‘School of Rock’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
All three of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musicals rang in the New Year with record-breaking sales, smashing house records at the Winter Garden (School of Rock – The Musical), Majestic (The Phantom of the Opera) and Neil Simon (CATS) Theatres.
School of Rock – The Musicalshattered the house record for the third time at the Winter Garden Theatre by grossing $2,022,136.11for the week ending December 31, 2016. The prior record was set this week last year by the musical which grossed $1,671,628.18. Additionally, School of Rock set a new record for the highest grossing single performance in the Winter Garden’s history at theWednesday, December 28 matinee, with a gross of $241,819.50. In the U.K., School of Rock broke house records at the New London Theatre (a record previously held by War Horse).
Kim Fauré and Christine Cornish Smith in ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
At the Majestic Theatre, Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera smashed its previous show / house record with a final gross of$1,942,351.00 for the week ending December 31, 2016.The record was set previously for the week ending December 29, 2013 when the musical grossed $1,843,295.83.
The first-ever revival of Lloyd Webber’s CATS broke house records at the Neil Simon for a 9-performance week, smashing the record previously set by All The Way, with a $1,723,568.70 gross for the week ending December 31, 2016.
Mamie Parris (Photo provided by DKC O&M via The Broadway Blog.)
Producers The Shubert Organization and The Nederlander Organization announced today that Broadway veteran Mamie Parris will assume the iconic role of “Grizabella the Glamour Cat” in the first-ever Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS. Parris, who currently stars as “Patty” in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s newest smash hit School of Rock – The Musical, will succeed pop star Leona Lewis in the role.
Mamie Parris created the role of Patty in School of Rock – The Musical. She has also been seen on Broadway in On the Twentieth Century, Ragtime, 110 in the Shade, and The Drowsy Chaperone. On National Tour, Parris starred as Elphaba in Wicked and Judy in 9 to 5 The Musical.
Leona Lewis will complete her scheduled three-month run as “Grizabella” on Sunday, October 9, 2016. A date for Parris’ first performance in the role will be announced shortly. We’re hoping that Parris’ arrival will give CATS a much-needed jolt, as Lewis’ performance was much to be desired in an otherwise invigorating revival.
If Parris is interested in tips from the original Grizabella, Betty Buckley, she should check out our interview with the Tony Award-winning star, where she speaks in depth of her creative process. Good luck, Mamie!
Andy Huntington and the cast of ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
Betty Buckley (Photo: Scogin Mayo via The Broadway Blog.)
Truth be told, this interview wasn’t 15 minutes. In fact, it was well over 45 and I have a feeling that if I hadn’t had a pressing deadline, the Tony Award-winning Betty Buckley would have chatted with me for more for an hour. Because that’s what happens when you engage a true artist on the subject of creativity: the floodgates open and you better know how to swim.
At the time of our phone conversation, Buckley had just finished a celebrated run of Center Theatre Group’s Grey Gardens and completed a road trip with her longtime assistant back to her ranch in north Texas to “blow the cobwebs out of my mind.” They called themselves the Road Warriors and even posted some of their journey on social media.
It was after 9/11 that Buckley felt the pangs to return to her Texas roots. With decades of studying, performing, recording, and teaching under her belt, she felt visionless and without purpose. Her love of horses and the equine sport of cutting reinvigorated her and this November she’ll celebrate 14 years of life on a ranch.
But ultimately Buckley is a self-proclaimed “working girl” and this fall she heads to the East Coast for 15 concerts, including her latest show, “Story Songs,” which will play seven performances at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
Can you tell me more about the inspiration for your latest show, Story Songs?
Betty Buckley: At each point in your life certain songs fit and others don’t. This is a collection of songs that I feel at this point—through interpretation and from my vantage point—can resonate with a degree of truth.
I do a new show, generally, once a year. This past Spring, I connected with composer Joe Iconis and he invited me to sing in his show at Feinstein’s/54Below. He sent me some songs and at the last minute he wrote a song for me, “ Old Flame”—it’s very funny and he’s a wonderful writer. It fits me, as a Story Teller, like a glove.
