Conference Call: Marc Summers and Drew Gasparini: "Marc Summers Presents: Drew Gasparini" at Feinstein's/54 Below
I grew up watching Double Dare and Family Double Dare in the 1980s. They were one of my favorite game shows! Yes, because of the obstacle course, but also because of its host Marc Summers. He was funny and engaging - so much fun to watch!
I became of fan of Drew Gasparini's music after Bobby Cronin introduced him to me. Ever since then, I've been enjoying Drew's music, always excited to see what he is up to.
Marc and Drew met in 2011 during a regional production of Grease. They have remained friends throughout the years, continuing to collaborate on projects together, including Marc's one man stage-show The Life & Slimes of Marc Summers.
Now, Marc is getting ready to debut Marc Summers Presents at Feinstein's/54 Below, a new series designed to showcase theatre artists who inspire Marc with their refusal to be singularly defined. Marc's premiere guest will be Drew (one of Playbill.com's Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know).
In Marc Summers Presents: Drew Gasparini, Marc will lead you on a tour of Drew’s career thus far. The evening will feature music that spans Drew’s body of work, including musicals old and new as well as his growing pop catalogue. And Drew will be joined on stage by his favorite collaborators: his sisters Kasie and Chloe Gasparini, with whom he performs a signature brand of original folk pop as the band Saint Adeline; his teacher and collaborator Louis Sacco, with whom he performs re-interpretations of jazz standards under the banner “Louis & Drew;” and his best friends—Broadway’s Alex Brightman, F. Michael Haynie, and Andrew Kober –with whom he performs a unique brand of absurd and obscene comedy as “The (M)orons.”
Marc Summers Presents: Drew Gasparini on Wednesday, April 4 at 9:30pm at Feinstein's/54 Below (254 West 54th Street). Click here for tickets!
1. On April 4, the debut of Marc Summers Presents, will be premiered at Feinstein's/54 Below, a series designed to showcase theater artists who inspire Marc with their refusal to be singularly defined. Drew, you are Marc's first guest. What excites both of you about this new series?
Marc Summers: I am passionate about all things show biz! Be it theatre, TV or radio, I love the history of the industry. I am particularly curious about how people go from point A to point B. What motivates performers? How do you move on when the answer is almost always no? Why do they continue to pursue their career when others give up? Passion can’t be taught so human nature intrigues me. How much is luck vs. talent vs. being in the right place at the right time? What defines talent? Who defines talent? When is it time to stop chasing the dream? It is such an odd, quirky no rules type of business that never ceases to amaze me.
Drew Gasparini: I am so lucky to have a friendship with Marc because he's been such a legend in my eyes for years, but I'm equally astonished with how supportive of me and my career the man has been. To me I think it's less about me and more about the man he is. He helps nurture and support new talent, so to be the first one he asked to be a part of this series, I was truly touched. He knows that I try to do many things in this business, and him curating this concert is his wonderful way of getting all those different facets acknowledged in one night. I really appreciate him for seeing something in me.
2. Let's go back to the beginning just for a moment. I know you met each other in a regional production of Grease in 2011. What was that first interaction like? How soon after meeting did your friendship begin?
Drew Gasparini: I think I was one of the last people in the cast to actually go introduce myself. I don't know why I was timid at first because 1) I am not by any means a timid person by nature, and 2) he was being so nice and friendly to everyone in the cast! I had built up this idea of Marc in my head because he was a hero when I was a kid. I told him eventually that my brother and I used to pretend to be Marc Summers and host our own living room version of Double Dare. In Grease he was playing "Vince Fontaine," and I was playing "Eugene." Collectively I think we had about four minutes of stage time, so we had every show to be monkeying around backstage, and our whole friendship organically grew based on us both having the same twisted sense of humor. All we did backstage (and onstage) was try to make each other laugh. I'm VERY happy our friendship continued after the show. He's now one of my dearest friends.
Marc Summers: To me, Drew was a 25 year old, in a sixty year olds borscht belt comedy body! He constantly made me laugh and still does. Then I saw him sing original compositions. The words moved me. After watching him play piano one very late night in a cast party, I was blown away. I asked if he had been playing since childhood. He replied, nope, I taught a couple years ago. INSANE! We began hanging out together in NYC and he introduced me to some of his friends. They were all in their mid 20’s and had aspirations to be on Broadway. I was flattered that I was included. Next thing I knew, we were all doing shows at Joes Pub, The Slipper Room and 54 Below. Here I was, finally getting a chance to live out my dreams from being a kid in Indianapolis, hoping one day to perform in The Big Apple. And by the way, all those cronies of his ended up doing shows on Broadway!
