Kristy Geslain: Hello and welcome to Episode 1 of This is Lincoln Center, a podcast featuring the musicians, dancers, actors, creators, and thinkers who make the magic happen on Lincoln Center stages. I'm Kristy Geslain, coming to you from New York City at the beginning of a brand new year.
Now, everyone has their New Year's Eve traditions—maybe it's sparkly clothes and bottle service and Uber surge pricing, maybe it's a midnight toast and faking the words to "Auld Lang Syne" with friends, or maybe it's watching the ball drop from the comfort of your couch and flannel pajamas.
When you're a producer on Live From Lincoln Center, like me, you spend your night running around David Geffen Hall for the live broadcast of the New York Philharmonic's annual New Year's Eve concert. But when you're one of Broadway's biggest stars, your options are much more interesting and just a bit more glamorous, as I found out talking with Laura Osnes and Aaron Tveit, two of the very special guests at this year’s New York Philharmonic New Year's Eve concert, "Bernstein on Broadway."
Aaron Tveit burst onto the Broadway scene in 2009 as the ghostly son in the Pulitzer Prize–winning musical Next To Normal. Aaron just wrapped up an eventful year that included playing Danny Zuko in NBC's Grease Live!, and Bobby in Barrington Stage Company's highly praised production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. He's also been honing his cabaret act, which we'll get a chance to see when he performs as a part of Lincoln Center's American Songbook series in February.
Aaron Tveit: You know, I've gone to my fair share of parties on New Year's Eve, I've done the, you know, you go somewhere and pay a bunch of money for an open bar at a bar somewhere, and it just… I have a problem with the organized fun aspect of it, if that makes sense? I would rather just have kind of a low-key night in. So I kind of made a pledge to myself the year before that the next New Year's I would not be at a party, I'd be on a mountain somewhere. And so last year I went and met and hung out with my buddy who I hadn't seen for a while and we had a great time. Except for the fact that I got the flu when I was there. The whole house I was staying at got the stomach flu! So, that showed me about doing something a little outside the box… but I much rather prefer being home.
KG: Audiences first got to know Laura Osnes here at Lincoln Center when she took over for Kelli O'Hara in the Tony-winning revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater. She went on to perform in Anything Goes, Bandstand, and the title role of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. So of course when we got together I had to ask: what exactly does Cinderella do on New Year's Eve?
Laura Osnes: I've had 10 years in New York City, and my husband and I have varied on our level of party involvement. The last two years we actually went to the McKittrick hotel for New Year's Eve, which was pretty up there on the party scale. And I have to say, for me, like, the minute it hits midnight I'm kind of like, ready to go home and go to bed. Like, I stick it out till the last minute, but I'm not really one to stay out super late. So, this year will be really special because we'll be classing it up at Lincoln Center.
I did work one other New Year's Eve. I did a concert with Michael Feinstein in Vegas on New Year's Eve a few years ago, and that was also very special. You know, getting to perform and then going out to some classy party, you're all dressed up, your hair's done, your makeup's done from the show, so there's something really special to be said for that, too. There's also been years we've had friends over and we've just stayed home and had a dinner party.
KG: Of course hotels, mountains, home, and the stomach flu were not in the cards for Aaron and Laura this year. They spent their New Year's Eve with me and the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall, celebrating the 100th birthday of legendary conductor and composer, Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein was music director of the New York Philharmonic during the construction of Lincoln Center, and is one of our most beloved founders. Much of West Side Story, for which he composed the music, was shot on the streets that had been blocked off for the construction of Lincoln Center, and what is now David Geffen Hall, home to the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein's influence still reigns over Lincoln Center, and both Aaron and Laura were thrilled to be part of the celebration.
LO: We're singing things from West Side Story, Wonderful Town. There's a beautiful play of Peter Pan that Bernstein wrote music for that eventually a lot of them got cut from the play, way back when, so we're pulling a song from that that Wendy sang. And I believe those are my songs. It should be really, really beautiful.
AT: I'm singing the duet from On The Town with Annaleigh, I'm singing the West Side stuff, I know I'm singing Maria, I know I'm singing the balcony scene with Laura, which I'm very excited about.
KG: Much like how New Year's Eve is a little different when you're a Broadway performer, so was 2017. While a lot of us aren't too sad to see 2017 go, the year was a lot more exciting for Laura and Aaron.
