Corrections or additions?
This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the January 31,
2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Celebrating Sandy Duncan
They say that once we learn to fly it isn’t easy to
come down to earth. It is, however, easy for Sandy Duncan, who, became
adept at flying off to Never Never Land as "Peter Pan"
her third Tony nomination) in the 1980 Broadway revival of the popular
musical. Yet she’s been fortunate enough to perform mostly on terra
firma in a career that has spanned over 40 years.
There will be no boards more firma than those under Duncan’s feet
when she appears with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on the stage
of the War Memorial Theater in Trenton on Friday, February 2. In a
revue called "Sandy Duncan Celebrates Broadway," she co-stars
with her husband, Don Correia, and their friend Guy Stroman.
The blonde, blue-eyed actor, dancer, and singer continues to soar,
fueled by her unstoppable vitality and vivacious personality. You
may have seen Duncan and company kick start their collaboration for
the annual Boston Pops television special on the A&E network, on
Day, 1996. It led the way to the shows throughout North America with
various symphony orchestras, winning them even more fans. Duncan’s
able support comes from Correia, who made his Broadway debut in "A
Chorus Line," and won a Tony nomination for "Singin’ in the
Rain," and Stroman, whose Broadway appearances include
and "Peter Pan."
Besides personifying James M. Barrie’s little boy who wouldn’t grow
up, Duncan is best known as the sweet and bubbly star of her own TV
sitcom, "Funny Face," which ran in the early ’70s, and for
such popular family TV specials as "Sandy Duncan in
and "The Muppet Show." It was her performance as Maisie, the
quirky flapper who tap danced en pointe to a Charleston tune
in the acclaimed 1971 Broadway revival of "The Boyfriend,"
that endeared her to me forever.
However, I wasn’t the least bit surprised at the positive response
she got during her recently concluded nine-month run as the "merry
murderess," Roxie Hart, in the current production of
on Broadway. "It was one of the best things I’ve done in my
says Duncan, during our phone conversation last week. One of best
things I discovered about Duncan is how she intends to keep changing
our perception of her.
Part of that change includes playwriting. Older audiences at the
Theater Festival in 1996, where the play premiered, were unprepared
for the Duncan who authored and starred in "Free Fall," as
directed by Stroman. "I guess they were shocked by the language,
and that I played three different characters, including a gay song
and dance man," says Duncan.
Husband Don’s name has already been added to the roster
of stars signed for the upcoming Broadway revival of
fast becoming the hottest ticket in town. Didn’t Duncan audition too?
I ask. "It was the worst audition of my life," she says,
never been able to audition." The process, she says, can make
her feel like an insecure 14-year-old amateur. Duncan says that she
continued to go up on the lyrics to "In Buddy’s Eyes," even
with Sondheim feeding them to her. "It was a fiasco," she
groans, adding that the nicest thing anybody said to her was that
she "individualized" the song.
Correia’s role is as stand by for the two male leads. The fact that
Correia sometimes gets the role and sometimes Duncan doesn’t get the
role doesn’t affect their marriage of 21 years. Duncan met Correia
right after "The Boy Friend" closed in 1971. When Correia
was one of the dancers in the TV special "Sandy in
Duncan says she could see immediately that Correia was the best dancer
out there. They soon found themselves dancing together from one TV
special to another.
In 1979 they began dating seriously and married one year later.
Duncan’s great success on Broadway as "Peter Pan," she and
Correia combined their talents again for "5, 6, 7, 8 Dance,"
a Radio City Music Hall spectacular that ran an entire summer. "I
was pregnant with my second baby, and doing two shows a day wasn’t
fun," says Duncan. Proving that couples that tap together stay
together, the duo co-starred in the national and international tour
of Tommy Tune’s Tony award-winning musical "My One and Only."
After moving from Los Angeles to New York three years ago, Duncan,
Correia, and Stroman decided to work on an act together. "At the
time, and it still remains true, the only theater jobs I was offered
were revivals," says Duncan. "I’ve never originated a major
role," she says, "but at my age [she’s 55] it’s the work that
"We still need to make money. We have two great kids," says
Duncan, giving sons Jeffrey and Michael a plug. It isn’t a surprise
to hear that 18-year-old Jeffrey "is going to be an actor,"
and is auditioning for Juilliard this month. Just to balance things
out, she tells me that, Michael, a sophomore, is "a sports kid
and he’s happy."
Although there is undoubtedly prestige connected with doing their
show with The New Jersey Symphony, Duncan laughs describing what it
was like to break in the show playing two-a-day for a group of
theaters in Florida. "We would do the show with just the piano
accompaniment, jump into a car, fix our makeup and head for the next
condominium. The audiences were always sweet, warm, and
"Sandy Duncan Celebrates Broadway," she says, is more than
a concert. "It has a book, and you can expect us to dance,"
Born and raised in Henderson, Texas, by her father,
who ran a gas station, and her mother, a homemaker, Duncan showed
enough talent by the age of four to be sent for singing and dancing
lessons. Duncan chose to follow her dance teacher to Lon Morris
in Jacksonville, Texas. One year later Duncan was cast in the New
York City Center production of "The Music Man." That show
was followed by "Finian’s Rainbow," "Carousel," and
"Life With Father," also at City Center.
"It was wonderful. And I didn’t have to audition for any of them.
I had already worked with all the different directors during my
in Dallas," says Duncan with a laugh.
Duncan lost the sight in her left eye after surgery to remove a brain
tumor, a condition that struck at the height of her career. She is
also near-sighted in the right eye. Hardly a deterrent for this
performer who, unlike "Peter Pan," says "I like being
55 now and coming into my age as a character actress. I like having
the freedom to move from role to role with ease. I hope you are coming
to see the show. You’ll see another new me," she says with the
familiar voice she uses as the spokesperson for Nabisco’s Wheat Thins.
"Only if you promise to do a tap dance on point," I reply
impertinently. Of course, I wouldn’t miss it. The show will be
on Saturday, February 3, at Prudential Hall at NJPAC in Newark.
— Simon Saltzman
Orchestra, War Memorial Theater, Trenton, 800-ALLEGRO. Jack Lee
conducts, accompanied by pianist Steven Freeman and Bob Breithaupt
on drums. $14 to $55. Friday, February 2, 8 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.