February 22, 1983…a date which will live in theatrical infamy. This was the opening (and closing) night of Moose Murders, Arthur Bicknell's legendary Broadway flop about a bizarre bunch of characters trapped in a lodge in the Adirondacks during a snow storm, during which several murders and a little bit of attempted incest takes place. In his review/showbituary for the The New York Times, Frank Rich speculated, "A visit to Moose Murders is what will separate the connoisseurs of Broadway disaster from mere dilettantes for many moons to come."
Nearly thirty years later, the Beautiful Soup Theater Collective is giving New York audiences another chance to join that exclusive club with their revival of Moose Murders (with extensive revisions from Bicknell) at the Connelly Theatre January 29 through February 10. Considering their involvement in a play with such a storied past, we had to ask the cast: what is the one show you've been in, professional or otherwise, that was most likely to close in one night, and why? Here are their stories.
Brittany Velotta: It would have to be my first musical ever, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It was a high school production. The set was beautiful and we had a live orchestra. You were required to be part of the spring musical if you were in drama class. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few, students only joined drama because they thought it was the easiest elective next to band or choir. More than half of our cast didn't have any interest in being part of the musical…. I'm sure you can imagine what that show looks like with high school students who don't sing or dance or share any interest in the theater for that matter. It should have been one night only--not a five performance show!
Oh The Places You'll Go, Romeo
Sienna Metzgar: You have to love middle school productions. On the opening night of The Suessification of Romeo and Juliet we had about ten different people step into roles they didn't know. On top of that, the script was just bad. It was a rhyming Romeo and Juliet for little kids. It was the "Monotones" vs the "Capitulates." An excerpt from the show: "This is the double most pit situation. I'm victim of my father's capitulation. I can't marry Paris, 'cuz I got a husband. I'm sure that's illegal except on fuzz island."
I Am My Own Rimshot
Steven Carl McCasland: I was fifteen years old and had just been cast as the voracious Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. It isn't every chubby teenager's joy to be paraded around a stage in all your chubby glory, but I did it. Despite the fact that our set wasn't complete until 20 minutes before curtain, and despite the fact that there was no chocolate river and my instructions were to "fall into the orchestra pit," the show opened. It was a nightmare, but the audience seemed to enjoy it, especially when they heard me crash into a percussion kit. Flash forward a few years: my family is seeing a play in Sag Harbor. An usher recognizes me. Apparently he'd seen my star-turn as the hungry Austrian boy and thought I was wonderful. At least something good came out of it.
Waiting for the Audience
Cory Boughton: I once did a production of Waiting for Godot that got so little publicity that several nights we performed to a house smaller than the cast. Anyone who knows that show knows just how small a house that is...
The Littlest Nazi Goes Through Puberty
Orlando Iriarte: My most embarrassing stage performance was when I was cast as Rolfe in The Sound of Music, in the 8th grade. My voice cracked on stage opening night while singing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen." That's when I realized that musical theater was probably not in my future.
Old Folks Drag
Jordan Tierney: I was actually involved in a project that I curated for myself and a group of black actors. Being an actor of mixed race and having only done roles written for white actors, I thought it was time I started in on works by black playwrights. My choice? August Wilson's Jitney. It's a play with nine actors: one female, one young man, and seven men well beyond the years of the twenty year olds attempting to portray them in our production. I chose the oldest character in the play, Turnbo, who Wilson describes as being in his 60s. Needless to say, my performance was nothing short of embarrassing, but I left it thinking that if I could face an audience in the worst casting choice of my life, then there is no excuse for playing it safe in roles that were right for me.
The Ambitious Director
Caroline Rosenblum: An elementary school production of the Wagner's Die Walküre (The Valkyrie).
Don't show this again.