“I’m the one who instigated the pizza and wine,” director Casey Hushion admits to Playbill.com by phone from the “cast party” for Nerds, the Broadway-bound new musical that was canceled a few weeks shy of its April 1 start date at the Longacre Theatre.
She refers to the selfie shared on social media shortly after the news was announced March 8 that the production lost a major investor and would not bow in the 2015-16 Broadway season. Though rehearsal for Nerds came to an abrupt halt, all Hushion (who was to make her directorial debut with the production) could do for her company was offer pizza, wine and a shoulder to cry on.
She told the company of Nerds, “We just need to be together and process this news and let people cry or let everyone feel how they’re going to feel.” She says, “It was important that we stayed together, and everyone kind of called their loved ones and regrouped, but we spent a good couple of hours together just talking about it and processing it and sharing it as a team.
“We kind of looked at each other after a lot of wine and pizza and said, ‘God, I can’t imagine not getting up and coming to work together tomorrow.’ Then I said, ‘Well, listen…’ The crazy part is we [had] never run the show; we hadn’t even run an act. We just finished staging the final number in the show yesterday, and we said, ‘What if we just met tomorrow? We still have the studio. Why don’t we meet at 10:30? At 11 o’clock, let’s run the show.’ People had different pages [of the script], there were numbers we hadn’t touched in like six days. We were so not ready to do it, but we said, ‘Let’s just start at the beginning and go to the end, and let’s invite loved ones and your family and friends and people who love you and just want to support you, so we can just show the people we love what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks together.’
“Every cast member, every crew member, everyone was just like, ‘Yes, let’s do it,’ and it couldn’t have been more special than today. It’s definitely a moment I will never forget as long as I live.”
Hushion describes the day as a “miracle.” The cast and creative team were unsure how to proceed—and whether or not they’d let the press or the public know that the show would “go on” (if only for a day) despite yesterday’s news. However, Hushion wants the world to know that although they will be unable to see Nerds come to life on Broadway, the company found joy in the process.
“I feel like you have two choices in these kind of moments,” she explains. “You can go towards the bitterness and the grieving of it, which is natural, but you can also go the other way and celebrate the work that’s been done so far and choose to put all that love back out into the community, and that’s who this company is. That’s who everybody around the show is. They were all just wanting to do the show for each other and for all of us. It was so special.”
The announcement that Nerds would open on Broadway in April came late in the theatrical season. In mid-January, producers Carl Levin (Rock of Ages), Vicki Halmos, Elizabeth Williams (Waiting for Godot, Crazy For You) and Greenleaf Productions announced the show would take the Longacre, and auditions were held shortly thereafter. Hushion says that the team became very close very fast due to hitting the fast-track to Broadway. The creative team had “long days” and “epic meetings” to design the show in time for the Tony eligibility cutoff date.
As for their March 9 performance, “I couldn’t get over what a miracle it was that the cast pulled it together and that they were off book and they didn’t stop,” says Hushion. “They really just went for it, and the room was so full of laugher, and it was received so incredibly well. As affirming as that was, it almost makes it heartbreaking again to see how well-received it was and how people responded to it, but there was something so satisfying in the doing of it—even in the rehearsal room just for us, just to say that we did it—and it was about the people in that room who had been creating it. It felt so satisfying and so joyful. There were some tears, but it was really about the joy of what we had done together over the past few weeks.”
Although yesterday’s announcement said that the show had been “postponed,” Hushion doesn't know the status of a future Broadway life for Nerds.
“I don’t know,” she admits. “To be honest, we all haven’t really been able to think past the immediate at the moment. We’re kind of processing the not-doing of it, and I don’t really know what the future plans are and what the thinking is behind that now, but as of yesterday and today, we’re kind of taking care of each other and trying to rally as a company and heal people and keep each other laughing and moving forward.”
She says that the Nerds company has received an outpouring of love from the Broadway community.
“For everyone who wants to say, ‘This business is hard and cruel,’ what you also see is what a loving and supportive community it is when the chips are down. Seeing that, on everyone’s behalf… The people who showed up today and stood up and clapped for ten minutes—that was such a beautiful display of support that you carry with you.”
To her cast, Hushion said, “Let’s show that kind of integrity and spirit that we’ve had all along. We’ll have our pizza, and we’ll get back to laughing, and we’ll take good care of each other, and we’ll just trust that the next opportunity is the right one.”