Onstage and Backstage: Horror Stories From Kristin Chenoweth’s Pageant Days

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage and Backstage: Horror Stories From Kristin Chenoweth’s Pageant Days This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth interviews Kristin Chenoweth right before taking off on the Playbill Travel cruise and hitting the Coliseum.
Seth Rudetsky
At the Colosseum

Before I write about the fabulous Playbill Travel cruise around Italy, lemme talk about pre-Europe. First of all, I just found out that the Disaster! cast album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Broadway chart. Delish! Here’s a great video Janie Wilson put together with footage from our all-day recording session. Watch it and spot my favorite moments: the full string section during “Sky High” as well as both Adam Pascal and Jennifer Simard’s perfectly placed (and vibrato’d) high notes during “I Can’t Live (if Living is Without You)” and “Never Can Say Goodbye”! Oddly, the note that Adam hits is a high B and Jennifer’s note is also a B…but an octave up! #Werk!

Speaking of Disaster!, it was just announced today that we’re going to two benefit performances November 20…in London! I’m so excited! It’s a benefit for TheatreMAD, which is the West End equivalent of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS…and BC/EFA is one of the sponsors of the concert! If you’re going to be “across the pond,” get tix at MadTrust.org.uk And, yes, I will be playing Professor Ted Scheider again. Hands off my role, Brits!

Before I left for the Playbill cruise, I did a “SiriusXM Town Hall” interview with Kristin Chenoweth to promote her brand new CD, The Art of Elegance. She is fun-nee! We were talking about her pageant days when she was in a desperate bid to win Miss America. First, of course, you have to win the state title. Well, she didn’t win Miss Oklahoma, so she moved to Pennsylvania for a second chance. And lost again. Talk about a lateral move! However, doing those pageants taught her to deal with passive/aggressive sabotage. She recalled that at one pageant, when she picked up her swimsuit in the girls dressing room, she saw it had been ripped! And, she pointed out, it wasn’t ripped on a seam where it could have possibly happened naturally—it was literally cut! She defiantly held it up and announced to the other ladies, “Thank you to whoever cut my swimsuit. I actually brought another that I like better!” She also “fondly” recalled a fellow contestant looking at her backstage and asking, “Did you gain weight?” Kristin immediately replied, “They told me to!” Brava!

Of course, we talked about Wicked and she told us that when they were in San Francisco rehearsing, there were lots of specific references to film version of The Wizard Of Oz. Then, right before they started performances, she was told that they couldn’t get the rights to anything from the film. They could reference the book version of The Wizard of Oz but ixnay on anything in the film. So, suddenly things had to be rewritten! That’s why they don’t refer to Nessa Rose’s emerald slippers as emerald slippers. They’re “jeweled shoes.” Kristin was able to make lemonade as they say, because she wound up getting a delicious laugh when she improv’d calling Dorothy’s dog “Dodo.” The same thing happened with the musical Applause. Originally there was a short story called “Eve” that was turned into the film All About Eve. The creative team was only allowed to use material from the short story, but nothing from the film All About Eve. If it appeared in both the short story and film, it was fine. But if it was only in the film, forget it. That’s why Margo Channing (played by Lauren Bacall) didn’t have a female assistant in the musical, because that was only in the film. Instead, Lee Roy Reams got the part! AND wound up being the first gay character in a Broadway musical! There’s that famous line (which was deliciously scandalous back in 1970) when Lauren Bacall invites him out one night, and he declines because he has a date. She replies, “Bring him along!” There’s an amazing book about the film and the original story and the musical, and it’s called All About All About Eve. So good!

