Which Merrily We Roll Along Actor Nearly Missed Out on Her Big Break? | Playbill

Special Features Which Merrily We Roll Along Actor Nearly Missed Out on Her Big Break? Timing was everything when it came to these Broadway actors booking some of their biggest roles.
Seth Rudetsky Lauren Kennedy

Having talent can get you a great showbiz gig. But another element to factor in is timing. Here are a few “near miss” situations that led to fabulous jobs:

My friend Daniel really wanted to be the son in the revival of La Cage aux Folles. The good news was that he was up for another show at the same time, so if he didn’t get La Cage he had another option. The bad news was the other show was a jukebox musical and he felt it wouldn’t have the same cachet. Also, the other show was playing out-of-town and there was no guarantee it would even get to Broadway.

Well, he soon found out he didn’t get La Cage. But he did get the other show and reluctantly took it. The end of the story is, the La Cage revival he wanted so badly played a short run on Broadway and Daniel (Reichard) originated the role of Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, first at La Jolla Playhouse and then on Broadway. That year, Jersey Boys took home the Tony Award for Best Musical, so his loss of La Cage wound up making him part of an historic Broadway show!

Back in the late 1990s, I myself went in for an audition I wanted very badly, for the tour of Two Pianos, Four Hands. They needed a piano player who was also funny. Hello! I knew I was perfect! They, however, did not agree. That’s right, I didn’t get it. Well, turns out, if I had gotten it, I would have been on tour when I received a call for another gig: to be a writer for The Rosie O’Donnell Show. I took the television gig and, with my fellow writers, wound up being nominated for three Emmy Awards. Instead of making understudy money for a few months, I wound up making television money for two whole years! On a side note, all that money is now gone, so if there’s a tour available, give me a call!

Then there is the lovely and talented Liz Callaway, who was recently regaling a group of Playbill travelers aboard Broadway on the Rhône River with this near miss story. Liz was in her early 20s when she was cast as the swing in the Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim–Hal Prince musical Merrily We Roll Along. Being a swing meant she would understudy all the female ensemble members. When she began rehearsals, she went to another audition and wound up being offered the lead in Gallery, a musical by Ed Kleban, who wrote the lyrics for the mega-hit A Chorus Line.

Hal Prince heard about the other show and told Liz that if she stayed with Merrily, he would move her up from swing to actually being in the show. What to do? Everyone Liz spoke to told her to take Gallery. Still, she couldn’t decide. One day, she ran into casting director Joanna Merlin, who told Liz to trust her gut. Liz thought about it and she really felt she should take Merrily. And she did—which turned out to be the right decision! Liz told the Playbill travelers that Gallery wound up never even opening! And, as she proudly added, Merrily We Roll Along ran for “two whole weeks.”

Seth Rudetsky has been the music director on multiple Playbill’s Broadway on the High Seas cruises. Tickets are now on sale for the Broadway on the Rhône River 2 cruise April 7–14, 2019, and the Broadway on the High Seas 10: Odyssey Through the Greek Isles cruise June 24–July 1, 2019. Lineups of top Broadway stars will be announced at a later date. Call Judy Perl Worldwide for tickets at (844) 561-3625. Visit PlaybillTravel.com for booking and information.

Watch one of him famous deconstructions below!

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