How Tony Nominee Jonathan Groff Broke ‘Broadway Law’

Seth Rudetsky   How Tony Nominee Jonathan Groff Broke ‘Broadway Law’
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals how he helped Groff break the rules, how Capathia Jenkins auditioned for the Dreamgirls film, and more.
Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening.
Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in Spring Awakening. Monique Carboni

Tonight is our third Voices For The Voiceless concert at 7PM (at The Town Hall in New York City) and I thought it would be fun to write some stories about all the fun performers we have! P.S. Tickets start at only $25! Buy them here!

One of the stars performing tonight is Jonathan Groff, and here’s a little recap of the time I broke Broadway law for him and Lea Michele:

James and I went to see Spring Awakeningme, for the second time, him, for the first. It was Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele’s final week, and I wanted James to see it before they left. I loved how Jonathan does old-school focus: He’s constantly looking to the balcony and box seats. I guess it’s his vaudeville training, even though he was born 60 years after vaudeville died. After the show, James and I went backstage to Jonathan’s dressing room. I was dying of thirst, and Jonathan offered me some Diet Coke. It was super fizzy, and he asked me if it was gross that he was putting his finger in my glass to stop the fizzing. I said it was fine because I was sure he took a shower after his exhausting, long, and sweaty two-act show. There was silence…then he removed his finger.

After we all chatted for a while, Lea and Jonathan gigglingly told us they were planning on doing something not allowed. "Hmm…use vibrato during the show?" I thought. No, it turns out it was something even more scandalous. They decided to spend the night in the theatre! Apparently, they had slept there overnight with John Gallagher, Jr. before he left the show, and now that they were leaving, they wanted to do it again. It was their way to say goodbye to “their theatre.” Jonathan started scotch-taping up large tapestries underneath the shelves in his dressing room so they could hide behind it when the stage doorman did his final look before he locked up. After he taped, Jonathan asked us if we’d be accomplices. Accomplices? How dare he? To a crime no one really cared about? How could I lower my moral rectitude? But…looking into that Tony-nominated face, I had no choice but to say yes. James quickly agreed, too, and the next thing we knew we were walking down the stairs and loudly saying (so the doorman could hear us), “Boy! I guess everyone left while we were in the bathroom!” The stage doorman was very sweet and asked if Jonathan was still upstairs. I very awkwardly/loudly said (I also come from the vaudevillian school of no mics), “No! He left the building.” Awkward pause while I remembered my line. “And Lea. Lea Michele has also left.” The doorman looked miffed. James piped up. “Yep. They have left. Both.” As we walked out of the stage door, we saw a long line of folks waiting to get autographs, and then the doorman had to tell them that Jonathan and Lea left already. James and I felt so bad for the fans as they dispersed, but knew that Jonathan and Lea has always signed autographs and tonight was a special occasion for them. Of course, I think sleeping over in the theatre is probably one of those things that sounds like it’s so much fun, but winds up with you getting a neck-ache from sleeping on an Equity cot in a cold, dark theatre and then waking up at 4 AM and realizing you forgot your toothbrush. Suffice it to say, I didn’t want to be in the theatre for their Spring “Awakening" unless they had packed an emergency supply of Listerine strips. On a side note, I did Grease in that same theatre and no one slept over on their final night. However, someone did sleep during the show. Well, I don’t know if it was sleeping, but the guy playing Kenickie completely missed his entrance. To “Greased Lightening”…his only solo song! To this day, cast members still quote the wildly calm stage manager announcement that was heard in all the dressing rooms: “Kenickie to the stage, please. Kenickie to the stage.”

Capathia Jenkins is also performing in Voice for the Voiceless. When the film of Dreamgirls was casting, Capathia was called in for the role of Effie. It got to the point where she actually screen-tested!

Here’s what happened: Capathia got into full hair and makeup and was asked to do the entire fight scene from the end of Act 1, which then segues into “And I Am Telling You.” Even though musical films are usually (depressingly) lip-synch’d, she had to sing live for the screen test. So, Capathia filmed the whole thing from “I turn my back and find myself out on the line…” all the way to “You’re gonna love ME!” She sang up a storm and was thrilled, but completely exhausted from eight minutes of over-the-top singing and emotional rawness. After she ended, she stood there panting as the director came towards her. She barely had the energy to accept his congratulations when she realized he wasn’t actually congratulating her…he was giving her a few notes for the next take! SERIOUSLY! After literally giving her all, she had to perform the whole thing again! Spoiler alert: She didn’t get the part. But she will be performing this amazing number tonight.

During Voices for the Voiceless, we always feature celebrities who had been foster kids or adopted, or who had adopted a foster kid. One former foster kid who’s going to be part of the benefit is Charlene Tilton from Dallas. Charlene told us that when she was five, her mom had a nervous breakdown so Charlene went into various foster homes, where she suffered a lot of abuse.

She lived with her mom again when she was eight but when she was 14, her mom had another breakdown and had to be institutionalized. Charlene swore she would never go back to foster care so she forged some documents and started living on her own! She got an agent from doing a play in high school and her first film audition was for Freaky Friday. They asked if she could water ski and she bragged and told them she had won water ski competitions. Of course, not had she not won the competition, she had never water-skied before. Ever! She got the gig and when they got to the water ski section, she hoped for the best, got on her skis and promptly fell in the water. Devastating. But then she saw that Jodie Foster also fell even though she had a water ski trainer for the film. Hmm…she got back on the skis…and wound up staying on for the whole shot. Brava! Turns out, lying sometimes pays off! Here's a clip of her from the film. She’s the stunning blonde on the left.

Watch this video from Entertainment Tonight about Charlene’s story and why she first joined Voice for the Voiceless:

Back to Charlene’s first film: I’ve always been obsessed with the opening song from Freaky Friday. Tony Award winner Barbara Harris starred in the film and sounds fantastic on the song. The role of the daughter was sung by Susie Stevens-Logan who was ten at the time. Listen and love it!

P.S. I just found out the song was written by Joel Hirschhorn and Al Kasha, who also wrote “The Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure.

And speaking of disasters at sea, people are producing Disaster! all over the place. I just got this great shot from the Greensboro, North Carolina production where the cast actually got hooked up in the air during “Hooked on a Feeling” (spoiler: the rescue scene).

And I was just contacted by the Y in Riverdale, New York because they did Disaster! a few months ago and it went so well that they’re bringing it back for the next two weekends. Watch this super fun promo video they did and get tickets at RiverdaleRisingStars.com.

Speaking of videos, I just posted Episode 3 of the reality videos I used to do. This has amazing clips of Martin Short and Paul Shaffer Not only reliving their past when they first met in the early ’70s during the Toronto production of Godspell, but Paul plays his ’80s hit “It’s Raining Men” and Marty and I are both weather girls. #Werk.

The next time I write this column, I’ll be on the Playbill river cruise down the Danube. So until then, auf widersehn!

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