POP SPOTLIGHT: The Story Behind How The “Anything Goes” Cast Went Viral

 In just two days, the amazingly talented group of singers and dancers  from Roundabout Theatre Company ‘s Tony Award winning Broadway hit  Anything Goes (@AnythingGoesRTC)   gained worldwide recognition… for lip synching! Their video of the cast performing One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”   has gained the show tens of thousands of hits in less than 48 hours. In part, because it’s so fascinating to see these performers in full 1930’s costumes performing a modern day hit, but also in part because they’re all so damn good looking and talented. Below, the video, and then, my interview with Raymond J. Lee, who put it together.

 I had a chance to connect with one of the creators of the video, Raymond J. Lee,  who plays the role of “John in the show.

Tell me how this idea started… whose idea it was, and how long it took to do it. (Who organized it all?) How did you decide on One Direction’s song?

Hayley Podschun who plays “Virtue in our cast  introduced me to One Direction ‘s album and I immediately gravitated toward “What Makes You Beautiful.   The song is so freakin ‘ catchy and I had it on repeat 24/7 on my iPhone.   I had been toying with the idea of doing a backstage music video and finally decided to do it after listening to the song.   It was perfect!   It was my little backstage project, and with the help of the cast and crew of Anything Goes I think we pulled off one hell of a video!

How many people would you say (approximately) took part?

The entire cast took part in the video as well as some of our amazing crew members.   I would say about 36 people took part in our video.

One of the things that instantly comes across, aside from the fact that you’re all incredibly talented, is that you all genuinely seem to be having fun and enjoying one another… tell me about that. People often talk about Broadway show casts being a family – is that the case with you? If you say no this is going to be really awkward.

The cast of Anything Goes is definitely a family! It is such a pleasure to come to work every day and see all those faces at the theater.   We really do have each other ‘s backs and it ‘s a great place to get advice on anything that you need advice on.   We know each other ‘s spouses and families and make work a really fun atmosphere.   For example, there is always Poker on Saturday between shows, donuts before a Sunday matinee, and we will occasionally go out and grab drinks and hang out.     We also spend the majority of the show entertaining each other backstage, which is an absolute blast.   Whether it ‘s doing silly dances or trying to make each other laugh backstage, it ‘s a great place to work and I feel very lucky.

Was it as fun to do as it looks?

OH YEAH! I grew up on MTV and VH1 in middle school and high school and the idea of finally putting together a music video, with a slight homage to boy bands, was awesome! The whole cast got really into it too and soon people were coming up to me and asking when they could lip sync, or when we were doing the group dance numbers.   Joel Grey even pulled me aside and asked when he could dance improv for the camera!

The times when folks were in costume – did you shoot those just before or just after a show? Or did they put them on for the shoot?  

The times when folks were in costume – they were actually in costume during the actual show, or would dress up for me right before half hour.  Everybody was absolutely great sports about costumes.  And the crazy zany costumes you see people wearing in the video, they actually brought those from home or we had stuff at the theater for them to wear.  We have so much random stuff backstage!  

How long did you take to shoot this? Were you walking around with an ipod? A boom box? How did you get the sound for the song to everyone? Did you edit it right away? How long did that take?  

It took about a week and a half to shoot and edit the video.   I was literally walking around backstage with my camera, my lyric sheet, and my iPhone!   I would play the song for people right before they did their lip syncs.   Luckily we ‘re used to learning copy right before a take and our cast is made up of absolute pros.   I would shoot footage each day, come home, and start putting together different parts of the video.  

Aren’t you busy enough!??  😉 Give me an idea of your schedule. How did you fit this in?

OMG yes! An actor ‘s life is always crazy and hectic and stressful, but this was an absolute labor of love and I would look forward to dashing home, uploading the footage, and playing around on iMovie.   My prime editing hours were 12am-3am and thank goodness I went back on coffee last week.   During the days, I was either in rehearsal for a reading or going to an audition or working out, so the days were definitely packed!

