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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

Blog

When First Preview Doesn't Go As Planned

Mo Brady

At the first preview for the new Broadway musical Groundhog Day, something unexpected and magical happened. We wanted to hear about it from those on stage and in the audience. Stay tuned for more updates!

Michael-Fatica

"Last night was slated to be our first preview of Groundhog Day on Broadway. After months of intensive rehearsals, nearly four weeks of tech, and plenty of anticipation, we were SO ready to share this story with an audience. About 15 minutes into the show, we'd made it (ironically) to the moment Punxsutawney Phil had officially seen his shadow and doomed us all to six more weeks of winter, our complicated system of turntables malfunctioned and we were forced to hold show.

"Our director, Matthew Warchus, came backstage and cast and crew were called to meet upstage center after about 30 minutes.  He and our Stage Manager David Lober graciously explained the situation, and asked that if the problem weren't able to be fixed immediately if we would be willing to sit and sing through both the music and dialogue for the audience that had so patiently waited.

"Immediately, the energy shifted. The nerves of having to separate the words of the story from our heavily trained muscle memory set in. But, more importantly, we were excited to get out there and do SOMETHING. We had no idea if the audience would stay, let alone be receptive to a brand new show that the US had seen so little of. The crew scrambled to find literally ANYTHING for us to sit on, and came up with an eclectic mix of booths, stools, benches, and the like. Out we went!

"It's worth saying that by this time, our faithful and generous audience was lubricated from the free drinks our Producers had bought the house (GOOD MOVE YOU GUYS! Very classy). It's also worth saying that we are blessed with two very smart, calm, and talented principals. Andy Karl set us off with the most incredible poise as he woke up in his hotel bed (now a chair, I believe) and got us rolling. The crew ran our normal lighting cues, and our brilliant spot ops found each and every character in the show with such ease.

"I don't think we could asked for a better audience. From the first moment Andy spoke, they were attentive and completely involved in the show. As a cast, we were able to literally sit on stage and watch how Tim Minchin's unbelievable score and Danny Rubin's hilarious script was received in a way that exceeded all of our expectations. We were also able to watch the story of Rita (Barrett Doss) and Phil (Andy) unfold in a way that we are never able to in the run of the show. We got to laugh alongside the audience at our ensemble of misfits. We got to sit and listen to our orchestra shred through this beautiful score.

"What could have been a disaster ended up being a night that our cast/crew/creative team and our audience can never recreate, which is part of why live theatre is so special. Even better...we get another First Preview! How much more reminiscent of the story of Groundhog Day could we get?"

-Michael Fatica (Chubby Man in Groundhog Day)

"During this show, the ensemble is running around like crazy backstage, so there has never been a moment for us to really sit and watch anything. I never thought our first preview would be the time for that to happen, but during our performance (concert?) I was hearing lines I had never heard before, seeing some of the comedic bits and feeling all of the wonderful poignant emotions.

"I think it just speaks to how wonderful this show is because it is so meticulously choreographed and staged; that taking away all of that could have left a show with nothing. But what was still there was so much comedy and heart. We got to see, firsthand, how much the material stands on its own.


"Not to mention, last night would not have turned out half as well if we didn't have the audience we did. There was so much support. To look out and see an audience almost four hours into an impromptu concert still completely enthralled with what they were watching was so humbling. And entirely thrilling. I will never forget it."

-Katy Geraghty (Debbie in Groundhog Day)


Jordan-Grubb

"You hear about those "I was there when" theatre moments all of the time, but I never thought our first preview would be one of them. Prior to last night, we hadn't faced any major mechanical issues with our stage. It's mightily complex by any standard, with five turntables simultaneously running for the majority of the show. It's crucial to the staging, so any potential problem with them presents problems.

"Fifteen minutes into our first preview, in front of our first crowd, the show came to a grinding halt. As a swing, I was watching it all unfold in the back of the house, fighting off that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Upon coming backstage, it was soon realized that there was no simple fix in getting our stage optimally running. Needless to say, it was a situation none of us expected to face. They tried to lift the audience's spirits with...well...free spirits, but we all knew everyone was there to see a show.

