Victoria Clark’s upcoming PS Classics CD, Fifteen Seconds of Grace, won’t be released until November 6– where it will be celebrated with a special launch performance at New York City’s Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle. But a lucky group of cabaretgoers at the Orange Country Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, California will be the first to savor its pleasures when Clark — who won the Tony Award for her magnificent performance as Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza — performs there October 11-14.
“I am so eager to do this concert and let people hear it,” says Clark. “I haven’t even gotten tired of listening to the CD myself; it still sounds really fresh to me. We have standards like “Right as the Rain,” “I Got Lost in His Arms,” and “Before the Parade Passes By; I’ve done Hello, Dolly! before and I just love that song. But I didn’t do anything from Piazza, because not only do we already have it on CD, but I don’t think I could ever do it better than I did that day, even though I was so sick it was a miracle I made it through the recording session.”
Still, that show’s composer, Adam Guettel, will be represented on the new CD. “It’s called “Life is a But a Dream,” which no one ever recorded before,” she says. “There are songs from other new theater composers like Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Red Dress,” and Jeff Blumenkrantz’s setting of the Edna St. Vincent Millay poem “Departure,” and the title tune was written by Jane Kelly Williams, which really suits my voice. Plus, there’s a hymn called ‘How Can I Keep from Singing.’ It doesn’t ring a bell from my childhood, but I found it one day in church as an insert, and when I was planning my concert last year at the Allen Room, I asked Jeff to do an arrangement. It really sums up my whole attitude towards life.”
The CD’s eclecticism was a definite choice on Clark’s part. “I knew I didn’t want to do a theme album, like bedtime songs or songs with the word ‘Crocodile.’ I’m not really a matchy person, even though I’m from Dallas where the shoes always match the bag,” she says with a laugh. “In fact, I call this my pu-pu platter of songs.”
That Clark would use a cooking metaphor — she also calls the album “a smorgasbord” — is hardly surprising; she’s renowned in both theatrical and New York City school circles for her skill in the kitchen. “I take my mom thing very seriously,” says Clark, whose son, Thomas, is now 13. “I feed all the kids in his class. Most of them don’t know me as a Broadway star, but as the person who makes the banana bread.” Further proof of that particular talent is evident in another of the CD’s selections. “My friends, Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli, wrote this great, sexy little song called “Someone to Cook For” about my need to feed,” she says. “Jessica calls it that tricky little song that every album needs.”
But the CD’s most special cut is the one she co-wrote — and which she used to sing to Thomas when they would go the playground when he was a child. “It was something I made up one day when I couldn’t remember the words to this Robert Louis Stevenson poem,” she says. Is Thomas embarrassed that this has been recorded for posterity? “No, he’s thrilled to have this song about him on the CD, though it wasn’t easy to get any kind of vocal praise. He’s very kinetic — he’s moving unless he’s asleep — so I couldn’t get him to just sit in the room and listen to it with me. But when he finally told me it was good, I felt like I was living the good life.”
Doing a solo recording was a new experience for Clark, whose voice can be heard on the cast recordings of the 1995 revival of How to Succeed… and Titanic, among other CDs. “With show albums, you usually only get one take, two at the most, so I had to get used to this idea of doing a song over and over again,” she notes. “Actually, some of the cuts here are the second takes.”
Since Piazza closed in July 2006, Clark has been expanding her acting horizons, doing everything from the Vineyard workshop production of Nicky Silver’s The Agony and the Agony, in which she played a hysterical actress, to an upcoming part as an event planner on the ABC soap opera All My Children.
She’ll also appear in The Happening, the new movie from scaremeister M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense). “I can’t tell you much about it, since we had to sign all these agreements, but it’s about characters overcoming obstacles and I play someone you’d call a helper,” she says. “I was so thrilled to be included in this project — especially when we were filming this scene in a car and Night was actually hanging out of my window for an hour-and-a-half.”
Rest assured, Clark plans to return to the New York stage shortly — in two different projects, though she says she can’t divulge the details. But one of them will not be a commercial production of the City Center Encores! production of Follies, in which she triumphed earlier this year as Sally Durant Plummer. “I would love to do it again,” she admits. “I look forward to working with Donna Murphy again — or just seeing her on the street. Since that show, we’ve become real sisters of soul.”
Wherever her career takes her, Clark says she’ll be grateful — especially since it was all something of a happy accident. “I came to New York to be a director. I didn’t think I had any talent as an actor. But people heard me sing and then destiny picked me up and threw me over,” she says. “Looking back, the irony is that I discovered that you can succeed because you do what you love and you do it with your heart.”