One by one,the little girls were escorted into a room at Ripley-Grier Studios, an audition and rehearsal space just over the border from the theater district. Stephen Kopel, casting director for "The People in the Picture," a Broadway musical scheduled to open in April, made the introductions: "This is Eddie. He's going to play for you."
"Where would you like me to start?" Eddie Rabin asked kindly, looking at each aspirant's sheet music. "What's the tempo?"
"Can you sing it a little louder and maybe face the table, don't face me," he suggested to one would-be star who was among the half-dozen young performers to croon "Castle on a Cloud" from "Les Miserables." "I'll play it again in maybe a different key."
"Do I look familiar to you?" he asked Alexa Niziak, a fetching 9-year-old with blond braids. "I think I've played for you before."
Really, Mr. Rabin has played for everybody. Lucie Arnaz, Kristin Chenoweth, Tovah Feldshuh, Heather Headley, Donna Murphy (star of "The People in the Picture"), Alice Ripley—and that's just for starters. He's one of the most sought-after audition pianists in the business, sometimes working as many as seven sessions a week—some lasting as long as nine hours—for theater, movie and cruise-ship casting directors. And he somehow manages to pull a rich sound out of the beat-up Steinway uprights and bland Yamahas that are so frequently his portion.
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