ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I Know I'm Never Getting "Ober" You

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I Know I'm Never Getting "Ober" You A week in the life of actor, musician and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Seth Rudetsky at Oberlin
Seth Rudetsky at Oberlin

Hello from my alma mater. I'm here in Oberlin, OH, and the college is still beautiful. Well, most of it. Oberlin is 80 percent stunning. There are all of these stone dorms and school buildings from the 1880's that are gorgeous… like Talcott. (http://new.oberlin.edu/resize_image?path=/dotAsset/185223.jpg&w=465). But there are a smattering of dorms like Dascomb (http://new.oberlin.edu/resize_image?path=/dotAsset/185187.jpg&w=465) that proves my theory that there was something the fifties gave us that was worse than McCarthyism. Who ever thought that building was attractive? Roy Cohn? Regardless, it's so great to be back here…and emotionally draining. It's bizarre to be walking where you know you walked every day when you were a teenager and then not be there again for years. One of the things I was mind-boggled about is how I managed to hang out with friends so often. How did we know where to meet? It was the late eighties, so we didn't have email, certainly didn't have cell phones and our dorm room phones didn't have answering machines. How did we know where/when to show up? All I had to do then was say a time and a place and I'd be there? Really? Nowadays, I have to do non-stop confirming by email, checking up by texting and getting an update by cell phone. And then canceling due to a fear of intimacy.

[AUDIO-LEFT] The best/worst news is I'm staying at a hotel where they have fresh chocolate chip cookies in the lobby at all times. It's great news because it's my favoritedessert, and it's devastating because I just invested a ton of money in getting the Zone home delivery meals so I can finally lose the freshman 15 I gained at Oberlin. I'm proud to say I resisted the cookies (AKA only had two).

I loved all the fun opportunities I had when I was in college. My two friends, Emily Nussbaum and Tim Cross, had a radio show called "Your Head On a Shtick." I guest-starred freshman year, and I still remember the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" spin-offs that we wrote:

ANNOUNCER: You loved the Mary Tyler Moore show. Well, now there's more Moore than ever before. We've got Mary Tylenol Moore:
Mary: Oh, Mr. Grant. I've got such a headache.
Mr. Grant: Mary, you always have a headache.
Mary: But tonight, I've got a date!
LAUGH TRACK
ANNOUNCER:Then there's Mary, Queen of Scots, Moore: Mary: Ay, Mr. Grant. 'Tis very tiring to run a country and a newsroom…in two different centuries.
Mr. Grant: But it's done wonders for your skin.
LAUGH TRACK
(FYI, I have a tape of that radio show, and we all pretended to be the laugh track after each sketch by doing bad fake laughing… but the funniest part is, for some reason, both Tim and I forgot to fake laugh on the last one, so it's just Emily doing a loud, panicked laugh by herself.)
ANNOUNCER: And finally, Mary Tyler Whore:
MARY: Mr. Grant, I want a raise. (Sultry) And I'm willing to do anything I can to get it.
Sound of Emily frantically laughing by herself
(Now Emily is a big time writer for New York Magazine…but she'll always be remembered for her exposed, naked laugh.)

Oberlin has some amazing Broadway alum like John Kander, Julie Taymor and, one of the best singers ever, Judy Kuhn. If you haven't seen me deconstruct her soprano/belting brilliance, check out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NytOXSH1SDQ&feature=player_embedded#). This week began with Yom Kippur. My favorite Yom Kippur line comes from the comic Jaffe Cohen. He busted how many people claim they fast, but their definition of fasting varies. He revealed that his mother's version of fasting on Yom Kippur is having a tuna melt without the cheese. Brava. Brav-oy? Speaking of mothers, my mom came to my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show on Wednesday where I had Donna Lynne Champlin a guest. Donna is making her first CD and has given herself the budget of $1,000 — for everything. The reason she can do that is because she's not only a singer, but she's also a musician, so she can do all the arrangements and play all the instruments. She's essentially the ensemble from the Cabaret revival. Donna said she'd been waiting for years to get a record deal because that's how she thought everyone made their CD. It wasn't until she was doing Sweeney Todd (she played Pirelli) with Patti LuPone that her eyes were opened to the truth. Donna was talking to Patti about her hope that one day a producer would come up to her and ask her to make a CD, and Patti broke the news to her about the current one she was doing. "Donna, who do you think is paying for my CD?" Pause for Donna's answer. Finally Patti yells: "Me-e-e-e-e-e!!!" Patti then added the word "for" before the "me" and won a Tony Award for it. Donna is keeping a fascinating and hilarious blog about the process of doing her CD at www.donnalynnechamplinsfirstsolocd.blogspot.com. Read it!

