ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Be a Clown… in First Class

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Be a Clown… in First Class
 
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Seth Rudetsky
Seth Rudetsky

Hello from delicious First Class!

I so love getting my Elite status on Continental because I've been getting fabulous upgrades. Last Sunday night, I flew home from Pittsburgh, and then Monday morning I had to take a 6:45 AM flight to West Palm Beach. I found out Sunday night that I was getting an upgrade, and the only thing that got me up the next morning was looking forward to shoveling delicious first-class food into my gullet. Mmmm. I was flying down to Florida because the Kravis Center asked me to promote the upcoming Broadway musicals that are coming to their theatre over the next year. So, I prepared a special deconstruction show featuring The Addams Family, Les Miz, La Cage Aux Folles, Come Fly Away and Hair. For The Addams Family I played a recording of Doug Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel to demonstrate how amazing he is (he's playing Gomez in the tour), and then I played the ending of "The Moon and Me" to show how pretty the song and how amazing the Uncle Fester high C is. For Les Miz I played the beautiful high B flat that Cosette has to sing incredibly quietly at the end of "A Heart Full of Love." I mentioned how difficult it is to sing and how it's worth it to see the show just to she if she cracks. Listen to Judy Kuhn nail it! For Hair I told everyone how it was the first Broadway show I saw (at age four) and how James and I took Juli to see it when she was eight (she loved it). I also played a medley of the phenomenal high belting that the character of Dionne has to do. Dionne was originally the brilliant Melba Moore, so I told the story of when she was first offered the show. Galt MacDermot (the composer) heard her in a studio session and wanted her to be in the new Broadway company (Hair had opened Off-Broadway and was about to transfer). He approached her after her session and asked her, very excitedly, "How would you like to do Hair on Broadway?" She glared and responded, "I didn't go to four years of music school to do nobody's hair on Broadway!" Sass! Listen to her brilliance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mJ_B6yCNbU

Jerry Herman

I also found a way to promote my upcoming April show at the Kravis (and coming to the Broward Center as well). I'm doing Seth's Big Fat 70's Show where I deconstruct 70's variety shows as well as myself, so for La Cage Aux Folles I talked about how amazing Jerry Herman's music is and how nothing could ever sully it. Except…I then proceeded to show the video of Florence Henderson singing "The Best Of Times" during a live variety show, with a full body shot of her tripping onstage. Anybody tripping is usually hilarious, but it was made more so when she told me what really happened during a Chatterbox. Siegfried and Roy had performed right before her and one of their tigers peed on the stage! When she stepped into that puddle, she went a-skidding. Since I didn't want to only dish other people, I also showed the old video of me jazz dancing to that Jerry Herman classic, "I Am What I Am." There are so many things to deconstruct about that video but just imagine a 17-year-old me in purple plastic jazz pants, black leg warmers and white Capezio jazz shoes. Why not black Capezios, you ask? Because white draws the eye and makes for a better line. Next question.

PS, I was just handed something by the flight attendant, and it reminds me of a classic story from my family. Many years ago, my Aunt Phyllis went to a nice Japanese restaurant and was excited to get some kind of free appetizer. She knew it was called a Ha tau but didn't know exactly what it was. Well, she decided to be open-minded and eat it without asking for details. Unfortunately, her bravery backfired because what she was served was not for consumption. That's right, she nodded kindly to the waitress, brought the item to her lips and eagerly bit into a hot towel.

