Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why I could never be in a musical -- even one that I wrote

These are pictures from the musical I co-wrote with Janet Brenner, THE 60s PROJECT. Just by looking at them you can tell it was a great show, right? Thanks to Janet for the pix.

The show was produced in 2006 at the Goodspeed Theater in Connecticut. It was theater summer camp except they never made us play basketball. Someday I hope there’s another production. It was very well received. Chris Berman from ESPN loved it. Not sure how many of the cast members even knew who Chris Berman is but still.

One night before a show I asked Andrew Rannells (who later went on to THE BOOK OF MORMON, THE NEW NORMAL, and GIRLS) just what it was like to be performing on stage and feeding off the reaction and energy of the audience? He said, “Well why don’t you just write a part for yourself in the show?” That was a lovely suggestion except for one thing – I have no talent. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, and I can’t act. You sort of need to have at least one of those skills to be in a musical.

I have had cameos in two TV shows I co-wrote with David Isaacs. One was OPEN ALL NIGHT. David and I played two swinging lawyers trying to pick up female mud wrestlers at a mace class. The producers added this stage direction: The two girls get tired of these idiots and flip them over their shoulders.

For a week we were getting tossed around. Finally, right after dress rehearsal on show night, after being bruised and battered, they cut they stunt.

My other appearance was on a very funny series called THE MARSHALL CHRONICLES. This time David and I played two gay guys at a Jewish wedding. I had two lines; one I had to deliver while actually walking!

Both of these series were quickly cancelled. You can understand why other producers aren’t checking my availability.

I have, however, made a number of appearances as a voice-over sportscaster. If a character is watching a sporting event on TV they always need an announcer’s voice playing underneath the scene. Observant fans of this blog noticed that I once did baseball play-by-play on a MODERN FAMILY episode. It was an early episode that now is being rerun a lot on USA and your local stations. These are great jobs. Usually they take fifteen minutes. I’ve done this for about twenty shows, most I’ve never seen. And of course, I played the Springfield Isotopes announcer on the “Dancin’ Homer” episode of THE SIMPSONS.

But that’s easy. I’m a play-by-play guy anyway and I can keep doing it over until everyone is happy. Not the same as stepping out on a live stage, having a million cues to remember, complicated dance numbers, jokes to sell, and playing a character that is real and believable even though you’re forced to yell every line and periodically break into song. Yes, this is Nathan Lane in real life, but for the rest of us it requires great discipline and talent.

So my hat’s off to theater people. All that skill, all that training, and still sometimes you have to appear in CATS.

13 comments:

Hamid said...

I've always admired those who have the talent and the stomach to perform on stage to an audience. Even if I could sing, dance or act, stage fright would stop me. So to be able to perform, remember your lines and your dance moves, all whilst blocking out the hundreds or thousands of people watching you, is a tremendous skill.

Also, off-topic but I want to strongly recommend you see Rush, which opened in the States this weekend but opened in the UK a couple of weeks ago. It's absolutely fantastic and in my opinion Ron Howard's best film. The acting is superb, the script by Peter Morgan is sharp and intelligent, and Howard's direction is breathtaking. He seems to be channeling Scorsese in the way he shoots and edits the race sequences. And it's also a nicely R rated film from him, and scenes that could've easily slipped into sentimentality are instead serious and authentic. I've seen it twice and if there's any justice it'll win Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars, NOT The Butler.

Rockgolf said...

I don't know if you've seen this from an interview with Vince Gilligan on HuffPost today:
HP: What's your favourite final episode of a TV show ever?

VG: That’s a good one. The one that always springs to mind is "MASH". I loved "MASH" as a kid, and I still love it. Just a week ago or so I was watching it again and it all came back to me. I’ve seen every single episode of that series, and I still think it holds up to this day.

The thing that works so well about the ending of "MASH" is that implicit in the very first episode is the idea of what the ending should be. The seeds are planted in that very first episode—here's a show about a bunch of people thrown together and they will make the best of a bad situation, but they all desperately want to go home.

So it stands to reason the final episode of "MASH" should be that everyone gets to go home — it’s a big goodbye — and that I think is the perfect ending for that series. It’s not a surprise ending. In fact you see it coming for 11 years, but it’s what you want as a viewer. It’s the only thing that can really satisfy you. And that’s why I think it’s a nearly perfect ending—or perhaps not nearly at all. Perhaps it is the perfect ending.

-- link to original in my name.

D. McEwan said...

Too bad. There are few things more fun than appearing in a musical, provided it's a good production and you don't have someone in an important role who's a huge pain in the ass, or an insane director. The rotten production of The Threepenny Opera i was in was no fun, doing Kiss Me, Kate with a leading man who was tempremental and had great difficulty getting his lines right or singing at the same tempo that orchestra was playing, was no fun at all, and doing Finian's Rainbow with a director who was certifiable (He expressed his dislike of the heroine's second-act costume by taking shears and shredding it) was hell on earth. But other than that, doing musicals is the most fun I've ever had onstage bepore an audience, more fun even than improv.

Igor said...

"I have, however, made a number of appearances as a voice-over sportscaster. If a character is watching a sporting event on TV they always need an announcer’s voice playing underneath the scene."

So what's the over-under?

No wonder I have problems with script-basics.

(Actually, I think I figured THIS one out.)

Anonymous said...

Voice-over is a movie term. It's short for "voice over picture." Basically a voice on the soundtrack from an unseen source. It might run under dialogue performed by on-camera actors but it's still voice-over.

Cap'n Bob said...

Being in a play is like riding a unicycle. The more you do it the easier it gets.

Breadbaker said...

Being in a musical is exactly like riding a unicycle. If you have no talent for it, you can hurt someone. I had a tiny role in "Ernest in Love" (the musical version of "The Importance of Being Earnest") and I once kicked a couch off stage.

D. McEwan said...

Being in a play is like riding a unicycle; if the saddle falls off, you're gonna get it in the ass.

Larry said...

I loved The Marshall Chronicles. It's a shame it was taken off the air so quickly. If people had watched, it would be considered a classic today.

Lorimartian said...

When I was 14 years old, my junior high school in Sunland/Tujunga, CA mounted a production of "H.M.S. Pinafore". I sang in the chorus. A Martinez (the actor), probably 15 years old at the time, played the sailor, Ralph Rackstraw. He could sing even then...and that music isn't easy. So much fun!

mike said...

I thought Dan Hoard was the announcer in that Simpsons episode, but I haven't seen it in a while.

TomH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TomH said...

"The Marshall Chronicles"!!! I've been trying to remember the name of that show for years! Thank you for solving one of my long-standing mysteries, Ken! :)