Okay – so you went to bed – and at that time only a few people had seen it, right? How did you spread the word? How fast did it spread?

Social networking is so freakin ‘ powerful.   The Internet, Facebook, Twitter are all important and influential mediums if you know how to use them.   I basically posted the video to YouTube on Sunday night, emailed the link to my Anything Goes cast and crew, then posted it on Facebook and tweeted it, and went to bed.   Once I woke up Monday morning, I was shocked to learn that people had been sharing it and sharing it and that we were almost at 6000 views.   And I had received so many amazing and sweet messages.   It really did touch my heart that people were enjoying this video that the cast and I put together for fun.

I interview a lot of viral sensations and am always fascinated by some of their stories… have you or any members of the cast gotten any interesting/unique/funny or scary emails or responses?

It ‘s still too early to tell and I can ‘t wait to talk to people about it at work on Tuesday! I ‘m sure SOMEONE has gotten a funny tweet or email from the video.   It ‘s fun to see different cast members Facebook walls blow up with messages and responses.

This is driving some people to learn about the show that might otherwise not have known about it… was that part of the plan, or was this just for fun?

This was totally a labor of fun! I wanted to find a way to capture the amazing environment we have backstage at the Stephen Sondheim Theater.   This started out as just a project for us to watch 10 years from now and remember the good ol ‘ days at Anything Goes.   The fact that people are watching the video and loving it and getting joy out of it has really been rewarding.

Was there a part of  you that expected it to go viral – or at least hoped it would?

Of course!   A bunch of cast members have put videos up and we always joke about something going viral, but to actually see this video spreading like wildfire has been surreal! I literally pinched myself this morning because I couldn ‘t believe it was happening!

So – given the instant success – are you already brainstorming another video?

Oh yeah  Brandon Rubendall (who choreographed the girl dance), Hayley, and I are already brainstorming on what song to do next.

In many ways, this could be a groundbreaking way for a Broadway cast to get some publicity for their show… don’t you think?

I definitely think it is a great way for a Broadway cast to get publicity for their show.   I wanted people to see what a great time we have as a cast backstage and to give people an in-depth look at all the fun stuff that happens behind the scenes in a Broadway show. Some of the YouTube comments have been wonderful.   A bunch of comments talk about how people want to come back and see the show again since they have seen what a great time we have backstage.

Any funny outtakes that didn’t make it into the video?  Anything someone wanted to do that you just couldn’t put in?

There is SO much footage that I didn ‘t end up using, mainly because the song wasn ‘t long enough to put everything in!   There were even more silly faces, silly dance moves, and group dance footage that I couldn ‘t use.   Nothing R-rated though! The most PG-13 thing was probably Brandon Rubendall lip syncing in the shower!

The Broadway community all knows each other – (well, a lot of them do) … have any of your friends from other shows said anything about it? Can we expect any other companies to get in the game and do one of their own?

I TOTALLY think we ‘ll be seeing other music videos from other casts! I ‘ve messaged with some friends at Newsies, Godspell, and the American Idiot tour and the interest is there. It ‘ll be awesome to see what all these talented casts put together!   I hope we start a new Broadway trend!

Okay – put your ‘TV Critic’ Hat on – what do you think of “Smash” – thumbs up or thumbs down? Do you and your friends watch it?

Absolutely thumbs up.   I watch it every week and get excited when I see familiar faces on there.   Sure the drama is heightened because it ‘s a television show but I think the characters are all fascinating and the production numbers are absolutely stunning.   Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee know how to WERK it on camera!  

Any last few words you’d like to say to fans of the video?THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Thanks so much for your support and for sharing the video with your friends! We could not have done this without each and everyone of you watching our video and spreading the word.   And make sure to come and see us at Anything Goes, playing 8 times a week at the Stephen Sondheim Theater!

For more prop profiles and viral videos, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

And don’t forget to go see Anything Goes on Broadway!

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