mistakes during live performances (broadway, etc)

ever see a live show where the actors flubbed their lines, or worse? i’m sure it happens all the time, especially with the more technically demanding shows.

the two i remember were both from beauty and the beast (separate performances):

  1. during “something there” and “human again” there’s dialogue midway through where belle reads king arthur aloud to the beast. she flubbed her line and started reading the wrong excerpt and had to correct herself. this one wasn’t too bad, might not have been noticed by people unfamiliar with the show.

  2. during the scene where belle swaps places with her father, the beast tripped over his tail and fell. this was very noticeable; you could hear the audience draw in their breath. he did an excellent job recovering though. without missing a beat, he crawled on all fours toward belle for a few seconds before getting back up. he managed to make it look like that was his intention the whole time.

any good stories?

I saw a production of Les Miserables where Valjean seemed to try and open the grate to the sewer but couldn’t, and ultimately left the stage with Marius on his back. The opening had worked fine earlier when the Thenardiers had popped out during One Day More; I don’t know if it wouldn’t work during the post-barricade scene or if for some reason they just decided not to use it.

I saw the last revival of The King and I with Yul Brynner on Broadway, and at one point the woman playing Anna got a bad case of the giggles and couldn’t say her line. She covered up with “You’re so funny, your Majesty”, directed to Brynner.

I’ve seen lots of shows, on and off Broadway, and in theaters elsewhere, but I can’t recall any other significant flubs. I di recall one very significant flub in a college production of 1776 I was in. It was all very slick and professional, until one night the guy playing Ben Franklin simply forgot his line. to cover up, he started extemporising very Franklin-sounding dialogue.

We’d been through all the play a zillion times in rehearsal and performance, so everyone else knew exactly what the next line should be. My first though He forgot his damned line was followed immediately by Don’t look At Him!. The last thing we needed was for every eye on stage to be directed at the hapless actor, drawing attention to his flub. It was likely that most audience members weren’t as familiar with the play, and wouldn’t notice.

Fortunately, the right lines apparently popped into his head, and he worked back to the right dialogue, like a train putting itself back on the rails. I imagine this is how the pros do it. Thank Og it wasn’t me.

I watched Robert Goulet in an outdoor theater touring production of Camelot. He was fine, but the guy playing Lancelot tripped over his cape during his entrance. When the actor got to the line where he says something like, “But, my Lord, all you know about me is that I know how to use my sword!” he got a fairly big laugh with “But, my Lord, all you know about me is that I don’t know how to walk in a cape.”

This last winter we caught The Troubies performing Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReinDOORS. About 30 seconds into his scene with a young boy selected from the audience, King Moonracer’s loincloth fell off, leaving him in a unitard with obviously no jock. One of the toys quickly grabbed the fallen loincloth and tried to reattach it, to no avail. They finished the scene with the toy crouching behing Moonracer, holding the loincloth on and following him all over the stage.

I’m sure the kid’s parents can afford the theraphy he’s gonna need. :stuck_out_tongue:

Saw a performance of West Side Story where the actor playing Tony was losing his voice throughout the evening. By the end he was simply croaking and whispering.

Actually I saw the same thing with a performance by Richard Harris in Camelot. But Harris was so far past his prime by then that the audience gave him credit for not dying during the show.

There’s an official Eric Clapton concert video of a performance in (I think) 1987 in which he totally flubs a phrase during a solo. Inserted into the video is a cartoon bubble appearing above Clapton’s head of him saying “Sorry!”.

I’ve never noticed any mistakes on Broadway or from official Broadway touring casts. Getting smaller and more regional, more local, I’m sure I’ve seen some flubbed lines but nothing that makes a good story.

I did see singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith perform on his first “big tour” as an opening act for Aimee Mann. Not to suggest that he is at all “famous” these days, but back then he was even more not famous. His first record had only just come out and, although it met a certain amount of critical acclaim, it didn’t really set the world afire.

Aimee Mann wasn’t entirely a “superstar”, but she was on her second solo album after three Til Tuesday albums and the lead single from the newest album was getting airplay- so, she was playing on the larger side of mid-level venues to sold out or near sold out capacity. So, Ron Sexsmith was undoubtedly playing to the largest audiences he had ever played to.

About two thirds of the way through his set, Ron Sexsmith broke a guitar string.

He had walked out on stage only carrying his guitar, he didn’t have his guitar case sitting right next to him. The stage was too big to just reach off to the wings and grab a string- and his case was probabaly in the green room rather than just offstage anyway. He called for help but no one was paying attention to his set- he certainly didn’t have his own guitar tech on this tour at so humble a point in his career.

After an awkward moment of trying to get someone to hear that he needed help, he told the audience he’d manage the next song without the missing string. He played that song and he played it well, but when he finished the song he made another plea for help. Still no one was paying attention. He strummed a few chords to the next song, but decided he really needed to replace the string.

He apologized to the audience, left the stage for a few minutes, came back with a new string, changed the string, tuned, and played the remainder of his set.

When Aimee Mann came on, she apologized to Ron and to the audience and said that they (as in “we”- she took responsibility) really should have had someone available to help and she felt badly.

I once attended an English-language performance of The Merry Widow at the Metropolitan Opera. To simplify greatly, the A-plot involves several men vying for the title character’s hand in marriage, and the B-plot involves various characters passing around a love note written on a fan.

During the final act, the actor playing one of the A-Plot suitors was supposed to say “You mean you’re going to marry her without her money?!”. Instead, he said “You mean you’re going to marry her without her fan?!”.

