Anyone who was lucky enough to be there will never forget Jennifer Holliday zapping the audience with a thousand bolts of electricity at the end of Act I in Dreamgirls. I saw the show shortly after it opened, when all of Manhattan was buzzing about the new power-diva on the Broadway scene. After her crushing performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," there was spontaneous combustion in the Imperial Theater. I actually saw people standing on the seats of their chairs screaming, crying, and cheering. No one had ever sung quite like that in the theater. It was reckless, dangerous, and shocking, and we were thrilled by every growl and bizarre affectation Holliday could muster.
I was chatting with the cast of The Crumple Zone, which is playing at the Rattlestick Theater through September 10, and decided to pry into their most memorable Broadway audience experiences.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE BROADWAY AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE?
Terry in The Crumple Zone
Chita in Kiss of the Spider Woman was amazing. That show was so fabulous! Then they replaced her with Vanessa Williams and Maria Conchita Alonzo. What are they, nuts? That was just retarded. I saw it five times with Chita. I love her. We're friends, too, but she always acts shocked and says I have a dirty mouth. She secretly likes it, though. Another one of the greatest performances I've ever seen was Maggie Smith in Lettice and Lovage. Oh--and I saw Robert DeNiro in Cuba and His Teddy Bear. The way he used his body, and how physical he was, killed me! It wasn't a good play, but he was spectacular.
Of course, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I saw Liza in Minnelli on Minnelli five times. She was pretty awesome. Total electricity! I'm not sure what it is about these people, but they just pop from the stage. It's like there's a light around them. Rex Reed would say something like "they burn a hole through the screen." I can't really be funny about them because it's so serious to me. If you ask me who I hate on stage, then I'll be funny--trust me.
Matt in The Crumple Zone
I love LaChanze. I first saw her in Once On This Island. Her energy is unbelievable and totally boundless! There is a sad story, though. I was so excited to see her in Bubbly Black Girl, and the night I saw it was the one night that she took off! I told her later that she owed me a show. I'd kill to see her do a revival of The Wiz. She'd sing the *@#!* out of "Home"! I love to hear a good belter now and then.
Alex in The Crumple Zone
My very first Broadway experience was when I was six years old. I saw Sandy Duncan in Peter Pan, and when she came flying out over that stage, I was hooked. It was heaven! Raul Julia's performance in Threepenny Opera was genius, too. I was very young, but now that I have a vocabulary, I guess I would say that I loved him because he was so over-the-top but, somehow, totally real and relaxed at the same time. He was able to work so big and broad, yet you never thought, "This could never happen." You really take an amazing ride with actors like that. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in Sunday in the Park with George were fantastic, too.
I love those larger-than-life performances. I kind of have a big temperament myself, so I can relate! It's strange, though; the more I work, the more I hope for subtlety and ease in my own performances. Crumple Zone is my first real show in New York, and when we first opened, I was so uptight. It was excitement, it was anxiety--it was fear! Now, into the run, I'm really starting to feel some ease in my performance. I watch Mario Cantone every night, and he has that skill of being insanely big on stage but with such a natural ease. For comedy, I think it's the gift!
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