ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: My New Radio Show

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: My New Radio Show
 
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Seth Rudetsky
Seth Rudetsky Lauren Kennedy

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It's finally time to call me the Jewish Oprah. That's right… I'm getting my own talk show! Yes, it's not on TV; yes, it's not every weekday like hers; yes, my listeners will probably be one-tenth of one percent of her viewers; and, yes, my Emmy count is far less than hers at this point (zero vs. many). But, nonetheless, I'm super-excited. I've always wanted to have a talk show on Sirius/XM that wasn't just about Broadway. I pitched my idea to the head of the talk channels and he told me I could do a pilot. I was assigned a great producer, booked my guests [AUDIO-LEFT]and we recorded the show in December. And on Sunday May 7, I go on the air! The show is going to run every Sunday from 5-6 PM on Sirius Starz, where all the sassy talk shows are; Rosie, Barbara Walters, Dr. Laura. Um…let's just say Rosie and Barbara. The show is divided into different segments: I start by talking about my week, a.k.a. babbling. When I did "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," that segment was called "chuffa." If I remember correctly, it was called that because Rob Reiner would use that word to describe light chatter; as in "Chuffa, chuffa, chuffa." Next, I'll bring out my "celeb" guest for an interview. Then, I'll have an "up-and-coming" segment which will be an interview/performance segment with some type of performer, singer, songwriter, classical musician, etc. Then I have a segment called "What Do You Do All Day?," which is based on the fact that I basically don't know anything about any job that's not in the performing arts. Where do tollbooth operators park their cars? How does that crazy-ass typewriter thing work for stenographers and why does it only have like 15 keys? Then, for the "11-o'clock number" segment, I'll show the true similarity I have to Oprah: Gayle! She has her Gayle and I have my Gail; my therapist for the last 20 years. Because I've been addicted, I mean, immersed in therapy for so long I've become what's known in scientific terms as a "know-it-all." That's why I feel completely qualified to do an advice segment. For my pilot episode, I fielded two phone calls from people with problems and set them straight with some no-nonsense Dr. Phil./Dr. Drew/Dr. Guptah advice. And, yes, I have a good lawyer. Finally, I'll end each show with a phone call to my family so the nation can hear what I put up with every day. I mean, how much fun they are. For my first show, there's going to be a contest to be in the live audience, so stay tuned for details!

The original Oprah
photo by Aubrey Reuben

Right now, I'm in sunny West Palm Beach, Florida, looking out my hotel window at the view; tons of cars on the highway. Beautiful? I actually don't mind the totally depressing visage because I'm spending the whole day writing. I'm almost finished with Act Two of my Disaster musical (a.k.a. I'm up to the killer bees section). Of course, we're having a read-through on Monday and I'm still not done. Why has nothing changed since I took AP English? I still do all of my writing the day before something is due. At least now I don't have a hostile 75-year-old teacher who hates me (Mrs. Jaffe). One time, in the middle of class, she wagged her finger and admitted, "They warned me not to put you in the class!" I, of course, remained blank-faced and said, "Well, now you've learned your lesson." Then she became outraged and let loose with what she deemed her worst insult, sputtering, "Why don't you get out and….and play your music!" Yet again, I didn't change my facial expression and asked, "That was your best comeback?" Suffice it to say, I didn't ask her to sign my yearbook. For ticket information about the show, call (646) 336-1500.

I've been in Florida doing my deconstructing show and so far it's been great. The shows have sold really well and the audiences have been super-responsive. My mother, however, is traveling with me and sharing my hotel room. Here's the "fun" about being with her; when I got back from tech rehearsal, she told me that she complained to the housecleaning staff because the soap in the bathroom was unwrapped and wet. I told her that, shockingly, I had used the soap! How did she not know that? Did she think she was traveling alone? It reminds me of the time she, not surprisingly, complained to the housecleaning staff because it was noon and they still hadn't cleaned the room. She later realized that she was in California and hadn't re-set her watch, so it was actually just 9 AM when she started her complaint. Yay! Disliked across the country.

