ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Anchors Aweigh on the Playbill Cruise and Memory Lane with Rory O'Malley

By Seth Rudetsky
06 Aug 2013

Rory O'Malley
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Speaking of clunky theatre experiences, I had Rory O'Malley (Tony nominee for Book of Mormon and currently starring in Nobody Loves You) on my "Chatterbox" last week and he was telling us about a gig he did a few years ago. It was him and few other Broadway folk and they were all cast in a reading of a musical (that shall go unnamed). They showed up and were told by the man who wrote the show that, even though they were cast, they still had to audition to see what part they were right for. He didn't want them to hear each other, so they all went into a room with him separately.

The composer told Rory that he didn't know how to write down music, so Rory would have to learn the song as he sang it to him. As the man sang and Rory sang it back, Rory couldn't believe how bad it was. Soon, he began to seriously look for cameras. He was sure he was being "punk'd". Rory couldn't decide whether to admit he knew it was a joke or go along with it because then the final version would be hilarious. Rory decided to learn the whole awful song but eventually started to laugh. He knew that laughter would ruin the "Punk'd" episode so he forced himself to hold it in. It took such effort, that he began crying. Well, turns out, it wasn't a "Punk'd" episode; it was simply a terrible musical. And because Rory started crying, the composer thought he was an amazing actor who could really tap into his emotions. Rory got the lead.

My other guest was the hilarious Julie Halston, who's about to start her encore engagement at Birdland doing Classical Julie, where she plays various classic dramatic roles, yet keeps her signature Long Island attitude/accent. Julie is good friends with Andrew Rannells and went to see a workshop of The Book of Mormon. After the show, she was crying because she was so happy for Andrew. She told the director that this show would be life changing for Andrew and he mentioned that it could easily lead to a role on "Glee." Julie's sobbing dried up completely so she could yell "F*ck 'Glee'!" That was followed by her saying Andrew could get his own TV show — which, of course, he did!

Rory started working on Mormon from the very first reading, and he remembers a big casting director telling him how hilarious he thought the show was. That was followed by the same casting director saying, "Of course, it will never get produced." A lot of people thought that the subject matter/language would never be successful on Broadway. Cut to, one of the biggest money makers ever. I love that kind of story!

Julie piped in and said, "You can always defy expectation." Her example happened a few years ago. She was talking to her great friend Charles Busch and told him that she was sick of being a downtown diva and she wanted to do Broadway. He immediately said, "But Julie...you have no skills!" Even though Charles was being funny, Julie knew it was true. She had never really sang or danced before. Instead of giving up, though, she got a vocal coach and started taking dance/aerobics/movement classes. A few years later, she's now been in six Broadway shows! You can watch the whole interview (plus Rory's amazing song from Nobody Loves You) on SethTV.com.

OK, I'm signing off from Helsinki. Tomorrow, St. Petersburg! Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)