ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Jan Brady Superstar!

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Jan Brady Superstar! A week in the life of actor, writer and music director Seth Rudetsky.

Eve Plumb
Eve Plumb Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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Oftentimes on my Sirius/XM radio show I give a special shout-out to children who are listening; I tell them that when I was their age, I was like them…obsessed about celebrities. I would fantasize about Fonzie coming over to my house or about hanging out with Patti LuPone. Then I tell them that I grew up and not only got to meet most of the celebs I loved while I was a child, but I also got to accompany them while they sang the songs I listened to relentlessly in my youth! I've played for Betty Buckley as she sang "He Plays the Violin," Patti LuPone singing [AUDIO-LEFT]"Anything Goes," Howard McGillin doing "A Man Could Go Quite Mad," Andrea McArdle belting "Tomorrow," Melba Moore sassing "I Got Love" and many more. I want them to know that they can go from being a fan to one day being (some sort of version of) a peer. It's my way of counteracting what I think a lot of children are told, which is summed up by Cassie's line in "Hello Twelve...": Listen to your mother, those stage and movie people got there…because they're special..

Well, yet again I got to meet and hang out with one of childhood faves: Eve Plumb! Yes, the Jan Brady and I chatted it up at my Sirius/XM "Live on Broadway" show. I met her last year at Broadway Backwards and she told me that she wanted to do a play in New York. Cut to one year later, she's doing Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage! Brava Secret-ing it, Oprah-style. Of course, I immediately asked her about the "Brady Bunch Variety Hour." If you do not know, there was an hourlong series in 1977 that featured the Brady Bunch singing and dancing. To current songs. In Spandex pants suits. Suffice it to say, it was cancelled after nine episodes. Even in the '70s it was too much for us to bear and, quite frankly, at that time the country was using a pretty low bar. Anyhoo, if you have any knowledge of the show, you're aware that the whole cast did it, except Jan. The producers thought that if they got another girl with blonde hair, no one would notice.

Apparently, they had just seen the film "The Stepford Wives" and thought the country would fall for the ruse. The rumor had always been that Eve couldn't do the TV show because she was filming "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway." Well, I finally got to ask her where she was during those nine delicious episodes and, turns out, "Dawn" was not the reason! She told me that her father knew Sid and Marty Krofft's oeuvre (they were the producers) and he told Eve that if she did it, it would be a low point in her career. That's right, she turned it down because her father knew it was going to clank! Was he a psychic? A mystic? Why would he think a full hour of the Brady Bunch dancing and singing songs like "Shake Your Booty" and a disco version of "When You Wish Upon a Star" would be a misstep? You may know that I have a whole show dedicated to deconstructing all nine episodes and here's a link to a little clip.

Eve ended the interview with a performance of "When You're Good To Mama" and hopefully the Weisslers will listen when the show airs on Sirius/XM Feb. 11 at 7 PM. We've already had Greg in Romance Romance, Marcia in Grease and Carol in a string of musicals during the Golden Age. Bring Jan to Broadway! I also interviewed Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso who run Cast Party at Birdland every Monday night. Jim is the host and Billy is the music director/pianist. Cast Party is basically an open mic where everyone from Broadway stars to amateurs get up and sing. They're having a big celebration at Town Hall on Feb. 17 benefiting BC/EFA with an amazing cast including Chita Rivera, Sally Mayes, Chris Sieber and, of course, Liza Minnelli. I asked Billy and Jim how they hooked up with Liza. Turns out, in the early '90s, Billy was playing at a piano bar in the Village. Liza came in and he decided not to play "New York, New York" or one of her signature hits. Instead, he played a theme to one of Vincente Minnelli's films. Liza was so impressed that she wound up promising him she'd come to his show at a club called Eighty-Eights. Billy called his good friend Jim (whom he knew from their home state of Texas) and told him Liza was coming to his show. Jim said there was no way she was showing up…but, of course, that didn't stop him from coming to the show just to make sure. Lo and behold, Liza did show up, Jim chatted her up in the audience and they all became friends. And eventually collaborators. Billy's music-directed for her many times and Jim was one of her fabulous sidemen in her last Broadway venture. And all because she wandered into Billy's piano bar. Hmm…let me think of something similar that happened to me when I worked piano bar in the Village. Well, one time someone got so drunk that they peed on the floor. So…yeah.

Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

I asked Jim to tell me one of his many showbiz stories, and he and Billy started cackling over a classic Lisa Kirk tale I had never heard. She was the original Lois in Kiss Me, Kate and I was obsessed with her "Tom, Dick or Harry" when I was a kid. P.S. not only did I listen to that on a record, but it was literally a 78. When did I grow up? During the '40s? Anyhoo, Lisa Kirk lived in a big apartment building and Billy and Jim heard that she always wanted people to recognize her. She'd be on an elevator and wait the whole time for a fan to be star-struck and if no one gave her a second glance, she would make herself known by talking to herself. And using her name. She'd wait a respectable amount of time and finally she'd let out little laugh like she was remembering something silly she had just done, then follow it with "Oh, silly me…Lisa Kirk." I'm obsessed with how pointed and specific it is. Some people say, "So, I said to myself, 'Self'…" but she literally spoke to herself with her first and last name. Speaking of needy celebs, Ihad a great time in Sioux City last weekend. A wonderful gay couple who teach at Morningside College hosted me and told me they've been together for 23 years! Iowa is one of the few states that allows gay marriage and they got married last year. Well, the Republicans gained power in the last election and are using it to try to take away marriage rights. What does anyone gain out of nullifying their relationship? I find it so sad and mean-spirited. Regardless, my master class went great and I got a delicious standing O at Deconstructing Broadway. Because it wasn't cold enough in Iowa (minus 4!), this week I'm in New Market, Ontario, with Andrea Martin. Here's the link for tix. And, by the by, Andrea's show won Best Theatrical Event in the Broadway World Toronto Awards. And, not to brag, my show Deconstructing Broadway, placed. That's right, placed. I'm sort of obsessed with the amount of qualifying. My show was not just a runner-up, but it was actually second runner-up. And not just second runner-up, it tied with two other shows. I haven't seen that much qualifying since my friend auditioned for La Cage Aux Folles and was told she was third choice… to be the understudy. Yowtch!

My two newest videos are the bizarre song "Quiet" from Candide with a young Barbara Cook and the hi-larious Susie Mosher in my "Obsessed!" series for Playbill Video. Barbara sounds stunning and Susie does two hilarious songs mining whatever comedy you can about having an unstable, alcoholic mother. Watch them and then, 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.)

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