Hello again, Ohio! Yep, I traveled back to Ohio this weekend for a show at Clark State Performing Arts Center. I say I went “back” to Ohio because I spent four years studying at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. It’s so odd to me that I trained as a classical pianist when it was really just Broadway I loved. I think it’s because I was so shocked I got accepted and I loved the liberal vibe of the school when I visited that I decided to go there … even though I wasn’t planning on being a concert pianist on any level. I found some footage of me playing a piece by Liszt at my senior recital, and I want to say #StillGotIt but I don’t still got it. I don’t think I could play this shizz anymore.
Anyhoo, last weekend I was at the Parker Playhouse in warm Fort Lauderdale, Florida, doing a concert with Santino Fontana. He’s so funny and such a great singer. When he first moved to NYC, he told me he worked as a reader at auditions. That means when people had to read a scene for an audition, he would read all the other parts. It led to him being asked to do a reading of All Good Things, the film based on the Robert Durst murder case. Santino got a call asking him if he was a “good reader.” He said yes and was asked to read alongside Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling. There was tons for him to read … but he wasn’t playing a part. He was reading all the descriptions in the script. What he was reading far outweighed the dialogue in the film. He said it was basically like this:
SANTINO: Robert Durst pulls his car into the driveway. We see him put it in park and turn off the motor. He opens the door and walks up the long driveway to his mansion. He fishes for his keys and opens large double doors that lead to a marble hallway. We see him slowly walk down the hallway to a beautifully adorned bathroom. He washes his hands. He glances up at the mirror. He sees his haggard face. He stares. He keeps staring. Finally …
RYAN GOSLING: Crap.
SANTINO: Durst continues washing his hands. He dries them on a nearby hand towel and opens the door leading back to the marble hallway, etc. etc.
It was basically the Santino show with guest appearances by Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst.
We also talked about his amazing performance in the film Frozen. Turns out, he recorded all of his lines completely separate from anyone else. (Except his duet “Love Is An Open Door,” which was recorded in studio with Kristen Bell.) When he finally saw the film premiere, he said it was so weird to hear his voice coming out of a character. It felt like he was watching himself perform, even though it was animated. At one point, there was a joke and he thought to himself, “Ah! I should have waited an extra beat before I spoke.” Then he realized, it wasn’t him he was watching perform. The timing of the lines was all up to the editor.
PS, it wasn’t just Santino that forgot it wasn’t him. One of his friends called him after seeing the film and said, “Santino! You were so great in Frozen. I forgot what a good dancer you are.” What?
I also did my weekly livestream concert The Seth Concert Series with Eden Espinosa last Sunday. She told me that when she first auditioned for Les Misérables, she was nonunion. That meant she had to go in a group of around ten women and hope they would let her sing. Well, she went in and was typed out. The casting person looked at her and told her not to stay to sing. Why? She looks like a perfect Eponine. Years later, she was starring in an opening number for the Easter Bonnet Competition I put together with Josh Rhodes, and she told me at rehearsal she was auditioning for the Les Misérables revival. They wanted to see her … for Cosette. WTH? I told her to go, but that she was actually right for Fantine. She auditioned with “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess, and the composer looked at her and said, “Well, you’re obviously a Fantine.” Again, I still got it! They offered her the role, but she was offered the tour of Wicked at the same time. (She had played Elphaba on Broadway.) It was her chance to do Wicked in her hometown, so she said yes and turned down Fantine.
In 2014, they revived Les Misérables again. She told me she didn’t expect an outright offer for Fantine, but she did ask to audition. They told her N to the O. What? She had been offered the role a few years before! Hmph. Speaking of conflicting offers, Lea Michele was offered the role of Eponine in that revival. (The same production where Eden was offered Fantine.) Lea had to choose between that or the original Broadway company of Spring Awakening. It’s not quite the same because Lea played Young Cosette when she was a kid, so she got to do Les Misérables at least once. Eden has still never belted while having dirt smeared on her face.
And speaking of Les Misérables, I did the show back when it was three hours and fifteen minutes long. I was a keyboard two sub in the pit, and the amazing part was we got overtime pay because it was over three hours. The headachy part was it was over three hours. I was also subbing An Inspector Calls next door at the same time. During Les Misérables intermission, I’d step outside and see the audience literally leaving An Inspector Calls. And our act two hadn’t even begun yet!