Gimme an “R-O-S-I-E”!
Rosie O’Donnell is back on the airwaves weeknights at 7pm on OWN with a brand new talk show. Although the name and place maybe be different (The Rosie Show airs live from Chicago), it looks like some things haven’t changed; she’s still Broadway’s biggest cheerleader. Tonight, smack dab during her big premiere week, she will make time to showcase the stars of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in a medley of its disco hits…feather boas, platform shoes and all.
Whatever you may think of Rosie and her song & dance abilities (personally, I miss her mixture of exuberance, emotion and prickly wit), her old daytime talk show helped push musical theater back into the cultural mainstream long before Glee downloaded its first auto-tuned hit. Like a daily Tony Awards show, The Rosie O’Donnell show gave everyone outside New York City a taste of the talent that fills Broadway theaters each night. Heck, she probably single-handedly won a Tony Award for Titanic with her high-profile support.
So in honor of her return, let’s raise a glass to Rosie and watch a few of my favorite Broadway (and Off-Broadway) performances featured on her original series.
Sutton Foster, “Gimme Gimme”: A star is born. There were so many performances to choose from but, without even having to look, this is the one that I still remembered. I absolutely recall watching this moment on TV and being blown away by Foster’s voice and nimble interpretive chops. And if you ever want a textbook example of how to build a song, this is it.
Betty Buckley, “Serenity”: Can you tell I like my belters? Buckley imbues this material with such emotion and a clarity of storytelling — which is something given that the song is a bit of a wordy swirl as written. It’s always a joy to see her work her way around material, not just because the voice is so exciting, but because she cares about the acting of a song. There have been many imitators, but there is only one Betty Buckley.
John Cameron Mitchell, “Origin of Love”: Rosie O’Donnell put the glammed, hot pants-wearing, bleach-blonde, man-woman Hedwig on DAYTIME television! Think about it. And luckily, Mitchell didn’t hold back from giving a rocking performance that certainly opened my eyes and ears to the wider possibilities of music theater. (It also didn’t hurt that I’d had a huge crush on him since I showed him around our alma mater, me as a student, him as a famous alumni…but that’s another story.)
There were so many great moments on Rosie’s show, I could have chosen a dozen more examples (Chenoweth doing “My Philosophy”, the entire cast of Ragtime—including a tween Lea Michelle–on one tiny stage, etc.). Share your favorites in the comments below…