Broadway interview

Why Spamalot’s Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer loves to play the Broadway diva

The Daily Beast

November 24, 2023

“Spamalot” star Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer talks about her journey to Broadway stardom, the diva on stage and within, Tonys, depression—and writing a play about Ghislaine Maxwell.

In real time, you can see on the faces of her fellow cast members in Monty Python’s Spamalot (St. James Theatre, booking to April 28, 2024) that they, like the audience, are hearing some of Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer’s riffs for the first time. It is taking every ounce of their actorly strength to stay in character, and not laugh.

In the meta-world of Spamalot on Broadway—a show that is also about putting on a show—The Lady of the Lake is a diva both as character and portrayer, with the physical and vocal bearing of a mixture of Celine Dion, Carol Burnett (who Kritzer played in the series finale of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Mariah Carey, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Bette Midler, and Cher. She demolishes high notes and rousing ballads, and she damn well wants you to stand and cheer every note she sings, every head tilt, and every gown. Dressed in shimmering grandeur, she does not just want applause, she expects applause.

Kritzer, a real-life brunette made flaming redhead via lustrous wig, plays both Arthurian legend character, but also—delighting the audience—the demanding, regal, stage-chomping, queen-of-musical-theater who plays her. Why does she have so little stage time, she wants to know. Now!

Every night, as well as her jokes about her body coming care of Ozempic, Kritzer finds something new to say or do to take her scenes over an extremely funny edge. An hour after we spoke, she addressed the audience thus: “In honor of Thanksgiving, l’d like you to put your hands together for the one and only 17-piece Camelot orchestra. That’s right, that’s right. I’ve slept with 15 of them, gobble, gobble, gobble—the other two I’m working on.” (Another night, the punchline was that the remaining two orchestra members were twins, and she was working up to it.)

At another show, the Lady’s portrayer suddenly told the audience that she was a love addict, who had ended up in the M&M’s store elevator with a guy from Indiana in New York for a pharmaceutical convention. “I like the challenge of changing it up all the time, and doing something special for the audience,” Kritzer said.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, the real-life Kritzer, who insisted she was not really a diva (though her husband might disagree with that, she laughed) was sitting in a certainly diva-accented dressing room, overflowing with opening night flowers—from Rhea Perlman, Vanessa Williams, her agent, father, and various friends. She would speak candidly about the long, tough road to get here—how art was her refuge as a kid, her love of laughter and comedy, the knock backs, the work, suffering depression, grieving loved ones, her determination, and coming next, the play she is writing about Ghislaine Maxwell, whose trial she attended.

Unlike many of her colleagues, Kritzer reads the reviews of her shows she appears in. “I figure, they’re out there… I don’t say anything in front of other cast members unless they bring it to me first. I read everything. I always have. I find it interesting. Critics are intelligent people. I’m a writer. I like to read other people’s takes on shows.”

She was mid-performing when the Spamalot reviews were published. As she was touching up her makeup, friends were texting with some of the reviews, and messages like “You did it.” She had never gotten that many messages like that in her career, “so it was very special.”

Kritzer had done other shows where she felt she had nailed the role, but the reviews had not mentioned, or majored on, her performance. She feels “very confident” about her interpretation of the Lady of the Lake.

“But definitely, if I’m going to be bold, I feel like I deserve those reviews, because I have such joy doing this part. I get to do everything I love to do. I feel like I’ve put my own stamp on it. I bow down to Sara Ramírez (who played the role in the original 2005 production, winning that year’s Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Hannah Waddingham (who played the role in London). I adore both of them. I was never going to touch anything they did. I just felt like they’re passing the torch to me.”

Kritzer dreams up the nightly fresh riffs and jokes during the day, often running them by a comedy writer friend. She changes her mind right up to one minute before appearing on stage. “There’s no harness, no safety, I just go for it.”

Kritzer also “gets in the sandbox to throw around ideas” with co-star and “dressing-room buddy” Taran Killam, formerly of Saturday Night Live, a show Kritzer describes as her one-time “dream job that never happened.”

“On stage, I like living on the edge. A lot of people don’t understand that. I also do it with the music, going for “insanely high” notes at certain moments if her voice feels able to. One bunch of flowers is from Kritzer’s longtime voice teacher, the famed Joan Lader, who also worked with Ramírez in the original production, “so she knows the vernacular of the show, and all the tough spots where you could get in trouble.”

