Vol. 113 (2022)

Five Questions for Broadway's
Randy Graff



Randy Graff has made her home on Broadway as an award-winning actress and singer. The recipient of the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for City of Angels, as well as nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Tony Award for A Class Act, she has appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, on Original Broadway Cast Albums, on television and in movies.


Her formidable list of credits include: The original Broadway production of Les Miserables, where she created the role of Fantine and for which she received a Helen Hayes Award nomination; Neil Simon's Laughter On the 23rd Floor, opposite Nathan Lane; Hotel Suite for the prestigious Roundabout Theater Company; Starring in the Broadway productions of Falsettos and High Society; Sharing the stage with Carol Burnett in Moon Over Buffalo; and, Co-starring with Alfred Molina in the 2004 revival of Fiddler On The Roof. A graduate of Wagner College, from which she also holds an Honorary Doctorate in Performing Arts, she has served on the musical theatre faculty of Manhattan School of Music and the NYU/TISCH New Studio on Broadway.


Her newest starring role is as Elaine Young, the wife of Buddy Young, Jr., played by Billy Crystal, in the musical comedy, Mr. Saturday Night, that opens on Broadway in the Nederlander Theatre on April 27, 2022.


Stay Thirsty Magazine was honored to visit with Randy Graff at her home in New York City for these Five Questions about her latest role.


STAY THIRSTY: What attracted you to the upcoming Broadway musical comedy, Mr. Saturday Night?

Billy Crystal in Mr. Saturday Night - A New Musical Comedy

RANDY GRAFF: Working with Jason Robert Brown, getting to originate his songs has been on my bucket list, so that’s one. And sharing the stage with Billy Crystal, of course. I have been a fan of his forever and the chance to play opposite him in a new musical, directed by John Rando (my third time working with John) was a no brainer. I have to say that, every once in a while, I look at Billy (who is such a wonderfully generous scene partner) while we’re acting together and have to pinch myself. That’s Harry! I was also a fan of the movie and was curious to see how it translated musically. The writers have all done a terrific job. We did a reading going on three years ago now, way before the pandemic, and it was a great experience. So collaborative, creative and hilarious. I feel so grateful to be a part of it. Our show is a traditional musical comedy filled with laughs, and also quite moving. I feel it’s exactly what audiences need right now. It’s got heart, and that grabbed me from the beginning.



STAY THIRSTY: The movie version of Mr. Saturday Night starred Billy Crystal and David Paymer, who also star in the Broadway adaptation. When you were preparing for the stage role of Elaine Young, Billy Crystal's character's wife, did the movie play any part in your preparation?


RANDY GRAFF: When I saw the movie, I was drawn to the time period. I spent summers in the Catskills with my family until I was 17 years old, so the world of the movie, particularly the Borscht Belt comedians I grew up watching, was so familiar and fun. I didn’t study the film to prepare for Elaine. I watched it once for inspiration. I should mention that David Paymer and I started out in the theatre together. We were both in the original Grease back in 1979. Working with David after all these years has been so sweet.



STAY THIRSTY: How did you go about envisioning yourself as the wife of an aging stand-up comedian whose time in the spotlight had passed?


RANDY GRAFF: The question I kept coming back to is how does she put up with him? He is challenging in his obsession with his career. He has deeply hurt the relationships with his daughter and his brother. Elaine is true and loyal, has stood by his side through all the ups and downs, but also knows how to give tough love. The challenge for me as an actor is finding the balance where I give in to his needs, even at the expense of neglecting my daughter, and standing up to him. I like her conflict, and the thing that keeps her in the marriage is her absolute love for him and belief in his talent. As far as the sadness and frustration that comes with a career whose time in the spotlight has passed … well, that’s something we all think about as actors whenever we’ve been out of work for a really long time. The pandemic has crystallized that for many of us.

Randy Graff

STAY THIRSTY: The score for this musical was composed by Tony-winner Jason Robert Brown with lyrics by Amanda Green. What are the steps you go through to feel comfortable with a new score and a new cast?


RANDY GRAFF: Jason and Amanda have written a wonderful score and I couldn’t wait to dive into it. I always learn my music first because I want to respectfully sing what is on the page. Then as the acting takes over, you may change a few little rhythms or bend a few notes here and there. Jason is very understanding of the process and the actor’s expression. He loves it actually and encourages it. It’s why he wants you in the room. Amanda is also open to your feedback lyrically when it comes from the character’s point of view. There was a moment when we were out of town at Barrington Stage working on the show where one lyric didn’t feel like Elaine. I approached her about it, and she agreed to change it. It’s been the most collaborative collaboration I have ever been a part of. It’s been wonderful. This is an intimate cast of eight. An insanely talented and terrific group of people. Getting to know them and work with them has been easy because we are all pros dedicated to the work. There are no divas, no big egos to contend with. It’s heaven. We all just want to continue to make the show better.



STAY THIRSTY: How did the COVID pandemic affect you and your career? Do you see Broadway working its way back to a more normal existence?


RANDY GRAFF: Well, I was lucky concerning being an actor in the middle of a pandemic. I had left acting for a while and went into full time teaching at Manhattan School of Music. So, I had a good job. On Zoom … but I was working and doing what I love – teaching musical theatre. As far as Broadway coming back to normal, I sure hope so. I have a feeling it will, but I don’t know when. Until then, I’m happy and grateful that audiences love live theatre and miss it enough to wear a mask for three hours sometimes!



Randy Graff    


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.