Despite what most people think about opening-night parties, ideally they don't exist as nervous countdowns to the reading of reviews. Yes, there may be someone off in the corner, reading notices on an iPhone or Blackberry. But the actors are kicking back and enjoying the moment: after weeks of preparation, they've finally set sail.
And so it was this week at O'Neals restaurant, across the street from Lincoln Center, during the opening-night party for When the Rain Stops Falling. At the front of the restaurant, young cast members Will Rogers and Henry Vick were celebrating with fellow alums from the North Carolina School of the Arts. LCT audience favorite Victoria Clark had let her hair down and, among the actors, had effected the most dramatic transformation from costume to party frock. A very happy mood was in the air.
Almost everyone -- cast, crew, LCT board members, various and sundry friends -- who went through the restaurant's buffet line seemed to have the same question, in reference to the dish that is eaten throughout Rain: "What? No fish soup?!?" (A Backstage Blog entry about that item appears unavoidable.) The sudden spell of spring weather outside, however, made hot soup suddenly unpalatable, and, besides, there was cooked fish (sea bass) on the menu.
Conversations with Rain artists revealed artistic activity almost as plentiful as the buffet. The play's set designer, David Korins, for example, spoke about the work he had to do on two upcoming musicals, Bring It On, based on the Kirsten Dunst cheerleader flick, and Little Miss Sunshine, based on the Oscar-winning movie. "They're both for next winter," he said, "but, still, I need to get cracking."
But no one in my rounds of the party (which got more animated as the night progressed) seemed to have as much to mention as Josh Schmidt, who did the original music of Rain, an assignment on which he collaborated closely with sound designer Fitz Patton. To start with, Schmidt's Playbill bio mentions that, regionally alone, he has worked on "over 100 productions." His musical Adding Machine, whose well-received off-Broadway production was directed by Rain's David Cromer, has had at least 8 productions outside of New York, including one in Lisbon, Portugal. "Lisbon is a warm-weather place," Schmidt told me, "which means it's not really a theater town. So the show had to be adjusted a bit."
What's more, Schmidt's one-act musical, Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle, is part of an upcoming Primary Stages evening called Inner Voices: Solo Musicals. And did I mention that A Minister's Wife, Schmidt's musical of Shaw's Candida, created with Jan Tranen and Austin Pendleton, recently had an acclaimed suburban-Chicago production and is headed for New York? (More details to be announced soon.)
By the time Schmidt had finished his long list of exciting credits my head was spinning; I bellied up to the O'Neals front bar for a drink. The North Carolina guys were there, and they were still there when I left the party. Ah, youth!
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.