ELYSA GARDNER: Welcome to Stage Door Sessions by Broadway Direct. In this podcast, we have in-depth conversations with Broadway’s brightest, bringing you what’s new, what’s noteworthy, and what’s coming next to a stage near you. I’m your host, Elysa Gardner, and this spring, we will be speaking with some of the artists whose talents are standing out at a very busy time in a very busy Broadway season. Before our conversations with each week’s guests this season we will be kicking off each episode with a look at what’s new on Broadway each week with Broadway Direct’s own Paul Art Smith and Paul is with us, how are you? I’m doing pretty well busy time a year. Ah true. Yeah award season where the start of award season now that’s when all begin. Yeah.
PAUL ART SMITH: I’m doing well, how are you today?
ELYSA GARDNER: I’m doing pretty well, busy time of year.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah, I know. We’ve reached the end of the season but also just the beginning of a lot of other excitement in a way.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, awards season. The start of awards season now!
PAUL ART SMITH: Definitely. Yeah, but I thought we’d get into some of the news that’s been announced this week as well. So this last week it was announced that Barry Manilow’s new musical Harmony will open on Broadway this fall at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. This musical comes – it comes to Broadway right after a successful run Off-Broadway last spring and the music as mentioned is by Manilow and it features a book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman and directing is Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle.
ELYSA GARDNER: That’s right and this musical has been a long time in the works. They started working on it actually decades ago inspired by the real story of The Comedian Harmonists, a German vocal group consisting of six men, three of them were Jewish, who enjoyed a lot of success in the late 1920s and early ’30s and then the Third Reich came along and things did not go well after that. And I saw this musical Off-Broadway and it it was quite moving um and had a wonderful cast I’m not sure, I have to look at the press release again whether Chip Zien and Sierra Boggess was in it. Has any casting been announced yet?
PAUL ART SMITH: There’s no casting yet, no, but yeah, it’d be great to see those names along with it. I didn’t get to see it Off-Broadway but I have also heard about it for so long as you said it’s been in the work for quite a long time. So it’s nice to see it finally land on Broadway.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, yeah, and what a nice little dream come true for Barry Manilow who you know has done some things in his career, has performed on Broadway but I believe this is his first musical that he’s written and that he’s composed that’s going to be on Broadway, so.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah, I can’t wait to hear that score. And also coming to Broadway next season – or I guess it’s kind of almost about to be this season because this past season just ended – but The Shark is Broken will begin performances at the Golden Theatre this July. This is a new behind the scenes comedy about the making of the iconic film Jaws and it comes to Broadway after critically-acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Festival – the Finge Festival and on London’s West End and it’s written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, with Shaw also starring in the show as his own father Robert Shaw. I’ve never watched Jaws so – I’ve watched like clips and pieces in like film class before but I’ll definitely be giving that finally a watch like I know it’s like insane that I haven’t watched it yet, but I will be giving it a watch. And I’m very excited for this. It just sounds like right up my alley like a behind the scenes comedy is just always enjoyable to watch.
ELYSA GARDNER: Oh yeah, and this comes to us from the West End and, you know, the Brits love to send up American culture, I thought of that when Jerry Springer passed this past year – rather this past week – you know with Jerry Springer: The Opera
PAUL ART SMITH: Yes.
ELYSA GARDNER: That was a while ago, but this seems to be part of that continuing pattern and should be interesting. I mean, I wouldn’t advise you you watch that movie alone [laughter] if you haven’t seen it yet.
PAUL ART SMITH: I know, jumpy jumpy.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, but definitely you know I don’t expect there, well who knows maybe they’ll have some, you know, little gory, scary tidbits in this show. I don’t know much about it, I know really good reviews in London obviously, so it’s coming here. It’s ah “from the jaws of defeat, a Hollywood story.” That’s what press release is telling us so we will see.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah and I mean it’s it’s I love that it’s coming in the summer like you know summer blockbuster like film and now a summer, hope to be blockbuster play.
ELYSA GARDNER: That’s right now. Maybe this is starting a trend like this is when the action plays come–
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah I know, you can do a two-show day with Back to the Future as a matinee and this as the evening.
