I'm writing this while sitting on the deck of the lovely Grand View Inn Bed and Breakfast in Provincetown. I'm facing the bay and the wind is rustling the trees around me. Also, it's freezing.
I'm pretending it's a lovely fall day and not an actual deep-in-the-heart of winter day. I love staying at the Grand View because they allow dogs, and Maggie loves running up and down the stairs that lead to the deck. I couldn't get Maggie here because James didn't [AUDIO-LEFT]come (he does all the driving), and it's too hard to get her on an airplane. This time, I'm here with my mom in a two-bedroom cottage that's attached to the Grand View. I don't want to call it a Honeymoon cottage, but let's just say that after spending a weekend with just me and my mom, I finally feel prepared to star in Oedipus with no rehearsal period.
The week began with a fabulous trip to the Tenement Museum. It's located on the Lower East Side, and it's an actual tenement that was condemned in the 1930's and then re-opened many years later as a museum to show the public what life was like for immigrants in the late 1800's to early 1900's. James and Juli and I did the most interactive tour, which meant we went into an apartment that housed a Jewish family in the 1910's and we "met" one of the young girls who actually lived there. We were in a group of about 15, and we were coached by our leader to say we were an Italian family who just arrived in the U.S. The concept was that we were considering taking an apartment in the tenement and wanted information from an actual tenant. He said we could ask the girl who live there anything we wanted to about her life living on the Lower East Side. Before we walked in, the group leader told us that everything in the apartment is exactly as it was 100 years ago, except for two differences: an air conditioner had been added and a big electric exit sign. Then he warned us, "You can ask 'Victoria' about anything, but please don't ask her about those two items because she won't know what they are. (Then he pointed at me) Even if you think of yourself as a very funny and witty person." Ouch. I guess he heard my "hilarious" side comments to James as he gave his initial speech.
Regardless, we went into the apartment and met an actress playing Victoria Confino (a Jewish girl who really lived in that very apartment when she was 14 in 1916). Let me just say that the actress was amazing. She made the whole experience so realistic. She had an answer (spoken with an amazing European accent) for everything we asked: Where do you take a shower? "I take bath once a week at baths on corner of Orchard Street. It's very good. You should try it. 10 cents." Where do you sleep? "In kitchen on goat hair blanket I make. And all my brothers sleep in living room. Over here is where Saul (pronounced Sa-ool) sleeps. Oh…I mean Bob. That's what he calls himself now." It was very moving to see how tiny the apartment was and think what it was like to have an enormous family crammed into it. "Victoria" was also so funny in a very quiet/not realizing it way. "What about your landlord?" we asked. "Is he a good person? "Well, I don't know if he's a good person," she answered, "but he's not a good landlord." As we left, we were all talking about how realistic it was talking to her and asked the group leader if that was her real accent. He remained mum. Then, after we had some non-dairy/gluten free desserts at Babycakes Bakery, we got on the D train…and saw "Victoria"! She was off duty, and we found out her name is actually Elly Berke. Turns out, she doesn't have an accent, she's just an amazing actress. It was such a great experience. Go to www.tenement.org/Virtual_Tour/vt_constory.html for more info.
On Wednesday, I interviewed Christine Andreas and Robin De Jesús, both from La Cage aux Folles. Robin had just come from Lin-Manuel Miranda's wedding and said it was a fabulous three-day affair. The first day was a barbeque, the second was the ceremony and the third was a brunch. Robin was only able to come to the ceremony, and he was part of the big In the Heights choir. I had run into Lin on the subway a few days before, and he told me that all the original leads of In the Heights were singing a sassy arrangement (by Alex Lacamoire) of "All That I Need" with the lead sung by Chris Jackson and his wife. The way Robin was describing the wedding makes it sound like it should have been a show at Madison Square Garden. First there was a world-famous Salsa band, then Lin free-style rapped, then Ruben Blades did a set! When Robin started telling me about the choirs and then the "exit music," I questioned whether Lin had to post an Equity bond to get the wedding produced. If you don't know the song "All That I Need," watch my Kelly Clarkson deconstruction: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT62fhXWpsg.
I asked Christine about her first Broadway musical, which was the mid-70's revival of My Fair Lady. Right beforehand, she had gotten cast as the maid (the Angela Lansbury role) in the Broadway revival of Angel Street (which is the movie "Gaslight"). She had to leave during the run when she was cast as Eliza Doolittle, and a future two-time Tony Award winner took her place in Angel Street. Any guesses? Christine Andreas was replaced by…. Christine Ebersole!
I first saw Christine Andreas on a sixth-grade class trip to Oklahoma! where she was playing Laurie. I loved her voice (and, as many of you know, I am primarily a fan of the beltress, not the soprano). She has such a cool voice. It always has a slight rasp (a la Andrea McArdle), and her speaking and singing voice sound exactly alike. She remembers the director (Jamie Hammerstein) telling her that he was obsessed with the beautiful elision she'd do in "Out of My Dreams." The same one I was obsessed with! "…then out of my dreams I'll go-o-o-o-o-o-----into a dream with you…" Get thee to the CD, which also features Martin Vidnovic as Jud, Laurence Guittard as Curly and Christine Ebersole as Ado Annie. Oklahoma! was at the Palace, and Christine remembered singing "Out of My Dreams" while lying on the floor. She said it was so beautiful to see the orchestra playing for her and be so close to the audience at the same time. And, she made sure she told us that there were no body mics in the show. Everyone sang to "hit the back wall." She remembers that the acoustics in that theatre were amazing, and when you actually did hit the back wall, the sound bounced back towards you.
Provincetown has been great. I hung out with my friend Mark Cortale all weekend, and we've been laughing up a storm. We told my mom one of my favorite Mark stories about his friend Diane (who shall remain last name-less). The first one was about her father's "thriftiness." Whenever Diane's family would go out to brunch, her dad would always balk at the price of the orange juice. He therefore told everyone to drink a glass of orange juice in the house before they left because it was so much cheaper. But, he wanted it to feel like they were drinking it at brunch, so he made everyone wait till the last possible moment before their precious OJ. Diane told Mark that she spent many Sundays with her family, standing near their front door, completely buttoned up in the jackets, drinking orange juice. We're obsessed with that image. Secondly, Diane used to work as a receptionist in a recording studio. One day, all of the expensive audio equipment was stolen. Diane was interviewed by the police and asked if she saw any suspicious activity before the robbery. She told them that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Pause. Except, for the visit from the firemen. What firemen? They asked. She then explained that a couple of firemen came the day before and told her that they needed to see all of the ways in and out to make sure the studio was safe in case of a fire. She proceeded to show every entrance and exit and how they all opened and closed. When asked what kind of uniforms the firemen were wearing, she paused and replied that they were "plain-clothed firemen." Hilarious. And, speaking of fires, she was fired.
And now, my fall time in P-town is ending. Betty Buckley's shows were incredibly well-received. And, on the last show, she welcomed Adam Berry to the stage. Adam is a terrific singer, and he sang a gorgeous rendition of Craig Carnelia's "Flight". Here's his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/AdamBerryJ OK…have a great week and to my fellow Jews, have an easy fast!
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.