How Jessie Mueller Said ‘No’ to Her Clear Day Callback and Still Booked Broadway

Seth Rudetsky   How Jessie Mueller Said ‘No’ to Her Clear Day Callback and Still Booked Broadway
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares inside scoop from his concerts with Tony winner Jessie Mueller, plus how Tim Rice reacted to his deconstructing Evita video.
Jessie Mueller in <i>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever</i>
Jessie Mueller in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever Paul Kolnik

One more week until Voices for the Voiceless: Stars for Foster Kids and Jessie Mueller just joined the line up! Get tickets here because I know you can’t Wait(ress) to see her sing Beautiful(ly)!

This is our third Voices For The Voiceless (name credit goes to Megan Hilty) and I am super excited. We raise money (and awareness) for You Gotta Believe, which helps foster youth find loving adults/families to be in their lives. It usually takes a while for a child to be emancipated from their parent because the goal of children’s services is to keep families united. When the family is finally deemed unfit to raise the child and when all of the child’s relatives have been ruled, that child can finally be adopted. But by the time all the court appearances and paperwork is done, many of these children are no longer babies or toddlers. Sadly, once a child is eight years old, they are deemed “special needs” because it is so difficult to find them a family. So, they go to foster families…sometimes lots of different foster familes. They age out at 18 or 21 and they have no family or trusted adult in their lives—not just for things like financial support when they need it, but no one to come home to for Thanksgiving. No one to call for advice about career, classes, dates…any day-to-day stuff. And 50 percent of the foster youth that ages out wind up homeless or in jail. Well, You Gotta Believe operates on the ideal that no one ages out! And they really do what they claim. They’ve found families for tweens, teenagers…and people in their 20s! Truly amazing! This year we have people talking about their adoption or years in foster care like Charlene Tilton, Melissa Gilbert, Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, TV star Willie Garson and we’ve teamed up with amazing Broadway singers like the aforementioned Jessie Mueller, Capathia Jenkins, Anika Larsen, Eliseo Roman, Stephanie Mills, and Jonathan Groff!

Speaking of Jessie Mueller, here’s what our San Francisco show was like. She sang lots of Beautiful, lots of Waitress, and then previewed two songs from what she’ll sing as Julie Jordan in the upcoming Carousel. Holy cow, will she be fantastic in that show. Her soprano is so crazily beautiful! She told us that she lived in Chicago after college and working in the Chicago theatre scene was her goal. She never really considered coming to New York because she grew up idolizing all the big theatres in Chicago. One day, however, she was recommended for an audition for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, which was happening in Chicago. She showed up ready to sing a song from the ’40s and noticed everyone looking different. Hunched over, dark clothes, glaring… Turns out, there was also an audition in the exact same place for American IdiotI! So, while everyone looked too-cool-for-school she was in a smart dress with sensible pumps, which reminds me of Priscilla Lopez’s audition for the original Hair. She knew she was auditioning for a new musical and she was not fazed because she had done so numerous times. She didn’t know what the show was, just that it was a musical. So she walked in and was greeted by a few men slumped behind the table who had, possibly, been “indulging” in things. She, however, arrived perky in a pressed miniskirt and white boots. They expected a cool late ’60s rock song a la an aggressive “Go Ask Alice” or “Proud Mary” but instead she let loose with

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

Spoiler alert: She wasn’t cast.

Back to Jessie: She went in to the Clear Day audition and sang the sweet ballad “It Might As Well Be Spring.” Halfway through she was stopped by the casting person. Not the best sign. He asked if she had a jazz song instead. Short answer: No. Long answer: She panicked, then walked over to the pianist and asked him to speed it up and add a walking bass. He did and she turned snoozy into jazzy! They asked her to come back the next day but she said no (!); she was doing a reading of her friend’s play. (I appreciate the loyalty.) So, they bypassed that and asked her to fly herself to New York City! She went in, then went in a second time...but this time with Harry Connick, Jr.! SCARED! But he walked over, shook her hand and said, “I’m Harry” and it totally relaxed her. And she got the gig! The show closed in the winter and a few months later she was out of town and her phone began dinging madly; she was nominated for a Tony Award! Brava first time out! Watch this video of her and Harry on The View.

I asked her, naturally, about onstage mishaps and she told us that near the end of the show, as she lays dying, Harry has a monologue he recited while cradling her. Well, he somehow got mixed up with his monologues and started reciting the one from the beginning of the show...not the ending. Jessie laid there and knew he didn’t know that he was saying the completely wrong thing. What to do? Well, while he was pontificating she put a stop to it by reaching up and placing her finger firmly over his mouth in a tip o’ the hat recreation of Bullets Over Broadway’s “Don’t Speak.” First his eyes were like “What are you do-” and then he realized his mistake. (If you don’t know the Bullets Over Broadway reference, watch this.)

In other news, Juli just posted another Broadway Babies video where she interviews kids of Broadway stars for Playbill and in this one, she chats with Zoe Donovan, daughter of Audra McDonald. Not only do they chat, they have an “Audra Off” where they face off to see who sings the most like Audra! Watch:

And I just posted my latest deconstruction of “Buenos Aires.” (You can see the video below.)

I love this show so much and, turns out, Tim Rice wound up watching the video! Here’s his tweet about it:

And speaking of deconstructions, I’ll be doing two shows this weekend in Chicago on Saturday night. Come see me compare the Broadway Evita to the film version (!) and much, much more! Click here for tickets.

And here’s a great article about deconstructing featuring an interview I loved doing!

Peace out!

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