Dad Talks: Marty Geraghty on musicals
What’s the origin of your love of musicals?
I got into it because I once went to help out at St. Nick’s Parish by being in the chorus line of a play they were doing, just a neighborhood “let’s put on a show” kind of thing. I got the lead, because there were only about 10 people there and I was the only old guy: the lead role was an old priest. One of the guys there was pretty skilled and had done a lot of acting and he said “You should try St. Luke’s.” They had a fairly widely known community theater. They were putting on The Fantasticks, and I got the role of the father of the girl and I had a few songs. That was just a wonderful show and out of that came two songs, “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “Try to Remember.” I had so much fun that I went and auditioned and got a few more roles.
Did you have dreams of acting when you were younger?
I never really even thought of acting. I used to like going to shows a lot: I’d go to New York and see four shows but I only started going in the '70s.
Do you remember what the first Broadway show you saw was?
On the 20th Century. The 20the century is a train, that ran from New York to Chicago and the musical features old songs you’ve never heard of.
What was one of your favorite experiences taking your kids to their first Broadway shows?
Each kid has gone at least once with me to New York to see a Broadway show. Whenever we go to New York, what you’re going to do is go to shows with dad. We’d get tickets at TKTS, which used to be on the 2nd floor of the World Trade center. One level up from street level, you’d encounter a couple of thousand people standing in Disneyland snaking lines. I think that was the only time I was in the World Trade Center.
One of our favorites was Little Shop of Horrors. That wasn’t even on Broadway--it was barely off-Broadway. It was a little theater but just a lot of fun, with Audrey II and everything. The woman who played Audrey in the movie originated the role in off Broadway. Ellen Greene--she’s just a delightful actress. I loved her in the movie and she was the one who was in the show.
Let’s talk about your famous showtime mix tapes, including my dad’s favorite, “Great Girl Show Tunes.”
(Laughs). I once heard one of [my wife] Maureen’s friends listening to some showtunes at the library. I made a copy of the tape for this lady and sent her a copy of “Great Girls Show Tunes.” About two weeks later, I got a note back from her that said “Dear Marty, Maureen gave me a copy of great women show tunes, thank you very much.” I was politically incorrect then and still delightfully so.
Do you still make the tapes?
I don’t. Nora will tell you I’ve got about a hundred Broadway CDs out on the front porch and I listen to them very occasionally. I don’t make those mixes anymore. Actually, your husband put them onto CDs for me, and I listen do those.
What’s your dream role? Nora said that it has something to do with singing "I love to dance a little sidestep.”
Oh that’s right! The governor of Texas. What a great song that is. In the movie, Charles Durning plays the role in the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. He’s been in 400 movies. It’s a wonderful song. I even used to practice that dance where you put your feet together and then you put your heels together and then you switch to your toes-- I just wanted to be able to be able to do a sidestep in case I had the chance. The best thing about that part is 1.) You have a great song 2.) You don’t have to carry the show. I’ve always been the guy who had on or two songs, like the dirty old man in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum but you don’t have to carry the show. Frankly, I just want to have one or two songs and then be offstage.
Like Roxy’s husband in Chicago.
Good example! John C. Reillly was good in that role. I’d rather be him than Billy Flynn.
Do you sing along to showtunes in the car? Did the other Geraghtys?
Oh yeah. I try to. I used to more when the kids were little. Now I’m not driving the kids that much anymore. We used to drive and sing. When [my daughter] Ann was 9 or 10 we took all the kids to London was 1990 to see Starlight Express. There’s one song U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D., which is sung by a girl/railroad car who has been jilted by her boyfriendwho’s an engine. And at the end of the song she says “I'll turn to him and say, go away, you B.A.S.T.A.R.D..” Ann was nine or 10 and listening in the car. She spelled the word and her eyes opened up wide and she was like “Noo!” That was a cute memory.
