First, let's discuss the Tonys. And by "discuss", I mean have a one-sided discussion (see: my childhood with my mother). I loved how there was so much Broadway on the show! And all of it was actual performances from shows, not headache-y medleys with people I don't want to hear sing them.
A major highlight for me: Patti LuPone winning and dishing the fact that she hasn't been up there for 28 years. Regardless of whether she should have won for Anything Goes or Sweeney Todd, the issue for me is how few musicals she's been in! Anything Goes was in 1988 and Sweeney Todd was in 2006. What's with the 18-year gap! Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters and Betty Buckley are three of our greatest Broadway stars; they need to be on Broadway constantly! If Will Ferrell can make ten films in the last six months, they can each do one Broadway show a year.
And finally, can we please talk about Cheyenne Jackson's performance. His voice was out-of-control perfect! The placement, tone and vibrato was flawless. I was doing my SIRIUS radio show at the time and right after he sang, my sister, Nancy, called me and said, "Cheyenne sounded amazing. His face is stunning and his body perfect." She, of course, had to follow it with, "And Seth, to be blunt…you'll never be him." I didn't ask her to be blunt! It reminds me of that amazing moment in the movie "Happiness" when Jane Adams is standing in a kitchen while her relatives laugh. Her sister says, "We're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you!" and Jane says, slightly bewildered, "But I'm not laughing." Wednesday night I went to see Cry-Baby with James (my BF) and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I thought the cast was so talented. Harriet Harris was hilarious as usual. I loved when her granddaughter, who becomes a bad girl, said that she kicked a policeman in the b***s and Harriet corrected her with, "Scrotum." Then on Thursday, I had four ladies from the cast on the Chatterbox: Tory Ross, Alli Mauzey, Carly Jibson and Elizabeth Stanley. First I asked Carly how she got discovered. She was 17 and performing in her Michigan hometown and an agent happened to be there (the opposite of "Waiting for Guffman") and got her an audition for "One Life To Live". Her family couldn't afford the plane fare, so her mother drove her to New York. She auditioned for the part and…Kathy Brier got the gig. But then she auditioned for Hairspray and…got a call back. And another one. And another one. Let's just say eight call backs. She thinks it's because she was 17 and they wanted to see if she could be consistent. She and seven other Tracys would have to do super aerobic things and sing at the same time to see if they had the stamina to sing and dance. I did that same thing to the girls on the Legally Blonde reality show last week and told everyone that I stole the idea from Marissa Jaret Winokur because she told me that the year before she played Tracy, she spent every day jogging on Peter Scolari's treadmill (she was living in his house) while singing the score. Carly said the idea came from Jerry Mitchell and it really helped her do Hairspraybecause even though she was in the best shape of her life, every night she would stand panting backstage and say, "I don't think I can do this." I asked Carly if it was difficult to be so young, yet star on Broadway (she was 19). She said it was great because she didn't know anything. One night someone told her, "Ben Brantley is coming to the show" and she was like, "Cool! Who's that?"
Then I chatted with Tory Ross who plays Hatchet Face. Her first big gig out of high school was doing the national tour of The Producers playing the roles Kathy Fitzgerald originated (homeless woman, ugly showgirl, Lesbian techie). On her first day of rehearsal, she remembered her training at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and made a "bold choice" which they're always telling you to do. They didn't tell her that it could lead to being supremely yelled at. She was learning "The King of Broadway" where Max Bialystock is talking to street people about how he's gonna make a comeback. She played a homeless woman that he makes out with and at one point, her head was in his crotch while he sang a rhythmic phrase. Every time he hit an accent, she bobbed her head in his crotch. Mel Brooks got up and started yelling at her, "Who do you think you are? This isn't your show! You're in the ensemble! No one knows who you are!" That's four ouches! She thought she was gonna get fired and didn't know anybody in the cast who could comfort her so she spent the break crying hysterically on the phone with her mother saying, "It's over before it began!" But, the powers that be got her a ticket for the Broadway show so she could watch Kathy do it and, essentially, copy her. Tory said that now she and Kathy are good friends and, starting soon, they're both going to be in 9 to 5 together!
Then I got to chat with Alli Mauzey who was brilliant as the crazy stalker girl. I asked her about her worst audition she'd ever had and she said that it was for On The Town in L.A. She was going in for the role of Lucy Shmeeler, the character who's supposed to have a cold. Alli said she really wanted to feel like she had a cold during the audition so she put some toilet paper up her nose to stuff it up and some wax in her ears to block them up. She could hardly breathe or hear, just like a real cold. Unfortunately, after she read, the director started giving her notes and she was too mortified to take the wax out of her ears so she literally spent the whole time saying, "…What?" Shockingly, she didn't get it.
Alli was also the stand-by for Glinda in Wicked on Broadway and one of the rules for a stand by is that you don't have to be at the theatre every night, but, in case you have to go on quickly, you can only be five blocks away. Well, turns out, she lives fourblocks away so she literally got to spend every night at home in her living room, watching TV. And getting a paycheck. Wow. Doing nothing but getting a Broadway paycheck. I thought that was me in The Ritz.
