ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Bloody Good Week

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Bloody Good Week A week in the life of actor, musician and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Seth with Varla Jean Merman
Seth with Varla Jean Merman

It's the last week of summer! That's perfect because I'm at my winter weight. That's right, I'm at the perfect weight to be covered in bulky sweaters that hide the handles of love and shapeless down jackets that disguise the waist/hips. Yes, I know that it's still August, but I've always been ahead of the curve.

I just got back from Massachusetts and then Pennsylvania. The end of my Provincetown foray was great. The only mar was the complete lack of interest in me and my career. I was at the local gym there (Mussel Beach), and I heard them playing Sirius radio. I was so excited! Between my hosting on the Broadway and dance re-mix channel (seriously…I'm down with it!), I'm essentially on all day long. I asked the guy behind the desk if it was Sirius playing, he said yes and then I dropped the bombshell that would make him freak out. I stepped back and told him, "I'm a deejay on Sirius!" My words hung in the air as I detected a slight movement of his head. He was obviously a film actor because the nod of interest he gave me could only be read if the camera was in an extreme close-up. I slunk away back to the inner thigh machine. The next day I was back at Mussel Beach, and they were actually playing The Beat, which is the dance re-mix station I deejay every night! I ran up to the new guy behind the desk and asked, breathlessly . . .

ME: "Do you ever listen to this station at night?"
HIM: "No."
ME: (awkward pause, then) Oh…do they ever play it here?
HIM: (non-sequitor) The gym closes at 9.
ME: (silence…then) Oh… because I'm a dee-…fade out

Finally, I walked into a store selling lobster rolls, and they were blasting Sirius. I decided to try my luck again…and by "try" I mean "push."

ME: Hi! Do you ever listen to the Broadway sta-
HIM: No.
Silence The axiom I learned is: Never combine my need for attention with a town's utter disregard for feigned interest. I did a video acting out the whole debacle and posted it on my website if you care to see me post-devastation (www.SethRudetsky.com).

On Tuesday I played piano at Classical Varla, a concert benefiting the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod. Mark Cortale, who's Varla's manager and an operatic tenor, produced it. A few months before, he happened to run into a local "Provincetownian" named Christopher Flint, who said he sang classical bass. Mark mentioned that maybe he could sing in the Classical Varla concert. Mark then told Varla, who didn't quite understand, and told Chris he was singing four solos! Mark was panicked because he never heard Chris sing and if he stank, it would be horrifying to fire someone from a benefit. Turns out, Chris has a fantastic voice! Phew! A couple of days before the concert, Chris told me he was getting sick of his regular material and wished he had something new. I recommended "I've Heard it All Before," which John Cullum sang in Shenandoah. I played it for him and he loved it. I assumed he'd put it in next year's concert, but, turns out, he learned it by Tuesday and it brought the house down! Also in the concert was the brilliant Nell Snaidas, who is a super-high soprano with an unbelievable tone. Her voice is so glorious. If you have the Actors Fund recording of Hair that I put together, you'll know her as the high soprano singing the obbligato line in "Hare Krishna." Brava! Mark sang tons of tenor arias and nailed all of his high notes and was also hilarious in the Samson and Delilah love duet he sang with Varla (Varla is around 6'5" in her heels and Mark is around 5'8"…in heels…and he wasn't wearing any…'nuff said). Speaking of his lack of height, he told a hilarious story at one of the first Classical Varla concerts. He was auditioning for an opera agent and after he sang all of these leading man tenor songs, the agent said that Mark would be perfect for the role of Mime in Wagner's "Ring Cycle." Mark wasn't familiar with the role but was thrilled that the agent was so sure he could get a lot of work playing that role worldwide. Mark went home and looked up the character Mime in his Big Book of Opera and found this description: MIME – An old, ugly dwarf. Ouch. Mark is actually great looking, so the story got a big laugh in the concert. However, afterwards, a short, not-very-attractive older woman approached and said, "I loved your story about the dwarf role being perfect for you. You know, (she then lowered her voice consolingly)…people like us…we're cute…but we'll never be beautiful." She then smiled wistfully and walked away. What the-? Mark told that story for a laugh — not to be treated like he was Bebe from A Chorus Line!

