3 Billy Porter Moments Seth Rudetsky Will Never Forget

Seth Rudetsky   3 Billy Porter Moments Seth Rudetsky Will Never Forget
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares stories about Rachel Bay Jones, Audra McDonald, and Pose star and newly minted Emmy Award winner Billy Porter
Billy Porter
Billy Porter

Hello from LAX airport! I’m on my home with James and Juli after a busy weekend! Yesterday was Juli’s birthday (19!) and we all got brunch at The Magic Castle. In order to go there, you have to be a magician or be invited by a member. I am decidedly not a magician and am thankful we got an invite from Andy Nyman, who is currently playing Tevye on the West End in Fiddler On The Roof. He also co-wrote wrote Derren Brown: Secret, which just opened on Broadway!

When you go to The Magic Castle, you not only eat, you attend various magic shows—which are amazing! We went with my friends Jack and Jonah Verdon who played Ben/Lisa in Disaster! Off-Broadway and his mom, Margie.

Magic Castle brunch crew
Magic Castle brunch crew

Jonah (who now goes to Oberlin, my alma mater) and Margie flew to L.A. to help put together Concert For America and boy, were they helpful! I’ll have more video clips to post in next week’s column, but here’s one with a story:

First of all, I needed two women to sing the duet part in “Let The Sunshine In.” I knew Rachel Bay Jones had done Hair on Broadway and asked her if she knew the harmony and she wrote back that she didn’t. I told her she could do the melody, but I added that it goes “crazy high.” I didn’t want her to have to belt an F#. I’m so used to people being nervous about their voices that I assumed she’d write back “I better stick to the lower part”…instead she wrote back “I sing crazy high.” It’s completely true and I thought it was so hilariously honest. Here she is singing the high part with Melissa Benoist from Supergirl, who learned the harmony the day before!

Before Concert for America, I was doing my concerts with Audra McDonald in Chicago. We were talking about when I met her and she was Audra McDonald, then she won her first Tony Award as Audra Ann McDonald, then she was Audra again. What’s up with that? Well, turns out, we met right after I was in college and she was still at Juilliard and not in Equity yet. When she finally got into Equity, she went to fill out the paperwork and thought it was like a passport, meaning you had to include your full name. She didn’t know you were supposed to write the name you wanted as your professional name. So, she filled it out very thoroughly: Audra Ann McDonald. Hence, that was her name in Carousel when she played Carrie.

A little while later, she was doing the workshop of Marie Christine. The fabulous Mary Bond Davis (who later went on to create Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray) mentioned that she was doing numerology and wanted to know if Audra wanted her to do her name. Audra told her “sure”! The next day was a backer’s audition for investors/producers. The cast was lined up onstage in chairs and the composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa stepped forward to address the audience. When he began telling everyone about the show (which is very dark…based on the tale of Medea), Mary Bond Davis leaned across a few cast members to reach Audra and loudly whispered, “Girl! I did your chart last night. Get rid of the Ann!” She continued, “The Ann has no power! You gotta lose the Ann!” Audra wanted more details and this whispering went back-and-forth until Michael John turned around to tell them to stop chitter-chattering. End of story: She went back to Audra McDonald and stayed there.

Speaking of Audra with an Ann, we’re doing another concert in New Orleans December 14. Get thee! Visit SethRudetsky.com for more info.

One fun highlight from Concert For America: Kate Flannery from The Office emailed us and asked if it was OK if her Dancing With The Stars partner, Pasha Pashkov, came with her and “watched from the wings.” We were like, “Watch from the wings?!” We told her we are bringing him onstage and demanding he performs! Pasha, who’s an immigrant from Russia, and his wife, Daniella, (who’s the daughter of immigrants) danced up a storm …with Kate frantically running onstage the very last second in her Dancing With The Stars glimmer blue dress and hitting the last pose with them. Make sure you vote for them tonight on DWTS, as the kids call it!

