ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: House and Garden — and the Broadway Flea Market

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: House and Garden — and the Broadway Flea Market
 
A week in the life of actor, musician and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Bj
Bj Photo by Matthew Blank

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As some of you may remember, last January, after looking for more than a year, I finally moved to a new apartment near Riverside Park. Yes, we had to lay out a ton of money for the security deposit/first two months rent, brokers fees (there were two brokers to pay) and the movers, etc., but since I stayed in my last apartment for ten years, I didn't mind dealing with the expense/headache because I knew I wouldn't be doing it again for many years. The "good" news is, we've just discovered that we have to find a new apartment. That's right, less than a year later, I'm back on Craigslist. I'll save the reason why as per my lawyer's advice, but suffice it to say, a bedroom has to have a window to be legal and you can't live somewhere that literally has no certificate of occupancy. So, we have to move. And by we have to move, I mean me, our dogs, Juli and James' mother who just sold her house in Texas and moved in with us. Perfect timing. So, I've spent the last week looking at apartment after apartment.

[AUDIO-LEFT] First I saw the three-bedroom duplex whose living room had a five foot grate on the floor through which you could have a clear view of the bedroom downstairs. It's exactly what I need for when I want to pull a Norman Bates… AKA dress up as my mother and spy on someone sleeping.

Then I saw a three-bedroom with a back "garden" that had plenty of dirt to plant in…completely covered in concrete. Then I went to the same block again with another broker to see an apartment with a garden that I was assured was not paved over...and he showed me the same apartment! "Sorry...I never actually looked at the garden." Then I waited on 76th Street for a broker who never showed up and didn't get my messages because she wasn't carrying her cell phone. Who walks around without a cell phone? Is it the early '90s again? Today, I saw a garden apartment that was actually a four-flight walk-up. I guess overlooking a garden is the same thing as having one. The only good part was, James and I strolled around midtown right afterwards and found ourselves on Equity Lane (9th Avenue). You can't walk two feet down 9th without running into a Tony nominee. James and I had a lovely chat with Stephanie J. Block and Michael James Scott and then met up with Gavin Creel and Andrew Kober from Hair. Andrew told us that during the matinee, right after his song ("My Conviction") when he's dressed up as Margaret Meade, the big flip in the front of his wig collapsed and all that hair covered his face. I nodded sympathetically, but inwardly thought, "That's nothing compared to the Chitty Chitty wig debacle." I was chatting with Julie Barnes (who understudied Truly Scrumptious) and she told me that one day she was on for Truly and while she was in the car with the children, her wig fell completely off. That wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that she couldn't get it on again unless she left the stage and had someone pin it all back and she couldn't do that til the end of the scene. So, she was forced to sit there and play out the scene wearing just a crazy wig cap, (which made her look like she was bald with black netting covering her head) while the children implored their father to marry her because she's so "beautiful." Torturous.

Over at Sirius/XM, I interviewed Benny and Bjorn from ABBA who were in town for a concert version of their show, Kristina. They told me it was based on a Swedish book. As a matter of fact, they told me it was based on "Sweden's most famous book." Unfortunately, that's like saying it's based on "the best-known song from Metro." I asked them about the phrase from "Gimme Gimme (A Man after Midnight)" that's used in Madonna's "Hung Up" and they said she called them and asked if she could use it. I couldn't get from them whether Madonna made the call herself ("Hey, it's Madonna) or if she had someone like Lourdes placed the call first ("Hi. My Mommy wants to speak to you."). Regardless, they didn't say yes right away. Bjorn said they wanted to hear the song first before they agreed to let her have the phrase so she flew to Sweden (!) and presented it to them. Of course, that's the amazing thing about living in Europe. You can hop on a plane and two hours later be in the Swiss Alps. Whereas, if I hop on a plane, two hours later I'm in the heart of Cleveland. And, PS, I'm not joking. This weekend I'm actually flying into Cleveland because I'm going to do an auditioning master class along with my Deconstructing Broadway show at my alma mater, Oberlin College. Go to sethrudetsky.com if you wanna come see it!

