Your favorite TV stars are musically inclined

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11757135173129.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of http://img.theatermania.com‘, ‘Mandy Patinkin, who plays Gideon on CBS’s Criminal Minds, has starred in countless musicals over the years, and won the 1980 Tony for Best Actor in a Feature Role, Musical, for playing Che Guevara in Evita.‘);

Most TV viewers have no idea precisely how talented some of the actors and actresses on their favorite shows actually are. Why? Because TV roles typically don’t highlight actors’ musical skills.

I’m not talking about guitar-strumming, would-be rock star actors or teen idols who crank out pop albums to broaden their appeal. I’m talking big, Broadway, musical talent—to quote Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot (originally played by Frasier alum David Hyde Pierce), from Monty Python’s Spamalot: “Broadway is a very special place, filled with very special people. People who can sing and dance—often at the same time!”

Can you spot the Tony winners working on TV today?

Countless TV actors appear in plays, so let’s focus on those who’ve won Tonys for their work in musical theater. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mandy Patinkin, who plays Gideon on CBS’s Criminal Minds, has starred in countless musicals over the years, and won the 1980 Tony for Best Actor in a Feature Role, Musical, for playing Che Guevara in Evita. Maybe it’s a good thing Gideon hasn’t burst into song in the middle of a crime scene—it might prove a bit distracting.

The next time Rory’s grandmother, Emily, on CW’s The Gilmore Girls decides to kick up her heels, consider this: Kelly Bishop, who plays Emily, won the 1976 Tony for Best Actress in a Feature Role, Musical, for playing Sheila in A Chorus Line. Attending a formal event is the closest Emily Gilmore would probably ever get to gold lamé and a top hat, but over the years the show has managed to work in a few scenes of Emily dancing with her husband, Richard. (Some Tony/TV trivia: Edward Herrmann, who plays Richard, won a Tony that same year, as Featured Actor in the play Mrs. Warren’s Profession.)

While I wasn’t surprised to hear Ron Rifkin—Alias’ evil Arvin Sloane, now playing Saul on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters—had won a Tony, I never figured it was for a musical. Can you really picture Sloane singing or dancing? Rifkin won his Tony for the 1998 revival of Cabaret. Joel Grey was the original Cabaret Emcee, and later guest-starred as Sloane’s doppelganger (Arvin Clone, The Sloane Clone) on Alias, so you might assume Rifkin reprised Grey’s role in Cabaret. He didn’t. Rifkin won Best Actor in a Featured Role, Musical, for playing Herr Schultz.

Grey’s Anatomy fans will probably be surprised to learn one of those Tony-winning people who can sing and dance, often at the same time, is none other than Sara Ramirez, a.k.a. Callie O’Malley. Ramirez won the 2005 Tony for Best Actress in a Feature Role, Musical, for playing Spamalot’s The Lady of the Lake. While viewers are starting to see her comedic skills on Grey’s, unless the hospital puts on a talent show, they’ll have to pop in Spamalot’s original cast recording to hear how good she is.

Listen to the original cast recordings of any of these shows, and you’ll have a new appreciation of how talented some familiar faces really are.

Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine, Rockford Life and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to tubetalking-paula@yahoo.com.

from the April 4-10, 2007, issue

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