ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Just Another Montana Visitor — Asking, Telling and Kvetching

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Just Another Montana Visitor — Asking, Telling and Kvetching A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Seth hiking in Montana
Seth hiking in Montana

I'm surrounded by mountains. And, by people in the Tea Party.

Yes, I'm in Montana, and I feel right at home — if home were a place where the GOP wants to criminalize homosexual acts. PS, I'm not joking. http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/06/29/Montana_GOP_Releases_Anti-Gay_Platform/ .

Regardless, I'm in Missoula, which is actually a liberal area because it's a college town. Ah, I don't have to fear arrest…unless overeating at the local coffeehouse is a crime. Anyhoo, I'm here because I was hired to do a Master Class and Deconstructing Broadway for the Missoula [AUDIO-LEFT]Children's Theater, a fantastic organization that travels all over the world. They write original one-hour musicals and then send out two actors to various towns. The actors audition tons of local kids and teach them the show in a week (!). So they do The Princess and the Pea or The Wizard of Oz with two adults and 60 kids! Sixty? In my day, eight was enough. (Betty Buckley shout-out. Anybody?) And, they go to some towns where there is literally no arts education in the schools, so the show is all the kids get for the whole year. What's amazing is that since it's been around for 40 years, some kids from small towns do the shows as children and then start touring when they're adults. And, they don't just tour America: They have tours through Germany, Japan, China, England, Italy, Turkey, etc. Go to http://www.mctinc.org/ for more info. The master class I gave was for kids that are enrolled in Next Step Prep, a six-week theatre camp. They not only have teachers with them every day but Broadway folk in throughout the summer to give master classes. This summer they've already had Alexander Gemignani and Jason Robert Brown. The kids were great to work with and sounded delish in their group performance (they sang songs from 13). They were doing multi-part harmony, and, of course, it sent me spiraling into a resentment; I remembered going to Usdan (which is an amazing arts camp on Long Island), and the musical theatre majors did Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. No, we weren't four middle-aged chanteuses, we were 30 pre-adolescents. Appropriate? You decide. Actually, I will; no. Regardless, I loved the show, but was infuriated that the music director made us sings everything in unison because the harmony was "too difficult." Of course, even back then I had issues with authority, so I would gather all the kids in the music room during lunch and I would teach the harmony. That's right, that kind of can-do attitude got me where I am today; fired from many jobs for insubordination. Last week, James and I went to go see the Joe Mantello-directed Another American: Asking and Telling. It was fantastic. Marc Wolf went around the country and interviewed army folk who have been affected by the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy. He also interviewed people who support the policy. The result is an incredibly illuminating (and devastating) evening. He plays many gay men and women, and each story is fascinating and horrifying when you realize what gay service people have to go through. And yet, the people who believe in the policy make points that seem hard to argue with. But then, when you remember that armies across the world allow gay people to serve, you realize how ludicrous the arguments are. "But surely, those armies aren't as strong as our army." Let me say two words: Israeli Army. Next question. The show plays every Monday (all performances are benefits for various causes) at the DR2 Theater and you can get info at www.facebook.com/anotheramerican.

Seth with Anthony Rapp

On Wednesday, I interviewed Anthony Rapp at my Sirius/XM Live on Broadway show. I, of course, had to bring up the short-lived musical he did in the 1980's called The Little Prince and The Aviator. The first traumatic fact is they fired the poor boy who played the Little Prince! They then asked Eve, I mean, Anthony to move up from the ensemble and replace him. Then they made the original little boy become Anthony's understudy for full humiliation. Then the show closed before opening night! Yowtch! After that, Anthony hit the road as the little boy in The King and I starring Yul Brynner. As Yul came offstage, Anthony was standing in his way. So, naturally, Yul politely asked him to move. And by "politely asked him," I mean "punched him in the stomach!" I guess having a lifetime with the first name "Yul" can put anybody in a bad mood. Anthony also talked about his mortification while doing the final scene one night. As The King lay dying, Anthony was supposed to run to the back of the stage and say, "Mother! The ship!" Well, early in the run, they were playing one of those enormous touring theatres. Anthony ran upstage and said his line, but this night the audience heard an extra line added to the script. Right after "Mother! The ship!," Yul turned around and yelled "LOU-DER!!!!" I was shocked til I remembered that research has shown that when the real King of Siam was dying, he only had enough energy to give onstage notes to his fellow actors. Brava on the historical accuracy.

