Faith Prince & Jason Graae: a perfectly delightful duet

Mar 22

He says he’s been a fan of hers since he was a child. She says he makes her pee.

Quips fly fast and furious when talking to Jason Graae and Faith Prince, especially when they’re talking about each other. Graae and Prince are the latest double act on the circuit, and it’s about time. Seriously. These two have known and loved each other for years, ever since they met in college at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Faith & JasonAnd oh, yes, there’s that infamous homecoming date and late-night chili surprise. But more on that in a minute.

Graae is the celebrated singer/actor/comedian who most recently brought his Jerry Herman tribute, Perfect Hermany, to the Rrazz Room last spring. And Prince is the Tony-winning Broadway star of Guys and Dolls, Little Me, A Catered Affair (among others) and last summer’s national tour of Billy Elliot, which had an abbreviated stop at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre last fall.

Now bosom buddies Prince and Graae and hitting the road together in The Prince and the Showboy (and there’s a long subtitle with their names and awards attached, see the info box below), coming to the Rrrazz Room this weekend (March 25-27) for three performances only.

The idea for teaming up was actually hatched here in San Francisco, thanks to 42nd Street Moon. The company’s annual songwriter salon feted Jerry Herman this year, and Graae and Klea Blackhurst were slated to headline the show. Blakchurst had to pull out because she got another gig (“I had a dream…”), so Prince, who lives just up the road in Sacramento, filled in.

Graae explains: “When news of our show hit Playbill.com, we got a call from a synagogue in Westchester. ‘Oh, you have a show together? Great!’ And they essentially hired us.”

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So Graae and his college pal had a show to put together, and while they were at it, they decided to hit the road together. But what about an act? They already had “Bosom Buddies” from the 42nd Street Moon show. “We’ll just do that one song over and over again,” Graae jokes. But seriously folks, they’re working with musical director Alex Rybeck on putting together a combustible evening of duets and solos.

Of course it will be brilliant – you don’t expect any less from these two. But will they reveal their romantic history? Just in case they don’t, let’s travel back a few years to Cincinnati (let’s just say they were in college a few years ago). She was a junior. He transferred in as a sophomore. Both were working toward a BFA in musical theater. She was friendly resident assistant, and he was living in the dorms.

“I asked him to go to the homecoming dance,” Prince recalls. “He was really funny and charming and very good. He was fun.”

Neither remembers much about the dance itself, but afterward, Graae says Prince invited him to one of her favorite little Italian restaurants. She said it was called something like Schalina. Turned out she was taking him to a hole-in-the-wall chili restaurant called Skyline Chili (who knew Cincinnati proclaimed itself to be the chili capitol of the world?).

“We had chili five ways, which includes spaghetti noodles, cinnamon, onions, beans, cheese. You name it,” Graae says. “That was Faith’s little joke on me, but I loved the chili, and we had a great night.”

It wasn’t a love match in the traditional sense, but it was a love match of sorts.

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“Jason evokes in me what he evoked in me then,” Prince says. “My heart always gets lighter when I’m around him. He’s a fun person to be with. He makes me smile and makes me howl with laughter. He also has incredible depth and has done well with life. It’s invigorating to be around somebody like that.”

Here’s Graae’s end of the mutual fan club: “She’s a powerhouse, and I’m thrilled to be performing with her. Should be combustible and exhausting for the audience, I should think. I always look forward just to being in the same room with her. She’s an incredible actress. I’m blown away by how focused she is, how economical with movements and comedy. Just so smart. She can get any laugh she wants, of course, but then she can sing a ballad and rip your heart out.”

Graae, though he’s a mighty funny man, can do exactly the same thing. “Jason and I both like to do the pathos and the humor,” Prince says. “I think we really complement each other, and we have the same sense of humor. It’s wacky, but it’s grounded in truth. We both have enough edge that it’s not gooey. It’s not from anger or harshness. It’s not bitter.”

The set list is still being developed, but Graae and Prince may even pull out some material from the post-college shows they did together in New York, Living Color (which originally had the much more interesting name of The Texas Chainsaw Manicurist) and Olympus on My Mind.

Who knows, they may even re-live their early days and treat the audience to a bowl of 5-way chili.

And, by the way, Prince is serious when she says Graae makes her laugh so hard she tinkles. “I may have to invest a little in Depends.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Prince and the Showboy: An evening with Tony Award-Winner Faith Prince and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle/Ovation Award-Winner Jason Graae runs March 25-27 at the Rrazz Room in the Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco. Tickets are $40 plus a two-drink minimum. Call 800-380-3095 or visit www.therrazzroom.com.

Faith Prince photo credit above: Joseph Marzullo/Wenn.com

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