Greetings BroadwayWorld readers, I will be one of your guest bloggers this month along with Rock of Ages' Neka Zang. I have many musings to share with you, but first (and firstmostly), I want to invite you into the world of being a Broadway understudy. Now, I know firstmostly is not a word…but I learned fives upon tens of things in college (see where we're headed?).
I've spent most of my 15 year career on Broadway as an understudy. In fact, if I ever do a one man show, I will call it "Greg Reuter- Broadway's Favorite Second Choice!" Truth be told, I have loved every second of it. I thrive on the observation, preparation, and adrenaline rush of getting that call at 7:15 saying "you're on kid", and then wondering, why is there warm liquid streaming down my right pant leg? Hmmm…
I have understudied in every show I've been in, but today- let's take a time machine back to 2003 when I was covering Leo Bloom and Carmen Ghia in The Producers at the Pantages theatre in beautiful Los Angeles. Why start here? Well, Leo Bloom happened to be played by comedic legend Martin Short in our company. You can only imagine the onstage and backstage antics.
I first met Marty (as he insists on being called) in San Francisco, where the awesome creative team gave him and Jason Alexander a head start before our upcoming LA opening. He walked me to The Edge of the Orpheum Theatre and said (in a slightly Jiminy Glick voice) "someday baby boy, you're gonna go on for me and say your first line and then you'll hear the seats go plunk, plunk, plunk as everyone leaves." I was in love- I love that type of humor. Marty refused to let anyone have a bad day at work. The pranks never ended. He loved to sneak up on cast members, sit on their lap and ask them "what's it like to live in a studio apartment?"
When I was fortunate to finally go on for Carmen Ghia, it struck me that I was sharing the opening of the "Keep It Gay" song with 3 Tony Award winners. You can't get that kind of education anywhere. Humbling- to put it modestly.
People often ask me what it's like to go on in a Broadway show in a role you don't play every night. Well, it's a complicated formula. You have to balance nerves with excitement, and release yourself from any expectations of perfection. The essential things are hitting your marks and nailing your musical cues. This usually involves a little bit of glancing down to make sure you're in the right spot so you're not disrupting anyone else's blocking, and A LOT of keeping your eyes peeled on the conductor! The conductor is "driving the bus", and the bus has to keep moving forward. I will expand on these points in future blogs.
We are so blessed in this business to provide escapism and laughter to the masses. Think about it, if you go to a funny movie- you might hear the occasional chuckle. But seeing a great musical comedy, the mirth of the collective laughter is magical….and addictive.
Keep in mind these pictures are from 9 years ago- I promise to age visually over the next month….more to come!
Me and Martin Short
Me and Gary Beach
Understudies Studying the Show Bible Backstage!
A little Going Away Present