The audience hated him, he said.

"You could just feel it out there," he said. "They were seething."

And who could blame them? "They'd paid their few hundred bucks, hired a sitter for the night," he said, "and instead of Broderick they get this nobody."

Now, in New York there's something called entrance applause. When a big star walks on stage for the first time, he or she gets a big ovation from the audience. In New York, they also never tamper with the play. Not ever. Not for an understudy, Grapey said. "It stays exactly the same."

"It's very by the book there, very cookie cutter," Kazurinsky said.

So for Broderick's entrance, they have him come out on stage, hang up his hat, fuss with his scarf, hang up his coat. It takes at least 45 seconds, Grapey said. Which for him were 45 seconds of dead silence.

"I come out," he said, jumping up to pantomime. "I'm hanging up my coat, my scarf, and it is the longest 45 seconds of my life. Of my life."

But then something happened, he said. Simon's play takes over. A line got a laugh, and then another and another.

"And there's this whole change that comes over," he said. "And by the end they were rooting for me, you understand?"

His Felix won them over.

dgeorge@tribune.com

 

'The Odd Couple'

When: Opens Friday and runs through Dec. 9

Where: Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie

Tickets: $25-$72 at 847-673-6300 and northlight.org