ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Everything's Coming Up Moses, Patti LuPone, Melissa Errico and More

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Everything's Coming Up Moses, Patti LuPone, Melissa Errico and More
 
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Rachel Shukert
Rachel Shukert

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Oy! Time to loosen ye olde belt. And I don't mean Patti LuPone's high belt. I mean the one cutting into my gut. Yes, last night was the Seder — and, boy, are my pants tight. I had the Seder at my place and it was full of the usual side comments while the Haggadah was read. There were a lot of old chestnuts bandied about but a new one was added by my mother. When she read the section about the Jews having to cast their sons into the river and only keep their daughters, she whispered to me, "The beginning of drag queens." True 'dat! Speaking of Passover, on Wednesday I played the title role in Rachel Shukert's Everything's Coming Up Moses at the 92nd Street Y. The Jews in the audience went crazy for the first lyrics of "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Normally the song starts with, "You can pull all the stops out, 'til they call the cops out…," but in this version Matt Cavenaugh sang, "You can stand and sing 'Aleinu', 'til they shout 'Dayenu!'" Brava. In the afternoon, when we were staging "Some Hebrews" (aka "Some People"), I told Michael Schiralli (the director) I needed something to take off the wall at the end of the song (to sell), like Mama Rose does. So Rachel added two lines that I loved before the song to set up the ending. I looked at the wall and said, "Aaron, that's a nice mezuzah. How much do you think I could get for it?" Aaron yelled, "Moses! That's my retirement mezuzah!" The Gypsy fans in the audience got the reference and I loved it because it made no sense. What's a "retirement mezuzah"!?!

Speaking of Gypsy, I called the most recent Tony Award-winning Mama Rose a few weeks ago to see if she'd do some shows with me in Provincetown. I left her one of my signature babbling messages and signed off with a quick, "Peace out, Patti! Take it up the octave!," just because I love her high belt. Later that day I got a message, "Seth. This is Patti. I got your message." Then, she carefully asked, with every word articulated, "Did you say 'take it up the octave'?" Pause. Uh-oh. I didn't know what was going to follow: A lecture about how taking something up the octave could potentially hurt your vocal cords? A curt, "I will not!," followed by a click? Instead, she burst into signature Patti LuPone laughter. Phew! And she agreed to open up the "Broadway At The Art House" series! Yay! Go to PtownArtHouse.com for tickets and let the belting begin.

Lin-Manuel Miranda
photo by Corey Hayes

On Wednesday, I had Freestyle Love Supreme on "Seth Speaks" on SiriusXM. Lin-Manuel Miranda started the group years ago and their shows are made up of totally improv'd hip-hop music, based on audience suggestions. If you've never seen them in action, take a gander at www.FreestyleLoveSupreme.com. I asked Lin about his current writing projects and he said that right now Bring It On! is touring, but hasn't come to Broadway because there's a lack of theatres available. That's always my problem when I write Broadway shows. Where are the theatres!?! And, because he can't stop creating, he's currently working on a musical about Alexander Hamilton, in which all the songs are hip hop. Natch. And he's getting ready to do the concert-cast recording of Merrily We Roll Along (April 9-10). I had heard that Stephen Sondheim called Lin and asked him to play Charlie in the Merrily Encores! production. Well, on Thursday at my Chatterbox, I interviewed Lin's co-star, Colin Donnell and he told me that Sondheim did indeed ask Lin to play the part but the offer was followed by James Lapine calling Lin and saying something to effect of, "As amazing as Sondheim is, he still doesn't get to cast my production." Snap! So Lin had to audition, and of course, got the role! Back to "Seth Speaks." I also interviewed Melissa Errico, who's married to Patrick McEnroe, the tennis champ and sports commentator. Melissa said sometimes it's hard to be around tennis people who only know her as Patrick's wife. She finds herself muttering, "I've kinda done some shows on Broadway. I sort of have my own CD and stuff…" But, P.S., she said she has no shame calling herself Melissa McEnroe when she goes to Wimbledon. Then, it's a lot of "Right this way, Mrs. McEnroe" and "Here are front row seats, Mrs. McEnroe." Delicious.

