ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A First Look at Disaster! and Jane Krakowski's Showbiz Stories

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14 Oct 2013

Jane Krakowski

Jane said the workshop for Grand Hotel took place in an actual dilapidated hotel in the West 40's and looked just like the set that eventually was used in the Broadway show. They would meet every day and Tommy would assign them chapters to read from original novel. Then they would improvise those chapters as their characters, and the writers would go home and take what they improv'd and add to it until the script and songs were written. Jane said that what makes Tommy so unique is how collaborative he is: He would not only listen to everyone's ideas while he was creating the show, he would also take people's everyday behavior and put it in the show. For instance, Jane said that the hotel (which she thinks was condemned) had rodents in the bathroom. She was too horrified to change there, yet every day she had to change out of her jeans and winter boots into her Flaemmchen short skirt and heels. So she perfected a way of changing her entire outfit without ever showing any skin.

Tommy was so obsessed her amazing maneuvering that he kept trying to put that into the show. Sadly, it never happened, but there is a song in the show called "We'll Take a Glass Together." The song was great, but they kept changing the dance. It was all different styles (including a tap version) but it never really worked. One day during a break, Michael Jeter went over to the hotel bar and made his legs rubbery to make everyone laugh. Then he leapt over the bar. As soon as he did that leap, Tommy told everyone to go home except Michael and David Carroll. That's when he created the brilliant number that was featured on the Tony Awards. It's all about Michael's rubber legs and then climaxes when he leaps over the bar. Watch! It's one of my favorite numbers ever. 

Sadly, in that Tony Award clip, you don't see the brilliant David Carroll who had AIDS and had to leave the show after a few months (the adorable Brent Barrett took over). But David was featured on the recording singing his stunning rendition of "Love Can't Happen." I still remember my stunned reaction when I saw him sing the final note of this song live. It was one of my favorite moments in the theatre. Here's my deconstruction.

Speaking of David Carroll, he and Jane were very close, and when the show was leaving for its out-of-town tryout in Boston, he wanted to take Amtrak instead of fly. She was the only other cast member who volunteered to go with him, and he was so excited! Jane went down to 14th St. and got one of those new-fangled suitcases that had just came out in the 80's...AKA a suitcase with wheels. Of course, since it was one of the first, it also immediately broke. David felt bad for her and carried her overstuffed suitcase all the way through Penn Station and then through the streets of Boston to their hotel. She remembered that it weighed a ton and was horrific for him. Later that year, he celebrated his 40th birthday and she didn't know what to get him. She finally decided on a present but the special part was going to be its presentation: She went back to 14th St., got the exact same suitcase and put the present inside it. When he saw it at his party, he was like "AHHHH! Not this effing suitcase again!" Such a hilarious way to wrap his present!

Back to Nine. Jane was nervous when she was cast in the 2003 production because Anita Morris was so brilliant when she did "A Call From The Vatican." The number featured Anita doing all these contortions while on a box, and Jane didn't know how she could make the number her own. One day, she was sharing a cab with the director David Leveaux, and he said "I think we're going to fly you in for your number..."  She was so excited that she climbed across the back seat and hugged him because she knew that was the concept they needed. Jane trained in "anti-gravity" for weeks but the contraption that flew her in wasn't ready to use until the first preview!

They told her that she could wait and do the song without it, but she didn't want people to see the number and spread the word that it didn't have anything special in it. So, she went up to the ceiling of the theatre, got wrapped in a sheet and tried it for the first time during the first preview! Turns out, the audience flipped! She remembers being hoisted up at the end and the crowd going wild. But, instead of running offstage immediately and sharing in her triumph with the rest of the cast, she had to hang upside down above the stage by herself. She was attached to what was essentially a clothesline and after she performed, they would slowly pull her across the entire stage to the wings. By the time she got down, she had to rush into a quick change, but she and her dresser did get to hug and freak out that the number went so well. PS, she really was topless underneath that sheet and a few times, when she was being hoisted up, a boob or two would fall out. Jane shrugged and said, "Well, people were paying a lot of money for tickets…" Here's her fantastic performance.


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