ELYSA GARDNER: Right, exactly. Both adaptations, right.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah, and after rumors circulating it was officially revealed this week that the revival of Sweeney Todd will release a cast recording. Of course, this is the production led by Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford and it seemed like inevitable that this would happen but I can’t wait to listen to it when it eventually drops. No release date has been announced yet, but you know we’ll be – I’ll be searching for when that does come out.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, this is one of my favorite musicals. The score is just magnificent and you know for this production they have that full 26 piece orchestra, they have Josh Groban leading the cast who, you know obviously has this magnificent baritenor voice and it and it is a beautifully sung production.
PAUL ART SMITH: One hundred percent.
ELYSA GARDNER: Maybe that that’s the thing that struck me about it maybe even the most more than anything else about it. The vocals are beautiful. The orchestrations, the orchestra, you know, everything about it sonically was just sumptuous. So I’m looking forward to hearing this recording.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah, I can’t wait to add a new like full sounding recording to the repertoire of Sweeney Todd cast recordings,
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, yeah to the – this will – well the original is the original. One of my – I mean to date myself I played that when it came out and I was – I don’t know, I mean I actually discovered it after it came out I was in high school, it was years, some years after it debuted on Broadway and I just listened to it over and over and over again until I had every bar memorized. It’s just one of the greatest scores there is and one of the greatest stories you know, just a terrific terrific show. So it’ll be nice to have it recaptured to listen to you know on Apple and Spotify and all of that.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah and this might very well be current high school students introduction to the show and what a great way to find out about the show.
ELYSA GARDNER: Oh yeah, absolutely, but don’t ignore the Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, check both out. Check them both out.
PAUL ART SMITH: Yeah yeah, this will lead right into that one. They’ll have to stream both of them.
ELYSA GARDNER: Absolutely, yep, yep.
PAUL ART SMITH: And then also on Broadway this week saw the final slate of openings for the ’22-2023 Broadway season which was you know filled with so many shows and this week was no exception. We had Good Night, Oscar, opening Monday, Summer, 1976 opening Tuesday, New York, New York opening on Wednesday, and then to close out the season was The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window opening on Thursday after only beginning previews this past week, two days before their official opening.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, in fact I as a critic am not going to be able to see it till next week because they’re just starting previews. So you know reasonably they want to give the actors some time, even though they they did it previously at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, It’s a new venue, different stage so they want to give the the cast and the crew time to kind of get their bearings before they invite us in with our pens and our claws and all that.
PAUL ART SMITH: No yeah, it’s just an incredible production and I absolutely love Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan and they’re doing such great work here, I got to see it at BAM and yeah, great production, I’m glad it could fit in there. It definitely snuck in there which I think makes this season even more exciting and I’m glad more got to experience Lorraine Hansberry’s work that, you know, this is not one of her more produced plays, the obvious one being the incredible Raisin in the Sun, but I’m glad that this also gets, you know, to shine its light on Broadway.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, they snuck it in right under the wire so that’ll that’ll be a treat.
PAUL ART SMITH: Definitely. And new on Broadway Direct this week are tons of first look images so head on over to see new photos of the current Broadway cast of Hamilton, New York, New York, and tons of those other shows we just mentioned. And also by the time you listen to this episode, this year’s Tony Award nominations will have been announced. You can head on over to Broadway Direct for the full list of nominees – I know I’m jealous of them, they already know it’s great [laughter]. And as always you can head to Broadway Direct for the latest coverage and news on Broadway, as well as across all of our social platforms @BroadwayDirect.
ELYSA GARDNER: Thank you Paul and yeah, it’ll be a lot of fun to kind of sort through those Tony nominations next week.
PAUL ART SMITH: Definitely.
ELYSA GARDNER: Right now, we are going to go on to our conversation. Our guests today are playwright David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori. Their musical adaptation of David’s play Kimberly Akimbo is currently at the Booth Theatre following a hugely successful run downtown at the Atlantic Theater Company.
David is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of plays such as Rabbit Hole, Fuddy Meers, Good People, and Wonder of the World, in addition to musicals such as High Fidelity and Shrek the Musical. Jeanine was his collaborator on Shrek, and her numerous other beloved musicals include the Tony Award-winning Fun Home and Thoroughly Modern Millie, as well as Caroline, or Change and Violet.
