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Christine Baranski opened up about performing with Meryl Streep and Audra McDonald during the Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration when she visited The Late Show on Tuesday.
The trio sang “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company. They wore bathrobes and drank wine and cocktails during the virtual event in late April.
Baranski admitted that she was surprised by how positively the performance was received. “We actually had a Zoom call between the three of us and we said, ‘Do we really want to do this? I mean, this could end our careers,'” she said. “We knew we were going way out on a limb because we would be singing in the company of so many of the truly great Broadway performing artists.”
The actress said that the collaboration was inspired by a dinner that the trio shared with Sondheim last year. “We all adore him,” she said. “After this marvelous dinner at an Italian restaurant, we kind of vowed that we would do it again at some point sooner rather than later.”
When Sondheim celebrated his 90th birthday in March, Baranski emailed him to make plans for another dinner that she suspected would take place over Skype.
Baranski was later contacted to perform in the special. “I’ve always wanted to sing ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ and Company was the first musical I ever saw when I got to New York in 1970, and it was the 50th anniversary of Company,” she explained of the song choice.
“Within a millisecond I thought, ‘Wait a minute. What if Meryl and Audra and I do it? The three of us will share the song and I’ll start it out and everybody will think, “Oh, of course Christine’s gonna sing that song. She’s always playing these sophisticated, witty drunken types,” she said, explaining that Streep sang the second stanza and McDonald came in for the third.
“It took some doing because we couldn’t hear each other,” she said of recording the song on Zoom. “We were doing it in our selective caves.”
Baranski, who is currently living with her grandchildren during the coronavirus pandemic, said that she could only work on the performance when they were asleep. “So at 8 o’clock, Grandma’s down here in the office with several bottles of red wine, which were my props,” she explained. “I had to do multiple takes of a song that requires you to open up vocally in something of an alcoholic rage.”
After reenacting some of her louder moments from the song, Baranski said she thought that she had “traumatized” her grandchildren. “The next morning, the aforementioned 4-year-old says to me at breakfast, ‘I never want to hear that song again,'” she recalled.
Baranski also spoke about how the pandemic could impact the filming of her CBS All Access series The Good Fight.
Many showrunners have weighed in on whether or not to incorporate the pandemic into future storylines. The Good Fight’s Robert and Michelle King said that being seen as “just doing what everybody else is doing” was a concern for them. “What seems likely is that regardless of when we broadcast, people are still going to experience the economic aftermath, so my expectation is that we’ll at least touch on that,” Michelle King previously said. “I don’t know that it’s going to be a front-burner, ‘A’ story, but the characters, like everyone else, are going to be feeling what an economic downturn feels like.”
“We will all have to acknowledge that this gigantic thing has happened,” Baranski said on the CBS late night show.
“The only upside of this is that the actresses get to wear face masks and we’ll only have to make up the top half of our faces,” she joked.
Baranski continued to joke about positive aspects of filming after the pandemic, adding that actors won’t have to memorize their lines. “You can just do it in ADR,” she said of the looping sessions.
“All I know is the Kings know how to write this show as contemporaneous as any show,” she said.
Watch Baranski’s full appearance below.
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