September 12, 2012

That Time I Met Jo Loesser

Jo Sullivan Loesser (Rosabella) with Robert Weede (Tony) in the original production of The Most Happy Fella (Source)

Once again, Lyric Stage has provided me with a tremendous opportunity and some incredible memories. I don't think I ever blogged about doing Oklahoma! with them back in June, and that's probably because the sadness from ending that show and saying goodbye to some truly wonderful new friends took a long time to go away (actually it's still kind of sad...sniff sniff).

Over the past month I've been fortunate enough to be a part of yet another one of Lyric's critically acclaimed productions, under a brilliant production team and accompanied by a truly amazing 38-piece orchestra.

The Most Happy Fella opened officially this past Saturday evening, September 8th, 2012.  And there was a very, very special guest in the audience: the widow of the composer, Frank Loesser, and original Rosabella, Mrs. Jo Sullivan Loesser (read an awesome interview with Mrs. Loesser here about her thoughts on this amazing theatre company's reproduction of works like this!). 

Lyric Stage cast of The Most Happy Fella with Jo Sullivan Loesser (seated, in white suit)

The cast was informed on our final dress rehearsal that Mrs. Loesser would be joining us onstage after curtain call and singing for us (oh okay...and the audience, too...but it was hard to even remember that there was another audience besides the one onstage with her!).

Even now, as I type this and remember what that night felt like, I get goosebumps up and down my arms.  We were all a bit nervous (probably none more so than our own amazing Rosabella, Amber Nicole Guest, who was greeted with open arms and an enormous smile by Mrs. Loesser after the performance!), but it turns out we had nothing to worry about.  When Jo took the stage, the already electric energy that comes with a successful performance was tripled, and the roar of the applause soared as the cast joined in to welcome her.

She was...well, adorable is the word that keeps coming to mind.  She went immediately to Bill Nolte, the amazing actor playing Tony, for a huge hug, and then could be heard asking, "Where's Rosabella?"

Jo Sullivan Loesser (original Rosabella) with Amber Nicole Guest (OUR Rosabella)

She hugged each of the principal actors in turn, and then was given a microphone, where she continued to gush about the cast, the production team and, of course, the brilliant orchestra and conductor.

She shared some heartwarming stories about her husband, the late Frank Loesser, and thanked all of us profusely.  The song she sang was "Spring Will be a Little Late This Year" from movie Christmas Holiday, written by Frank, of course.  And let me tell you...that woman's voice is still beautiful.  It was just completely charming.

I'm not even going to pretend like I wasn't completely wrecked emotionally by all of this. I didn't stop crying from the moment she walked onstage until the curtain was lowered and we all scrambled to pose for a cast photo with her.

I was hesitant to ask her for a photo in the lobby afterwards, because I knew she was probably tired and overwhelmed, but this was SUCH a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity...and she was incredibly gracious when I asked.  I'm so grateful for that...and for these photos to enhance the memories that were made for all of us that night.

Me! With Jo Sullivan Loesser!

Some of the cast members have joked about how actors can overuse (sometimes to great annoyance) the phrase "so blessed," especially on social media...I mean, there's even a parody Twitter account called Annoying Actor Friend dedicated to such a thing...but this was a time when it was completely appropriate to note just how blessed we all were to be a part of such a moment.

I will never forget this night as long as I live.  Thank you, Cheryl, Jay, Len, Steven and Lyric Stage for continuing to provide me with opportunities to grow as a performer and to be a part of such incredible moments. It makes me the most happy.

1 comment:

  1. I know this is quite late, but I happened upon your blog and this entry in particular, and felt compelled to say what an incredibly moving, just gorgeous and joyful production this MOST HAPPY FELLA was. Because of conflicting performances I was in, the last show was the only one I could get to, and almost didn't go, because of exhaustion. SO GLAD I pushed myself; this was one of the best things I've seen in years, maybe one of the best ever in my long, theater-heavy life, some of which was while living in NYC, back when Broadway was within a student's financial reach. In other words, I have very high standards, and was thrilled by this show! Thanks so much for your work in it, and for this wonderful entry. (A friend was there to hear Jo Sullivan Loesser, and gushed about that--he said he cried, so you were not alone in that).