Why No One Should Ever Leave an Audition Thinking the Dance Combination Is Too Hard

Seth Rudetsky   Why No One Should Ever Leave an Audition Thinking the Dance Combination Is Too Hard
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares stories from Beth Leavel and Paul Castree about the could-have-been jobs they passed up.
Seth Rudetsky and Beth Leavel
Seth Rudetsky and Beth Leavel

I’m back! Since February 14, I’ve been to Fort Lauderdale, San Juan, Tortola and St. John, Nassau (The Bahamas). The most recent stay in Fort Lauderdale was for concert series at the Parker Playhouse. My concert was going to be with Stephanie J. Block, but just a few days before the concert she told me she was sick and couldn’t sing! At all! She was so upset to disappoint me but I was “chill.” I get that people get sick and, it’s one thing to fake through one song, but you can’t do a whole concert with no voice. I was probably also relaxed because I knew another Tony Award winner would be arriving in Fort Lauderdale at the exact moment when I needed a replacement. Yes, Beth Leavel was in town for our other gig, so I asked her if she’d stay the night in Fort Lauderdale and she said yes!

We had a great time doing our show together at The Parker Playhouse and the audience was fabulous. Beth is constantly saying she’s not a dancer yet she had a dancing lead in the original company of 42nd Street. She played Anytime Annie for four years! She admits that, yes, she can tap, but she feels she’s not a real Broadway dancer. She thought she was when she came to New York City because she had taken dance class until she was 10 years old and choreographed two shows in college. But, then she went to a Cats audition.


She told us it was on the stage of Winter Garden theater (#OldSkool) and it was a giant cattle call. Gillian Lynne (the original choreographer) taught the combination and then everyone auditioning demonstrated in groups of four. Because she was like number 649, she was able to watch everyone go before her. Soon, she began to realize that her dance skills were not at the level of the dance skills she was witnessing. When they finally got to the group that would include 649, she got up to dance and instead of strutting her stuff….she simply walked the hell out of the theatre. She was too mortified to try to match what anyone else was doing.

Of course, the flip side to that story belongs to my friend Paul Castree; he was auditioning for Ragtime and was at the dance call. Like Beth, he is a Broadway dancer (he was one of the leads in Saturday Night Fever) but, also like Beth, he doesn’t consider himself a dancer. The combination contained some ballet and because he has no ballet training, he decided to leave. The casting director saw him leaving and told him to stay. He explained that the combination was too hard, but she told him to try it nonetheless. He waited for his group to dance when he saw another guy attempting to dance. The guy was so clunky at ballet that Paul completely saw himself in his struggle and did not want to have everyone see his horrific version of the combination. Again, he went to leave and, even though the casting director again asked him to stay, Paul was firm that he really couldn’t dance it and he left. Cut to months later: Paul saw Ragtime and loved it. He so wished he could have been in it and had second thoughts about leaving the dance call especially because (here’s the shocker ending) the horrific ballet dancing guy got cast! My point is: why not try?

Here’s Beth Leavel dancing, even though she claims she’s not a dancer:

And here’s Paul Castree being a Broadway dancer, even though he claims he’s not! (He’s in the light blue patchwork pants…and also look for Orfeh in the red dress.)

I talked to Beth about her Tony Award-winning role in The Drowsy Chaperone and she remembered the very first preview. The first performance in front of a paying audience is really incredible. No one has any idea if the show will work. There is so much tension mixed with so much hope mixed with so much fear.

What if no one laughs? What if no one gets it? What if what was amazing in the rehearsal room doesn’t translate to those out of the rehearsal room?

If you don’t know, the show starts with the character of “Man-in-Chair” (Bob Martin) talking to the audience in a complete blackout. Beth remembers standing backstage in the wings with fellow cast member Danny Burstein, wondering how the audience would respond. Suddenly Bob’s voice spoke:“I hate theatre.” And…. the audience laughed! And Beth remembered feeling enormous relief and thinking “OMG…I think this is going to be a hit!”

Of course, she had the same feeling on the night of the Tony Awards because The Drowsy Chaperone was on a roll. Best Scenic Design of a Musical… Best Costume Design of a Musical… Best Featured Actress in a Musical… Best Score… BEST BOOK! Beth was like, “OMG…I think we’re going to win Best Musical!” And then it went to... Jersey Boys.

I guess her psychic ability was a one-use-only product.

We also talked about creating roles (she got to create original roles in Crazy For You; Civil War; The Drowsy Chaperone; Baby, It’s You; Bandstand; and The Prom) and how often lines change during previews. At one point in Drowsy, the character George asks Beth's Chaperone if it’s too early in the morning to be drinking and Beth remembers Bob Martin giving her many different lines to try during previews.

Her favorite version was:
GEORGE: “Say, it’s a little early in the day to be drinking, isn’t it?”
…but it did not get the response she wanted. (A.k.a. crickets.)

Eventually, the winner was:
GEORGE: “Say, it’s a little early in the day to be drinking, isn’t it?”
DROWSY CHAPERONE: “I don’t understand the question.”

By the way, Juli just graduated The Aveda Institute in Soho (for hair and make-up) and did Beth’s hair and make-up for the concert. Look how fabulous Beth looks!


One of the songs we performed with the passengers was “It’s Today” featuring Christine Pedi and we decided that the reprise should feature Angela Lansbury. Listen how much Christine sounds like Angela! She is a wonder.

My next trip is to Scottsdale to do a show with the fantastic Norm Lewis on Friday, March 6!

I just found this quick promo we filmed for our previous show in Provincetown. Listen to how fabulous his voice (the spin and the riffs) is and see us next weekend!

Peace out!

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