"At this point, a decision had to be made. It was an audience made up of friends, family, lottery winners, and some of the most supportive people you could imagine. Taking that into consideration, it was decided that we would put on a concert version of the show. What unfolded shortly after was one of the most magical theatre experiences of my life. The cast and crew somehow managed to share a brain for the few 2 hours and presented Groundhog Day: in concert. The cast sat on various chairs and props, and with two amazing spot ops, some additional lighting, and our full orchestra, gave everyone a SHOW.

"Props appeared out of thin air, a fur hat doubled as a groundhog, a car chase happened on three chairs. It was nothing short of brilliance. Watching from the house, my heart was about to explode out of my chest. I was so incredibly proud of the dedication, imagination, fearlessness the company exhibited. It was the kind of moment that reminded me of why the theatre is irreplaceable and why I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

"Fortunately, the issue had been resolved and in true Groundhog Day faison, we will be doing our first preview (again) this evening. For one night though, this company and audience went along for an unexpected ride that should be told for many years to come."

-Jordan Grubb (Swing on Groundhog Day)


"Last night was a once in a lifetime experience, and there is no other way I would've wanted to make my debut. Nobody knew what was going to happen next, so the audience and the cast truly felt the weight of every second. Whether you were on stage, backstage, or in the house, you couldn't help but feel the beauty of this random magical moment. Like a shooting star.....that sings and dances, and makes you laugh."

-Taylor Iman Jones (Lady Storm Chaser in Groundhog Day)

"What a story for the books. You think you've seen it all in this business and then the Universe decides to surprise you again.

"Our revolves stopped working 24 minutes into the show. I was down in spirits because we had been rehearsing our show without any stops and also because we have all been busting our asses to bring this incredible show to life. 
Over 40 minutes later a decision was made to do a concert version, so we all came out onto that stage ready to do the material as much justice as we could. 

"The magic on that stage was incredible. We all locked in energetically and I think we even had fun last night. From the amazing spot-ops and crew, to the brilliant orch, to our wonderful creative team, the fantastic and generous producing team, and to the rockstars at BeSpoke and Jujamcyn who kept everyone's spirits up, we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll be talking about for the rest of my life."

- Raymond J. Lee (Ralph in Groundhog Day)


"Talk about a lotto win! I had won tickets through the Groundhog Day Musical lottery they hosted to see the first preview and I definitely got more that a free ticket. 

"The show was going on for 15 minutes before the announcement came over the house telling everyone they were going to have to hold the show momentarily. The audience did NOT want this show to stop because everyone was so engaged and sucked in even only 15 minutes in.

"10 minutes go by before we get another announcement saying they were working hard to sort out the problem and that it was still going to be a moment before they could resume the show. They also offered the audience a complimentary drink at the bar!! I have never see so many people jump out of a seat and bolt as fast as they did. 

"The show was stopped for 55 minutes all together. 

"The director, Andy Karl and the head producer walked out on stage to deliver the bad news that the show could no longer go on. As soon as he finished his scentence the audience was already shouting "just sing it!" "can you just sing it?!". Lucky for us, that was already the plan. They told us that the company was okay with coming my out and doin the show "concert style". The audience erupted in applause and cheers. You could just feel so much support for the company and this show. 

"The curtain rose and revealed the company (in full costume) sitting on prop benches, sofas, chairs etc. They finished the first act like true pros. We took a 10 minute intermission and then the company sang 5 songs and the final scene from act two. Let's not forget to mention that every sound cue and light cue still went on during this "concert" (shout out to the crew) The audience went NUTS! I think I can speak for everyone in the house and say that we are all so appreciative of the company for doing what they did. I couldn't be more excited to come back and see the show! The music was amazing! The company sounds amazing! Definitely something you won't want to miss. 

"Maybe the company just wanted the audience to live like the story and live that day all over again."

- Jack Sippel (in the Groundhog Day audience that night)


"I had the fortune of having some good friends and family in the house last night, and it was really neat to watch them, and the audience as a whole, enjoy our concert version of the show. There was a communal energy onstage and in the house that was electric. It was my Broadway debut and, while unorthodox in many regards, it was a perfectly imperfect way to start things off."

- Vishal Viadya (Larry in Groundhog Day)