BWW Blog: Sherz Aletaha of Off-Broadway's DISASTER! - High F's and What's What
So I'm realizing that I haven't really told you guys what I do in Disaster! My bad, BroadwayWorld. I'm one of three ensemble members, and I also understudy three roles:
1. Sister Mary Downey, a nun with a filthy secret played by comedic genius, Jennifer Simard.
2. Jackie Sylvestri, a slightly ditzy but eternally optimistic lounge singer, currently played by the beautiful Stacey Oristano.
3. Ben/Lisa, Jackie's boy and girl twins played by 13 year old, Jonah Verdon...yes, you read that correctly. I'm a twentysomething, my boobs are a pretty generous size, and I'm understudying a child...and I not so secretly LOVE IT! The part is hilarious and if you're lucky, you've seen Jonah do his thing while he switches back and forth between brother and sister(seriously, steals ALL the scenes).
Y'all being an understudy is crazy! I'm a bit anal so I color coded my script according to each track I play/cover. There are definitely pages where every line is highlighted in a different color; cut to me on my couch trying to be a good little understudy going over my lines at home, and I just look INSANE because I'm having an entire conversation (and even singing a duet) with myself. As of now, Ben/Lisa is the only role I haven't gone on for, so if poor little Jonah gets locked in a closet or misses half hour call, you know it's because I decided to be a horrible person, "Showgirls" style (or "All About Eve" style for you classy people). In November, I went on for Sister because poor Jen was stuck in a Canadian airport! When I found out I'd be writing this blog, I kept joking with her that I could finally let the world know what a diva she is and how awful it is to be her understudy. She's seriously amazing! She took me onstage one day and walked me through some blocking that could have been potentially tricky, gave me tons of pointers, and even sent me her "cheat sheet" with the most impeccable notes. JEN SIMARD FOR PRESIDENT! Going on for Jackie was also a blast. Our director, Jack Plotnick, was in town so I luckily was able to work with him at my understudy rehearsal and somehow my version of her turned into a sweetly stupid mob wife. When I was on for Jackie, fellow ensemble member and my body rolling partner in crime, Maggie McDowell, was on for the role of Marianne. The experience felt like an incredible identity crisis!
Us ensemble peeps are so lucky in this show! Each of us understudies a principle (or 2...or 3!) and even in our own tracks, we each get featured moments and lots of stage time. My big feature is super glamorous. I'm offstage...but today's the day I take credit for this little moment of joy. In act two, disasters are striking left and right. At one point, the chef, played by the uber talented Saum Eskandani, is making fun of Jackie for being scared of a high and damaged railing. As he mocks her, he tiptoes offstage while singing Minnie Riperton's "Loving You." The song has a high F in it so as Saum gets offstage, I'm waiting in the wings and take over starting with that high F (for those wondering how high that is, it's a half step higher than Christine's final note in the song "The Phantom Of The Opera." BOOM! #sopranobitches) Check out my video where I out Saum, who blatantly takes credit when people think he hits those notes. Rude.