I remember it being one o’clock on the dot when I got the phone call that our Saturday shows at Spring Awakening were canceled and that they were shutting down the streets.
Later that night, Andy Mientus, Jeremy Jordan, and I were scheduled to sing a set of songs from Hit List [the Season 2 musical on NBC’s Smash] at the BroadwayCon Cabaret—hosted by Rob McClure and featuring a whole lineup of performers—but Jeremy found out that his flight was canceled because there was an impending storm, and Andy wasn’t feeling well. All of a sudden I was going to do our Smash set solo.
I had a sufficient nervous breakdown at the beginning of the day, which is why my music director, Benjamin Rauhala, and I had to indulge in a chicken fingers dinner. I thought, “Oh my God! I’m going to have to do a set by myself, and I don’t know what songs I’ll be singing!” But Ben said, “We got this. I’ve got an iPad. You have seven Broadway shows under your belt. We can do this.” That was the pep talk.
I went back home before my parents, my boyfriend, and I wrapped ourselves up in scarves and boots at 9 PM to trek to the hotel. The trains were running, but we had to walk really slowly. We showed up to find out that Rob McClure, Lesli Margherita, and Matt Doyle—all scheduled to perform with us—couldn’t come. It was just me, Joe Iconis, Smash showrunner Joshua Safran, and Ben, and we realized: “I guess we’re going to put on a concert!”
I went out there with Joe. We did my three-song set, but there were 3,000 people there, and we thought, “We have to entertain the troops because they’re all stranded as well.” Ben had his iPad on the piano, and we just started taking requests from the audience. I sang “Breathe” from In the Heights, and the entire audience did the Spanish backup vocals. I sang “Vanilla Ice Cream” from She Loves Me, which was a fossil that I’ve had in my book since high school. We literally took requests, and it turned into an almost two-hour concert. We were having a sing-along, and it was amazing.
It might have been “Pulled” from The Addams Family when I had to look over Ben’s shoulder to get started, and I think I also needed a bit of a refresher for “Safer” from First Date. I did Joe Iconis’ “Blue Hair,” which is one I really haven’t dusted off in a long time, but it’s amazing that all of these songs stay in your body. Also, it’s not like an audition, where I’m trying to frantically remember lyrics. These people know and love the songs, so it didn’t feel like it mattered if I messed up.
Everyone was excited, so that makes you braver. It didn’t feel like, “They’ve all come to see something else, and now they’re getting just me.” It felt like we were going to make something out of nothing. It was totally communal, and everyone was so supportive.
People still talk about it. They’ll come up to me and say, “I saw you in First Date, I saw you in The Addams Family, and I saw you at BroadwayCon!” It’s a rare event that only BroadwayCon attendees got to see.
—as told to Michael Gioia