Seth's Broadway Diary, Volume 1: Part 1

BOOK: Seth's Broadway Diary, Volume 1: Part 1
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Seth’s Broadway

Diary

Volume 1

 

By

Seth Rudetsky

 

PART 1

(Please purchase PART 2 to own the entire first volume of

Seth’s Broadway Diary)

 

Copyright © 2014

All rights reserved

First Edition

 

 

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book,

or for information about special discounts for bulk purchases,

please contact:

[email protected]

 

Dress Circle Publishing

Brisa Trinchero/Roberta Pereira

New York, New York

www.dresscirclepublishing.com

 

 

Introduction

October 22, 2014

 

Hello, Broadway lovers and/or people sifting through old books at a yard sale!
I’m delighted you have my book, which is basically my very public diary. I feel like I should first tell you who I am, not only to give you some context for what you’re reading, but also to fill my constantly anxiety-producing word count. My name is Seth Rudetsky and I grew up loving Broadway: listening to records every day, going to TKTS with my parents for tickets, performing in my school shows and taking scores out of the library and playing them on the piano. Even though I knew Broadway would be my career, I wound up getting a classical piano degree (!) from the Oberlin Conservatory and hoped to parlay that into playing in Broadway orchestras. Thankfully, it worked. I moved to New York and played for lots of shows like
Les Miz
,
Phantom
and
Ragtime
.
I also did lots of sketch comedy and stand-up on the side. In 1997, I became a comedy writer on the
The Rosie O’Donnell Show
and got to write two opening numbers for her when she hosted the Tony Awards.

 

I really wanted to get back to performing onstage and wound up writing and starring in a one-person-show in 2003 called
Rhapsody in Seth,
which got me my first agent. I did a round of interviews to promote the show and one of them was on Sirius radio. Mike Peters, who ran the Broadway channel, heard my interview and hired me to host a daily Broadway music show which became
Seth’s Big Fat Broadway.
Now, I divide my time between the radio show, writing books and shows (like my upcoming Broadway show
Disaster!
), doing
Seth’s Broadway Chatterbox
and
Seth Speaks
where I interview Broadway stars each week, and touring the country with my show
Deconstructing Broadway
as well as doing concerts with Broadway ladies like Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone and Megan Mullally and posting them on my website, SethRudetsky.com.

 

Now, back to this book. It all began in 2007. Well, actually, it all began in 1994 when the Weisslers decided to revive
Grease!
starring Rosie O’Donnell and I played in the pit band off and on for years. Then, years later, another revival of
Grease
was planned, but this time the casting process was going to be done via TV. In January of 2007, NBC ran a weekly reality show called
You’re The One That I Want
where the public voted on who would be the new Danny and Sandy
.
Because I’d already written the book
The Q Guide To Broadway
and my second book,
Broadway Nights,
was about to be published
and
I’d played the song "Summer Nights" around 1,000 times on Broadway, I was asked by Andrew Gans to write a weekly recap of the show for Playbill.com. It wound up being a really fun job and I loved putting my spin on the many mind-boggling aspects of that show (i.e. having Austin audition for Danny by singing and bustin’ a move to "Ease On Down The Road").

 

Anyhoo, when the reality show went off the air, I was very pleased to receive an email from Andrew asking me to continue writing the column. But about what? Max Crumm and Laura Osnes were already chosen to star in
Grease
. Well, since basically everything I do is connected to Broadway (which I first fell in love with in 2
nd
grade when I saw the mid-‘70s revival of
The Pajama Game
), I was given
carte blanche
to write about whatever the h*ll happened each week! So, this book is a weekly journal of my Broadway life; it’s chock full of seeing Broadway shows like the closing night of
Rent
or the night Jeff Bowen was dragged off the stage during
[title of show]
or the night I saw
Spring Awakening
and helped Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele break (-ish) the law…plus, inside scoop on what it’s like performing with tons of fantastic stars like Rosie Perez, Andrea McArdle and Betty Buckley as well as hi-larious stories about Patti LuPone, Raúl Esparza, Lea Michele, Chita Rivera, Norbert Leo Butz, Matthew Morrison, Sherie Rene Scott and
many
more, straight from their yaps! Note: as you read it, make sure you have your iTunes and Youtube.com browsers open at all times to watch/listen to the performances I reference.

