ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Everything's Coming Up Moses . . . and Danny, Judy, Heidi and John

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Everything's Coming Up Moses . . . and Danny, Judy, Heidi and John
 
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Danny Burstein
Danny Burstein

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Thus begins my month of traveling. This week I'm flying to L.A. to film another episode of Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the D-list." Yay! The non-stop traveling began last Tuesday when I went to Boston because the Speakeasy Theater gave me its Founder's Award. I was honored alongside Kerry Dowling, who's been involved with the theatre since its very inception on the administrative side and has also starred in tons of productions. Here's a sassy pic of the two us with our[AUDIO-LEFT] awards: speakeasystage.com. The people in the crowd and all the other actors were so incredibly supportive of her, and her speech had me and James in tears. She quoted the lyrics to the opening number from Bill Finn's A New Brain, which were so moving when simply read: "Stories of living, stories of dying and ways we can deal with our fear…stories of horses, parental divorces and how rich or poor it's a very small sphere where we appear. But you gotta have heart and music…heart and music make a song."

James and I took delicious Amtrak up to Boston that morning and stayed at the Marriott where the gala was held. What's always bizarre for me is that most people know me from only from my Sirius/XM show; hence, I was standing in the elevator with three guys who were talking to each other excitedly about "seeing Seth Rudetsky tonight." They obviously didn't know who I was, and at first I was loving eavesdropping on them but then became terrified that one of them would turn the conversation into how much he hated me. It actually reminded me of the first "Fantasy Island" episode where a guest views his own funeral and hears what everyone says about him. Anybody? Was anybody a chubby kid sitting home on Saturday nights in the 70s? Mason Reese, is that you?

Regardless, the event had great entertainment, and after I came up to the stage to get my award, I deconstructed a video of myself. It was me, in high school, jazz dancing to "I Am What I Am." There's so much to say, but let me simply limit it to my outfit: I'm wearing purple plastic jazz pants, legwarmer and white Capezios… because I decided they made a better line. Next question.

This week begins Passover, which is also my excuse to go Atkins. I'm doing a seder at my mother's house, which I'm sure will provide me with a headache-y story about her antics to share next week. The most recent is she now has two puppies and they use wee-wee pads. The sanitation guy was picking up her garbage and commented how much heavier the bags have been lately. For some reason, she couldn't tell him the truth ("Oh, I couldn't tell him they were filled with wee-wee pads"), so instead she looked concerned and used her improv training: "Well, my nephew has been having troubles… so he and his children are staying with me while he gets things straightened out." This prompted a comforting look from her sanitation guy while he extolled the values of family. She smiled humbly, and the conversation ended with him looking at her pious face and saying, "Bless you." And I'm out. This week we saw The Miracle Worker and all thought it was great. It's such a moving play. I was totally weeping at the end of Act one and Act Two and walked away obsessing about not only what it was like being Helen Keller but would I have had the patience Annie Sullivan did, and do the stagehands have a mini-breakdown eight times a week before the crazy "trying to get Helen to use a fork" scene knowing they'll have to pick up all that food that winds up on the floor?

Juli has decided that she wants to play Helen Keller one day and told me she'd be great because she can make her eyes not focus on anything. She then demonstrated her blank stare for me, and I gave her a thumbs-up. Let me also add that she's obviously been practicing a long time to play the role because she's perfected the art of not hearing anything when we tell her she has to clean her room. And on that Borscht belt note, cut.

I interviewed South Pacific's Danny Burstein at my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show, and when I asked him what he was up to, he told me he just played the part of an angry dad on a new FX series, and I had the uncomfortable moment of telling him it was a role I auditioned for. Silence. I then asked him about the time he spent understudying Lonny Price in A Class Act and asked him to tell everyone about his crazy baseball accident. He was about to go on for the lead in A Class Act for a week and spent the afternoon beforehand playing in the Broadway Show League. Cut to, he slid into a base and immediately knew he really hurt his ankle. He looked down and couldn't see his foot. Why? It had completely twisted in the opposite direction! He then found out he had 15 minutes to get it fixed (!) or he would never be able to use his foot again! He was rushed to the hospital where he proved that musical theatre is forever ingrained in his head: This is what he sounded like as they were trying to twist his foot back: Ah! AAH! AAAAH! (then, as it finally was twisted back) AAAH! (sings at top of range) Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o Dolly! Well, Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o Dolly!

Judy Blazer, Heidi Blickenstaff and Seth Rudetsky

I also chatted with Heidi Blickenstaff and Judy Blazer, who are both about to star in two one-woman, one act musicals at Primary Stages. I asked Heidi about her signature song, "A Way Back to Then" from [title of show]. She said it began when Jeff Bowen (the composer/lyricist) asked her to write a diary entry about her childhood and her journey through musical theatre. She wrote a very personal, heartfelt entry and brought it to rehearsal, nervous that she'd have to read it out loud. Instead, Jeff just took it from her, phew…but then set it music! She was at first mortified because it was so personal, but she then grew to love performing the song. She's now elated that something so personal to her is also something that resonates with so many performers. It's become a song used at auditions all the time and has gotten to the point where a casting person came up to her recently and said, "I literally heard your song 11 times today."