Then I welcomed Constantine Maroulis and Kerry Butler from Rock of Ages. Kerry was just doing Catch Me If You Can in Seattle, and she thought they were going to go right to Broadway. Suddenly, she heard other cast members talking about the shows they were doing in the fall and she was like, "Interesting. I guess I shouldn't have passed on those other gigs I was offered." She found out what she suspected: Catch Me If You Can is waiting for the right theatre and is going to open on Broadway later on. She then got a text from James Carpinello asking if she was going to take over the lead in Rock of Ages. She thought he was crazy until she called her agent, who told her he was in the middle of talking to the producers about it. Having an agent is sometimes like when you're four-years-old and your parents make a play date for you and don't tell you. Cut to: She took the gig and loves it. Constantine told us that some audience members take the free-for-all rules too far. There was a couple in the front row with an enormous plastic bag of candy…inside another plastic bag. During the one quiet scene in the show, the couple chose that moment to start rifling through the plastic bag(s) for a large, delicious handful of candy. Constantine couldn't believe the noise and in the middle of the scene, looked at them and said, "Dudes? Do you really think this is the best time to dig in your bag for candy?" Kerry also had her own issues with rowdy audiences. She said that at one point, early in the show, "when I'm not even slutty yet," she meets James Carpinello's character. Normally, he looks at her and says "hey," and she looks at him and says "hey." Well, one night, apparently that sexy exchange was enough to merit some guy in the audience yelling out to James, "You better **** that ****!" Fill in your own four-letter-words. You're probably right.

After the interview, I rushed back to the Sirius/XM building to interview pop music hit-meister, David Foster. It's well documented that David hates elevators and won't take them. So, he had to walk up the stairs to the Sirius/XM studios. Unfortunately, it's on the thirty-sixth floor! That's like my first walk-up apartment in NYC. Nevertheless, he seemed completely refreshed during the interview and was so fun. I immediately asked him about "The Bodyguard" because he produced the album and wrote Whitney Houston's songs as well. I mentioned the song "I Have Nothing," and he started playing the beginning on the piano. If you remember, right at the end of the intro, there are these loud chords, then a couple of beats of total silence...then the vocal comes in. I always thought that the silence was a very avant-garde beginning for a pop song and, turns out, David told me it was a mistake! He couldn't hear the click track through his headphones so he paused 'til he heard it again. After listening to it back, he decided he liked the space and it stayed! Listen to it at http://sethrudetsky.com/blog/.

On Nov. 9 I'm doing the tenth anniversary benefit concert for Only Make Believe, which is a great organization that brings theatre to hospitalized children. It's going to be at the Shubert Theatre, and the casts of Hair and Memphis are performing, along with Nellie McKay, Alan Cumming and some soon-to-be-announced Broadway sassters. I made up a theatre quiz and if you enter the contest and get all the answers right, you can win two $100 tickets to the show! Go to http://surveys.verticalresponse.com/a/show/356012/b3eb9fde69/0 to do the quiz!

Finally, tonight I'm seeing the Broadway in South Africa concert featuring three amazing beltresses: Deborah Cox, Kate Shindle and Shoshana Bean. It's at 7:30 at Symphony Space and all the info is at www.broadwayinsouthafrica.org. If you've never heard Shoshana's amazingness, go to http://sethrudetsky.com/blog/?s=bean&submit=Search. Go enjoy the beautiful fall weather!

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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