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

By Harry Haun
13 Nov 2013

William Finn

"Bill is a lovely guy, funny as hell, as is Lapine, who's got a great sense of humor and is very gentle, very curious. He was saying he had sort of a change about ten years ago. He was questioning. 'Why am I doing what I am doing?' — and he found a new reason. His delight is in seeing this. It's all going to be new. He doesn't know what's will happen. He's got some ideas and he's planned a lot, but he doesn't know for sure. I think that this show is really going to be something very original and fun."

Now that Rasche's "music box" has been opened on a professional theatre stage, is he shopping around suddenly for more reasons to lift his voice in song? "I'm thinking this is so much fun right now I'm not thinking ahead. I don't think anyone is. This is very adventuresome on Lapine's part and also on Bill Finn's part to take something like this. This'll be different from their La Jolla version. It had a reincarnation there, and they completely reworked it. We're nothing like that. It's much more intimate. They had a chorus and cast of 14, and they're not doing that this time. They're really going to concentrate on the family. What they're trying to do is expand the characters a little bit — find out a little bit more about them — so that the songs are arias. They're talking about themselves in a way they didn't do in the movie."

Rasche continues to trip the light fantastic — his vainglorious actor in To Be or Not to Be, though not a conscious imitation of Jack Benny, nevertheless beckoned Benny — and scores of other stylish comedic turns. But he's still drawn to the dark-meaty roles and devours them on the spot, often making a memorable spectacle.

Second Stage handed him one of his best last year in Kenneth Lin's Warrior Class. "I was a political operative, who found a young Chinese politician and was shepherding him through politics — trying to get him in the right spot, trying to get him on the right committees. As it turns out, I had my own reasons for doing what I was doing. I put my own personal tragedy in it. That was also a wonderful play because you found out about everybody. I came off as a really selfish, mean guy — till you realized what tragedy I had. Then you thought, 'Gee, things are pretty mixed up.'

"Again, it was a wonderful cast, and Evan Cabnet directed it. Directing is a high-wire act. You juggle to let the audience discover but you have to have things in order. Lapine said the same thing: To be told to move there or do that isn't fun for anyone.

"Well, I did enjoy Warrior Class, but I'm like any other actor. When you get a role, you marry it, and, at that moment, it's your favorite role that you've ever played. You're married. It's the best role — the best musical I've ever had. You fall in love."