Bernie Telsey On 20 Years of Miscast, How It's Changed His Perspective on Performers, and What to Expect From Miscast20

Benefits and Galas   Bernie Telsey On 20 Years of Miscast, How It's Changed His Perspective on Performers, and What to Expect From Miscast20
 
The MCC co-artistic director and casting director shares memories from the beloved annual tradition ahead of its September 13 virtual installment.
Miscast 20 Key Art

When Miscast20, the 20th anniversary installment of MCC Theater's popular concert gala, comes to life September 13 at 8 PM ET, it will not be at Hammerstein Ballroom. It won't even be at a smaller venue, as the first one was. Like so many other beloved events in the theatre community, Miscast is moving online to the world of streaming—and now more people than ever before will have a chance to witness the fun.

Streaming on MCC’s YouTube Channel, the free, 90-minute broadcast will be captioned and feature all-new performances, special guests, and more, including Tony nominee Adrienne Warren (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Shuffle Along), Tony nominee Joshua Henry (The Wrong Man, Carousel), Tony winner Heather Headley (Aida, The Lion King), Beanie Feldstein (Hello, Dolly!), Tony nominee Rob McClure (Mrs. Doubtfire, Beetlejuice), Nicolette Robinson (Waitress, Invisible Thread), and Tony nominee Phillipa Soo (Hamilton, Amélie).

READ: Adrienne Warren, Joshua Henry, Heather Headley, More Set for MCC Theater's Online Miscast20

The evening will also include appearances from Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play), Tony nominee Raúl Esparza (Seared, Company), and Tony and Emmy winner Judith Light (All The Ways To Say I Love You, The Politician). Will Van Dyke (Little Shop of Horrors, Pretty Woman) serves as musical supervisor.

Here, MCC co-artistic director (and casting director) Bernie Telsey shares memories from the very first event, how a Miscast performance changed his perspective on Norbert Leo Butz, and what surprises may be in store on September 13!

On the first Miscast Gala in 2000.
The first Miscast was put together by my dear friend Scott Wittman. It was incredible. We were at the Supper Club and had 200 guests. Our performers included Christine Lahti, Donna Murphy, Patti LuPone, Peter Gallagher, and Jesse L. Martin, and the audience loved it. It was an evening of so many original ideas that it cemented itself as the new MCC annual gala. Now we are at close to 1,000 guests at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

On what makes a successful Miscast performance.
When the audience experiences a performer or performers singing a song that they never would have imagined them doing and are transcended by it. The numbers that really move the audience are the ones that, even though they are initially miscast at first glance, actually make a lot of sense once you see them performed, and just tell the story a different way. Or tell a different story. A lot of times they end up being quite moving. The performers love pushing the envelope, and the audience eats it up. Over the years some performers have challenged themselves to do more elaborate numbers, including staging and choreography.

On how Miscast makes him rethink performers.
That happens all the time. I’m so blown away by what actors can do and getting to see them do things at Miscast that are not necessarily what I get to see them do in a casting room always reminds me that they can do anything if given the chance. I remember when Norbert Leo Butz did “Little Girls” from Annie, at the time he wasn’t known for comedy. He had done Rent and Thou Shalt Not but after that performance we all said, he should star in a comedy. This has happened so many times. I think people are still waiting for Aaron Tveit and Gavin Creel to actually play Joanne and Maureen in a production of Rent. Same with Katrina Lenk playing Tevye. Why not?

On why it was important to still present Miscast this year, despite the tech challenges and postponements.
Right now we all need a little positivity in our lives, and I know Miscast can bring some joy into the homes of everyone who watches because I know what a fun time is has been for everyone who has worked on it. Having this amazing lineup of performers in your living room is a once in a lifetime experience. We made sure we put together a hopeful show.

On the biggest surprises of the night.
Although everyone knows our line-up, what they don’t know is what are the songs they are singing. There are some classics that might make you think, “Why aren’t they playing that role?" We have some amazing duets that truly make you feel they are in the room together, we have tap dancing, we have someone cooking. And we have a dog!

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