ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andreas, Martin and Burns, Plus The Whiners and "A Good Cup of Coffee"

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andreas, Martin and Burns, Plus The Whiners and "A Good Cup of Coffee" A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Andrea Martin
Andrea Martin Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Greetings from Huntsville, Canada.

That's right. I spent the weekend before They're Playing Our Song going from New York to Provincetown to Toronto to Huntsville. What a wonderful way to relax and focus before I play the biggest part I've ever played in New York.

In Provincetown I did Deconstructing Broadway for an amazing audience and also played piano for Colleen Ballinger who plays Miranda. Her show was hilarious. We both made each other crack up onstage, Carol Burnett style, and I've got to play for her show again. If you don't know who she is, watch this ASAP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zfg8Eze5rkw. I went to go see Varla Jean Merman's show again, and I just sat there thinking how impressed I am with his (real name Jeffrey) writing. He's so consistently funny. At one point, Varla is talking about opera and asks if people know what opera is. "Well, opera is just like musical theatre…except with no consonants." Varla's website with amazing videos is www.varlaonline.com.

[AUDIO-LEFT]I'm here in Huntsville playing for Andrea Martin: Final Days. Everything Must Go! She's so hilarious, and it's amazing to be onstage with her as she does characters I used to watch her do while I was obsessively watching "SCTV" in high school. We improvised some dialogue during rehearsal that's now in the show, and I love doing it. She introduces me with…

ANDREA: This is Seth Rudetsky! You probably know Seth from Sirius FM radio.
SETH: Um…it's Sirius XM.
ANDREA: (quickly/dismissively) I don't know. I never listen to it. (brightly) Anyway, Seth and I met many years ago during My Favorite Year.
SETH: That's right. I was an understudy pianist for it, and Andrea won the Tony Award!
ANDREA: (modestly) Oh, Seth…please!
SETH: Please what?
ANDREA: (pointedly) Please turn the page.
SETH: (turning page in script) …and the Drama Desk and Theater World Award.
ANDREA: (brightly) And that's all we're going to say about awards.
SETH: Until page 47-
ANDREA: -when I win the Emmy. Last weekend, I went up to Ithaca to rehearse the show with Peter Flynn who's directing it and also runs the Hangar Theater. Andrea got there on the same night that Spelling Bee was opening at the Hangar, and Peter asked her to be one of the audience members who comes onstage to spell. Afterwards, Andrea told me she was incredibly anxious the whole time because she had to sit onstage with the actual cast members, facing towards the audience, during the first 45 minutes of the show. It was so bizarre for her because she didn't know if she was supposed to be her regular entertainer self, or if she was supposed to be a regular audience member. She finally decided to shut down her personality and look blank. But there was one moment where she got up to spell and nailed a really difficult word. When she got back to her seat, she turned to the other cast members to laugh with them about how hard the word was. Cut to, when she turned to them to laugh it up, it was the moment in the show when they're in a complete cast freeze. So, she had the old mortifying sit down laughing, turn with a smile, see frozenness, shut down emotionally. Wally Dunn played the vice-principal, and Peter Flynn was telling me about some of the amazing sentences he's come up with. One night he gave the word Mexican. The speller said, Can you put it in a sentence, and Wally offered, "Please show me your papers," said the Arizona policeman. Peter and I are obsessed that the word "Mexican" isn't even in the sentence.

There's a point in the show when all the members from the audience who are spelling need to get kicked out of the contest and leave the stage, but Andrea kept spelling everything perfectly. They couldn't get on with the show until she left. Finally Wally gave the word sesquipedalian. Andrea asked for it in a sentence, and Wally said, "Please spell sesquipedalian incorrectly." And she did.

Andrea Burns

Peter's married to Andrea Burns (not to be confused with Andrea Martin) who plays Daniela in In the Heights, and she was in Ithaca with us along with Janet Dacal, who played Carla, and is now about to star in Frank Wildhorn's Wonderland. We had the best time at dinner because Andrea told us about this bit she's been doing with Martin Short for years. Essentially, it's an exercise to see how natural your acting can be in a commercial and to allow everyone around you to comment on your abilities. All you have to do is have someone say "Action" and then take a sip from a cup and remark, "That's a good cup of coffee." Let me officially say, it's the hardest thing to do. Andrea told us that she's awful at it because she's so self-conscious, and Martin Short is consistently terrible at it along with many other celebrities including Steve Martin. First of all, it's so hard to make the line sound honest and not sound like you're acting. And, it's so incredible stressful knowing that everyone else there is going to immediately critique your performance as soon as you say the line. Even before I said the line and I was just taking my sip, Andrea immediately piped up with, "What's with the eyebrows?" Then after Janet did it, Andrea nodded sagely and said, "That was excellent." Then she qualified it with, "If it were an independent film." It was hilarious. Andrea said that she and Martin Short always do it at dinner parties and inevitably, no one is good at it. Although one night, they were at a party with Tom Hanks, and he did it. Andrea then paused, telling us the story. She continued with "OK…if there were an Academy Award for commercials, he would have won — the most amazing line reading, speaking voice, facial expression. Completely likeable, real and honest. Brilliant."

Last week, I went to go see Next to Normal starring real-life married couple Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie. First of all, people have to start pronouncing both of their names correctly. His last name is like the name "Daniel" and then you add an "ee" at the end. And her first name is not "Marion," which I've heard people say, and her last is not a short-voweled "Mazzie." It's Marin like the poison "Sarin" and her last name rhymes with "Crazy" (Insert Next to Normal joke here). Anyhoo, they were fantastic, and Marin gets an extra shout-out for an amazing acting job. By the way, speaking of incorrect names, Julia Murney told me a bit of Broadway lore that could be entirely exaggerated after years of it being passed down, but I still love it. Apparently, two women went to go see Cats when Betty Buckley was in it. One said to the other, "I cannot wait to see this show. It stars Betsy Buckles!". The other one, who was obviously an "Eight is Enough" fan, nodded and said, "She was wonderful in 'Enough is Enough.'" And I'm out.

Andrea Martin and Robin Duke

Andrea Martin's good friend Robin Duke came to see her show. Peter and I were talking to her after the show and asking her about "Saturday Night Live." She told us that she and Joe Piscopo used to jokingly complain to themselves every night, "No one is writing anything for u-u-u-u-u-us. When do we get to go o-o-o-o-o-o-on???" Finally, Robin wrote a sketch based on that but when she gave it in, she then noticed it wasn't in the pile for a read thru. The producer told her that there weren't any laughs in the entire sketch. Robin explained that the laughs would come with the way it was performed and begged him to put it in for a read-thru. He finally agreed, Joe and Robin read it, and thus was born "The Whiners." I love that it was literally based on their own whining! Brava! Remember this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqGANTHX3hk

Tonight is They're Playing Our Song, and I'm excited and having non-stop anxiety dreams. One of the things I'm the most excited about is singing the score with a complete, delicious old-school 26-piece orchestra. When are we going to go back to having full orchestras on Broadway? Why do we have them in regional theatres but not in the city where theatre is supposed to be the best in the world? Come on, people! I'm also thrilled because the original Sonia and Vernon are coming! That's right. Lucie Arnaz posted on my Facebook wall that she and Robert Klein are both coming. Yay! And, pass the Maalox. Terrified. Make sure you watch the hilarious video we took of rehearsal and listen to Sutton's amazing singing. For last minute tickets, call (212) 221-7300, ext. 133. And now, I must try to breath. 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.

Seth with Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley
Seth with Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley Photo by Robb Johnston
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