Jeanine, David, welcome to Stage Door Sessions. Thanks so much for joining us today.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Thanks for having us.
JEANINE TESORI: Glad to be here.
ELYSA GARDNER: Great, well, We should start by saying that Kimberly Akimbo the musical had already won multiple awards by the time it arrived on Broadway last fall including I think the Drama Desk, the Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, New York Drama Critics Circle, a whole bunch, and the play was also critically-acclaimed when it premiered, which was more than 20 years ago. For those who were unfamiliar with it, Kimberly is a teenage girl with a rare genetic disorder that causes her to age at about four times the rate a person would ordinarily. She also has to juggle this with some colorful family issues and adolescent drama. I read in an interview that you both did last year that you, David, had spoken to Jeanine about wanting to write a musical the way you wrote a play, with you and your collaborator taking as long as you needed to just figure things out and that Jeanine suggested this very bittersweet and often very funny story with a deep inner life would be a good candidate for that. So tell us a bit about that conversation as you remember it and when and how this started evolving.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Well gosh, it was an awful long time ago now. We were in the midst maybe towards the end of working on Shrek the Musical and we had just a really great collaboration. We loved working with each other. We had very similar sensibilities and senses of humor and Shrek was wonderful in lots of, lots of ways but there were a lot of people involved and lots of people with lots of opinions and I said, “Gosh, this is – is it always this hard” and Jeanine said, “Eh, you know, often it can be this hard” and I said, “You know with my plays it’s so much easier. It’s just me by myself and things can be as bad for as long as they need to be bad because I you know until I figure it out I don’t know what it is.” and I said, “I’d love to write a musical in that way. It would just be me and you and nobody giving notes until we’re ready to show it to people” and then she’s like, “Yeah, let’s do that as a matter of fact, why not adapt one of your plays?” And I was like, “But my plays are my plays. Why would we do that?” And as you mentioned, she pulled Kimberly Akimbo off a shelf and she said, “You know, I think there’s a lot here that could be musicalized. This feels like a musical to me.”
ELYSA GARDNER: What was it about the play other than the general things I mentioned, Jeanine, that made you think that?
JEANINE TESORI: Part of it is, it’s a little interesting to talk about because some of it is not rational for me. Some of it is sort of a gut feeling that I’ve learned over the thousand years that I’ve been doing this that it just some things sing to me and some don’t and this play has such a deep singing voice and it did immediately when we were talking about our next project and I think David writes characters that are incredibly grounded, incredibly funny, and people I recognize – I recognize them from the real world and I just felt it in my gut that what they wanted and what the world had given them were very different things and that’s a wonderful sort of fountain from which to sing.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah. David, you also said in that interview that when you wrote the play Kimberly Akimbo that you had a very specific actress in mind for the part, Marylouise Burke, who’s wonderful. Victoria Clark plays Kimberly in the musical and she is just hilarious and heartbreaking in this very challenging role which requires her to capture the energy and body language of a teenager and the precociousness of this particular teenager while obviously being an older woman. Was Victoria someone you thought of or that both of you thought of pretty early in the process?
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: I’ll let Jeanine talk because actually, I think Jeanine was the person who first mentioned Vicki Clar. Is that right, Jeanine?
