off the floor, was met by thunderous applause and was completely thrilled with the power of live theatre. Although there was one high school senior one-liner stint as a “blind Chinese beggar man” (”Alms for the poor?”) in The Lute Song, I had carefully stored the earlier, more seminal dramatic experience as the fainted doll until I began acting and singing in earnest in college. I felt like I had come home, and was very luckily cast in wonderful leading and support roles in a wide variety of musicals and plays. There were no further fainting incidents, thank God – but being burned at the stake as Joan of Arc in “The Lark”, although wildly satisfying for me, was equally disturbing for my family. Midway through college, I landed my first professional summer stock job in New Jersey, playing Raina in George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man.” I was totally hooked! Compelled by this force of destiny, I did a sudden post-graduation detour from a great cultural arts business opportunity and instead became a student at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in NYC. It was 1968, an enchanted time in a vibrant center of serious study with brilliant teachers and people just like me, – “theatre animals” – all brimming with raw talent, hopes, dreams, excitement and energy. Together we were learning to transmute what we felt was a unique understanding of human nature into its artistic expression in acting, song and dance. Little did I realize at the time, that the wonderful classmate I was smitten with, Richard Flanders, would become my husband and partner in life and song after a brief separation of only 45 years! Another force of destiny.
Right out of AMDA I did a southern States tour as Louisa in “The Fantasticks”, did many seasons of Summer Stock in Maine and Pennsylvania playing roles like Agnes in “I Do, I Do”, Joan in “Dames at Sea”, Ellen in “Love”, Suzy in “Wait Until Dark”, Eleanor of Aquitaine in “Lion in Winter”, Katherine in “The Heiress”, and many musical Revues. Over the years, I’ve also loved producing/performing one-woman Cabaret shows in NYC in celebration of The American Songbook. My personal favorite was “Love, Lust and Quantum Physics!” with book by me and musical direction by Brad Ross. (Who would have thought you can consider quantum physics basic concepts through music by Porter, Rogers and Hart, Gershwin, Sondheim and yes, Brad Ross?
In addition to theatre and song, a life rich with other career opportunities unfolded, leading me in several – also very much destined – directions. For the past 20 years, it has been my privilege to serve on several NYC and Westchester County major medical center leader teams. Now, as a consultant, my focus continues to be on developing healthcare leaders, engaging and supporting dedicated staff and improving the quality of the patient and family experience in hospitals. This calling hasn’t stilled the songs in my heart, beat in my feet and theatre in my soul. It just enhances it, bringing me to a deeper appreciation of life, love, the precious gift of time and the joy of artistic expression! Now, after sweet reunion with Richard after almost five decades, I’ve also been warmly welcomed by Sarah Rice into the family of Broadway Concerts Direct, the best musical home I could ever imagine. It is an honor to share the stage and continue to learn from some of the most loving, generous and talented singers, musicians and one genius sound engineer (Stuart Allyn). Being with Richard and singing with Broadway Concerts Direct is truly the best time in my life.
When and why did you become involved in Broadway Direct Concerts?
After a seven year hiatus in performing and several months before Richard and I rediscovered each other over dinner in a NYC restaurant, I felt strongly compelled to sing again. I started humming favorite tunes, returned to voice lessons and then exploratory work sessions with Brad Ross with the intent of maybe putting a new show together. Fueled by the love that hit me and Richard like a thunderbolt, my singing took off! We had so much time and so many songs to catch up on. Richard had been a steady member of Broadway Concerts Direct for many years. I happily started going to these wonderful concerts, found myself tapping my foot and mouthing the lyrics to familiar songs, hearing terrific newer ones and being awestruck by Sarah Rice’s incredible talent and that of the other group members – all the time with increasing racing heart and the hope that I could one day join them. At Sarah’s invitation in August 2013 I started singing with this wonderful troupe in Wurtsboro, now in Blooming Grove, in a NJ Cabaret and delightedly at Sarah’s annual NYC Benefit for Zani’s, a grass roots, volunteer animal rescue organization. Sarah and my new friends at Broadway Concerts Direct also joined Richard and I, performing an hour-long Cabaret show in the middle of our Wedding reception that December!
