She broke her foot, and Sweet Charity's been limping, but Christina Applegate keeps on hoofing.
Thu Apr 28 2005
Illustration by Rob Kelly
Christina Applegate isn't your everyday celebrity. She didn't have to go through an ugly divorce or get arrested for shoplifting to garner a slew of unwanted attention. She simply broke her foot.
As the star of Broadway's troubled Sweet Charity, Applegate has proved that she is more than just another edition of stunt casting, as concocted by producers Barry and Fran Weissler—at least offstage. After Applegate was injured in Chicago on March 11, Charlotte d'Amboise took over the lead during its Boston run. The critics, though appreciative of D'Amboise, were less enthusiastic about the production itself. The Weisslers decided to close the show for good.
But Applegate, 33, who's best known for her role as bimbo Kelly Bundy on Married...With Children, convinced the Weisslers to reconsider; on May 4, Charity opens officially at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre with Applegate in the lead. Before a recent rehearsal, Applegate, fatigued but not disillusioned, discussed her bumpy journey to Broadway.
How did you break your right foot?
I was wearing these horrible shoes that two seconds before, I had said, "I hate these shoes. I'm not going to wear these shoes in the show anymore." I walked onstage, stepped up onto the base of a lamppost, and just went like this [She demonstrates by turning the outside edge of her left foot.]. No one even noticed.
I read that you continued for another 20 minutes.
I didn't know what else to do! A cast member said that I dug my nails into his arm. I don't really remember doing it, but at that point I had just looked down at my foot and saw my bone sticking out.
Did you go straight to the hospital?
Yes. My first question was "When can I get back in the show?" And they weren't very positive. I thought, I'm not talking to you people anymore. You're 25, and you're telling me how I'm going to heal?
What did you say to convince Barry Weissler to reopen the show?
[Laughs] Without going into too much detail, I basically explained what it had done for me personally, on a spiritual level and a creative level. I talked about the cast. For some reason, it struck a chord.
It was reported that you raised most of the necessary $1.5 million to remount the show in New York—
Then tell me what happened.
The Weisslers and their partners had their own money. If I could have raised that, I would have run off to the Bahamas.
Is it true that you wouldn't accept a pay cut?
Well, we didn't need to. It wasn't really discussed. Of course, I would still get what I was making. I did sacrifice other things that I can't discuss in order to make things easier on all of us.
What do you like about Charlotte's portrayal and what do you do differently?
We're so completely different. Charlotte is so much more graceful and sophisticated than I am. There's a lot of life lived there, and that has nothing to do with age. She's got something that I really wish I had: a worldly feeling. I'm a bit more on the vulnerable side. I'm much more of a spaz.
How did you feel when you saw the star-is-born story about Charlotte in The New York Times?
I didn't read it. I hear things from people, but I don't read about the show. I just can't. It's not the reality. I've been very much a part of this process. Anybody can say whatever they want, but I know what's really going on.
Is there a difference between working in Los Angeles and in New York?
Well, the one thing I've noticed is that there's a lot more catty gossip here. The problem is that people in L.A. are just too PC; everyone's trying to come across as a saint. Maybe it's just because I am in the middle of a public drama. [Laughs] Maybe it would be a different situation if I hadn't broken my foot. But I love New York. In a way, I prefer being here. I needed a break. In L.A., you live in a state of disappointment; every once in a while you have a victory. But doing this show, every night has been a victory.
How have you prepared yourself for bad reviews and another closing?
Haven't we already gotten them? I really don't care. With the exception of maybe two matinees, we've gotten standing ovations and screaming and love, and that's it—that's the moment.
But standing ovations are totally automatic nowadays.
[Exasperated] Well, then they just stand. But it felt pretty amazing to us. I don't care. They're laughing when they're supposed to laugh, they're screaming and applauding for numbers when they're supposed to be. I've had a lot of bad reviews in my life, but I'm still kicking.