Onstage & Backstage: Marc Shaiman is Hilarious in the Hospital and Laura Michelle Kelly's Journey From Cleaning Supplies to Leading Lady

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Marc Shaiman is Hilarious in the Hospital and Laura Michelle Kelly's Journey From Cleaning Supplies to Leading Lady
 
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly
Matthew Morrison and Laura Michelle Kelly Photo by Carol Rosegg

I'm writing this to you from…New York City! This is one of the rare weekends when I'm home. Starting next week, I'm out 'o town every weekend. Wanna know where? Here goes: First of all, next weekend is Memorial Day weekend and I'm going up to Provincetown to begin my Broadway@ series. First up is Rosie O'Donnell. I'm doing a show with her May 24, and it's the first one we've done together! I was a comedy writer on her TV show starting in the late fall of 1997 and my first assignment was to write and put together production numbers featuring Broadway casts singing a signature song from their show...but changing the lyrics to be about sweeps weeks. I didn't know who to hire to choreograph and I remember calling lots o' folks including Graciela Daniele and Rob Marshall, but no one was available. Then Mark Sendroff, my lawyer, recommended the guy who was the assistant choreographer on the '94 revival of Grease. I called him, he was available and that's how I wound up doing around 40 numbers with (future Tony winner) Jerry Mitchell!

My favorite of the ones we all did together is the 1998 Tony Awards opening number. Rosie told me she wanted it to be about her wanting to be a Broadway diva and asked me who the three "divas" should be. I told her, with no hesitation, Patti LuPone, Jennifer Holliday and Betty Buckley. Rosie's "go to" number on her show was "Roxie" because she knew it really well and the way the lyrics were laid out made it easy to write jokes. Here's the final product, which I love! Come see me and Rosie this coming Sunday!

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The next weekend I fly to Los Angeles to do Deconstructing Broadway at Largo May 30. Speaking of deconstructing, my sister Beth keeps telling me that this is my best one. It's a bizarre version of "Heaven on Their Minds" where the singer is not a native English speaker but as they say in the south "Bless his heart...he tries his best." It's shocking that this recording is a not a bootleg. It was professionally done in a studio, mixed and released to be bought by an unsuspecting public.

The following weekend, we're all driving upstate (with new doggie along!) so I can do my show for alumni of Binghampton University. My other sister, Nancy, went to Binghampton back in the day and afterwards went to law school at Cardozo. She just found out her study partner, Melanie, was made the Dean of Cardozo! She was hilarious in an email to me describing the difference in their study patterns. Melanie came to Cardozo with a background as a singer in clubs. I picked her or she picked me to be her study partner; she was so focused, but not in a crazy way; more like she'd take the subway from Bklyn, get to the library at 9 AM on a Sunday and actually just sit and do work til 1 or 2 PM. I would try to channel her, but my style was; I'd get there 9:30, 9:45, first go to the bathroom Mom-style, then smoke a cigarette (downstairs and outside!!), then go back up, then go back out again and get a blueberry muffin (for protein, of course), then kinda do maybe 45 min to an hour-and-a-half and kinda get 5% done.

I'd see Melanie leaving and she had literally finished whatever the work was and I was still straightening my skirt.....so yeah....

Speaking of emails, Marc Shaiman sent an email over the weekend because he was in the hospital (!) waiting to see if he had meningitis (!!!!). Even though he faced a possible devastating disease, his writing was hilarious. (Update: He's out of the hospital!)

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READ:

Hi, So, I'm not sure who has heard or who hasn't, but from the lack of floral tributes, I realize it is time to spread the word that I am in the hospital!

Last weekend, I traveled to St. Louis to see Jenifer Lewis get her doctorate and give the commencement speech at her alma mater, then flew to see my mother in Delray Beach Florida for Mother's Day, than from there, traveled up to Tampa to see the 3rd show of Bette Midler's fabulous new tour. Being with Jenifer, Claire Shaiman & Bette all in one weekend might now have to enter the medical books as cause for viral meningitis, for it appears that is what I have.

The day of Bette's concert I had a headache, but manageable. That night I couldn't sleep, and the next morning my head felt like I had just been to a 6 hour Iggy Azalia concert. I had my trusted assistant Richard call my doctor to beg to see me, cause dying in a Tampa hospital seemed redundant.

After searching for my car atop the wrong parking garage at Newark Airport in hideous heat for a half hour (remind me never to drive myself to the airport again to save, what, 10 bucks?) and then getting lost driving to NYC because of that damn Pulaski Skyway detour, I drove straight to my doctor. He took blood and sent me to get an MRI, where the picture came back with nothing in my head but 4 Chips Ahoy and an old VHS copy of Beaches. But with nothing dangerous, so, that's good. The next morning I felt worse. My doc sent me to a neurologist who thought I had viral meningitis (hopefully the viral kind, which just goes away, as opposed to the bacterial kind, which will deafen or kill you). This doctor takes his job very seriously, I know this because he never smiled once at any of my jokes. Motherf***er.