It took him a few seconds to notice the mistake, during which time we were treated to the rare sight of a Metropolitan Opera cast struggling mightily not to crack up.

Happened to me in a high school play one time. Another character was supposed to shoot me with a rifle, but the person backstage who was supposed to fire the school’s starter’s pistol on cue to simulate the gunshot had gotten sidetracked with a crisis, so the gun didn’t go off when she fired. She swung the gun around and clubbed me with it, which I thought showed great presence of mind, as well as a certain ruthlessness.

Let me guess. The production was Annie Get Medieval!?

Never seen anything on a professional stage.

However, I’ve done community theatre for years, and there have been many times when somebody flubbed their lines, and somebody else ad-libbed their way around it. For example, I well remember the time we were doing “You Can’t Take It With You,” and the head J-man (he was supposed to be like an FBI agent) entered, and could say little more than, “Blob-grub-blub-wub-duh.” The rest of the cast ad-libbed around him, and we got back on track.

The worst, though, involved me. I was the First Gangster in a production of Kiss Me Kate. The Second Gangster and I were in front of the curtain for our big number, “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” The song is a dialogue, and at one point where it was my line, I blanked. Completely blanked. To make matters worse, so did the guy playing the Second Gangster, who might have filled in, if he could remember the words. But neither of us, who were the only people on stage during a musical number, could remember the words.

We ended up doing Three Stooges slapstick for eight bars or so, the orchestra still playing, until we could remember where we were, and we continued singing. But I will say, the audience loved it!

I absolutely adored the show “Spring Awakening”. So much so, that I saw the the first and second national touring companies a total of 26 times in 6 different cities, mostly from up close and personal views from the on-stage seating. Seeing it that many times I saw a few minor things but they were mostly things that unless you had seen the show many times you’d never know they were wrong.

The biggest flub happened one night when, in the second act, Melchior pulls a letter from Wendla out of his pocket and reads it aloud. On this night, there was no letter in the pocket. So the the actor ad libbed something in the spirit of the letter. I was surprised that he didn’t just pretend to hold the letter and simply quote from it. The words were actually on the piece of paper (I have one as a souvenir) but he surely would have known what it said without having to read from it. I guess he was just flustered. The bigger issue was that he needed that letter a few minutes later, when some other characters steal it from him, so when the scene shifted to the other characters briefly, the actor slipped off stage and retrieved the missing letter. After that show he was pissed.

In A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as part of the opening act, Nathan Lane is explaining to the audience the background plot which involved someone throwing a baby to him from offstage (an obviously fake baby). When done explaining the separated-at-birth plot point, he throws the baby back offstage and right into the proscenium! (Look it up, you troglodytes… proscenium!) He grimaces and cracks up along with the audience.

I saw the same show again a few weeks later with a different group of friends and he does the same exact thing! It was clear the second time that he was doing it on purpose and faked that it was an accident. Hey, it was a comedy and he was already breaking the fourth wall (look that up, too!).

And not exactly flubs, but when I saw the revival of Gore Vidal’s The Candidate, Angela Langsbury, John Larroquette, and James Earl Jones did not know their lines very well. There were to split second gaps in dialogue where they were thinking what their next line was or catching themselves from saying the wrong thing. It was happening a lot and most of the cast was like that except Eric McCormack. A bit disappointing since I’ve never seen Angela that shaky about dialogue before.

In my junior year of high school, I was assisting with sound during a play. I don’t honestly remember which show, I did tech pretty often. Anyway, my partner (the tech lead) missed a crucial doorbell cue. The actor onstage (a senior, fairly seasoned for a high school performer) was able to cover. As I recall, he said something along the lines of, “Our doorbell is broken, but I think I hear somebody outside!” He opened the door and the show went on. A classy, timely cover-up IMO!

I remember that! My friend and I were watching that around the time when it came out (maybe on HBO?) and we got a quite a laugh out of it.

I guess even God can, ahem, pretend to make a mistake every now and again. Just to see if we are paying attention.

Hugely famous flub was Ella Fitzgerald doing a live version of Mack the Knife in the early 60s in Berlin. It was a recent hit for Sinatra and Bobby Darrin (IIRC), and she had a go - and forgot the lines hopelessly. Improvised over the whole lot with lines like “what’s the next verse, to this song now, that’s the one now, I don’t know. But it’s a swinging tune, and its a hit tune…” “Somethin’ about cash”. Hilariously brave. The recording earned her an Emmy. I used to love playing it to the kids;they got a kick out of it.

I got to see an early preview of a play called Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (soon to be a forgettable Major Motion Picture, apparently) with Luke Skywalker and Polly Bergen. Anyway, it had a static open set, no curtain, so we could see the techs fooling around with the telephone during intermission.

Act 2, Luke answers the telephone and the cord pops out. He looks at the dangling cord, hurredly plugs the cord back in “Are you still there? The cord popped out, thought I lost you for a second.” Then on with the actual lines from the play. Very smooth, I thought.

Way way back, we took the kids to a production of PETER PAN starring Sandy Duncan. At the start of the “I’m Flying” sequence, there was some problem with the harness. She stopped the performance and said, “Wait a minute, these people paid a lot of money to see this,” and walked offstage. Came back a few moments later, and did the flying sequence.

I was sort of disappointed that she just launched back into it, without some sort of follow-up word (or even a Peter-Panish laugh.)