I mentioned a couple days ago that I had a very long audition for The Odyssey Theatre, a critically-acclaimed and highly successful theater out here in LA, for a musical based on the Elmer Rice classic play, The Adding Machine. I hadn't read The Adding Machine since college, to be honest. I'd sort of even forgotten what it was about. The lead character of Zero (the role I'm up for) is a fifty year old, not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer, kind of guy who gets fired from his job after 25 years. In a moment of rage he kills his boss and is set to be executed. He discovers that none of it is 'real' and...well, I don't want to spoil the end. Anyway...
So it was a long audition, relatively speaking. And Sunday I go back in for another marathon session. They gave me a couple of the songs and the CD of the piece, so I could learn the difficult music a bit. Sunday I assume I'll be reading opposite some of the women under consideration as well as working with the Musical Director to see if I can handle this score.
Yesterday, after zipping around for a few more auditions, I finally got down to listening to it for the first time. I was in Chicago when the wonderful actor Joel Hatch was doing it and I remember it was getting a lot of press then and ended up winning a number of Jeff Awards. Subsequently it traveled to NY and made a big splash there as well. This production will be the West Coast Premiere.
Angie was futzing around in the kitchen preparing another astonishing dinner when I plugged in the headphones and started listening. I won't sugar coat it. This is the single most brilliant piece of music for the musical theatre since Sondheim was at the peak of his powers. It's sort of like if Stravinsky and William Finn had collaborated on a piece. It's absolutely overwhelming in its power and audacity. It reminds me a great deal of Sondheim's Assassins, one his most overlooked gems.
Within ten minutes of plugging in and listening I was hopelessly hooked. Completely involved. Just sort of staring off in the distance listening to this genius-level stuff. It's that good. I called Angie in and took the headphones out and had her listen to some of it. We were both just sort of standing in the middle of the room letting this incredible score wash over us. After a bit she turned to me and said, "You have to do this. This is the role of a lifetime." Angie has exquisite taste in theatre and I'm learning to listen to her instincts. She's right. It's one of, if not the, most powerful role I've run across in many, many years.
I've not been cast in the play yet, and frankly, I don't know if I will be. I have to learn the two songs I was given and show them what I have on Sunday. But I can say this, I haven't wanted a role so badly since...well, I can't remember since when.
The music is set perfectly within my range. There are a few high Fs and a G or two, but as an old friend of mine from New York used to say, a professional opera singer, "You don't have to live up there, just go visit now and then." The really interesting thing is that the character of Zero is not a great singer, doesn't have to be and clearly not expected to be. But he's surrounded by characters that DO sing beautifully. Consequently, when he sings there is a significant and purposeful difference. It is first and foremost an acting role. Nonetheless, notably, he sings throughout.
I don't believe in 'jinxing' a role by writing or talking about it. If I get this thing it will be because I worked hard for it. And I have every intention of doing that over the next few days.
I have a couple of other big stage auditions coming up today and again Monday. I will, of course, go to them and give it my best shot. But in the back of my head is this mammoth role and this extraordinary opportunity. One of the shows I'm reading for pays a hell of a lot more money. But roles like this come up very rarely and sometimes you have to go with your gut. Sometimes money is secondary. Not often, but sometimes.
I also trekked over to Hollywood yesterday for a PSA audition for an Alzheimer's television spot. Good Lord. What a circus that was. The producers didn't put the 'sign-up list' out until the last second and when they did it was pandemonium. Seventy year old ladies pushing and shoving and talking trash to each other trying to get their name on the list. Eighty year old men nearly coming to blows. I stepped back and watched all this and waited until the fuss blew over. It was astounding. Crazed, old actors and actresses turning into wildebeasts and elbowing each other just to get their name a little higher on 'the list.' Turns out the joke was on them, though. After about a half hour, the monitor came out and started calling us in based on the time that was previously set up. The 'list' had nothing to do with the order of the audition. I looked around. Lots of geriatric, shame-faced people. This is SUCH a weird business sometimes.
So spending the morning getting into my Tennessee Williams mode. That's the read I have today. Thinking of jonquils and magnolias and gothic guilt. Nobody did it like Tennessee.
See you tomorrow.