Playlist Of The Month: Broadway Moments Of The Rosie O’Donnell Show

Whether it’s 1996 or 2016, Rosie O’Donnell is living our Broadway fangirl dreams. Last month we left Hamilton discussing how amazing it would be to be Rosie, who’s been something like 37 times and thus has seen every permutation of the cast. And as two musical-theater obsessed children, it’s hard to overstate how the Broadway moments of The Rosie O’Donnell Show molded our formative years. We saw an adult get as excited about new shows as we did, and just knowing that somebody else out there was playing and replaying cast albums was everything to us. To this day, our conversation about Everything’s Coming Up Rosie week included memories like “didn’t it seem like Fredi Walker was ALWAYS singing Seasons of Love on Rosie?” and “remember how much she loved Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk?”

Seasons Of Love from Rent

We were both Rent-heads (remember Everything Is Rent Week?), and the cast’s appearance on Rosie made an impression on us. So much so that we commented in Questions, Comments and Concerns: Rent, ” Seasons of Love is very obviously the song they included to be a breakout hit. Like, ‘okay, we need one song in a basic pop structure with no swearing or weird sex stuff in it so we can go on the Rosie show.'” And friendly reminder this is the OBC in the midst of Rentmania in 1996. Look at these babies whose lives are being changed.

Endless Night from The Lion King

The trajectory of musical theatre history is strewn with shows that changed Broadway. It didn’t start with Hamilton – there was a whole path from shows where the music had nothing to do with the plot, to songs that commented on it, to music that actually advanced the story. In the late 90s, The Lion King was another one of those shows changing Broadway by incorporating clever and elaborate costumes,  Garth Fagan’s modern choreography, and total smokeshow Jason Raize. Unfortunately, Jason’s talent was gone too soon after he hanged himself in 2004, but his Lion King legacy will live on forever.

Medley from Titanic

It’s easy to think this is something that would have happened as a result of the bizarre Titanic mania that struck in 1997-1998, but no: this musical predated the Titanic film, meaning that Titanic was kind of a topic of general interest in the 90s. This performance had me itching to see the Titanic musical, if only to find out how it sank on stage.

Willkommen from Cabaret

Caberet struck me as a “grown-up” musical in my Rosie days, but even at that age I couldn’t deny that Alan Cumming had a whole lot of charisma. Between rewatching this performance and picking up Alan’s memoir for some light bus reading a while ago, I have now become an unlikely Alan Cumming stan.

My New Philosophy from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown

Adults playing kids are a weird thing. As an adult you can suspend disbelief when a grown-up plays a child in theater or on SNL, but as a kid you’re like “nope, that is 100% NOT a child, good try.” Or if you were me as a child, also “here’s my headshot, give me a job instead of this faker.” That would have been my reaction to You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown… EXCEPT for Kristin Chenoweth. I remember watching this and taking a while to decide whether this was an adult or not. Part of it is that Kristin is tiny, but it’s also how well she conveys the attitude and mannerisms of a 5-year-old.

Wheels of a Dream from Ragtime

Part of the brilliance of Rosie putting shows on a national platform is that people like us in Western New York or all the way in Alaska get a chance to see Broadway or are even introduced to theater through TV. I remember watching this and loving it so much that I later went to the library to borrow the soundtrack. In high school, I specifically chose to write a book report on Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow because it was what the musical was based on. And I never would have done that if I hadn’t seen these two icons perform on Rosie. It reinforced by love for theatre and gave me a peek into a world I longed to be in.

Who Will Love Me As I Am? From Side Show

For some reason I also clearly remember this performance, mainly because I thought it was so weird there was an entire musical featuring conjoined twins. However, it’s a great performance and a great song, featuring a pre-Tony Alice Ripley who can belt in my fave any day.

Dancing Queen from Mamma Mia!

Fact: I’ve seen Mamma Mia! more times than I should have as a teen. One of those times I saw it on tour and attended a dance workshop where the cast members taught us the choreography for Waterloo, which is the final number after the curtain call. And then we saw the show and got in the aisles and did the choreo like a pre-flash mob flash mob. Anyways, I thought I wouldn’t like Mamma Mia! at all, but two years before my shining moment in the aisle this happened on Rosie and I was all in.

