ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Close-Up at Closer Than Ever, Plus Megan Mullally, Kristine Zbornik

By Seth Rudetsky
27 Aug 2012

Megan first came to Broadway in 1994 because she had gone to college with Jeff Calhoun (the director of Grease). He asked her to try out and Megan reminded him that Grease takes place in high school and she was 34! He didn't care and she got cast as Marty. However, a few weeks into the run, they asked her to start understudying Rizzo (played by Rosie O'Donnell). Megan completely didn't want to because her mind doesn't work that way (learning new staging, reversing dance steps etc…) but she had no choice. "Don't worry," Rosie told her, "I never get sick." Cut to: A few days later, Rosie gets laryngitis and is out for a week. The horrible part for Megan was listening to the intercom in her dressing room. She'd be getting into her Rizzo costume and hear "The role usually played by Rosie O'Donnell will be played by Megan Mullally." Megan remembers that the announcement was always followed by angry cries of "Son of a-!!!!!" and "This sucks!" and then the sound of Playbills being flung on the floor and seatbacks flying up as people stormed out and demanded their money back.

Seth and Megan Mullally

After Grease opened, our friend Paul Castree told Megan she'd be perfect for the role of Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Tryingso Megan tried out…and got it! She starred opposite Matthew Broderick, which was fun, but the bad part was that from the very first rehearsal people kept saying, "You're going to win a Tony for this!" The producers knew that Glenn Close was probably going to get the award Sunset Boulevard and they wanted to give Megan a chance to win, so they took her out of the leading lady category and put her in "Best Featured Actress." Well, that was the year that Smokey Joe's Café opened and all those women got the featured nominations...so not only didn't Megan win, she wasn't nominated!! And if she had stayed in the Leading Actress category, perhaps she wouldn't have won, but she would have at least been nominated because that year the only nominees were Glenn Close and Rebecca Luker! Literally two. Megan said that was the year she stopped caring about awards. It was so stressful that it wasn't worth it. Cut to: Years later she's doing "Will and Grace" and she was not thinking about the Emmy Awards at all. She was on vacation at a place with no internet and her agent called on her cell phone. He excitedly told her that she was nominated for an Emmy and because it wasn't on her radar she first thought he meant an award given by Emme, the plus-sized model! Seriously! Megan was like, "Really? I mean, I'm not a size zero, but I'm being nominated for being overweight!?!?!?" She realized it was the Emmy not Emme awards and then won…twice!

She was so hilarious when I interviewed her in Provincetown and the delicious part is that it was all filmed for, you guessed it, SethTV.com. Sign up and watch the fabulousness. Speaking of P-town, this upcoming Labor Day weekend, I'm heading back to Provincetown for my final That 70's Deconstruction Show where I deconstruct the devastating/amazing "Brady Bunch Variety Hour," and I'll also be performing with Tony Award winner Alice Ripley! And now, as the song says, "See you in September!"

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)