“I think you’re born with timing,” Kritzer said of the craft of comedy. “You can learn to hone it, but that inner sense of joy and play you can’t learn. I feel that way watching (Spamalot co-stars) Taran, or Michael Urie or Chris Fitzgerald. They were born with it. You learn how much to hold in a scene, how to get a second or third laugh, they’re such great technicians you watch them in awe, like, ‘I didn’t think of ever saying that line like that.’ When I walk off stage at the end of the second act number they’re there bowing to me. There’s such mutual respect in this building. I feel like one of the group.”

In the current, highly charged moment, Kritzer, who is Jewish, said that the cast was nervous that the song “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway (if You Don’t Have Any Jews)” would offend people. “And, at the end of the day, it doesn’t. It’s a song about celebrating Jewish culture, and Jewish people’s contributions to Broadway. That’s been wonderful to experience with the audience, and for Jewish people specifically. I would love to live in a world where we have peace, and be humans. My family feels many different ways. For me, I am thinking of all the children on both sides. My heart just breaks for all these children in the middle of this mess they didn’t create. I think of them and pray for them.”

Kritzer hopes the show is the best kind of escapism. “In the world we are living in, to be able to give people a place to come laugh for two hours or so, to go back to that pure place, before having to go back to the real world—just to laugh—we all hope the show can help people.”

Is Kritzer anything like the Lady of the Lake, or the fictional actress she also plays playing her? “She’s fun to play. I’m a pretty strong woman in real life. I feel like I have met a lot of older actors who are quintessential divas. They’re not bad. But you go into this business and you get tossed around a bit and it roughs you up. I come from a place of vulnerability. We all want to be important. When you do a show you ask yourself, ‘Am I doing enough? When the review comes out, will it say I was underused or wasted, or the critic says, ‘I wish I heard more from her.’ Every actor hates those.

“I love playing the Lady of the Lake, but she’s not really me. You can really act out this thing you are not in real life. I would never act like that in real life. I channel the woman inside me that wishes she could be like that. In reality I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” She laughed. “I’m a classic Gemini. I don’t want people not to like me. With this person, I get to live out the fantasy of not giving a flying ass what anyone thinks about me. The entire world revolves around me. I have the best costumes, the best wig.

“I feel a million bucks when I get dressed, and when I put it on I am a different person. I can do anything. I feel confident. I’m there, and I can ride the wave of energy for the night. Some nights she is more self-deprecating, sometimes she’s wacked. I see where it takes me. It is the most fun part I have ever played—and, within certain parameters, I decide what I want to do. I look amazing, say awesome things, but it’s still not enough for her!”

The real electricity and fuel comes from the audience, Kritzer says. She and her co-actors can work as hard as they like in the rehearsal room, and find whatever they find funny, but performing for an audience is the key to figuring out how to make more subtle or bigger the character and certain moments. When recently one woman in the second row kept laughing when Kritzer’s character had told the audience to stop laughing, Kritzer milked the moment for more laughs, until the moment “you know you have to get out of there and on with the show.”

At the first preview she got a standing ovation for her big number (a moment her character seeks more applause), which, for Kritzer, made her think of the rapturous reception Judy Garland received at Carnegie Hall.

“You can’t cry, that’s not the moment” Kritzer said. “But that wall of energy goes right into your body. It’s an amazing experience that happens never, or so very rarely, you’re not expecting it. It’s incredible, and the trick is never to expect it again.” She laughed. “When it didn’t happen the next night, I was like ‘Ahh, OK.’ So whenever it does happen it’s cool.”

Spamalot is a male-dominated show, which was strange at first for Kritzer “only because I am the kind of person who likes to be on stage with other people. I’m not used to being the only female principal. Usually I’m the supporting female, or there are two or three of us. This is first time where it’s been ‘Wow, it’s really just me.’ I’m alone at lot on stage. When I’m out there it’s sink or swim, you do feel like you’re on an island by yourself. It requires confidence. It is very much a boys’ show, but they’re like my brothers. I feel like their sister, I feel very supported by them, and we hang out together offstage. We’re a real ensemble.”


“Look, it’s time. I’ve earned it”

There’s a certain irony that in playing a diva who’s seen it all, who is owning the stage, and being the star, echoes with Kritzer; the pre-pandemic hit of Beetlejuice certainly got her noticed, but this is her first lead Broadway role, a true breakthrough. Her Spamalot character jokes about Tony Award nominations, fame, and recognition—and this role has finally brought the possibility of all to Kritzer herself.