She was so nervous during the CD recording session that her heart was beating like crazy, and she said she can hear it when she listens to the recording. I listened and only heard some amazing belting and mixing, but see for yourself.

Judy Blazer has had a crazy career: first as a soap star ("As the World Turns"), then as the tap-dancing lead in Me and My Girl (even though she never tap danced until she got the role), and since then she's continued doing Broadway yet also giving Bach recitals since she's a trained opera singer. I brought up Titanic, which was one of the those shows that kept changing during previews. She said that after her part was cut down, there was a picture of her in one of the New York rags claiming she quit. It was under a huge headline that read "Broadway Diva Jumps Ship." Unfortunately, it was based on someone else in the show. There was a lady in the cast who didn't know the signature outfit women wear between a matinee and night show. As Judy told the audience, "No one wants to take off their make-up or wig cap between shows, so if you see a lady who's walking around mid-town wearing a baseball cap with make-up like a drag queen, she's in a show." Anyhoo, this other lady fled the theatre one day, and for some reason it was Judy who was accused in the paper of finding out her song was cut and then running down the street weeping while wearing a wig cap. It's a crazy and hilarious image. In actuality, Judy was not surprised her song was cut because, "You know there's trouble when, at the beginning of rehearsal, your role is changed from an alcoholic nymphomaniac… into a veterinarian." Yep, that old adage.

John Tartaglia

On Thursday at the Chatterbox, I chitty-chatted with John Tartaglia. As you know, he is a puppeteer and, not surprisingly, was obsessed with Jim Henson when he was a child. He wrote a letter to him but never received a personal response. A year later, he was summoned to the principal's office. Turns out, the New Mickey Mouse Club wanted kid reporters to interview their idol. Because of John's letter Jim Henson recommended him to be one of the kids considered. John was so excited! The group was narrowed down over and over again, and John was finally in the top two. He was mentally preparing himself to fly to L.A. for the filming when he found out that another kid got it. He was devastated (for years) and, during his show at Joe's Pub, he talked about his "hatred" for the kid who got it. After his performance he was approached by a man his own age who looked at him and said, "I'm the kid you hate." AH! As Andrea Marcovicci (probably) always says: "Be careful whom you dish in your patter for he just might have paid a hefty cover plus a two-drink minimum." Regardless, John and his rival "made up"…and haven't been in touch since. John has a brand-new show opening at New World Stages. It has tons of puppetry and was written for kids and adults to enjoy. Go to imaginoceanthemusical.com for deets! In honor of Passover, there was a performance of a "new" musical about Passover based on Gypsy. It's by Rachel Shukert and called Everything's Coming Up Moses. It was performed last Thursday night at the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and I got to play Moses!! I've finally lived my dream of playing Mama Rose. It is bizarre how much the stories parallel each other. In scene two, my brother Aaron tells me to stop promising to free my fellow Jews. I state, "Anyone who stays in Egypt is dead! If I die, it won't be from slaving…it'll be from fighting to get up and get out." I then launched into "Some Hebrews" and the bridge featured these lyrics: I had a dream. A dream about you, Aaron. All about God in a bush that was burning, that's all it took for the wheels to start turning. Here are more lyrics and a sassy picture.

I loved David Rakoff's take on God, which was dryer than the Sinai desert. During rehearsals we were both sitting in awe of the cuteness of Matt Cavenaugh who played not only Pharoah, but also the Tulsa character (named Cairo) who sings "All I Need Now Is The (Golden) Calf." As Matt was singing, I looked over at David's script and noticed he wrote so I could see, He's dreamy. I continued his school-girlishness by drawing a heart in my script containing S.R and M.C.. He then topped me by taking up a half page of his script with Dr. and Mrs. Cavenaugh. Touche.

This week is a series of concerts for Rosie's Broadway Kids featuring people like Tituss Burgess, Kristy Cates (from Wicked) and the Broadway Boys. On Wednesday I'm going to be doing Deconstructing the Brady Bunch Variety Hour. For those of you that have never seen the mind-boggling awful amazingness, please watch this small clip, which has all the Brady's dancing to "Shake Your Booty." First take that in, then take in the fact that there's a dance featuring Alice. Get tickets here and happy Pesach! *

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 contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.

Rachel Shukert, Dan Fishback, Seth Rudetsky and Matt Cavenaugh in <i>Everything</i>
Rachel Shukert, Dan Fishback, Seth Rudetsky and Matt Cavenaugh in Everything Photo by Len Small/Tablet Magazine
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