In February I went to Australia to perform “Defying Gravity,” an evening of Stephen Schwartz’s music. It was a wonderful series of concerts with a full orchestra and I sang “Chanson” from The Baker’s Wife and “No Time at All” from Pippin.
And then I reached out to other composers whom I admire—people like Jason Robert Brown. He sent me a few songs, one titled “Cassandra”– from a new show he’s working on. This is the base of the material and then I start to consider what they all have in common. It’s an evening of stories about some interesting characters.
Betty Buckley: That’s not a big deal for me. It’s something I include in my awareness, of course. It’s just a different space. My work process remains the same in every venue and genre.
CATS is back in the limelight with its first Broadway revival recently opening at the Neil Simon Theatre. It’s certainly one of the benchmarks of your career. What do you think is the emotional entry point for the character of Grizabella and what were some of the challenges in bringing her to life?
The job assignment was to “stop the show”. But within that, you have to find in yourself a world of profound isolation and loneliness. Grizabella is in the last moments of her life. As the Glamour Cat in her youth, she lived life to great excess. She was considered a great beauty. And she drank too much, smoked too much, and she was promiscuous. And now in her later years she is no longer desired and has become the pariah of the Tribe of Cats. She longs to be included but the cats shun her and keep sending her away.
The character is only on stage for 13 minutes. (I timed it at one point when I actually got to sit and experience the show for the first time from start to finish. It was the 8th Anniversary Celebration of the show in London.) I kept waiting for Grizabella and thinking, “Where is she?”
Trevor Nunn’s direction was to play pathos, but I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of stopping the show, and I didn’t know that there was a formula for that. I wasn’t “stopping the show” during previews and it was frustrating—they called special rehearsals for me, and there were lots of conversations.
In desperation, I called my voice teacher, the great Paul Gavert. I thought they were going to fire me. He said, “Come over on your lunch break.” He threw a pillow on the floor and told me to hit it. And I said, “This won’t work, teach me how to stop the show.” He said, “Hit the pillow!”
I hit the pillow and started sobbing. And I heard the voice of this little child inside me saying, “I’m here, too. I’m here, too.” I’d forgotten to ask my inner being how she wanted to do the song. From that awareness, I then hit the streets of New York City on a quest. I found this beautiful portrait book of photographs of homeless people, and I began to follow various homeless women around New York City. There were women on the streets at that time that were my age and had eyes like mine.
One morning heading to work I passed woman on the Upper West Side. She was dressed shabbily with white, pasty makeup and smeared lipstick. She moved as if in slow motion with tremendous grace and dignity. I was profoundly touched by this encounter and the connection she made with me in just a few fleeting moments.
Two nights later, the Universe sent me another woman, almost exactly like the first one. We too had that same amazing connection. It took me about two weeks to incorporate all this information into my journey through the show. The creative team kept calling rehearsals. I said, “I’m in transition.” And they trusted me which was amazing and generous of them to do.
These women I observed reminded me, most profoundly, that we often overlook people because of circumstance: Bigger. Better. Best. We are taught to believe that on some level, and it’s not true.
It finally came together a few performances before Opening Night. “Memory” became a song for me about longing—a cry of the heart. And I suddenly understood: To ask for nothing but be willing to share everything.
I see Grizabella as my soulmate. The character is one of my closest friends and I visit her every time I sing her song. I immediately go to that world, it’s a dreamscape, a place that I love. It is a privilege and great blessing in my life.
(l to r) Rachel York and Betty Buckley in ‘Gray Gardens.’ (Photo: Craig Schwartz via The Broadway Blog.)
Do you see continuity among some of the major theatrical roles of your career: Grizabella in CATS, the title character in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Rose in Gypsy, Big Edie in Grey Gardens?
Betty Buckley: The explanation is soul and spirit. I loved the great actresses of the previous generation to mine: Kim Stanley, Gena Rowlands and Geraldine Page. They told truths in their rawest form. They were my role models and I wanted to become that kind of actress and be able eventually to bring that kind of raw truth to my work in the Musical Theater.
