The editors of Playbill.com have combed through years of our Cue & A feature to select some of our favorite answers to the question, “What's your worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap?” Sixty responses from Broadway actors follow.
I completely went blank on my lines during a performance of the show Ace at the Old Globe in San Diego. I was supposed to make a very important bet with another character which was integral to the plot of the show. When I finally managed to get something out of my mouth, it was the complete opposite wager I was supposed to be making, leaving the other actor onstage with me with a look on his face of complete confusion. He finally nodded his head and said, “Okaaay.” I have a feeling the audience was left in his same boat for much of the rest of the show.
I was the maid in The Heiress with Cherry Jones, and one night backstage she had just eaten a banana and by mistake she went on with the banana peel stuck to her dress. As the maid, I felt somewhat responsible.
Fell flat on my ass during the big Fred and Ginger number in Anything Goes at Lincoln Center. First, the audience gasped, and then they laughed. God, I'm (not) a dancer.
Umm...so many to choose from. My pants have split many a time on stage for obvious reasons, and I missed a cue once in a production of Kiss Me, Kate; I was supposed to open Act 2 with "Too Darn Hot." Intermission was over, but I didn't hear the announcement over the intercom for places, but knew we must be getting close, so I wandered backstage just in time to hear my understudy crooning....."but pillow you'll be my baby tonight cuz it's too darn hot." I was mortified. Was it sabotage? Or was I just yapping and lost track of time? Sadly, I think the latter.
I was on The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber tour; I sang "The Phantom of the Opera" with a pre-recorded ending. At the end of the song as I was taking my bow, the sound guy accidentally turned the sound back up and I ended up bowing to my own pre recorded high E.
Getting thrown from the ladder on my first entrance in West Side Story. The fall resulted in bruised ribs, a lasting headache and a few choice words before the sound board operator realized he should turn my mic off.
One night during Urinetown, I was in the basement watching "American Idol" and over the speakers I heard Jeff McCarthy (Officer Lockstock) onstage screaming, “Little Sally! Little Saaaalllly!” waiting for me to show up.... Not long after that, my dog Wallace escaped from my dressing room, ran down five flights of stairs and wandered onto the stage during the love duet. Luckily he didn’t pee.
During the Toronto dress rehearsal of White Christmas, a couple of us were swapping stories of line flubbage right before curtain. So I got out there with Shannon O'Bryan to sing "Sisters" and made the same "lyric rewrite" that I had just laughed about. I strongly believe in karma.
Boy From Oz...I wore many different tights and panty hose throughout the play. One quick change, my tights decided to get stuck to the pants of my next change. During the scene they kept creeping out. I did not feel them until they were hanging out my pant leg and dragging across the stage. Hugh and I were tripping all over them. Finally, I had to tug these long tights out from my pants. There was no way of hiding it from the audience. Hugh and I were crying we were laughing so hard. I love moments like that!
Jennifer Laura Thompson
The infamous "Bubble" that transports Glinda to the stage didn't work. I was stuck 40 feet in the air while cast members on stage repeated "She's coming … she's coming … it's Glinda … she's … coming…"
In A Naked Girl on the Appian Way, I had this rant about how I thought my real parent were gymnasts. I was saying this to my adopted father, played by Richard Thomas, and we literally stopped the show because we were laughing our asses off. We just thought it was so ridiculous. I was crying from laughing so hard that I had to put a couch pillow over my face.
Broadway debut, I went on in Brighton Beach Memoirs. I got my first laugh from 1,200 people. I totally forgot what I was supposed to say next. Matthew Broderick saved me by skipping a whole bunch of lines and much of the plot. The audience didn't seem to notice. But I cut 15 minutes off the play's running time.
In She Loves Me at the Guthrie my pants almost came completely off when I was holding out my final note in "Try Me" while cartwheeling over Mr. Maraczek's hospital bed. I wish I could say it was due to a wardrobe malfunction, but I literally just forgot to button my pants.
I was onstage in a very poorly received production of The Seagull. The actor playing Dr. Dorn had an aside to the audience, "People are boring!" One night an audience member yelled back, "Not THIS boring!" Funny now.
I was now Dromio [in The Boys from Syracuse at the Alliance Theatre] and (as I discuss in [tos]) I sweat a lot under my left pit. I thought it was a good idea to rubber band a sock under my armpit so my shirt would appear less sweaty. Don't ask. Well, during a big tap duet (with the amazing Adrian Bailey) that sock somehow worked its way out of my pit, down my pants and came out the bottom of my pants. It was just weird and awkward, and I'm pretty sure the audience thought I had stuffed a sock in my pants. Oh yeah, and my Stephano accidentally punched Bradley Dean's Caliban in the nose during The Tempest at the Dallas Shakespeare Festival. It was not good. I'm still sorry Bradley.