3. Marc: When did you reach out to Drew about this new series? Drew: What was it like when Marc approached you about this project?
Marc Summers: I thought of this concept a year or so ago. My thoughts were, how can I get the word out to buyers in the biz, who need to see and hear up and coming stars? How can I pay it forward? I am thrilled 54 Below is giving us this opportunity.
Drew Gasparini: Marc sat me and my manager down and basically said he doesn't understand why I'm not a bigger name in the business, which is an unbelievably flattering thing to hear from your childhood hero. I was very honored that he wanted me to be a part of it. It all came down to timing and what we would do for the show, but Marc was loud and excited about everything, so it got me loud and excited about doing it.
4. What is one reason each of your fans should buy a ticket to this concert?
Drew Gasparini: If you're a fan of mine and you've seen my shows before, this is going to be a different type of thing and it's going to be something that you won't forget. We are keeping it intimate, we are telling stories, we are sharing music, and there will be a few guests. But the most exciting part for fans of mine I think will be that they are going to see a side of me most people don't get to see. Candid and intimate, when typically we try to go so big at these 54 Below shows, this is a true "fan appreciation" show. That being said, if you've NEVER seen a show of mine, this a great one to be your first. Not to mention MARC F*ING SUMMERS IS HOSTING AND MODERATING THE SHOW! How often do you get to see that LIVE in as intimate of a space as 54 Below. This is a special one kiddos!**
5. What do you consider to be the magic that makes this partnership work so well?
Marc Summers: Mutual respect. Drew can do things I could never do. I admire that and appreciate his talent. He understands what my 40 years in the business has taught me. We learn from each other. Oh, and he is totally nuts! His brain needs to be studied.
Drew Gasparini: We both share a lot of the same qualities. We both have an impenetrable work ethic. Both of our top priorities are our careers and our families and friends. And beyond all else, we literally just make each other laugh. We've collaborated professionally on a few things before and each time we came out stronger friends, and so often the opposite can happen. To me, that's the sign of a great supportive partnership. Something that, in this business, should never be taken for granted.
6. What have you each learned about yourselves from this collaboration that you didn't know beforehand?
Drew Gasparini: I've learned that I am not afraid to try a different format than what I'm used to, especially when the idea comes from the support of someone who is so successful in show business. And all of this has emphasized further what I already basically knew which was, friends are hard to keep in this business but the ones that stick around are the ones that believe in you the way that you believe in them. As selfish as this business feels, you always need someone in your corner.
Marc Summers: I have learned that in theatre and perhaps music, age should not be an obstacle. Ideas can flow from generation to generation as long as one can be open minded. I am not sure I believed that before we started working together. There are more than 30 years between us.
7. Drew: How do you hope having Marc produce this concert will help your career as opposed to you doing a concert on your own?
Drew Gasparini: I hope that every next step, every new project, show I put on, musical I write, meeting I have, hand I shake helps my career. I'm very proud of where I've gotten this far. I think having Marc Summers asking me to do this show will certainly help me showcase myself in a way I never would've been able to alone. I think anyone who has Marc Summers giving them his support is lucky.
8. Marc: What do you hope to get from producing this concert series?
Marc Summers: When I was starting in the entertainment industry, I did not find many people who were willing to help grow me! I always thought, if I was ever lucky enough to make it, that would be something I would want to do. It is stuff we all learn in first grade. Golden Rule stuff. Unfortunately, not many people actually live it.
9. I have a new segment to my interviews called "I Can See Clearly Now," where I try to clear up misconceptions about people. What do you both feel are the biggest misconceptions out there about yourselves that you would like to clear up?
Drew Gasparini: I think people believe me to be a guy whose whole life is summed up by his annual to bi annual shows at 54 Below. There's a lot more to what I do behind the scenes than just the concerts. I'm thankful that these concerts happen because they push me to keep writing, they get my name out there, they've opened many doors for many lucrative and large opportunities, and they've kept me relevant in the theatre community. But I am in NYC doing what I set out to do, writing musical after musical and getting them pushed as far as they can go in the hopes that I can join the likes of some of the greats and get a show of mine on a Broadway stage.
Marc Summers: That my OCD caused me to be miserable on the set of Double Dare. Nothing could be further from the truth. I waited 13 years for that opportunity. Nothing was going to get in my way. The internet is notorious for spreading crap. I absolutely loved every minute of that job.