My first Broadway show, when I was 21 years old, was 1776. There were two women in the show and 30 men—mostly actors who could sing but they’d never done a musical before. Howard Da Silva, William Daniels and Paul Hecht took me under their wings. I was an experienced performer but a very naïve girl. I continued to go to acting school and studied hard at the Actor’s Studio, Stella Adler, and with Sondra and Greta Seacat, and my coach Peter Flood.
Then I got the part of the stepmother Abby in the TV series Eight is Enough. We did 29 episodes a year for four years. That’s where I continued to practice and learn my craft and the business of “Big Business Show Business.” On the heels of that came Tender Mercies then CATS. That was my training ground. I had a goal to become a certain kind of Story Teller/Singer/Actress. The Universe collaborates with your truest vision for yourself. If you’re willing to do the work, you’ll be guided how to achieve that vision.
Betty Buckley at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)
Betty Buckley: I share and teach the tools taught to me by great teachers. They have never failed me. The tools are very practical, not amorphous. We, as a Humanity are completely connected. We each of us have a heart that is beating and wants to love and be loved. We have to remember that in our storytelling. You must allow your heart to go there. Each lyric or line must be vivid to the singer/actor. Each word must have a deeply personal resonance. When you’re willing immerse yourself, to do that work, then vicariously your journey becomes something in which the audience can experience their truest selves. It takes time to learn and a willingness to be that vulnerable.
Andy Huntington Jones and the cast of ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
Cats—whether you’re talking about the household pet or the legendary Broadway musical—are polarizing. People either seem to love the deliberate aloofness of four-legged felines or wonder, “Why bother?”
Over the years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1981 musical based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats has become a parody of itself. (A Saturday Night Live commercial parody dating back to 1986 helped spawn the phrase, “I laughed, I cried, it was better than CATS.”) But one can’t deny the impact of a show that swept the 1983 Tony Awards with 10 nominations and 7 wins including Best Musical. With 7,485 performances, the original production still ranks as the fourth longest-running show of all time.
Kim Fauré and Christine Cornish Smith in ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
While cats are said to have nine lives, Broadway’s incarnation has at least two, with the first revival opening tonight at the Neil Simon Theatre. Directed, once again, by Trevor Nunn, a nimble ensemble takes to a raked stage littered with oversized garbage conceived by returning set and costume designer John Napier. For those who saw the original mega-hit, things look strikingly familiar—from the strings of brightly colored lights that adorn the junkyard set to that famous tire that ascends to the Heaviside Layer.
But where this CATS strays from its predecessor is in its choreography, brilliantly reimagined by Andy Blankenbuehler (Tony Award-winner for his work on Hamilton) and based on original choreography by Gillian Lynne. She expressed anger earlier this year for the changes to her work, stating, “It makes me feel like I’d like to murder. I have had a rotten time because of it. I did create the show, I really did.”
Georgina Pazcoguin in ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
Yes, Ms. Lynne, you did. But you also provided a blueprint for Blankenbuehler to imbue CATS with a new sensibility; one riffed with syncopation and characterization.
Those familiar with the show will recognize the feline elegance of Victoria (Georgina Pazcoguin), the mischievous antics of Mongojerrie (Jess LeProtto) and Rumpleteazer (Shonica Goodin), and the magical athleticism of Mister Mistoffolees (Ricky Ubeda).
Demeter (Kim Fauré) and Bombalurina (Christine Cornish Smith) get a jolt of 21st century sexuality, while Jennyanydots (Eloise Kropp) tears a page out of 42nd Street with a tap number that rattles the rafters. Blankenbuehler earns his choreography credit in the playbill, but does so in a way that pays respectful homage to the original.
Leona Lewis in ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)
This production had a bit of a catfight when it came to casting the part of Grizabella, the Glamour Cat—a pivotal part that provides the musical’s emotional through-line. Nicole Scherzinger was scheduled to reprise her Olivier-nominated role on Broadway but pulled out last-minute to return to her gig as a judge on X Factor.