 

I re-read all my columns before this book was published and I wanted to make some extra comments. So, every time you see this kind of writing, it's me in 2014 adding my two cents!

 

And, finally, after editing this book I realized I’m
constantly
talking about my weight. Let it be known I’m not morbidly obese…in the real world. But by Broadway standards, I should be wearing a muumuu that covers a pair of stretch pants featuring a pregnancy patch. Basically, Broadway folk live by different rules…and those rules don’t include non-stop bowls of cereal at 11 PM.

 

All right, go read about Broadway!

                                                                                    - Seth Rudetsky

 

 

                           

 

Betty, Charlotte, Shayna and
Carrie
!

April 3, 2007


 

There is a hole in my heart. A hole that can only be filled with a heavily padded two-hour reality series casting a Broadway show. There is an age-old question that our philosophers have been asking since the days of Socrates and/or the initial
Real World
episodes: How do you cope when your reality series goes off the air?

 

I've had to deal with the debilitating loss of
Pop Stars
,
Fight for Fame
, and
Showbiz Moms and Dads
, but ne'er has a reality show gotten so close to my true love: Broadway. And by "close," I mean throughout the run of
Grease
:
You're the One That I Want
, the word "Broadway" was spoken of up to a dozen times, but it was basically
American Idol
featuring two Ryan Seacrests.

 

All right, I'm going to move on emotionally. No more living in the reality show past. Instead I’m going to talk about my week, latest obsessions and recent gossip, AKA anything and everything Broadway!

 

Monday was a fantastic benefit produced by Amy Birnbaum and held at Joe's Pub for Family First Nights, an organization that brings inner-city kids to Broadway. How sad is it that some kids live in New York City and haven't ever been to a Broadway show? Think of that 15-year-old kid who, for some reason, never got to see
Metro, Chu Chem
or the two-month run of that Jackie Mason musical. What an incredible loss! The benefit featured Broadway folk rocking out to traditional Broadway songs. It was called
Scream Out, Louise
and, in reality, should have been titled
Riff Out, Louise
, but apparently that copyright is owned by
Brooklyn, the Musical
. I co-hosted with Scott Nevins, and it was a ton of fun even though his body fat is the same as mine but with the decimal point moved before the first number.

 

Tuesday, I flew to L.A. to interview/play for the amazing beltress Shayna Steele from
Hairspray
. We performed for a group of travel agents and stayed at the beautiful Hotel Bel-Air where I noticed that one of the salads in the restaurant was named after Nancy Reagan. Remembering back to the time she was in the White House, I decided to "just say no" to her namesake and instead ordered a delish lobster salad on brioche. And for all those people who've eaten meals with me, just know that I'm only vegetarian and Kosher when I can use it to make someone else feel bad.

 

Wednesday, I returned to New York and really started working on
Seth's Broadway 101
. That title is not only my goal weight, but also a show I'm putting together for The Actors Fund of America featuring a delicious singing and dancing ensemble, some of my favorite Broadway stars (because of my tastes, sopranos are limited to Laura Benanti and Kristin Chenoweth) and a full orchestra. And I mean full. At least 25!

 

Thursday was my
Chatterbox
, and I interviewed the beautiful and warm Charlotte d'Amboise. First of all, for all you people who think you have a cool accent and have always pronounced it "Dam-bwah," it's time to realize that the "s" is pronounced because her name ends in an "e." Please work on your French. Or in the spirit of the U.S. Senate in 2002, please work on your "freedom."

