On the Scene: 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Private Practice' sing live!

Ramirez_lI don’t really watch Grey’s Anatomy all that much, and I’ve never seen a single minute of Private Practice. But after spending a night watching their respective casts belt out some Stephen Sondheim, Billie Holiday, Paul Simon and Woody Guthrie on stage at UCLA’s Royce Hall, I’m kinda shocked creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes hasn’t cranked out at least one musical episode for each of her shows. I know I’d be the first to tune in, at least.

The crooning was for a benefit aiding the Grey’s and Private Practice crew members who’ve felt the financial pinch during the writers’ strike. (The night’s title, naturally, was "Good Medicine.") And it was clearly a passion project; I was told the casts and their backing musicians had rehearsed over two days before the Feb. 29 show, and goodness did the hard work pay off in a fizzy and fun evening.

After the jump, I’ll walk through the highlights from the show, including which actor showed off some surprising chops on the harmonica and which two stars didn’t make it onto the stage.

addCredit(“Sara Ramirez: Bob D’Amico”)

First of all, Sara Ramirez (pictured) — a Tony winner for Spamalot— can transform even the most obscure songs into powerhouse Broadwayshow-stoppers. (Anyone heard of "Meadowlark" or "Grateful," Ramirez’sopening and closing numbers? ‘Cause even my friend who scored ourtickets, a regular music encyclopedia, didn’t so much know from them.)Ramirez was so powerful, I actually kinda felt bad for the rest of theperformers; T.R. Knight started his number by warning the audience that"it’s been about 13 years since I’ve done something like this — and I’mfollowing Sara Ramirez." (Looking crazy-sharp in a tux, Knight stillsomehow managed to marry George O’Malley and Stephen Sondheim with hishigh-strung medley of "Losing My Mind" and "You Could Drive a PersonCrazy.") Even virtuoso four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald couldn’t really top Ramirez, though the Private Practice star did give her Grey’s Anatomycolleague a run for her money in the arcane song choice department —McDonald didn’t even sing the two songs listed in the program.

Everyone else, though, steered clear of the show tunes. ChandraWilson did a jazzy groove on "God Bless the Child." Though he does asolid James Brown impersonation, James Pickens Jr. can’t sing, soinstead his wife, Gina Taylor-Pickens, brought some simmering sexualspark to "Dr. Feelgood." (The Aretha version, not the Mötley Crüeversion. Just to be clear.) I don’t remember much about LorettaDevine’s "I Believe In You and Me," because I spent too much timemesmerized by her dress, an animal-print creation that had about 11different things happening with it at once.

The Private Practice crew, McDonald aside, went morerock-and-roll. Paul Adelstein fulfilled his middle-aged white guyfantasy by strapping on an electric guitar and strumming out aneasy-going version of "Slip Slidin’ Away," and later taking to thepiano to back cast-mates Tim Daly, Chris Lowell and Amy Brenneman on"California Stars." The real California star of that cast, though, isLowell, who sang lead vocals in a jaunty pork-pie hat, broke out someserious harmonica skills, and left my friend rather twitterpated. Okay,me too.

In between these numbers, the less musically inclined actors — yourEllen Pompeos, your Eric Danes, your Justin Chamberses, your KatherineHeigls — introduced the performers, read paeans to their crews, andperformed readings of fan mail and, more hilariously, fan fiction. (Myfavorite: Sandra Oh’s Dr. Cristina Yang calmly diagnosing a patientas… a werewolf.) Only Patrick Dempsey (off in Japan promoting Enchanted) and Kate Walsh (off in Australia promoting Private Practice) didn’t show in person — they both taped video hellos instead.

The evening’s emotional high point came courtesy folk-rocker PattyGriffin, who was listed in the program only as a "Special MysteryMusical Guest." Rhimes introduced her by explaining the Martin LutherKing, Jr. tribute Griffin was about to sing, "Up To The Mountain," alsoplayed on the last aired episode of Grey’s from this season.(It also happens to be one of my absolute favorite songs.) And, indeed,Griffin didn’t disappoint. Her pure and plaintive voice had such quietpower, in fact, that it got me thinking. It is surely a great andgenerous thing to help out co-workers undermined by a strike,especially when the contract that came out of the work-stoppage affectsthat crew in no way whatsoever. I just hope that all these talentedpeople might do this sort of concert again, but this time their talentswould help causes with a slightly wider scope than the people who makethem look good on TV.

Comments (20 total)
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  • AH

    Meadowlark is a fairly well known song, I thought. The Baker’s Wife, which it came from, tanked but the song is a Patti LuPone staple. Tis a gorgeous song.

  • step

    I would kill to hear Sara’s rendition of Meadowlark, I bet she knocked it out of the park..

  • mscisluv

    Sara Ramirez is a true talent – but she looks like she’s been using a fake spray tan in that picture…

  • Anonymous

    what about taye diggs?

  • NineDaves

    Audra not being able to outsing Sara? Really? I’m kind of shocked by that. Sad I missed it though!

  • Laura

    To echo another comment, “Meadlowlark” is from The Baker’s Wife, a show composed by Stephen Schwartz, who is also responsible for Wicked and the lyrics for Enchanted.

  • Nick

    I think the difference is that Sara is a belter and Audra is an operatic soprano, which are both outstanding in their own right. It is just a different style. I would listen to both of them sing the phone book (in their own style, of course)

  • PinkPhantom

    You forgot to mention Brooke Smith and Loretta Devine isn’t even a regular on “Grey’s Anatomy”.

  • Michelle

    Loretta Devine just did a great song number on “Eli Stone” the other night.
    Wish I could have caught the show..would have been great!

  • mscisluv

    Oh yeah…what about Taye Diggs? He’s a regular on Private Practice and a former Broadway star (he originated the role of Benny in Rent). They couldn’t get him to perform?

  • Elaine St. George

    “Grateful” is not from a show, but just about everyone sings it. It was written by John Bucchino, whose first musical, “A Catered Affair,” is about to premiere on Broadway.

  • Gina

    StePHen Sondheim. Come on now. ;)
    And I’d love to hear T.R.’s take one those two. They are two of my MANY Sondheim favorites.
    Hopefully these will be up on YouTube or somewhere…

  • soulman

    Sara Ramirez was so freakin’ hilarious in Spamalot, so it’s weird to see her understated and, well, humorless in Grey’s Anatomy.

  • Vlada

    Chris Lowell sings and plays harmonica in a band called Two Shots for Poe. Google them and you’ll come across more harmonica riffs and even a short tour doc in which Chris gets arrested and has his shoelaces taken away. :)

  • skye

    all her episode titles are song names

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