In an ironic twist, X Factor season three winner Leona Lewis landed the role, but her performance is a weak link in an otherwise stellar ensemble of triple-threats.
CATS has seen its share of Grizabellas, from West End original Elaine Paige to Tony Award-winner Betty Buckley and her longtime replacements Laurie Beechman and Liz Callaway. Each unique in their interpretation, Grizabella demands star power and a command of the stage (along with workhorse vocal chords that can belt an E-flat eight times a week). Though Lewis has the vocal chops, she’s markedly uncomfortable in comparison to her onstage litter.
In a bit of unintended irony (or a missed light cue in what is an otherwise visual feast from lighting designer Natasha Katz), Grizabella ascends to the Heaviside layer in upstage darkness, quickly forgotten as Old Deuteronomy (Quentin Earl Darrington) re-addresses the cats and ‘a new day has begun.”
Only time will tell is this CATS has staying power, but as we all know, cats tend to multiply, as do audience members craving an escape from the world’s woes. A dog’s life seems pretty easy, but these cats are having way more fun.
CATS Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Want more CATS? Check out our exclusive interview with cast member Ahmad Simmons. Click here!
Purr. Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. And with all that fur and makeup, we’re happy to strip down Ahmad Simmons as he prepares for his Broadway debut in the much-anticipated revival of CATS.
Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Cheryl Mann via The Broadway Blog.)
Name: Ahmad Simmons
Home State: Texas
CATS is a Broadway legacy — when and where did you first see the show and what was your reaction? My obsession with CATS started back when we performed a part of the opening dance recital with Dian West back home in Texas. I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school and had just started at the studio. I got the VHS and watched it to see how to paint a unitard to look like a cat but then watched it every night for about a year. I remember playing the jellicle ball over and over again… I couldn’t get enough of it.
Ahmad Simmons (Ryan Lowry via The Broadway Blog.)
Tell us about your audition for the show and your role of “Alonzo.” When I first saw the audition notice I freaked out. I actually was on a little layoff between tours with Parsons Dance so the timing was perfect. I went to the open call and was immediately terrified. It was actually my first big Broadway audition. The waiting room is my doom… There were over a hundred men. They all seemed to know everything about everything.
My main focus was just to be seen by Andy Blankenbuehler. He is my favorite choreographer. I kept thinking, “no matter what happens, you were in the same room with Andy.” When I got the email saying I was called back I flipped. Then four more rounds later, my life changed! I love playing Alonzo. He’s got a distinct look and gets to really dance a range of emotions. This particular version allows him to be more gritty and aggressive.
This is your Broadway debut… what has surprised you about the rehearsal process? I was pretty prepared for what the schedule would be from doing some summer stock during college. The most surprising thing to me was the amount of people involved to make a Broadway showhappen. Every department has at least five people in it. That was new for me; especially coming from a concert dance background where it’s normally just the dancers, a choreographer, a composer, and a lighting designer.
Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)
There were some harsh words reported in the media about original choreographer Gillian Lynne’s reaction to Andy Blankenbuehler’s additional choreography, telling The Stage, “It makes me feel like I’d like to murder.” How do you think his vocabulary of movement is going to improve upon a classic? Andy is a master of creating brilliant movement that furthers narrative, bleeds intention, and narrows focus. Those are the main things that make a show like CATS even better that it was before. He has such respect for the original body of work and is treating it with the utmost reverence. Our generation is able to access this story at a pace that suits the audience of today. The expectations are higher so our job is even harder. Loyalists will be able to recognize the CATS they fell in love with while feeling its weight and relevance in today’s society.
Which is your favorite: Places, Intermission or Curtain Call? Definitely places. Hearing the audience respond the overture gets me so hyped!
The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at: My new favorite place for a drink is Tanner Smith’s. The drinks are worth the price and the atmosphere is fun. OH, and the nachos are bangin!
Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to: Chelsea Market. Because who doesn’t love a ton of options for food and a sample sale.
If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be: Probably Italy. I’ve never been but the people are beautiful, the language is beautiful, and I love carbs.
