ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Success Stories from Megan Mullally and Audition Horror Stories from Norbert Leo Butz

By Seth Rudetsky
20 Jan 2014

Annie Golden

Norbert also had a hilarious bad audition story for me. When he moved to New York, he was immediately cast in Rent. He covered the leads and was always going on. One day his agent called and told him he had an audition for the original cast of Side Show. He was asked to prepare a musical theatre song, a pop song and to bring his book. Norbert had very little experience auditioning for musicals, but that was countered by the incredible confidence he felt because he was doing the hottest show on Broadway. Norbert waltzed into the audition and handed the pianist "Old Devil Moon." Unfortunately, he had just purchased the sheet music and had never run the song with anyone playing. Turns out, it sounded completely different from what he thought it would, so after a few bars, he asked if he could sing his pop song instead. The people behind the table agreed and Norbert launched into a Beatles song. Well, he knew the song from listening to it all the time, but he had never used it for an audition. He was thrown from the first song going so badly, and he immediately panicked and forgot the lyrics.

Finally, the people behind the table decided to choose a song for him and asked to see his book. (Note: Most actors have lots of audition songs in different styles: comedy, Sondheim, standard ballad, patter, etc and they keep them all in a "book.") As soon as they asked him, Norbert realized he made a terrible, terrible mistake. When his agent told him to bring his book, he thought he was being warned that he might have to wait a long time before he auditioned so he should have a book to read. Yes, the "book" Norbert brought with him was Tom Wolfe's "A Man In Full."

Before presenting the pianist with the novel and asking him to play Chapter One, Norbert hauled out the ol' "I left my book at home" chestnut and wound up leaving the audition, mortified. Years later, he was on tour as the Emcee in Cabaret and swapping horrible audition stories with the cast. After he told his Side Show story, he added that he probbably thought it was worse than it actually was. The Cabaret dance captain then told him that she was in Side Show and had heard from the casting director that, indedd, it was one of the worst auditions ever! Wowza! At least it wasn't one of those auditions where you think you were great but they think you were horrible. Both he and everyone in the room thought he was horrible. It's nice to have your feelings validated. Watch the entire interview on SethTV.com. Especially the end where he sings "Defying Gravity" for the first time!

OK! I'm signing off. This week the wonderful Annie Golden begins performances in Disaster! as Shirley Summers. Annie is such a bright light to have around, and it's so evident in this clip I found of her in the Actors Fund Hair concert that I put together back in 2004. Watch how the audience simply adores her. I love the casual sitting on the floor and then the running off at the end. Take a gander then peace out! 

(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.)