No One is Alone from Into the Woods

If you haven’t seen Into the Woods, it’s important you know that despite the characters all being from beloved fairytales like Rapunzel and Cinderella, this show, specifically the second act, is NOT a necessarily family friendly musical. Despite that, it’s still a fantastic show, and Sonheim nonetheless, so I am envious of everyone that got to see this revival on Broadway. Especially because it features our favorite queen of Broadway and social media, Laura Benanti as Cinderella. Also featured: Adam Wylie aka Jack (of the Beanstalk) aka Brad from Gilmore Girls. In GG, he takes a leave from Chilton, and when he returns, Paris is just as bitchy to him as ever, and even tries to knock him off his game by singing about his magic beans, because Paris.

All That Jazz from Chicago

DR. LILITH STERNIN SINGS ALL THAT JAZZ AND WINS AN EMMY. Reminder that we watched Cheers this year. This role won Bebe her second Tony Award and it’s obvious why. What a gem. And way less obnoxious than Lilith.

Goodbye Until Tomorrow from The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years is undoubtedly one of our favorite musicals, but as someone who didn’t get into it until the revival several years ago, I definitely forgot that it existed at all during the Rosie era. Whether it’s Cynthia Erivo breaking our hearts with Still Hurting or the original off-Broadway cast on Rosie, Jason Robert Brown always knows how to tug on our heartstrings so hard that he rips our hearts all the way out.

Gimme Gimme from Thoroughly Modern Millie

Before Sutton Foster was THE Sutton Foster, she was “this new actress you need to know about, Sutton Foster.” She created a huge splash in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and the first place I ever saw her was on The Rosie O’Donnell Show performing Gimme Gimme. If you told me that Sutton would still be a huge deal 18 years after this, I wouldn’t have been surprised. If you told me that Sutton would look maybe a week older 18 years later, that would have been harder to believe, but here we all are.

Last Night Of The World from Miss Saigon

Everything you need to know about us as friends and as individuals: as oddball fifth graders, we both really wanted to see Miss Saigon. Traci has a traumatic childhood memory of being left with basically strangers when her parents went to it without her, and Molly received tickets for her confirmation, a Catholic sacrament she celebrated at age 10. Weirdos. Fortunately, we BOTH caught OG Kim, Lea Salonga, on The Rosie O’Donnell Show during its convenient after-school time slot. On top of that, Chris was played by a young Will Chase, of Smash, Nashville, and Ingrid Michaelson’s boyfriend fame. What a dream.

 

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The Way They Were: Today’s Stars on The Rosie O’Donnell Show

The Rosie O’Donnell Show ran from 1996 to 2002, and even though we watched it to the bitter end we somehow always associate it with the ’90s. When I think of Rosie guests, it’s people like Macy Gray, cast members from Ally McBeal, and throwbacks to Rosie’s 1970s childhood like the Osmonds. However, there are some modern stars we always forget were active in the Rosie era, so it feels like a total time warp seeing them as guests on The Rosie O’Donnell Show.

The Cast Of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and The Rosie O’Donnell Show had a brief overlap – Rosie even campaigned to play Molly Weasley, and while Julie Walters defined the role I bet she would have been great. However, with the last movie coming out in 2011 I tend to forget that Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone was a 2001 release: firmly in the early 2000s. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been 15 years since Harry Potter first hit the big screen, until you see how tiny the kids were here and it feels like when one of your friends posts a #TBT baby picture.

Mae Whitman

We have long loved Mae Whitman as Parenthood’s Amber Braverman, a real-life Friday Night Lights superfan, Ann Veal (her?), and a Dawson’s Creek Live Reading participant. But let’s not forget that before all this, she was one of those 90s child actors who was in EVERYTHING. You might remember Mae from One Fine Day, When A Man Loves A Woman, Independence Day, and as Sandra Bullock’s daughter in Hope Floats. It’s rare that a child actor maintains such a solid career through adolescence and adulthood. It’s even more rare to create such distinct child and adult personas that we almost forget this adorable moppet is the same cool girl who cracks us up on Twitter on a weekly basis.

Lea Michele

Lea Michele first entered our consciousness thanks to Spring Awakening, but there’s a wide audience who didn’t really know who she was until Glee. We didn’t know it, but we were actually familiar with little Lea long before that. In 1998, Ragtime was all the rage (in our circles, anyway) and Lea was the wide-eyed, precocious little girl. Also: AUDRA.

Jimmy Fallon

We certainly knew Jimmy was around in 2001 – we had massive crushes on him that we’d discuss in study hall and at lunch – but it was early in his SNL career and he wasn’t really doing much press yet, so it’s surprising that he was on Rosie. We had no clue he’d be a wildly popular talk show host in his own right over ten years later.

Alas, there is no video of the appearance, so enjoy this photo of Jimmy and Horatio Sanz as Rosie.

