Onstage & Backstage: Who Was Almost the Original Audrey in Little Shop?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Who Was Almost the Original Audrey in Little Shop?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, the cast of Disaster! went live with Obsessed! at BroadwayCon, and we learned how Ellen Greene almost wasn't the original Audrey!
The <i>Disaster!</i> panel
The Disaster! panel Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Well, BroadwayCon was super fun! I did a live Obsessed! with members from Disaster! and the whole thing was filmed! Since it hasn't been edited yet, here are some highlights for ya:

Faith Prince talked about doing her first show, Scrambled Feet which I saw when I was a kid and loved! It was a hilarious review with so many funny songs and scenes, similar to Forbidden Broadway. One of the songs I remember loving was about theatre party ladies who always see a matineé and love to crinkle cellophane. Instead of taking out candy and unwrapping it, they each took out a giant sheet of cellophane and shook it in the air. Hi-lar! Anyhoo, Faith got cast in Boston version of the show. There was one song in it about never sharing a stage with children or animals. She had to perform it with a real live duck. For reals! On her opening night, she went to do the moment where the duck runs away and she picks it up. Instead, the duck went underneath her dress and bit her on the thigh!!! She reached under and pushed it away from her and the duck flew off the stage. With its wings spread out to its full six foot span. She was mortified after the show and when she found out the producer was there, she was certain she would be fired. Well, like a bad sitcom, he came to her dressing room afterwards and instead of firing her, told her it was the funniest thing he'd ever seen…and asked her if she could do the same thing every night! Brava! Here's the film version of Scrambled Feet with Madeline Kahn doing the duck song. 

Faith also talked about being cast in the original Little Shop of Horrors. Turns out, she got the role of Audrey for the very first production at the WPA theater. Unfortunately, she was contracted to do an IBM industrial. An industrial is one of those shows where you're flown to a fun location and perform for all the workers in one particular company. Usually, you do song parodies that are about that company. I did one for Rite-Aid (with Hunter Bell) and one of the scenes/songs we did was about RAPTOR, which was some acronym about how to serve the public…it stood for something like Respect, Attention, Prompt etc. Anyhoo, Hunter and I had to do a sketch based on Everybody Loves Raymond called Everybody loves RAPTOR and he was Ray Romano and I played the Doris Roberts part. Anybody? Let's move on.

My point is, Faith got the role of Audrey but in order to do it, she had to get out of her IBM gig. She went to the big boss of IBM and literally got on her knees, begging him to release her from the gig. No dice. Her contract specifically stated she could only be released for a TV or Broadway show. So, she did the two week IBM gig and the wonderful Ellen Greene got the role of Audrey (and the film version as well!). Faith said she remembered doing a show at Goodspead after that and there was a Hirschfeld drawing of Ellen in a New York Times spread on Little Shop. Everyone was whispering that they should hide it from Faith. However, she had a great attitude and told everyone not to worry…and that it was Ellen's time and she deserved it. I asked Faith if that was her take on the situation now, or if she was really was so "at peace" when she was going through it. She looked at me and said "Well, my name is 'Faith.'" Brava! Faith also feels that if she had originated that role, she never would have been cast as Adelaide (because they're so similar) for which she won her Tony Award. She wound up being the first replacement for the role and played it a lot. I asked her if we could recreate the big duet and here's a video of us doing it! 

 

Seth Rudetsky and Faith Prince SLAYING "Suddenly Seymour" ��

Posted by Matthew Hayes Hunter on Sunday, January 24, 2016

It was very fun talking to Max Crumm who was at the event in a jeans and big striped scarf. Instead of admitting he didn't dress up, he told everyone that he was dressed as Mark from Rent. He then told the audience he actually was Mark because in Disaster! he plays Adam Pascal's best friend! I showed a clip of Max sounding amazing on the song "You're The One That I Want" from Grease when he was starring on Broadway opposite Laura Osnes. Afterwards, he revealted that he had a migraine that morning they filmed and right before he performed, they had put him in a dark closet (!). Watch his version of performing with a migraine! Amazing!

 

We had rehearsal on Saturday and ran the entire show before the powers-that-be decided to send us home because of the blizzard. Right after that, Broadway canceled all shows. Well, Paul Castree is in Disaster! with me and we were laughing remembering doing Grease back in the 90s. There was a giant blizzard and Broadway canceled all shows…except for Grease! That's right, our producers decided to keep the show open and we were the only show that played. Boy, was it packed that night! A few months later, we did the Easter Bonnet Competition and performed "The Telephone Hour" from Bye Bye Birdie with different lyrics. When we got to the part that normal goes:

"When you gotta go 
Then you gotta go!"

We sang:

"Twenty feet of snow
We still had a show!"

The crowd loved it! Around a year later, I got hired by Rosie O'Donnell to write song parodies for her TV show. Rosie comes to all of those Broadway Cares shows and after I began working for her, she told me that my hilarious lyric about "twenty feet of snow" got me the gig. I was too mortified/terrified to tell her that those lyrics… were written by Paul!!!! Turns out, he should have had that job for all those years? Single White Female?

Anyhoo, tune in tomorrow for the next installment of my regular Disaster! diaries. And here's a little tip o' the hat to Paul Castree featuring something else he wrote that I somehow got credit for!

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