How Jim Borstelmann's Ann Reinking Obsession Nearly Cost Him an Audition | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky How Jim Borstelmann's Ann Reinking Obsession Nearly Cost Him an Audition

Plus, Charlotte d’Amboise shares when she totally wigged out on stage and why being on Broadway made Andrea McArdle completely uncool in school.

Jim Borstelmann and Ann Reinking

Happy cold weather! 

I just got back from warm Los Angeles. I was there to do a show with Lillias White at The Wallis. Sadly, on the day of the show, Lillias tested positive for COVID. Ugh! We were both so disappointed we had to cancel our show. Thankfully, she wasn’t feeling too badly physically. She will be doing her own concert in San Francisco this week and then will be back in Hadestown next week. Lillias and I will be back in L.A. but, if you need a dose of Lill in the meantime, here she is!

I will return to Feinstein’s in Carmel, Indiana soon. On this visit to Carmel, I'll be doing my Deconstructing the 70s Variety Show, highlighting The Brady Bunch Hour in detail. Here’s a little promo!

James and I still are doing our live stream for the Entertainment Community Fund (née the Actors Fund) every week as a game night. In total, we've raised $1.1 million so far! 

Last week, we highlighted cast members from Chicago with our good pals Brenda Braxton, who was a long-running Velma, and the amazing Charlotte d'Amboise, who has been playing Roxie off-and-on for 20 years. She's even back in the show right now, and looks better than ever!

We asked our friend Jim Borstelmann about his history with the show, and he told us about his original audition. This was in 1992, way before the Encores production and subsequent Broadway transfer. No, this was the Long Beach Civic Light Opera revival starring Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking, who also choreographed. 

Jim was obsessed with Ann Reinking (but who wasn't?) and was so excited to finally be auditioning for her. While he was warming up, someone came over and started to compliment his performance in Jerome Robbins' Broadway. Jim was polite, but not in the mood to chat. He couldn't be distracted before the big audition. 

Jim looked at the man and said, “Thank you so much, but you don’t understand. Ann Reinking is here. I have to get ready to audition for Ann Reinking!” 

The man was very understanding, leaving Jim alone. When it came time to audition, Jim walked into the room and was shocked to see the gentleman he had spoken to was sitting behind the table. Jim realized he had blown off the director, Rob Marshall. Luckily, Rob thought Jim’s Reinking focus was adorable, because Jim got the gig. 

A few years later, Jim randomly ran into Ann at Fairway. She told him Encores was going to put Chicago on again. She asked Jim if he wanted to join, and he said yes. The show transferred to Broadway, and Jim stayed with it for years. In fact, he didn’t leave until he joined the original company of show I was doing in 2001, The Producers. Of course, he was amazing in that. 

At the end of the game night, Jim revealed he’s coming back to Broadway in the Spring for New York, New York. I will be thrilled to see him back on stage.

The rules of game night are such that the losing team has to tell an embarrassing story from their past. 

Charlotte told everyone a story from when she took over Karen Ziemba’s Tony Award-winning role in Contact. Charlotte was onstage in the middle of a dance during which another dancer is supposed to take off Charlotte’s hat. This time, Charlotte's wig came right off with the hat. To make it doubly chaotic, part of the choreography was that the hat (and wig) was passed around the entire stage. Charlotte would not be getting it back for some time. Instead, she had to dance, and try to be sexy, around the stage in her horrific-looking wig cap. When she finally got her wig back, she put it on quickly, thinking she was just in time to play a serious scene. She thought she had recovered the wig smoothly, not realizing in her haste she had put it on backwards

During the curtain call, Charlotte decided to own what had happened. Right after she bowed, she completely removed her wig to acknowledge the craziness. Unbeknownst to Charlotte, John Weidman, Contact's author, was in the audience that night. To make matters worse, he had only come at the end to catch bows, so, he did not what Charlotte was referencing by removing her wig. From his perspective, it was an out-of-the-blue totally bizarre choice that was decidedly not in the script. He came backstage after the show and was like, “What were you doing the curtain call?!”

Also in the audience that night was her Song and Dance cast mate Denise Faye. Denise came backstage and told Charlotte, “As bad as you think it was, it was actually worse.”

Leigh Zimmerman was also a game night loser. She told us about her audition for the role of “Go To Hell” Kitty in Chicago. There were so many amazing dancers at the audition, so she knew she had to do something stand out. Well, her character is supposed to be having an over-the-top fit, so when she performed the scene at her audition, she dug her nails into her fishnets and tore a giant hole down the side. Then, as she kicked and screamed the famous line, she completely kicked her shoes completely off. 

She knew she got it when, right after the scene, Ann Reinking said, “Buy that girl a new pair of tights!"

You can see Jim off of Bebe’s right shoulder during, “All That Jazz.” Leigh is the tall blonde in the second row. Watch!

This weekend, I have two concerts streaming live! First, I have my usual Sunday night concert at 8pm with Andrea McArdle. I've added a show for Monday November 14th at 8pm with Sis, who recently played Ado Annie on the Oklahoma! national tour and is now in American Horror Story.

Andrea was the very first girl to try out for Annie. (You know, Betty Buckley always said one should try to be either the first or the last person to audition for any given role.) Andrea went in and belted “Johnny One Note.” I’m sure she sounded amazing, but director Martin Charnin wasn’t seeing what he wanted. He though she she looked too prim and her hairstyle was too perfect. Martin mussed her hair up to see what she’d look like if she lived in a poor orphanage in the 1930s. He achieved the desired horrific hairstyle he wanted. 

Unfortunately for Andrea, the audition took place while she was on her lunch break for Days of Our Lives. She came back to set after lunch with her hair looking quite different from how it had been styled to film the next scene. Though everyone on the soap set was not pleased, she booked the part in Annie. So it all worked out, right? 

Andrea was consistently on television back in the 1970s. There are way too many cool videos of her to include in just one column. Andrea always felt like a nerd in school because she was so Broadway and her young friends were all about contemporary music. What they heard on the radio was cool. Everything else? Not so much. Andrea finally got some cool points when she booked Dance Fever. Yes! She was going to a guest on the show all about modern music opposite someone amazing, like disco star Donna Summer. Andrea was so excited she could at last be considered cool because she’d be dancing to a new disco album. Unfortunately for Andrea, the other guest was Ethel Merman. Alas, Andrea was a Broadway nerd yet again. #Devastated

I must say, if you have never heard Ethel’s disco album, it’s time you did. Watch Ethel showcase some funkadelic moves!

Okay, back to Andrea’s many television appearances. I decided to post one I feel is so classic 70s. She’s singing her signature song from Annie in a mashup with one of the hottest songs of the year, "You Light Up My Life." It's a perfect combination! Give it a watch. 

Also, here is the newest video where I highlight Andrea’s amazing Broadway belt!

Please get your tickets to see me and Andrea McArdle in concert this Sunday, the 13th, and Sis this Monday, the 14th, at Peace out!

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