Project Description

Gilda Radner (Toronto) [Poster]

Friends of Gilda (Toronto)

Stage Manager for a TV special and concert FRIENDS OF GILDA a tribute benefit event to Gilda Radner at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto on September 26, 1992. The benefit performance raised money for research into a cure for ovarian cancer, which tragically took the life of Gilda Radner. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcast the event.

Produced by Marlene Smith.  Directed by Martin Short, Musical Direction by Paul Shaffer, Production Managed by Peter Van Johnson, Stage Managed by Toby Simkin, Lighting Design by Steve Ross and Sound Design by Al Merson.

Starring John Candy, Jayne EastwoodVictor Garber, Marvin Hamlisch, Andrea Martin, Stephen Schwartz, Don Scardino, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy and a long line of other celebrities from Second City and other members of the original cast of Godspell including Valda AviksAvril ChownJerry Salsberg and Rudy Webb.

Other performers appearing in the show include Jim Betts, Karl Blindheim, Valri Bromfield, Beth Anne Cole, Nancy Dolman, Brian Doyle-Murray, Robin Duke, Patty Elsasser, Mary Ann McDonald, Derek McGrath, Carole Pope, Rosemary Radcliffe, Charlene Shipp, Kevan Staples, and Robin White. It included a series of skits from Second City, songs and other performances linked together in a moving tribute supported by Gene Wilder.

Friends of Gilda Radner Toronto CBC TVFriends of Gilda appeared as a 90 minute CBC Television special broadcast on 21 November 1993. The special was directed by Martin Short, who had dated Gilda Radner when they were both in Godspell.  The special included songs from Godspell, backstage footage of the production, several clips from Saturday Night Live, and 4 comedy sketches:

  1. Rehearsal” featured John Candy as an actor unable to remember his lines. Joe Flaherty and Eugene Levy also appeared as actors playing actors in that sketch.
  2. Human Sexual Response” featured Andrea Martin as Dr. Cheryl Kinsey (an allusion to the Kinsey Reports and Alfred Kinsey, their principal author) discussing how to fake an orgasm.
  3. The Defense” featured Dave Thomas and was about a man defending himself for a heinous crime.
  4. Van Kamp’s Beans” is about the funeral of a man who died trying to obtain more beans. The sketch features Jayne Eastwood as “Widow Smedly”, Dave Thomas as “Tony Ipanema”, and Luciano Lutz as a priest.

Gilda Radner

GODSPELL 1972 Toronto program coverBorn June 28, 1946 in Detroit, Michigan, drama major Gilda Radner dropped out of the University of Michigan where she studied theatre and improvisation, but did not graduate and instead moved to Toronto in 1969 (by most accounts, to follow a boyfriend), where she got her professional start in acting after being cast as Gilmer in the now-legendary 1972 production of Godspell, which began previews on May 26, opened on June 1 and with an expectation of running for just a few performances closed August 12, 1973 after 488 performances at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Godspell directed by John-Michael Tebelak also featured future stars Victor Garber (Jesus), Jerry Salsberg (Judas), Valda Aviks (Peggy), Avril Chown (Joanne), Jayne Eastwood (Sonia), Eugene Levy (Herb), Andrea Martin (Robin), Martin Short (Jeffrey) and Rudy Webb (Lamar)

Gilda Radner Jane Curtin Saturday Night LiveGilda Radner joined The Second City Toronto when it opened in 1973. During her time at Second City, she was a part of notorious company during that period including Dan Aykroyd, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, and John Candy. Here, Radner was able to hone her characters, such as “Emily Litella,” whom she brought to Saturday Night Live a couple of years later.

In 1974, she joined the National Lampoon Radio Hour with many of the same players who would go on to Saturday Night Live.

Becoming the very first cast member Lorne Michaels hired for Saturday Night Live, then called NBC’S Saturday Night, she parodied celebrities like Barbara Walters but was best known for her original characters, such as the bumbling commentator Emily Litella and the brash personal advice guru Rosanne Rosannadanna. She won an Emmy for her work on SNL in 1978.

Gene Wilder Gilda RadnerIn 1980, she left the show to begin a film career, falling in love at first sight with Gene Wilder on the set of Hanky Panky in 1982 and marrying him in 1984. She made several more films before her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. Her autobiography, It’s Always Something, was published that year.

Gilda Radner died of stage IV ovarian cancer in Los Angeles on May 20, 1989.

She posthumously won a Grammy in 1990 for “Best Spoken Word or Non-Musical Recording.”

Her legacy lives on.

Gilda Radner (Toronto) [Program] Gilda Radner 1979 photo GODSPELL 1972 Toronto Company 1st Row Gilda Radner Eugene Levy Jayne Eastwood. 2nd Row Gerry Salsberg Andrea Martin Martin Short Rudy Webb. 3rd Row Valda Alviks Avril Chown. Standing Victor Garber Gilda Radner Jane Curtin Saturday Night Live

Eugene Levy reminisced about Gilda Radner:

The first image of Gilda was at the final audition for GODSPELL. We were all there. They’d narrowed it down to about 80 people. I just remember this girl getting up on stage and singing “Zippity Do Dah” as her song. I remember thinking, “Oh, this poor girl. She’s so cute, but what a terrible song!” [laughs] And the entire room by the end of the song just fell in love with her, she was so adorable. We always referred to her as the “Zippity Do Dah” girl in the beginning. She was charming and sweet and loved to laugh. She went out with Martin Short for most of the run, and Marty was my roommate, so we were all hanging out. I just remember her always being up and loving to laugh.
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