WHO INSPIRED YOU TO DO THE WORK YOU DO?
(Roxie Hart in Chicago)
"My mother, Nenette Charisse, was a dance teacher here in New York City who had almost a cultish following. People like Gwen Verdon and Tommy Tune were students of hers. Even if I'd have just been her student I'd choose her as my biggest inspiration, but I also happened to be her daughter. She made her classroom a sacred place where people could do what they do to the best of their abilities; she nurtured the human spirit as well as human bodies.
"I love the way she lived. Right up until a month before she died, she was showing me something new that she had discovered about dance. She was so happy that I went into the business, too. I'm glad she got to see me do Chicago, although I wish she could see me do it now; I've learned so much lately. That's why she's my inspiration, I guess. I never want to stop learning and evolving in what I do. She taught me to really see performance as an art form, not just a business."
(Director of Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, coming to Lincoln Center)
"Other than Marcia Brady--she had the best, most goyishe hair--the people who inspired me the most are my parents [Hal and Judy Prince]. They are people of such incredible depth, sincerity, and integrity. Both are creative, bright, and extremely busy, but still managed to off take three-and-a-half months every year to spend the summer with my brother Charlie and me.
"When you're talented, it's easy to do incredible work. But when I was growing up, my parents cared about the important things. Very few people with a show business family have real fathers and mothers. I was very lucky; I watched them spend their time in meaningful ways with the people they loved. You can't ask for more than that.
"Not many children are privileged to grow up listening to the next Stephen Sondheim score. To be around dad's collaboration with Steve when I was a kid and to see what great pleasure it brought both of them was huge to me. Also, to see how inventive and unusual their work was made a big difference to me. I think you learn a lot through osmosis, but the passion also gets into your blood. Even at a young age, I knew that their work was special. Believe me, I saw a lot of other musicals growing up, and I recognized that this was a horse of a different color.
"I was able, at a very early age, to separate my dad as a person from my dad as an artist. When I was around 12 or 13, I saw one of his projects with Steve and I thought, 'Oh my God, these people made this!' When I'm with dad, though, I don't think about it like that. Your family is your family."
(Songwriter/performer, Put A Little Love in Your Mouth: Amanda Green's Tongue in Cheek Songs at Second Stage Theater, July 16)
"As a songwriter, do I need to tell you that I was inspired by my dad, Adolph Green? Obviously, the songs speak for themselves. I was eight when A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green hit Broadway, and I couldn't believe how much fun it all was. It was better than TV! Dad could do no wrong on stage; he was so self-assured, witty, and smart. I was not privy to any of their actual writing time, though. As far as I was concerned, when he and Betty worked, they snacked. I liked that dad could get up around 10:30am, get together with Betty and eat matzoh and cheese all day.
"As a performer, I remember watching my mother, Phyllis Newman, in her act at the Plaza Hotel Persian Room. That was it--the eyelashes and the falls! It was the perfect dress-up fantasy. She was so glamorous and pretty and had such a good time. During the show, she introduced my brother and me, and they put a spotlight on us and everybody applauded. We didn't get up and sing "Born in a Trunk," but you get the idea. I was so stunned by how cool she was. After seeing her sing "Until It's Time For You To Go," I went home and sang it in the mirror until I made myself cry. She'd do The Tonight Show and say hello to us. My God!
"Both of my parents had such fun doing what they did and made other people so happy. I was an easy target, I guess, because it wasn't always Broadway or the Plaza, but I loved it all. Mom was in a show in Baltimore when I was five, and I came back thinking that Baltimore was the best city on the planet. Our next-door neighbors here in New York were Isaac Stern and his family. His son David was telling me that they'd been on tour with their dad to China, Germany, Switzerland, France, and then did a cruise on the Isle de France. I remember saying, 'That's nothing. We went to Baltimore!' I actually thought I had the upper hand!"
Click here to visit Jim Caruso's website.
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