WBAI ... 99.5
For several months now the trend has been to tune in to WBAI radio via RealAudio while surfing the Internet on Sunday evenings. Every Sunday, David Kenney broadcasts his 2-hour show, Everything Old is New Again, from New York at 9 PM. On the show he plays classic showtunes, songs from cabaret and he does some interviews, too. After a few months, I was quite surprised to be invited to do the show. Of course, I said yes. The other guests were to be Michael John LaChiusa, Marcia Lewis, Andrew Lippa and Johnny Mathis. Talk about being in good company!
I arrived at the station down on Wall Street a bit early so I found a pub over at the South Street Seaport and tipped a pint or two ... to kill the nerves over going on the air. You see, I had no idea what David was going to ask me. Arriving at the studio I first ran into David in the lobby of the station and we just looked at each other. We had never met, or had been introduced, but the funny thing is that we had known each other as a familiar face for years in the theatre district. The intro was more like, "V.J.? Oh, it's you!"
I didn't go on for an hour so I sat around reading the Times Arts and Leisure section. In walks a young guy looking around, obviously with a question on his face. He asked for David, and I told him that he'd be right out. He extended a hand and said, "Hi, I'm Michael John LaChiusa." And my first thought was how young he looks. I don't know how old he is, but he looked all of 30 to me. And to think he's nominated for several Tony Awards this year for not one, but two musicals, Marie Christine and The Wild Party. We talked about the Tony nominations and about the Gurney article in the Times, which he hadn't read, although he was aware of the situation. Gurney pulled out of voting for the Tonys because he didn't feel it was fair to vote in the Best Actor in a Musical category since he hadn't seen Mandy in Party. "I don't blame him," says Michael John. While on the air LaChiusa speaks of his career with a passion and one can easily see he's got his head screwed on straight. Very nice guy who's not too fond of, nor does he read, the New York Times, I gather. I wonder why! ;) The CD of The Wild Party is being released on Tuesday, May 23rd.
David called me into the studio and I sat down while he prepared for the next segment. I noticed a basket of cookies, fresh Italian cookies dipped in chocolate, so I helped myself. After eating a few I had this terrible thought, what if I choke? It was seconds before airtime and I now wanted to pee, brush my teeth, gargle, and blow my nose.
"Thanks David, great to be here!"
His first question was how Talkin' Broadway.com began. And it was funny because I had just been thinking how Broadway began as I walked down Wall Street to the studio. You see, the Wall Street area is really where Broadway began, the street, the city and the theatre all rolled into one. So I explained that years ago on the Web I had this idea of a website in a magazine format that would be more than just entertaining, have some news and columns. I wanted it to be a resource center so that students or anyone interested in Broadway could learn about the past and know more about the theatre than the current crop of shows on the boards.
Back in 1650 there was a Dutch fort at the foot of the Island of Manhattan and a little later on a wall was built on the present line of Wall Street which stretched across the island. From the fort to the city gate in the wall was a dirt road which "broadened" at the gate. The road was called Breedeweg and when the British came, long before Cats, the street's name was anglicized to "Broadway." And this was the main artery as New York spread it's way north. In 1810, the Park Theatre was built on Park Row, just north of Wall Street, and then in 1821 the Bowery Theatre was built. The construction continued northward and by the end of the 1890's, from 13th Street to 43rd Street, it was truly the Great White Way with theatre's abounding every single block. In 1904 Longacre Square was re-christened Times Square and in that first decade many new theatres were built in the area that we still know as the theatre district.
I didn't know I was going to give a history lesson called Broadway 101, but I did. And it was great fun. The point was that if you knew the history of the street called Broadway, you knew the history of the city and the theatre, all of which makes it easier to understand the Broadway of today and tomorrow.
Then we talked about how Talkin' Broadway has grown in the last 3 years, from just myself and a designer to a staff of 25 and what our plans for the future are. Of course, we had to mention the chatterati from All That Chat, our message board, where anyone who posts must make a pledge to be "brave, clean & irreverent!"
Afterward, I took a walk around the South Street Seaport just to take in the historical buildings and ships. I returned to the studio and saw Marcia Lewis in the lobby. Marcia, of course, is a great friend and we hugged and kissed and quickly caught up on what we were both up to. She then introduced me to Andrew Lippa. Andrew is very outgoing and friendly. We talked about his Wild Party. He's excited about the potential of that show possibly hitting the road and also that the CD is being released come July. While on the road uptown I heard a song from the show sung by Alix Korey. This is going to be a must have CD for any collection.
Overall, the experience of being on the radio with David Kenney was a fun one. He makes his guests relaxed, and in between plays some great music. Join the Sunday night surfing club and tune into All That Chat at the same time for some interactive internet fun! His show can be heard at www.wbai.org, and of course, you know where the chatterati hang out.
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