Don't look now, but it's almost summer in the city. Last week's unseasonable hot-snap brought a terrifying proliferation of tube tops and culottes to Manhattan. And that got me to thinking about the joys of summer...
Much of my youth was spent sawing, sewing, singing and acting up a storm in summer stock. Part community theater, part summer camp, these experiences were always filled with even more laughs than The Producers, if that's possible. I pried into the memory banks of two of Broadway's hottest leading men, searching for some of their own unforgettable escapades in stock before the glamor, the glitter, the falling chandelier, and Reba.
: WHAT ARE YOUR MOST VIVID RECOLLECTIONS OF SUMMER STOCK?
(Frank Butler in Annie Get Your Gun)
"When I was going to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, I spent the summers there doing stock. So there we were, George Dvorsky, Kim Criswell and me, all doing The Red Mill. At one point, the boy singers and the girl singers were all to come out on stage; the girls were to grab the hands of the boys, and we were to sing a little ditty all together. Wait...this might have been Good News. Anyway, we boys decided it would be hilarious to put shaving cream in our hands before we went out. So we danced on to the stage, all smiles, and the girls grabbed our hands. Of course, their eyes got really big when they got a handful of cream and everyone started laughing so much that we couldn't finish the song. Isn't that professional?
"We were severely reprimanded, believe me. It was like being called into the principal's office! They said, 'Thank God the dancers didn't slip on the shaving cream that dripped on the stage!' Like someone could have been killed! We felt pretty terrible, though."
(The title role in The Phantom of the Opera)
"It's so funny that you should ask me this question, because I just saw Charlotte Moore a few days ago, and we were reminiscing about our summer stock experiences. She's now the artistic director of the Irish Repertory Theater, and is a great actress. We were doing The Fatal Weakness, an old George Kelly play, with Eva Marie Saint. This was so many years ago--I'm not going to even tell you. Let's just say I was a child actor!
"So, we were at the Westport Country Playhouse. It was my very first summer stock, and I had brought my guitar with me. Charlotte and I were sitting in the dressing room during the first intermission of the three-act play. Remember three-act plays? Anyway, I was strumming the guitar and serenading Charlotte with some Don MacLean song, and all of a sudden we heard Eva Marie Saint say Charlotte's cue through the monitor system. They had started Act II and we didn't know it! The dressing rooms were underneath the stage, and Charlotte ran out; of course, she was still in her Act I costume. She was running up the stairs, throwing off clothing, yelling, 'I'll be right there, I'm trying to park the car!' She still blames me for the one missed entrance of her career."