The first time I was nominated, I was walking on air. It was like a fairy tale come true. One month Iím in a little black box theater down on West 28th Street - the Actorsí Outlet and it was so dirty we called it ďThe Actorsí Outhouse.Ē I was doing this little jewel of a show and it was one of those instances where I really clicked with the material. Within two months we were on Broadway and had a cast album. I had a new leading man because Dennis Parlato, who did it downtown, opted to do Chess instead. (even though I offered him my MG to stay!) But we were lucky enough to get the wonderful Scott Bakula and we clicked. We had a great time. On top of that there was the Tony nomination. It was a dream come true.
Of course it was more of a nightmare when we did our number for the Tony Awards ceremony. My zipper got stuck during the quick change and they literally had to rip my dress off me. If you watch a tape of it, youíll see Scott looking offstage because I missed a few beats. I had several people tugging on my dress to get it off. It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life. It was worse than being mugged. There were all those people, I was on national television, and I was going to look like an idiot.
At least with that nomination I thought maybe there was a chance. My part was really big and it was flashy. People were liking it. I knew I never had a chance for the next one (Secret Garden). Once I heard that it was Daisy (Eagan) that I was up against I didnít even buy a new dress. I knew.
NR: Did you get to watch her on The It Factor at all?
AF: I didn't see it, but I was on The It Factor with Daisy. I did this fun show at Arciís, which was a celebration of Tony nominees. They requested that we do material from our Tony nominated shows so I was doing a Secret Garden thing. I had not sung ďFine White HorseĒ in public since the show. I told the audience, ďIím going to sing this, but Iím going to ask a little girl to come up so I can sing to her.Ē Of course, Daisy came up as the ďlittle girl.Ē She had a martini in her hand - it was very funny. I sang ďFine White HorseĒ to her. Then she did a song and finally we did ďHold OnĒ together.
The Secret Garden was such a lovely group of people. Iím still very good friends with Rebecca Luker and Peter Marinos, whoís now in The Producers, and Daisy, and John Babcock, the little boy who played Colin. Heís now a Harvard graduate and the tutor of my son. And of course, Howard McGillin, whoís in my mind the greatest leading man Broadway will ever have. His performance in Edwin Drood was beyond mind-boggling. Heís our great, great treasure, and why people arenít writing shows for him is beyond me. Heís just brilliant.
AF: It was. It was great because we didnít know what we had. The Falsettos story starts with In Trousers. Bill Finn, Mary Testa and I were singing songs in his apartment. We decided to do a presentation for some people in the apartment, which was a mess. Mary and I spent the day cleaning it. We all pooled our pennies because we were intensely poor. We bought grapes and cheap jug white wine. We borrowed chairs from the nearby synagogue and we put together this presentation. That show eventually became In Trousers, which we did at Playwrights Horizons. The first one was directed by Billy and he also played Marvin.
To this day Bill Finn is one of my favorite singers. I am definitely going to take credit for bringing his vocal prowess out of retirement because he sang ďThe Passion of RhodaĒ on my CD. That song is one of the cut songs from the original In Trousers. I always like to include one of Billyís unrecorded songs on my albums so I begged him to do it. I guess he got the bug because then he did Infinite Joy down at Joeís Pub.
Falsettos was next in the trilogy. I donít know if he knew it was going to be a trilogy at that point. We did it upstairs at Playwrights Horizon and James Lapine came on as the director and really started to shape the Marvin story. I was horrified when he told me they were going to add a 13 year old son because at the time I was in my early 20s and I thought, ďThere goes my part.Ē He was nice enough to keep me on board so that was good.
NR: Letís talk about Prodigal.
