It only took eight seasons, but Royal Pains finally got its musical wish in the penultimate episode, "The Good News Is..."
Since the show's inception in 2009, writer Michael Rauch has been dreaming of making a musical episode of Royal Pains, and this week, it all came true with a special hour of song and dance that hit all the right notes. Funny, sweet, sad, and spectacular, "The Good News Is..." came from a very personal place for Rauch, who explained its genesis at the ATX Festival earlier this month in Austin.
"I was raised by a father who was a middle-class Jew in the Bronx, and he would play hooky and go into Manhattan, into Radio City Music Hall, to watch old musicals," Rauch said after a screening of "The Good News Is..." "So he was always watching Fred Astaire musicals... and when I was about four or five, he wanted to go see all these musicals again in second-run theaters and my mom said, 'No way!' and my sister was old enough and she said, 'No, thanks,' so he would drag me. I was too young to say no, so I went and saw these movies as a kid. There was a glamour to it, and a beauty to it, and a sense of fantasy and elegance that I always loved."
One scene in particular captured that fantasy element of the old musicals -- the number during the wedding shot in black-and-white.
"Part of why I wanted to do a musical for this show," Rauch explained, "was to have a number we could do on a set that looked like an RKO set, in black-and-white with incredible gowns and black tie and have an orchestra where there’s a conductor who turns to the camera and smiles -- that would happen in every single one of those movies."
The conductor who does just that in "The Good News Is..." is Tom Kitt, who wrote the music for the episode and is best known for his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning Broadway show Next to Normal. In fact, a number of Broadway folks who have appeared on Royal Pains over the years thanks to the production's proximity to the Big Apple returned for this episode, including Christine Ebersole who plays Ms. Newberg.
To be able to feature the New York City talent was a no-brainer for Royal Pains' producers, but what came as more of a revellation was that the core cast also has chops.
"We asked each of them a little bit shyly," Rauch remembered. "'We’re gonna do a musical. Are you okay with doing it?' And everyone was like, 'I’m in!' and they were so incredible."
Reshma Shetty, who stars as Divya, is a trained opera singer and it's her voice you hear first.
"We open the episode and you hear this gorgeous voice singing and you don’t know who it is," recalled Henry Winkler (Eddie). "You’re trying to figure it out and then it’s Reshma, kneeling by the beautiful cradle!"
For some other members of the cast, the musical numbers didn't come quite as easily to them.
"You know how at the end, they put all the tables together to make his face? I’m in the front," said Paolo Costanzo (Evan). "This quick little shuffle step? I practiced it for three days to do the shuffle step. That whole scene was shot in, like, four hours, so at the end of the day, the sun was going down. The second the camera started rolling, I completely threw all the choreography out and I started kicking like a madman and luckily they cut around enough to not show it."
For Mark Feuerstein, the duet between his character Hank and Evan was the number he focused on the most.
"Paolo and I would rehearse our number 'I'm Done' every moment we had from set. We would just run to the guest house and go through our choreography," Feuerstein mused. "We had to learn the song and it took a lot of time! We were terrified by it."
Certainly, all that practicing paid off! To watch the full musical episode," The Good News Is..." click here. Also, be sure to tune in next Wednesday for the final episode ever of Royal Pains!