Final Bow: Emily Skinner Recalls Pigmy Hedgehogs and Sondheim in Prince of Broadway
Skinner is among the ensemble cast of this revue celebrating the career of Harold Prince.
In Prince of Broadway, the musical revue celebrating the career of legendary Broadway director and producer Harold Prince, Emily Skinner gets to put her stamp on a treasure trove of material. She conquers the role of Desiree Armfeldt from A Little Night Music, sings a jazzy remix of "Now You Know" from Merrily We Roll Along, and tears through "The Ladies Who Lunch," in an Elaine Stritch costume, from Company.
All in a night's work for the Tony nominee, who has been with the project since it was first announced more than five years ago. With the curtain falling on Prince of Broadway on October 29, Skinner took a walk down memory lane, highlighting the show's Japanese origins and looking back on this long-awaited New York bow.
1. What is your favorite song that you get to sing?
It depends from night to night. The biggest thrill is coming onstage and singing "Ladies Who Lunch" because I can feel the audience responding to it. That's always a wonderful thing for an actor.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
Hal said so many incredibly amusing things during the rehearsal process. Janet Dacal has great hair, wonderful, gorgeous, sexy, kind of Shirley Temple curls. At one point during rehearsals, Hal said, "I want your Evita wig to look just like your hair. I want porn-star hair!" So, "porn-star hair."
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show, and how was it handled?
The Show Boat set and Sweeney Todd set are very tight, so people have knocked over tables and dishes. It's live theater. You pick the table up and keep on singing.
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
We tried the show out in Japan. I went to a pet store while I was there and I saw pigmy hedgehogs. They were so cute and I posted about it on social media. Then I started to get pigmy hedgehog paraphernalia: a T-shirt that was the body of a pigmy hedgehog with my face on it.
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
It was a thrill when Judi Dench came to see the show. She was the original Sally Bowles in London. Judy Collins was also a thrill, because her version of "Send in the Clowns" is so iconic.
6. What is it like to do the out of town tryout of a Broadway musical in Japan?
It was really interesting and I'm so glad I had the experience. The audiences were wonderful. If I were the producer of a new musical, I would want to go do it over there. They're so into American musicals and are so effusive and loving. The audiences just adored it and they treated us like kings and queens. It was an amazing thing to do all this material that we think of as so American, but are so in the mass consciousness universally.
7. You've been with the show since it was first announced years ago. What was the hardest song or segment to lose on the road to its final version?
So much material was tried out and changed and tweaked. There was a full ballet in the second act that Susan Stroman choreographed and everybody was in it. Bryona Marie Parham used to sing "Another Hundred People." Kaley Ann Voorhees sang "Far From the Home I Love." I sang "Broadway Baby." The show would be 19 hours long. What they ended up with is a very smart version and leaves people wanting more.
8. Of all the characters that you play in Prince of Broadway, which one would you like to do in a full-fledged revival, and who would be your fellow cast members?
There's something about A Little Night Music that keeps calling to me. I've done it three times. I've played Petra in a production and I've played Charlotte twice, and now I play Desiree in this micro version for Hal. I feel like I'm aging my way through the show, on my way to Madame Armfeldt.
9. What Hal Prince musical would you go back in time to see?
Follies or Company. Every time I see them they resonate in different ways.
10. What is the best piece of advice Hal Prince gave to you in this process?
One time — and it had nothing to do with the show — he came up to me and said, "You have to promise me you will never do any of that stuff that women do to their faces. You're a stage actor and those are your tools. You need that." And I said, "OK, I'm not planning on it." It was a very sweet thing for him to say. That's somewhere embedded in my psyche.