I had another memory of the day when I decided to permit Nora to be friends of you. You were sitting in the back of the car and the Phantom of the Opera song “Prima Donna” came on. Nora and I were singing and at the end you piped up--you were second grade--and said “You know, that’s a comedy song.” You wanted to make sure I knew that. And at that moment I know that you were smart and funny and willing to talk to an old guy. From now on you’re allowed to hang around with my daughter.
Well, I’m glad that worked out. Did you hear that there’s going to be a new Les Mis movie?
I guess I won’t be able to play Jean Valjean.
Have you seen any stinkers?
I don’t see shows until I’ve listened to some or all of the music. I’ve seen Cats three or four times since each times I’ve gone to New York the kids wanted to see that. We are talking about ancient history. I listened to the music wondering if I’d like it and I ended up loving it. I don’t go to a lot of shows nowadays. I think things like Rent and Urinetown--I’ve listened to some of the music but American musical theater has passed me by. I don’t really like the current crop of shows. I’m more of a Chess/Oklahoma/Carousel/Whorehouse kind of guy. I haven’t gotten into the current stuff, although I think I want to see Memphis.
What about Wicked?
Wicked was a wonderful, wonderful show. I saw that downtown. I also liked Jersey Boys. That was the soundtrack of my youth.
There’s a famous story in my family where my mom left Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during intermission. Have you ever left a show early?
How can you hate Joseph? The thing about Andrew Lloyd Webber is that he can take a show and put in R&B and country/western and operatic and all these different genres into one show. I’ve seen that one four or five times times with and without Donny Osmond.
Actually Maureen and I went to see August Osage County in NY just after it had won all the Tonys. There was no character in the show that we liked. We looked at each other and said “You want to get out of here?” “Oh yeah, I was hoping you’d say that!”
Is everyone in the family on-board with musicals?
I think everybody is on board. Nora will tell you the story of how some of her friends came back from London singing the songs from Mama Mia: and they were astonished that she knew them already.
Joe [whom the family jokes is the favorite of the six Geraghty children]--I’ll get in trouble for saying this, since you know how we lionize him---was in the chorus of Joseph when he was a junior at Evanston Township High School. Senior year, he got the lead in Brigadoon, which is about two guys walking through the forest. One guy has all the singing and dancing and the the other is the comic relief. In the production Zach Gilford played the comic relief. Joe was also the editor of the newspaper at the time.
No wonder he’s the favorite!
Anyway, that promoted his interested in musical theater. I think he still goes. If I were paying he’d go. With Joe, if you were paying he’d do anything. Ann’s married to a music guy. I think they all would go to see musicals but they wouldn’t plan a New York trip around it the way a certain paternal influence would.
I do have a coffee cup from Phantom. It’s one of those cups when you bought it the phantom would be wearing his mask and the heat of the coffee would make the mask go white or go away or something, but if you microwaved it that effect goes away. Let the record show: don’t microwave those types of mugs!
What’s your favorite musical you’ve seen lately that’s new to you?
I haven’t done a New York trip in at least three or four years. I think I last time I went I saw Chicago and I don’t remember what else. Seven or eight years ago I saw Lion King in London. What a great show that was: the music is OK, there are a couple of good songs but the staging is just so fabulous.It’s wonderful stuff.
What else that’s really good that’s not a kids’ show: Mary Poppins. It’s long, but a very well-done show, at least when we saw it in London. I took Nora to see it here in Chicago. There was way more to it than just Julie Andrews and cute little kids.
What’s the last soundtrack you listened to?
Chess. I skip over a couple of songs to get to “Anthem” and “Someone Else's Story” and “Nobody’s Side”. Nora’s said she thinks that’s one of her favorite songs in all of Broadway. It’s not a beautiful ballad, but it’s very thought-provoking song. Another one I’ve been listening to is that Andrew Lloyd Webber show that never went anywhere--Tell Me on a Sunday. I thought I’d like that show, but it’s the biggest downer you’ve ever heard. It’s the story of a girl in England who runs into 14 different guys and they all let her down.