Emily Rossum, whose new CD is “Sentimental Journey,” a collection of standards. | SAM JONES
Exquisite Emmy Rossum, whom you’ll know from the film of “The Phantom of the Opera” and TV’s “Shameless,” among other things, is debuting her new CD “Sentimental Journey” (Warner Bros.). It’s a lushly produced compendium of iridescent standards, including “The Object of My Affection,” “Summer Wind,” “All I Do Is Dream of You,” and “Keep Young and Beautiful”.
“This is the music I grew up listening to and singing around the house,” Rossum told me. “My Mom would play Judy Garland, Sam Cooke, and sing me the Andrews Sisters’ ‘Apple Blossom Time’ as a bedtime lullaby. So this is a journey back to the music I love, which fits my voice very well. I feel very comfortable in it and am happy that I made this record.
“I took total control of the situation, made the record by myself with my own money, and then partnered with Warner’s to release it. I really wanted to have creative control over the production and A&R, pick the songs myself, and not have anyone giving me their idea of what I should sing.
“We did it in LA, where I’m based right now. The songs were picked over a two-month period and we went into a studio here called the Village and recorded it in about three days. Pretty quick, just about all I could afford. I took an old-school approach to the recording of it and recorded all the musicians in one room while I was in the vocal booth. I wanted to mimic the way old records were made and mastered, to give it that old patina. My total fantasy of singing, like Eartha Kitt at the Café Carlyle.
“These songs are so beautiful and yet so simple, simple storytelling with lyrics that are very personal, which only makes them more universal and so picturesque. I love that whole era.
“‘These Foolish Things’ is one of my favorites. It’s the one I’ve been doing on talk shows, and I love singing it. I love the Bessie Smith song ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,’ just a plaintive, awesome song, a little different than the rest on the record. ‘Apple Blossom Time’ I obviously love, and ‘Autumn Leaves,’ which is half in French, because I took some French in school and thought I’d put it to good use.”
An actress turned singer, a singing actress, and Joni
Rossum began her career in the Children’s Chorus at the Metropolitan Opera: “An amazing experience at seven to be onstage with horses and donkeys and Placido Domingo. I had no idea that this was out of the ordinary, and it opened my eyes to the theater and how escapist and amazing it can be.
“I loved dressing up in the wigs and costumes and thought I would do that for the rest of my life, but then I got too tall for the children’s costumes and they were kind of like, ‘Take a hike and come back when you want to be in the adult chorus.’ What am I supposed to do, sit around for eight years? So I got an agent and they started sending me out for TV, film, and Broadway, and TV and film was where I immediately hit and everything took off.”
Now Rossum gets to attend the Met Opera opening night galas and such, as a glammed-up celebrity guest on the red carpet: “It’s really fun and a nice way to come back when you watch everyone else work hard on stage and then drink champagne!”
“The Phantom of the Opera” was terra nova for Rossum “because I had no concept of what being on a big movie and then promoting one was like. Joel Schumacher is an amazing director and art and set designer, so into the costumes and everything. I’m lucky to be one of his stable of discoveries [Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, Matthew McConaughey, and Colin Farrell, also among them].
“The audition process was extensive. I did a couple, which all went very quickly. I almost didn’t have enough time to think about what was really going on, which was a good thing for me because I could have been very overwhelmed and stage fright might have kicked in. I was brought in toward the end of the process — almost didn’t go to the audition because I had a family reunion in Vegas and I figured there would be more auditions. My agent was like, ‘You are NOT going to that family reunion!’”
Rossum loves working on her TV show, “Shameless”: “All the actors do such a good job of bringing their characters to life. This season, we’re going to see a very funny gay storyline with Bradley Whitford, from ‘West Wing,’ as a gay advocate who enlists William H. Macy’s help. Really funny, in the way that only ‘Shameless’ can offend every possible person in every religion, race, walk of life.
“People ask me what my reaction to reading my first ‘Shameless’ script was and assume that I was appalled by the material. I just thought it was laugh-out-loud funny and think a lot of other actresses who auditioned didn’t get the humor of it and played it as a straight drama. I’m clearly a little messed up to think that this messed up family was funny, so I think that’s where I got my leg up on everyone. I love my character, her strength and vulnerability and everything that she’s dealing with in this family, with one brother who is so smart but doesn’t want to go to school, another who wants to blow up everything he sees, and one who’s in the closet in the ghetto.