Anyhoo, after my Kravis presentation the audience told me how excited they were for the various musicals and, hopefully, they bought tickets for all of them. Speaking of musicals, I've done A Chorus Line a few times, and last week in Pittsburgh I ran into one of my former Maggies. Sharon Schaller (nee Connelly) and I did it at Candlewood Playhouse back in 1993 (or 4, can't remember). We laughed our heads off remembering how she got in trouble because she wore an orange shade of lipstick. The director/choreographer was outraged and told her during an angry note session, "Maggie isn't a clown!" For the rest of the run, we kept riffing on that idea and decided that Maggie actually does show up in full circus regalia to show off her clowning skills. First, we'd demonstrate her trying to do the opening choreography with crazy extra large clown shoes on, (incredibly awkward), then we decided that when she's not dancing, Maggie is perched on a unicycle. So, whenever the dancers are standing in the famous line, she's in the signature Maggie pose, but she has to constantly keep pedaling the unicycle front and back so she can keep from falling off. Then, at the end of the show, when Maggie doesn't get the gig and has to exit with the other dancers, we see them leave the stage in total silence…except for the squeakity-squawkity of her unicycle being ridden offstage.

Sarah Silverman

This week on Seth Speaks I interviewed one of my favorite comics, Sarah Silverman. Last year, the Actors Fund was going to do another one-night concert of Funny Girl like we did on Broadway in 2003. It was going to have the same format as that concert (a different woman playing Fanny for each number), and I wanted Sarah to sing "You Are Woman." I knew my friend Jack Plotnick was friends with her, and I asked him to ask her if I could have her email. Turns out, she listens to my show on Sirius/XM every day! She said yes to doing Funny Girl but then the whole concert had to be cancelled (more on that in my one-day memoirs). Regardless, we kept in touch, and I knew she was coming to town so I asked her to guest on my show. She just did a big fundraiser in Texas for the NAACP and the title was a bust on Rick Perry's hunting lodge; it was literally called Live From N*****head. Brava! She grew up in New Hampshire and did theatre throughout her childhood, including playing my dream role, Annie. There was an alternate girl playing the role as well, but Sarah was the main one. However, when the publicity photos were taken, Sarah made the bizarre decision that the biggest, widest smile was the best smile to give. Suffice it to say, when the publicity photos were printed in the newspaper, they featured the other girl. When questioned why she wasn't in the paper, the publicist for the show showed Sarah the photo of herself with her crazy open-mouthed smile and simply said, "Look." Sarah took a gander and immediately understood why they were never revealed to the public.

Despite her LA address, Sarah is a major Broadway lover and, when she was young, had always wanted to play Eponine in Les Miz. Off the cuff, I decided to give her a chance to do her dream role and played the intro to "On My Own." She sang it all! Then we did "I Don't Need Anything But You" (I was Daddy Warbucks and she did the signature Annie harmony), and we closed the show with an angry version of "Aldonza." I was so impressed that she knew so many lyrics! She'll be doing a talkback at Judy Gold's hilarious show this week on Wednesday at the DR2 Theater. And you can listen to a repeat of Seth Speaks tonight from 7-9 PM and Tuesday morning from 11-1 PM on SiriusXM Stars, 107.

Michael Klimzak, Mia Fabry-Klimzak and Phil Fabry

On Saturday I go up to Ithaca to do Andrea Martin: Final Days! Everything Must Go at the Hangar Theater. We're taking the bus home so I'm sure I'll have some hilarious stories for next week's column. Last weekend I was in Chicago because Missy Greenberg brought me out again to do Deconstructing Broadway and a master class. They audience was amazing, and I had a great time seeing my friends, Michael Kilmzak and Phil Fabry. I met Michael when he was cast as the understudy in the non-Equity tour of Forever Plaid (I taught the show to them), and then he met Phil when they were both cast in my Actors Fund Chess concert. They've been together since 2003, and two years ago, they adopted a baby girl named Mia. They moved to Chicago last year to be nearer to their families (AKA childcare), and it was so cool to see Mia now that she's talking. Turns out, she's totally obsessed with Broadway and watches the 2011 Tony Awards obsessively. Her favorite numbers are "I Believe" from Book of Mormon and the Sister Act section from the telecast. Phil told me that he's taught her to lipsynch and he sent me this video to prove it. So hilarious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBqn_b6dMZ0 Watch and peace out til next week!

(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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