Patti Murin on What Happens When Your Broadway Show Is Canceled in Rehearsals
If you're reading this, you probably know the story. The musical comedy Nerds was announced to open on Broadway, the show was cast, designers feverishly started designing and creating, and rehearsals began with gusto. Things were happening quickly, everything was last-minute, but it was a heck of a lot of fun for a lot of people.
And then, our tech bubble was burst. Just two weeks into rehearsal, our lead producer informed us that we no longer had the money to continue, and not only would our show not be opening, but everyone was unemployed as of that very moment. Just a few minutes after we got the news, press releases went out and that was that. Done. Canceled. Finito. Forever.
But what people didn't see was what was happening inside that rehearsal room, moment by moment. Yes, we tweeted out a selfie with wine and pizza and teary smiles, but that didn't even scratch the surface of what was really happening. So I'm going to give a quick recap:
(Note: This is not a word-for-word dictation. Honestly I was in shock for most of this, so if none of it actually happened I wouldn't be surprised.)
Cast: (singing and bouncing around energetically) Liiiiiiiive yoooooour dream!
Producer and director walk in. Director's face says either someone died or our show got canceled.
Producer: Guys, I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, but unfortunately an investor dropped out and we no longer have the money to continue with the show. We will not be opening on Broadway this season.
Director: Our show will not be opening, and we are done rehearsing as of right now. I can't even believe I'm saying this. Everyone make your phone calls, and then we are going to drink a lot because I'm not going home yet.
MONTAGE: Shock. Tears. Panic. Some maniacal laughter. People sliding down walls to sit like you see in teen movies, but I swear it really happens when you're upset. Everyone texting, calling agents and significant others. Nothing really to say. Our amazing production assistants go out and return with a case of wine, half red and half white. Someone orders pizza. Drinking ensues at 1:45pm. All the while, next door there is an open call for the Royal Caribbean cruise line. We contemplate hopping on the end of that line. Decide it would be too painful if we didn't get the job.
So sometime during this, our director, the force of nature that is Casey Hushion, suggests that we get together the next day and do our show. Just one run-through for friends and family, right there in the studio. We had just finished blocking it that morning, literally. And we agreed this show that we had poured so much love and energy and creativity into should not end on such a low note.
The next morning, we gathered at 10:30, most of us hungover (some probably still drunk) to release our baby into the universe. Jennifer Ashley Tepper, our esteemed Broadway historian, was on hand. Friendly Broadway faces like Christian Borle, Ann Harada, and Gavin Creel beamed up at us as we somehow managed to get through the show in one piece-ish. Casey's husband, father, and children got to see the incredible work that their girl had created. Our writers got to see their work of 10-plus years get as close as it will ever get to a Broadway stage: a rehearsal studio on the fourth floor of Pearl, 500 8th Avenue, with folding chairs and in street clothes. And it was awesome.
Because only about 50 people know how truly magical and wonderful Nerds on Broadway was going to be, here's a list for everyone else of some things you won't get to see:
1. Casey. Freaking. Hushion. Remember that name. She is one of my role models, she is my friend, and she is one of the best directors you will ever work with/meet/cheer for as she wins 89 Tony Awards.
2. Lindsay Mendez in headgear, dressed up as a giant chess piece, making us pee our pants with laughter, and then making us cry just a second later as she opens her mouth and that magnificent voice comes out.
3. Rory O'Malley and Bryan Fenkart actually making us believe that they are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Once the glasses went on, it was all over. We should be especially sad that we don't get to experience these two in these roles.
4. Benny Elledge, the only man alive who was actually born to play Steve Wozniak in a musical. There also may have been a Segway involved. If he doesn't end up in Book of Mormon like, yesterday, I'm gonna be so pissed. This guy is the real deal.
5. Rob Morrison making his Broadway debut and breaking our hearts with his hilarious and sensitive portrayal of Paul Allen.
6. Our swings and standbys at the ready, jumping in seamlessly whenever necessary and usually knowing the blocking and choreography better than we did.
7. Our writers. Erik Weiner, Jordan Allen-Dutton, and Hal Goldberg. They will be back, and we will love their work.
8. The design of the show! Light-up costumes, some serious projection-mapping, the blending of high-tech and low-tech elements to make it seem fancy, but very down-to-earth at the same time.
And that's just a few general, very basic elements of our show that the public will never get to experience. But at least you can imagine them for yourself now, and smile as you do so. And that's better than nothing, right?