What would you do if you lost your fancy NYC job… and had to move back in with your mother… in New Jersey? This is the topic of the new musical Gettin’ the Band Back Together, which debuts at the Belasco Theatre later this month. Unlike many musicals du jour, it features both an original story (penned by producing powerhouse Ken Davenport) and original music (by Mark Allen) – oh, and it stars Marilu Henner (along with a slate of other triple-threats including Mitchell Jarvis and Kelli Barrett).
Broadway Spin caught up with Henner to discuss her return to Broadway, whether she thinks love has an age limit, and why everyone should stop eating cheese.
Broadway Spin: This is your 7th Broadway show. What’s it like being back on stage?
Marilu Henner: This is what I thought I’d be doing my whole life. I grew up in Chicago and we had a dancing school in our backyard, so I grew up singing and dancing and being in plays. People knew we had 200 students between the ages of two and 80 – including the nuns who came over for stretch classes from the Catholic school next door [!]– so people would call and they would say, “We need 12 kids for The King and I” or “We need two kids for South Pacific.” I’d be like, “Pick me! Pick me!” … My true love has always been the theater and especially musical theater, so I’m super excited to be back! Plus, this is such a fun part and such an incredible group of talented people.
BS: This show explores the challenge to redefine yourself when something doesn’t go the way you’d planned. Have you any moments like that in your life and how did you cope?
MH: My number one theory for many years now is that the key to your life is how well you deal with Plan B. Plan A is what you hope for, you dream for, you expect to happen, you’re praying to happen, and then all of a sudden something happens and it’s Plan B and you can either be dragged kicking and screaming into Plan B, or you can say, “Wait a minute, what’s around the corner here? This may be a little different than I expected, but you know, here we go!” Every incredible thing in my life, from getting Taxi to getting most of the movies that I’ve gotten, to getting so many things, including this show, have been Plan B.
BS: This show also deals with nontraditional relationships – what are your thought on May-December romances? Does love have a number?
MH: I think people have a certain spirit about them and I think that when you’re kindred spirits, an age difference doesn’t matter. I mean – without getting into specifics – the biggest age difference in one direction [of a man I dated] to the biggest age difference in the other direction, one could be the other one’s grandfather, easily, by many years! Now I’m really happy with my third and final husband, but there’s been a good range to the men that I’ve been very attracted to or had wonderful relationships with.
BS: What’s been the common thread amongst all of them, then?
MH: Sense of humor for sure – sense of humor and sexy!
BS: How are you and your husband managing your Broadway schedule? Did he come with you to New York?
MH: He just left this morning… and he’ll be back next week. We’re seeing each other about every two weeks. We knew each other in college. He was my roommate’s boyfriend, but we reconnected 15 years ago. [By that time], we both had these very long lives with children and marriages and things, and I have this crazy memory and he’s a calendar publisher, and I wouldn’t have had the career I’ve had and he wouldn’t have had the adventures living in Brazil he’s had if we’d gotten together when we first met… That idea is also in the show, so there are a lot of these points that I very much relate to in my own life.
BS: You both have kids and careers. What’s your advice to people who are trying to do it all?
MH: A guilty parent is the worst parent. Be a good example of “love what you do.” And you’re not going to get everything done, so pick your battles… Raising a child is really about the right balance of frustration and gratification. It’s the over-gratified kids that end up the most messed up. That was what brilliant psychoanalyst Ruth Velikovky Sharon taught me. My boys are not brats.
BS: What are your favorite things to do in NYC during your downtime?
MH: I love the restaurants here. I love walking. I love shopping. I love that everything is so convenient. I’ve been vegan for a long time and so now it’s crazy how many great restaurants there are and how much food you can get everywhere. I can’t believe that two blocks from my theater is a Whole Foods! It’s just so different than when I first started doing Broadway in the ‘70s, though I wasn’t very healthy back then.
BS: But now you are. What’s your best tip for staying healthy?
MH: No dairy products! I gave up dairy August 15, 1979. It was a Wednesday. I consider that my health birthday. Everything changed about me: my energy, my weight, my breathing, my smell, my sleep, digestion, my skin! Now everyone is like, “Paleo! Paleo!” and everyone on Paleo feels so good – it’s because they’re not having dairy. No dairy changes everything.
Gettin’ the Band Back Together begins previews on July 18 and tickets will be in play through Broadway Roulette.