Kate_Flannery

Not only was yesterday Juli’s birthday, but it was also the Emmy Awards. I’m so happy for Billy Porter and his amazing Emmy win! I’ve known Billy since we were both starting out in non-Equity summer stock. I actually did my very first online deconstruction of his brilliant singing:

Here are two Billy moments I love and will never forget:

When he was starring in Angels in America in a dramatic role, I asked him to come on my radio show. He immediately agreed. When I asked him to end the segment with the song, his text response was: “Girl, I’m an actress now!”

Another time, I knew he was away, but I called him anyway and asked him to perform at an event. His response then was, “The word is vacation… And I’m on it!”

I’m so proud that he’s finally getting what he deserves. I remember his amazing show On The Corner of Broadway And Soul (which I saw at Joe’s Pub with my mom and sister, Beth, and again at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Andréa Burns) where he talked about the roles he wanted to play and how he wasn’t considered for many of them because he is black and gay. I was also so extremely frustrated he wasn’t a huge star (which he finally is!). I was constantly saying that someone needs to write him his Funny Girl, a show where he can show all the amazing things he can do.

In his one-man show, he spoke of his unfulfilled dream to play George in Sunday In The Park With George and ended the evening singing the title song, backed up by the Broadway Inspirational Voices —with an amazing arrangement by Michael McElroy. It’s so stunningly beautiful. Watch it here.

I had members of Boy Band Project on Seth Speaks; they do a Boy Band Brunch on various Sunday, It sounds like such a fun way to spend a Sunday: you eat brunch at the lovely The Green Room 42 and are serenaded by close harmony.

Seth and the cast of Boy Band Brunch
Seth and the cast of Boy Band Project, Chris Messina, Kevin Raponey, Jesse Corbin, Michael Mott, and Travis Nesbitt Courtesy of SiriusXM

I was asking them for onstage mishaps stories and Chris Messina of Jersey Boys recalled when one of the actors portraying a member of The Four Seasons forgot the long monologue that led into a song. It was supposed to be spoken over the intro of the song and then all the guys would sing. Since he forgot the monologue, he tried to cover it up with one line: “Here’s the Four Seasons!” But there was a ton of music so—to fill up the time—he started on a low note, and did it Ed McMahon-style. Basically, throughout the long music vamp, instead of the audience hearing the monologue written by Rick Elice and Marshall Brickman, they heard 30-seconds of; “He-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-ere’s The Four Seasons!”

While we were in L.A., James drove me to the Will & Grace set because I bought the costume I wore in the episode I filmed a few weeks ago. (I wound up wearing for Concert For America.) Since we were in the neighborhood, James decided to drive us by The Brady Bunch house. You know, the one that’s being renovated on HGTV. Even though we were disappointed because there’s a tarp blocking a full view from the street, we were thrilled to see a certain someone exiting the house. As we approached the curb, who walked out of the house and so close to the car that I waved frantically through the window? Christopher Knight! It was amazing! I guess Peter Brady actually does live in the Brady house?

Speaking of the Brady house, I am doing my show Deconstructing The Brady Bunch Variety Hour next Thursday, October 3 in Hartford, Connecticut! It’s so “on trend” considering the HGTV renovation show is such a hit. Get tickets and more info here.

The very next day, I’m in Boston at the Emerson Colonial Theater with the super-talented Cheyenne Jackson. Tickets and more info for that one here.

One of my favorite Cheyenne stories couples his amazing voice with his leading man looks:

Before he performed on the Tony Awards with Xanadu, he was told by the show’s powers-that-be that his shorts might be too short for the telecast and therefore too risqué to help the show get on a national tour. Cheyenne told them that they had been using his bod to sell the show on various talk shows all year long and he'd be continuing in that tradition on the Tony Awards! He had regular shorts he’d sometimes wear and longer shorts as well. But for the Tony Awards, he decided to wear his shortest of his shorts. Watch here!

Back to the Bradys: Before you come see me in Hartford, if you want a taste of that mind-boggling ’70s show, watch this.

Peace out!

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