My workout “secret” is: This makes me feel guilty because I haven’t quite found my way to the gym since moving here in August. But… I swear by good vitamins and good natural ingredients.
Ahmad Simmons (Photo: Jason Ratigan via The Broadway Blog.)
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than: Creativity! I don’t need anything extravagant but it’s nice to be surprised with an experience that’s more than just dinner and a movie.
My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is: Right now I’d say Wayfair because I just moved and all I ever want to do is shop for furniture online.
People would be surprised to learn that I . . . Won the gold medal at the World Choir Olympics in Bremen, Germany in 2004 with a professional boys choir I spent 10 years singing in. Texas Boys Choir, represent!
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like: My great-aunt Yolanda Smith. She was the director of all of the choirs at my church. I used to lock myself in the bathroom, put a shirt on my head (for hair) and wave my arms at the mirror as if I was her directing my own gospel choir. How did it take me seven more years to come out?
Ten years from now I’d like to be: Giving a new generation of dancers opportunity to realize their dreams in the arts.
CATS Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street
Opening night: July 31
The heat is on. Summer is in full swing and Broadway casualties are dropping like a dehydrated groupie waiting in line for Hamilton cancellation tickets. No more Shuffle Along, She Loves Me, Bright Star, American Psycho, The Crucible, or Fully beyond.
Daniel Radcliffe (Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)
Privacy Daniel Radcliffe returns to the New York stage in a new play by James Graham that explores our complicated relationship with technology and data through the funny and heart-breaking travails of a lonely guy Radcliffe), who arrives in the city to figure out how to like, tag, and share his life without giving it all away.
This provocative theatrical event will ask audiences to charge their phones, leave them ON during the performance and to embark on a fascinating dive online and into a new reality where we’re all connected… for better or worse.
Privacy The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street, NYC
Opening: July 18
CATS Jellicle cats come one, come all. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical 1983 Tony Award-winning musical has been loved and loathed by theatergoers for more than three decades.
Trevor Nunn returns to remount the production with new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (based on the original by Gillian Lynne, who reportedly was none to happy about the decision to revisit her work.) Leona Lewis makes her Broadway debut in the role of Grizabella, for which Betty Buckley won a Tony Award. We’ll see how many lives this CATS has.
CATS Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street, NYC
Opening: July 31
War Paint Chicago’s Goodman Theatre premieres this new musical starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole as iconic female entrepreneurs Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. Their 50-year tug-of-war would give birth to the cosmetics industry. From Fifth Avenue society to the halls of Congress, their rivalry was relentless and legendary—pushing both women to build international empires in a world dominated by men. Directed by Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal).
War Paint Goodman Theatre
170 North Dearborn, Chicago
Opening: July 18
The Shubert Organization and The Nederlander Organization announced today that CATS, one of the biggest hits in theatrical history, will return to Broadway this summer at the Neil Simon Theatre (250 West 52nd Street). Preview performances will begin July 14, with an official opening set for August 2, 2016.
When CATS opens, Andrew Lloyd Webber will, once again, have the rare distinction of having three musicals running simultaneously on Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock – The Musical, and CATS.
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the original Broadway production opened in 1982 at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre (currently home to Lloyd Webber’s newest hit, School of Rock – The Musical), where it ran for 7,485 performances and 18 years. CATS was originally produced on Broadway by Cameron Mackintosh, The Really Useful Company Limited, David Geffen, and The Shubert Organization.
The creative team for the new Broadway production of CATS includes Mick Potter (Sound Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), John Napier (Scenic & Costume Design), choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, based on the original choreography and associate direction by Gillian Lynne, and direction by Trevor Nunn.
Betty Buckley and the original Broadway company of CATS.
Co-producers The Shubert Organization and The Nederlander Organization issued a joint statement, saying: “In 1982, the arrival of CATS took Broadway by storm. The show went on to dazzle audiences at the Winter Garden for the next 18 years, becoming one of the longest-running shows in Broadway history. We are delighted to join together to bring Andrew Lloyd Webber’s phenomenal musical back to Broadway.”
