Beth Leavel's Unforgettable 42nd Street Mishap

Seth Rudetsky   Beth Leavel's Unforgettable 42nd Street Mishap
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares stories from his New Orleans concert with Beth Leavel, plus some of his favorite Elaine Stritch tales.
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Beth Leavel Marc J. Franklin

I’m at Cleveland Hopkins Airport waiting for my flight back to NYC. I will be back in NYC this week to do the Humane Society benefit aka Best In Shows and then I’m back in Ohio next Monday to do Deconstructing Broadway in Cincinnati (and a master class). The 7 PM show is sold out, so come to the 9 PM!

Speaking of deconstructing, here’s my Elaine Stritch deconstruction!

Why? Because I just interviewed Alexandra Jacobs on Seth Speaks about he rnew Stritch biography, Still Here! There are tons of stories about Stritch covering Merman in Call Me Madam, taking over the lead on the national tour of the show, hoping to play Mama Rose in the London production of Gypsy, the issues that plagued Goldilocks, forgetting the lyrics to “Ladies Who Lunch” at the beginning of the run of Company, and I’m only halfway through with the book!

I have two Elaine stories that I haven’t seen in the book… yet: The first is from Megan Mullally, who became friends with Elaine when she did a TV show with her in the '80s, and portrayed her granddaughter. Megan played the Madeline Kahn part in Young Frankenstein on Broadway, and got Elaine a ticket to opening night. Megan said that she finished bowing in her crazy Bride of Frankenstein hairstyle, and walked offstage to find Elaine standing there. In the wings! She still has no idea how Elaine got out of her seat and backstage that quickly. Regardless, Elaine looked right at her said (in her Stritch register), “Megan, you were wonderful!” Then added, “The show stinks.” Megan was like, “Can I get out of my costume first?”

The other Stritch story I know involves Pamela Myers, who was the original Marta (“Another Hundred People”) in Company. Pam told me that she had a photo displayed in her house of her son standing with her Mom. Her Mom was around 90 years old in the photo. Elaine walked by, looked at the photo and said, “Pam! Your son looks fantastic!” Then added, “Not your best photo…” Pam was like, “That’s not me! That is my mother who is 90!”

I had Kristin Chenoweth on my show as well! She’s promoting her new album, For The Girls, as well as her upcoming solo show on Broadway at the Nederlander. We reminisced about her youthful pageant days (when she was “Kristi Dawn Chenoweth”), and the extremely competitive nature of her fellow contestants. She recalled the time she was about to do the bathing suit competition, and when she went to put hers on, she saw it was ripped. And, as she noted, not ripped on a seam which could have happened in transport, but ripped in a random part of the fabric…AKA cut with a scissor. Kristin (“Kristi Dawn”) held up the ripped swimsuit high in the air so everyone in the dressing room could see, and with her voice fully projecting without a mic, she “smiled” and said, “THANK YOU to whoever ripped my bathing suit. I have another one with me that I like BETTER!” And that’s how you win a pageant! (NOTE: She did not win.)

Oh! I forgot to write about how hilarious Caroline Rhea was at Concert for America. First of all, whenever she first comes onstage these days, she informs the audience that she’s not Amy Schumer with the “old age face app.” Speaking of her face, she was talking about her heritage, which is Scottish, and how when she goes to Scotland, people always approach her and say, “I look just like you.” She agrees but then adds, “You also look like a snowman and a baby.” Caroline was also talking about Waze, the driving app. She said the directions are so crazy and impossible to drive. She claims it was developed by birds. Her imitation of a typical direction was (in positive Waze voice) “Turn left…into oncoming traffic.” Or “Cross a five-lane highway.” I agree!

Last week I did a show in New Orleans with the fabulous Beth Leavel and the audience flipped out! During the show, she told us about playing Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street and the big love ballad that began on the top of a spiral staircase. During the musical interlude, she was supposed to open the door to her dressing room, descend the stairs, and finish the song on the stage. Well, right before the song begins, her boyfriend, played by Richard Pruitt, leaves the dressing room and slams the door. One night it happened as usual, Beth began the song, but as she was singing, she kept hearing talking from the wings. What was going on? She finished the first part, the musical interlude began, she went to open the dressing room door but immediately noticed there was no doorknob! She couldn’t walk down the stairs without opening the door! She looked offstage and saw Richard, who looked mortified mouthing “I’m sorry!” while holding the door knob!

She then looked down to the stage and saw a bunch of stagehands who looked up and warned in a stage whisper, “Don’t jump!” That was not her plan. She put her hands inside the area where the doorknob was and tried to trigger the mechanism, but of course, she was playing the grand diva of the show and was wearing horrifically encumbering long white gloves. Her dexterity was basically non-existent. Cut to the end of the musical interlude, and she had no choice but to start singing again. Of course, the stage was beautifully lit where she was supposed to be standing, and she was basically crooning in a blackout. To add to the stress, her mother had come to see the show that day. Afterwards, she told Beth, in her signature southern accent, “Well, I heard you singing but we couldn’t see you anywhere!” As a memento of the occasion, she was given the actual doorknob. Maybe she has it displayed next to her Tony Award?

I had the fantastic singer-songwriter Christine Lavin on Seth Speaks as well, and she is so delightful! She told me that she writes her songs while walking about the city, and added that she thinks that’s why they’re all in the same tempo. She claims she tried to teach herself to walk in ¾ but it didn’t work. She wrote a fantastic song called “It’s A Good Thing He Can’t Read My Mind,” about doing things you totally hate, but you do them because you’re trying to ingratiate yourself to the person you’re dating. AKA going to a three-hour opera where she can’t understand the words… “Even when they’re in English.” Or she forces herself to eat sushi, which she likens to “chewing on your own cheek.” I used to play that song for Jennifer Simard’s auditions back in the '90s and I still love it!

And here’s a link to the whole interview!

And finally, we just announced my Seth Rudetsky Series at The Town Hall with Megan Hilty and Jessie Mueller appearing together, as well as Patina Miller, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. I’ve never done full shows with Patina or Stokes, and I’m super excited about the first show in December with Megan and Jessie. We put them together because they’re about to star in a Lifetime TV film about Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn! Here they are sounding amazing on a duet!

Come see us all at The Town Hall!

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