Sibling directors Kathleen and Rob Marshall help each other
May. 01, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — When you're a respected, Tony-winning director and choreographer, who do you turn to for a second opinion? If you're Kathleen Marshall, you go to your older brother, Rob.
The Marshall siblings have had a creative one-two punch on stage and screen, separately creating the Broadway hits "Anything Goes" and "Cabaret" and movies including "Into the Woods" and "Memoirs of a Geisha."
As children, they auditioned for their first musical together and, years later, he hired her for her first Broadway job. They still confide in each other.
"To have somebody whose taste you trust and whose opinion you value and who you know is only rooting for you, is amazing," said Kathleen Marshall.
That feeling goes both ways: "I feel very fortunate to have somebody who I care about so much who also has an amazing eye, who can help see things that I can't see," said Rob Marshall.
His films have earned 26 Oscar nominations, winning nine. She has won three Tonys; he has been nominated for six. She has one Emmy nomination; he has won four.
On Monday, the New York Pops will honor the Marshalls with a concert at Carnegie Hall featuring Queen Latifah, Laura Benanti, Alan Cumming, Sutton Foster, Victor Garber, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth and Kelli O'Hara.
Rob Marshall, 54, said he's "humbled and lucky" to be honored. His sister tried to duck the limelight. "I think, in this case, I'm Robbie's plus-one," she joked.
If there's anything that binds the two Marshalls it's their respect and passion for classic American musicals, the kinds by Cole Porter, Kander & Ebb and Leonard Bernstein.
"I think we have similar taste not only in the shows we like to see but the shows we like to do," said Kathleen, 52. "We find the same things funny. We find the same things moving. I think we both like things that have style and flair and energy but that don't veer toward camp."
Her brother agrees, saying he doesn't gravitate toward shows that lampoon or mock musicals, like the irreverent "The Book of Mormon" or "Spamalot."
"There's certainly room for that. I'm just not a fan of that because I truly believe that it can be a very moving and real and true experience. I know that Kathleen and I both feel that way," he said.
She often is attracted to comedy ("Kiss Me, Kate" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It") and he sometimes takes a darker route ("Kiss of the Spider Woman" and the film "Chicago").
Both credit their parents — professors with doctorates in education and medieval literature — for exposing them to all the arts, including opera, theater, ballet and symphony while growing up in Pittsburgh.
The three Marshall children — Rob and twin sister Maura are two years older than Kathleen — all made their musical theater debuts at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. They auditioned together for roles in the 1973 production of "The Sound of Music."
They showed up with no formal training. Their headshots were just Polaroids they'd taken in the backyard and they shared the sheet music for their audition song "Edelweiss." They all got parts.
After college, Kathleen and Rob began climbing the rungs of musical theater — going from the ensemble to dance captains to assistant choreographers to choreographers to directors.
"In a way, choreography is an apprenticeship art," she said, pointing to Bob Fosse helping Graciela Daniele, who helped her brother, who helped her. Kathleen has, in turn, helped Rob Ashford and Marc Bruni.
Kathleen was touring as a dancer in "Cats" in 1993 when Rob called to invite her to Toronto to work on "Kiss of a Spider Woman" with Chita Rivera. It was to become his first job as a choreographer on Broadway. Her first was few years later with "Swinging on a Star."
Since then, the siblings have branched out. He's now a film director with the massive "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise on his resume. She recently directed her first nonmusical on Broadway, "Living on Love," which will close over the weekend.
Her next gig is the musical "Ever After," which starts performances at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey later in May starring Christine Ebersole.
Audiences won't know it, but several of Rob's suggestions have already been incorporated. "To have somebody who has your back in that way is amazing," she said.