“What happens when a different person sings this song?”

By Carol Rocamora

That’s the provocative question that has inspired Miscast for the past twenty years. 

A brainchild of the MCC’s founder Bernie Telsey, this fabulous show was conceived as a fundraising gala for MCC in 2001, featuring stars singing songs for roles in which they would never be cast.  (And that’s Never, with a capital N!)

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Raul Esparza as Anita and Maria singing “A Boy Like That” from West Side Story?! (2014 gala) 3 pre-teen boys (Luca Padovan, Joshua Colley, and Douglas Baldeo) singing “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton (2016)?  Katrina Lenk as Tevye singing “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof (2018)?  Never, that is, until Miscast…and now forever (you can watch these clips on line, and they’re sensational).

So this year, due to the COVID crisis, this audacious, this star-studded event is now streaming on-line in virtual format on MCC’s You-Tube, bringing the joy of discovery to everyone.  It’s just what we need in these Broadway-starved times, to keep the spirit of theatre alive.

Adrienne Warren

And what a line-up this year – starting with a “WOW” preview of 18 actors (in 5 different states) from the original cast of Hairspray (including Harvey Fierstein), united in song.

Narrated by Bernie Telsey, Judith Light, Raúl Esparza and others, with comments on MCC’s Artistic Programs by actor/director Thomas Sadoski and playwright Jocelyn Bioh, the 90-minute 2020 Miscast features 11 songs sung by stars of the Broadway Theatre.  Ingrid Michaelson (of Natasha, Pierre) opens with a moving “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen (Lauren Ridloff performed “You Will Be Found” in ASL signing), followed by Adrienne Warren (of Tina fame) singing “Before the Parade Passes By” from Hello, Dolly.

Norbert Leo Butz

Memorable vocal interpretations include Norbert Leo Butz singing Mary Magdalene’s  “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, accompanying himself on the guitar in front of his fireplace (after announcing proudly that this is his 5th Miscast appearance).  Isaac Powell (recently Tony in West Side Story) delivers a touching “On My Own,” Éponine’s song from Les Miserables.  Nicolette Robinson (Waitress)  and Leslie Odom, Jr. (of Hamilton fame) offer a melodious duet from Once Upon This Island.   And Phillipa Soo (also of Hamilton fame) sings “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific as if the song always belonged to her (instead of Ezio Pinza, who sang it first in 1949).

The evening’s delights also include innovative staging.  Actor/dancer Robert Fairchild treats us to an exuberant “If My Friends Could See Me Now” (Gwen Verdon’s signature song from Sweet Charity), changing costumes, bursting from his tiny New York apartment, dashing up the stairs to the roof, and dancing his heart out against the backdrop of the New York skyline.  Rob McClure (who explains that he’s spent the last six months quarantined in his apartment, baking) transforms himself into Mrs. Lovett singing “The Worst Pies in London” from Sweeney Todd, putting on a show in his kitchen, kneading freshly made pie dough.  Beanie Feldstein follows Norbert Leo Butz by stealing his song from Wicked, “Dancing Through Life,” skipping down the street in front of her suburban home. 

Beanie Feldstein

The evening’s finale include a touching rendition by Joshua Henry of ”Tomorrow,”  (Annie’s song from Annie, of course), followed by Heather Headley’s “Endless Night” from The Lion King.  “I know that the night must end/And the sun will rise/I know.”  What could resonate better with the moment?  A moving ending to a marvelous evening….

Special mention goes to Will Van Dyke, musical supervisor and arranger, and his four piece band.  And of course to Bernie Telsey, who concluded with  “We hope you feel a little closer to that live rush of theatre we all crave so desperately.”  Yes, we do, and thank you, MCC.

Miscast20, produced by the Manhattan Class Company, now streaming on MCC’s YouTube Channel