Last night, the Lincoln Center Theater production of JT Rogers’ OSLO directed by Bartlett Sher opened on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater to an ovation and ecstatic reviews (‘…has become the colossus it was always meant to be…a thrilling production…’) and tonight, the very good Friday of Easter weekend, I made my Broadway debut in the role of Yossi Beilin.
You can’t make these things up.
We’d had an unusual preview period, already, with my pal Angela Pierce going on the first Sunday matinee (only the 4th public performance) for dear Henny Russell, stuck on a disabled 7 train in Queens. The following week, my buddy Jeff Still went on a few times for an ailing colleague, and, to our collective delight for him but our concerted dismay at the circumstance, he’s been playing the role ever since.
Tonight, I got the last-minute call-to-arms. We’re all exhausted, this show is a 3-hour monster, we’d just finished the long march to Opening, rehearsing all day then playing at night, I’d had my hefty fair share of bourbon to celebrate the occasion, then family in town for an unseasonably hot afternoon in the Park, I had not found that half-hour for a short snooze before the show,and then an hour before curtain, as I’m leaving home, my phone buzzed. Adam Dannheisser was stuck on a train in Jersey and we didn’t know if he’d get into the city in time. There’d been a power outage at Port Authority, coupled with a gun scare (turned out to be a taser) at Penn Station. I got to the theatre, we ran through one quick furniture move, and with fifteen minutes to go, our amazing ASM, Howie Tilkin, showed up to tell me, ‘He’s not gonna make it. You need to get dressed.’
Yowza. I’ve never understudied before, let alone covered four principal roles in a ‘colossus’ such as OSLO, never walked out, with no rehearsal, onto a Broadway stage and into the middle of a massive and finely-calibrated machine before a packed house expecting to be ‘thrilled’. It’s a testament to the strength of this acting company, to the leadership of Bart Sher, and to the crack stage management team that the evening was such a success. Across the street at P.J. Clarke’s, hoisting a few after the show, none of the friends and colleagues who were in the audience that night had any idea who the understudy was…and, Michael Aronov mentioned to me, ‘Dude, you were calmer than we were. After a while, we all forgot that an understudy was on.’ Glad and grateful to have done the job I was hired to do and, by all accounts, done it well. On to tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow!
Onstage with the great Jefferson Mays. Photos by my pal, T. Ryder Smith.