ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: From London, Ontario, to the George Street Playhouse

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: From London, Ontario, to the George Street Playhouse A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Andrea Martin
Andrea Martin

Hello from my dressing room at the George Street Playhouse.

I'm about to do the final dress rehearsal of [title of show] before our first preview on Tuesday night. Of course, I pulled my signature, which is being out of town during crucial rehearsal. If you recall, during the final weekend of They're Playing Our Song I had to do shows in Provincetown and Canada. Yet again, I was in Canada yesterday doing Andrea Martin's show while the cast was at the theatre all day. [AUDIO-LEFT]

Andrea and I got to LaGuardia early in the morning on Saturday to fly to Toronto and spent the time at the gate chitter-chattering. Suddenly, we looked up, and all the passengers had lined up. But, not to get on the plane. They were lined up to speak to the gate agents. We walked over and asked all the passengers why they were lined up. We were met with three things: a. staring b. not answering and c. "I don't knows." We asked if the plane was delayed or cancelled. We were again met with a, b and c with an emphasis on b. We finally found out the plane had been cancelled! We had a show that night so we panicked and quickly decided we'd beat the line by going to a different airline and buy tickets for another flight. We were told by a nice ticket agent lady that we could get two tickets on the next flight to Toronto…for $1,000 each! Right at that moment, we heard that all passengers who were on the cancelled flight to Toronto had been automatically switched to the next flight for free. So we hightailed it away from the $1,000 ticket lady and went crawling back to the initial line.

Jessica Stone and Christopher Fitzgerald
photo by Matthew Blank

Andrea and I got to Toronto and then began the two-hour drive (!) to London, Ontario. By the way, they don't just try to trick you with the name London. On the way there, we literally drove through Cambridge! What is up with Canada? Why are they like England's version of Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Single White Female"? Andrea told me that she just did a reading of a new musical based on the film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Willy Wonka was played by Martin Short and the rest of the cast was filled with amazing comedians. Chris Fitzgerald, Jessie Stone, Jackie Hoffman, Brooks Ashmanskas and many more did small roles to help out Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, who wrote the score. There was only a small amount of rehearsal time, and it seemed like too much for children to learn the whole show, so adults played the kid roles (AKA Chris Fitzgerald was Augustus Gloop). Of course, Jackie Hoffman was her usual hilarious self during rehearsal, and at one point Sam Mendes was marveling at the level of talent in the room. He told them that he was cowed at how accomplished they all were and how wonderful it was they were doing the reading. Then he added, "Of course, we could never get you for the full production." Meaning, that they would all cost too much money. Jackie then said, "You could." Brava on the directness! The show is probably first going to be done in the West End, and Jackie said that she was "very happy to bust my a** to get someone else a job in England in two years." She then added, "Helen Mirren will be wonderful." Speaking of Jackie, she's about to star in a brand-new show she's written "celebrating" her 50th birthday. Go to JoesPub.com for deets!

Darius de Haas
photo by Steve Vaccariello

Last Tuesday, I did a show at the Westbury Music Fair. I got hired to put together a "Best of Broadway"-type show and I used James, Darius deHaas, Gay Willis, Julia Murney and Capathia Jenkins. The show was amazing. And, it was sold out…all 2,800 seats! I've never been to the Westbury Music Fair, but I'm from Long Island, so I grew up hearing about it. Well, what I didn't know was that it's in the round. Tony Rende, who hired me to do the gig, got us an enormous limo that picked us up early in the morning. On the way out, I told the actors that they had to make sure they walk around the stage so the whole audience sees them. Well, turns out, there was no need to do that, because the whole stage rotates! Seriously. It takes something like 11 minutes to do a complete rotation, so every time one of my singers ended a song, they had no idea where the exit from the stage was. It would still be turning, and the audience members that were sitting in the exit row would raise their hands and the singer would make a run for it. The crazy part was you had to make sure you made it from the opening of the stage to the opening of the exit aisle before the stage turned too far. I said it was like a game of "Frogger." Remember -- you had to cross the stream at the perfect moment a log went by? The audience was all made up of people who could understudy Madame Armfeldt age-wise, so I think my 1980's video game reference went over their shawls. Tyler Maynard and I drive to the George Street Playhouse a lot with Lauren Kennedy, and we were discussing onstage mishaps (my fave). We were saying that the gun at the end of West Side Story often fires by accident or doesn't fire at all. Apparently, Lauren knows of one performance where Chino went to shoot Tony at the end of the show and the gun didn't go off. Tony had to die, so he feigned that the sight of the gun….gave him a heart attack. What? Then when Maria brandished the gun to the Sharks and the Jets, instead of saying, "How many bullets are left in this gun? Enough for you? And you?" She made it more specific and said, "Enough to give a heart attack to you? And you?"

Tyler Maynard and Seth Rudetsky
photo by T. Charles Erickson

The last story sounds like folklore, but Tyler was actually at a performance of Sweeney Todd where the guy playing Sweeney shooed the Beggar Woman out of his shop with his signature "Off with you! Off with you." Unfortunately, it was the scene where he was supposed to kill her! The whole end of the show rides on the fact that the Beggar Woman is dead, so Mrs. Lovett came out and decided to save the day by killing her with an ax. But, it was a real ax and too dangerous to use close to someone's body. So, as she yelled, "Die! Die!" and swung the ax downward, she was forced to stop a good two feet above the Beggar Woman. I guess it allowed the audience to use their imagination. And ask for their money back.

Well, the dress rehearsal went great! I can't wait until the show officially opens this Friday! And I have the whole cast coming to my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show on Wednesday. I'm interviewing them and then we're going to sing from the show! Come by the Times Square Information Center Wednesday at noon (next to the Palace Theatre) to see us. And furthermore, 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 Rudetsky and Lauren Kennedy
Seth Rudetsky and Lauren Kennedy
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