 

Of course, I obsessively talked about her experience in
Carrie
, and she confirmed what I had heard. Here's the background — The story of
Carrie
is so scary because it takes place in a typical high school in Anytown USA… sort of like
Grease
. Someone said that very sentence to the director, Terry Hands, and he agreed immediately… but the person telling the director didn't realize
Grease
is a homonym. So, instead of the set looking like a typical high school and the kids wearing clothes from a rack at the mall, the costumes and sets represented… Greece! Seriously! All white costumes, big white columns, etc. Yet, if you've ever heard any of the
Carrie
music, you'd know that it's a great score that was brilliantly sung by Betty Buckley, which brings me to the weekend. I got to hang with one of my favorite beltresses, Betty Buckley!

 

I went to Betty's hotel (she's doing a new show at Feinstein's at the Regency) to do a video interview with her. All I can say is, if I knew when I was in college that I would one day be hanging out with Betty in her hotel room, I would have fainted on the worn grooves of my
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
album. We gabbed up a storm, but the interview was only supposed to be 20 minutes, so a great story about her early chutzpah was edited out. Here it is.

 

Betty told me that she had tried out in New York for the lead in the London production of
Promises, Promises
and she clanked. She picked the song "Go While The Going Is Good," which has difficult rhythm changes that she messed up,
and
she didn't understand how to act the character (she was only 21). However, she knew she could do it if she worked on it. She was starring in
1776
at the time, where she had one big number in the first act and then didn't have to come back onstage until her bow. So, the night after the audition, she asked her dresser to take off her dress (which took 15 minutes because it had a million layers and little laces), and Betty ran to the theatre where
Promises, Promises
was playing in New York. She went to the stage door, found the stage manager and immediately burst into tears. She begged him to help her. He agreed to coach her on the character. Her agent pulled strings and got her a callback!

 

She went back in and this time felt she did
much
better. As she was walking out of the theatre where the callback was held (old school), the stage manager ran down the alley and told her to come back to do the whole thing again for the producer, David Merrick! She later found out that they wanted her to do it again, not so much for Merrick, but to see if her recent audition wasn’t a fluke. She finished, went to her agent's office to say that it went well, and as she was walking to the elevator, the secretary ran down the hall to tell her that she got the part.

 

The moral is, if you believe you’re right for something, work every angle you have to get a chance to prove it. And if all else fails, find a stage manager and burst into tears. He’ll help you get the gig and/or an emergency prescription for anti-depressants.

 

My Sunday night was spent seeing the brilliant singer Marilyn Maye at the lovely Metropolitan Room. She has the nerve to be in her seventies and still sound
amazing
!
And
be hilarious
!
Now in her mid-eighties and still got it
!
On my way in, I ran into Christine Ebersole, who had gone to the early show. Christine stopped me and told me that she wants to come on my radio show. Wow! I had always wanted to interview her but thought she was too busy, so I had been getting ready to stalk her stage manager while crying hysterically. Phew!

 

Well, I'm off to start my week…

 

Monk, McArdle, Danieley and
The Ritz

April 10, 2007

 

First of all, I totally forgot to tell you about Sunday
morning
. I did a little tiny reading of Terrence McNally's
The Ritz
at the Roundabout. And I mean we literally just read it.
The Ritz
is a 1970s play about a man on the run from the mob who hides out in a gay bathhouse. The Roundabout reading starred Kevin Chamberlin as the man on the run, Brooks Ashmanskas as the bathhouse slut and Rosie Perez as Googie Gomez, the Latin singer who can't sing. When I was first called to do it, I went from completely thrilled I’d have a funny role to terrified that I was being asked to read stage directions. We all know that job is thankless. Your lines consist of "Lights up" and "He exits" and "End of Act One." I knew that I would have tried to add subtext and been boycotted from reading Act Two.

 

Thankfully the director, Joe Mantello, got someone else for the stage directions and cast me in multiple roles. I don't want to overly impress you, but I ran the gamut from "patron" to "snobby patron" to "patron." I had up to and including five lines. But it was very cool to be asked to do it. I felt like a true theatre insider! Speaking of which, Michael Riedel mentioned me in his column about the
Grease
reality show and said I was the only theatre insider who was watching. I was actually very excited to be called a theatre insider in print! But I would like to say, for the record, there is at least one more.

