Onstage & Backstage: Wishing For the "Disaster!" That Got Me Out of a Regional Gig

News   Onstage & Backstage: Wishing For the "Disaster!" That Got Me Out of a Regional Gig
This week's look into the life of Seth Rudetsky takes readers behind the scenes of Disaster!'s photo and commercial shoot and recounts the wish he told Audra McDonald this summer.
Seth with Roger Bart
Seth with Roger Bart

Hello from Pearl Studios!

I'm sitting right outside the audition room where auditions are being held for Disaster! We're auditioning for the ensemble (or "victims," as they're called in the script) as well as for understudies for all the lead roles. Everyone has to understudy more than one character because there are so many leading roles. It's a real skill trying to find people who are amazing singer-dancer-comedians as well as able to cover diverse roles: one woman might be a super talented high belter, dancer and clown as well as perfect to understudy the youthful feminist played by Kerry Butler, but they're probably not right to also cover the warm-hearted yenta played by Faith Prince.

To me, it's become like an un-fun version of Sudoku. Thank goodness we have casting director Tara Rubin, who is such an amazing calming influence. I remember Tara when she was a casting director for Geoffrey Johnson and Vincent Liff, the hottest casting directors at the time when I first moved to New York. I was constantly playing piano for actors who were coming in to audition for their big shows, Miss Saigon and Les Miz. I still remember a certain Fantine-wannabe who didn't get it, Audra McDonald! I felt bad for her…until her sixth Tony Award.

Tara also made a guest appearance in one of the opening numbers I wrote for the Easter Bonnet Competition. Christopher Gattelli choreographed it, and the concept was that the space where we were doing the opening number was accidentally rented to the final callbacks for a cruise ship version of Gypsy. It allowed us room for so many dance-call audition jokes! One was about young hungry dancers who sell it: Big tricks!
High kicks!
We yell and shout! WHOO!

As opposed to second generation dancers who have seen it all and only show it off when absolutely necessary:

We mark.
Clothes dark…
(demonstrating the steps with their hands, but not actually moving) Step, turn, turn, turn

One part was about a super-short dancer. It was sung to "Little Lamb" and re-titled "Little Gam" (That was Chris' idea!). Watch Tara and the number here:

The most fun Disaster! day happened last week when we had our fancy photo shoot. Here's how it went down: First, I went down to our (multi Tony Award-winning) costume designer William Ivey Long's office and got fitted. It's never fun to get fitted because you stand there while one person measures and someone else writes them down. How does the other person know the measurements, you ask? Because they're called out. That's right; you stand there, and someone says, "Waist! 29!" (PS: That measurement was never said about me.) The good news is it was much less traumatic than my last Broadway fitting, where I had to stand in my underwear…and then have photos taken from every angle. Again: Photos. And, I repeat: Every angle. OK. Let's cleanse that palate and move on!

Rachel York with James
Rachel York with James

After we were all fitted, we arrived to a very hip photo studio in Chelsea. All of the leads who live in New York were there (Kerry Butler, me, Rachel York). Lacretta Nicole, who is on the Book of Mormon national tour flew in from Ft. Worth, and all the L.A. actors (Roger Bart, Kevin Chamberlin, Faith Prince and Adam Pascal) flew in as well. We got to the studio and started hair and makeup and getting into our outfits. Great food laid out, and disco music pumping. Yes, it was totally "America's Next Top Model"!

The marketing and publicity people decided we should all be dressed up and, OMG, everyone looked great! We all took single shots in various poses for the poster — from, "I'm sexy and so what?" to "There is an earthquake happening right now!"

Dressed up for the commercial!
Dressed up for the commercial!

After that, we filmed the TV commercial (but I'm not supposed to talk about the concept!). It really was one of the most fun days ever. We basically spent the whole day laughing and looking amazing. The next day, we all met at 10 AM and did a read-through of the script to look at some of the changes. Yet again, so much fun! Roger Bart and I have so many scenes opposite each other, and I loved sitting next to him for the reading because he is so fun-nee! Speaking of fun-nee, I love the video I made describing what the show is about, featuring a guest appearance by James and my mother.


I'm realizing the title of the show may present problems. First story: Last summer, James and I were hanging out with Audra, and I was talking about a gig I didn't want to do. It was going to be during March, so I was hoping I could get out of it if the show came to Broadway. I said to Audra, "Hopefully Disaster! will happen, and I won't have to do the gig." She looked incredibly concerned and said, "Be very specific when you say that!" Huh? Specific about what? Finally, we realized she thought I was saying, "Hopefully, disaster will happen, and I won't have to do the gig." She literally thought I meant that I hoped a horrific disaster would happen to me or the people running the gig, and I could get out of it! We reminded her that Disaster! is the name of the show, and I wasn't laying a curse on myself and a certain regional producer. PS: I was told by my co-writer Jack, who's reading this as I write it, to make sure I reiterate that all these stories are totally true. They are true!

OK, next one: We have an investor named Richard Ellenson, who has a great kid named Tom. When I found out that Disaster! was going into the Nederlander, I called Tom to tell him first because I thought he would love knowing before his dad. Cut to later that afternoon, Tom was in a very, very minor car accident. His father, however, didn't know he was perfectly OK… All he knew was there was an accident. He frantically called Tom to see how he was, and instead of hearing his son say, "I'm totally fine," he heard his son yell, "Disaster! is coming!," which sent his father over the edge.

OK! Next week I'll write about the amazing Gypsy of the Year!

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