Lil Bow Wow

I know he was  lil when he started, but Bow Wow as an actual child rapper on Rosie is something I cannot quite remember. But it’s true, he was there – sadly, with no video to prove it. Woof.

Jennifer Garner

Jennifer may be a rom-com and movie mom favorite now, but in the early 2000s she was best known as the star of Alias … to other people. To us she was primarily the flirty, 30 and thriving Jenna Rink in 13 Going On 30, which didn’t come out until 2004. That’s why it feels so weird knowing that Garner was on Rosie in 2001 promoting Alias, a show I admittedly never watched.

Lauren Graham

We briefly mentioned Lauren’s appearance earlier this week, as she showed off her “skills” during a craft corner segment on Rosie’s last show of the series. But months before, and nearing the end of season two of Gilmore Girls, Lauren appeared on the show for the first time, and Lo and Ro kicked it off right away. I have always been a fan of LG’s TV interviews because she always comes off charismatic, fun and awkward all at the same time (see: all Ellen interviews), and in 2002, this was just the beginning of Lauren’s rise to fame and her journey with Gilmore Girls. BECAUSE I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S HAPPENING.

Hayden Panettiere

I sometimes forget Hayden was a child actor. But then I remember she played Ally McBeal’s daughter and it all comes screaming back to me. Before she played a country music star on Nashville, she proved she had the chops to be a pop star by singing Britney’s (You Drive Me) Crazy during this interview and bless her heart, it feels like she’s been practicing the bit with her stage mom, whom she keeps looking at off camera. Young Hayden is cute, but I think I prefer confident adult Hayden much better.

Josh Groban

Speaking of Ally McBeal… actually, let’s back up a bit. Josh Groban was just 17 years old when superproducer David Foster called Josh’s vocal coach asking if he had any students good enough to rehearse with Celine Dion at the 1999 Grammys. She was set to perform The Prayer with Andrea Boccelli, but because he couldn’t make it, Josh filled in, and Rosie was in awe after hearing him during rehearsals – this was the year she hosted the Grammys. She invited him to her show, as seen above, and because of this interview, Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley created a role for Josh on his show, and the rest is history. Also, Josh is so nervous and shy here it’s adorable and nothing like what he is now.

Lea DeLaria and Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Sometimes when you know actors from two completely different shows, it throws you off when you hear they’ve been friends for years. That is the case for Orange is the New Black’s Lea DeLaria and Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who both starred on Broadway long before their respective award-winning shows. Here they are performing a number from On the Town, and it’s nothing like you’ve seen them before. Ok, maybe excluding Jesse.

Kobe Bryant

When doing research for this, I saw the third guest in a season one episode titled as “High school student and NBA draftee Kobe Bryant”. I’m not even a big basketball fan, but this is iconic. Kobe, 18 at the time, had signed a three-year $3.5 million contract with the Lakers and he hadn’t even played college basketball. Again, like Bow Wow video from 1998 is scarce, so just trust he was on the show.

Kate Winslet

Technically Kate had a few films under her belt before this interview, but it’s just a treasure of a vid because she is actually doing press for Titanic. It’s her first time on the show, and Rosie wishes her the best of luck as an actress. And like we all knew in that steerage party when she went up on her toes, she’s been knocking it out ever since. Also she talks about Leo and their true love.

BONUS:

When the maybe first female president sings a Bye Bye Birdie song. Also note Rosie in her Rosie-est getup.

Times We Assumed Rosie O’Donnell Was Straight

The world was different in 1996, when The Rosie O’Donnell Show began. The famous Ellen DeGeneres coming out episode hadn’t aired yet, Will & Grace was still years away, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was only a few years old. As much as the internet loves to act like 2016 is a trash-lined sewer and the ’90s were a hip, inclusive wonderland, things have gotten a lot better in the past two decades. We were different in 1996, too: we were 10 years old. We knew that gay people existed, but in that era we both tended to assume people were straight unless given evidence to the contrary. A LOT of evidence to the contrary. Rosie’s presence as an affable, cool lesbian paved the way for today’s suburban mom fav, Ellen, and her wide-open closet door was probably really inspiring to a lot of kids in the 90s and 2000s… the kids who weren’t too dense to notice all of these clues, anyway.

Exhibit A: Tom Cruise, Lawnboy

The facts:

  • Throughout the course of her show, Rosie talked a lot about her giddy crush on Tom Cruise.
  • She called him “My Tommy.”
  • A specialized soundboard played The Who’s “Tommy Can You Hear Me”
  • The whole thing read less like a legitimate infatuation, and more as a fun running gag
  • To that end, Rosie even TOLD everybody that she had no adult desire for Tom Cruise:

My crush on him has nothing to do with anything that is adult. It’s a prepubescent girl desire to have his picture thumb-tacked to my bedroom wall. It doesn’t have to do with a thirty-five-year-old woman’s adult desire.