Speaking of dislike, we flew Spirit Airlines here. As they say in text language, OMG! WTF! We decided just to take carry-on bags because it's so much quicker when you get off the flight. When we were getting on, they told us we had to pay for our bags. I explained that they were the standard small carry-on's that would fit in the space above the seat. (I fly almost every week and always take a small bag with me.) Turns out, on Spirit Air, you have to pay $30 to put your bag above your seat! And because I didn't pay when I bought my ticket, I was charged another $15, so it was $90 for our carry-on bags!!! Then we got on the flight and the food cart came around. We had eaten so we didn't need to buy food, so my mom just ordered a coffee. Turns out, they charge $2! "But," the flight attendant added, "refills are free." Why wouldn't they be free? The coffee should be free, too! I didn't want coffee so I asked for just a cup of water. "We have bottled water for $3." I didn't want that much, so I just asked for a little cup. No cups of water. Yay! Just as Mrs. Jaffe said about the decision to put me in her class: "Never again!"

Laura Benanti
photo by Robb Johnston

On Wednesday, I interviewed the lovely Laura Benanti, who is so crazily funny. I was so excited that she got a TV pilot playing the first Playboy bunny. I thought for sure it would highlight her amazing comic chops. Turns out, it's a drama. And not even that new hybrid type of TV show, where it's neither a drama nor a comedy, but is oddly considered a comedy because there are so few sitcoms on the air these days. No, it's literally a drama. Someone please write Laura a hilarious role; Women on the Verge didn't last long enough and the Chris Durang show she did Off-Broadway was a limited run. Speaking of Women on the Verge, the CD has just come out. Laura sings a song that goes incredibly fast and has a ton of lyrics. She told me that backstage she would always joke and sing the lyric about how she feels like she swallowed a rock. But she would change the word "rock" to something that rhymed and was, shall we say, raunchier. Cut to: she was onstage and when she got to that lyric she started saying her joke word, but then quickly realized, so it came out "Feel like I swallowed a crock." A crock of what? Country Crock butter? One of the things I love about Laura is that she's so good at making fun of annoying singers. I remember the voice majors at school who wore the musical note scarves tied tightly around their throats (in the spring) and always had hot tea firmly in hand at all times. I asked Laura how she knows everything that self-indulgent singers do and she said because that was pretty much her in high school. We did a Playbill Obsessed video highlighting everything we hate/love about sopranos. Watch!

When I was at the Broward Center in Florida, I hooked up with Jeff Saver, my friend who I subbed for in the orchestra pit on Kiss of the Spider Woman. We were talking about pit musicians and how they're often on the late side. He told me that he was working a big national tour and the first song had the drums entering in measure 48. Jeff said the show would start and the drummer wouldn't sit in his seat until measure 47. The bass player came in measure 55 and he wouldn't plant it 'til measure 54. Everyone got used to it, but at one performance, the bass didn't come in. They expected him to be late, but not actually late for his entrance. Jeff was forced to play the bass part in his left hand until the guy showed up. He never did. 

This week James and I saw War Horse, and it was incredibly creative. It's mind-boggling that the horse is such an obvious puppet and has a face that doesn't even move, yet it's able to convey so much emotion. And with a very minimal set, the show made me see what war is really like — more than I ever have before. It's really a testament to the magic of theatre. However, I'm so obsessed with animals that it was difficult for me to watch the show because I kept imagining what I would feel like if I were separated from my dog. I've essentially become like those older women who only want to see shows that make them happy. Yay wearing blinders to reality!

This week I'm so excited to see the Easter Bonnet Competition which is Monday and Tuesday afternoons. Go to BCEFA.org for tickets for what is always one of the most amazing shows in New York. Then I'm seeing The Normal Heart, Tony Kushner's new show at the Public and the new Stephen Schwartz opera at the New York City Opera. And then on Sunday, I head back to the George Street Playhouse to do their yearly benefit. Tyler Maynard and I are going to do one of our numbers from [title of show]. For info on all my upcoming stuff, go to www.SethRudetsky.com, and now, since I'm on a plane back to NYC, I'm going to put my tray into an upright and locked position and take a nap. 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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