Onstage & Backstage: How Disaster! Plans to Beat BC/EFA Fundraising Competition

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: How Disaster! Plans to Beat the Fundraising Competition in Honor of BC/EFA This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Broadway faves greet him backstage, Seth discovers a new young star and Disaster! recreates favorite musical theatre moments for a cause.
Sara Bareillies, Liz Callaway, Dan Foster, Zachary Levi, Faith Prince and Gavin Creel backstage at <i>Disaster!</i>
Sara Bareillies, Liz Callaway, Dan Foster, Zachary Levi, Faith Prince and Gavin Creel backstage at Disaster! Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

This week Disaster! starts a standard Broadway schedule. That means we had a final Sunday 7:30 curtain, and it was the only one Zach Levi and Gavin Creel could see since She Loves Me is on our new schedule. Here they are after the show with Liz Callaway, her husband, Dan Foster, and Gavin’s friend who he brought, and fellow Broadway writer, Sara Bareilles!

Our new schedule means we have a Tuesday night show at 7 PM and we now have Wednesday matinees at 2PM. It also means that Monday is my day off. And of course, typical me, my “day off” consists of gig out of town. Hello from Amtrak train 2155 to Baltimore, which I’m on so I can do a master class with a bunch of theatre kids.

Speaking of kids, on Saturday morning before my matinee, James and I went to a zoo where foster kids met up with prospective parents. I thought of how nervous I get at auditions or performance and realized it’s nothing compared to what these kids must be going through. Imagine wanting a family and showing up to an event where you’re vying for a parent. I expected the kids to be stressed out but they were so sweet and relaxed. It was all so well-run and the whole day was filled with opportunities for all the kids to talk to all of the adults. First, we all had an animal name taped to our back that we couldn’t see. We’d approach a kid who’d look at our animal name, and we’d ask a question to try to guess what we were…like “Can I fly?” or “Do I live in the forest?” They’d do the same thing about the animal taped to their back, and, eventually, we’d guess our animal. It was a great way to break the ice.

Then, everyone was divided into groups and did a scavenger hunt at various places in the zoo. That was followed by a lunch where you could sit with a bunch of possible parents and kid, then there was a talk where all the kids were able to talk about themselves. For anyone considering adoption, I really recommend looking into the foster care system. There are so many great kids out there who want nothing more than to have something most of us take for granted: a family. Contact YouGottaBelieve.org to learn about so many great kids!

Speaking of kids, Juli had a milestone this week: She performed stand-up comedy for the first time! At Caroline’s! Around two months ago, she started taking a class taught by Linda Smith, my friend and fellow Rosie O’Donnell Show comedy writer. At the end of the session, all the comics perform in a show, and it was scheduled right after my Sunday Disaster! matinee. I was sitting with James, his mom, my friend, Lindsay Lavin, and Faith Prince. We were all nervous wrecks! Trying to be funny in front of a giant group of people is so terrifying. Cut to: Juli got up, did her opening joke and killed! It was truly thrilling! One of her jokes actually got applause in the middle of her set! She seemed so confident onstage and not nervous. Afterwards she told me she was shaking before she got up there, but she completely relaxed as soon as she got a delicious laugh on her first joke (“Hi! My name is Juli! I’m 15 years old and I’m still single.”) Faith Prince thought she was fantastic, and instead of yelling “Still got it!” she modified it for someone young and yelled, “Just found it!”

At SiriusXM, I interviewed the super cool Johanna Hall. She showed up at a Saturday matinee of Disaster! with flowers for Faith Prince. Why? Because Faith and Kevin Chamberlin sing “Still The One” by Orleans in Disaster! and Johanna wrote the lyrics! It was so cool to meet her, and I immediately told her I wanted her on my radio show! Johanna told me that she started as a journalist and was one of the few female rock music critics in the ’60s. When Janis Joplin left her group to strike out on her own, all the male critics slammed her and said she was on a star trip and going against the hippie ideals of peace, love and brotherhood. Johanna, instead, wrote a glowing piece about Janis, comparing her to Edith Piaf and calling her this generation’s Judy Garland.