Many years ago I was doing Barefoot in the Park at summer stock and in the first scene I entered and my beaded necklace snapped. It proceeded to drop beads one at a time, VERY slowly at first, and then in a crescendo. We continued after a momentary hiatus. We proceeded without mishap, until finally in the last scene I attempted to open the door to the apartment (con brio), and the doorknob came off in my hand. I just looked at it. Then lobbed it behind me to the gremlins. Hey. We got at LEAST three sustained laughs that night.
The first preview of Social Security in our D.C. tryout, the wall fell down! Ron Silver just pushed it back up and we kept on going. It was so terrible and so terribly funny.
In Pippin went up entirely after two years and seven months. Gave my notice that night.
Oh, this is Les Miz folklore. I was doing my death scene as Fantine, and Colm Wilkinson missed his cue to come out and carry me onto the bed. Sooo.... I sang my part, let the music go by for his part and dragged my dying body into bed. When he finally made it to the stage he kept apologizing in my ear in between his vocal phrases. Hilarious!!
In 1983 on a bus-and-truck of Gigi, I drove an electric car into an off-stage light tower sending it crashing to the stage. It was spectacular.
During American Buffalo we were being reviewed by Ben Brantley and the prop person forgets the pig iron. I have a huge monologue about a pig iron where I wield it like a weapon, but there is none. So I grab an umbrella and try to do the speech about "the dangerous umbrella..." Brantley later wrote it would do the production better if John had learned his lines. Ha ha!
I was playing Lucy Van Pelt in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown in LA. I had just returned to the long-running show from a limited run of Fiddler in Honolulu, Hawaii. But, I came back to CB perhaps too soon. I was seriously jetlagged and probably needed a little put-in rehearsal. I "went up" completely during the "Lucy Takes a Survey" portion of the second act. Nobody, not even Gary Berghoff, our Charlie Brown, could get me back on track. I left the stage. The curtain came down. I quickly pulled myself together. And, we went on. It was horrifying. But, I lived.
LOL I fell once during Next to Normal. I get really embarrassed just thinking about it... it was at SUCH a sad moment for me to have fallen! ... Also during The Music Man when I was younger, me and my friend John were dancing the "Shipoopi" and got so out of control that we just fell on to the ground. That was one of the funniest moments of my life!
I was on as Benny in In the Heights and I flubbed one of the Spanish to English lyrics in the song "Sunrise," with the amazing Mandy Gonzalez laughing in my face while Lin-Manuel was shaking his head in the wings. I knew I'd arrived.
There have been many. I guess one of the worst was when sweet Katie Clarke went into Piazza, and something we did near the beginning of the show just threw me for a loop. We were in the Ufizzi scene, and I could not remember my next line, so I just skipped to my exit line, and said to her, "Darling, things are often hard," and left her standing alone by herself in the middle of the Vivian Beaumont stage. Luckily, she had a song coming up, and she was smart enough to look down at Kim Grigsby, and they just started the song. It was in her first week of performances. She was poised and collected and quite brilliant. I told her, she was never going to have something that horrible ever happen to her again!! What a way to be baptized into the theater. Oy!!!
When I was on the road with Wicked, I forgot my hat at a very pivotal hat moment and left the cast hanging onstage with no music while I raced back to my dressing room . . . there was also a time during The Wild Party when the set broke down and Brian d'Arcy James, Taye Diggs and I had to totally restage the penultimate scene as we went along.
No big flubs or missed cues, but so many onstage mishaps!! My favorite was during Phantom when, after yanking the Phantom's mask off his face as he sat at the organ, I slipped on that awful oily fog and slid on my ass all the way upstage, where my leg and gown were caught underneath a big iron gate. Cris Groenendaal, who was playing the Phantom, had to rip me free so we could continue our onstage chase. My shin had been gouged and was shooting blood. Later I found out that the audience thought it was staged. And I didn't need stitches. Just a butterfly bandage. Good times.
It was in The Haggadah when I was nine years old at The Public. I asked the fourth question of Passover four times in a row. I cried for the rest of the show. Hilarious.
Well, there are a few that my Vanities cohorts will never let me live down. Like in one scene I was supposed to say "Don't worry Kathy, no matter what happens, we three have each other"...and for some reason I couldn't memorize that cause we were changing so much... so for about a week I kept saying, "as long as we're together, we'll never be apart." They would literally laugh in my face.
I completely blanked on my lyrics to "Come Up to My Place" from On The Town. I basically forgot all my lyrics to the first verse. The orchestra just kept going without me. The first lyrics that were actually sung were Lea DeLaria singing: "Did I hear right? Did you say the Hippodrome?"
