You Can’t Take It With You Scene-Stealer Julie Halston Says Her Time as a Stripper Opened the Door to Broadway
October 9th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Countless fireworks go off during the acclaimed Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It With You at the Longacre Theatre but the biggest bang and the most color comes from Julie Halston as alcoholic stage actress Gay Wellington. Leave it to the Drama Desk, OCC and Drama League nominated comedian to make such a major impression with a supporting role, but, then again, that’s Halston’s sweet spot.
Halston has been cracking up Broadway audiences with featured roles in the plays Twentieth Century, The Women and The Man Who Came to Dinner and in the musicals Gypsy, Hairspray and Anything Goes.
And who could forget Halston as Mrs. Glicker in Addams Family Values: “Twenty-grand for summer camp and he's Mr. Woo-woo.” Or better yet, let’s talk about her fabulous appearance as Bitsy von Muffling on Sex and the City, the socialite who married the very gay Bobby Fine in a big, big Hamptons wedding.
But Julie Haltson's career really began when she and Charles Busch helped to found the beloved off-Broadway company Theatre-in-Limbo. Together they co-starred in nine off-Broadway productions, including Psycho Beach Party, The Lady in Question, The Divine Sister, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and most recently The Tribute Artist.
Yet it wasn’t Busch that Halston credits for giving her career that game-changing moment, but rather Sam Mendes, Arthur Laurents and the team behind the 2003 revival of Gypsy.
Many performers toil for many years and then there’s this one role and suddenly all of Broadway knows them, but for me it’s been a slow but steady climb. For many, many years I was really known as the downtown diva because of all the work I did with Charles Busch and our off-Broadway theatre company. Jim Carnahan, the casting agent, was a very big supporter of mine and he really helped steer me onto a Broadway stage. In the ‘90s, I was in a couple of Broadway shows in smaller roles, but it all really changed because Jim Carnahan felt I should play one of the strippers in Gypsy. Bernadette Peters was going to star, Sam Mendes was directing and Arthur Laurents gave approval for Miss Electra to also play Miss Cratchitt—it has never been done before in the history of Gypsy, and the fact that Arthur Laurents allowed it to happen was a big turning point for me. That's when people really said, ‘oh that off-Broadway downtown diva is actually a Broadway situation who can do a musical.
I was finally a Broadway baby, and the strippers brought down the house every night; it proved to people I could it. Having come from downtown, it was very moving to be on Broadway. I got teary and worked up every night. There is a difference between Broadway and off-Broadway. Walking into the stage door of a Broadway theatre, I get chills. Every time I ring that buzzer, I’m thrilled. It was a dream and the fact that the dream came true, I never take it for granted. It's the dream of so many and so few get it. I’m very grateful. And, the company of Gypsy are all super good friends still; we get together every year and have a Gypsy reunion.
Then, after Gypsy, I was suddenly seen for musicals (Hairspray, Anything Goes, Mame), and things really did change for me. And it really was all because of Jim Carnahan, my biggest supporter; and he was the casting agent for You Can’t Take It With You, so it all came full circle.
Don’t miss Julie Halston back on the Broadway stage—stopping the show and bringing the laughs—in You Can’t Take It With You at the Longacre Theatre.