ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Rosie Cruise, Part I

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Rosie Cruise, Part I I'm back from the Rosie cruise and I'm too scared to weigh myself.
Andrea McArdle and Seth Rudetsky at sea.
Andrea McArdle and Seth Rudetsky at sea.

My friend Tim said that we were doing Body for Life-style dieting on the cruise (six small meals a day) but changing the modifier from "small" to "mammoth." There was one dinner where I fully acted out during dessert and had two Tiramisu's and some chocolate cake. Of course, after 11, I went to the late night buffet just to meet my friends, thinking there was no way I would eat, but there was a crepe bar. I'm talking fresh-off-the-grill fresh crepes. Of course, I had to have one…but then I noticed the "make your own sundae" bar. Every since I saw a commercial for "Zips" when I was a kid (anybody remember?), I've been obsessed with making my own sundae. Suffice it to say, I made my own sundae as well as confirming my future outfits would include drawstring pants. But enough about my eating disorder, bring on the cruise details.

Saturday: Got onto the ship early (you're not supposed to call it a boat…it's like calling an "Original Cast Recording" a "Soundtrack") and started rehearsal for that night's show, "Rosie's Broadway Belters." The opening number had great lyrics by Michael Lee Scott sung to "Magic to Do": We've got cruisin' to do…just for you/We've got tons of events each day Where the seas are serene" Rosie: "And no split screen!"

That was a sassy reference by Michael Lee to Rosie's last day on "The View" where she and Elisabeth Hasselbeck duked it out. When Rosie sang that line, the ensemble held up a pic of Elisabeth. I guess it was immature on my part, but I suggested we add a mustache to the photo. Of course, someone in the audience took a photo and it wound up in US Magazine. Where's my commission?

Some highlights included Sarah Uriarte Berry and her husband Michael singing "Evil" from Smokey Joe's Café. Even though they sounded hot together, the song seemed a little random. So I thought it should reference the hot romance they were having while they were both doing Les Miz. In the middle of all the Leiber and Stoller sassiness, they suddenly broke into "Do You Hear the People Sing" and "Castle on a Cloud" as the onstage turntable spun them and then went right back to the song.

Since a lot of couples get married on the boat, I thought it would be fun to do a marriage song with a twist. Hence, Jimmy Smagula and my boyfriend, James, sang "Old Fashioned Wedding." It sounds great with two guys, and I changed the key so both James and Jimmy had to belt B flats! When Rosie introduced the number, she talked about Jimmy being in the audience of her show and saying he wanted to be on Broadway, and since then he's been in three! Or, as Rosie said, nine. The show closed with three singers doing an audience sing-along of "You Light Up My Life." After a few measures, Capathia Jenkins stormed onstage and said we couldn't end the show that way. She launched into the brassy "(Let a Big Black Lady) Stop the Show" from Martin Short's Fame Becomes Me. I'm obsessed with the lyric "Now if Julie Andrews had a black maid in that play, well then My Fair Lady would still be running today." Hilarious! If you don't have that CD, get it ASAP. The songs are so fun, and Capathia's voice is out of control. She sings "clap your ha-a-a-a-a-ands" and holds "hands" on an F sharp! No wonder she screen tested for Effie…Miss Thing has chops! The brilliant team of Marc Shaiman/Scott Whitman wrote it, and, p.s., I just hung up the phone with Marc, who told me that the workshop for their new musical, Catch Me If You Can, begins rehearsals this week starring Nathan Lane, Christian Borle and Tom Wopat. He managed to give me the information while also berating me for being so out of the loop. Kudos for double tasking.

Sunday: Egg White omelet for breakfast, counteracted by a "side" of oatmeal with a cup of brown sugar. Mmmm. That afternoon I did a Chatterbox interview with Andrea McArdle. Amazing. First of all, I hope you know that she wasn't cast as Annie originally. She was Pepper, the tough orphan, and the girl they had as Annie was adorable and sweet. When they started previews at Goodspeed, the creators realized that Annie wasn't adorable and sweet, she was sassy and street smart. Andrea was bumped up to the title role and played it on Broadway and in London where Molly, the youngest orphan, was Catherine Zeta-Jones and Daddy Warbucks was Michael Douglas! All right, the last part was a lie, but not particularly far-fetched.

