Onstage and Backstage: What Broadway Star Was a Breakdancer in a “Gang”?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage and Backstage: What Broadway Star Was a Breakdancer in a “Gang”?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth gets deep with Matthew Morrison, Idina Menzel, Cady Huffman and Bebe Neuwirth!
Seth_OB August 8 2016
Bebe Neuwirth and Seth

Boy, there was a lot of Broadway in my life this week!
First, I had an amazing time, mixing the Disaster! cast album. OMG, everyone sounds so great. You can pre-order it here BroadwayRecords.com and watch a little clip here of Rachel York that I sent to her because I’m obsessed with how she sounds on “I Will Survive.” (It’s on my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Seth-Rudetsky-43618175680/?ref=bookmarks)

I just got back from Provincetown, where I did a show with Matthew Morrison. Yowza! Does he put out, theatrically! So many songs had dance breaks and his encore was “Singin’ in the Rain” with a dance break and an umbrella prop. Brava! Matt said his dancing began as a kid when he was in a “gang.” Of course, he lived in Orange County, CA, so I assume his gang was all pre-med students. Nonetheless, he said he would graffiti things and his “tag name” was Skyler. He said there was a girl he had a crush on, and her name was Skyler, and he thought it was a cool name. Tag name? From that explanation, I think he meant drag name. Anyhoo, he and his gang would get cardboard (as one does) and break dance all the time. Now that he’s older, he calls it “broke dancing” because the day after he does some steps, his body feels broke. I asked him what his signature step was and he said he could hoist his body up on one arm and pinwheel his legs. I then moved my chair back so he’d demonstrate but he wouldn’t do it for fear of a full body collapse. Cut to, by the time he came out for his encore, he hauled out his signature step and the crowd went wild. If they ever make a Broadway musical out of “Breakin,’” the 1984 film, please hire Matt. Yes, that was a film.

And here’s a clip from YouTube that states it “features Michael 'Boogaloo Shrimp' Chambers as Turbo.” Wait a minute…my nickname is Boogaloo Shrimp. NOT cool.

Before Matt ever did Broadway, he was in a fake boy band that the David Letterman show put together. It was called “Freshstep” (after the kitty litter), and he told me there was a song they did that was supposed to be from a film about a boy falling in love with a Deaf girl. The song was called “Don’t Talk To The Hand (Talk to the Heart).” Hilarious…and I found a clip online! And you can see Footloose star Jeremy Kushnier in the group as well!

I asked Matt how he got Glee, and he told us that he sent in an audition tape and they liked it. Then he had to go in person to audition for Ryan Murphy. He had just done a play with Jill Clayburgh, and she had worked with Ryan, so he asked her for advice. She basically told him to go in and flirt with Ryan. How did it go, I asked? His answer: “I got the job.” WERK!

Last week I also got to chat with Idina Menzel on SiriusXM (which will play over Labor Day Weekend). She has a brand new CD coming out called idina. I had a lot of questions: Why no capital letter? Why the period? Perhaps a nod to e.e. cummings?
Anybody?
Nobody.

Regardless, you can pre-order and get a single right now at idinamenzel.com I got to hear some of the songs, and she sounds amazing. She said that when she did pop before, people were telling her to alter her voice, but now she’s singing like she actually sings…and she sounds so great! I tried to trick her and asked whether it’s true that she’s coming back to Wicked, but she didn’t bite. She did, however, say that it’s her recurring nightmare. The show contacts her and says there’s no one available to play Elphaba, and they ask if she can go on. She figures she’s done it a lot, and it’ll be fine. Then she gets to the theatre and it’s really dark and haunted (!) and then she can’t figure out how to put on the green make-up. It’s basically a Tony Award winner’s version of the Actors Nightmare. Of course, no joke, I had a dream where I had to go on as Elphaba. And when I began singing “Defying Gravity” I was telling everyone “This is in the wrong key for me...” but then I was like “Wait..I sound amazing!”

Seth_OB August 8 2016
(Left) Idina Menzel and Seth in 2000; (Right) Seth and Idina in 2016

We talked about being the child of divorce: When she was a kid, her parents told her on Thanksgiving (!) that they were getting divorced. And, P.S., they didn’t even wait til after the meal…they announced it in the morning so the whole day was devastating! I topped her by telling her that my parents announced they were getting divorced when I was 9, but then informed me they were going to do me the favor and “Wait til my Bar Mitzvah”! Yay! I got an extra four years living with two people who wanted to end their marriage!

I also had Cady Huffman on my SiriusXM show. She’s starring in Shear Madness and doing her own show at 54 Below, where she’ll sing up a storm. She really got to demonstrate she’s a triple threat in The Producers where she was hilarious, danced non-stop and belted crazy high notes (hence her Tony Award). I asked her what it was like having to wear such tight, tight costumes and she said her diet was basically some fish, salad and she’s out. I found this great special that features her from back then:

She told me she began on Broadway as one of the Cagelles in La Cage Aux Folles. In the original production, there were two women amongst the men in drag. I asked her about Arthur Laurents and her story was bizarre: She was only around 18 years old when she got the show and very naïve. One day during the run of the show, she asked him if he had any advice for her about show business. He brought her face to his and blatantly French kissed her! His advice was basically expect the unexpected. Couldn’t he just say it!?!! Speaking of kissing, I told her how much I loved the season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where Larry gets the lead in the Broadway production of The Producers. He basically has a deal with his wife that he can sleep with Cady Huffman, and it all falls apart in this hilarious scene—which I totally identify with:


I also had Bebe Neuwirth on Seth Speaks; she was promoting a big Actors Fund benefit that happened last Saturday. She told me that she had wanted to be a ballet dancer, but when she was a teenager it was becoming apparent that she didn’t quite have the right body (she was actually born with her legs turned in!). Fortuitously, she wound up seeing Pippin on Broadway when she was 15 and realized that that is what she wanted to do. She didn’t know it was Fosse choreography she was seeing but a little more than ten years later, she won her Tony Award after being directed by Bob Fosse! And then ten years after that, she won her next Tony Award for Chicago where she starred opposite Ann Reinking…who was in the original Pippin! You can see Ann at 1:30 in this clip from the Tony Awards:

Speaking of the Pippin, Ben Vereen was featured in the “What The World Needs Now” performance at the DNC, and Entertainment Weekly just listed the performance as the number one pop culture moment from either convention. So cool!!!

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Shoutout in Entertainment Weekly

And, don’t forget, you can order the song plus all the amazing dance remixes (for real!) right here.

Only $6.99 for 11 tracks! And all that money goes to help the victims and victims friends and families in Orlando.

Tomorrow I’m in Washington, D.C. performing at a big event for TodayTix, and soon I’ll be back in Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard doing shows with Audra MacDonald and Will Swenson and then a show Gavin Creel! Tix at PtownArtHouse.com.

And finally, I just read the new Liane Moriarity novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty. I love her books so much!!! You must get it!

And speaking of books, I have two volumes of Seth’s Broadway Diary (my Playbill columns!) available on Amazon and two novels featuring Justin Goldblatt, theatre-obsessed (and manipulative) teen with a Jewfro.

And now peace out!

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