JEANINE TESORI: Yeah, we were, you know when you’re developing you have the benefit of starting to figure out what the show is and what it isn’t and the development of the show I think is important. It’s hard that it takes so long, but I think it’s important that it takes so long because you get close to it and then you work with different people to make sure that the material works for different kinds of people not just one person. And I I serve on a board with Vicki on The Kurt Weill Foundation which I love and I was looking at her twinkly eyes one day and we we were talking about it I said to David, “Vicki Clark has the twinkliest eyes. I mean she just has this thing she has a glint in her. She just has something, what about her?” And because she’s quite stunning, we weren’t sure that frankly that she was old enough. And it’s delightful to also say to actors, “I’m not sure you’re old enough,” [laughter] when they’re in they’re 40s, 50s, like I don’t know you got to age up a little bit that’s a delightful thing to say, you’re going to have to take off some makeup and so we talked about her and to her and she was – we sang through some of the things and she was very game.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: I’ll just add only because it’s it was interesting to me that you cannot find two actresses that are more different than Marylouise Burke and Victoria Clark so it was an interesting shift for me to think of it in a different way. But weirdly as different as those two actors are, they both have this amazing young pixie sort of spirit inside of them that even though their shapes are completely different, there is just this vitality, this inner teenager that comes out of each of them in very different ways and so Vicki’s performance is nothing like Marylouise Burke’s performance and vice versa and yet they both embodied these characters fully and in completely different ways. Obviously, Marylouise only had the play and so all of her inner life had to be expressed through subtext. And Victoria Clark just has to open that glorious mouth of hers and sing her heart and so the storytelling is different but the spirit of each of them is weirdly connected in a way. Um.
ELYSA GARDNER: Jeanine, your scores have captured so many different worlds. With Kimberly Akimbo you have a very specific setting—New Jersey, which gets teased considerably in your lyrics, David, in the late ‘90s—and of course you also have to take in the different themes and moods presented here, and the very specific characters, who also range from this lovely, nerdy boy who befriends Kimberly to her kind of sociopathic aunt—and Justin Cooley and Bonnie Milligan are also wonderful in those roles, I should say, how did you make that all sing, as you put it?
JEANINE TESORI: Oof. I like writing very very different worlds. I think that you know being a sort of a perpetual student, someone who didn’t go to graduate school, and I think I, I don’t think, I know I have a pretty strong imposter syndrome because of that so I feel like I constantly am trying to study and be better and know more and so every show to me is an opportunity to learn more about, you know, yes, myself and my family but also the world and different people who inhabit it and every world has a different sonic, you know, a different texture and I think the world of this. I have all my notes when David and I first started meeting in 2012. I had notes about clocks and windshield wipers and metronomes and time and ticking and I reread Our Town which is ah one of my favorite plays and one of David’s favorites and just trying to understand you know how I felt about the ’90s and kids. David has a beautiful description about the time and it’s and you know before kids had cell phones and that’s a different kind of world. Time is very different now than it was. It feels very different even though a month is still a month, it doesn’t feel the same way. The instantaneous nature of it. The lack of waiting and so that all, I just start taking and gathering things and David and I talk about, long long before notes get written, we talk about what the world would sound like, what they would be listening to, what the tempo is what the rhythms are of their lives. How the skating rink sounds, how it sounds like when she waits and all of these things and the beauty to me that I think part of this musical is on the head of a pin that is just fragile and part of it is absolutely sturdy as hell and the comedy is raucous and funny so you have all of these ahead of a pin and then a sledgehammer so it all starts to translate into notes for me at some point.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Can I just add only because Jeanine’s not going to praise herself enough? Let me say one of my favorite things about Jeanine is that in addition to being the brilliant composer that she is she also happens to be one of the best dramatists and dramaturgs that I’ve ever worked with. She understands characters’ inner lives and character arcs in a way that you know not all composers think about this stuff. So every song that she writes is an extension of that character and the character’s inner lives and longings but also most specifically their voice. That each song sounds exactly like the character in the show and so it’s hard to pin down any of Jeanine’s songs or shows because they’re all so grounded in the specificity of the world that’s created in that show and inside that world the specificity of each character on that stage. And that’s something that is astounding and makes my job incredibly easy because of it.
JEANINE TESORI: You’re welcome! [laughter]
ELYSA GARDNER: There is certainly specificity in this in this show, Kimberly’s condition is I believe roughly but based on a genetic disorder called Progeria which is highly unusual, I read somewhere that the odds of having a first child with Progeria are like 1 in 4000000. But I’m sure this show has also resonated with kids who have other disabilities and with their parents, their family members, just people who know people who are struggling um with disabilities. Have you gotten feedback from people in those situations and was representing disability athentically even in the context of a show that can be very funny something you thought about a lot?
