ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Julia Murney, David Friedman and "The All-Beef Pattis"

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Julia Murney, David Friedman and "The All-Beef Pattis"
 
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Rudetsky performs Rhapsody In Seth
Rudetsky performs Rhapsody In Seth

Greetings from Paris, France! I mean, Red Deer, Canada. I get them mixed up because of all the similarities. For instance, they both take many hours in an airplane to get to. And thus ends the similarity.

Anyhoo, it's my second time here, and it actually is a very nice, albeit small town. The audience has been very welcoming, and the Ignition Theater Company went all out and put together my original tech for the show, which includes more than 70 cues and non-stop projections. Brava, [AUDIO-LEFT]Matt Grue! I'm still in the midst of my crazy non-stop traveling, but I'm also about to start rehearsals for [title of show] at the George Street Playhouse. I can't wait to work with that super-talented cast.

George Street has a Facebook page, and they posted my newest deconstruction for Sony Masterworks of Patti LuPone singing "Blow Gabriel Blow" in honor of our first rehearsal. However, the link they put up didn't lead to my deconstruction, it led to Matt Morrison singing "Younger Than Springtime." http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid89965101001?bclid=53925544001&bctid=632027659001. Hmph…passive/aggressive. Here's the actual link: http://www.masterworksbroadway.com/news/seth-rudetsky-deconstructs-blow-gabriel-blow.

Speaking of Patti's high belting, I'm reading Patti LuPone's book now and loving it ! However, I was secretly hoping she'd write about when I re-named her back-up boys. I was the sub keyboard player (for Andrew Lippa) when Patti LuPone Live played on Broadway. It was a fairly short run, and I only got to play once when Andrew took off to record the CD of jon and jen. Of course, I had my signature amazing technical touch, and an hour before the show began I did something to the keyboard where it completely stopped working. Andrew had to leave his recording session and come fix it. To paraphrase Harvey Fierstein, I think Andrew forgave me for that…yesterday. Anyhoo, I then did Patti's West Coast tour, and one night she said was tired of calling her back-up boys "The Mer-men," and she wanted a new name. I told her she should start calling them "The All-Beef Pattis," and she did! I still got it! I was anxiously waiting for a chapter dedicated to that moment, but I assume the book ran a little too long and she had to cut it. Hopefully, the audio book will add deleted chapters. Meaning perhaps I'll also get to hear her version of what it was like when I met her, for the first time, backstage at Grease. I was dying to be introduced but didn't want to say anything inappropriate so I willed myself to "act cool." My willpower lasted up until the moment I was face-to-face with her, AKA I simply stared and finally blurted out, "I love you." In acting school that's called "speaking your subtext." I'm sure Patti appreciated it and it had nothing to do with her hasty exit. On Wednesday, I had Julia Murney at my Sirus/XM Live on Broadway show. She proved yet again how easy it is for singers to do parts that are written for their voices. She said that singing Elphaba in Wicked was so difficult for her even though she sang a lot more music and much higher in The Wild Party. It's one of those things where the role of Queenie was set on her voice, and Elphaba was set on Idina Menzel's. Also, there's a lot more energy and stamina needed for Elphaba because she's always running around and acting hyper whereas Queenie was constantly emotionally shut down and would then haul out a crazy high note. One of the worst things in Wicked for Julia was all the yelling she had to haul out. It was always so hard for her to do it full-out, yet she demonstrated what it would have sounded like if she yelled in a healthy way, AKA in her head voice. It was essentially what it probably sounded like when Julia Child burned herself and/or Julie Andrews warming up. Of course, Julia had no problem hauling out her signature belt at the end of the interview. Watch this!

David Friedman

Next, I had the great David Friedman. David started out as a pianist/conductor on Broadway. He was one of the conductors of the long-running Grease with a band that had been there from the beginning. The band would constantly leave the pit throughout the show, but it helped David to know when a song cue was about to happen; it was always five seconds after the band would suddenly materialize in their seats. There was, however, one band member who wouldn't appear very often. The bass player had a special-made 100-foot cord for his bass, so he was able to play the show while walking around backstage. Brava!

David was also the conductor of one of my early 80's faves: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He recalled the time the show got a visit from the composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was way before he was a Sir or a Lord. Everyone simply called him Andy. OK, maybe that part is a lie. Regardless, ALW watched the show and thought the sound was horrible. He yelled that he had a good mind to close the show immediately. Well, they were on one of those crazy random Broadway schedules that had Thursdays off. Andrew came to the show the next night, saw that the theatre was closed and was horrified that everyone took him seriously! And from then on, he's never yelled at anybody. OK, maybe that part is also a lie.

