*Celebrity Autobiography,* 12/16/18
Nick, Tony, and I saw *Celebrity Autobiography* on Broadway on 12/17/18. I heard about the show years ago, when it was running off Broadway, and always meant to see it. It features actors and comics reading excerpts from celebrity autobiographies. The co-creator of the show, Eugene Pack, introduced the show and said it was inspired by *Vanna Speaks,* the memoir of Vanna White. He thought it was hilarious and wondered if it would work as a reading onstage. He was right!
Our performance started with Rachel Dratch (who has performed with the show for years) reading from *Mr. T: The Man With the Gold, An Autobiography.* My favorite quote: “There will be other books written about me.
Michael Urie read from the prologue of David Hasselhoff’s autobiography, *Don’t Hassel the Hoff.* He told the story of his Broadway debut in *Jekkyl and Hyde,* the musical. Hasselhoff said, “I was more than a guy in a red Speedo running in slow motion down the beach.” Mario Cantone read from *Send Yourself Roses* by Kathleen Turner. As Kathleen Turner.
My favorite excerpt was *Unimaginable Life: Lessons Learned on the Path of Love* by Kenny Loggins. The excerpt was a love letter from Loggins to his wife. “I want to read to you and cry in your arms until I fall asleep, and wake up with a headache.” It was performed by Tate Donovan with a hilarious mixture of sincerity and incredulity.
Dayle Reyfel, the co-creator of the show, read from the Central Park concert sequence of Diana Ross’s book, *Secrets of a Sparrow.* “I allowed the rain to caress my body like a lover.” Susan Lucci got a small ovation just reading the title of the book: *The Best Is Yet To Come* by Ivana Trump. She read it in a funny mittel European accent. Ivana wrote about being a mother and how she taught her kids to ski. “At the age of two I took each of them to the top of a hill and said SKI DOWN!”
Michael Urie, Antoni Porowkski, Jonathan Van Ness, and Rachel Dratch read from a group memoir by the Jonas Brothers. I wasn’t familiar with Porowski or Van Ness but they’re in the new season of *Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.* They were adorable and very funny - - the two of them and Urie played the three Jonas brothers. Dratch played their much younger brother, who was nine when they wrote the book. She was loud and strident. I will never forget her saying, “They call me The Bonus Jonas!” Brought the house down.
Tate Donovan read from *Exposing Myself* by Geraldo Rivera. He read from a chapter in which he details his advance and retreat relationship with Liza Minnelli, so of course we had Mario Cantone as Minnelli. This was the coked-up Liza - - they met at Studio 54, so you can imagine what it might have been like. Cantone’s body language and dancing was one of the highlights of the evening.
They did a mash-up that was especially created for the Broadway production: Dratch read from *Merman* by Ethel Merman. “People ask me if I get nervous. Why should I be nervous? They paid to see me, I didn’t pay to see them!” Cantone read from *Just Lucky I Guess* by Carol Channing. As Carol Channing. Again, a scream. And Van Ness read from *Sandy, the Autobiography,* by the dog from *Annie.* Yes, the dog from *Annie* wrote a book.
The show ended with the entire cast doing a mash-up of the story of Debbie and Eddie and Mike and Richard, with Reyfel as Debbie Reynolds, Lucci as Elizabeth Taylor, Pack as Eddie Fisher, Urie as Mike Todd, Donovan as Richard Burton, and Cantone, Dratch, Porowski, and Van Ness as various other characters. The highlight was hearing Lucci, as Liz, say, “Oh Debbie, don’t be such a Girl Scout.”
The show was a scream and clearly the performers were having as much fun as the audience. Here's clip from 2011, with Cantone as Lauren Bacall and Carol Kane as Carol Channing: