Season 1 might be over, but fans can still enjoy a bit more of Broadway's Masked Singer with several never-before-seen videos from contestants who were eliminated before all four of their filmed performances were presented on the show. Check out The Dalmatian (Six star Adrianna Hicks) performing "Take Me or Leave Me" From Rent above.
In addition, fans can watch The Flamingo (Mean Girls alum Kate Rockwell) sing "Love Story" here. Or enjoy The Elephant's (The Skivvies' Nick Cearley) take on "No Scrubs" here. Looking for some disco? The Potato (The Prom's Isabelle McCalla) shimmies in "I Will Survive" here. Finally, The Shark (Disney princess Patti Murin) channels KT Tunstall in "Suddenly I See" here.
Below, read a Q&A with contestants Nic Rouleau and Jelani Remy and show creators Michael Hull and Dylan Bustamante. Together, they talk about how Broadway's Masked Singer came together, share hilarious behind-the-scenes stories, muse on how it introduced a new generation to Broadway Cares, and hint at what Season 2 might look like.
How did the show come about?
Michael Hull (Co-Creator/Host/Producer): Dylan and I were watching the FOX television show. We would have all of our friends over—pre-COVID life—and we'd hang these huge pieces of paper on the wall and take notes and connect dots. The way that we pitched it to a lot of our singers—and I know how insane this sounds because this is a stupid show about getting dressed up in a furry costume and making people laugh—but the reason we decided that this would be something super funny to do with our Broadway people is because, like or not, people are are often being asked to fit into boxes to do the same type of roles.
This is something about our industry that I don't love so much. You're getting called in to do the same thing again and again and again. There was something really interesting about asking stupidly talented people what they would do if no one knew who they were. What they would sing? How would they act?
I think that's a cool thing to point out, because it becomes this wild visual fest of silliness, but if I could relate it to some art and purpose, that was where the impulse came from, we were sitting on the couch and we were like "this would be really fucking cool to let people not be their personas that they're already starting to play on Broadway."
Dylan Bustamante (Co-Creator/Host/Producer): All eight of our singers, when we said that, they were all like "Wow, now I'm really going to rethink my choices of what song I'm going to do, because now I can do whatever I want, and no one is going to be like, 'that's so-and-so.'"
Nic Rouleau (The Whale, 1st place): I just want to say how much these two boys blow me away. It's important to recognize how much they did. Like we all had fun and we all put in our own effort but Dylan and Michael were doing that for all eight of us. I would catch up with them sometimes and be like "oh they've been working non-stop," and the fact that the live stream went so smoothly. Of course, it went smoothly, because I'd seen behind-the-scenes how much work that those two boys put into it and like, it's just incredible.
Jelani Remy (The Bee, 2nd place): I think the main thing for me was connection. We got to sing songs that we connect with and make people connect with and that's something the whole community wants: something they can relate to or say "yes!" to or just relax or jam out to.
Rouleau: The cool thing about it all being virtual too was like yes, I did my videos and I knew I was on it, but I genuinely did not know anybody else. So me watching live was so cool, because I was playing just everybody else.
Jelani, were you watching?
Remy: My family was watching in another room and I was hosting a birthday party for a friend and they were watching it, too. So my mom was like 'oh you're doing great! They can't guess! Oh my gosh, they said you were this, they said you that.' So, I was getting commentary from her while I was watching with my friends. So it was a cluster, but it was high-stakes, and it was equally as fun.
How long did you have to prepare?
Remy: These were songs that I've had in my soul since high school. I've had these songs in my soul for quite some time. So when they gave me the green light, it was like "Let's go!"
Rouleau: I like that you had that journey, because I had the opposite. If you look at the first email I sent Michael and Dylan with my song choices, I think three of the four were tossed out into the trash. I was changing my mind every five seconds. I'd sit down to record a song and be like, "I hate this. This is horrible. It has to be something else."
Remy: That's why you're the winner.
Rouleau: The best part you missed ...Michael was like ‘I need you to dip into the hot tub so that I can slo-mo reverse it so it looks like you're emerging from the water as the whale.’
Remy: He gave you directorial notes? Not just going above and beyond, but into another galaxy and beyond!
Rouleau: And it did not work out as planned. It did not make the cut.
Hull: It was worth a shot. What you really should be asking about is Nic's vault of unused vocals, because he went through so many songs. He'd send it and Dylan and I would be like "This is amazing!" And he'd be like "I can do better. Hold on."
Bustamante: Both Jelani and Nic were two people that were very, very into it. And along with the whole line of everything, being like "This is what I'm going to do, This is what I want to do." and I think that's why they made it so far in the competition.
