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'Secrets' musical returns to NYC 'by popular demand'

Cary Ashby • Jun 24, 2019 at 3:00 PM

It’s one thing to have your musical debut near Broadway. There’s a whole new level to have it return for a nearly sold-out encore performance.

Daniel Ruffing, a St. Paul High School graduate, is the composer and co-lyricist for “Secrets.” On June 8, the spy-based musical returned to Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City — the same intimate venue where it premiered Dec. 22. It is similar to a cabaret-style dinner theater.

“They said it was back by popular demand,” said Ruffing, the son of Tom and Tiina. “It was nearly sold out. We had about 10 seats that didn’t sell.”

“Secrets” again was performed as “a musical in concert” in which several songs are featured. Ruffing earlier described the musical as “Austin Powers meets James Bond” with some parody and a mix of action and drama.

“We did add two songs to the show,” said Ruffing, who tweaked the order with script writer Noah Meaux and director Jack Ina.

Because the script had been rewritten, Ruffing said the order of the songs is more logical, which makes it easier to follow the story.

Ruffing is on the board of directors for the Norwalk Arts Center LLC, a non-profit organization which recently purchased the Norwalk Theatre, 57 E. Main St. The St. Paul graduate said he would love to debut “Secrets” in its final form some day at the downtown theater once it’s up and running again. 

The encore performance of “Secrets” featured 14 performers, most of whom were different from the Dec. 22 debut.

“They were from (all) over the country,” said Ruffing, an arts management major at Baldwin Wallace University. “A lot of them were from New York. … We had a couple from B-W.”

One of those performers was Bellevue High School graduate Grace Oddo. 

“I didn’t know her until she auditioned,” Ruffing said. “She sang the first song in the show and then she was in ensembles for any of those (songs) that needed them.”

The creative team had a casting call on Facebook. There were three rounds of auditions. The first included a song of the performer’s choice. The singers did some sight-reading for their “call back” and during the third audition, they performed music from “Secrets” with some additional acting.

Comparing the two performances at 54 Below, Ruffing said he thought the the encore “personally was better.”

“They were both really good performances; I was so proud,” added the musician, who received several compliments from audience members.

“Secrets” had its encore the same weekend of the Tony awards. Ruffing said the timing actually helped, as there were 10 to 15 people in the audience who walked by Feinstein’s/54 Below and came to the show after seeing the promotional poster outside the venue.

“They probably had been to 54 Below and were looking for something to do,” he added. “The Tonys pretty much benefitted us.”

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