ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andrea Martin, Stephanie J. Block and "Friending" Chicago Fans

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andrea Martin, Stephanie J. Block and "Friending" Chicago Fans
 
A week in the life of actor, writer and music director Seth Rudetsky.

Seth with Scott Alan
Seth with Scott Alan Photo by Robb Johnston

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Greetings from Toronto, Canada. And by "Toronto" I mean "Belleville." I tour around with Andrea Martin and we're constantly hitting towns in Canada that are well-known if you're from North of the border, but not if you are only familiar with West 42nd to West 96th street. Belleville, Hunstville, Sudbury…you might as well say Brooklyn. I know nothing of it. Speaking of obscure towns, Andrea and I were lamenting the food choices in non-New York towns. She was taking her son to various colleges in the Midwest ten years ago and had the [AUDIO-LEFT]following conversation:

ANDREA: Can I have an egg white omelet?
WAITER: (Staring)
ANDREA: An egg white omelet.
WAITER: (Same facial expression)
ANDREA: Do you make omelets with egg whites?
WAITER: (Still staring….ten years later).

So many times I've gone out of town and had this conversation in a Chinese restaurant:

ME: Can I have brown rice?
WAITER: Fried rice?
ME: No, brown rice.
WAITER: You mean fried rice. Ugh! Yes, Mr. Waiter, I want to be healthy by taking bad-for-you white rice and making it even more unhealthy by frying it. It's maddening! Hendrick Riik, who is working with Andrea on the show, told us that he used to live in the U.S. and drove through Alabama. He stopped in a tiny diner and had this conversation:

HENDRICK: Can I have a cup of tea?
WAITRESS: A glass of iced tea?
HENDRICK: No, a cup of tea.
WAITRESS: So, iced tea in a cup?
HENDRICK: No. Hot tea.
WAITRESS: (Mulling). Hot, huh… Well, I guess we could take it outta the fridge, pour it in a cup and then heat it in the microwave.

Hendrick now lives in Canada.

Stephanie J. Block
photo by Robb Johnston

Any to the hoo, this week I had the fabulous beltress Stephanie J. Block on my Sirius/XM "Live On Broadway" show because she is one of the featured singers on songwriter Scott Alan's newest CD. I interviewed Scott as well and he said that he funded his first CD himself by working three jobs; Starbucks, waitering and bartending. He wound up raising $25,000 from those jobs! Wait a minute; how come I spent years writing on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and I have nothing in my bank account? Answer: Non-stop cab rides and relentless ordering of Chinese food. Regardless, Scott's first CD became a cult favorite and now he's on his third! I asked Stephanie how she got involved and she told me that she was at a concert and muttered out loud that she loved one of the songs that had just been sung. Scott was sitting next to her and overheard the muttering. He tapped her and told her that he wrote it! (P.S. this could have been a devastating story if she had muttered something else.) Scott told her that he'd love it if she sang one of his songs at a concert and they met in a rehearsal studio so he could play her his oeuvre. That's right, "oeuvre." I'm in Canada so I'm adding a Montreal flavor. And, because I used to live in Harlem, I'm changing "flavor" to "flava." Back to Scott: He played her all of his songs but none felt like the perfect choice for Stephanie. Scott was mortified because he didn't have any songs left. Except for one that he had played for his friends and they had deemed "awful." He knew he shouldn't play it for her but in a moment of weakness, he admitted that he had one more song. She asked to hear it and, terrified, he played it for her. She wound up loving it and asked if she could sing it in an upcoming concert. Scott remembers that night and how nervous he was because the song that everyone told him to "never play in public" was getting its first public performance. Stephanie sang it and, turns out, it became one of his big hits! Here's a link to it. And it's a great lesson for artists everywhere to remember: People have different opinions. I know a very famous comedian who "just doesn't get" TV's "Seinfeld." Something may be considered a great work of art, but there are always people who don't like it. It's so hard to accept! My friend Kristine Zbornik had a great line in her show where she told the audience she's spent years waiting for "global acknowledgment of my talent." Hilarious and on the nose. I think most creative types have a secret desire to create something that is universally embraced. It has yet to happen. Although the opposite has. And it's called Mariah Carey's "Glitter."

My friend Colleen Ballinger is doing her character, Miranda, at the Matchbox Theater in Red Deer, Canada, where I did Rhapsody in Seth last October. Matt Grue, who runs the theatre, wrote out the dialogue he heard in the theatre when two women on their way to the Miranda show saw my poster. This is what he sent:

WOMAN 1: Rhapsody in Seth. Did we see that?
WOMAN 2: Sure. It was with that guy from the radio. SAM RABINSKY.
WOMAN 1: Right. Sam Rabinsky.
WOMAN 2: He's married to Patti LuPone.
WOMAN 1: What?
WOMAN 2: I read it in the New York Times.
WOMAN 1: But that whole show was about him growing up gay in New York.
WOMAN 2: That was the character he was playing. "Seth."
WOMAN 1: Oh. Obviously. The title.
WOMAN 2: Right.(Silence.)
WOMAN 1: So what's THIS show about?
WOMAN 2: I think it's about a clown who learns to sing.
WOMAN 1: Sounds interesting.

It, naturally, reminds me of the famous dialogue supposedly heard before a performance of Cats in the 1980s right after Betty Buckley won the Tony Award:

WOMAN 1: I'm very excited to see this show. It stars Betsy Buckles.
WOMAN 2: Ooh! She was wonderful in that TV show…"Enough is Enough."

Seth at the Chicago Facebook Fan Day
photo by Robb Johnston

And now, I'm back in NYC. The Weisslers came up with an idea that if a fan of Chicago got ten of their friends to "like" the fan page, they that fan would get a free ticket to the show. Well, the Jan. 30 matinee was the performance, and Julie James and I hosted the pre-show event. I got there a little late because the Number 1 train refused to come. And I have proof I'm not lying because I was waiting for the train with Walter Bobbie ,who's the director of Chicago! Finally, my ol' "the-trains-were-slow-today" excuse can be backed up by a Tony Award winner. Anyhoo, it was so much fun and the audience was so psyched to be there. We had lots of giveaways and decided to give one prize by having a Chicago trivia contest. I got two Super Fans who were both extremely excited, and told them they each had to say the name of an actress who's played Velma Kelly and whoever can't think of one is the loser. Well, even though they were both obviously knowledgable about the show, it ended pretty quickly. ME: Start naming Velma Kellys.
FAN 1: Chita Rivera.
FAN 2: Bebe Neuwirth.
FAN 1: Ashlee Simpson.
(Gasp from the audience.)

I informed him that he lost because Ashlee played Roxie, not Velma. I followed that statement by seriously intoning "And we never speak of it." He was a great sport and said that he panicked because he was so excited. And speaking of excited, I'm so obsessed with my latest deconstruction. I think this song is one of the best ever written for musical theatre. It's the original cast of A Chorus Line singing "At the Ballet." Watch!

OK, another week, another city far away from New York. This week I'm doing an auditioning master class and Deconstructing Broadway in Sioux City, Iowa. My show is Thursday Feb. 3 at 7:30 PM in the Klinger-Neal Theater on the Morningside College Campus. A patron is sponsoring the whole thing so the tickets are free! Just call (712) 274-5702. And peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.)

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