Christopher J. Hanke
That would be my Saturday matinee performance as Mark in the 2007 production of Rent, when my mother was in the audience. I jumped up onto the steel table to begin "La Vie Boheme," and my boot clipped the table, which threw my mindset and I could not for the life of me remember the lyrics of that section of the song ("To days of inspiration...")! Well, that song is such a patter-filled, quick-worded story-telling "toast," if you will, that once I derailed, I could not get back on. So, I decided to do a retrospective dance from the 50s to the 90s while ad-libbing lines like, "Hey Benny, it's your restaurant, and we're taking it over!" LAME, Hanke, LAME! And the worst part, I had the entire cast behind me sitting at the table and NOT A SINGLE PERSON could remember the lyrics either. Fired. All of them. But mostly me!
During The Little Mermaid, after the scene where King Triton tells off Ariel, a child shouted, "I hate you!" from the audience, and I was completely thrown off. The next two minutes were spent with the actor playing the crab and me desperately trying to remember our lines. It was awful!
One time I was suffering from insomnia while doing a show. I fell asleep in the dressing room and missed my entrance! When I woke up they were paging me over the intercom to rush to the stage! I couldn't believe it actually happened because it was something I had nightmares about! I ran to the stage in time to say my character's name but it was CLEARLY a mishap. Needless to say that moment cured my insomnia! LOL!
My first week in Spelling Bee, I not only forgot how to spell the last word in the show, but I forgot the word I was supposed to spell. I just started shouting out consonants. It was awful.
I caught the Holy Spirit while doing a gospel number on stage, and my wig flew into the audience.
In a preview of Bonnie & Clyde at the La Jolla Playhouse last year. The first act ended with me (Clyde) committing my first murder by shooting a police officer in a grocery store. Or was supposed to. Props gave me a new stage gun that night, and the trigger refused to budge. It took about 8 or 10 seconds for me to get it to fire, and it took me grimacing and pulling with both first fingers like a six-year-old. I honestly thought about shouting "Bang!!" before I finally got it to fire.
Laura Michelle Kelly
I stopped a 60-piece orchestra in front of five thousand people because I forgot an entire verse of "If My Friends Could See Me Now." The event was "The Night of 1,000 Voices." I was the one out of the "thousand" who screwed up!
Robin de Jesus
This is MORTIFYING but at In The Heights I was sitting on a stoop doing a flirting scene with Nina, and when I stood up I totally FARTED and my mic totally picked it up. Two cast members noticed but oddly enough not the audience or the Nina, Thank GOD!
Theatre by the Sea, Matunuck, RI – as Sophie in Star Spangled Girl by Neil Simon – during a quick change, for some reason done onstage – the lights came on too soon. I leave the rest to your imagination.
It would take forever to set up, but it was in The Ritz a couple years ago. My line was supposed to be, "It's me, Bunny, BRICK!" and I said (with the whole cast onstage and in front of a full house at Studio 54) "It's me, Bunny, BROOKS!" (I should just get out of the business.)
During previews of Elton John's Lestat, I got a brand-new verse of a song that came at the end of Act 1. It was handed to me at 5 PM to be put in the show that night at 8 PM! Now, I'm a quick study, but just to be safe, I wrote out the words on a cue card and taped it to the pit wall behind our conductor! Unfortunately, I didn't take into consideration how blinding a spotlight can be, so in performance that night, I couldn't see a thing (let alone the card) and made up some rather interesting lyrics. Let's just say Mr. Sondheim has nothing to worry about!
With no rehearsal, Christopher Reeve went on for William Hurt in Corinne Jacker's My Life. Before the show, I told Chris to "go ahead and slap me in Act 2, I'll make sure I get out of the way." I wasn't quick enough. A one-punch knockout.
Recently in Hair, I totally blanked on the entire second verse in "The Flesh Failures" at the end of the show. I finished the first verse and froze. I had no idea what the words were, so I just walked forward in silence with my arms out. Will started screaming out "CLAUDE!!!" to try and fill space but I just kept walking... in silence... Megan Lawrence told me afterwards that that is called going into "the white room." I don't like the white room.
Playing Antony in Sweeney Todd at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA: a "miscommunication" between myself and the conductor led to my singing two measures behind what the orchestra was playing in the song "Johanna." A couple of instruments (out of sheer sympathy) tried to fill for me; those instruments were a flute and a tympani. Silence. No applause. Then a cast member (again, out of sheer sympathy) began clapping backstage which led to a smattering of quiet, sympathetic applause from no more than four audience members.
In the one time I went on for the Pimpernel in the nat'l tour, I nearly broke my neck in the pre-show guillotine rehearsal. I'll never forget 'Down, Back, Knock!'
