It was quite a warm and fuzzy family affair on June 8, when the press (including me!) was invited to the ONE LIFE TO LIVE studio to screen several numbers from the soap’s much-hyped production, Prom Night: The Musical.
Hosted by the always-gracious and charming executive producer Frank Valentini, we were treated to tasty bag lunches from Whole Foods while we waited for the tape to be rushed in by the show’s musical director, Paul Glass.
Valentini paid tribute to many of the behind-the-scenes players. This was the first foray into musical theater for several actors and Valentini made sure we knew that. The numbers themselves — we saw five — were quite entertaining.
All of the teen characters — Starr (Kristen Alderson), Cole (Brandon Buddy), Britney (Portia Reiners) and Langston (Brittany Underwood) — were at the screening except for Markko, because portrayer Jason Tam was most likely rehearsing for the Tony Awards. (He is currently appearing in A Chorus Line, which did the opening number for the awards show on June 10.)
I asked Tam how he liked juggling daytime and Broadway. “It takes a lot of time management, but it’s totally worth it,” he enthused. “Right now it’s a little crazy because I have the show and we’re also rehearsing for the Tonys. Once this musical theater stuff is over, it should get back to normal, which is doable.”
Though Tam performed at the Tonys, he was not in the audience at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. “I’m a little bummed about [that],” he admitted. “They”e bussing us back to our theater right after we do our number, but it’s cool because we have our own little Tony party.”
All of the Prom Night songs are good in unique ways. Kathy Brier (Marcie) brought down the house (or would that be the studio?) with her Broadway belting when she sang “Chemistry,” which was a musical science lecture to Langston on the…er, chemistry between teenage boys and girls. I also liked “The Cheerleader is Always a Bitch,” a full-scale production number with Britney as head bitch…er, cheerleader.
After the screening, we had about 15 minutes before the show had to get back to work, so I headed over to Valentini and offered my congratulations for a job extremely well done. Apparently it was Brian Frons, head of ABC daytime, who first suggested that OLTL try a musical. Valentini said that Frons had complimented him on the way OLTL had worked with music in the past.
What does Valentini plans for an encore? “Next is the 10,000 episode and the special episodes around that.”
Valentini had to dash off (executive producers are very busy), so I caught up with the exhausted but happy Glass. “It’s very emotional for me,” he confessed. “We did 17 hours [of work] yesterday. It’s been going on two months — nonstop creative pressure, getting everyone in the studio integrating the songs into the story,” he explained. “At one time I’d have something here shooting, while I was mixing something across the street, and at the same time I’d have people at Lincoln Center rehearsing. All day I’d be going from one venue to another, making sure everything was being taken care of.”
The Monday after the luncheon, I caught up with choreographer Jimmy Horvath, who has been doing choreography for daytime for about 15 years. He had his own dance career in the 1980s, appearing in the original A Chorus Line. Like Glass, Horvath was working overtime. He had two afternoons to cast the dancers, whom he tried to use in more than one number whenever possible. “That saved wardrobe, because they were dressing the same bodies.”
Horvath would get the “music on Tuesday, then have a phone conversation with the director. I’d choreograph it Tuesday night, then teach it to the cast on Wednesday, and shoot it on Thursday.”
To put that in perspective, if this had been a feature film, they would have spent “three weeks on one number,” Horvath noted. (He should know, having done movies and regional theater as well as television and Broadway.) “I threw my heart and both my feet into the work,” he laughed.
Glass, Horvath and Valentini took the show on the road — all the way to the end of West 66th Street — for a performance of “Together” in front of the live audience at THE VIEW. “I changed it for THE VIEW, as we only had one take. I had 15 minutes to restage it and 45 minutes to rehearse it. The cast was amazing,” Horvath added.
Whether you like musical theater with your daytime drama is one thing, but OLTL must be applauded for such an ambitious and entertaining undertaking.
Prom Night: The Musical begins airing Friday, June 15. The actors also perform on THE VIEW that day. Prom Night airs through Wednesday, June 20. The video of “Together” will be available for free download at abc.com.