APPLAUSE, APPLAUSE: Hail to the Chief, Lynne Thigpen!
Bernadette. Patti. Some Broadway performers don’t need a last name. But what about amazing theater talents that never get that kind of widespread, iconic acclaim? In a new column, I’ve invited friends of the Broadway Blog to write about the stars that they love who deserve a little extra applause. Looking at their lives, great roles and video clips, it’s a Theatrical 101 that will hopefully give you some new divas to worship. First up, actor and music theatre addict Andrew Glaszek (also known as the man who helps me find our Theater Buffs, so he basically deserves sainthood) shares his love for a truly singular actress…
To its credit, Hollywood ain’t dumb… it can recognize a good thing and has a history of putting our favorite Broadway Babies to work, but not all get the One Day At A Time (Bonnie Franklin, Applause) or Gimme A Break (Nell Carter, Ain’t Misbehavin’) treatment or the current Smash build up that is putting the name Megan Hilty on everyone’s screen. I’ve always gotten a kick from knowing the theatrical pedigree of sitcom stars (ie. Megan Mullally, Beth Howland, Florence Henderson, et al.) or the crime scene & court room characters (thank you for keeping Loretta Devine working!) but there’s a small screen actress that has a place in this diva-lovin’ heart… Lynne Thigpen.
Her long list of credits include guest spots and roles on thirtysomething, The Cosby Show, Roseanne, L.A. Law, Law & Order, All My Children, The District… but many know her best from the after-school schooling that she made entertaining as “Chief” on Where in The World Is Carmen Sandiego. But if you only know her from her TV work, you might be surprised to find out that she had an award-winning, stage career including an LA Drama Critics award for Fences, Obies for Boesman and Lena and Jar the Floor, and a Tony for An American Daughter. And thanks to Gimme A Break! we got to see her sing and dance along with Telma Hopkins and the show’s star, another Broadway belter, Nell Carter (sadly both Ms. Thigpen & Ms. Carter died “before their time” in 2003.) Skip to 4:42 of this clip for their 60’s Medley.
So what’s her diva “cred”? Well, as an original cast member of Godspell she converted the right people with “Bless The Lord” and got to reprise her role in the film version (along with Victor Garber). She was also in the original casts of two more Stephen Schwartz shows on Broadway – The Magic Show (produced by Edgar Lansbury, Angie’s brother) and Working (with Patti LuPone & Bob Gunton, who went on to BE… Evita & Peron, of course.) She was nominated for another Tony Award for Tintypes, a revue that gives a richer narrative to the popular songs from the beginning of the 20th Century (also in the cast of five was Jerry Zaks!)
As testament to her delivery of a song – her voice, powerful and soulful – watch her “Working” it with “What I Could Have Been” from a 1982 concert Broadway Plays Washington:
ESSENTIAL LISTENING: Add the following tracks from Tintypes to your iPod and turn up the volume when you need some inspiration from Lynne- “Outside Looking In” featuring “Nobody” & “Fitting In” featuring “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow ‘Til I Die”
Everything Andrew Glaszek knows, he learned from musical theatre – well, almost everything. Look for more from him in the future…