Kevin Chamberlin, Johanna Hall, Faith Prince and Seth Rudetsky backstage at <i>Disaster!</i>
Kevin Chamberlin, Johanna Hall, Faith Prince and Seth Rudetsky backstage at Disaster! Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Janis reached out and asked to meet her. They wound up becoming friends, and Janis would visit the apartment where Johanna was living with her songwriter boyfriend, John Hall. John played Janis a song, but she didn’t like the lyrics. Janis told Johanna that since she was a writer, she should write the lyrics! Johanna took her suggestion and wrote “Half Moon,” and Janis recorded it. Here she is in the Dick Cavett Show:

On one of her visits, Janis stood in Johanna’s kitchen and sang a song that her friend Kris had written. The “Kris” was Kris Kristofferson and the song was “Me and Bobby McGee.” The amazing thing is: Johanna’s song became the B side to that mega hit!

John was soon in the group Orleans, and, one day, played a melody for Johanna. Johanna had a feeling of what the song title should be, but John rejected it as too simple. Then they were driving one day and she thought of the lyrics “Pick the beat up and kick your feet up” and finally he agreed to let her write the song with the title she wanted: “Dance With Me”!

Johanna told us that she was doing laundry one day after being married to John for a number of years, and realized there were no love songs about long term relationships. She wrote lyrics on a napkin and gave it to John and thus was born “Still The One”! I asked if she only wrote a rosey version of being together, but she reminded me that the song begins with “We’ve been together since way back when. Sometimes I never wanna see you again!” I think it’s such a perfect description of being in a long term loving relationship.

Here’s an amazing live version of it:

And here’s Faith Prince and Kevin Chamberlin doing the Disaster! version on The Today Show!

And finally: We’ve been competing to raise the most money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS by auctioning off song performances after the Disaster! bows. It’s been so amazing! This week we have Daphne Rubin-Vega joining Adam Pascal on Tuesday night, Laura Osnes joining Max Crumm on Wednesday and Rosie O’Donnell singing a song from Grease with new lyrics by me about a certain presidential candidate whom she’s not a fan of!

Last week’s performances included:

Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson sing from Xanadu at <i>Disaster!</i>
Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson sing from Xanadu at Disaster! Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

First, Cheyenne Jackson sang “Suddenly” from Xanadu with Kerry Butler. Not only did Kerry wear her roller skates, but Cheyenne had just been cleaning his house and found his original Xanadu sexy top and short shorts and wore them onstage!

Next, Adam Pascal sang “One Song Glory” from Rent, on the very stage where he debuted it 20 years ago!

Then, we had Hairspray cast members Jackie Hoffman, Kathy Brier and Laura Bell Bundy join Kerry for “Mama I’m a Big Girl Now”.

On Saturday, Faith Prince recreated her Tony Award-winning role of Adelaide with “Adelaide’s Lament.” Brava!

Faith Prince wowed our audience last night with a performance from her Tony winning role as Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls"! Every night after Disaster - On Broadway we're raising money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS with #DisasterRelief. Tonight, catch France Joli singing her hit "Come To Me"! DisasterMusical.com

Posted by Disaster - On Broadway on Sunday, April 3, 2016

And on Sunday, we had an original artist sing one of the songs from the show! Yes, Act Two has the fabulous disco hit “Come To Me” and France Joli who recorded it in the 1970s came to the show and sang it…in the original key! She told me she’s always dreamed of being on Broadway and now she’s finally done it! Lacretta Nicole who sings the song in Disaster! was so moved having France sing it live onstage that she was crying for the first half of the song. But she wiped away those tears, and I pushed her out to sing the second half with France! Watch!

All right, peace out and come by this week for the show and the after-show BCEFA concerts! DisasterMusical.com

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