Happy (Jewish) New Year my peeps! This week I interviewed Marilu Henner on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show.
Marilu grew up in Chicago and she said there was a dance studio in her backyard and a hair salon in her kitchen! That salon was a big part of her life. In fact, when her kids were in elementary school doing school plays, she was outraged that no one was talking to them about hair and makeup! (P.S. What elementary school play has hair and makeup?) Regardless, she wound up volunteering her salon services and did 21 shows from when her kids were little up until they were in high school with kids like Katherine Gallagher (Peter’s daughter), Beanie Feldstein, and Ben Platt!
Her makeup ideas, however, don’t always pan out; when she was in her first Broadway show, she was in full hair and makeup backstage and decided her character should have figurative and literal stars in her eyes. Therefore, she thought it would be perfect to cut her false eyelashes into little star designs. She was ¾ through doing when she realized she wasn’t wearing false eyelashes! Yes, she had cut her own lashes…and it took months to grow back! That reminds me of when my sister heard it was good to put mayonnaise and egg in her hair. She went to school and her hair looked (and smelled) crazy. Of course, she begged my mom to come home and my mother, who would make us stay home from school for 4 days after having a cold, had a complete personality/priority change and was like “No, Nancy. School is way too important to miss.” Since when!?!?!??! Nancy had to spend all day with greasy/dressing-on-the-side hair.
Back to Marilu: I was asking about her start in musical theatre and she told us that in the early ’70s someone she knew from Chicago community theatre (Jim Jacobs) asked her to be in a show about the kids he went to high school with. And that’s how she got to be in the original (way before Broadway) Grease! She remembers walking into rehearsal and there was a giant stack of songs and a giant stack of scenes (the book report scene, the polio shot scene etc) and they fashioned it all into the show.
When the show was going to move to New York, the producers wanted her to audition but she was on scholarship at the University of Chicago and didn’t want to leave. After college, however, she auditioned for the national company and got the role of Marty. Well, not since the Toronto company of Godspell has there been such a starry cast: Sonny was played by Michael Lembeck, Kenickie was played by Jerry Zaks, Rizzo was played by Judy Kaye, Doody was played by John Travolta and the Danny rehearsing with them for the London company was Richard Gere! (P.S. Richard had also been an understudy for the Broadway company and I remember one of the fellow company members telling me that even when he went on for Eugene, the nerd with the glasses who gets shoved into a locker, he would have girls waiting at the stage door because he was so crazily sexy.)
Anyhoo, while on the national tour, she had a day off and flew to NYC to visit her friend, who was doing Grease on Broadway. She went to meet her at the theatre and when she showed up, someone asked if she was there to audition. She told them no, she was waiting for her friend but they told her to come onstage and sing and the next thing she knew, she was cast in the Andrews Sister musical, Over Here!. She loved it! Especially, post-curtain call, when the Andrews Sisters would do a post-show 20 minute medley of all their hits!
You can watch Marilu and the cast on the Tony Awards with featured dancer Ann Reinking and a pre-Saturday Night Fever/Kotter/Grease John Travolta in this video!
On a more somber note: As the whole Broadway community knows, the wonderful Marin Mazzie, the hilarious, super-talented, warm-hearted star, passed away last week. Here’s a collection of some of my favorite Marin stories from various columns:
The first thing you should know is that people were always mispronouncing her name. Rather than be annoyed, she found it hilarious. As a matter of fact, during Bullets Over Broadway, James Gray, who was the swing, heard someone say during intermission, “I just love that Marnie Mazzle!" The whole cast thought it was so funny that eventually her dresser had "Marnie Mazzle" printed out on a sign, and Marin used it to replace her actual nameplate outside her dressing room door!
Marin did a plethora of benefits and here she is doing “Veronique” when she starred in the On The 20th Century concert I put together for the Actors Fund, directed by Peter Flynn and choreographed by Denis Jones. As you watch this fantastic performance, note that this isn’t after weeks of previews; the day of this performance was also the only day we had tech, hair, costumes, orchestra in the theatre etc. Brava!
Besides her name, some people were confused be her beauty and blonde hair. While she was doing Next to Normal, a man sent her a letter telling her that he was a major fan and had seen her in everything and asking her to sign a photo he enclose. Marin took out the picture—and it was a headshot of Sherie Rene Scott! Look at this pic of the two of them from the 2011 Playbill cruise (Note: The man in the center was a ship musician that all three of us had a crush on.)
On the cruise, she and her loving husband Jason Danieley did their show together (which was about their long amazing marriage) and it was especially moving to couples on the boat. One woman came up to them afterwards and said, "After the show, I kept kissing my husband." Sweet!
Speaking of husbands, Jason told me a great Marin story that happened the day we got to Buenos Aires. They stayed in a hotel the night before the ship sailed and, in the morning, they passed a maid in the hallway. The maid walked by, nodded and said, "Buenos dias."
Marin nodded back and said, "Buenos Aires."
Huh? We think that Marin had been saying the name of the city a lot and that's why it came out so easily, but Jason's obsessed with responding to a greeting by naming the city you're in.
He said it's like staying at the Plaza and after someone says "Hi" you say, "New York."
Marin and Jason... always laughing.
Here’s one of my absolute favorite Marin stories. #NSFW
Every time I got to play piano in that orchestra of Ragtime on Broadway, I was obsessed with so many aspects of her portrayal of Mother. She filled that role with so much warmth and humor... and amazing singing. Let me end with some fantastic footage of Marin in that role. We all revered her. We will all miss her.