AF: I love Prodigal! Itís taken such an interesting journey. It could have turned into a disaster because our director was let go about three days before our first preview. The writer (Dean Bryant) and Jim Morgan, the artistic director, decided the vision was not going in a way that was compatible with their vision. They did a lot of rewriting and reblocking. We really did not know what we had until three or four days into previews. Every day major changes were going in and we were all very nervous. I think it was a tribute to the great heart of the York Theatre, which of course is one of our great treasures in New York City, because they really, really support new material in a passionate way. Theyíre not doing Forever Plaid every two years to make their nut. They are out there doing new material and to me, thatís the excitement of theatre - creating new material. Itís a great tribute to these brave boys who came over from Australia - Mathew Frank and Dean Bryant. Theyíre kids, but boy are they smart. Itís also a great tribute to the actors involved because they did not cave. The actors did not come in with a bad attitude. Every day, every single one of those actors was working their ass off to make sure that the writers got the best shot possible in New York City. As a result, weíre a very close company. We love each other and I think it shows on stage. I think itís because of the dire circumstances that this show is what it is. It resonates more deeply because of the travails that we were put through.
NR: Is there any chance that it will be recorded?
AF: From your mouth to Godís ears. Weíll see. It would certainly be a very cheap show to do because there are only five of us and itís just piano. I would love to record it.
NR: We have to mention Talkiní Broadway since youíre such a good friend of the website.
AF: We love Talkiní Broadway! You guys rock! Just the fact that thereís a whole Internet site filled with passionate theatergoers is amazing. The people on All That Chat are smart and knowledgeable. I love them.
NR: (laughing) Does that mean you donít think we closed Seussical or did any other of those horrible things?
AF: No. I do think you have a lot of influence. To me, itís very democratic. Because of the Internet, everybody has an opinion. I love that, and even though sometimes itís a bad opinion of me, itís okay. I read something on All That Chat one day about my diction and I went back and went over my stuff. If somebody couldnít understand me, thatís bad, so I lightened up some of my diction because of that. Everybodyís opinion is valid. I love the guys on All That Chat. I love the annual party. I also have to give Talkiní Broadway credit for getting me back into singing in concerts. When Wayman (Wong) called me to do that party a few years ago, I had never thought about doing concerts. I had such a good time at that first party that I said, ďI could be doing this.Ē I have a nice little concert thing going now. So, thank you Wayman and Talkiní Broadway!
NR: And now you have another CD coming out.
AF: Itís called Name Dropping. Weíre just in the planning stages right now. Itís going to be fun. It will be eclectic. My CDs tend to be very personal and strange. I do believe Iíll be doing an original Billy Finn song on it, as well as some Broadway standards. Iíve had complaints that I donít do enough Broadway stuff so I said, ďOkay, fine. Iíll do something.Ē I might actually be singing my first Sondheim song, but Iím not sure yet.
NR: What didnít we talk about?
AF: My son Nat is just turning 12 years old. His favorite place in the world is Las Vegas. He wants to live there. He goes there every year for winter vacation. He now has a giant poster of Las Vegas over his bed.
NR: Is he interested in doing music or theater as a career?
AF: No, I donít think so. Early on when he was 6 years old, he came very close to getting a movie - The Stepmom. My agent gets him these incredible auditions and Nat is not a child actor. Heíll get an audition for a movie and heíll say, ďI donít feel like it. I have gym that day.Ē Of course itís usually an opportunity that we would kill for, but weíre not going to push him.
NR: Whatís ahead for you?
AF: Iím going to do a lot more concerts. Iím doing Broadway By the Year: 1951 at Town Hall on May 13th. I think Iím going to get to do some King and I material. Iím looking forward to that. I want to do my one-woman show again. Itís called ďThe Happy, Sexy, Truthful ShowĒ because I just wanted happy, sexy songs and truthful stories. Iím going for an audition for something today. Maybe Iíll get it. Who knows? I also do a lot of voice-overs for television and radio ads. I do books on tape. Recently I did a wonderful book on tape called The Buffalo Soldier by Chris Bohjalian. Itís unabridged and itís for Random House. Itís definitely the best book on tape that Iíve ever done. I got to meet him. Heís also the guy who wrote Midwives and itís an absolutely beautiful book.
NR: I know Prodigal is ending soon, but it sounds as if youíre going to be quite busy. Good luck with the audition and Iíll see you at the Talkiní Broadway party.
While we spoke, Alison frequently referred to people in the business as ďgreat treasures.Ē Looking at her body of work, and the enthusiasm and joy she brings to this career that she loves so much, I think itís safe to say that the same words can be used to describe her.