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

Ramirez_l

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.

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.

Originally posted March 3 2008 — 6:38 PM EST

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