What Happens When Superfan/Star Jonathan Groff Answers Sutton Foster Trivia—In Front of Sutton Foster?

Seth Rudetsky   What Happens When Superfan/Star Jonathan Groff Answers Sutton Foster Trivia—In Front of Sutton Foster?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, a new chance to hear Karen Olivo in concert, Be More Chill memories with Joe Iconis, and the time George Salazar faked a heart attack onstage.
Jonathan Groff and Sutton Foster
Jonathan Groff and Sutton Foster Joseph Marzullo/WENN

This is a busy week!!! First of all, I usually do The Seth Concert Series every Sunday night (this coming Sunday is Jeremy Jordan followed by Judy Kuhn the following week). Well, I rehearsed with the amazing Karen Olivo throughout the week…songs from In The Heights, Hair, Children Of Eden, Evita, Moulin Rouge! (of course) and more and was in my final rehearsal on Sunday just to make sure everything was set. Well, the concert is live and the internet has to be at full sass to work well. At around 7PM Sunday, our internet suddenly became extremely slow. Like crazily slow. James and our tech wizard David Katz tried all different schemes to get the Wi-Fi up to snuff…wired ethernet, hot spots from our phones, various computers and, finally, at around 7:50 we realized we couldn’t get it to work and we had to postpone the concert to tonight at 8PM ET! (It’s going to repeat Wednesday at 3PM ET as well). Of course, we have Stars In The House every weeknight at 8PM so we had to move that to 9:30 PM ET and luckily, the cast of Be More Chill was able to do it at the new time. So tonight is a double-header! See Karen by going to TheSethConcertSeries.com and then tune into Stars In The House right after.

If you’ve never seen Karen in action, here’s her sassy dancing and high belting as Anita in West Side Storyaka her Tony Award-winning performance!

Karen Olivo and company
Karen Olivo and company Joan Marcus

Speaking of Be More Chill, not only will the cast be on the show, but composer-lyricist, Joe Iconis, will be on as well. He was on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show, right before his show came to Broadway and it’s such a great story. Two River Theater in Red Bend, New Jersey, commissioned him to write the musical (which is based on a novel by the same title) and the buzz about the show was amazing. Everyone kept telling Joe that this one would finally be the show that got him to Broadway. Tons of producers got tickets in advance to see the show because there was such excitement about it. Well, it opened and got a terrible review from a big paper (which he didn’t name but I suspect I know which one). Suddenly, all the producers who bought tickets to see it, canceled! Ugh!

The limited run finished and Two River very smartly insisted that there be a recording. If a show doesn’t have an album, there’s usually no way it can have a future life. Well, the CD was recorded right after it closed and Joe used it to try to get interest in the show regionally, but no one was interested. They wound up doing a concert of the show at 54 Below and that got the show licensed by Rodgers and Hammerstein (meaning theatres, community theatres and high schools etc. could do it). Still, Joe assumed that even though the show would be done here and there, it would never have a bigger life. After the CD release, he would be tagged in a tweet from a person who happened to come across a song from the show and that was pretty consistent, like one tweet per day. After about two years, however, he began to get five tweets a day and then more and more. People began to be really obsessed with the show. He told me that it all happened totally organically and old school; literally, a kid would hear the CD and then tell one of their friends “You’ve got to hear this” and the word would spread. It was basically this commercial but about a CD.

Joe started again to try to get a production going by pointing out how much interest there was in the show from fans… but producers kept telling him that interest online was not the same thing as people who would buy tickets. Then a theater in New Jersey happened to license the production. It was an old vaudeville house that sat thousands but usually sold around 100 tickets to whatever show they were doing. Well, the word got out online that the show was happening (the messaging actually morphed into people saying there was a “revival” happening) and instead of 200 tickets sold to the show, the theater sold 5,000! People were flying in from around the world to see it! Joe was like “I told you so!” because he saw that interest online actually does translate to ticket sales!

At the time, he was working on another project with producer Jerry Goerhing and when Jerry saw the massive interest in the show he told Joe he wanted to produce it Off-Broadway. They then brought on Jennifer Tepper from 54 Below who’d always been a major supporter of Joe and together they made it happen. Of course, Joe was immediately panicked that his non-stop assurance that online interest would translate into ticket sales was wrong…but, before the show even opened Off-Broadway, the entire run sold out! When the show was headed Off-Broadway, Joe was so happy that Be More Chill was about to have a New York life and he assumed that was it. But as soon as it sold out, he had to deal with the anxiety of people asking “Will it go to Broadway?” He was like “Can’t I just enjoy a run of my show without complete anxiety?” Short answer: No.

Well, the show indeed went to Broadway and I’ve heard a rumor that movie version is also in the works! Yes to the show that died for years and came back on Broadway!

George Salazar, who played Michael in the show, is joining on Stars In The House tonight. When I had him on Seth Speaks I asked him about his worst onstage mishap and he told me that while in Godspell his face started sweating and it made his body mic not work. Well, he was suddenly given a hand mic onstage to use and it threw him. Sometimes when you’re used to doing something one way, any slight change can throw ya. He was about to do a parable with one of the other actors and there was a lot of physicality he realized he’d have to change since he was holding a mic. The weirdness of having a mic handed to him and having to think about changing some blocking combined into one panic that made him forget all of his lines. He couldn’t remember a thing. He didn’t know what to do, so, he called out “line” and a fellow castmate helped him. Just kidding! His solution was to fake his own heart attack. Seriously!

He bent over onstage, started huffing and puffing and gasped (into his microphone) “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Beverly Jenkins, the Godspell stage manager who was on Stars In The House a few months ago, was in a glass booth above the stage and George could see her. First, he saw her extremely concerned face as she started to get up...and then he saw her realize that he was faking it and she basically sat back down with a one-eyebrow-raised “Let’s see where you take this” look. The other actor that did the parable with him would echo whatever he said so he realized she knew the lines as well! Yay! Someone could feed him his lines! He looked at her, imploring her to give him at least her first line, but instead she “helped” him by asking leading questions. “Where are you thinking of going? What are you thinking of doing there?” After that weird version of Password, he finally remembered and did the parable. But he was devastated from the whole experience.

At intermission, he told Beverly he was way too mortified to go back onstage and he wanted his understudy to finish the show. She told him “Oh, please! This has happened to everyone! Get back out there and finish the show!” which he did. After he told me the story, I pointedly reminded him that it actually doesn’t happen to everyone and he is the very first person I’ve ever of that faked a heart attack onstage. I appreciated the lies of Beverly, but it was time for George to hear the truth. He took my note in stride and has hopefully moved on. Of course, there was someone who indicated early-onset cancer onstage…but that was in character. Watch:

Our big news is: The 200th episode of Stars In The House is this Thursday at 8PM ET! For our 199th on Wednesday, we’re going to show highlight clips from our favorite moments since March.

Here’s a quiz I gave Jonathan Groff about his favorite subject: Sutton Foster. Moderating the quiz was…Sutton Foster!

For our 200th episode, we’re going to have Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria and other stars of A Night At The Museum!

Watch it all at StarsInTheHouse.com and peace out!

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