ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Team From Lysistrata Jones, Plus Eve Plumb

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: The Team From Lysistrata Jones, Plus Eve Plumb
 
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Lysistrata Jones star Patti Murin
Lysistrata Jones star Patti Murin Photo by Robb Johnston

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This is the second week of 2012. Wowza! Remember when the year 2000 seemed a long way off? And, quite frankly, remember when we were dreading 1984? Now my focus is taken off the next scary year and my main dread is the next jukebox musical for fear that it might contain only the oeuvre of Juice Newton. And thus ends my stand-up act. Anyhoo, this week was chock full of fun interviews. I re-started Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama after a one-year hiatus, and I interviewed the cast of Lysistrata Jones. Unfortunately, they had just gotten their official closing notice. I say "official" because they had the heads-up the day after opening. There was a cast meeting and the producers told them that they would definitely stay open…if they sold out every single show Christmas week. Of course, the cast said they looked into the audience at their next show and saw 35 people. (Not really 35, but you get it.) It's one of those mystifying things where a show can get a great New York Times review and still not sell tickets. I asked Douglas Carter Beane why they chose to open the show in the winter, which is a notoriously hard time to keep a show running, and he said that it's impossible to get a theatre in the spring. Lysistrata Jones had actual people for producers whereas theatre are being requested in the spring, according to Doug, "by Disney and General Motors."

For those who've done a Broadway show, we know that when a cast is forced to assemble onstage for an "important meeting" with the producer, it's usually a horrible sign indicating imminent closing. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the cast was making their Broadway debut, when the producer called the meeting after Christmas week, one of them thought, "Yay! We're being told the show's gonna run forever!" They said that the first sign that perhaps it wasn't going to be a happy announcement was the fact that the theatre was freezing and the producer was dripping sweat. The cast had so many talented people, and Josh Segarra was so funny during his Chatterbox interview. He talked about the show having so much basketball choreography, and how the balls continually flew into the audience, especially during its summer Off-Broadway run. Josh said that most of the time when a ball came at someone, they would catch it. But some people in an audience forget basic life skills, and they would just literally stare at the ball in horror as it approached and eventually hit them. After the show, he'd see people who got hit by the ball and say, "I'm sorry…," followed by a muttered, "…but you're an idiot."

Josh Segarra and Jason Tam
photo by Robb Johnston

Jason Tam who was brilliant as Paul in the A Chorus Line revival played Xander. I asked him about A Chorus Line, and he told us that unlike the original production, the orchestra wasn't in the pit, it was in another room and the sound was then pumped in. One night, they were at the part in the opening number where it builds and builds and Zach finally says, "Let's try the whole combination facing away from the mirror!," Zach then yelled "5, 6, 7, 8!" and everyone in the audience was psyched to hear the band come blasting in as everyone danced full out. But for some reason there was only one orchestra mic working. So, everyone onstage turned away from the mirror and danced up a storm… to only one instrument. And it literally sounded like a toy piano. Was Schroeder the only pit musician that day? You decide.

The end of A Chorus Line features a kickline to "One" that is supposed to symbolize the chorus line going on forever. There's no actual ending to the kickline, the lights dim to a blackout as they kick. Well, Jason said that one night the lights didn't dim. So, they were all forced to just kept kicking. Endlessly. Well, not all of them. He seems to remember Broadway vet Charlotte D'Amboise (Cassie) realizing it was going to be endless and making the smart choice to simply stop. Perhaps the audience thought that her character took the "don't pop the head" advice many steps further and ceased moving any part of her body. Brava subtext.

Seth with Douglas Carter Beane
photo by Robb Johnston

Douglas Carter Beane, who wrote the book to Lysistrata Jones is a hilarious person to interview. He used to be a stage doorman for many years and has so many stories associated with those days. He was always in the middle of writing some play while he was working. During his doorman duties on Ah, Wilderness!, Colleen Dewhurst asked him what he was writing and he told her it was a play. They never really discussed it again. Years later when he had his first play produced, she sent him a card with the a picture of the Ah, Wilderness! theatre on the cover and inside she wrote, "Next time, write me a juicy part." Brava!

Speaking of the late Colleen, he'll never forget the time he had to operate the elevator up to Jason Robards' dressing room carrying what I call the "basses of Broadway." Yes, in the elevator was Colleen Dewhurst….Lauren Bacall…and Elaine Stritch. Doug does an amazing imitation of them greeting each other. Essentially three incredible low, smoky voices getting lower and lower in pitch: "Hey, girl!" "Hey, girl!" "Hey, girl."

He also told the Chatterbox audience that I have "stealth fame." I cocked my head Scooby-Doo-style until he explained. First, he recalled the recent time he gave a fundraiser at his apartment for Music for Autism and Kerry Butler was the celebrity asked to sing. She called me to play for her and we were waiting on the sidelines before the performance. Doug told the audience that when the mother of the head of the organization heard I was there, she physically pushed Kerry Butler out of the way so she could meet me. Hilarious. That's right! Bypassing the celebrity to meet the "celebrity." Then Doug mentioned his Beverly Hills lawyer, who pretty much only represents enormous movie moguls like Steven Spielberg. He called Doug when he heard that Lysistrata Jones was closing and calmly asked, "Is there anyone I can sue?" Doug laughed, told him "no," and cut the conversation short, knowing the lawyer had to go back to handling the barons of Hollywood. But before Doug got off the phone, he mentioned quickly that he was about to be interviewed by me. The lawyer simply responded, "Tell Seth that he's a-mahzing." I still got it! At least with two people.

Eve Plumb
photo by Robb Johnston

At my radio show "Seth Speaks," I interviewed Eve Plumb, who's currently starring in Love, Loss, and What I Wore. I asked her what TV shows she did before playing Jan on "The Brady Bunch," and she rattled off a slew of '60s faves including "Lassie" and "A Family Affair." And, in almost every guest appearance, she had to cry. She then listed every depressing situation she was in, per show, including playing a girl who dies of cancer in "Family Affair." The title of the episode? "Christmas Came Early This Year." It did? Not for her character!

I was looking around youtube for Jan Brady footage and found this hilarious combination of "The Brady Bunch" meets "Carrie." So well done! And now from the "we're completely busted" section of my column, let me first remind that James and I haughtily cancelled our cable service because we decided it was overpriced and from now on we were only going to watch network TV or use Hulu. After a few months of being devastated that we were constantly missing shows like "Project Runway" and Rosie's new talk show, we came crawling back to cable and are now paying for a slew of premium channels we didn't even have before. Well, around the time we got rid of cable we also threw out our microwave. We decided we were going to make food in a real oven, the old-fashioned way. Cut to Juli constantly crying, "I'm hungry," while we plaster on a smile and tell her, "Your mini-pizza will be ready in 55 minutes, honey!" So, last week we hightailed it to Costco and now have an even bigger microwave than before. That's right, our resolve lasts a minimum of one week to a maximum of 11 months.

OK, countdown to my new book being released! "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan" comes out next week, and on Jan. 23 at 7 PM I'm doing a book reading/signing with Kerry Butler, Rory O'Malley and Matt Cavenaugh at the East 86th Barnes and Noble! I'm seeing Porgy and Bess this week and this time, I'm bringing along a slew of Kleenex. Have a good week and stay warm…and/or cool depending on what Global Warming is doing this week. 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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