Parts of her are definitely me,” Kritzer said. “I haven’t been replaced by Britney Spears and Lea Michele, but I haven’t been the first choice a lot. I haven’t been nominated for a Tony award, and I have been around a long time, and have had dreams of that for a very long time. I really do understand that, and I play those things as real as possible without being over the top.”

Getting the role was unexpected for Kritzer. She imagined the Lady of the Lake to be taller; she was used to playing the sidekick, “the funny one on the side. 24 years into my career to get this attention, which I did not expect, is a moment of recognition.”

She laughed. “And I am owning it too. For opening night, I thought, ‘I’m going to wear a killer dress, and look my best ever.’ Look, it’s time. I’ve earned it. If I get a Tony nomination for this it would be an honor. I love being part of this community. It’s all I wanted to do ever since I was a kid. It’s really special at this age and time of my life, and it feels right on time. This is my time. I say that in a way that I’ve had a lot of success and a lot of luck in my life, and right now feel I can actually enjoy and appreciate more than I did before.” A Tony nomination would be “nice, but it’s not necessary to make me happy. I love my job. I will be happy with or without it.”

ritzer paused, smile momentarily evaporated. “There was a time with a show whose name I will not mention, when I was in my early 30’s, when a producer told my agent, ‘We think it’s past her time.’ That stung. That was rough. It was a very big part in a very big show. It didn’t happen eventually, but when I was told that I wanted to quit.

“How do you tell a person in their early 30’s that it’s ‘past her time’? Not long after, I was dropped by my agency, maybe because I wasn’t making them enough money, but that was a low point. I thought, ‘Maybe this is a sign that I am done.’ Many of us in this industry have stories like that, someone who told you ‘You’re not enough,’ but it was rough.

But the moment of feeling like quitting soon lifted. “Then I got angry. I was like, ‘You know what? You’re not going to tell me when I’m done. I’ll say when I’m done. Fuck you. No way. I’m not going to let you take away my joy of what I do. Maybe it is past my time to be in this big Broadway show that would have made me a star, but maybe I’m meant to do a couple of shows off-Broadway and whatever play. My time will come again.’”

Kritzer, now in her 40’s, laughed. “And this part (the Lady in the Lake), by the way, is so much better because I really get to be me. It took me a long time to get over that moment—the show that got away, whatever. I held on to it for so long. But that feeing went away and here we are. I put all my eggs into that basket years ago, and nothing. And this show came from no eggs, no basket. I got a call about doing Spamalot at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (in May this year), thought, ‘Oh, that looks like a nice group of people,’ and now I’m on Broadway! People from the community who have known me for a long time have been saying ‘Yes, finally.’ They know all the work I have done to get here. We all want the moment, prizes, great reviews—but it’s the way the wind blows. Really, for me, it’s my dream to work with the best people.”

Kritzer would like to use any new-found power and influence to develop more work as a writer and producer. “Don’t get me wrong, making money is nice. I like it. But I really want to collaborate with the best people on the best things—if that continues even more because of being in this show, that’s great.”


“The arts saved me”

Kritzer was born in Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in downtown Manhattan. Her mother, Luz Rodriguez Kritzer, was from the Bronx; her dad Robert Kritzer from Brooklyn. She has three siblings: an older brother and sister, Erik and Lori, from her father’s first marriage, and a younger sister, Lauren, from her parents’ marriage. She grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, the family moving to Livingston, NJ, when she was 5.

“I was a ham,” she recalled. Her dad would take her to the diner, where customers would coo over her. “Even in pictures I just had that joy about me. I always liked to entertain people.”

She attended the same high school as Chelsea Handler—two years between them—although they didn’t know each other. “I always wanted to meet her to say we should write a TV show about high school.”

The young Kritzer was very serious about music; she began studying classical piano at 7. Her dad, “a Jewish accountant,” was also a musician who played the clarinet and saxophone on the wedding band circuit. Classical music became “a major part” of her life, with a teacher, Carmela Cecere, who taught her “everything I know about music. Chopin was my favorite to play. She said to me, ‘There are no words on the page, only notes, and that is where the story is.’” Kritzer laughed. “I was really good at music, but not at practicing.”

While her piano studies seemed to point to a possible future Kritzer also had “the comedy gene and acting thing, so I knew piano wasn’t for me forever.”

Growing up, humor was “all around.” Kritzer’s father was funny, the whole family was, she said. “Jewish humor has a cadence. There’s always a set-up, always a punchline. I was always acting out characters with my dad. We were living in the golden age of sitcom television. I grew up watching Three’s Company, All in the Family, Roseanne. Plus, it was the golden age of Saturday Night Live, and stand-up comedians like Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Lily Tomlin. The influence of Christopher Guest didn’t come till later. I loved it all, and I learned from watching it.”

