True Stories From the Les Misérables Audition Room

Seth Rudetsky   True Stories From the Les Misérables Audition Room
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares tales from the auditions for replacements during Les Miz and announces his next guests for his Town Hall series and his annual Voice for the Voiceless concert.
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Les Misérables Michael Le Power Trench

Attention NYC! It’s two weeks until December 2 and my Seth Rudetsky Series comes back to The Town Hall in NYC! My first concert will star will me, Megan Hilty, and Jessie Mueller. Hilarious interviews, tons of solos and never-before-sung-live duets between Megan and Jessie!

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Speaking of duets, here’s me and Megan together.

And here’s Jessie Mueller’s soulful and beautiful version of “Both Sides Now” at our event supporting foster care, Voices For The Voiceless.

Come see us! Tickets here!

Speaking of Voice For The Voiceless, we’re doing it again, and this time it’s the 25th anniversary of You Gotta Believe, the only NYC organization that helps older foster youth find families. If not, these youth age out of the system and 50 percent become homeless or go to jail. You Gotta Believe does such amazing work and we just cast our benefit; this year we’re going to have Emmy and Tony Award winner Laurie Metcalf, who adopted out of foster care, and Tony Award winner (and lady always there to help out) Kelli O’Hara!

Here’s so Kelli (and Renee Fleming) for the Holiday season!

Get tickets to Voice for the Voiceless here.

Speaking of NYC, I’m escaping the cold this week by flying to L.A.! Ha, ha suckers! But before I get sun damage, I would like to recount last week’s Seth Speaks when I had some super-fun guests! First, I had my British pal, Andy Nyman, who just played Tevye opposite Judy Kuhn in the Trevor Nunn-directed Fiddler On The Roof. He was just nominated for an Evening Standard Award! But what’s even cooler is he has Ghost Stories running on the West End, which he co-wrote, and he has Derren Brown: Secret, which he also co-wrote, running on Broadway. Yass, Queen (of England)!

Speaking of the U.K., there’s a show called Scotland, PA at the Roundabout, which is a musical version of Macbeth that takes place in 1970s Pennsylvania. I had one of the hilarious stars, Megan Lawrence, visit me at SiriusXM, as well. We talked about college and how she went to Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. The fact that musical theatre was all she was studying all day and all night was too much for her. It was making her hate what she loved! She complained all freshman year and then, at the very beginning of her sophomore year, she called her parents and said she wanted to leave school. Her mom, who believed everyone should go to college came to pick her up and drive her back to Baltimore for 10-hour ride home in silence. Megan eventually started doing children’s theatre in her hometown with another future Tony nominee…Andy Karl! They put on great productions, however, the shows were often early in the morning and she remembers belting high E’s at 10 AM and seeing children watching intently…with their hands over their ears. Thank you for your honesty?

Megan Lawrence
Megan Lawrence Joseph Marzullo/WENN

By the way, that’s a catchprase of mine and Paul Castree’s. Our friend was trying out for Tommy Tune’s Grease and his 8x10 had a pose like he was leaning on his fist. But, for some reason, his fist was almost over his ear. Why was it there? He wasn’t leaning on it. No one knew. So, at this audition, Tommy looked at his photo and said, “This is the worst headshot I’ve ever seen.” To which our friend replied, all smiles and bizarrely staying positive, “Thank you for your honesty.” And Paul and I have been saying it for the last 25 years.

So, speaking of Grease, Megan wound up trying out for and getting cast in the national tour! She did it with Adrian Zmed as Danny, Sutton Foster as Sandy, and Marissa Jaret Winokur as Jan. I did the show on Broadway, and Megan and I were commiserating about the non-stop put-in rehearsals. If you don’t know, when someone new joins a show, there’s a run-through where the new person is “put in” to the show. Well, the show was kept running by celebrities coming into the show—usually for short periods of time so there were non-stop put-ins.

When I did it, off the top of my head we put in Maureen McCormick, Tracy Nelson, MacKenzie Phillips, Debby Boone, Linda Blair, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Holliday, Al Jarreau, Joe Piscopo, Cousin Brucie, Chubby Checker, Donny Most, Micky Dolenz, Dominique Dawes, Jo Anne Worley, Dody Goodman, and Sheena Easton. (That’s just who I can remember right this minute.) I played piano for 90 percent of those put-ins.

By the way, Megan said that MacKenzie Phillips was the only Rizzo to smoke real cigarettes during the show. Brava method acting? Anyhoo, Megan left after six months and, a few years later, she came to visit Marissa in NYC. Marissa told her she was going to audition for Les Miz and asked Megan if she’d come along. So, they were both waiting to go in and Ron LaRosa came out and told everyone to not use their 16 bars, just to showcase their amazing high notes. It was too much relentless belting all afternoon. Megan figured that everyone heard Ron but thought, “Totally get it. But that doesn’t apply to me.” But, right before she sang, she decided to not do her high note (the last 16 bars of “Mem’ry”) and instead to sing the mellow and earnest “Sleepy Man,” which Patti LuPone sang in The Robber Bridegroom.

Well, immediately the music director was beaming and told her that was the first New York show he did and everyone else loved it, as well! Now, those of you who have read my column know that you never ask your friend to come along to your audition...because your friend always becomes Leroy from Fame.

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Megan Lawrence Marc J. Franklin and Nathan Skethway

Yes, Megan got a callback and, in the longstanding Leroy tradition, Marissa did not. Megan, however, did not know how high the emotions were at the Broadway Les Miz. The show had been running for years and because most of the cast was on what’s called a “pink contract,” they couldn’t be replaced. The powers-that-be decided to bring in new cast members for the 10-year anniversary and they went about it a horrifying way: I heard the cast members lined up and, one by one, they were given an envelope telling them whether they were being replaced or not! And there were a few who were asked neither to go nor stay…but to re-audition! When Megan got to her callback, she was there with Sarah Uriarte Berry, who had played the role before, Andréa Burns who was up for Cosette, and a woman who had been playing Eponine but was asked to re-audition—this time for Cosette. And Megan said that no one ever wanted to go from the plum role of Eponine to Cosette, so the woman’s emotions were high.

At one point, she started crying and left the room, but Megan and Andréa had no idea what was wrong. Megan said that Andréa was her rock. She was like “OK…clearly something is happening. We have to just remain focused on our auditions.” Megan said that Andréa sounded amazing but wound up not getting Cosette. It went to the former Eponine, and Sarah got Eponine and Megan got the understudy. The show went through a full rehearsal process. But, she said that the creative team was so happy they didn’t have to spend rehearsal time re-writing stuff and figuring out what worked. So, they had lots of extra time…for theater games. They actually did that when the show first came to the USA. Judy Kuhn told me about the initial rehearsals for Les Miz where one day everyone in the cast had to pretend to be their favorite Saturday morning cartoon character. It was mortifying for many, but the theory was that once you’ve done something that embarrasses you in front of your castmates, it’s easier to take risks for the rest of rehearsals. Being mortified in public pays off? Still waiting for this I-neglected-to-wash-my-hair fifth grade photo to pay off.

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Don’t forget about my 20th anniversary Chatterbox coming up on Sunday December 1 at 3 PM. Orfeh, Paige Price, Paul Castree, Kevin Chamberlin, and Roger Bart. Call 212-757-0788 for go to DontTellMamaNYC.com for reservations!

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Here is one of my very first Obsessed! videos with Kevin…ending on a high C!!!! Enjoy and peace out!

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