“You see, everyone thinks they’ve got it,” said Arne Gundersen.
The president of the Actor’s Equity Foundation and a judge of Broadway.tv’s new competition Next Broadway Star and I were standing by the side of the still empty red carpet for the competition’s first of four rounds on Monday, at the unlikely venue of McDonalds on 42nd Street. His remark was prompted by a woman dressed in a sky blue shirt and a long, patterned skirt, after she wandered over and asked what was going on.
“Is it auditions? Can anyone go in?” Her voice was quiet and wistful as she looked up at the golden arches.
Mr. Gundersen and the show’s other two judges, Gunnar Larson, President and CEO of NetworkGlobal Companies which owns Broadway.tv, and Duncan Stewart, Broadway Casting Director behind Chicago the Musical and La Cage aux Folles, explained that unfortunately the sixteen contestants had already been selected for the competition.
Mr. Gundersen went on insisting that “the weeding out is a big deal. There is a lot of talent in New York” – and uncovering that talent was Mr. Larson’s intention in setting up the competition.
“What I’m looking for,” Mr. Stewart said, his palms clasped together in a stage-like gesture, “is something that pops. That might be a look, a voice, a charm factor. Ideally a combination.”
Whoever has that combination will receive $5,000, as well as the opportunity to audition in front of the most influential casting directors and producers in the industry.
The red carpet (which was more like a rug) was getting busy. We watched as Russell Fischer, the 22 year-old recently cast in Jersey Boys, the long-haired Marshall Kennedy Carolan of Hair, and other Broadway successes jumped instantly into their Broadway personas in front of the cameras.
Then the sixteen would-be Broadway stars whose pop – or lack thereof – was about to be revealed, emerged from their rehearsals and posed for the press uncertainly. There were some awkward reshuffles of smiles and skirts – as if they were not yet comfortable with the beaming Broadway smile. They then went inside to perform their acts on a Broadway stage of sorts. There they would be whittled down to ten.
As we watched from the back and tried not to wince each time the faulty microphone shrieked, we wondered whether the quiet, wistful woman would have been any good.