Kritzer had a “hard time” at school; always having to work harder than her peers, it took her longer than others to learn to read. She had friends, but went through periods where it was more difficult to make them.

“The arts saved me,” Kritzer said—her music and school plays. At 16, she studied classical voice with the mezzo soprano Jane Bunnell. Around this time her parents divorced, “a very difficult time. You just try to survive it. You’re dealing with an adult situation but you’re still just a kid. I didn’t want to go home a lot. I wanted to be at other friends’ parents’ houses. I wanted to be doing theater. I felt safe and happy when doing art.”

Her teachers were important mentors, particularly her 7th grade teacher, Jackie Washack, who was “the first person to tell me I had something.” She and a group of other teachers in middle and high school come to see Kritzer in all her shows, reminding her of those times when she didn’t want to go home. “I had forgotten how difficult it was,” Krtizer said. “They have stuck with me all this time. They see me. I couldn’t have done it without them.” Honoring their importance in her life, Kritzer tries to be a mentor for any young person seeking the same from her.

Kritzer graduated from high school “by the skin of my teeth,” her senior year such a mess she wrote a show called Beautiful Disaster about it. “I even got a cease-and-desist letter from my ex-boyfriend of the time. I talked about him in the show and used his yearbook picture. Now I’d love to do it at Joe’s Pub.”

Kritzer’s friends went to college “at Cornell and Michigan, but that route wasn’t what I was meant to do.” She didn’t want to study vocal performance either, having no intention of becoming an opera singer or teacher. Part of her wanted to go to Los Angeles, join the legendary Groundlings theatre company, and try to become a comic. But family life had made her exit from high school “chaotic, and she also craved structure and so chose a school for musical theater—the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

There, Kritzer’s class was full of kids who had all been “the stars of their high schools, and I was this scrappy Jersey girl, ‘Whassupp?’ I took it pretty seriously. It was a hard four years of school. I wouldn’t change it for anything—it prepared me. It helped me zone in on what I love doing. After college I hit the ground running. I still wanted to do comedy, still wanted to go to LA and try out for the Groundlings, but I still didn’t have the confidence to drop it all and go out there.” Kritzer herself has tried stand-up, “but it’s a very specific skill, and I’m better at character comedy from a character-based place. I can do stand-up, it’s fun, but it’s not my favorite thing.”

SNL remained Kritzer’s dream, but she also took whatever job came along—there were bills to pay. She made a tape for the show in 2008. “They loved it, but I didn’t get further than that. But I have gotten to work with a couple of people from the show, like Taran, so have been able to scratch the itch a little bit.” Maybe her Spamalot success will land her there finally, I say. “I feel too old to be on the show. Now I want to create and do my own work, and surround myself with the best people.”

Kritzer is a big fan of Olivia Colman. “If I could play her friend or housekeeper in a movie I’d be happy,” she said laughing, adding she respects her for the variety of roles she executes with such skill. Kritzer’s own foundational roles included Harvey Fierstein-John Bucchino musical A Catered Affair (2008). “I always say working with (director) John Doyle was my grad school. I didn’t go to NYU or Yale to get a master’s degree in acting, but I got to work with John Doyle. He allowed me to be as small and subtle as possible for someone who had done big comedic roles. That was the moment I thought, ‘I’m really an actor.’”

On Broadway she appeared in Hairspray and Legally Blonde. In The Robber Bridegroom (2016), she played the wacked-out character of Salome, with director Alex Timbers letting her “fly and do my thing.” She was nominated for a Lucille Lortel award for the role, and the comedy was so physical she has residual shoulder and knee problems to this day. Beetlejuice on Broadway (2019), in which she played Delia and Miss Argentina was “fun but hard” Not only did it hit big with audiences and critics, she and the rest of the cast watched it blossom into “something none of us expected” over a two-year journey-to-Broadway period. Then the pandemic hit, and the show—like all the others—was shuttered. She returned to the role in 2022.


“Everything is timing”

Kritzer’s mom died of frontotemporal disorder, sometimes called frontotemporal dementia, the day before technical rehearsals began for Spamalot’s run at the Kennedy Center earlier this year.

“For me, it was a chapter had ended, and it was time to move on,” Kritzer said. “It had been a long illness. It was a relief when it happened. I stepped into this company, and they embraced me. And I closed that chapter of my life because it was a long, very painful one. Everything is timing. Life happens, and people say you have to accept life on life’s terms—so life will bring you something and take it away. I feel so lucky she’s at peace, and now I’m free, moving forward, to do a show without worry.”

