Fresh off a Grammy win for the new Broadway cast recording of Annie Get Your Gun (starring Bernadette Peters), and with mounting requests to conduct major symphony orchestras piling up on his desk, McDaniel sat down for an informal interview with TheaterMania. As he spoke candidly about his pal Rosie, his career thus far, upcoming projects, and life in general, JMcD revealed facets of a fellow we may not know as well as we think we do.
TM: First of all, let me wish you a belated Happy Birthday.
JMcD: Thanks so much. I just turned 39.
TM: ...for the first time.
JMcD: (laughing) First and last! I'm actually looking forward to my 40s.
TM: Well, the Grammy award must have been an incredible birthday present for you.
JMcD: Oh, yes. But something hilarious happened at the Grammy ceremony. Lalo Schifrin gave the award. He read off the nominees and he said, "And the winner is Ste..." He just got that much out, and my co-producer Steve Ferrara and I jumped out of our seats. Then [Schifrin] said "Steven Ferrara and John McDaniel," so it was fine. But, later, I realized that Steven Trask wrote the music to Hedwig [and the Angry Inch]." If [Schifrin] had been saying "Steven Trask," I would have been mortified!
TM: It would have been one of those horrible moments.
JMcD: Horrible. But we were really thrilled to win.
TM: This was your first time producing a Broadway cast recording. Tell me a little bit about that experience.
JMcD: Well, it was great fun. I'm indebted to Barry Weissler--the producer of the show on Broadway--who had the idea that I might do the album. I did all of the arrangements for the show, so I was really familiar with it, and I realized it would be such a great first record to do because I know the material inside and out. If anything, I was a little too close to it. But, of course, I said I would be thrilled [to produce]. I paired up with Steven Ferrara, who works for Angel Records, and we proved to be a really great team.
TM: Were there any major problems that you, as a producer, had to deal with?
JMcD: Not at all. Angel was a terrific company to work with. And Bernadette [Peters] gave it her all. She really bent over backwards to make it a great album.
TM: Recently, you've been performing with symphony orchestras and philharmonics around the country.
JMcD: My favorite thing. I'm from St. Louis and, when I was a kid I would go with my mom to see the St. Louis Symphony. They had a Saturday afternoon series and we'd go, like, five times a year. I can remember getting bundled up with my mom and we'd go to Powell Hall, this magnificent symphony hall. We'd sit up in the dress circle, and this guy would walk out on stage. He would turn around and bow, and then he would conduct magnificent music. That had such an impact on me. Fast forward to years later: I'm on television, I have some visibility, and the St. Louis Symphony asks me if I would be interested in conducting the St. Louis Pops.
TM: I'll bet you fell out of your chair!
JMcD: I really did! I had just begun to dream about doing that kind of thing you know? So, a couple of years ago, I did my first concert with the orchestra. It was "home town boy comes home," and it was a big success. I brought a dear friend of mine to be the guest star: Anne Runolfsson, who's done a million Broadway shows.
TM: What kind of repertoire do you program?
JMcD: We do a lot of music from Broadway. Last year, we did a Halloween program that was great fun. I've done a tribute to big bands, and quite a lot of Christmas programs. But, whenever it's my first time with an orchestra and they ask my favorite type of music, I always say "Broadway."