Dan Murphy doesn't just adore musicals; he's like a character in a musical. His life is a showbiz success story: Broadway Rose, the Tigard musical theater company that he co-founded with his wife, artistic director Sharon Maroney, has been in business for 29 years. And his vocabulary wouldn't be out of place in a G-rated song-and-dance spectacular (he's fond of words like "flippin'" and "pickle").
So you can imagine how surreal it was for Murphy, Broadway Rose's managing director, to have to shut the company's doors due to COVID-19.
"For 40 years, I've been working nights and weekends, mostly doing shows or managing here," he says. "I have so much free time that I'm not used to it."
Murphy isn't wasting that time. He's been hosting Midday Cabaret, a YouTube show filled with songs and behind-the-scenes reminiscences by Broadway Rose stars. It's his way of staying in sync with the world of musical theater, which has been a part of his life ever since childhood—he grew up playing characters like General Bullmoose in Li'l Abner and Albert in Bye Bye Birdie.
"Nothing beats live performance, which is why we do it live," Murphy says of Midday Cabaret. "Mistakes happen. And it does kind of fill the void, a little bit."
COVID-19 struck when Broadway Rose was on the cusp of a $3 million expansion of its theater, the New Stage, a renovated elementary school cafetorium. In the wake of the pandemic, Murphy put his ambitions for the company's future on hold and started coming to the New Stage every Wednesday for virtual chats with cast and crew members of the company's past plays, including The Addams Family, Cats, Hairspray and Once.
Midday Cabaret reveals a scrappier side of Broadway Rose, which is known for its slick productions (according to Murphy, its 2017 version of Mamma Mia! cost $300,000 to produce, including royalties). Murphy conducts the interviews from his computer and doesn't appear to censor his guests—as audiences learned when Addams Family star Amy Jo Halliday revealed that she peed her pants multiple times during a scene in which she would sing and collapse onto a table.
"She had to sing all over the octaves and up and down the scale," Murphy remembers. "She was so exhausted that she'd hit that last note and pee every night on the table. But she would get off the table and she'd leave and she gave kudos to the crew, who never said anything. They'd wipe the table—I mean, it's not like it was a huge amount."
The tales told on Midday Cabaret make you wonder what sort of stories will emerge from a post-pandemic Broadway Rose.
"2021 will be our 30th anniversary," Murphy says. "So it's a little depressing to think about that, because that's a milestone that we were hoping to celebrate."
Murphy hopes Broadway Rose will reopen in October with a yet-to-be-revealed show for a limited in-person audience that would also stream online. Though it's hard to predict whether that hope can become a reality at this point.
Yet Murphy remains buoyant, not least of all when he talks about his most memorable Midday Cabaret guests, like Maria Tucker, who danced on camera to P!nk's version of "A Million Dreams" from The Greatest Showman, and Audrey Voon, whose soulful ukulele performances are among the show's most beautifully heartbreaking highlights.
"Theater can sometimes be a service organization," Murphy says. "We're not changing the world, but maybe we're giving a little respite, a little bit of entertainment, something fresh, something new."
SEE IT: Midday Cabaret streams at broadwayrose.org/at-home-with-broadway-rose at 1 pm Wednesdays. Free.