Onstage and Backstage: Watch Bebe Neuwirth Dance with Ben Vereen

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage and Backstage: Watch Bebe Neuwirth Dance with Ben Vereen This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals special performances at the upcoming Voice for the Voiceless concert, revelations about Millie from his concert with Gavin Creel and why Audra’s kick was so darn high at the Tonys.
Seth_OB_September 6 2016
Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Happy September! In less than two weeks I’ll be on my way to Italy and the Playbill cruise. And in less than one week (!) I’ll be onstage at the Hirschfeld Theatre for our second annual Voices for the Voiceless concert for foster kids. So excited about this year’s line-up. First of all, the fantastic Chita Rivera is gonna open the show with “All That Jazz.” I’ve always been a crazy fan of her voice, and here’s my deconstruction of “An English Teacher.”

Beside Stephanie Mills singing “Home” and Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive,” we also have Megan Hilty singing from Smash (with Marc Shaiman accompanying her!), and we just added the fabulous Liz Callaway. We always continually sass each other, and our current emails about the song she’s doing in the benefit are no exception.

First I ended my email with: “Here’s Liz’s music. (It’s a waltz, but I’ll be conducting it in 4/4 and up two steps.)”

She then sent some more parts for the orchestra and wrote: “Seth, you might want to conduct it using the piano/conductor score. And a metronome, as I know how hard it is for you to keep a steady beat.”

I then wrote back to everyone and ended with: “Since Liz will be singing live, please make sure the sound designer can autotune throughout the ENTIRE song.”

It’s so relentless!

I forgot I made this hilarious Obsessed! with her a few years ago:

Back to Chita. I saw her a few days at a video shoot downtown. I felt so MTV…or whatever young people feel when they shoot a video. See, the Broadway for Orlando version of “What The World Needs Now Is Love” was turned into a dance remix, and it’s now number 13 on the Billboard dance chart! For reals! Well, Rosie Perez told James there should be a video, and she and James got it together. JaQuel Knight, the guy who co-choreograpehd Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video was the choreographer, and we filmed the whole thing in the beautiful Dune studios in lower Manhattan. The idea is to have “regular” people in it then little cameos by celebs. When I first came, I saw Bebe Neuwirth chatting with James, and then Ben Vereen walked in. The director of the video asked them to dance together, and I filmed it all and sent it to Bebe. She wrote and thanked me because she was flipping out so much during the filming. If ya don’t know, Bebe was a ballet dancer as a kid, but everything changed when she was 14. She went to see a Broadway show and suddenly she wanted to do “that.” She later found out that “that” was musical theatre and Fosse choreography…and soon she got to do “that” in Sweet Charity and Chicago. The show was Pippin and the person doing “that” was Ben Vereen! And now, more than 40 years later, she got to dance with him! Watch!


Seth_OB_September 6 2016
Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Debra Messing was there, too, and I met her cute son Roman. My conversation was an amazing experience of immediate highs and lows.

DEBRA: Roman, this is Seth.
ROMAN: Seth Rudetsky?
SETH: (I still got it!) Yes, it’s me!
ROMAN: I used to listen to you when I was younger.
SETH: (I used to have it.) Wonderful.

Oh! I still have more Gavin Creel stories from our time in Provincetown. We were talking about Thoroughly Modern Mille and the time Sutton got sick during previews. Her understudy, Catherine Brunell (now in Something Rotten!) had NO costumes at all, and they had to cancel the show. The next day, the costume people did an emergency shopping at Daffy’s and they were like “Well, she has a yellow dress in act two…this dress is yellow….perfect!” Anyhoo, Gavin said that the show began with the curtain going up on Millie standing center stage. So, Catherine set herself to start the show …and that’s when the understudy announcement happened. “At this performance, the role usually played by Sutton Foster will be played by Catherine Brunell.” Of course, because she was onstage, she got to hear all of wonderful boos emanating from the audience. But, P.S., she was then fabulous! Watch how amazing she is on the act two big opening song!

Seth_OB_September 6 2016
Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

It reminds me of Megan Mullally during GREASE. She played Marty, but understudied Rosie O’Donnell. She does a hilarious rendition of being in her dressing room and getting ready to go on as Rizzo for the very first time. Nobody told her to lower the so-called squawk box (speaker) in her dressing room. So, she heard the announcement that the role usually played by Rosie O’Donnell will be played by Megan Mullally. She said she then heard a slew of people yelling “GOD DAMMIT,” the sound of seats flapping up because people were standing and storming out, and Playbills being flung on the floor in fury. She then learned to turn the speaker off.

And during my show with Audra, I asked about her super high kick during the Tony Awards performance of Shuffle Along. She told me it was basically an accident. Turns out, because of her pregnancy, she had been having knee issues, and on the morning of the Tony Awards, she had to have a ton of fluid (!) drained out of her right knee. The doctor told her she couldn’t do the show and the Tony Awards because her leg had to recuperate. The Shuffle Along producers told her that they wanted her on the Tonys and she needed to take off the matinee. Anyhoo, she got to the kick part of the dance and used the same power she always did. However, this time, all the liquid in her knee was gone so her leg was much lighter. So, when she hauled it up off the ground, it went sailing all the way up to her ear and completely shocked her! Look!

OK! This is a big week for Disaster! because the album is coming out! Copies have already started going out, and Lacretta Nicole—who played the faded disco star Levora Verona—posted a video of herself listening to herself singing “Knock of Wood.” I love it!

I had some peeps over to my place to listen, and here’s a video of Olivia Phillip, Catherine Ricafort and Casey Garvin hearing their solos on the album for the very first time. I love it!!!

You can order it on iTunes or get the CD at BroadwayRecords.com.

Seth_OB_September 6 2016
Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Next Wednesday, September 14, a bunch of us from the cast, including Kerry Butler, Roger Bart, Jennifer Simard and Rachel York are performing at Barnes and Noble on East 86th street at 7PM. Come see us, and get your CD signed! Peace out!