David also conducted the first big three Disney musical movies: "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin." He's such an excellent conductor and is confident enough to trust the musicians — meaning that if the orchestra didn't follow him, he wouldn't blame the musicians, he would assume it was a problem with his conducting. He said that Disney filmed all the recording sessions, and afterwards he would watch himself. Lo and behold, if there was a mistake, he would see that it was because he wasn't being clear at that moment. But the mistakes were rare; I asked him about the opening sequence of "Beauty and the Beast," which was what they call "free time" in films. Many of the songs done in films are click-tracked meaning that everyone wears headphones where you can hear a metronome. The opening of "Beauty…" was conducted out of time until something happened on screen that had a musical sting. I actually got to play piano for a few films that John Kander scored ("Billy Bathgate," "The Boys Next Door" and "Breathing Lessons"), and in free-time sections, the film is shown on a screen and underneath it is an animated fuse. When the fuse gets to the end of the screen, the conductor knows that's when the next musical button happens. So, because film orchestras are often conducted by the composer, who is usually not a trained conductor and since the beginning of "Beauty…" was around nine minutes long, Disney gave David a three-hour slot to get the opening recorded. And…he did it in one take. Brava to a two hour and 51 minute break!

Nancy LaMott

In the late 80's, David went to see one of Nancy LaMott's cabaret shows at Don't Tell Mama. He was incredibly impressed by her voice and told her that she should make an album. She shrugged and said, "Who's going to produce it?" and he suddenly found himself saying, "I will." This began their long, fruitful collaboration. If you don't have their albums, get thee to iTunes immediately. He not only produced them, but he also wrote her some of the most beautiful songs I know: "Listen to My Heart," "We Can Be Kind" and, what has become the yearly anthem for BC/EFA's Easter Bonnet Competition, "Help Is On The Way." Listen! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW0EIpLdkvI&p=466216F4AB6D324C&playnext=1&index=3 Her albums were successful in the inner theatre circles, but she wasn't known nationally until the great radio host Jonathan Schwartz heard one of the songs on her Johnny Mercer album, called her and told her it was the best version he'd ever heard, and then began playing her music all the time on his show. David, meanwhile, was also working as a pianist once in a while on the "Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee." He said that whenever a singer came to town without their usual pianist, he played. He gave Kathie Lee some of the Nancy CDs to listen to and she loved them. Then, one day, Regis announced that Hootie and the Blowfish were coming up on the show. Kathie Lee sassed him and said, "If we can have Hootie booked, then I should be allowed to book one of my favorite singers, Nancy LaMott." And the on-air arm twisting worked! Nancy was booked and suddenly became much more well-known. Unfortunately, she had Crohn's disease her whole life, which led to her getting cancer. Right after her biggest CD came out, with a full orchestra orchestrated by Peter Matz (Barbra's orchestrator for all of her early albums), Nancy died at 44. David recently found four of her early amazing cabaret acts that were filmed by Bradshaw Smith. He and Bradshaw are going to release all four of them on a DVD and do a celebration of the found footage by showing them all on an enormous screen at Don't Tell Mama, where the shows actually took place. Go to http://www.middermusic.com/nancy_dvd.htm for tickets!

David also conducted the Broadway show that had a non-stop running highly memorable (and annoying) commercial in 1970's…Sarava. Mitch Leigh, who wrote Man of La Mancha figured out a way to keep audiences coming. He played the commercial non-stop and kept the critics away. How did he keep them away? He refused to officially open the show! It ran in previews for six months! Finally, David said, the critics essentially stormed the theatre to review, the reviews clanked and the show closed. It starred Tovah Feldshuh, and David says that she taught him how to do an interview. While she was starring in Sarava, she was booked on the Joey Adams show with David. The show often has a very Jewish theme and since Tovah had played Yentl on Broadway, Joey kept asking questions about that show. But Tovah knew her objective was to publicize Sarava. So, David said the interview went like this: JOEY: Tovah, what was Yentl like?
TOVAH: Wonderful. (Full of energy.) But Sarava is a whole new experience for me and the audiences are going crazy (etc….).
JOEY: What was it like being nominated for a Tony Award for Yentl.
TOVAH: Fantastic. (Full of energy.) And hopefully, Sarava will garner me one as well. After all, audiences are loving it (etc…).

When I asked David a follow-up question, he gave a one-word answer and then immediately started plugging the Nancy LaMott DVD showing at Don't Tell Mama. Brava, Tovah Friedman!

OK. I'm about to leave Red Deer. When I get back, I start [title of show] rehearsals, plus I have to film my new Playbill Obsessed videos (latest hi-larious Judy Gold one here http://www.playbill.com/multimedia/video/4396.html ), and I have to film my new Sony Masterworks deconstructions. And I have to rehearse for the Nov. 1 Only Make Believe benefit. I've been doing this event for years, and this year we're in the fabulous Shubert Theatre again. It's hosted by Ian McKellen, and I'll be doing two sections from Broadway 101. For tickets, get thee to OnlyMakeBelieve.org. And I'm out!

 

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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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