Her father is still alive, 83 years old, remarried, and was “overwhelmed and full of pride” to attend the Broadway opening night of Spamalot. For Kritzer it reminded her of her grandfather Abe, who worked for Broadway producer Morris Gest, and of her father being a musician. “He said to me, ‘Do you remember how bad you were at practicing?’ I said, ‘Well I turned out pretty OK.’ I feel so grateful, even if I have had some losses.”

Another one of those losses was the death in September of her much-loved friend and colleague Michael McGrath, who played Patsy in the original Broadway production of Spamalot in 2005 (earning McGrath a Tony nomination).

Kritzer worked with McGrath three times, most memorably in a production of The Honeymooners (based on the classic sitcom) at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2017, playing husband and wife Ralph and Alice Kramden.

“He was so excited for me to do Spamalot, Kritzer said. “I said to him, ‘Mike, what do I do? I don’t understand this part. I’m kind of all over the place.’ He said, ‘You know what to do. You’ll be perfect. I’m so excited for you.’ I loved working out things with him. I was happy for him to take the lead. I made my feelings clear, but I trusted him so much and felt so taken care of.

“I always say I fell in love with Mike McGrath every night doing The Honeymooners, because you couldn’t help but fall in love with him. That’s the man he was, that’s how everyone feels about Mike. He would make me break no stage all the time. Now Chris Fitzgerald (who plays Patsy in this production) does—on purpose, and I love it. I feel Mike’s presence always. I watch Chris on stage every night, and it makes me cry. We both put Mike in the last line of our bios in the show’s Playbill. We didn’t know we had until we saw them. Mike, I hope, would be so proud and thrilled. His spirit is around.”

Kritzer rose from her chair and showed me the black corset the Lady of the Lake wears in her big second act song under a gold robe. It is the original costume Marin Mazzie (who died in 2018) wore in the 2005 production, as revealed by a label with her name on its inside alongside another label signaling the 2023 production. “It’s lovely to wear this piece of her…Broadway royalty,” Kritzer said softly.

On her dressing room table is a pen portrait of another titan: Carol Burnett, who Kritzer played—and beautifully sang the 11 o’clock number, “Shy” from the musical Once Upon a Mattress—in the final episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. (Burnett originated the role of Princess Winnifred in the original Broadway production of the show in 1959.)

The portrait of Burnett—who turned 90 to much warm fanfare earlier this year—that Kritzer cherishes comes with a quote of Burnett’s: “I’ve always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that didn’t work out, that’s when I really learned.”

Scooping the Maisel role was a “dream come true,” said Kritzer. “Apparently Carol liked it. I would love to meet her, and would love her to see this show. I met her in passing in Tom Wopat’s dressing room when I was doing Catered Affair, but that was a dramatic show. She wouldn’t have known I could have made anyone laugh. If she saw me in Spamalot that would be another dream come true.”

People have said to Kritzer she should play Winnifred if Mattress is revived again. “I think, ‘Yeah, but I’d rather play someone new, or play Carol!” Other dream roles include Terry in Side Man—“Edie Falco blew my mind in that”—should it ever be revived. Kritzer has also written a play based on her attendance of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial. The trial of Maxwell, who in 2022 was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sex trafficking minor girls for Jeffrey Epstein, fascinated Kritzer—both in process and in all the characters (journalists, who she has “the most pronounced respect for—how you guys get the story and meet deadlines,” lawyers, “and cool people, shady people”) she got to know.

Kritzer doesn’t know if she would play Maxwell in the play itself, but noted how “court is like theater. Every day was like a roller-coaster there, and it was female-centric. It was all about women. No men were held accountable. I made friends with lawyers and experts to get to understand what I was watching.”

Kritzer was struck by how Maxwell walked into court every day, accompanied by two female marshals, “regal, head high, sort of sashaying with what looked like not a care in the world, blowing kisses to her sister. You can only imagine how these young girls got sucked in by someone like her, so charming and beautiful. You could see it. Even though now she had a bad haircut, and was in black pants and sweaters, the way she carried herself and her voice said it all. Before she was sentenced, we finally heard it—it was a soft and beautiful accent. You could hear a pin drop when she spoke.”

Does Kritzer think justice was served? “I think so. The only thing I wish was that more men would be held accountable—and other women too. Now, slowly, certain other people are being held accountable. At least some of the survivors got some justice—not all, but some.”


