Why Sondheim Cold Emailed Rob McClure | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky Why Sondheim Cold Emailed Rob McClure

This week, Seth celebrates his birthday and chats with Anne Bobby about her name change.

Rob McClure
Rob McClure Marc J. Franklin

I’m another year older. My birthday was February 28, and I spent it in Las Vegas introducing the new season at the Smith Center. It was extra nice because my Dad and his wife, Gloria, live in the relatively nearby Palm Desert, so they were able to drive in and hang out with me. The day before that, I did my Seth’s Big Fat Broadway Show, and it was so fun to perform to a sold-out house. After my two days in Vegas, I hightailed it to Los Angeles, and James and I stayed with Jack Plotnick for a quick birthday visit. I’m so proud of Jack because he was just nominated for a Queerty award for his hilarious short film about The Shining. Watch!

Anyhoo, last week I did a concert with Rob McClure, and it was super fun. It was part of a regular livestream concert series that I do every week, but Rob was the first guest to bring props! He talked about being a teen and seeing a local production of Sweeney Todd. He was obsessed with the show, and especially with the big reveal at the end. (No spoilers. Let’s just say the Merle Louise track.) After he saw it for the first time, he couldn’t stop thinking about how cool it was that there would be future audiences who would get to enjoy that shocking reveal . . . and he began to go to the show nonstop. Yes, to see the show, but after a while it was mainly to watch the audience react to the act two twist. The cast became very aware of him since he was constantly there, and after the show closed, they gave him a cast jacket. Just to clarify, there weren’t cast jackets for the cast. Literally, they made one only for him. And he brought the jacket with him to the concert.

Rob also talked about winning the Rising Star Award at Paper Mill Playhouse and then working in the box office. While he was there, he auditioned for their production of I'm Not Rappaport that was first traveling to Florida. He didn’t get it, but when it came back to play Paper Mill, they told him that the young man who understudied the show was a Florida native and didn’t want to come up to New Jersey. They offered Rob the understudy position. It wound up paying half of what he was making in the box office, so he asked if he could keep his box office job and be on call if he had to go on. They said yes . . . and soon they told him the show was going to Broadway and he was going with it. That’s how he got his Equity card.

In our concert, he sang “I Love Betsy” from Honeymoon in Vegas. He told me Sondheim sent him an email saying, “After that opening number, I wanted to live in that theatre forever.” Here’s a clip: 

Rob wrote back and mentioned in passing that he was also a writer. Sondheim responded, “How nice. Take care.” Just kidding; Sondheim wrote back and invited him to lunch. Can you believe it? While he was there, Rob told Mr. S that his favorite lyrics are from “Moments in the Woods.” The Baker’s Wife sings:

“Must it all be either less or more?
Either plain or grand?
Is it always ‘or’?
Is it never ‘and’?
That's what woods are for
For those moments in the woods”

Sondheim told him that he also liked the lyrics because of the double meaning. Rob was like “Huh?” And then Sondheim explained that “woods” also means “woulds.” Wha—? Rob then told him that he had just performed the show at The Muny, and it’s spelled w-o-o-d-s in the score. And then Sondheim explained that that’s because “woods” is what the Baker’s Wife means, but he hoped the audience would hear the other meaning as well. At that point, Rob’s head exploded. Here’s the song with said double meaning:

On Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM radio show, I interviewed Anne Bobby, who’s doing a show at Feinstein’s/54 Below on March 21. (It’s also streaming.) First, let’s discuss her name. When I was at Oberlin, I spent a semester doing an internship at the Equity Library Theatre. They housed us at the Century-Paramount Hotel on 46th street, which was kind of a dump. Now it’s the very nice Paramount Hotel. Anyhoo, it’s right down the street from The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, and on the way to my (dumpy) room, I’d always pass the billboard for Smile and see all the photos outside. There was a large one of a young woman in a bathing suit that said “Anne Marie Bobby” underneath. Well, that was Anne’s professional Equity name, but she was called “Anne” by everyone she knew. She told me she dropped the “Marie” after she was doing a show and the stage manager came looking for her and said he had called her name on the intercom nonstop. She realized that hearing the name “Anne Marie” called numerous times had no effect on her. That’s when she realized she needed to go by just “Anne.”

I then asked her about the original Les Misérables casting I had heard about. I wanted the full story. Here it is: she had done the readings and workshops of Smile, a musical by Howard Ashman and Marvin Hamlisch. She knew it was coming to Broadway, but didn’t know when. In the meantime, she was asked to fly to London to audition for the Broadway transfer of Les Miz. She hadn’t seen Les Miz, but was asked to audition for the role of Éponine. She sang “On My Own,” and they told her to see the show that night. After act one, she had tears streaming down her face and turned around to see Trevor Nunn sitting behind her. He gave her the thumbs up. It seemed like a good sign. The next thing she knew, she was offered the role of Éponine in the show’s Broadway opening. But right after that, Smile was confirmed to come to Broadway. Argh! Yes, she had to choose between two musicals. Anne told me she felt loyal to Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman, so she stayed with Smile. I totally get it. She had created the Smile role from the very beginning, of course she wanted to finally take it to Broadway. Sadly, Smile didn’t last very long; that fabulous photo I passed was only up for a few months. But Anne loves the fact that Frances Ruffelle, who originated the role of Éponine in London and then did Broadway, wound up marrying John Caird, the Les Miz co-director and having two children. So if Anne had done the Broadway version, maybe that fabulous showmance and those two kids would never have happened. And her daughter has a great career as “Eliza Doolittle.” Here they are together: 

 
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