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: It’s something that we talked about a lot. So yes, something that we thought about a lot. Just a couple things to be very clear. It’s not Progeria, it is a little like it Progeria, It has lots of things in common with Progeria but way more things not in common with Progeria so I just want to make that very clear.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought it was perhaps inspired by Progeria is what I had read in various places but clearly it’s not a specific disease.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Right, right. That’s all I just want to be responsible about you know people that have encountered Progeria o or live with Progeria, and this is not a Progeria story. As far as – we’ve heard from lots of people with disabilities but also the play is very much about otherness in many ways. And so we tried to be responsible in that way and it is incredibly gratifying when people with any kind of otherness tells us that they feel seen by the show and so yes, absolutely that meant, that means people with disabilities or kids with disabilities. It also means, you know, someone who grew up fat or someone who grew up as a gay kid or at any time and we all feel othered in some way and that is what I think holds the show together and why it appeals to so many people we hope. But certainly disabled folks are, you know, part of the audience and they seem to be connecting with in a way that is really nice and gratifying.
ELYSA GARDNER: I found Justin Cooley’s character incredibly moving in that way, I should say, that you know he clearly you know being this nerdy kid who couldn’t connect from what I recall at school, didn’t have a secure home base, I mean I you know I I felt that part was also incredibly poignant.
JEANINE TESORI: I would also jump in to say we all have an aging disease because we’re all aging. We’re aging as we talk here and I think the – this idea of how the show and inside otherness also so seems to really resonate and we worked ah hard for that. But it also, there is not one person who sees this show who is not – isn’t facing this idea that our stay is temporary and I think it’s not a fun thing to think about and in some ways, it is so necessary a thing to think about that you are here and then at someday, you are not. And it can be a hilarious ride if you sort of put a value on that and understand both things, how hard that is to think about and how wonderful it is to value something when you know how rare it is that, you know when you really – and I think it’s why we read through, I definitely read through Our Town, it’s like does anybody really really know and I think that play like David’s work asks us to just have a great time even when it’s hard know that you know just like the run of anything we have – life is a limited run and there’s something quite wonderful about that.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: You know it’s interesting that you mentioned the Seth character specifically because – and I have now confessed this – that is the character that is closest to me I’ve never come closest to putting myself on stage and so what you’re seeing up there – all of his obsessions: the anagrams, the Tolkien, the Dungeons & Dragons, although that’s more in the play, like that is the kid who I was, the kid who you know may think in a you know, not typical way, whose brain might work in a slightly different way who feels outside of things and a weirdo. That is who I was and that’s true of everybody in the play certainly Kimberly is you know different in other ways, but even the chorus like we could have put Kimberly and Seth in a school with the popular kids but that was not something that we were interested in exploring, we wanted kids that were just as much outsiders as Kim and Seth are and that they became a reflection of who Kim is as well as who Kim will never become because their lives will go on and they’ll have bright shiny futures and she won’t and so all of those kids Kim, Seth, and the quartet, they’re all working in the same universe and they’re all extensions of me. But I hope extensions of all of us.
Yeah, yeah I mean mortality certainly figures very poignantly in the show in that sense that you know these kids are I forget exactly there’s a beautiful line or lyric about growing older as opposed to
JEANINE TESORI: Oh, it’s the greatest lyric.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, why am I-
JEANINE TESORI: “Growing older is your cure.”
ELYSA GARDNER: Yes.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: “Growing older is my affliction, growing older is your cure.”
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah that exactly, that was really striking. Kimberly’s parents are also key characters in the show and they are flawed, to put it mildly, but one of the lovely things about the show is that I think every character is ultimately drawn with compassion. Even the wacky aunt, she might not be very sympathetic, but she’s not loathsome, you know, at the end of the show, maybe the things she does are – excuse me – was it important for you to strike that balance?
