Onstage & Backstage: Side Show Twins Tell All and Adventures With a New Puppy

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Side Show Twins Tell All and Adventures With a New Puppy
 
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Scooby
Scooby

I'm sitting in a dark, dark apartment. Why? Because light hurts James' eye. Not because he's slowly turning into Miss Havisham, but because he injured himself. Here's the whole backstory: A week before I went to Puerto Rico with the Playbill vacation, our 14-and-a-half-year-old wonderdog Scooby was diagnosed with cancer. She's had lots of health problems for the last few years, but no matter how dire they've been, she's always somehow managed to pull through. This time, however, the vet told us this would spell the end for her. We didn't know the time frame and hoped she'd have a few months left. I left for Puerto Rico on a Wednesday, and James planned on flying there for the final three days of the trip.

Every day I was down there, however, Scooby got worse. James canceled his trip because soon Scooby needed round-the-clock care. No matter what was done, however, she deteriorated. Finally, on Sunday, there really was no more hope, and she had to be put to sleep. For those of you that have to make this horrific decision, it's good to know that there are vets who will come to your house. Still, it's devastating and traumatic. Needless to say, we've been extremely depressed since then. Back in 2012, we had to put down my sweet dog, Maggie. I first got her when she was seven months old and she and I were incredibly connected. When Maggie passed away, we had Scooby and Sonora, and I didn't feel ready for another dog. However, on Monday, James said that maybe it was time for me. It was too soon to think of a dog to follow Scooby, but I thought that maybe enough time passed since Maggie.

James and I had just helped with a fundraiser for Animal Care and Control so, for fun, he went to their online site and looked at the available doggies. We didn't know exactly when we'd get a new doggie, but Tuesday morning he texted me a photo of one and said we should visit the shelter, just to meet her. On Wednesday, we all went over to the East Side and they brought us upstairs. There were so many cute doggies! They brought out the dog James saw online and, boy, was she incredibly shy. She had her tail between her legs the whole time we were with her and seemed very timid. I thought she was sweet but, as we say, a dud. They suggested we take her into a private room because some dogs are nervous coming out of their cage and need time to perk up.

At the shelter
At the shelter

Well, as soon as we were with her in the room, she completely changed personalities. Running up to all of us, licking us and being adorable. They told us she was a 10-month-old puppy, and her family had to give her up because of "personal reasons." What the-? Nothing is more vague except the excuse performers use all the time when they quit and/or are fired; "scheduling conflicts." The thought of getting a new doggie had always overwhelmed me. How would I know which was the right dog? It was a commitment that lasts for years and years. Maggie was so perfect... how could I ever find a dog like that again? Well, while we were in the room, there were so many signs that she was the dog to follow Maggie: She licked us non-stop, which Maggie always did. When she got tired, her tongue stuck out sideways, just like Maggie's. And then James remarked that she looked like a fawn and, he didn't know it, but one of Maggie's nicknames was Fawn!

Well, not surprisingly, our new doggie came home with us that night! We decided to name her Mandy, because when you're Jewish, you name someone with the same first letter as someone who passed away. Mandy is adorable and so loving and exactly the kind of dog I wanted, but the "fun" part was taking her home and then reading her paperwork more carefully and discovering she's not housebroken. At 10 months! The good news is, she's learning, and now she only has around one accident a day.

Mandy? Or a fawn?
Mandy? Or a fawn?

So, why is the living room dark? Because this morning James, Mandy and I were snuggling in bed and Mandy playfully reached out her paws and James' cornea got scratched! Thus followed an entire day of going to two different doctors, and the good news is the doctors said corneas can heal overnight. The bad news is, the doctor told us that besides kidney stones, a corneal abrasion is the second most painful thing to have! Poor James. So, we're sitting with most of the lights off because light is painful to his eyes. And because I've been told I look much better with 90% of the lights off (Phyllis Diller humor?).

UPDATE: We wound up going to the emergency room last night because, despite the doctor telling James that it's the second most painful injury to have, he didn't give him any pain killers. We went to bed at 3 AM after filling the Percocet prescription and then went to another doctor this morning at 9:30 AM who now told James it won't heal for another two days. Basically, the new puppy is 1 percent fun, 99 percent doctor visits.

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie
Emily Padgett and Erin Davie Photo by Joan Marcus

In news unrelated to injuries/animal shelters, I had a great Chatterbox with Emily Padgett and Erin Davie, who play the Hilton sisters in Side Show. Erin's first big gig was the Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber tour, where she sang many of his signature songs, including the title song from Phantom of the Opera. On the tour, whoever sings that song has to pre-record the final high E above high C. Erin has no problem singing that note and could have done it live, but they made her record it. Unfortunately, they first tried recording it in the theatre and because they weren't in an actual recording studio, they couldn't get a good mix of the sound. They made her do it again and again because they didn't like the quality. After numerous high E's, she "shockingly" lost her voice. They then brought her to a recording studio and because she now had the range of Bea Arthur, she could only hit a solid C. So they recorded that and, using studio magic, turned it into an E. Not since (fill in name of any current pop singer). That wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't malfunctioned one night: Erin sang the whole song, they played the pre-recorded E and the song ended. But the sound engineer made a mistake and, as she was bowing, the recorded high note played again! She was mortified and tried to tell the audience, "Yes! That was recorded! But they made me do it! And the rest of the song was entirely live!" Whew. That's a lot of information to convey in your eyes. Not since Norma Desmond.

Davie in <i>Grey Gardens</i>
Davie in Grey Gardens Photo by Joan Marcus

Emily talked about going to an audition for a rickety-rackety regional production of Grease around eight years ago. Sadly, no callback. That same day there were also auditions for the Broadway revival of Grease. She thought that if she couldn't even get a callback for a regional production, there was no point in auditioning for Broadway. Cut to: She wound up auditioning and got cast! Brava on not giving up! She was cast as the swing, which means understudying numerous female ensemble roles (and she covered some leads as well). When she was learning the show in rehearsal, she went into a slight panic. She was sitting in the balcony next to Matthew Hydzik, the male swing (who later wound up in Side Show!), watching rehearsals and taking notes. She suddenly felt overwhelmed by the responsibility they had; learning all those dance moves, harmonies, entrances, etc. for so many people. She wanted some words of support and wisdom to calm herself and asked Matthew about Kathleen Marshall and the rest of the creative staff. "Matthew," she asked, panicked, "How do they know we're capable of doing this job?" He answered, "They don't." Ah! So true! Emily manically started taking more notes.

Erin remembered her audition for Grey Gardens. She went in to understudy Little Edie and it went great. The creative team talked about what she'd need to do when she came back "next time." She left knowing she'd be getting a call back one day. Well, the next day, she was at her day job and checked her voice mail at around noon. They were many, many messages. After listening, she found out her callback had been that morning and she missed it! Her agent never told her! And they weren't having any more callbacks! The delicious news is, a few weeks later, there were more callbacks, and instead of being cast in the understudy position, she got the actual role! Here she is singing "Two Peas In A Pod" with Christine Ebersole. 

Hmmm... the song "Two Peas In A Pod" sounds like one of the vaudeville songs the Hilton Sisters would sing in Side Show. Speaking of which, Erin was cast as Violet first and wound up singing a duet with all the women auditioning for Daisy. She remembers loving Emily's audition because instead of belting her face off, Emily blended. Emily's memory is that she was so terrified she was too scared to sing out. I guess fear equals blending! Here they are on "The Today Show" sounding great! 

All right, let me end by suggesting you adopt a sweet companion this holiday season?! Look at these adorable photos and have a great holiday! 

(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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