During previews for Lestat (yes, Lestat) we changed a scene to include the revelation of a crucifix around which the entire following scene would play out and reveal important vampire truths. Well, one night I forgot to bring on the crucifix. Nice job, Will. Douche.
Oh, there are many good choices. But the worst was during Follies on Broadway. I was thrown on for a role with no rehearsal, obviously feeling like a nervous wreck! Things were going fairly well, and I was down in the quick-change area halfway into my next costume when I heard my cue line over the monitor (I had forgotten a whole scene!). Thankfully, it was Blythe Danner and Treat Williams making up for my absence onstage (they handled it with ease), but I've never gotten over it.
I remember going up completely on "I'll Know" in Guys and Dolls and singing various versions of the word "love" and other even more unfortunate improvised lyrics as my costar Josie de Guzman looked on in horror. In fact, I remember a similar look of horror on Glenn Close's face during a scene we had in The Real Thing as I attempted to improvise verse from a Restoration Comedy – I inadvertently captured the comedy but failed miserably at the restoration. In A Doll's Life the set of my humble musician's studio never showed up one performance, and I made a joke about the rent being late and it was the only laugh I got for the entire run.
When I went up during "Do Re Mi" and a 6-year-old fed me my lines...."A needle pulling thread." Pretty embarrassing.
Well, in Caroline, or Change I was supposed to sing "..and cicadas in the pecan trees.." However, on this particular day I lent angelic tone to "..and tomatoes in the pecan trees.." By the time I got back to my dressing room at intermission, there were three perfectly ripe tomatoes, on the vine, sitting on my dressing room table.
Max von Essen
How much time do you have? LOL. Running to the balcony in West Side Story, hitting a slick spot on the stage and falling with such momentum that I slid into the wings. Missing an entire scene in My Fair Lady. You got it, I got confused, and somehow missed my entrance. Once I was so sick during a performance of another show that I stopped in the middle of the number, and walked off stage. I did come back two minutes later and finished. Not my finest moment. I've also been onstage when other actors have missed their entrances. Let's just say Christine Baranski and I once performed a scene that Lawrence and Lee had never written for Mame. We had to fill the time somehow.
Norbert Leo Butz
Wicked. I came in swinging from one leg on a rope, split my pants, and flashed Kristin Chenoweth.
During the final dress rehearsal for The Mousetrap on the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat, I was running for a quick change when the heel of my right shoe got caught in the cuff of my left pant leg at the top of a set of stairs. When I catapulted face-first down the stairs, I put my arms straight out to catch myself and broke 'em both. I didn't miss a single show that summer and performed the role of the mysterious Miss Casewell with a cast on each arm. Reedonkulous.
Having food poisoning while singing Don Giovanni. I could not leave the stage for 25 minutes!!! A true night in Hell!!
Getting attached to the set in Taboo and having to follow it off the stage when it rolled away…awful.
The list is endless. But opening night, somewhere in Florida, 1979, I was Cassie in A Chorus Line. During the Cassie dance, I caught my heel in my red skirt and wound up in a sit spin, center stage. Alone and reflected in all 5 mirrors.
I once vomited onstage in a preview of Keith Reddin's Life During Wartime and the director asked me to keep it in.
Well life as a swing has given me innumerable experiences to draw upon. But most recently I covered Marc Kudisch in The Apple Tree and for some reason whenever I went on for the Snake, I'd be extremely nervous. I think playing Satan has bad Juju attached to it. Twice I forgot my lines so deeply I was looking at Kristin Chenoweth like, "I can't believe she's going up on her line!" It wasn't until I got off stage that I realized I was the one who forgot. Just complete denial mixed with some delirious ego.
AGH! Probably in Millie when Marc Kudisch and Gavin Creel and I were doing the scene at the end of the show called "Scooby Doo." I got the giggles and the entire scene went down in flames. Marc made us start the whole thing over again while the audience just laughed at us.
My last scene in Billy Elliot was this very solemn, quietly angry scene where all the men in the show in orange coveralls walk onstage to go back into the pits after the strike is over. It’s also where I’d say goodbye to Billy before he went off to ballet school and then we’d slowly lower into the ground. Dramatic. Powerful. Simple. Now, right before that scene I had a quick change into those bright orange coveralls and one show, my coveralls got mixed up with one of my castmate’s who happens to wear a slightly larger size than me. Cut to 30 seconds later…my entrance…I knew I was screwed… Enter Bozo the clown in coveralls 4 times my normal size. I could barely walk in them. I looked around and everybody was laughing trying to look upstage or at the floor. And from then on, one of the boys in the cast called me "Circus Boy." Every. Day.