 

Three weeks ago I got a frantic cell phone call from a one Mr. Jonathan Groff from
Spring Awakening
. He had neglected to TiVO that week's episode and seemed more devastated from that than from the aftermath of when his character whips Lea Michele with a switch. I had the episode still on my TV and quickly made him a VCR copy.
Talk about old school
!
My point is, there were at least two theatre insiders watching the
Grease
show — three, if you count Kathleen Marshall.

 

Onto Monday. I went to my mom's house for the first Seder with James (my new boyfriend) and David Friedman. David is a brilliant composer/lyricist ("Help Is On the Way") and a raconteur extraordinaire. He told me a story of when he conducted a Broadway show, and the sound designer put the leading lady on a "limiter" — meaning that the sound level never got above a certain level during the Act One finale. During intermission she called the sound guy to her room and complained that she was belting her brains out, but never got the big sound she wanted. He said that he had put her on a limiter so she didn't overpower the chorus. She screamed, "I don't give a (bleep) about the (bleeping) chorus!"… and, unfortunately, didn't realize her body mic was still on. So her comment was broadcast to the dressing rooms of the very people she just claimed she didn’t give a (bleep) about. I'm sure it was very comfortable
on and offstage from then on.

 

Tuesday was the second Seder night, which I spent with my family, my boyfriend James, Paul Castree and his boyfriend (company manager Stephen Spadaro). Paul and I did
Forever Plaid
together and I’ll never forget the one night during the song "Matilda" when he completely forgot the lyrics. Instead of "Matilda… come and sing along now, Matilda… help me sing this song now," he sang, "Matilda… sing it everybody (
Uh-oh!
He thought,
Must make the next section rhyme
…), Matilda… uh-duh, uh-duh, uh-dee!" It sounds crazy, but because he totally committed to it, it sort of worked.

 

On Wednesday, James and I saw a matinee of
Curtains
. I called Debra Monk that Monday to do my
Chatterbox
and she sounded
awful
and said she was really sick. I was expecting to see an understudy on Wednesday but instead I got Debra, slaying 'em in the aisles. As my friend Peter Flynn says, chalk it up to "Dr. Theatre." You can be sick as a dog, but once those stage lights hit ya, you’re suddenly in perfect health! And then you collapse offstage. Brava!

 

I was totally obsessed with Patty Goble, who plays the no-talent movie star in
Curtains
, who has the lead in the musical within the musical. She's
hilarious
! That's the kind of show I would see over and over again just to see that first number where she stinks up the stage.

 

Wednesday night, James, Stephen and I saw the brilliant Betty Buckley at Feinstein's. Attention producers: Bring her back to Broadway… ASAP! After the show, we hung out in her Feinstein's suite, and she told us that when she first did
1776
, she didn't know anything about anything and, for some reason, thought she had to to wear dark make-up onstage. Also, even though Betty was a blonde, they had put her in a super-dark wig. Well, it was the first preview, and she was doing her first moment in the show, which is when her back is to the audience and she suddenly turns and her face appears in a window. Most of the rest of the cast were older men, and she is supposed to look youthful and fresh-faced and innocent. Well, she said that when she showed her face, the audience wasn't thinking "youthful" and "fresh-faced." Instead, they were thinking, "Gasp!
That's
what happened to Baby Jane!" Suffice it to say, the producers got her a lighter wig and fixed her makeup the next night to prevent any premature heart attacks in the audience.

 

Thursday was my
Chatterbox
with Jason Danieley. He and his wife are the couple with the most mispronounced names. For the record, his last name is pronounced like the name Daniel with an "ee" at the end. And her first name is pronounced Marin, not "Marion," and her last name is Mazzie, like May-Zee, not Ma-zzie. On a related note, I’m still miffed as to why ker-nel is spelled "colonel" and Shar-day is spelled "Sade," but that is irrelevant at this moment.

BOOK: Seth's Broadway Diary, Volume 1: Part 1
2.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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