Varla sang a ton of classical stuff (including the gorgeous duet from "Lachme" with Nell) and then the show ended with a musical theatre segment. Ricky Graham (who stars with Varla in the parody, "Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte") came out like Henry Higgins and implored Varla to speak correctly.

VARLA: The rine in spine stiys minly in the pline
HIGGINS: No!
VARLA: The rine in spine stiys minly in the pline
HIGGINS: Eliza! We are dealing with the majesty of the English language. Now once more…
VARLA: The rine in spine stiys minly in the pline
HIGGINS: Oh, for God's sake, just pretend you're Madonna.
VARLA: (with perfect British dialect) The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.
My favorite lyric change was when she sang "I could have spread my wings and done a hundred things I've never done….recently." The next night she was one of the models on "Project Runway"…and her outfit won! Check out her winning look at ProjectRunway.com.

James and I also went to see the comedic/hostile stylings of Judy Gold, who is always hilarious. She talked about going into shock that morning in Provincetown because she saw an Asian baby…with Asian parents! She was like, "Where is your Mommy?" Judy is famous for talking about her mother, who is as annoying, I mean, as "colorful" as mine, and Judy said that she recently had this conversation with her.

JUDY'S MOM: What did 'ya do today?
JUDY: I took the kids to the beach.
JUDY'S MOM: They didn't wear sunscreen?
JUDY: *silence* No, Mom…actually, I covered an area of the beach with tin foil and gave them a couple of barbiturates to knock 'em out. Then I sprayed them with baby oil and now we're on our way to the burn center.

Brava! Go to JudyGold.com and make sure you click on the button that says "Don't Click Here".

Loretta Ables Sayre
Last week at the Chatterbox (www.SethsBroadwayChatterbox.com), I interviewed the Tony-nominated Loretta Ables Sayre. She has that great spirit people from Hawaii all seem to have. But, turns out, she is originally from California, and she didn't move to Hawaii 'til she was ten. If you've seen the show, you know that she has a fantastic voice. She made her living in Hawaii as a "chick singer"…singing big band classics in beautiful resorts. I asked her if she fantasized about having a Broadway career, and she said that Broadway seemed completely unattainable. Just distance-wise, it was massive. Even California is far away from Hawaii, so New York seemed impossible. However, while living there, she became friends with a transplanted Broadway actor named Randl Ask. I know Randl because I played piano for his comedy act with Amy Stiller (Jerry and Anne Meara's daughter) way back in the early nineties. He then went on to star in Pageant as Miss Bible Belt and was brilliant. After that, he was Matthew Broderick's understudy in

but then left New York for Hawaii. Anyhoo, while he was visiting New York he was having lunch with Ted Sperling, the music director for South Pacific, who told him that they were having trouble finding a Bloody Mary. Randl suggested that they actually travel to the South Pacific to find the role of a native. Joe Langworth, a casting director from Bernie Telsey's office, was heading for a vacation in Hawaii, and they asked him if he'd use one of his vacation days to hold auditions. He said yes, and notices were sent to all the theatres in Hawaii that there would be auditions for Bloody Mary. PS, there are no professional theatres in Hawaii…they're all community theatres. At that time, Loretta was doing very well with her band singing and her TV work. Lots of TV shows would film on the island, and she got some great gigs...including "Baywatch"! Plus, she did tons of voiceovers (she was the voice of PBS out there). However, on the day of the South Pacific audition, she decided she wouldn't go. She knew there were some terrific singers who would show up, and she couldn't think why she'd get the job instead of them. Plus, she was nervous because she had no real training, and the only big auditions she'd ever seen were on reality shows on TV. Essentially, she was scared of being humiliated. PS, that's what makes me crazy about "American Idol" and other reality shows: They act like that's the way auditioning is in the real world and it's not. Only on reality shows do the people behind the table try to destroy the performers coming in to audition — well, reality shows and my high school theatre department. But that's a story better told in my one-man-show, Rhapsody In Seth. (Suffice it to say, I'm still in a rage over getting an F in theatre class… in theatre class!) Continued...

1 | 2 Next
Jeff Roberson (Varla Jean Merman), Nell Snaidas, Seth Rudetsky and Mark Cortale
Jeff Roberson (Varla Jean Merman), Nell Snaidas, Seth Rudetsky and Mark Cortale