On Tuesday night, James and I went out with John Reid and his partner James Thompson. John used to be the manager for Queen so I asked him about the brilliant "Bohemian Rhapsody." John said that Freddie Mercury played him the song after it was first recorded and John loved it. But the feedback they had been getting from everyone was that, at almost six minutes, the song was way too long for radio play. John told us that Queen went back into the recording studio and, because the band was run very democratically, each member's idea for how to change the song was given an equal chance. Of course, it was taking forever and in the midst of it, John left them in the recording studio to keep editing and re-editing the song while he simply took the original recording to the record company and told them to press it! Brava on taking over.

On Wednesday, I was gearing up for my Sirius/XM Live on Broadway show when I found out that Dennis DeYoung cancelled that morning. So, I got on the horn and called my friend Ric Ryder (I did Grease with him), and he high-tailed it over and sang up a storm. Go to www.RicRyder.com to hear his amazing tenor. I asked him about his first Broadway show and he told me that he got cast right out of college in a musical called Senator Joe, a musical about Joe McCarthy. Anybody? He played a young Roy Cohn. Nobody. The first clue something was amiss was when he found out the producer had recently been in jail for embezzlement. The second clue was when the cast began to get paid in actual cash. The third was when the producer was arrested at the American Express office trying to get a plane ticket overseas and the show promptly closed after the third preview. PS, my first clue was when I went to IBDB.com, looked up the show and saw these character names on the cast list: "Ethel Rosenberg," "Lenin," "Huck Finn," "Ronald Reagan," "Lucy Ricardo" and "Chicken."

Diana DeGarmo

Then I had Diana DeGarmo who's currently starring Off-Broadway in Toxic Avenger. I asked about her biggest onstage mishap and she told me that she was touring with American Idol (she was the runner-up to Fantasia Barrino) and she was doing a song where she had to walk down an enormous staircase. Unfortunately, the staircase had no banister and she fell down the whole thing! She injured herself and couldn't walk well so she couldn't go on for the next few shows. But the producers started freaking out because audience members asked for their money back. So, the producers solved the problem of her not being able to walk but being able to sing by cutting all the staging of her song and instead having her suddenly revealed onstage, sitting in a chair. I said it was very "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" meets Madame Armfeldt meets "Weekend at Bernie's." Sunday was the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market and it was f-u-n. All of my Chatterbox DVD's were copied by the amazing Christie Ford, and she put together an amazing compilation that you can get here. Two of my interns, Chris Giordano and Lindsay Lavin, manned the booth for me all day, while I flitted in an out…taking breaks to record my radio show and then look at a horrible apartment in the village that claimed it had three bedrooms but was actually a duplex with a spiral staircase that could double as a firehouse/stripper pole and the third "bedroom" was simply a room with no door. PS, just put up a great video of Lindsay and Sherz Aletaha's sassy vocals with Daniel Reichard when we all did "Let the Sunshine In" with Lillias White, Darius DeHaas, Julia Murney and Andrea McArdle at a soiree in April. It's here. The Flea Market was chock full of celebs. While I emerged from the Men's room, I ran into Audra McDonald and quickly corralled her adorable daughter Zoe and Will Swenson's sons/should-be-Ralph Lauren models into joining Juli who was hawking delish home-made cupcakes covered in Nutella. (Check out their photo!) At the end of the Flea Market, there was an auction with some fabulous "lots" as we say in the auction business…and in scene on Phantom. "Lot 13" was a chance to co-host with me on Sirius/XM. I was terrified there was going to be silence during the bidding and then a frantic bid from James while I shamefully exited the stage quickly, but thankfully people started bidding right away and it went for a delicious $1,900. James was horrified, though, when he first got there because the stage was covered in photos of the celebs who were part of the auction and my old-school black-and-white headshot stood out like a publicity still of Norma Desmond. I tried to defend myself by finding another one like mine and James pointed out that the only other black and white photo was of Howard McGillin who's been playing the Phantom for ten years and therefore hasn't needed a new one for the last decade.

OK, this week I have Kerry Butler and Constantine Maroulis at my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show and then this weekend I'm off to Oberlin. There are lots of new Broadway shows in previews…go see one!

Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethrudetsky.com.

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Juli, Zoe and Will Swenson's sons enjoy their cupcakes
Juli, Zoe and Will Swenson's sons enjoy their cupcakes
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