Why Jessica Vosk Temporarily Quit Performing After Her American Idol Audition Experience

Seth Rudetsky   Why Jessica Vosk Temporarily Quit Performing After Her American Idol Audition Experience
 
This week, Seth meets with Disney on Broadway alums and hosts a Queer as Folk reunion.
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Jessica Vosk Tricia Baron

We’re back from Greece and we went immediately to Rochester. Our flight from Athens landed in NYC at 3:30 PM, and after customs and getting our bags, we drove upstate and got in around 6PM. We left the next morning at 6:30 AM to drive to Rochester so I could do my Deconstructing Broadway show. The amazing part was that I scheduled both shows to be matinees before I ever knew I’d be in Greece the day before… Greece is seven hours ahead so it was easy to do a 3 PM show instead of an 8 PM show, which would have felt like 3AM to me.

One of the crazy things that happened on the flight home was; the women in back of me asked me my last name. When I said “Rudetsky” she could not believe it. It was a lot of “Shut up!” Turns out, her friend is a fan of mine (from my radio show) and over the last week had constantly told her “Seth is in Mykonos. Maybe you’ll run into him…” It’s like when people say “I’m from Cleveland” and someone says “Do you know Michael?” Well, her friend was the Jeane Dixon of Broadway fans—she predicted we’d run into each other and I was sitting right in front of her on the plane! We both FaceTimed her friend from the plane because she needed a brava for Oprah “secret-ing” it.

Michael James Scott, Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, and Kissy Simmons
Michael James Scott, Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, and Kissy Simmons The Music of Disney on Broadway at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Frontyard Festival

So, there was a big Disney celebration coming to the New Amsterdam last week and we had the cast—Ashley Brown, Michael James Scott, Josh Strickland, and Kissy Simmons—on Stars in the House (the profits from their show went to The Actors Fund). I asked Ashley about any onstage mishaps while she was playing Mary Poppins (Note: her first big song is “Practically Perfect”). Ashley said that at one point during early previews, she walked the big staircase and didn’t look down at the stairs. The audience loved it so that became her bit. Well, it backfired at one show because, from not looking down, she completely wiped out. She didn’t know what to say as she laid in a heap on the floor so she referenced her last song and briskly stated, “Well, I did say ‘practically.’” Brava call back! Also, here’s a great clip I found of Josh singing a song from Tarzan with Phil Collins, who wrote it.

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The cast of Queer As Folk.

Also, on Stars in the House, we had a reunion of Queer as Folk cast members and received a ton of donations for The Actors Fund that night. Wow, that show is loved. We asked everyone how they got the roles and Sharon Gless told us that her friend sneaked her a script and told her there was a role that was perfect for her (the role of Hal Sparks’ character’s gay-positive Mom). She read it and told us that she had never wanted a role as much as she wanted that role. She felt she had never seen anything like it before. Sharon met with the creators and told them how much she loved the script… but she knew that oftentimes pilot scripts are amazing/risqué and then they tame them down for the filming. She asked the creators during the meeting, “Are you going to keep the script the same?” and then told her “Every frame.” She responded “Then sign me up, coach. I’m in!” She called her agent and asked him if he had heard of the show. He told her, “I’d never let you be in the filthy show!” She responded, “Well, I just got the filthy part… so negotiate the deal.” She wound up playing the role for years. Here’s her first appearance.

Hal Sparks told us he was shooting Dude, Where’s My Car? and that his agent handed him the script as if it were radioactive. Hal said it was if he were wearing a hazmat suit and holding it with tongs. Both his manager and agent were against him doing it the whole time. They advised him against reading for it, going for the call back, testing for it, and finally taking the gig. He feels there were other people the show wanted for the role and he never would have gotten it if agents everywhere hadn’t been telling their clients not to do it. As Hal quipped, “I love being the thousandth choice for something!”

Jessica Vosk auditioning for <i>American Idol</i>
Jessica Vosk auditioning for American Idol Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

On Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM radio show, I had Jessica Vosk and we talked about her upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall. First, though, I asked her about her years after college when she had stopped performing. If you don’t know, Jessica did tons of musicals in high school and college but then spent years working in the corporate world. I wanted to know if something specific happened that made her stop pursuing the arts for all the years. The answer is yes! Turns out, she auditioned for American Idol and it was horrific. Jessica said when she was around 20, she auditioned and kept getting past all the preliminary rounds (which took around a year). Finally, she made it in front of Paula, Randy and Simon. She sang “Alone” by Heart, and she got negative comments from Simon, who told her she seemed “desperate.”

Needless to say, she did not make it to the next round, but the worst part was, they have you bring your family to the audition. Yes, her whole family (and then-boyfriend) were there to see the judges not like her and Simon make his stupid comment. The cameras then followed her out of the room, out of the building, and to the parking lot. Of course, they were hoping she’d break down and cry. She did not! She did, however, quit music and theatre because it was so traumatic. She went into the corporate world for years and and throughout all that time, never saw a concert, cabaret act, musical, etc. She blocked it all out.

Loretta Ables Sayre and cast
Loretta Ables Sayre and cast

I am so angry at so-called reality shows because it makes aspiring artists think that auditions are as horrific as they’re portrayed. Yes, I’m sure there are people who are nightmares behind the table when people audition, but in all my years in the business, it’s been an extremely rare occurrence. A classic story I know involves Loretta Ables Sayre. She lives in Hawaii and, years ago, there were auditions for the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific happening on her island. She got an audition but decided not to go. Why? Because she thought they would be mean to her. Yes, her only experience of seeing professional auditions was watching reality shows and she thought it was normal for the person auditioning to be skewered by the people behind the table. Thankfully, her husband talked her through it and convinced her to go. She wound up getting the role of Bloody Mary, making her Broadway debut, and scoring a Tony nomination. Here she is in a fabulous The Today Show piece when South Pacific was opening. What a voice!

And here’s Jessica Vosk who left the corporate world (after she was having panic attacks because her body knew she was making the wrong choice) and then went on to star in Wicked. And will be doing her Carnegie Hall concert in November!

This weekend I’ll be in Provincetown with Rachel Bay Jones and Judy Kuhn. Come see us! There’s always amazing music in these concerts and always something unexpected. This is from a few years ago when I had Judy sing “Nobody’s Side” from Chess which she hadn’t performed in years. Watch and peace out!

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