Grammy Winning Pianist John McDaniel Talks S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES

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Grammy Winning Pianist John McDaniel Talks S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES

Posted on: March 25th, 2014 by tommyj

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Don Grigware

On Saturday May 10 S.T.A.G.E. (Southland Theatrical Artists Goodwill Event) will present its annual show at the Saban Theatre on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills, this year entitled S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES, directed by David Galligan with musical direction from the incomparable John McDaniel. Grammy, Tony and Emmy winning composer, musician McDaniel took time out of his busy rehearsal schedule to chat about the evening.

John, will you give the audience a little preview of the show? What film songs may we expect to hear?

There are so many great songs that have been featured in films – a few of my favorites that have been chosen so far include: "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" from 1982’s Best Friends, which will be performed by Bill Hutton, "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair, sung by Debby Boone and "The Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time, performed by Jason Gould.

The show usually honors Broadway. Why a show about films this year?

(laughing) We are in the thick of Hollywood, for heaven’s sake – it’s a natural fit!

Sounds like fun and it sure is a change. You have been doing this show for how many years? Do you have any favorites or do you just love each one as it comes along for its own merits?

Little known fact: I played keyboards on the Julie Styne benefit – way back at the Variety Arts Theatre – what a great show …with Georgia Brown!! I’ve been the music director the past few (3 or 4?… I can’t remember) years.

What will Robert Osborne be doing? Narrating? Setting up each segment?

Bob is graciously hosting – there will be lots of film clips, a few fun interviews – it’s gonna be so cool to hear him live and in person!

You have done it all. TV. Broadway. Concerts. You have played for some of the greatest entertainers in the business. Pick one and tell me a funny story. Maybe something unexpected that happened, or just the experience itself, how it became more memorable than you would ever have imagined.

My favorite Stritch (Elaine) story has to do with when we did PAL JOEY together in Long Beach in (maybe) 1990. She was reprising the role of Melba, singing "Zip", just as she had done on Broadway in 1950. Yup, 1950!! At the last performance, she was doing the "stripper" ride off, heading off stage, and she looked straight down at me in the pit and yelled, "Take me home, John!!!". I died and went to heaven at that very moment.

OMG, how hysterical!

Who is your favorite composer of all time?

I have a hard time considering any theatre composer on a par with Stephen Sondheim. And getting exacting and thoughtful notes from him when I conducted the reunion concerts of the original Broadway cast of COMPANY was another "life" moment.

I’ve heard about those famous notes! Any favorite musicals you care to mention?

My 2 favorite, and somewhat perfect to me, musicals are GYPSY and THE KING AND I.

Great choices! What’s up next for John McD? Anything promising on the horizon for Broadway?

I’m excited to honor FIDDLER ON THE ROOF in concert on April 28th in NYC with a starry cast – we are celebrating Sheldon Harnick‘s 90th year, which will be an absolute pleasure. I’m also very much looking forward to my 2nd year as Artistic Director of the O’Neill Theater Center’s Cabaret and Performance conference this summer!

There you have it, folks. Like John McDaniel says, S.T.A.G.E. Goes to the MOVIES will be a great show… with appearances by Mitzi Gaynor, Lainie Kazan, Donna McKechnie, Helen Reddy, Jason Gould, Richard Chamberlain, Betty Buckley, Cheyenne Jackson, Debby Boone, Patrick Cassidy, among many many other super talented singers. The best seats are going fast, so go to their website and order your tix online NOW! Remember you are contributing to APLA Los Angeles with every dollar you spend.

Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. Don is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is a member of the prestigious Road Theatre Company in NoHo and is in his fifth year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page.

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