Two-time Tony nominee Alison Fraser is best known for her performances in Gypsy, The Secret Garden, Romance/Romance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, March of the Falsettos and The Divine Sister. Now, Fraser is debuting a one-night-only solo show, A New York Romance, at 54 Below on November 4, featuring the music of her late husband, Rusty Magee. Below, the always comical Fraser discusses her husband’s work, her love of Gigi and The Wild Party and having fun singing Elvis Costello with Andrew Rannells.
What record/album was your favorite growing up?
I would have to say the Gigi soundtrack was the one I played the most. I know every note, and because I played it so much, every skip and scratch. (You youngsters out there might not get that reference.) I am pretty sure that if called upon to do so I could still sing the entire album. It probably is also the album my sisters and brothers would rank as their least favorite because they got so sick of me doing precisely that. I have actually started out a few cabaret shows with "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," and it plays like gangbusters, so it was time well spent.
What song are you most excited to perform in your show?
Well, speaking of singing albums live, that is what I am doing in the 54 Below November 4 show A New York Romance. I am revisiting an album of the same name that I did years ago when my husband Rusty Magee was still alive. It is a song cycle of his music mixed with American standards centered on his devastating song "New York Romance." After we did the CD, he wrote a couple of songs that if indeed had been written at the time we were putting the song cycle together would definitely have been included. I have never sung one of them before, so I am very excited about that.
If you could invite any performer onstage for a duet at 54 Below, who would it be?
Singing Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write the Book" with the monumentally talented Andrew Rannells at a gala last year was one of the best times I have ever had on a stage, so I will go with him. Plus, we already know the kick-ass arrangement.
What musical theater performer from the past do you wish you could collaborate with?
I would very much like to go into a time machine and play Evie opposite Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to Get Off; I love him, I am obsessed with the show, and I suspect it's what made me become so interested in doing accents, which has been a big boon to my career.
What album was the soundtrack to your 20s?
Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True was the Gigi of my 20s.
What’s your favorite love song?
The above mentioned "Everyday I Write the Book" takes first place. (Are you getting tired of me mentioning Elvis Costello?)The song tells the story of a great love in a pragmatic way. We hear about the flaws and the pain, and wind up rejoicing that despite them, the love gloriously prevails. I find it hopeful on a deep, deep level.
What is your favorite workout track?
Hands down, Michael John LaChiusa's The Wild Party, one of the greatest, most underappreciated musicals ever. If you get on a stationary bike and pedal along to the score, you'll get an excellent workout, and hear some mighty fine music at the same time.
What’s the best hidden gem in on your iPod?
Because I have done a lot of original material, I have many musical oddities in my possession. One of the most interesting is a demo I did of a musical version of Mary Poppins that Bill Finn was pitching long before Falsettoland was written. I, as Mary, sang a lovely song called "At the Close of Day,” the tune of which ultimately became "What More Can I Say." Chip Zien and I also played Jane and Michael on the demo. It's pretty darn great; I am surprised the Travers estate didn't bite.
Favorite break-up song?
Rusty's "New York Romance" might be the definitive breakup anthem, so I will go with that. When we first started seeing each other, he played it for me and I immediately decided I should marry him to rescue him from the dating scene that inspired the song.
When this song plays, I can’t help but dance:
I am doing a terrifically exciting new show called The Tennessee Williams Songbook, conceived and directed by David Kaplan, and in it I sing "St. Louis Woman" with a nine piece band featuring Allison Leyton-Brown on hot, hot piano, and J. Walter Hawkes on sexy-as-hell trombone. When the incredible Dixieland brass section solos, I am physically incapable of standing still.
Check out Alison Fraser’s New York Romance at 54 Below on November 4, and click below to preview Fraser singing the title song.