Hull: Jelani was one of our first yeses, and that came through on March 9. So he signed on at the beginning of March and almost two months later, people finally got to see what he was up to.
How did it feel to hear a panelist guess you?
Rouleau: The first time someone guessed my name, I was like "No!" And of course it was Kevin Metzger-Timson, who I went to NYU with so, of course, he knows my voice, right? But then I think they were throwing out other names. It's all so ridiculous and fun, it doesn't matter. It's just for the fun of it all.
Remy: The first time, Natalie Weiss, Mary Thomas, said my name—these are people that I used to go pay to hear to sing. They know my voice? They know my name? What an amazing moment that they can hear that, or they can remember that. It was a totally humbling experience as well. And cool!
Rouleau: I think the cool thing about Broadway singers doing something like this is that we tend to have very specific, unique voices. We don't just blend into a crowd, right? We all sound very distinct. Like Bernadette Peters, Ethel Merman, they all have a tone. Not that we are Bernadette or Ethel, but—
Remy: Oh, we are!
Rouleau: But we are! We all have a very specific tone to our voices. For me, it was Jessica Vosk as The Chicken. She fooled me in “Bad Guy”, but in “To Love You More,” there was no fooling, it was like "That's Jessica Vosk." You know that voice, you've listened to it on Instagram and YouTube.
Remy: It allowed us to have an artistry. It allowed us to break out of our box that you may think we are in and sing other music that we also adore and love, and music that we enjoy to hear and sing. It was a freeing experience for us too.
Hull: What i think was really cool about the two of you boys was, like, Jelani, I've heard you sing everything under the sun. So I was like "He's going to knock this out of the park. I'm obsessed with his voice, let's show off all of the different facets of Jelani." But Nic, I was less familiar with you voice, because you've been doing The Book of Mormon for so long that everybody knows your [sound].
Rouleau (singing): I belieeeeeeve!
Hull: So many people in the comments, I don't know if you read them, were like "Holy shit! We didn't know he could sing like this!" This is a whole new piece of Nic that we have not been able to hear. So it was a cool moment.
Remy: That was what was so great about it! You didn't focus on who was singing, you focused on the singing. And you got to listen to their storytelling and their voice and their timbre, and get lost in their story.
Rouleau: And to let your personality shine through. I mean, Jelani, look at the choreography you were doing in some of your numbers. Or Jessica Vosk as The Chicken. When you're covered up in a mask, other things have to shine through. That was the coolest experience for me, was getting free reign from Michael and Dylan to do whatever we want and as out of the box.
Did you come up with your backgrounds/story?
NR: We got to give Michael and Dylan a lot of credit.
Remy: All of the credit.
Rouleau: I filmed remotely in California, so they sent me a green screen and I came up with ideas, but I gave them very raw footage and they just turned into Broadway magic.
Remy: They'd be like "Ok, so what songs do you want to sing?" and then they'd cut it, splice it, make it make sense, find the proper key, and just do the homework behind it to make it look incredible and hilarious. So they were the perfect duo to guide you to say “yes, yes, yes, yes, and…” And that's what made this experience even more fun.
Hull: You'd be shocked at how decisive they actually were. When we went to people to ask them "Who would you like to be?," Nic was like "I would like to be a whale. Specifically, a whale in an inflatable crown." That was Nic's request verbatim.
Remy: You are my hero.
Rouleau: Everyone who's been to my apartment knows it is covered in whales. Like, I'm low-key obsessed with whales.
Remy: I'm changing your name to "Orca" in my phone.
Rouleau: I didn't tell my family I was on it, but the day before, I was like "Hey this is on tomorrow, you should watch this." And they watched and they said "There's a whale, Nic!" and I just said "Yes, there is." They're like "That's you!" and I had to say "I cannot confirm nor deny. Why don't you just watch and find out?”
Jelani, why The Bee?
Remy: I chose it because of Beyoncé.
Hull: A fun fact about The Bee, Broadway's Masked Singer was supposed to be a live show at Feinstein’s/54 Below, which Jelani had also very graciously agreed to appear in over a year ago. And so that obviously didn't happen, but he picked his costume way back in ...and in that version of the show, we were going to give everyone modifiers. So, we had like The Sassy Cat, and he was going to be Chef Boyar-bee because Jelani is really good in the kitchen.
Remy: I am now having a life change. I have to go, culinary school calls. No, I chose the bee off a whim. My school colors are black and gold, plus Beyoncé, it also was just fun. And I'm happy I did it, because how many puns? They are endless!
Rouleau: You and the spud had the most puns. The Bee and The Potato, it was just rich.
