The New York Times offers a wonderful look inside the life of veteran musical theater performer Terri White, star of the new Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow which opened last night at the St. James Theater in New York City.
White, who belts out the show stopping number "Necessity" that will no doubt earn her a Tony nomination next year, knows the meaning of the word first hand and brings life experience to her robust performance after a year of living in New York City parks before landing her current gig.
From The New York Times:
In the summer of 2008, Ms. White, 61, could not make rent. She was evicted from her apartment of 14 years, after a breakup with a longtime girlfriend. She could not work. She also could not find a way to ask for help. For three months, when she was not crashing on a friend’s couch, she slept in Washington Square Park.
To avoid the police, Ms. White usually alternated sleeping for an hour with walking for an hour, which is what she was doing when she ran into Officer David Taylor on Grove Street at 4 a.m. one day last fall. Officer Taylor had come to know Ms. White when he was patrolling the West Village. He admired her energy, and, off-duty, came to see her perform. He had never seen her looking like she did on Grove Street. “She is usually someone who lifts your energy if you’re feeling down,” he said. “That night she looked soulless. I was concerned for her — scared.”
Officer Taylor made a few phone calls. A friend in Jersey City had a place with a basement apartment no one was using. Ms. White moved in the next day, rent-free. She got herself back into the mental shape to take advantage of opportunities that came her way. An old friend in the Florida Keys invited her to perform at her nightclub, and another friend bought her a plane ticket.
In Florida, she met Donna Barnett, a stately 62-year-old jewelry designer — and, like Ms. White, a cigarette fiend, a fan of road trips and musicals and Maker’s Mark. The two fell in love, and moved in together.
So, now, almost a year to the day after she last slept on a bench, Ms. White is back on Broadway, in a play she first performed in as a child, at the St. James Theater. On Sunday, she and Ms. Barnett are having a commitment ceremony at the St. James.
Talk about coming full circle and overcoming adversity. Congratulations to Terri & Donna!
Get into Terri White's performance of "Necessity" here.