ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Kristin and Christiane

By Seth Rudetsky
07 Dec 2009

At my Chatterbox on Thursday, I had Christiane Noll, who is fantastic as Mother in Ragtime. She told me that she auditioned for Jekyll and Hyde way before it came to Broadway. After she sang, she went home and got what she called a Mafioso-type phone call from Frank Wildhorn. Christiane picked up the phone and found out she got the job by Frank intoning in a low voice, "Welcome to the family." Scary. Hmm…does Frank also work in "construction"? Luckily, she stayed with it through the out-of-town tryout and then on to Broadway without getting whacked. I've actually known her since the early 90's. I met her at my first big NYC job: playing for Sara Lazarus' amazing audition class. I was two years out of college, and she had just graduated Carnegie-Mellon with many of my friends. She wasn't in the theatre department (she was a voice major) but she was utilized to make the theatre majors nervous. Whenever an actress was "acting up," the powers-that-be would ask Christiane to come sit at rehearsal and take notes. Of course, she never took over the part, but she was used as an intimidation technique. She mentioned that she remembered being asked to come to rehearsal for A Little Night Music at Carengie-Mellon. I asked her if she saw the crazy performance where my friend Jack Plotnick couldn't sing… and she did! Jack was playing Henrik, and he completely lost his voice so the director came up with two (crazy) solutions. During the song "Later," Jack mouthed the words while Billy Porter sang the song backstage into a microphone. The problem was, Billy's microphone wasn't turned on! Jack started moving his lips and the audience heard nothing. So, after a few measures, Jack was forced to "sing" the song AKA speak it in a throaty rasp. Meanwhile, while he was "singing", he, and only he, could hear Billy backstage riffing and sassing it stunningly. Then during "A Weekend in the Country", Ty Taylor (who is a brilliant tenor) sang Jack's solo while walking right behind him. Ty was supposed to represent what was going through Jack's mind. So Jack walked around with a "thinking" expression on his face while Ty belted in back of him. And for those of you that think this kind of thing only happens in colleges, just remember the story I wrote about in this column about Linda Eder. She lost her voice during previews of Jekyll and Hyde. Linda acted all of her scenes, but moved her mouth during all of the songs while the understudy sang it backstage! And, PS, her understudy was Emily Skinner (who also went to Carnegie Mellon). By the way, speaking of Jack, he'll be teaching his amazing acting class here in NYC and also giving a $10 seminar that explains his whole technique! It's a brava. Go to www.JackPlotnick.com for details. And, we'll be hauling out our comedy show Mortification Theater with Tom Lenk (from rock of ages) on Thursday at 6PM at Don't Tell Mama. If you haven't seen us together, here are a few samples.

This week, Julie White and I are co-hosting The Gypsy of the Year Competition. You can get tickets at BroadwayCares.org. I just got an email informing me that I'm sharing a dressing room. Before I could have a diva fit, I read the rest of the email informing me that I'm sharing it with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig! FYI, I may never actually get onstage.

At the end of this week, I'm seeing the Chelsea Symphony Holiday Concert. Every year they do Aaron Dai's "The Night Before Christmas," which was written for narrator and orchestra. It first starred Richard Kind, then Ana Gasteyer, then David Hyde Pierce, and this year the reader is one of my idols… Charles Busch! Here's a video of my friend Ana Gasteyer (who's hi-lar in The Royal Family) performing it. http://sethrudetsky.com/blog/2009/12/06/ana-gasteyer-and-the-chelsea-symphony-the-night-before-xmas/ Get tickets at www.Chelseasymphony.org.

OK, I'm off to The Gypsy of the Year. And remember that old theatre adage: If the dressing room's a-rockin', don't come a'knockin'!