“It reminds you you’re not the center of the world”

Kritzer has been married to husband, musical director Vadim Feichtner, since 2013. The couple recently moved back to Hudson Heights in upper Manhattan from South Orange, NJ. “I was like, I need to be back here, I don’t want to be commuting any more. I want to be able to hop on a subway, and get the best Thai food. South Orange was wonderful, cool and artsy, but after 10 years in the suburbs I needed to hear more conversations and have a change. I love being back. Now I can be at MoMA in 25 minutes.”

The couple had moved to New Jersey after almost 15 years in New York, and it felt like “the time to go, it was time for a house, garden, dog, yard. And then I was like, ‘I don’t have children.’ So we decided to come back. If we hate it, we can always move back to New Jersey, or buy a house upstate like everyone else.”

Kritzer has thought about having children, “but it didn’t become a priority enough, so I figured it wasn’t meant to be. I love kids, my husband loves kids, but we sort of made the choice we kind of liked our lives as is. I will say if I ever had the opportunity to adopt and it was the right situation I would totally do it. For me, I believe in timing and things happening organically, and this is how our lives turned out. If there was a child in need and we could adopt and it felt like the right thing to do, I would.”

Kritzer and Feichtner have worked together several times, and it’s a “lot of fun” to have a partner who works in the same industry even if it’s “on the other side of the table.”

“We enjoy living a full life,” said Kritzer. “He’s very smart—way smarter and better-read than me. I’ve learned a lot from him. He always says, ‘There are many different Leslies. I never know which one I’m going to get.’”

Kritzer laughed. “He would probably say the diva in Spamalot is closer to me than I’m probably admitting. There are other, different sides of me. When empathetic me sees people in pain and suffering I take it on. I feel it very deeply. I can also be ferocious, and can get very angry and impassioned if I feel something is being done wrongly, or someone is being wronged. A neighbor of ours in New Jersey left their dog outside on a hot day, and I left them a nasty note about how they could have done that. I don’t like it when people can’t fend for themselves, or animals are being mistreated.

“Then there’s a shady side of me, a critical side, and a loving, totally childlike side, and then a depressed and sad side. I’ve battled depression my whole life, on and off, for many years. But I think it’s also been an asset. Having access to feeling that much feels dangerous, but it has been a blessing in so many ways. I’m able to use it, understand it, and understand other people and why they do things. Part of being an actor is to understand humanity.”

Kritzer said a lot of people in theater and show business she knew had also battled depression. “It’s not a stable industry. ‘Do you like me, do you not?’ ‘Am I good enough?’ Now I know how to keep it in perspective and channel it into good. I have done a lot of work, and many different kinds of therapies, to stay centered. I have a sense of gratitude now. You look around the room and realize how much you have.

“Outside the theater on the corner are people with children who have nothing waiting to get a room for the night. I realize I have nothing to complain about. People are suffering all over the world, so if, by doing the show, I can make someone happy, then great. Or by giving whoever needs it $10, or a backpack. Or being there for a friend who needs to talk. The biggest lesson of my 40’s has been to get out of my own head, to think of other people—not just myself. That is so healing. It reminds you you’re not the center of the world.”

“If I can do something in the moment, I will,” Kritzer said. “That is sort of how I try to live my life”—she laughed at herself—“even though I’m playing a self-absorbed diva on Broadway in a dressing room full of flowers!”

Kritzer had to get ready, and warm up her voice, for that evening’s 7 o’clock show.

The critical plaudits, and nightly applause and standing ovations certainly make a resounding mockery of the producer who said she was over in her early 30’s.

“He is still alive and he knows who he is,” Kritzer said, and laughed. She recalled Rue McClanahan’s acceptance speech when she won an Emmy in 1987 for her role as Blanche Devereaux in The Golden Girls, in which she talked of the agents who said she wouldn’t work on TV because she wasn’t photogenic. Trying to cheer her up, McClanahan said her mother had told her that, “Every kick’s a boost.”

Kritzer recalled, “Rue McClanahan said, ‘There have been a lot of kicks and there have been a lot of boosts. I’m not going to mention the people who gave me the kicks, but you know who you are—and you’ll be in the book.’ It’s one of best acceptance speeches of an awards show ever. It’s so, so classy and so cool. If I ever won a Tony, or something like that, I don’t think I will be as cool as her but”—Kritzer smiled the wicked grin of The Lady of the Lake—“man, I wish I could.”