Speaking of him being a mother***er, he sent me to the ER at his hospital to get a lovely spinal tap. (note: I realize one of the recipients of this Email is you Rob Reiner, so, may I say congratulations: the movie is a hell of a lot funnier than the real thing!) The doctor told me the ER was the fastest way to get results, which is ironic because I went to the ER Wednesday (for 10 lovely hours) and it is now Saturday and I am still in this f***ing hospital because the lab has not sent in the last of the spinal tap results! Results that were supposed to be here Thursday, and then Friday. But on Friday afternoon, Dr. Humorless came in to tell me (not even sheepishly) that the tube had cracked, and they had to send back for some of my spinal fluid they kept on reserve! I guess this happens to them a lot…or maybe he just didn't wanna tell me yet that it is I who will be being memorialized this Memorial Day.

He actually said "please be a little patient."

I quickly responded "how about I be a little outpatient!?"

Not even a titter.

In conclusion, I was feeling a little better today (the way you feel when someone is only hitting you in the head with a hammer every ten minutes instead of every 2 seconds) until my nurse - who was in my room earlier while I was being visited by a male friend who is 45 years old and has salt n pepper hair - just said to me, "I have news, would you like me to wait till your son gets back?”.

Oh, my head.

xo,
Marc

Continued...

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The good news is he has the non-scary meningitis! Prognosis: He'll be fine. He's such a great writer! And speaking of writing, I'm doing an in-store reading and signing of my book "Seth's Broadway Diary" at the Tony Awards pop-up store in June. In other good news, I interviewed the lovely Laura Michelle Kelly from Finding Neverland on my "Chatterbox." She grew up on the Isle of Wight in England milking cows because she lived on a farm! There was a local lady who put on shows, and that's how she learned to perform.

She's a great supporter of local theatre because she'd never have become an actress without it. Again, I have to rage about the cutting of the arts in schools. The obsession with testing and the claim that the kids don't have time for the arts is such bullsh*t. How come kids in my high school were able to do theatre, band and orchestra and still have time to get good grades get into Ivy League schools? Was there a different time/space continuum in the '80's? It's so infuriating because if kids aren't given the opportunity to try music and theatre many of them will never discover their talent. So many stars I've interviewed tell me they realized they enjoyed performing because they arbitrarily found themselves in the school play. There is a whole generation who are not being given the opportunity to discover they love music/theater/art. The International Thespian Society (of which I was the president of my high school's troupe) has a new program called Jumpstart Theater which funds underserved middle schools to start a musical theatre program. It's not expensive and it sounds amazing! Take a look at their website, share it and make a donation!

Back to Laura; when she was 18 she read that the West End production of Beauty and the Beast was having auditions. Her father said he would take her to the open call. On the morning of the audition, however, there was a terrible storm and her father wanted to cancel. Laura insisted. They they got on the ferry to London from their island and the water was storm-tossed making her father repeat "This is a bad idea" but still she insisted. Laura was right to go because she got cast! She told me she was the "dust bin," a role I had never heard of. She then sang her "big" solo which was "I need…six eggs" and I remembered that the only other person who sang me that same solo was Andrea Burns!

Andrea was in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and when we were discussing what household appliance she played and I asked if she was a broom, she haughtily told me she was "the broom." I guess they changed "broom" to "dust bin" in London but they kept the role as the understudy to Belle. Laura went on a lot and they offered her the role...but at much less salary than she knew the previous Belle was getting. She didn't take it, which is always a risk, but she triumphed by immediately getting cast in a leading role in Whistle Down The Wind. Right after getting that part she was asked to sing with Andrew Lloyd Webber at his Sydmonton estate. To give you an example of how high-powered it was, the person who exited the port-o-potty before her was…Margaret Thatcher! P.S. Lord Lloyd Webber wouldn't let her use his private one?? I'm sure Thatcher thought; What country do you have to run for years to get to use a regular bathroom in this joint?

Laura also played Eponine in Les Misérables and loved it. However, one night she began "On My Own" and sang "On my own…pretending he's beside me. All along, I walk with him til morning." Suddenly, she completely forgot the lyrics. 16 bars passed while the orchestra played and she walked aimlessly, making "acting" faces. The worst part was, it was the 25th anniversary performance! After the show, she apologized profusely to Cameron Mackintosh who seemed miffed and she realized he was probably in the lobby during the most of the show and didn't even see it. Before you judge him, remember it's three hours long. Give the man a break. When I played in the orchestra for that show on Broadway I would have gladly taken a lengthy smoke break in the lobby for big chunks of it. And I don't even smoke! Ooh! Speaking of Eponine, the original, Frances Ruffelle, is coming to the U.S. this week because she's directing Paul Baker (who won the Olivier for Taboo) at 54 Below. Speaking of the "Chatterbox" this week I have two Tony nominated stars of Fun Home: Judy Kuhn and Beth Malone! Get info here SethsBroadwayChatterbox.com and peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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