For most of us, “Grease” stands in our memory as an iconic movie musical, one that’s launched a million karaoke singalongs of “Summer Lovin’.” You might think the actress Stockard Channing, who played Rizzo in the film, would have the same kind of affection for the movie — but does she? “Not at all,” Channing admitted on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast.
She’s only seen the movie twice, once at the premiere and once at a 20th anniversary screening. For her, it has nowhere near the prominence in her own life as if probably does in the hearts of many musical lovers. “It was a summer job,” she said. “I needed the gig.”
Channing, who’s played a number memorable of roles over her career including First Lady Abbey Bartlet in “The West Wing” and Ouisa in “Six Degrees of Separation,” is now back onstage in the Roundabout Theater Company’s Off Broadway run of “Apologia.” She plays a whipsmart art historian and activist whose recently released memoir makes for an uncomfortable family dinner.
In the play, her character confronts two sons who feel she abandoned them in their youth. “In this world where mothers are blamed for being helicopter mothers, the irony here is that [my character] is the opposite of a helicopter mother,” Channing said. “And you just can’t win! I think basically mothers just can’t win.”
On Stagecraft, Channing also touched on her memories of working on “The West Wing,” recalled that she never expected to become a professional actress and revealed why she stopped reading reviews after her first Broadway show: “I was the ingenue and I got this horrible review from [critic] John Simon saying I was the only ingenue on Broadway with a double chin!” she recalled. “It was very hurtful. So I totally stopped reading them.”
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