Since its world premiere, CATS has been presented in over 30 countries, has been translated into 15 languages, and has been seen by more than 73 million people worldwide. Originally directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography and associate direction by Gillian Lynne,scenic and costume design by John Napier, lighting design by David Hersey, and sound design by Martin Levan, CATS opened in the West End in 1981.
The same creative team brought the musical to Broadway in 1982 where it won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Both the original London and Broadway cast recordings won Grammy Awards for Best Cast Album. CATS hit song “Memory” has been recorded by over 150 artists from Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis to Liberace and Barry Manilow. The Tony Award-winning Best Musical held the title of longest-running musical in Broadway history until it was surpassed in 2006 by Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. The original Broadway production closed on September 10, 2000 and is currently the fourth longest-running show in Broadway history. This marks the first New York revival.
Old favorites return at this year’s Olivier Awards, including revivals of Cats and Miss Saigon, along with electric productions of recent hits in the U.S. such as Here Lies Love, Beautiful – The Carol King Musical and more. Take a sneak peek!
The Broadway Blog’s editor Matthew Wexler catches up with pop star Taylor Dayne as she prepares to take on one of Broadway’s most legendary roles.
Taylor Dayne (photo courtesy of Creative Talent Group)
Taylor Dayne. Cats.
Has the world turned upside down? No. Just your idea of what you think musical theater should be. For anyone familiar with Taylor Dayne’s high-voltage vocals, it should come as no surprise that director/choreographer Jacob Brent had his eye on the three-time GRAMMY-nominated singer to tackle the iconic role of Grizabella, made famous by powerhouse belters Elaine Paige, Betty Buckley, Laurie Beechman and others.
“Cats was the first Broadway show I auditioned for. Through hard work and preparation I booked it and spent the next eight years as The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees in the Broadway and London companies,” said Jacob Brent, director and choreographer of Cats at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse as part of The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. “Being part of many performances and having heard multiple women sing “Memory,” the show’s iconic 11-o’clock number, I knew I wanted to find something different for this production. I had recently seen Taylor Dayne in concert and thought her voice was amazing and her rocker quality would lend itself perfectly for this role. Having already rehearsed with her, all I can say is people are not ready for her performance. She is going to be amazing!”
Dayne is no stranger to Broadway. Growing up on Long Island, her parents would take her to see all sorts of theater, but she always wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. “My parents were avid theater goers. We went to Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway… I was exposed to incredible pieces of work. We saw shows in Central Park and at La Mama.” Highlights of Dayne’s early theater-going days include the original productions of Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Runaways.
But Dayne’s music career—as she had hoped—took off. It was in the mid 90s after Warren Beatty saw her on The Tonight Show that her versatility as a performer was recognized. She appeared in the films Love Affair and Stag and her name eventually came to the attention of the legendary composer Jules Styne, who was planning on a revival of Funny Girl.
“I remember singing “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and the accompanist said ‘be you’ but Jules was bitching,” recalls Dayne of the senior’s short-tempered but accurate assessment of her performance. “Jules said just sing the song. I sang “The Music That Makes Me Dance” and his response was ‘Wow. I found my Funny Girl.’” The pair made appearances, performed at the Friar’s Club and tried to gain interest (included that of Barry and Fran Weissler). Styne’s health began to fail and ultimately he passed away before the production came to fruition, but it planted a seed that began to germinate with Dayne.
She was in many of the initial workshops of Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA. “To build a show like that is a real undertaking,” says Dayne, who found herself “pounding out notes” with the likes of Terrence Mann and Audra McDonald. Four years later the creative team asked her to return to the show to take over the role of Amneris
All the while, Dayne has continued to record and tour, having sold more than 75 million albums and singles worldwide—many of which have become strongholds for the LGBT community. Her song, “Facing a Miracle,” was the anthem for the Gay Games in Cologne and songs like “Stand,” “Change the World,” and her biggest hits “Tell it to My Heart” and “Love Will Lead You Back” reflect the singer’s big sound and expressive interpretation.