Growing up Green “was everything you’d think it would be: thrilling! My parents were friends of all the incredible people on Broadway—Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne, Cy Coleman. Isaac Stern lived next door, and his kids were my great friends. There were great parties, with all those people playing the piano and singing. Sometimes, they’d trot me out to sing at those parties, which I loved.”
She made her stage debut in two of those friends’ West Side Story, playing Maria. “I was nine. I like to think that wasn’t the apex of my career, but you never know.”
Ms. Green found cabaret a perfect place to exercise her twin talents—performing, usually her own material.
“My father came to see me perform a lot, y’know, cabaret evenings like Put a Little Love in Your Mouth! (which is a song sung by a dentist, by the way). He was very proud of me and my songwriting. I would run lyrics by him. He wasn’t very judgmental because he was a very kind person, but, if I made him laugh, that was a strike. I recall once, I played him something I wrote, and I said, ‘Well, it’s really not that great,’ and he was, like, ‘No, it’s not.’ I said, ‘You’re not supposed to tell me the truth.’’’
After his death, Ms. Comden took up the mentoring. “She was like an aunt to me. She was so encouraging and very loyal.”
One thing that ties Ms. Green’s past and present up in a nice neat bow is Keith Carradine, who stars in Hands on a Hard Body and starred in the last Comden-&-Green, The Will Rogers Follies. “I had a crush on Keith as a young child,” she admitted. “I saw him in Nashville and fell in love with him. Then, he was in The Will Rogers Follies—and fantastic in it. Actually, when I wrote the song ‘Used to Be,’ I wrote it with him in mind..
“Keith and I have a great sense of continuity and history. He’d given my dad an opening-night gift for The Will Rogers Follies—a framed picture of Will Rogers, and it said, ‘To Adolph, Love Keith.’ And I had a plaque put over it, and I said, ‘To Keith, Love Amanda,’ with the date on it for our opening night in La Jolla. He cried.”
This is her third try at Mount Broadway, her first without composer Tom Kitt. High Fidelity in 2006 went silent after 13 performances, but Bring It On: The Musical fared much better with 171 performances during the first half of this season.
Five years are the typical gestation period for Broadway musicals these days. High Fidelity, from page to stage, took that long—but its melodies and lyrics have their own mysterious ways of lingering on. In May, Ms. Green and Mr. Kitt will perform a concert of the entire now-cultish score of High Fidelity at 54 Below.
Hands on a Hardbody, likewise, tips the scales at half a decade of hard work, but “it’s grown a lot,” Ms. Green noted. “We’ve done workshops, developmental workshops, a production, a workshop after the production. I see the value in all that because each time you do it, you learn something new. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know it. Doing a production in La Jolla and then leaving it two months—we looked back and said, ‘Why did we put that song second? My God! What were we thinking? It stops the action completely.’ So, you don’t have that clarity of thought.”
A week before we spoke, she and her colleagues wrote a song in the dressing room. “Like an old showbiz story,” she said. It just happened. I found a segment of a lyric that I’d discarded five years before, and I set it. Trey had his guitar, and I started singing, and there you go. We put it in the show two days later. Very Mickey and Judy.”