ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Adam Pascal, Prop Drops and Stokes

By Seth Rudetsky
08 Oct 2007

He talked about doing Aida and how terrifying it was when the set broke. At the end of the show, he and Heather Headley were inside a "tomb" that was lifted pretty high above the stage. Suddenly it fell three feet . . . then it fell all the way to the stage! He and Heather tumbled out and someone literally yelled, "Is there a doctor in the house." Adam said he remembers looking up as a confident man bounded up to the stage saying, "I'm a dermatologist." Whoever yelled for the doctor should have been more specific. He and Heather were rushed to the hospital, and Adam also remembers that one of the orderlies gave Heather his number. So I guess it all worked out.

I also got to interview Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Chatterbox. He calls himself the "luckiest man in show business." His first minute in L.A. he got "Roots: The Next Generation." Then, while doing a play in Los Angeles, the producer and producer's wife of "Trapper John: MD" were in the audience, and that's pretty much how he got that part. Although his luck ran out during his first foray onto Broadway. First, he did the short-lived Mail, then he did Oh, Kay! which was David Merrick's last show. He said that Merrick had a stroke before Oh, Kay! began rehearsals, but he was still very present at rehearsals. Stokes remembers singing a song onstage with Tamara Tunie and hearing Merrick yelling in the audience. Of course, he and Tamara thought it was something about them, but turns out, Merrick was raging because he noticed that one of the drapes on the set had a wrinkle. Merrick closed the show because he was going through a divorce, and if the show was closed for seven weeks, his wife wouldn't get any cut of the box office. Merrick then re-opened the show, but Stokes bowed out after he heard his new co-star was Rae Dawn Chong, who, let's just say, was not musical theatre royalty.

Stokes and I met when I was the rehearsal pianist for Kiss of the Spider Woman, and he took over for Valentin. He said that he learned how to lead a company from Chita Rivera, who knew everybody's name at the theatre. Speaking of names, I asked him about "Stokes." When I met him, he was Brian Mitchell…what up? He said that during Ragtime he began to research names and how certain names had power. The best is a one syllable beginning and last (like Tom Cruise). He felt that the scan of Brian Mitchell was clanky and was going to change it to something totally different…but then decided that all he had to do was add his middle name. I was fascinated til he said that Seth Rudetsky was a good name. All I can say is, try making a collect phone call with that clunker.

His upcoming Carnegie Hall concert for The Actors Fund (Oct. 15) is almost sold-out and sounds fabulous! It will feature an enormous 40-piece orchestra and non-stop guest stars including Reba McEntire and Heather Headley, who's singing "Wheels of a Dream" with him. FYI, Heather was Audra's original understudy in the Toronto company of Ragtime.

I'm excited that Sara Lazarus (saralazarus@comcast.net) is starting her amazing audition class again, but both my boyfriend and I want to take her Wednesday morning class. It's one thing to go to the gym with my boyfriend, but I don't know if I feel comfortable having my rendition of "She Loves Me" dissected in front of him.

The most exciting news is: This Thursday is opening night!!!! Next week I'll give you all the scoop…Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals, and he can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com. His first novel, "Broadway Nights," is due in the fall.)