With all due respect to Kander and Ebb, life is not so much a cabaret as it is a soap opera. But the 20 stars appearing at Arci's Place in the week's worth of special performances starting January 29 will have it both ways. Six evenings of musical entertainment will feature some of the most talented lead actors from daytime television; two of the performances (January 29 and February 4) will benefit the victims of the World Trade Center disaster. While chatting up some of these folks, I pried into their professional past to hear some of their most outrageous, unbelievable, and hilarious plot lines their characters had ever encountered. (Organ music up and out...)
WHAT CRAZY THINGS HAVE YOU GOTTEN TO DO AS YOUR CHARACTER?
(Carmen Santos on The Guiding Light; at Arci's February 4, 8pm)
"I came back from the dead! Originally, my character faked her own death to win back her son's love...because that's what you do to win back your son's love. So I was off the show for a time--being dead--and getting a little worried that they weren't going to bring me back. I finally came back on, only to be really killed off again. It was not a pretty death, either: I had tried to kill my pregnant daughter-in-law, my son found out and shot me dead. He wrapped me up in chains and a blanket and dumped me in a lake. This time, I was really dead; my contract was up and everything.
"Nine months later, my boss at Guiding Light called and asked if I would come back for three days with a possible upcoming contract. I couldn't imagine how they'd bring me back. Was I going to be my own twin sister...a ghost...what? But no, I was still Carmen. I got the script and there was a long, two-page monologue that explained my miraculous recovery from death: It seems that when my son dumped me in the lake, the shock of the cold water brought me back to life. The chains weren't really that tight and they floated away, because chains float, evidently. I held my breath the whole time and floated to the surface. One of my goons saw me and rescued me. It took two pages to explain that and was never mentioned again. I didn't have a scratch on me, either. I guess I had been missing for nine months, so I had a lot of time to clean myself up. On to wearing beautiful clothing! So, now I'm back and meaner than ever. Even with a second chance at life, no repentance for Carmen! I thought maybe I could see God, and get spiritual. 'No, no,' they said, 'you're still bad.'"
Tonja Walker Davidson
(Alex Olanov Hesser Buchanan Hesser Buchanan on One Life To Live; at Arci's January 30, 8pm)
"How long is your column? I'm serious! There's no way you could fit all the crazy things I've done into one column. I'll give you the Readers Digest version. I originally came on the show as a heroine--a good girl--to be with Bo Buchanan. Then I tried to kill the girl he liked more than me. Then I went into a mental institution. Then I came out with a sense of humor. Then I married Carlo Hesser, a man who was head of the mob in Llanview, Pennsylvania. Then I killed him, I thought, but I really killed his twin brother. Then I married Asa Buchanan and I became the mayor of Llanview (yes, after murdering someone and being in an asylum). Carlo came back and I ran off with him after stealing $13 million. Now, I'm a stripper. This is all the same character, mind you.
"Asa said he would marry me and save me from a horrible stripper life, and I believed him. Actually, he was just getting back at me for stealing the $13 million and running off with Carlo. So he married someone else. He died, I went to his funeral; but he wasn't really dead, because it's a soap. It's so interesting, seriously, trying to figure out how to make all this work as an actor. Some of it is a stretch, believe me. But three of those wacky situations got me an Emmy nomination, so I'm not complaining!"
(Maria on One Life To Live; at Arci's February 2, 8:30 and 11pm)
"My character killed herself and came back as a ghost. In trying to kill someone else, she spilled a poison called marginatoxicalall over herself. I'm not sure whether that's a real poison or a soap poison, but she stole it from a doctor; if it gets on your skin, you appear to have a heart attack. So that's how I died. But I had a balance on my contract and the fans all wrote in and asked for me to come back, so they were pressured to rehire me. I also played Marlena on Star Trek, who got to do some pretty outrageous things. I'm even an action figure! She had tremendous powers and, with the flick of her wrist, could kill in an instant. That's how she earned her rank as 'The Captain's Woman!' Those fans are unbelievable, let me tell you. They know what William Shatner had for breakfast in 1968!"
(Julia Medina on One Life To Live; at Arci's February 1, 8:30 and 11pm)
"I went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and so did Erica Slezak, who stars on One Life To Live. I first came to New York in 1989 to play Julia Medina, a British bitch who was to be Fiona Hutchinson's mother. The writers had my character get involved with Clint Ritchie, who was Erica's husband. Now, Erica had been on the show for 20 years and was the star, but I had to have an affair with my old school friend's husband; it wasn't the craziest thing that my character ever did, but it was so uncomfortable for me! I'm not sure Erica liked the idea much, either. They had my character go to Clint's ranch, get on a horse, and sidle up to him in the barn. So amazingly incongruous. I was horrified."
(Phoebe Tyler English Wallingford on All My Children; emceeing at Arci's on January 29)
"This is not the worst thing my character ever did, but it was certainly the most embarrassing. It wasn't in the script, either, just my own harebrained idea: At lunch one day, everyone in the cast was all excited about the streaking fad that was happening. They had all done it at one point or another, so I decided it was my turn. During one scene, I was wearing a mink cape with long fur tails hanging down. I got in front of the camera, opened up the cape, and flashed. It was fun! I thought it was just for our cameras but I eventually found out that the feed went out over the entire network. Friends in Los Angeles saw it and called me. So I didn't really get away with much. No harm was done, though!"
(Lisa Miller Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi Chadwick on As The World Turns; at Arci's February 3, 8pm)
"My poor character has been through the wringer! When I left the show the first time, 'Lisa' was kidnapped from a bus stop, raped repeatedly by three strangers in the back of a black limousine, then lost her mind. Now, keep in mind that I was gone from the show; the audience just heard about all this, but it became so vivid in everyone's mind that they thought they had seen it on camera. When the character returned from all this drama, it was not me. The character came back played by an actress named Pamela King. From outward appearances, she looked similar to me--same hair, same body language. She even had elbows like mine. For two weeks, though, she acted every scene with her hands in front of her face. I was sitting at home watching...and screaming! Finally, during a very dramatic scene, another actor said: 'Lisa, take down your hands.' Then a voiceover said, 'The part of Lisa Miller is now being played by Pamela King.' Well, the #$!@ hit the fan! The audience had thought it was me all along and they were furious that they had been duped. This was the sixties, which was a much more innocent time. They believed that we were real people. The studio got millions of letters and I was hired back--with a better contract."
(Roxanne "Roxie" Balsom on One Life To Live, formerly Delia Reid Ryan Ryan Coleridge Crane Coleridge on Ryan's Hope; at Arci's January 30, 8pm)
"My character is constantly showing up drunk and asking everyone for alcohol, which is charming. Recently, I've been hatching a scheme to get my biological daughter back, which involves me pretending to be sick. I've been coughing constantly, like I'm Camille. Then the character who is masterminding the whole scheme tells me that I'm supposed to have hypoglycemia, so knock off the coughing. It's all about blurry vision and numbness. Coughing is not really one of your bigger hypoglycemia traits. I go to visit my daughter, who doesn't know she's my daughter, and the maid answers the door. Because of my now-blurred vision, I think the maid is my daughter. Now, trust me, no vision is blurry enough to think that; you'd have to be completely blind. Then my daughter comes in and I say that it's really good to see her even if she does 'look like a ball of fuzz.' I wrote that line myself!"
Click here to visit Jim Caruso's website.