  • On Tom’s first appearance, he brought flowers and didn’t respond like someone at the receiving end of a real and genuine crush. Rosie commented “it’s not like I want the marriage to break up. I just want you to, like, live in my house and mow my lawn. That’s all I want. I want you to do yard work around my house.” As a single lady who hates lawn mowing, I feel that.

  • Rosie, referring to Nicole Kidman, lightheartedly commented “isn’t her husband beautiful”

  • The Rosie O’Donnell Show ended with Tom mowing Rosie’s lawn and offering her a lemonade.

Can you blame us?: I mean. As adults of 2016 we realize that having an opposite-sex crush doesn’t make you straight any more than having a favorite Orange Is The New Black inmate makes you gay. However, this one is less about the cultural milieu of the 90s and more about what it was like to be ten years old. If you told somebody you had a crush in fifth grade, it was SERIOUS BUSINESS. It’s more that we couldn’t understand flippant celebrity crushes, which are now the mainstay of our internet presence.

Exhibit B: And They Called It Puppy Love

The facts:

  • Donny Osmond’s poster was on her bedroom wall “for eight years” when she was a tot
  • Rosie was a member of the Donny Osmond Fan Club. Like the kind where you pay a fee and you get a sticker with his face on it.
  • She owned a Donny Osmond doll. Her brothers wanted to play GI Joe, she wanted to play Donny and Marie.

Rosie: Me and my brother Danny would do Donny & Marie in my backyard with wooden spoons. My mother would be screaming…

Donny: Ok, but hopefully, you were Marie.

Rosie: Most times. But ya know, hell, I’ll be you if you let me.

Can you blame us?: Like Tom Cruise, we kind of just expected that because Rosie had googly eyes and a laminated Donny Osmond Fan Club membership card in her wallet, it meant she was keen on the gentlemen type.

I remember one time around this era I was talking to an older male family friend who was at the time probably in high school, and while a group of us were watching TV, Rosie came on the screen and he said, “You know she’s gay, right?” and being a staunch fan and a 12 year old who believed “gay” was an insult, I came to her defense. “No way. She loves Tom Cruise and Donny Osmond! How do you explain that??” But again, that was just a sign of the times. Obviously as a tween in the mid-90s, I couldn’t delineate between celebrity crush to real life romantic feelings crush, so my points sounded valid at the moment.

But this is kind of all a moot point since Ro and Donny got into a brief feud after he suggested she was fat by saying a helicopter “couldn’t take that much weight.” She turned that Donny doll into more of a Donny voodoo doll, and made him apologize by singing Puppy Love in a puppy get up. Don’t all great straight relationships work like this?

Exhibit C: Lebanese-American

The facts:

  • For a period of time in 1996, there was a long lead-up to Ellen DeGeneres’s character, Ellen Morgan, coming out on the sitcom Ellen. I still remember thinking it was cool, but also consistently thinking it had happened already because it had been in the media for so long. That’s how big a deal it was.
  • Before the episode aired, Ellen appeared on Rosie. Later on, Rosie said that she didn’t want Ellen to be completely alone on this new TV frontier, so they came up with the Lebanese bit and “the people that got it, got it.”
  • We didn’t get it.
  • Watch it and let Rosie explain here:

  • “I pick up sometimes that you might be Lebanese”

Can you blame us? This is the kind of joke that would be hard to understand if you were new to the English language. Lebanese and Lesbian sound sort of similar, Ellen’s quip about dropping hints that character was “Lebanese” (baba ganoush, Casey Kasem, etc) is an analogy to Ellen winking at her character’s orientation, but the punchline was implied. And implied punch lines are one of the last things you understand when you learn a new language, right? Except… we were NOT new to the English language when this aired, we were natives like 10 years deep in it. Even as kids, we should have picked up what Rosie was putting down here.

Things I’m Willing To Believe About Rosie O’Donnell

It’s Day 2 of Everything’s Coming Up Rosie Week, and we’re bringing back a recurring series, Things I’m Willing To Believe About ___, where we compile fake facts that seem… sort of plausible. Today we are spotlighting the Queen of Nice, Rosie O’Donnell. We are willing to believe that Rosie:

  • Had an early showbiz dream to appear as either the newest Brady Bunch kid or newest Partridge Family member.
  • Secretly sells art on Society6 under the pseudonym Katie Morosky
  • Hasn’t been able to let go of all the cassette tapes of Ryan’s Hope she recorded from the ’80s (she didn’t have a VCR back then so she recorded the audio, duh).
  • Has a permanent reserved seat at Hamilton, like how people in the 1800s used to have reserved pews at church. The only reason she hasn’t been MORE times is that she keeps giving the tickets away.

