ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Music and the Broken Mirror

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Music and the Broken Mirror A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

I am writing this from Provincetown where I am finally not covered in sweat.

Yes, the Cape, which is known for staying cool no matter what happens on the rest of the East Coast, had a heat wave. My friend, who has lived here for years, said he's never experienced anything like it. The fun part is, this was the weekend I decided to take my mom with me. And, she's 79. The first horrible part was JetBlue. They made us check our carry-on bag because the flight was full. Not to worry, they said, the bag would be waiting for us on the jetway as soon as we got off the flight. Excellent, since we had to make a connection immediately after we landed. Well, we got off the JetBlue flight, and suddenly the Boston luggage guy said that all of the luggage was going to go to the carousel. I [AUDIO-LEFT]panicked-ly explained that our connecting flight took off in a matter of minutes and we needed the carry-on bag now…like we were told. He took our tag and said no problem. After waiting for a while, a flight attendant told us not to wait anymore —the luggage was taken to the carousel! What?!?! I told her that I had given my tag to the luggage guy because we had a connection, and he told us he was bringing it up. She reiterated that it was sent to the carousel. Yay! So, I had to exit the area, hightail it to the luggage carousel and then go through security all over again. Shockingly, we missed our connecting flight. JetBlue, there may be a lyric in Legally Blonde where they mention you and then sing "thank you," but I'd like to re-write it with another word before the "you."

The nachtmare didn't end there. P-town prides itself on never being hot, so much of the housing doesn't have A/C. Cut to, my mother was completely red-faced from the heat when we were walking around Provincetown, and I was so dying from my house having no air circulation that I wound up buying an emergency air conditioner. But before it got installed, I decided to take the teeny, tiny fan that was provided in my house and plug it into her room. I moved the dresser to get to a plug, and the mirror which I thought was attached to the dresser, wasn't. Yes, it completely fell forward…on my mother's head. It was fun for us to spend the end of the heat wave at Urgent Care while her reflexes were tested and she was asked if she was nauseous or dizzy. Thankfully, she didn't require a CAtscan. And now she has a new story to add to her roster of things I've done wrong (including the time I made a left turn as a teenager and "looked over his left shoulder by completely turning his body around!").

The last time my mother stayed for a long time in Provincetown was in the late 50's when she was pregnant with my oldest sister. She and my dad had a place near the water, and even though my mom was pregnant, she did most of the housework. My dad enjoyed himself by lying outside, strumming on his guitar. My mom couldn't understand why the neighbors seemed to ignore her and yet were friendly to him. She finally found out that they thought he was gay…and she was the maid! And that sums up my childhood.

Before I got up here, I did my talk show, Seth Speaks, for Sirius/XM. Brooke Shields came by, and even though it was between shows and she was in half Morticia make-up, she looked stunning. She said that Addams Family is going great. The audience has such a strong reaction to seeing the iconic Morticia Addams played by Brooke, who also has such iconic status in America.

Brooke Shields in The Addams Family.
photo by Jeremy Daniel

We actually met up the day before the show at our mutual massage therapist, Greg Miele. My knee is killing me constantly because apparently you're supposed to stretch at some point if you work out six days a week. Oh. And Brooke's body is always aching because she was to wear a corset-like thing and during her tango number keep her upper half still while sassing her bottom half. Anyhoo, we both recovered from our massage (which is the kind where no massage cream is used…essentially just pain inflicted on top of your already existing pain), and she was delightful in her interview. We reminisced about doing Grease on Broadway, and I reminded her that I played her audition for Rizzo. Turns out, she told me that it wasn't supposed to be an audition! She was told to come to the theatre for a meet and greet with the artistic team. Cut to, she was put onstage at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, I was at the piano, and she was asked to sing "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." I guess that's a meet and greet…and/or a terrifying Broadway audition. Well, she obviously got the part, and the next thing I knew was she was starring on "Suddenly Susan" and I was playing a put-in rehearsal for Linda Blair. I asked her for details about a backstage mishap that I remembered; she told us that after "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee," Sandy would fight her and, during the scuffle, Brooke's earrings would get pulled off. It was making her ears get infected, so she asked her dresser to sterilize her earrings to minimize the damage. Cut to, she went to take a swig of water before a scene and by accident she swigged the cup that just had the earrings. In other words, she drank a big gulp of hydrogen peroxide! It burned her throat, but she still finished Act One. Besides the pain, she was terrified the whole time she was onstage that she was going to die from ingesting it (this is before Doctors.com). Finally, the stage manager whispered to her from offstage, "Don't worry! We checked. You're not going to die." She had to take off the second act and the next show. She remembered that when she came back, the hallway was filled with "hilarious" signs like "The Cleanest Insides on Broadway." We also talked about doing Gypsy of the Year. Back in November of 1995, we did a sketch/song where I played Fran Weissler, and Jessica Stone played Barry. Paul Castree and I wrote the lyrics, and the number was about looking for a new Rizzo after Rosie O'Donnell. Here's a smattering…sung to the tune of "You're The One That I Want":

Fran and Barry: We got bills! They're multiplying. And we nee-e-e-e-e-ed…to find a Rizzo.
Employee: I'm suggesting…Bonnie Franklin.
All: It's mortifying! (echo: mortifying, mortifying, mortifying…)
When we finally brought Brook onstage and decided to cast her, cash fell from the sky as we all sang…
"You're the one that I want! (You are the one I want)
Ooh, ooh, ooh…money!"

Jeffrey Sewell and Seth Rudetsky

I also had Jeffrey Sewell on Seth Speaks. He made a video of himself on youtube singing "So Much Better" that was sent to me by numerous Broadway folks because his singing and acting is amazing. He told me that he made the video just for fun and went to sleep. When he woke up the next day, he expected the views to be in the teens, but he was shocked to see he had 300 views. Then, not much later, it was over 1,000, and now he has an agent and has started auditioning for Broadway shows. Listen to him claim that he has a cold and then sound amazing:

Adam Pascal was my guest at my Broadway Series at The Art House and sounded fantastic.

Seth Rudetsky and Adam Pascal

The good news is, it looks like he might be coming back to Broadway. The bad news is, I was sworn to secrecy so I can't reveal the show, but suffice it to say, he'll be able to show off his amazing high notes! He began as a personal trainer, and I told him that his bod looked amazing in Aida. He revealed that because the show was physically easy for him, he started to put on weight. His costume was an open shirt that had a cummerbund-like fabric that went around his middle, and by the end of the run and his 15-pound weight gain, the cummerbund swelled out in a manner I'm familiar with. Maybe "Radames" is Egyptian for "slightly pregnant man." Next week at the Art House in Provincetown, I'm doing my own show and bringing up Andrea McArdle. Visit www.ptownarthouse.com for details and if you don't know what she sounds like post-Annie, watch this!

Tonight I'm playing and hosting the New York Civil Liberties Union benefit at NYU's Skirball Center. There are so many performers, and off the top of my head I know Gavin Creel, Nellie McKay, John Tartaglia, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Andrew Rannells and Nikki Rene Daniels are going to be there. Go to NYCLU.org for tix! And, if you love high belting that's incredibly inappropriate, watch my latest Obsessed video where Kate Shindle adds high A flats to a slew of songs. Earplugs not included. 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.)