“Macy is very creative and fun. He isn’t very Method, so he’s very fast, in and out of this drunken thing he does. It’s amazing to watch, as I usually have to go to a place emotionally and stay there for the duration of a take, but he’ll wander in and out of it and when they call cut, he’ll be cracking jokes.”
“Mystic River” was an early big break: “I was going to Columbia trying to get an education and when I got the call for ‘Mystic,’ it was right before my French final and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll take this final and then peace, I’m out, I’m gonna go to work,’ and I never went back to school.
“It was my first studio movie and I didn’t meet anyone until I walked on to the set. The first day I woke up four hours before I was needed, so nervous, and went to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t have any zits, just staring at my pores.
“Clint Eastwood as a director was very quiet, very reserved and respectful of the actors, not at all a big in-your-face presence. It’s very much what you bring to the table, which kind of puts the pressure on, but it’s a good thing. I’m a malleable person so I can work with anybody’s approach.
“Sean Penn was very intense, very kind and funny. I had a total panic attack when we were down in the morgue filming that scene. He was very funny and helpful to me. I was not pleased at all to be in a morgue. Not into it.
“I just worked with Hilary Swank on a movie coming out this year, and she obviously had the same experience with him. The movie is ‘You’re Not You,’ based on a book and she plays a woman who is ALS, and I’m her live-in caretaker and Josh Duhamel is her husband. Should be an interesting one.”
Marin Mazzie was a pleasant surprise as substitute for Linder Eder at 54 Below on January 24. | COURTESY: KEITH SHERMAN & ASSOCIATES
The weather on January 24 was frigid, but 54 Below was the warmest, most magical cave of musical delights. Broadway diva Marin Mazzie filled in for an ailing Linda Eder and delighted everyone with a show that evoked her youthful song influences, from “Begin the Beguine,” first heard on her parents’ console stereo in their suburban living room, to radio hits of the 1960s and ‘70s. The Davids — Jones and Cassidy — were adolescent obsessions and she honored them with unashamed renditions of “I’m a Believer” and “I Think I Love You,” which suffused the room in Boomer nostalgia.
Things really kicked into high gear with Mazzie’s ‘70s evocations, like a dulcet “Midnight at the Oasis,” a moving “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It should Be,” and a hilarious “Evergreen,” which the Barbra-obsessed young Mazzie sang in Catholic school as part of a ceremony to — of all things — bless the class rings.
Tune into PBS on February 15 when Live from Lincoln Center presents Mazzie with husband Jason Danieley, Joel Grey, and Chita Rivera in “Ring Them Bells! Rob Fisher Celebrates Kander & Ebb.”
Cheering Mazzie on was Broadway producer Kevin McCollum (“Rent,” Drowsy Chaperone,” “In the Heights,” “Avenue Q”), who, like me, is from Hawaii and went to Punahou School. We exchanged reminiscences and he described his upcoming show, “Motown the Musical,” which is seriously one of the few things I am really looking forward to, especially as, he said, “It’s been cast entirely with fresh unknowns.”
That encounter helped extend the glow of my just-concluded Hawaii vacation, as did the show immediately following Mazzie’s at 54 that night. While back home, I found a CD of Joni Mitchell’s greatest hits and it stayed in the player of my rental car the entire time. How wonderfully coincidental, then, was “Tales of Joni,” a tribute to that unsurpassable singer-songwriter with the talented likes of Lisa Asher, Annie Golden, Heather MacRae, Julie Reyburn, Nicholas Rodriguez, and Gabrielle Stravelli.
The inspired brainstorm of ace cabaret producer Phil Bond, it had us all a-tingle from the redolent opening chords of so many beloved tunes. I especially enjoyed Golden’s “For Free,” done in her agelessly cherishable, funky-gamine way, Stravelli’s spot-on, intense “Cactus Tree,” and Reyburn’s spirited rendition of everybody’s favorite party/ driving song, “Carey.” There are two more shows on January 30 and 31 at 9:30 p.m. Gogogo. (254 W. 54th St.; $25-$35, with a $25 minimum, at 54below.com.)
Contact David Noh at [email protected] and check out his blog at http://nohway.wordpress.com/.