Onstage & Backstage: Seth’s Writing Rocked the House at the Easter Bonnet

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Seth’s Writing Rocked the House at the Easter Bonnet This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth writes for the annual Easter Bonnet Competition, introduced The Actors Fund gala and welcomed a new Tony Delvecchio to his Disaster! family.
Kevin Chamberlin, Roger Bart, Seth Rudetsky, Jennifer Simard and Kerry Butler at the 2016 Easter Bonnet Competition
Kevin Chamberlin, Roger Bart, Seth Rudetsky, Jennifer Simard and Kerry Butler at the 2016 Easter Bonnet Competition Monica Simoes

This week began with two fundraisers. Monday was the Easter Bonnet Competition and boy was it fun! Many Broadway shows participated by putting on skits, songs and dance pieces and, no surprise, Hamilton won for best presentation. They merged their show with the story of Sweeney Todd and you can see it here:

Lin-Manuel Miranda is such a fan of classic musical theatre, and I’m especially obsessed with the number he did years ago which merged In The Heights with Fiddler on The Roof. (I love “The Papas! You ain’t ready for the Papas!”)

Kerry Butler and Jennifer Simard, two of our Disaster! stars, hosted the show, and Jack and I wrote their opening dialogue, which they were so funny doing. They came on right after Hamilton performed. Kerry praised how great Hamilton is, and Jennifer muttered that they’re “kinda stealing my thunder.” Kerry asked her to explain and here’s the rest of the script:

JEN
Well, I’ve been working on a one-woman show down at the Duplex…also called Hamilton.

KERRY
"Hamilton"? And it's also about...?

JEN
Yes. The life of an American hero. Margaret Hamilton.

KERRY
(excited)
Oh!

JEN
And there's nothing in it about The Wizard of Oz.

KERRY
(not excited)
Oh.

JEN
Everyone knows Wizard of Oz stories. Boring. This focuses on her early years as a hoofer.

KERRY
She was a dancer?

JEN
No, literally a hoofer. She would take care of horses hooves, you know, put on horseshoes, polish ’em up. Quite skilled.

KERRY
Oh, that’s fascinating. And a relief, because mine focuses on something totally different.

JEN
What do you mean “yours?”

KERRY
I also have a one woman show called Hamilton, but mine is about the amazing ice skater, Dorothy Hamill.

JEN
It’s about Dorothy Hamill and it’s called Hamilton?

KERRY
No, it’s about her tween years. Well ,specifically right before she turned 11. It’s called “Hamill TEN.”

JEN
…that’s so specific. Well, see you at the Obies! Fingers crossed!

That night was the big annual Actors Fund gala. Jennifer and I were asked to do a little intro about what The Fund is working on. We started by telling a story about how long we’ve been friends and one of our “classic” memories. She recalled how, back in 1996, she was once walking up Amsterdam Avenue on a first date. She was especially excited about this guy and wanted to look good for the evening. I happened to run into her, took one look and said with a big smile “Jennifer Simard! Dressed like a whore!” I told the audience that I meant is as a compliment and got a huge laugh. Jen and I were so happy our little comedy moment worked! Then we talked about making donations:

SETH
Tonight’s about giving to The Fund. You can donate at many different levels and the good news is, if you give a high enough amount…

JEN
(pointing to self)
You get to take the whore home!

Of course, after we came offstage I looked at the program and saw the crazy amount of high profile people in the audience: Michael Douglas, Casey Nicholaw, Sutton Foster, Annette Benning, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Bob Greenblatt (head of NBC), Tina Fey and tons more A-listers. I ran up to Jennifer, showed her the program and asked why the hell they asked us clunkers to make an appearance. Thankfully, I didn’t know who was out there when we did our casual chitty-chat.

One of my favorite speeches was from honoree director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw (who’s represented on Broadway by The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Something Rotten! and Tuck Everlasting). I’ve known him ever since 1986 when I was still in college as an intern at the Equity Library Theater, which was sort of like Encores. They would do classic musicals with Equity actors but the “pay” would be two subway tokens per day. He talked about how he had no money at one point in the ’80s (probably around the time I knew him), and he couldn’t pay his rent. Someone suggested that he call the Actors Fund and they asked how much money he needed. He calculated two months rent and told them he needed $336 dollars. The person who was assigned to help him paused and said, “How about we give you $500,” and he was so happy! Casey is so thankful to the fund to this day for helping him out of a dire circumstance, and that’s what they’re still doing for tons of entertainment professionals.

Will Swenson and Seth Rudetsky in <i>Disaster!</i>
Will Swenson and Seth Rudetsky in Disaster!

This week at Disaster!, Roger Bart has taken a short leave to film Episodes, continuing his role as Matt LeBlanc’s agent. The hilarious and stunning Will Swenson has taken over the role of Tony, the unscrupulous casino owner, for eight performances, and he’s so fantastic. He was sad, though, that his wife, Audra MacDonald, couldn’t come to the show because Disaster! has the same schedule as Shuffle Along. I told James that she wouldn’t be able to see him and James quickly googled their schedule. He told me they actually had the Sunday matinee off. I told him he must have been looking at the wrong schedule because Audra specifically said she can’t…then I realized Audra’s as scatter-brained/Adult ADD as I am. (We once were at a rehearsal where we I couldn’t find my wallet, and she couldn’t find her driver’s license.) I texted Will at midnight telling him Audra didn’t have a show that Sunday, and he wrote back right away telling me they were in the car and thanking me for knowing his wife’s schedule better than she did. She was happy she could come!

Audra McDonald, Will Swenson, Rachel York and Seth Rudetsky
Audra McDonald, Will Swenson, Rachel York and Seth Rudetsky

Anyhoo, she came and was the best audience. I knew she would be because she loves that kind of music. For the act we did together in 1994 at the Russian Tea Room (anyone remember that?) we ended the whole show with a ’70s medley including “Through the Eyes of Love” and “Car Wash”! That’s our era, people!

After the Thursday show, Adam Pascal made a speech to the Disaster! audience telling them that Rent had opened exactly 20 years ago that night! He said the show spent many years at the Nederlander filling it with music, laughs and many tears, and then he ended by thanking me and the cast for letting him do Disaster!—which he said fills the Nederlander night after night with so much laughter. He is so kind!!!

Finally, last week was Barbra Streisand’s birthday! Let me close with one of my favorite Barbra deconstructions. Peace out!


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