In terms of song choices, is there one song you wish you had done?
Remy: “Shadowlands” from The Lion King. Only because I had such a strong run with Simba, I wanted to do something opposite. And because I heard that song so many times and it was my intro, I had thought about doing it but like maybe we'll save it for Broadway Backwards or another time. So, that was in the mix, and we chose something different and I'm happy that we chose what we chose.
Rouleau: The one song that I really wanted to do, and I just couldn't get it to work was "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys. Now, having seen the final product and how ridiculous Jessica Vosk was—
Remy: You could've done it!
Rouleau: I could've done that and just been ridiculous. But that song is deceivingly hard to sing on pitch. I don't know if you've ever sung it, Jelani, but if you watch live videos of the Backstreet Boys, they sound horrible. Horrible! I was telling Michael, "I'm trying it up half a step, I'm trying it down, I'm trying all these keys."
Remy: Because there's five different voices!
Rouleau: I was trying to sing them all at the same time. It didn't really work.
Remy: No, but in Season 2, however, maybe we do a duet. Maybe we form a boy band.
Rouleau: We get reunited for a special performance.
So, Season 2?
Remy: I heard the people have spoken.
Hull: It has been discussed. The interest seems to be there and I think that all that remains is Dylan and I have to discuss the best way to move forward. What it will look like has yet to be determined.
Remy: Can Nic and I be judges on the next one?
Hull: I think that sounds like a good idea. I would consider you strong contenders for Season 2 panelists.
How much time do you think you actually spent in your costumes?
Remy: I feel like I'm still in it, to be honest.
Rouleau: I mean, I put it on last night. We had some friends around and I was like "I have to just show you."
Remy: It's part of the brand now, you know? It didn't feel like much, but for what it created, who cares? It was so much fun.
Rouleau: I spent more time than I should've in the costume.
Remy: You had scenery and set design, that's why!
Rouleau: The whale's mouth is supposed to be open and your head's supposed to come through. So Michael and Dylan sent me a face cover to put on but it was white and you could see my eyes poking through, and it was just creepy. So I safety-pinned the whale closed and then I was blind in that outfit. I couldn't see anything. There were many takes where I was falling; in "Lost in the Woods" I would run into a tree and fall over. Or with "The Writing’s on the Wall," I would pour that martini into the glass and the whole shaker would collapse and water went everywhere. I had a lot of outtakes.
Making it a fundraiser felt like an opportunity to make this service-driven and have fun at the same time. How do you feel looking back on the experience?
Bustamante: We're almost at $12K!
Remy: That's the thing, everybody wins because of what this was. Second place is just as sweet, it’s a thrill. The fact that we were doing this to raise money on top of showcasing everyone’s talent, having fun with the task, was awesome.
Hull: I also loved that our demographic was younger. Dylan and I, and I'm sure Jelani and Nic, but I'll speak for Dylan because I know him like that, we love Broadway Cares. We have done a lot with them, we love the people that work there, and it felt exciting to not only raise money for an organization that we feel so passionately about, and who has been so incredibly vital during this shutdown which has impact the arts industry in such a huge way, but even in addition to raising money for them, it was exciting to feel like we were also introducing some of the younger generation to this organization, who maybe this was their first exposure, hearing of BCEFA, but like fingers crossed they're aware of them, and they'll go watch Backwards or read about why they exist. We love them so much, and to feel like we were getting to help get them out there a little bit was also super cool.
Bustamante: The coolest part after night 1, we went and looked at the donation pages and...noticed that the ones coming in were not huge. They were $5, $8, $20, they weren't these big donations that you normally see when you look at a Broadway Cares event, but it was just showing you that it was this new generation of "I have $10, I'll send it to the whale,” and it was really nice to see that.
Remy: On top of what Dylan said, I think what was so smart about this show is accessibility: anybody could stream it. No matter if you're in high school, in an old folks home, a Broadway native, a Broadway aspiring, you got to tune in and give what you can and have fun, and that's what made it so smart and about the community.
Hull: Yeah, and if I could give Broadway Cares one more shoutout, their programming is so cool; Broadway Bares in a live year is one of my favorite events of the year, period. Broadway Backwards is so cool. It's so well done and high-caliber and such a staple of the community. So when we called them and said "We want to do this thing, will you let us do it on your YouTube channel?" we were so excited when they said yes. They basically said, "Yeah, we know you, we trust you, go for it, and you can do it on our stage." They were so instrumental in helping us get it off the ground. Dylan and I produced it, but Broadway Cares helped present it. That felt very cool. We were very grateful for their generosity of resources. I could talk about this all night.