Now, when I say I interviewed Kristin right before I left, I mean it. As a matter of fact, Julie James had to take over the last segment of the Kristin interview because I had to run down and catch my car to the airport. Not surprisingly, as I started leaving the building, I suddenly asked James, “Wait…where’s my wallet?” That’s right, what’s a travel day for me without my signature A.D.D.? I ran back to the elevator banks and took one up to the 36th floor. I knew I must have taken it out at the beginning of the interview because I hate the feeling of things in my pocket when I sit (my A.D.D. has a soupcon of O.C.D. as well). I snuck back into the room while Kristin was still having her interview and saw the wallet laying on the piano near Mary Mitchell Campbell. Phew! I snatched it and fled to the airport. I loved the snazzy lounge at JFK because we had access to a full, delicious shower. Ah! I was all refreshed and couldn’t wait to enjoy luxurious business class all the way to Europe. Well, we were in business class… but let’s just say it was old school. Literally. We looked up the flight on the American Airlines website, and it said we were on the oldest plane they flew. Yay? Some things weren’t better in the good ol’ days. First of all, there were no TV’s! They made up for it by handing out personal iPads, but it was like having all the elements of a TV without the actual TV. Then, after a meal that the flight attendants told us all the recent passengers have been hating, I wanted to read and then go to sleep. Well, the light above my head wasn’t working. I asked the flight attendant what was up, she tried to fix it, and finally she said she could either turn on everyone’s reading light in business class or turn them all off. She then proceeded to turn them all off! I had to read by holding my book in one hand and angling my iPhone with the flashlight on in the other hand. Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: My Personal Shopper is The Worst!

When we landed, we went straight to the hotel which was beautiful! Rome is a gorgeous city, but when we went to the Coliseum, I walked around in a full martyr mode because I found out it was

A. Built with material stolen from Jewish temples and
B. Built by Jewish slaves.

Seth Rudetsky
Juli Birthday makeover: before and after

The good news is my ancestors did a great job. It’s stunning! The next day was Juli’s 16th birthday and she had a great day. She had her 11th birthday on the first Playbill cruise in Venice and now her 16th in Rome. If we’re not in Italy for her 21st, we’re at least going to the Olive Garden. We got her a facial and massage in a great Rome spa and then a makeover in a makeup store that sounds extremely Italian: Sephora. Yes, there’s a Sephora two blocks from our house, but she loved the one in Rome. That night was a little welcome cocktail party for the passengers who decided to spend a few days in Rome before the cruise, and we introduced all the performers and then Laura Osnes sang “Cockeyed Optimist,” Andréa Burns sang from Do I Hear A Waltz? (perfect because it’s about a woman visiting Italy) and Kate Baldwin sang “Ribbons Down My Back,” which was so au courant because it had just been announced she’s going to play Mrs. Irene Malloy in the upcoming revival of Hello, Dolly!

Finally, last week was a big fundraiser for Hillary Clinton called Laugh Your Pantsuit Off, hosted by the hilarious Amy Poehler and Ana Gasteyer. I was so thrilled to be asked to write the finale. They wanted a big finish and someone funny with a great voice to sing it. I texted Wayne Brady and he said YES! I was so sad to be out of town so I don’t have any bootleg footage, but I thought I’d post the lyrics so you can sing it to yourselves:

Seth Rudetsky
Juli's Bday!

PANT SUIT!!!! (sung to MAME)

Wayne: What outfit makes you look really neat?
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT
Wayne: What makes the need for Spanx obsolete? (They button it over their tummies)
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT

Wayne: What fits each situation? No matter what occasion it's a dream.
If you attend a Seder then hide the afikomin in the seam…

Wayne: Name something Kim Kardashian abhors-
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT
Wayne: But Rachel Maddow simply adores-
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT

Wayne: What look is so distinguished? It’s perfect and there is no substitute
Spruce it with a pinned begonia
Clean it with some strong ammonia
Button it! Don’t get pneumonia!
All: PANT SUIT

DANCE BREAK with RHYTHMIC DIALOGUE

Ana: Your pantsuit is chic, mon Cherie
Amy: It’s from my local Strawberry

Amy: They carry this in tons of malls
Ana: It comes with its own Shweddy Balls!

Wayne: Your pantsuits are dynamite!
GIRLS: We can business by day,…then crunk at night!

Funky Dance break

Finally….

Wayne: From Vogue to Elle to Park Avenue
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT
What went from fashion don’t to a do
Ana/Amy: PANT SUIT

Wayne: What look is so fantastic
And really quite affordable to boot

Big finish-

Ms. Clinton we’ll be quite content
If this outfit that you represent
You - will - wear - when - you’re - our - president!

All: PANT SUIT!!!!

On Monday, I’ll write about all the amazing shows on the boat with some fabulous video footage. Peace out until then!