Melissa also talked about how tennis technique can be applied to theatre. First I glared, but then when she explained, I totally got it. She told me that she once was using all of her arm effort to slam balls over the net until Patrick told her that tennis balls actually go the fastest when you hit them with a relaxed arm. Who knew? It's the same with singing: Relax and you can get the high notes. Hm…maybe someone should have told Peter. She also said that when you miss a ball playing tennis, you have to immediately forget about it. You can't miss a ball and start thinking, "Why did I miss that? Usually I have an amazing forearm. Wow. Maybe I need to work on — " And…you missed the next ball. It's the same thing with performing. If I miss a laugh, I can't be devastated and obsessed it or else the rest of my performance clanks. Melissa also brought up how sports stars lose all the time. She was in the elevator with Venus Williams at a recent tournament and was totally star-struck. She later mentioned it to Patrick and he remarked that Venus had just gone home. Melissa was dumbfounded but she began to realize that great sports stars lose all the time and then they have to move on right away. It's the same with actors.... auditioning every day and constantly rejected. Speaking of which, my favorite/most depressing rejection happened to my good friend Kristine Zbornik years ago. She tried out for this headache-y Off-Broadway revue. Right after she sang, they gave her details about the contract. She then realized she couldn't do the show because it paid so little. She would have had to quit her other job, which paid a lot more. With the new gig, she wouldn't be able to make rent. Once she found out, she apologized and told them that she couldn't do the show because she couldn't afford it. The next day she got a call from them telling her that they weren't casting her in the show. What the — ? She already told them she couldn't take the job!!! I guess they were just clarifying that even if she could, they were rejecting her. If you've never seen Kristine, here's a classic clip

Eric McCormack and Kerry Butler
Photo by Joan Marcus

On Saturday, I saw the matinee of The Best Man. It's amazing that it was written more than 50 years ago and it's still so relevant. And the cast is so star-studded. James and I especially loved Candice Bergen. I've never seen her live and I thought her acting and comedy were amazing. Backstage, we visited Kerry Butler (who looks beautiful in the show and gets her signature laughs) and we noticed that there was food on every landing of the backstage area leading all the way up to her dressing room. Turns out, Kerry organized a Easter potluck buffet and the whole cast brought in food. Delish! And she was in the process of hiding eggs all over the theatre for a kids-and-adult Easter Egg Hunt. I will close with something that is typical of my friendship with Ana Gasteyer. I've written about this before, but if you don't know, we've had many real-life, sitcom-style mix-ups. For instance, one year I decided to have a game night for my birthday instead of a big party. I thought of having a "Catch Phrase" party but since I really love the game "Celebrity," I decided we'd play that at the party. I called Ana and told her I was having a "Celebrity" birthday party and she agreed to come. However, she sounded very weird when she agreed. Why so reserved, I thought? She showed up, I told everyone we were starting the first round of "Celebrity" and Ana started laughing and admitted why she was wigged out. She totally didn't realize I was referring to the game and literally thought I have a birthday party and inviting only celebrities!!! Like it was my chance to finally get on Page Six. So…this year on my birthday, which was just two weeks after my sweet doggie Maggie passed away, I got two emails from Ana. The body of the email was blank but each had an attachment: a picture of Maggie. So shocking! Why did I need to be reminded? I didn't know what to make of it until I got this hilarious email from Ana. Here it is:

Subject: OMG! One of our classic F-ups!
Please forgive me. I was resending the pictures of dear Maggie to my mom so she could work on a BEREAVEMENT card for you and I just realized I sent them to YOU. ON YOUR BIRTHDAY. So, a horrible painful image with no message. I am SO SORRY if I made you any sadder on your birthday and God, I hope you find the humor in this classic f***up. Xoxo

And on that note, happy Passover/Easter and, P.S., if you want to adopt an animal, Spring is a great time! Go to www.Petfinder.com and look at all the sweeties who need a home!

(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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