LO: I did have a big professional highlight this year and that was getting to originate Julia Trojan in Bandstand on Broadway. I've been working on the show for three years, so to finally see that come to fruition and get to fulfill that, it was one of the most, kind of, rewarding roles I think I've ever played. The cause was very close to our heart, it was about a group of World War II vets that returned from the war, and it deals with PTSD, and my character was a war widow, and essentially was about the healing power of music. We just talked to so many veterans and, I just, my eyes were opened to people who have served our country, and the sacrifices that they make, and the survivors that have been left from people who have lost their lives in war, and it just, it was a really tremendous, fulfilling story to get to tell that I feel like isn't really told. I loved the people involved, and again, I'd been a part of it for so long, so seeing it finally happen on Broadway this year was really, really special.
AT: I actually spent a lot of the year doing concerts. I kind of was for the first time totally available, and I read a lot of scripts, and I was kind of really being very, very, picky in terms of searching for what the next theater thing is, but the amazing thing about this world of concerts that has happened for us, I think, as Broadway performers, is there are, and especially outside of New York City, there are venues to go and bring shows that you have already established for yourself or set to all these different venues and kind of, get to see other parts of the country and sing and perform, so I basically spent this year doing a lot of that. I had one show that was kind of like a pop-rock cover show that I backed myself into somehow that premiered at Irving Plaza in New York two years ago. I took that with a full rock band around the country and lived my rockstar dreams a few times. I did a lot of those in 2017 which was wonderful, and I just finished shooting a film in New Orleans. And yeah, that was my year.
KG: So that made me wonder: when things are going so well, do you need New Year's resolutions?
LO: I gotta say, the whole, like, New Year's Eve, it's a good thing to set goals, but I also think it, like, sets you up for failure to make a resolution. Everyone holds onto them for like a month or two and then drops them. So I feel like setting something reasonable, or just being intentional maybe about something is maybe the better way to say it then like, a "resolution," because it's just hard to hold yourself to something for a whole year.
I made one a couple—made one, here I am talking about "I made a resolution"—I made an intentional move actually a couple of years ago to in the new year to try to be more thoughtful. I know that sounds weird but like, we always like, for family's birthdays, we're always the ones to send the card like the day before, it always gets there like six days late. I'm just trying to think ahead and think about others more. Those little things can really make a difference in someone else's life. Like, just thinking a few days more ahead to send a birthday card, or send a thank you note for something that someone did nice for you, or open the door for somebody, like just those extra acts of kindness I feel like can really make a difference or make someone's day sometimes. Especially in New York, when everybody's kind of on a mission and very in their own world to just kind of look at the people around you and think, think about others for once I think can have a big impact.
AT: I'm quite a person of routine and a lot of those routines, especially when I'm working, are about kind of maintaining and maintaining my health in a certain way, and I kinda need to keep myself within these bounds of health. I try to do that kind of, the type of things that, maybe a typical New Year's resolution that people may say, I kind of try to do that all year, and also like as an actor we don't know what the next thing is, and we don't know…I know this necessarily isn't what a New Year's resolution is… but it's hard to make concrete statements like "I'm gonna do this" or "I wanna do this" when so much is unknown, and so I think a lot of time I spend is trying to ask for just kind of acceptance or openness, and just to be ready for whatever it is and to kind of remain malleable, and so… I do tend to take a moment kind of as the New Year is starting to reflect on those things, so, I don't know if that's necessarily a resolution but I guess that's a bit of a tradition that I just do for myself.
KG: And really, who has time for New Year's resolutions anyway when you're going to be this busy?
LO: Now that Bandstand is over everyone is asking what's next, and there's a potential Broadway revival of Crazy For You that we actually did at Lincoln Center last year, so that was amazing. The goal is to come to Broadway in the 18–19 season, so that's hopefully on the horizon unless something else comes along. I do these Broadway Princess Parties at 54 Below and we're kind of trying to expand that and bring it to the national level so we're actually going to California in a week and a half to do 4 concerts there, and so we might try to do that a little bit more next year, broaden that.
AT: We have some concerts already on the books, which is exciting, American Songbook at the Allen [Appel] Room being the first one, which I'm very thrilled about. You kind of are up there and you can't believe what the view is like and what you're looking at. I'm thrilled to be there, and hopefully it won't be the last time. Right now I'm working, we're doing a developmental lab of Moulin Rouge. If that all goes well, that’ll—probably something will happen with that in 2018, so that's kind of on the horizon, but at the same time yeah, reading, you know, all the TV stuff is gonna start, reading scripts, that will all begin again once the New Year hits.
KG: You can watch Live From Lincoln Center's broadcast of the New York Philharmonic's New Year's Eve concert at pbs.org/LivefromLincolnCenter.
This is Lincoln Center is hosted by me, Kristy Geslain, with production help from Gillian Campbell and Rob Schulte.
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