WTF IS FYC?
STARDUST BY PROXY
A SERIES LEADING TO EMMY
What a fun group! The gals on the end, Miriam Shor and Debi Mazar sit quietly, and then, zing - one-liners fall effortlessly from their lips and the audience is falling off its collective chairs. Darren Star is no stranger to writing funny for women and he makes use of these ladies' comedic skills in this adaptation of Pamela Redmond Satran's novel of the same name. Similar to the characters in Star's Sex in the City, Younger's women have well-defined personalities that comedically hold their own, but return to the real when it's time to offer support to one another.
Sutton Foster stars as Liza Miller, the older woman who plays younger and gets to cougar because she can. Ah, the role of my dreams! Foster is a two-time Tony Award winner. She's one of those talents who can do it all. Actors often talk about the differences between working on the stage and in front of TV or film cameras ... comparing energy of performance with size ... a topic this panel would have seized and squeezed for its last drop of essential comedic juice. But size in terms of the medium of performance delivery to an audience is the variable ... along with the convention of manipulating time.
Stage actors embody their characters fully, projecting that performance energy one time only from a vast "box" behind a proscenium to rows upon rows of seated eyes experiencing it in the present. TV and film actors are typically still, then moving to marks, tasked with repeatedly mustering variations of the same performance energy to contain but not overflow the demands of capturing it each time. Until a final edited version is delivered to eyes that may be in the kitchen stealing glances at a "box" they may taken with them while securing a beverage, riding a train, or walking down the street, the experience remains unopened until the viewer presses play. Perhaps these eyes have altered time further, by opting to postpone their viewing experience or resume a partially-watched recording from another time. Yet, within this mix of full out in the now Broadway performances and camera performances defined by captured stops and starts, Foster is emerges a gypsy gone Hollywood.
WTF IS A BROADWAY GYPSY?
When I was younger, living in New York and aspiring to work on Broadway, I first heard talk of paying your dues. To me, this meant the promise of better roles won by hard work in non-union shows to finally be cast in union Broadway musicals ... and once there, it meant retaining Actors' Equity membership status by continuing to work in Broadway shows, thereby affording and paying for union dues. Nevertheless, tenure in this band of gypsies, Broadway's musical theatre chorus, is acknowledged by a one-of-a-kind ceremony ... the presentation of The Gypsy Robe®. It's like an insider's Tony Award for musical theatre chorus performers.
THE GYPSY ROBE®
The tradition began in 1950 with the passing of a dressing gown to a chorus member along with a story of who'd previously worn it. Artifacts were added to the robe each time it was passed and its legend and sharing practice evolved into a more juried ceremony.
Today, The Gypsy Robe® is a covered construct of mementos from chorus members of past shows. It's passed from an honored musical theatre chorus performer to another on opening night of a new Broadway musical. Cast, crew, and creatives gather with a representative of the Actors' Equity Association and a recently honored gypsy to pass the Robe® to another honored recipient. After putting on the Robe, the honoree circles the stage three times while everyone touches the Robe® for luck. Wearing the Robe, the recipient then makes rounds to every dressing room ... an act that may seem simple, but the Robe, depending on its age, could be overly encumbered with endearments of its lineage. Gypsy Robes® retire at the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts, but are also housed at the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of the City of New York, and Actors' Equity.
Here are the rules from the Actors' Equity Association's website:
The Gypsy Robe® blesses every Broadway musical! Please keep the tradition and stick to the rules.
- The Gypsy Robe® goes only to Broadway musicals with a chorus.
- The Robe goes to a chorus member only with most number of Broadway credits.
- It must be delivered by 1/2 hour on Opening Night to member selected.
- New recipient must put on the Robe and circle the stage 3 times, while cast members reach out and touch the Robe for good luck; new recipient visits each dressing room while wearing the Robe.
- New recipient supervises addition of application from show to Robe. Important rules for adding mementos: for wearability, durability and longevity, add-ons must be lightweight, sturdy and reasonably sized, so each Robe can represent a full season.
- Opening night date and recipient's name are written on or near memento and cast members only sign that section of the Robe.
- Recipient will attend next the Broadway musical opening and will present the Robe to the next "Gypsy" in that show.
THE TIES THAT BIND
Reviewing the list of the Robe's past recipients, I was surprised I knew or had worked with at least a dozen of them; three were with me in our cast of West Side Story! So it was particularly rewarding that at last year's FYC for Younger, I had a moment to share Broadway and West End experiences with Foster. She's my people. And she's not even English! It's just that gypsies, dancers, theatre people; all carry solidarity for one another. There's kinship. Recognition of family. And in terms of the series, Foster's character in Younger has the same reverence for her people.
Left alone to bring up a child, she attempts to re-enter the workforce, but is stymied by her age. Comedy ensues when she passes for someone at least 15 years younger. She befriends Hilary Duff's character her first day in an entry-level assistant's job with a publishing company, working for Shor's character. I'm thinking that we've all noticed the elephant in the room, because Hilary's character seems to be playing at younger, too? I know it's not true, because Duff is about 15 years younger than Foster and is the approximate age of her character, yet her character owns a wisdom of life's experiences ... except when it comes to her man. Blind, blind, blind. But it's Liza's insight, even while entrenched in her own secret that sells both the humor and humanity of the show for me. She's a compassionate teacher who's giving her ruse the benefit of the old college try. So when Liza connects with Charles Brooks, played by Peter Hermann near the end of the first season, a man at least ten years on the upside of her age, the chemistry is profoundly real and settling. But he's an untouchable. He's the big boss, a father, and a very nice man. So we pine for their pairing.
Yet, fans seem to be just as thrilled at the prospect of Liza's under-age-appropriate romance with Nico Tortorella as they are with age-appropriate Charles ... high-decibel cheers and whoops from the audience at the mention of Nico's name. The "young 'n," as a colleague often refers to hers, is popular. If Nico's Josh focused his you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen attention on you, would you refuse it? Hmmm? So Liza cougars it up! He falls and she falls. And it's fun and steamy and he seems to keep her character young. Sadly, Nico did not attend the event this evening.
We returned to the London West Hollywood for tonight's FYC, only this time, we're partying on the roof. You may recall, the reception for Catastrophe was held at this location, but on another outside deck. Again, the floor is AstroTurf, but it's bumpy. Maybe this location has moles? Between fleas and moles, and dead fish ... there's a lot of sushi and other cold items that didn't speak to my organic palette ... I'm feeling I might as well be at a zoo. It's cold up here, even with standing heaters. While sipping on wine and chatting with friends, I keep vigil for Foster. I really want to say hello to her again after our pleasant encounter last year, but I'm unable to maneuver the press of the crowd before she's whisked away. As time passes, warm food I can eat appears on trays. Yay! And when the crowds thin, Peter and Miriam, the funny ones, are still around and eager to talk and take photos ... yay! He's handsome, isn't he? And Miriam is down-to-earth and loves to mingle! Thanks you two! More yay!