ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Betty, Charlotte, Shayna, Carrie . . . and Derek

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Betty, Charlotte, Shayna, Carrie . . . and Derek The premiere of the new weekly column by Seth Rudetsky.
Charlotte d'Amboise (note: the
Charlotte d'Amboise (note: the "s" is not silent) in A Chorus Line Photo by Paul Kolnik

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There is a hole in my heart. A hole that can only be filled with a heavily padded two-hour reality series casting a Broadway show. There is an age-old question that our philosophers have been asking since the days of Socrates and/or the initial "Real World" episodes: How do you cope when your reality series goes off the air?

I've had to deal with the debilitating loss of "Pop Stars," "Fight for Fame," "Showbiz Moms and Dads," but ne'er has a reality show gotten so close to my true love: Broadway. And by "close," I mean throughout the run of "Grease: "You're the One That I Want," the word Broadway was spoken up to a dozen times, but essentially every other aspect was "American Idol" but with two Ryan Seacrests.

Anyhoo, Playbill.com asked me to continue writing a column, and first I thought, perhaps like Joan Didion, "Why go on? Why continue writing when there is no more footage to look forward to of Austin selling it, Max vibrato-ing it and Denise Van Outen 'casually' standing in the pose used on the Fosse posters that used to be all over the subway?" I never even got to see my dream judge appearance by a brutally honest, but fair, Didi Conn.

All right, I'm going to move on emotionally. No more living in the reality-show past. I'm going to use this column to talk about my week, latest obsessions and recent gossip, aka, Broadway! Monday was a fantastic benefit produced by Amy Birnbaum and held at Joe's Pub for Family First Nights, an organization that brings inner-city kids to Broadway. How sad is it that some kids live in New York and haven't ever been to a Broadway show? Think of that 15-year-old kid who, for some reason, never got to see Metro, Chu Chem or that crazy Jackie Mason musical. What a disgrace! The benefit featured Broadway folk rocking out on traditional Broadway songs. It was called Scream Out, Louise and, in reality, should have been retitled Riff Out, Louise, but apparently the copyright is owned by Brooklyn, the Musical. I co-hosted with Scott Nevins, and it was a ton of fun even though his body fat is the same as mine but with the decimal point moved before the first number.

Tuesday I flew to L.A. to interview/play for the amazing beltress Shayna Steele from Hairspray. We performed for a group of travel agents and stayed at the beautiful Hotel Bel-Air where I noticed that one of the salads in the restaurant was named after Nancy Reagan. Remembering back to the time she was in the White House, I decided to "just say no" to the salad and ordered a delish lobster salad on brioche. And, for all those people who've eaten meals with me, just know that I'm only vegetarian and Kosher when I can use it to make someone else feel bad.

Wednesday I returned to New York and really started working on Seth's Broadway 101. That title is not only my goal weight but a show I'm putting together for The Actors' Fund of America featuring a delicious singing and dancing ensemble, some of my favorite Broadway stars (because of my tastes, sopranos are limited to Laura Benanti and Kristin Chenoweth) and a full orchestra. And I mean, full. At least 25!

Thursday was my Chatterbox, and I interviewed the beautiful and warm Charlotte d'Amboise. First of all, for all you people who think you have a cool accent and have always pronounced it "Dam-bwah," it's time to realize that the "s" is pronounced because her name ends in an "e." Please work on your French. Or in the spirit of the U.S. Senate in 2002, please work on your "freedom."

Of course, I obsessively talked about her experience in Carrie, and she confirmed what I had heard. Here's the deal — what has always made the story of Carrie so scary is that it essentially takes place in a typical high school in Anytown USA . . . sort of like Grease. Someone said that to the director, and he agreed immediately . . . but the person telling the director didn't clarify the spelling. So, instead of the set being a typical high school and the kids wearing clothes from a mall, the costumes and sets represented . . . Greece! Seriously! All white costumes — big white columns. But, if you've ever heard any of the music, you'd know that it's a great score, and it was brilliantly sung by Betty Buckley, which brings me to the weekend. got to hang with one of my favorite beltresses, Betty Buckley!

I went to Betty's hotel (she's doing a new show at Feinstein's at the Regency) to do a video interview with her. All I can say is, if I knew when I was in college that I would one day be hanging out with Betty in her hotel room, I would have fainted on the worn grooves of my The Mystery of Edwin Drood album. We gabbed up a storm, but the interview was only supposed to be 20 minutes, so a great story about her early chutzpah was edited. Essentially, Betty told me that she had tried out for the lead in the London production of Promises, Promises, and she clanked. She didn't understand how to act the character (she was only 21), but she knew she could if she worked on it. So, at that point she was starring in 1776, where she had one big number in the first act and then didn't have to come back onstage until her bow. So, the night after the audition, she asked her dresser to take off her dress (which took 15 minutes because it had a million layers and little laces), and Betty ran to the theatre where Promises, Promises was playing in New York. She went to the stage door, found the stage manager and immediately burst into tears. She begged him to help her. He agreed to coach her on the character, her agent pulled strings and she got a call back! She went back in and felt she did much better. As she was walking out of the theatre where the call back was held (old school), the stage manager ran down the alley and told her to come back to do the whole thing again for the producer, David Merrick! She later found out that they wanted her to do it again, not so much for Merrick but to see if she could do the same thing twice and that it wasn't a fluke. She finished, went to her agent's office to say that it went well and as she was walking to the elevator, the secretary ran down the hall to tell her that she got the part! The moral is, if you don't get a call back, go to the stage door of the show in question in tears. I'm sure it couldn't backfire terribly.

My Sunday night was spent seeing the brilliant singer Marilyn Maye at the lovely Metropolitan Room. She has the nerve to be in her seventies and sound amazing! And, be hilarious! On my way in, I ran into Christine Ebersole, who had gone to the early show. Christine stopped me and told me that she wants to come on my radio show! I had always wanted her to come on it but thought she was too busy, so I had been getting ready to stalk her stage manager while crying hysterically. Phew!

Well, as I'm sitting in the audience, one of the waiters walks by and tells me that there's someone at the next table I might be interested in meeting. I looked over and saw . . . Derek!!That's right! The Danny I've been mentally sending my apartment key to. I tentatively walked over wondering if an order of protection applies to a cabaret space, and was thrilled to find out that even though he'd read my column every week, he wasn't scared of me! He was so nice and told me he just got finished played Fonzie in the new musical version of "Happy Days." I'm going to repeat that in case you think April Fool's Day is now a week-long event. He just got finished played Fonzie in the new musical version of "Happy Days." Why a "Happy Days" musical? Why not Gilligan's Island with a lush tropical score by Flaherty and Ahrens? Why not Full House starring Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley as the Olsen twins? Laverne and Shirley with a Norbert Leo Butz star turn as Lenny?

Well, I'm off to start my week . . . and by start my week, I mean investigate where Derek lives and show up in tears.

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[Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway." For two years Rudetsky was the pianist/assistant conductor for the 1994 revival of Grease!. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.]

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