Finally, I spoke the gorgeous and fun-nee Elizabeth Stanley who plays the good girl gone bad. She wanted to be an opera singer while she was growing up and said she was a total opera snob. Her friends would say, "I love Mariah Carey!" and she would shake her head knowingly and whisper, "She is going to ruin her voice." Of course, if anyone heard Mariah's last album, they'd perhaps deem Elizabeth a soothsayer. Mariah's four octave range has morphed into four half-steps. I don't know if she, a la the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music alums, made the bold choice to stop belting and go for more of a studio sound, but as one of the Dynamites from Hairspray once said to me, "When she stopped belting, I stopped buying." True 'dat! Bring back the sustained F's, the octave riffs and the whistle tones ASAP.
While majoring in opera at Indiana University, Elizabeth switched her interest to musical theatre. Her first big gig was the non-Equity tour of Cabaret where she played the elderly Fraulein Schneider. Hmm…maybe I should turn non-Equity so I can finally do The Gin Game. I remembered loving Elizabeth's performance as April in Broadway's Company last year and asked her if she got to meet Sondheim. Turns out, he came to their first performance in Cincinnati and she was totally intimidated and couldn't speak to him. They all went out to a bar afterwards and Sondheim was sitting next to her. She whispered to her friend to make a funny face so she could take a picture of him, but in actuality, she was taking a picture of Sondheim. So now she has a picture of Sondheim in profile with her friend making a "funny" face next to him. Raul Esparza warned her not to be devastated if Sondheim gave her notes, because he only gives you a note if he thinks you're good. Elizabeth had based a lot of the April character on the fact that she was an airline stewardess: very pert and precise. After he saw the show, Sondheim told her that April is more like a someone who's perpetually stoned, even though she's not. Elizabeth tried a totally new interpretation that night, and even though she was terrified to change it so dramatically, it worked!
I wish Sondheim could have seen my interpretation of Harry in Company, when I was in high school. Yes I was 14 years old, yes I didn't know what the show was about, yes I might as well have skipped all the lyrics in "Sorry/Grateful" and just sung it on a "la" for all the acting I was doing, but he would have loved the great sweater I wore which I had gotten for my bar mitzvah.
I asked how hard it was for the actors to play all those instruments and Elizabeth said that Rob, who played Paul, dropped the mute out of his trumpet so many times that John Doyle started charging him $5 every time it happened. ("I'd like to propose a toast" + CLUNK = $5). After Cry-Baby opened, Elizabeth was doing a workshop with someone who was in Grease and when the Tony nominations came out they both approached each other saying, "Oh my god! Everybody hates our shows and we just got Tony noms. Miracles happen!" I have to say that I'm so glad I saw the show. I just wish there was a CD. Anybody with a cool $50,000 wanna sponsor it? A hot $50,000? Tepid $50,000?
Speaking of which, I saw In the Heights again ("Why is everything in this 'fridge warm and tepid?") I was nervous to see it because it's my fifth time (the first workshop, two times Off-Broadway and twice on Broadway). I thought maybe I'd be a little over it by now. I literally loved it even more! I had full-out tears flowing down my face which is what happens to me when I hear or see something that I think is theatrically perfect — like the ending of "At the Ballet" in A Chorus Line when the line forms again, or the last three "Calors" at the end of Abuela's song in In the Heights. As I was sitting in my box seat, I decided I want to see In the Heights once a week as a rejuvenating tonic. That cast is so amazing. I can't get over Mandy Gonzales' voice. She has to sing so high throughout the whole show! I know she sang just as high in Dance of the Vampires but she didn't have to worry about a pesky long run during that show. She only had to sustain her vocal health through previews and then a smattering of performances. Also, special shout-out to Eliseo Roman who plays the Piragua guy. He has one of those songs where, when the ending approaches, I think "surely he's not going to go for the high note" and he does! It's a delicious A. (Track 10 on disc one of the cast album.) It's the same way I felt when I saw David Carroll sing "Love Can't Happen" in Grand Hotel. I heard the ending note coming and I thought he wouldn't be able to go up to it...but he did! Listen to the last track on the Grand Hotel CD….so thrilling! And I brought my 77-year-old Dad to
OK, I'm off to San Francisco in a few days to play for the amazing Andrea McArdle at the Hotel Nikko. Go to www.TheRrazzRoom.com for tix and come see us!
I will now leave you with an email I got from my friend, Michael Klimzak. He and his partner, Phil Fabry, went to Korea this year to start a musical theatre school. Apparently, Koreans are obsessed with Broadway and the school is doing great. However, Michael is always getting into devastating and humiliating mishaps wherever he is. Here's the latest.
I went for a walk in the park the other day. I was listening to my iPod and the weather was beautiful. The park is very hilly. I walked all the way to the top of the park and I was heading down when I either tripped or my knee gave out. And I fell. I didn't go tumbling down the hill. More like skidded a few feet. I tried to stop myself...but because of the steep rake, I kept on going. I first tried stopping myself with my knees (two sidewalk burns on each knee), then my left hand (now bruised), them my right hand (now cut), then my left shoulder (sidewalk burn). I eventually stopped my fall with my face. I got a burn on my chin, my upper lip, and cut the inside of my mouth. I also had a swollen right foot. What was even more embarrassing was that I was listening to my Walt Disney World soundtrack album. As Koreans came to my aid, of which I wanted none of, I kept on trying to turn off "It's a Small World," but only succeeded in starting it from the beginning over and over again. That's it for me…happy start of summer!
(Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethsbroadwaychatterbox.com.)