Broadway Concerts Direct is a unique group of caring, generous and top-performance driven artists who truly love and want the very best for each other – in performance and in life. The caliber of musicianship, professional integrity and mutual support is extraordinary. I consider myself incredibly lucky and grateful to be performing again with such a wonderful group of artists, now friends.
How do you pick songs?
I have to love the music and the story the song tells. It needs to resonate with my own emotional experience and/or beliefs. The song has to be smart, with a coherence of melody and lyric. It needs to move my heart, my spirit, my brain and often my feet. I like to do a mix of styles and genres for each concert – a classic ballad and a swingy, jazzy, up-tempo tune (20’s, 30’s and 40’s are favorites.) I love to include comedy numbers too! A perfect night for me includes a great duet with Richard. I like to mix well-known American Songbook classics with less familiar and newer composers’ works. In a perfect world, I try to make each song I sing to be a little jewel, a special gift, carefully chosen, wrapped and delivered with love for our audiences. I want to touch, move, amuse, sometimes teach and sometimes help to heal a heart through song. I sing because I truly love to and it’s a way I can express joy, sadness, resilience, humor, understanding, recognition and hope to others.
How do you prepare?
My husband Richard is a great power of example. Following his incredible professional discipline of vocalizing and song practice every day, I now sing every day to keep in best vocal shape. Richard and I have an extensive home library of sheet music and probably hundreds of songs just stored in our heads! I usually start with the songbooks of Porter, Rogers and Hart, Gershwin and Kern. I get recommendations of songs to sing from Broadway Concerts Direct group members, and also from our extraordinary musical directors and composers, Bob Goldstone, David Lewis, Matthew Martin-Ward, Brad Ross and Eric Sedgwick. I schedule time with our musicians and we try out songs, find the just right keys for my voice, partner in arranging them, make instrumental practice tapes (tracks) and then I sing with them every day at home. I type out the song lyrics to memorize, and as an actor, I work on the songs emotionally. I talk/work the songs through without the music. I find where the song echoes with my own real or imagined experience, finding nuances in the phrasing, styling, expression. I ask myself who am I telling the story to – the audience? a friend? myself? – and why? Technically I make decisions whether to stand still or move around — use a stationary or hand-held microphone? I practice at home with my iphone recorded rehearsal tracks, often holding a flashlight the same size and weight as a mic, keeping it as an organic extension of my body. I imagine the audiences – and how they might feel listening to the story of the song. Whenever possible, I try out the songs for Richard and/or a friend or two before the actual performance. By the time I perform a song, I’ve usually been working on it for at least two months, and sometimes even for years. At each performance I’m usually doing one song that I’ve done at some time in the past that I’m bringing a new perspective to and one song I’ve never performed before although as time goes on I’m increasingly bringing newly learned songs to our concerts.
What do you like about performing?
Not fainting or being burned at the Stake (kidding). I like the art, the craft and the fun of performing. I like feeling prepared and ready. I like the lights, the sounds, the “smell of the greasepaint”. I like the camaraderie and support of fellow performers, musicians, sound/light engineers and everyone involved in getting a show or concert up and running well. I like the satisfaction that comes when all has worked well, everything has hit its mark and the audience appreciates it. Those are some of the things I like about performing… But what I love about performing is being at play in mystery and magic. Performance is an ancient art resonating with universal archetypes, ritual, myth and meaning. As performers, we get to tap into this energy field that holds all the sounds and mysteries of life. We get to bring forth a character, a song, a dance, a story, a Play. This happens in unique partnership with our audiences who agree to suspend everyday reality for a little while, to come join us on this inexplicable, wonderful – and sometimes even scary – journey. Actors jokingly (and not so jokingly) call it “magic time”. I love magic time! I love the mystery of it all.