ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Adam Pascal, Prop Drops and Stokes
By Seth Rudetsky
I dropped my prop. That's not a euphemism. I have a feature in Act Two of The Ritz, and as I exited, I dropped my prop.
For the rest of the show, I couldn't stop obsessing about it. Especially, because I knew critics were in the house. Nowadays, critics come during the last couple of show before Opening Night. I wasn't sure that there would be critics there that night, until I was talking to someone on the creative staff who flat out told me...without me asking! Note to staff member: Keep your trap shut about things like that. Although, note to myself: Keep my trap shut as well. I told my friend David Turner that our mutual friend Paul Castree was in the audience and he told me that in the future, I should zip it. He said that he spent the whole show thinking: "Hmm…I wonder if Paul will like the way I always read this line. Well, I guess we'll never know since I can't re-create what I normally do because I'm thinking about Paul's reaction."
Well, I had the same problem after I dropped my prop. The next scene is where I have my signature line "Careful, Googie." I was onstage obsessing about why I dropped my prop, if I broke it, if the audience now hated me, if the critic would mention that the show would have been a hit were it not for the butterfingers of a one "Seth Rudetsky" etc…when I heard silence onstage. Oh, no! That's me! I quickly spat out "Careful, Googie!" but was now obsessing that the review headline would be "Quick paced farce becomes slow paced dirge due to Rudetsky's slowness on the uptake." My friend Jack Plotnick says that actors are like Jacob Marley after they make a mistake. Instead of letting it go and moving on, they add it to the chain of shame they wear. True 'dat.
My friend Aaron, who's hilarious, came to The Ritz over the weekend. He sassed me with a text message right before the show.
ME: Watch for me in the opening scene. I'm the old, hunched over biddy in black with a walker.
HIM: So, you won't be wearing a costume?
Brava! Oh, yeah…speaking of which: In the last scene in the show, there's a bunch of us onstage in a crowd, and at one point we're supposed to be happy about something Kevin Chamberlin does. Well, usually we all applaud and I ad lib a word or two. Cut to last week when, for some reason, no one in the crowd audibly applauded, so all you heard was my exposed vocal ad lib. In the middle of the scene, in total silence, the audience heard me shout out a loud, nasal, Brava! to Kevin Chamberlin. I was mortified.
My boyfriend and I watched Audra on her new show, "Private Practice." First of all, she looks gorgeous! Secondly, we decided she loves acting with props. Spot the first scene of the show: She has a conversation while peeling, separating and eating an orange. Keep watching future episodes to see if she is the prop queen. FYI, if she drops her prop, she can always do another take, as opposed to me — I had to bend down, pick it up and slink offstage.
I got to interview Adam Pascal on Sirius this week. I asked him about what Broadway shows he saw growing up, and he told me that he saw Les Miz but didn't remember much of it…because he was such a little kid. He was mortified when I told him that it opened on Broadway in 1986 when he was a teenager. Hmm…maybe he saw the original French production. Quelqu'on? Personne.
He said he's been annoyed for years because when he was eight he went to Stage Door Manor musical theatre summer camp, and they've never acknowledged him as an alum. He also admitted that he was phenomenally homesick and spent the whole summer crying daily, so maybe that's why they blocked him out. No one likes a cry baby (but hopefully we'll like the new musical!).
He got Rent because Idina was in it and recommended him for the audition. The first crazy part is that he's known Idina since he was ten but he calls her I-dina. She pronounces it Ih-dina. So did she grow up pronouncing it differently, or did she correct him numerous times in her tweenhood and finally give up? I know what that's like. I did a show with a famous Broadway composer who called me Zeth for a year and half, and I never quite had the energy to correct him. My question is: I know that Seth is not the most common name, but Zeth is? Where? At that bar in "Star Wars"?
I asked Adam if my favorite song in Rent was his: "La Vie Boheme." He said a decided "no." I was shocked, outraged and more than a little put off (not really, I just wanted to see what it was like writing that). Anyhoo, he said that "La Vie Boheme" has always made no sense to him from an acting perspective. He asked me how come his character, who hasn't left his apartment in months, is suddenly laughing, singing and shaking his butt in a restaurant. Hmm…I guess that is the definition of zero to 60: from house-bound to on-table butt-shaking. He said he's finally given up trying to justify it and just does it. As an audience member I say, yes, it makes no sense, but it sure is fun to watch. So dance, monkey, dance!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.)
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