  • Is a generally peace-loving person, except that she can hear a North Shore vs South Shore argument from seemingly blocks away and will jump in.
  • Has not one but TWO dedicated craft/art studios in her home
  • Once had a house decorated with 100% decoupaged furniture. Made a concerted effort to scale back. Occasional pieces still surface at the Commack Volunteers of America Thrift Store.
  • Has had so many millennials come up to her telling her that her show “practically raised me” that she has had to stop agreeing to be listed as their emergency contact, after two such millennials were injured in trust falls on the same day.
  • Didn’t actually sign this autographed headshot that still sits in a frame on my childhood bed headboard

true story: i made my mom take a photo of this and send it to me. she doesn’t know how to take a pic on her phone and text it, but DOES not how to take a pic on her ipad and email it. hence the reflection. WOOF.

  • Auditioned to play the lead of Polly in Crazy For You on Broadway but lost out to Jodi Benson (aka Ariel of The Little Mermaid fame)
  • Her deepest secret: “not really a cat person.”
  • Steven Pasquale would be her modern day/Broadway Tom Cruise-esque crush if she still had her talk show
  • Turns out to be A.D. in the series finale on Pretty Little Liars as a favor to Marlene King (who wrote Now and Then)
  • Knows that Now and Then is an American classic, she just doesn’t want to make a big deal about it.
  • Despite the movie being questionable, Rosie secretly took home her Exit to Eden costume “just in case”

  • Lobbied extensively during the filming of Harriet The Spy to have Harriet’s beloved tomato sandwich swapped for something “less disgusting.”
  • Owns Donald Tr*mp voodoo doll
  • Super tempted to pull a Michael Jordan and take back her talk show from Caroline Rhea after six months
  • Caroline Rhea was her second choice for a replacement. Kristin Chenoweth was first.
  • Geena Davis taught her archery on the set of A League of Their Own
  • Still texts/emails/calls A League of Their Own & Sleepless In Seattle homeboy Tom Hanks for advice

  • Asked British boy band BBMak if they wanted to do a duet with her on her Another Rosie Christmas album, but they respectfully declined citing an “effort to protect their brand”
  • Kangol sent Ro hundreds of free hats that she couldn’t possibly wear herself, so that’s why anyone who shopped at Goodwill or Salvation Army in the Greater New York City area between 1996 and 1999 are owners of said accessory
  • Had Mormon missionaries visit her house weekly for YEARS in an attempt to capitalize on her love for Donny Osmond. It didn’t take.
  • Goes without saying, her Tom Cruise obsession caused similar problems. She does not want a free personality test, thank you very much.
  • Secretly made the Internet with Al Gore and sneakily popularized it with her show

  • Is still really good friends with Madonna, and is (secretly) the only person allowed to shorten her name to “Maddie.”
  • Tom Cruise is on her Christmas card list, but every year she worries it could be some sort of Scientologist faux pas.
  • Forced John McDaniel to spill all the juicy details on working closely with Patti LuPone, and wouldn’t give him the job of musical director on her talk show until he caved
  • Still keeps in touch with Kathy Del Bel Baluz (sp?) from Toronto, Canada and they exchange notes about wall stenciling.

  • Once prank called Elisabeth Hasselbeck and asked if her refrigerator was running
  • Gets free bus rides from the MTA ever since Riding the Bus with my Sister aired
  • On the days she misses being a talk show host, she makes her kids be her guests, and acts it all out in the replica of her Rosie show set in her home
  • Yes, it IS cute when they change “Tommy Can You Hear Me” to “Mommy Can You Hear Me,” thank you very much.
  • Sent Jimmy Fallon a care basket and heartfelt (yet funny) note after his ring finger accident, since a staph infection nearly cost her her own finger too
  • Since childhood, Rosie has maintained a complex, multi-factor ranking of supermarket snack cakes – and has a curious aversion to the Swiss Cake Roll.
  • Single-handedly revived Pepto Bismol’s brand by constantly singing “plop plop fizz fizz” on her show
  • Found  Oprah’s secret poop bathroom while filming The Rosie Show at the Queen’s studios in chicago
  • Secretly hated Tickle Me Elmo and all that he stood for