What an exciting week! I co-hosted the big Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser, Gypsy of the Year, with Julie White and it was fantastic. Julie was so much fun to hang out with offstage because she's used to doing plays with no music, so during every number, she had the face of a kid at the circus. Right before we went on, we stood in the wings as the opening number ended. There were tons of people onstage dancing up a storm and an enormous group of offstage singers as well and they were all singing a parody of Ragtime. Julie and I were standing backstage, dancing along to the song and when it ended, there was crazy applause, our names were announced as the hosts, [AUDIO-LEFT]the dancers parted in a V-shape, and we walked through the center of them onto the stage of the Palace. It was thrilling! I did a little chitter-chatter with her at the beginning and was shocked to find out that she made her New York debut as a singer! She was in the show Lucky Stiff (by Ahrens and Flaherty who also wrote Ragtime) and she debuted the song "Times Like These," which is a classic in the audition world. I've played many a lady the last 16 bars of that song. Unfortunately, John Simon wrote something unkind about her voice and she never did another musical. Take a deep breath. I know you're in shock that John Simon wrote something cruel so I'll let that settle in. And…sarcasm break is over. Julie also did The Heidi Chronicles on Broadway playing a variety of the "nice lady roles." Years later, it was filmed for TV and when Wendy Wasserstein ran into Julie, who was now playing the "angry lesbian parts," Wendy looked her up and down and said, "What happened!?!?!?!"
I mentioned her FANTASTIC performance in The Little Dog Laughed and, of course, Johnny Galecki's nudity. Julie remembered that when they teched the nude scene, she came onstage and asked Tom Everett Scott if her dangly earrings were distracting. He said, "Julie, dear. No one is going to be looking at your earrings."
She then talked about one of her Texan relatives seeing the show. Julie described her as a quintessential Texan older lady, AKA her hair was "dyed, fried and pushed to the side." (I'm obsessed with that triple rhyme scheme). After the show they went out to eat and Johnny Galecki came by to say hi. The woman smiled and said, "Young man, I saw more of you than I've seen of my husband. And we've been married for 40 years." Johnny was miffed and asked how that was possible. She replied, "Well, we turn the lights off…or I close my eyes!"
I then asked about her time on the TV hit "Grace Under Fire." I remarked that I heard there was a lot of trouble with Brett Butler and I wanted some delicious scoop. She said, "Umm…I think I am contractually obligated not to talk about that at all. I remember signing something saying I would keep my mouth shut and then receiving an enormous amount of money." Pause. "She was great to work with." There were so many great performances at Gypsy of the Year. The opening number was a fantastic take-off on So You Think You Can Dance and after it, Julie commented that she's obsessed with the show's host, Cat Deeley. She wouldn't stop talking about Cat's looks and Cat's outfits and finally said, "I think I could get all Meredith Baxter-Birney on her." My Sirius/XM co-host, Christine Pedi, did a brilliant version of "And I Am Telling You" featuring all different women as Effie including Angela Lansbury, Little Edie, Carol Channing, Joan Rivers and a phenomenal Bernadette Peters. When Julie White found out Bernadette was backstage, she said, "She is??? I hope she isn't near a speaker." If you've never seen Christine's unbelievable performance of this number, go to ChristinePedi.com. She's currently not only starring eight times a week in the new Off-Broadway musical Newsical but she's also doing her own hilarious show There's No Bizness Like Snow Bizness every Monday night at The Laurie Beechman Theater.
Before the show, I went to my dressing room and saw that all the male presenters were sharing the same one. BC/EFA had told me Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman would be using it, but I figured it was just a courtesy…they would probably be in the audience for the whole show and then come onstage for their presentation. Cut to, I walked into the dressing room and saw two statues of David. That's right, Daniel and Hugh were both there and when Hugh went into the bathroom, the door jammed as he tried to get out…and I opened it up. That's right! I saved Hugh Jackman from being locked in Matt Cavenaugh's dressing room toilet. I'm now waiting for my "reward" and if this is being read by a certain Aussie hunk, I can be contacted at my website, www.SethRudetsky.com or my private one: www.IHeartWolverine.com. I'm sure you've read about the fact that they raised more money for BC/EFA than any other show in history: more than $1.5 million dollars! They did it mainly by auctioning off the T-shirts they wore during the show…for about $15,000 each! Wowsie! They got their award at the end of the show and Hugh whispered to me if I was going to thank Tom Viola. I told him that Julie and I didn't have it in our script and he should do it. He was so gracious and first thanked me and Julie for hosting and then thanked Michael Graziano, the producing director and Tom Viola, the executive director of BC/EFA. After the show, Daniel came up to me…and hugged me. Still in shock. I haven't washed my second-through-fifth ribs for the last week.