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Well yeah, we wanted the characters to be dimensional and relatable and we wanted people to empathize with them even if they do horrible things, and we hope that as ill-equipped as the parents are, let’s say, and as badly as they behave sometimes, I hope that, you know, most audience members can see like their bad behavior is grounded in lots of things. One is the fact look they were teenage kids, they were teenagers themselves when they had this kid. They were not prepared or equipped for what came after. They’re in a bit of arrested development but also they’re terrified of losing their daughter and so Patty’s narcissism which you know is infuriating especially if you love Kimberly like, “Why is this one behaving this way?” We might understand it a little bit better during “Father Time” where we see in the dark of night, she’s expressing her greatest fear which is “I’m going to lose my child, I’m going to run out of time.” All of her weird wackiness is grounded in this absolute horror and terror of losing her child. And Buddy too like he’s drinking too much. Why is he drinking too much? Because he’s terrified and he doesn’t want to deal with what’s really in front of him and so he lives in this haze of beer because that’s helping him get through the day. Do I like that? No, that’s terrible that he does that, he should be with his daughter and treat her better and keep some of his promises but he’s ill-equipped and sometimes that’s what happens in life, sometimes our parents don’t have the tools to raise us properly.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, yeah, true. But that that really resonated with me, the fact that the character is just like the mix, the balance of joy and despair and humor and all those things and just something that’s ultimately uplifting. Some of the successful musicals of the past 15 or 20 years have transferred from Off-Broadway from Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton to Spring Awakening, which was also nurtured, Spring Awakening, by Atlantic Theater Company, but it’s never a given and I could point to some pretty recent examples of that. I’ve seen some really nice long lines outside the Booth Theatre which I take to be a good sign but did either of you have any questions about whether this show would attract a substantial Broadway audience?
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: I mean that’s always a concern. I was waiting for Jeannine to talk but she didn’t –
JEANINE TESORI: I was waiting for David to talk like we’re you know we’re always – I try not to be, I’m trying to be better about this. But I feel like I’m always “BFF” which is braced for failure and I’m trying to not be like that, but I think it is a hard Sicilian thing right to lose. I do believe that shows like this are so important to be on on Broadway so that the diversity when we talk about diversity which is of course an incredibly important thing for representation. There is a very necessary part for smaller shows to be on Broadway and part of it is is that these shows will eventually go out into regional theaters and they’ll you know hopefully be produced on tours and out in colleges and schools and and everything and I think that it’s just an incredibly important part of musical theater to have these you know these kinds of stories in this kind of size.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Yeah I mean here’s what we had on our side like we knew we were going to go into the Booth which is like a nice little intimate theater on Broadway that happens to be on Broadway so I don’t think any of us feared that it was like it was going to get swallowed up in a Broadway house. It felt like it belonged in that space and I think it works beautifully in that space. And lucky for us, we got some really great reviews and we got a bunch of awards so we had some of the paraphernalia that we needed to get into the space. Will it run there? Gosh, we hope so. You know so far we’ve been doing really well and luckily it’s a small enough house that we don’t have to sell out the way a big giant show does, but it’s it’s a weird little show without any movie stars in it so you know cross our fingers and hope that the show speaks for itself and people want to see it.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, well Jeanine I was very intrigued by what you just said actually about future productions, you know different types of productions. I’d love to see a show like this staged by a school eventually. I mean-
JEANINE TESORI: Oh my god, can you imagine? I mean here’s a thing you know, I’m like, David always laughs but I’m 61 and I grew up and came into this business at 19. I love what I do, I don’t understand what I do, but I just love it and I love this theater community. I’ve been a part of it for a very long time and it saved me and the thought you know there are all these women I came up with, these incredible women. They dance so hard in the ’80s some of them just can’t even turn their necks they danced so hard and the thought of them getting a role, having roles written, that’s why I love David’s work, he writes these incredible roles for older women and that in musical theater is I think it’s a very important thing especially as it hopefully will go out into the regions that someone said this to us, remember David the other day was like, “I can see these women in the community theaters, the favorite women who’ve played all these roles getting able to do this and be part of a generation on stage where she’ll be able to have this kind of time,” and it made me really happy at the thought because I I hadn’t thought about it.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: I just want to add one thing. I do not laugh whenever Jeanine says she’s 61, I don’t know what you were talking about.
JEANINE TESORI: No, no, not because I’m 61, but because it’s like I feel like you know, aging in the business is, it’s why the Oscars were so amazing to watch these women have that recognition. I found it really moving because sometimes I think older women in, you know they’re not seen in the same way as the ingenue and we at we have a woman in her 60s who’s an ingenue and I think it’s just wonderful.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: I might laugh a little bit because you say it a little bit – because you say it like “I’m 50 years old,” except you say it like, “I’m 61.”
