Tuesday, September 18

The proof is in the putting


Wednesday, October 21, 1998

The proof is in the putting

THEATER: After playing Disney heroines onstage, Susan Egan makes
a star turn as seductress in a revamped Stephen Sondheim revue

By Stephanie Sheh

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

Bit by bit,

Putting it together …

Ten years ago, UCLA freshman and future actress Susan Egan hoped
she would meet Carol Burnett. Egan took John Hall’s musical theater
workshop and won second place in the annual Carol Burnett Award
competition. She went home with $500, which she swore to invest in
her career, but she didn’t get to meet Burnett.

Every moment makes a contribution …

The investment paid off, though. Since then, Egan has originated
the role of Belle for the stage version of "Beauty and the Beast,"
both on Broadway and in Los Angeles. She was also the voice of Meg
in Disney’s "Hercules."

She’s finally met Burnett. And she’s working with her.

"I was talking to (Burnett) about all the misses, all the near
hits of meeting her," Egan says. "I hoped that I would get to meet
her when I won her award, and then I didn’t meet her. I was working
at The Gap in Brentwood when I was in college, and on my one day
off she came in and bought a bunch of sweats, and I didn’t meet her
that time.

"Then she came and saw Å’Beauty and the Beast’ two days
after I broke my arm," she says. "So I didn’t meet her then."

Egan and Burnett – along with John Barrowman, John McCook and
Bronson Pinchot – are starring in the Stephen Sondheim revue
"Putting It Together," which opens Sunday at the Mark Taper Forum.
The title comes from a song in Sondheim’s "Sunday in the Park with
George." Under the direction of Eric Schaeffer, the show is
actually a revamp of the "Putting It Together" performed in New
York five years ago with Julie Andrews. But Schaeffer says that at
least 80 percent of the show has been changed.

Every little detail plays a part …

Some of the alterations are character changes. Egan’s character,
who was originally a maid, is now a dinner guest. Having Burnett
play the role that Andrews originally played changed the dynamics
of the show, allowing Egan to show a side of herself that she has
not displayed before.

"I get to sing a couple songs from Å’Dick Tracy,’" Egan says
energetically. "I usually play an ingenue, and so it’s kind of fun.
I get to be sort of the sexy seductress of the evening, and that’s
different for me because I usually have to play the good girl. You
know, Belle. Carries a basket. Virginal."

But without the proper preparation …

In order to shed the goody-two-shoes image, though, Egan had to
convince those casting that she could do more than just be an
ingenue. Though an accomplished actress, Egan auditioned for the
role. She says that sometimes she’s offered parts and other times
she auditions, especially if it’s for a role in which people
wouldn’t naturally envision her for.

"I auditioned for it, going, Å’First of all, they’re going
to need the soprano of the show because Julie’s not doing it.
Carol’s doing it. Carol’s an alto,’" Egan says. "There’s only one
other woman. They’re going to have to have a soprano. And they’re
going to have to have somebody be the young, sexy thing because
she’s got to threaten Carol."

Schaeffer agrees that he did not initially think of Egan for the
part.

He says, "I saw Susan do Å’Beauty and the Beast.’ I also saw
her do Å’Triumph of Love,’ and when they said, Å’Oh we’re
going to bring Susan Egan in,’ I said, Å’Huh, that’s
interesting.’ I thought she was really terrific in those two shows.
But when she did come in, she sang more, and she just blew me
away."

First of all, you need a good foundation …

On top of the character changes, the entire structure of the
show has changed.

"They learned a lot from the New York production. They really
tried to put a plot to it, and things seemed a little forced," Egan
says. "They would try to set up a song. There was dialogue.

"There’s no dialogue in ours at all," Egan says. "It just goes
from song to song to song. And yet there’s a thread. That’s really
a credit to our director who has smoothed this thing out, made it
really amazing, and the evening just flies by."

Schaeffer says that he changed the show around to focus the
evening on the music and not on the plot.

There is a thin plotline, although each song can also stand on
its own. Audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with Sondheim’s
work can, in a way, experience the song for the first time.

"By placing these songs in a new context you get to see how
amazing universal Sondheim’s themes are," Egan says. "They don’t
just apply to the story that they’re necessarily written for."

Having just the vision’s no solution,

Everything depends on execution …

In order to create the right contexts and maintain the thin
plotline, changes were continually being made.

Songs were changed around, added or completely taken out. The
cast then rehearsed changes in the afternoon while performing
previews in the evening.

"It’s funny because I had friends who came the (first) weekend,
and I (told them), Å’You’ve got to come back because it’s not
even the same show anymore,’" Schaeffer says. "That is exciting
because that’s what it’s all about, especially when you’re doing
something brand new and developing it – is really putting it on its
feet for the first time."

The art of making art is putting it together

Bit by bit …

THEATER: "Putting it Together" is currently in previews at the
Mark Taper Forum. The show opens Sunday and runs through Dec. 6.
For ticket information, please call the box office at (213)
628-2772 or visit the website at www.TaperAhmanson.com.

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