My mom came to the show and loved it. She recently got back from visiting her brother in Florida. She, of course, mortified herself on the airplane. Before she got on the flight, she was online at the ticket counter and lamenting to the blonde woman in back of her that she has trouble getting her bag in the overhead compartment. The woman said that she'd help her. Cut to: my Mom did "early boarding" and as soon as she got on, a nice gentleman helped her get her bags up. As my mom was sitting and reading, she saw the blonde woman get on board so she put down her magazine, pointed upwards and said with a smile, "A man helped me put my bag up." Well, she did say it to a blonde woman, but, typical of my mother, it was not the woman who offered to help her. It was a total stranger. So, essentially a blonde woman got on a flight and as she passed down the aisle, an older woman smiled and started babbling nonsense like a two-year-old proud of her first trip to the potty: "A man helped me put my bag up." And the woman kept walking.
On Friday, I went to see the Chelsea Symphony play Aaron Dai's "The Night Before Christmas" narrated by Charles Busch. I love the piece because the music underscoring the poem is not the happy, fun music you'd expect. It actually has the essence of a scary Hitchcock movie. It makes you realize how terrifying it would be if you heard sounds on your roof in the middle of the night.
Charles was fantastic, of course, and afterwards I was chatting with him and the subject of theatre message boards came up. I told him that I haven't read them in a year and he said that he'll go on one, get sucked into the nice comments and then will be devastated by the occasional horrifyingly cruel ones. Finally, he called AOL and spoke to a representative who sounded like he was located in a majorly Southern state. Charles asked if there was a way to block a website and the man told him that you can block a type of site, but not one in particular. The man asked why he wanted it blocked.
CHARLES: Well, because they write terrible things about me.
MAN: Then why do you read them?
CHARLES: (pause). You're obviously not in the theatre.
Speaking of theatre, Jack Plotnick was in town this week and we did our show, Mortification Theater. He has a tremendous following for his character Evie Harris whom he developed years ago and was then one of the stars of the film "Girls Will Be Girls." Part of the show we did last week featured Evie's Christmas act and begins with Evie singing wrong lyrics and then saying one of my favorite lines: EVIE: (Enters singing) It's the most happiest time in the world! Merry Christmas everyone! And for those Jewish people in the audience (sincerely) Merry, Merry Christmas." Jack and I were talking (again) about his college production of A Little Night Music that I wrote about last week, and what I didn't know was that all the time he wasn't onstage performing, he was backstage with Natascia Diaz, rehearsing a scene for their acting class. And by "rehearsing a scene," I mean "laying a curse." The scene they did time and again was from…Macbeth! And they weren't playing side characters who never utter the cursed name. No, Jack was Macbeth and Natascia was Lady Macbeth. They said the name you're never supposed to say in a theatre over and over again. Surely that's just a superstition, right? Well, by the weekend of the performances, Jack (who played Henrik) completely lost his voice, Natascia (who played Petra) got so ill she thought she was going to die and Eileen Kaden (who played Charlotte) was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Shakespeare's still got it!
OK, tonight I'm seeing Ann Harada's BC/EFA fundraiser called Christmas Eve with "Christmas Eve" with great performers like Raul Esparza, John Tartaglia and my good friend Paul Castree. Then I'm rushing uptown to the Minskoff theatre for the Broadway in South Africa fundraising concert featuring cast members from Rock of Ages, Wicked and many more. I'll be hosting the live auction part, so come by and see fabulous belting and then be prepared to fork over those bucks for some amazing items like tickets to the Oprah Winfrey show! Go to BroadwayInSouthAfrica.org for tix. And now I leave you with: Peace out!
Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethrudetsky.com.