JEANINE TESORI: I’m 61 and three-quarters! [laughter]
ELYSA GARDNER: Well, thank you both so much for joining us. As a way of sort of wrapping up what have been your takeaways from this show as not just as artists, but as people who’ve been through you know are at the point both of you where you know I think at 40 we all start to think a little bit about mortality. [laughter]
JEANINE TESORI: In our house, you started thinking about it at when you were 10. [laughter]
ELYSA GARDNER: But yeah I think everybody thinks about it when you’re eight or 10 and then you forget about it for a while. But the fact that obviously that that is a concern that I that I should have asked about more you know earlier in this in this interview I think. Has that been something you’ve had cause to sort of, you know, mull over a little more in developing this show further in your case David especially because you know this show you first looked at this story twenty-something years ago?
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Yeah, well, that’s interesting because you know all those years ago I was really latching onto the teenagers and my feelings about growing up with my crazy parents, and now it’s 20 years later and I think oh no, the parents aren’t such monsters and yeah, there’s the point about this death quickly approaching thing that feels a little closer than it did when I first wrote the play. So definitely my lens has changed, but yeah. I mean what’s been most gratifying actually since that was the beginning of your question is just seeing people’s response to the shows. Look, Jeanine and I have both written lots of shows, I’ll only speak for myself, but the response that I’m getting from this show specifically is unlike anything that I’ve gotten before and people just seem wonderfully connected to it and wonderfully moved by it and it’s just incredibly gratifying. I’ll tell you and I’ve told this story a couple of times before, but it defines my experience on the show. We were at the Atlantic during the end of the run and we would sit in the back and as the lights came up people would come down the aisle and I saw a very old man coming towards me and he looked pretty angry. He looked right at me and I thought, “Oh, this is going to be one of those encounters where he’s going to tell me how much he hated the show,” or whatever he wants to unload because sometimes that happens in the back row. That’s all right. And so he stopped right in front of me as I knew he would and he said, “Are you involved with this show? and I said, “Yes, I’m one of the writers,” and he said, “Well I just want you to know that I’m going to live my life more fully tomorrow and I want to thank you for that.”
ELYSA GARDNER: Oh wow, oh my goodness.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: And he just walked away and I just felt this welling of emotion coming up into my eyes and I thought, “What is happening? Who is this stranger that has affected me in this way?” It was just an incredibly moving wonderful experience that we seldom get as creators and so when it happens I hold onto it. It’s happened a few times on this show specifically in ways that it hasn’t happened in other shows so I find that really wonderful.
ELYSA GARDNER: Wow yeah, and you Jeanine? Have you had encounters like that?
JEANINE TESORI: I have and, I think one of the great joys, I love that story David because I saw that man approaching him and I was ready to you know – but it was it turned out to be one of those but I have had a lot of people who have gone with their parents and their kids and so they have these sort of three stages of life and they come out with something so different and something so similar from the experience and so that generation, “I took my nephew…I took my nephew and my mom,” you know, it’s been that part has been really wonderful.
ELYSA GARDNER: Yeah, yeah, and very what you said David about living your life more fully. That’s very Our Town isn’t it, I mean that’s something they both these works share in common. That’s that’s a nice work to share something in common with certainly. So thank you both so much for your time. I know you’re really busy and with another award season coming up I suspect you’ll be busy again, you’re both working on other stuff, so we appreciate your joining.
DAVID LINDSAY-ABAIRE: Thanks so much.
JEANINE TESORI: Thank you so much.
ELYSA GARDNER: And for all things Broadway, and to find tickets to your next show, visit BroadwayDirect.com. If you liked our show please follow us on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen. And don’t forget to share and rate Stage Door Sessions so that other theater fans can find us too. This podcast is produced by Broadway Direct and the Nederlander Organization with Iris Chan, Erin Porvaznik-Wagner, and Paul Art Smith, and hosted and produced by me, Elysa Gardner. Thank you for listening, and we look forward to seeing you again on Broadway.