I first met the talent of Mary Testa as she was singing about selling the kids in “Cincinnati” from Marie Christine. As I would drive around unable to take the CD out of my car stereo because I loved it so much, I loved the brassiness in Testa’s voice, though I didn’t yet know who she was.
Seven or eight months later, I’m sitting in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts watching a million chorus kids dancing away in flashy costumes with bright Colgate smiles, and I hear this voice. It took me about two second to realize, “Hey, that’s the woman from Marie Christine!” Her Maggie Jones was one of the highlights of that evening for me. It was a fantastic cast, but I loved Testa’s old school Broadway bravura, that voice that shouts out to the back of the theatre, defying microphones to contain it.
There are so few character actors today, either on film or on stage, and Mary Testa is a classic with the best of them. What I love is that she does have that classic stage presence in her voice and demeanor, but she’s tempered it with contemporary acting restraint. It’s too bad that Whoopi, on which she was doing a reoccurring role, didn’t last longer. With such a talent, Testa would have had a chance to make some inroads into Hollywood to become one of those well-known bicoastal stars whose name can sell tickets to tourists.
I know Testa has a slew of Broadway credits, but my other encounter with her has been as Domina on the Nathan Lane revival recording of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Needless to say, I love her “That Dirty Old Man.”
She’s recently opened in Xanadu. I would love to see Kerry Butler in person, but for me, the main reason to see Xanadu would be Mary Testa.
Getting to Know You Interview: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/110074.html
Video Footage: http://www.broadwayworld.com/viewcolumn.cfm?colid=18189
July 18, 2007