Then I interviewed Natalie Weiss, who is a fantastic singer I've heard on various YouTube clips. She recently was the understudy for the two back-up girls in Everyday Rapture and before that, she did the tour of Wicked. Check out her crazy belting here. http://sethrudetsky.com/blog. She gave us a little inside scoop about the ensemble of Wicked: At the end of the show, they're dressed in such big costumes that they can fit their street clothes underneath! That way, as soon as the show ends, they can whip off their costumes and leave ASAP. Tricky! I remember one violinist I'd sit next to during Les Miz who would wear his street clothes in the pit instead of wearing black. He would get away with it because he'd drape a large black cloth across his legs. The lap shawl was functional not only for playing in the pit, but also allowed him to be available to play Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music at a moment's notice.

Back to Natalie and Wicked. One night, she got ready super early for the final scene and just waited around backstage. Unfortunately, she wasn't totally ready. Eight measures before her entrance, someone yelled, "Natalie! You have no wig!" Yes, she was standing in her street clothes, with her costume on top of them, Wicked stage make-up and only a wig cap. She ran like a lunatic to the wig room, shoved on a wig and made it back in time to sing "Kill the witch!" Speaking of wigs, one time I was interviewing the understudy for the role of Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and she told me that her wig came completely off during one scene in Act One, and she couldn't get it back on. It wouldn't have been that awful except that it was the scene where the kids are trying to convince their father to marry her because she's so-o-o-o-o-o-o beautiful. And, to continue that same theme, Audra McDonald told me that one night after she died in Ragtime, the cast picked her up to carry her off and when she was fully up in the air, her wig fell off her head and landed on the stage. Hmm…"Sarah Brown Eyes" or "Sarah Bald Head"?

Back to me and my (lack of) career. On Tuesday night, I found out I had an audition for a film. Yay! I then found out the role had two (2) lines. Literally. "Who are you?" and "Who's the girl?" Really? Someone has to audition to say that? Can't they just offer the "part" to someone? I raged to my agent('s assistant). Why would I possibly take time out of my day to get a six-word gig? I was outraged, mortified and insulted. And, most importantly, desperate. AKA, I showed up early to the audition. Not surprisingly, my six words added up to one word from the casting director: No.

Speaking of filming, my episode of "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" is airing next week! It's the finale episode, and it's on Bravo Tuesday night. Of course, I'll be in Provincetown that night, performing with the amazing Varla Jean Merman in his/her annual benefit for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod so I won't be able to sit in front of the TV and watch it. But, if memory serves me, my performance was so broad I'll probably be able to see it without a TV. Speaking of Provincetown, I'll be doing Deconstructing Broadway at the Art House next Wednesday night. Ticket info for both shows is available at www.SethRudetsky.com. I'm writing this right after seeing Rent at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Lindsay Lavin, who used to intern for me, played Maureen and was sassy! Here she is at my Chatterbox http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV4AEDI-gOY. Her voice/placement/vibrato was amazing. At the end of Rent, she calls up to Roger's apartment for someone to come down and get Mimi, and as she "yelled" Mimi's name, she added vibrato. Brava! It was very Patti LuPone at the beginning of "Blow, Gabriel Blow" when she sermonizes: "Brothers and sisters! We are he-e-e-e-re (with vibrato) tonight to fight the devil!" If you don't know what I mean, watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keixiITpUPU. Oh! And tonight I'm playing and hosting the New York Civil Liberties Union Benefit at NYU's Skirball Center. For tix, go to nyclu.org. And on that note, peace out (with vibrato).

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.

Seth with Anthony Rapp
Seth with Anthony Rapp
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