Little Miss Sunshine's David Rasche: From Nonmusical Second City to Musical Second Stage

By Harry Haun
13 Nov 2013

James Lapine

Rasche played the passenger Donald Freeman Greene, and he met and interviewed the man's widow and children, as general research for the role.

"Nobody knows what anybody did, but what Paul guesses is that my guy was an amateur pilot and there was talk about what do we do. It could have conceivably been that they'd have said, 'We'll go in. We'll get the guys. You fly the plane.' I don't know if that's what happened, but that's what he speculated, and that's what we did.

"Paul's absolutely brilliant, the most fearless director I've ever worked with. He had an idea and a structure, but he didn't have a script because no one knows what happened from 9:30 when the terrorists took over to 10 when the plane went down, but he knew he had the faith that if he had a bunch of actors and some ideas that we would improvise our way through it. I can't tell you how much research he did on this thing. He met every single family, had dinner with them and interviewed them.

"It was very tiring to do. We must have done those 30 minutes at least 40 times, day after day after day, with cameras in a different spot. The terrorist would come in, and we'd react and do the whole half-hour. Then we'd take a break and do it again.

"I think there was another guy who was supposed to play the chief of the control tower, but it didn't really work out well. He then called the real guy, and that guy came in and did it. What he did was what he did and what he said was what he said."

So what, at this late date (he's 69 and a bona fide grandfather) got Rasche back on musical track? Four words: Casting director Bernie Telsey. "I auditioned for another musical, which will remain unnamed, and was not cast, but Bernie thought, 'This guy can do it' when this thing came up, and he contacted James Lapine and William Finn.

"I've know Bill Finn for a long time, from around. The first time I knew of Bill — and I think James Lapine directed it — was a production of A Winter's Tale at The Public with Mandy years ago. Finn wrote the music, and I'll never forget that music. When I told him that, he said, 'You're the only person who has ever commented on it!'

"It's an exciting time to be working with Lapine, because he's the guy who said, 'Let's make this into a musical.' He's the guy who brought Bill Finn in." It figured: They did The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and March of the Falsettos together.