I demanded that she talk about my favorite TV move "Rainbow" (the young Judy Garland story), and she said that she had a terrible time filming it. Jackie Cooper directed it and did things like tell her to look at the wall, which she would do. Then he'd say "Okay, we got the shot." She literally has certain close ups where she's supposed to be feeling something deep, and the feeling is actually "hmm … pretty wall."

I asked her about college and she said that she got into NYU, but got offered Jerry's Girls, so she left. She regrets it, but if she hadn't done that tour, we wouldn't have the fabulous recording of her doing "Wherever He Ain't" and "Look What Happened to Mabel." Listen to it when you can. She holds the last "Ma" of "Mabel" straight tone and then adds vibrato. Perfect. Carol Channing was on that tour and heard Andrea complaining about always having to sing "Tomorrow" or, as she called it, '"The T Song." Carol sternly told her that although Leslie Uggams (who was the other lead) is a great singer, she doesn't have a signature song, so Andrea better appreciate how lucky she is that she does. Carol has a point, but I'd be curious to know if she's ever seen Leslie's "rendition" of "June is Bustin' Out All Over" on YouTube because she certainly makes it her own.

Anyhoo, Andrea also said that Carol would get wigs on 14th Street and ask Andrea to cut them for her ("to look like Madonna"), and Carol would love Andrea's shoes and frequently buy the same ones for herself … but in a size 10. Size 10? You know what they say, big feet, big…um, range? And by "range," I mean scanning the entire bass clef. Also, Andrea was always miffed that in every publicity shot, for some reason Carol looked younger than springtime and Andrea looked like ye olde hag. Carol's advice? Always wear something nautical. Looking around the ship's lovely Spinaker lounge, I realized that Andrea's story was informative and timely. Wait a minute… didn't Barbra always wear a sailor top in all her photos in the 60's? She had the nerve to steal Carol's look and film role!

Andrea talked about playing Fantine on Broadway in Les Miz and having to come back as a boy on the barricade in Act Two. She said that at one performance, she was eating a giant bag of M&Ms backstage and put them in her pocket before she got on the barricade. She got shot, and because she had friends in the audience, she did an incredibly dramatic death that involved flailing her body upside down on the barricade. Of course, clackety clacking out of her pocket came pouring a myriad of multi-colored M&Ms. The good news for my musician peeps was that because the stage was raked, the orchestra suddenly got a ton of M&Ms raining down on them, which no doubt provided some much-needed carbs to get through the last half hour of the show. That was one of the many times she was written up to Equity. Some of the others were during Annie when they had in the contract a clause saying you couldn't go in the sun and get tanned. She got around it by using a tanning cream that made her orange (which she said looked brutal with the red dress). Another time, she found poppers backstage. She didn't know what poppers were, but nonetheless poured them on an orphan's pillow. She put the pep in Pepper that night!

Sunday night, my good friend Jason Little, who won best actor in Minneapolis for playing Hedwig, belted out some songs from Hedwig. My favorite part was at the beginning of "Tear Me Down" where Hedwig normally name-drops the city he's in (When I first saw Jason do the show in the Midwest, it was "Don't you know me Twin Cities?"). On the boat, Jason hilariously used the literal nautical location of where we were to start the song. He strutted out and shouted, "Don't you know me Greenwich Mean Time Starboard naut 38?" Amazingly awkward.

After his songs, Jason got a standing O, and we all rushed down to see Sandra Bernhard. I've always been a fan of hers ever since Without You I'm Nothing. And I had the privilege of telling her . . . that morning while waiting to get my signature hot cereal with the abundance of brown sugar. Her show was great. She began with "And I Am Telling You" (seriously!) and did a whole riff on Angelina Jolie. My favorite part was when she commented on Angelina constantly carrying her kids everywhere ("Has Maddox ever walked on the ground?").

All right, I've been writing forever, and I'm only up to the first full day on the cruise, so I have to continue this tomorrow. I'm off to rehearse for the NYCLU benefit I'm doing tonight at The Skirball Center and I've got to find something nautical to wear. (Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals, and he can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.)

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