10. My last two questions are for Marc. First of all, I just found out you were a fill-in announcer on The Joker's Wild. One of my favorite game shows which I watched in syndication in the 1980s. Since the Joker's in the show represented a wild card, what do you consider to be your "Wild Card" in your career, maybe the show that attached two other gigs together or a project that took you in a completely different direction?
Marc Summers: My wild card was cancer, which I overcame, and a car accident that broke every bone in my face. It was the wake up call I needed. All my life I wanted to be on Broadway, but never had the balls! Many years ago Kenneth Feld called my house and offered me the lead in the theater production of BIG. Mel Brooks gave me a chance to audition for the "Leo Bloom" role on The Producers tour. I rehearsed for both and then didn’t go to either audition. I was scared to death. It took two near death experiences to get me off my ass. That was my wild card.
11. Finally, I grew up watching you host Double Dare & Family Double Dare. What do you think about now when you look back on the series? What was the most fun part about host the series? What was the most challenging part? How do you feel Double Dare would work today? What would you "Double Dare" me to do?
Marc Summers: Double Dare put me and Nickelodeon on the map. It was the best thing ever. The most fun was working with a team of people who came to the studio everyday to play TV. We never argued, we just had the times of our lives from Sept of 1986 until sometime in 1994. We are all still friends today. The most challenging part were the adults when we did Family Double Dare. Especially the prime time version on The FOX Network. People forget we kicked off Saturday nights back in the day. All the kids wanted to do was get messy. The prizes were irrelevant. But parents would lose it on the obstacle course if they didn’t win the car. I have stories!
The show would definitely work today. We did a 30th Anniversary special on Nickelodeon that had phenomenal ratings. I cannot for the life of me figure out why they don’t reboot us on TV Land or Nick at Nite. With all the nostalgia, Will and Grace, Roseanne, Murphy Brown, we would fit right in. Everybody wants it. It would be huge!
I "Double Dare" you to start a social media campaign towards VIACOM and Nickelodeon to bring us back!
More on Marc:
Marc Summers is the quintessential multi-hyphenate entertainer. Perhaps best known for putting Nickelodeon on the map as host of the breakout hit Double Dare, Marc continues to expand his horizons.
As host of the longest running show on Food Network, Unwrapped, Marc is also Executive Producer of such mainstays as Restaurant Impossible and Dinner Impossible. But, wait, there’s more! After jumping back into the theatre world a few years back, he played "Vince Fontaine" in Grease at Surflight Theater and "King Herod" in Jesus Christ Superstar in Chicago. This led to his one-man show, Everything In It’s Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, which was performed at Bloomington Playwrights Project and The Adirondack Theater Festival. A behind-the-scenes documentary based on these performances, titled On Your Marc, premiered in theaters nationwide this Fall.
From starting his career as a professional magician at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, to appearing with Oprah, on The Tonight Show and with Howard Stern, Marc Summers refuses to be defined as a one dimensional artist in the world of entertainment.
More on Drew:
Drew Gasparini is committed to forging a new sound in the intersection between theatre and pop, and to nurturing the next generation of artists. Named one of Playbill.com’s “Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know,” Drew is currently developing a number of new stage musicals including an adaptation of the film Night Shift for Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, an adaptation of the film It's Kind of a Funny Story for the live theatre division of Universal Pictures, and an adaptation of the Newberry Award-winning children’s book The Whipping Boy (the latter two titles with bookwriter Alex Brightman). He also wrote music for Everything in its Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers, a one-man-show by Brightman that premiered at Bloomington Playwrights Project in April 2016. Drew was a contributing composer for "Hit List" on the NBC television series SMASH, and his unique brand of musical theatre concerts have been performed to sold-out houses at esteemed venues from NY to London, ranging in size from Feinstein’s/54 Below to The Kennedy Center. Drew can often be found sharing the stage with his talented sisters, Kasie and Chloe, performing their signature brand of folk pop as Saint Adeline; with his teacher Louis Sacco performing re-interpretations of jazz standards as “Louis & Drew”; or with his three best friends—Broadway’s Alex Brightman, F. Michael Haynie, and Andrew Kober—performing obscene comedy as The (M)orons.
An educator at heart, Drew has taught master classes for students around the world. He is signed with Razor & Tie Music Publishing, his sheet music is available for purchase at www.NewMusicalTheatre.com, and his albums are available on iTunes.