ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: "Vicki/Victoria" and Rosie's Costume Malfunction

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: "Vicki/Victoria" and Rosie's Costume Malfunction Happy post-Thanksgiving! Who acted out with food? I did!
Rosie Perez in the Ritz dress the way it should look.
Rosie Perez in the Ritz dress the way it should look.

I went to my Mom's house with my boyfriend, his mother, daughter, and my sister Beth and friend Tim Cross. First of all, we made the wise choice of renting a car to go out there, so instead of a half-hour train ride, we had an hour-and-a-half car ride. That damn parade ruined everything...including my love of Broadway (more on that later). After we ate, we saw "Enchanted." My favorite part was the fact they put all of the Disney princesses in small roles. Jodi Benson (Ariel) was Patrick Dempsey's secretary, Paige O'Hara (Belle) was a soap actress and Judy Kuhn (Pocahontas) was a harried mother. I love when they do things like that...like giving Chita Rivera a cameo in "Chicago" and John Waters a feature in "Hairspray." Perhaps when they make the movie of The Ritz, I can strut across the screen and . . . oh, they made it already? Thirty years ago? Well… (said "Bewitched" Samantha Stevens-style).

I interviewed the talented Tony Award winner Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza) for my Sirius radio show. First of all, in real life she goes by Vicki, and apparently a lot of folks don't realize that it's short for Victoria. She teaches voice, and she said that students have come over for their first lesson, looked at her face, looked at the Tony Award sitting on her piano and said, "Hmm…I know your name is Vicki Clark, but you happen to look a lot like an actress named Victoria Clark. Weird." Hello!? The face is the same, the Tony Award is the same and the first syllable of the first name and the last name are the same, but that's simply not enough for people to assume the obvious. Let me reverse the expression to "When you don't assume, you make an a**out of you and Victoria."

She talked about understudying Faith Prince in Guys and Dolls and how she was called for a special rehearsal because she wasn't hitting Nathan Detroit's face exactly right with her handkerchief during "Sue Me." She snuck her parents into the rehearsal because she knew they would not believe the minutiae one has to worry about as an understudy if they didn't see it.

She was also the understudy for 11 parts in Sunday in the Park with George, and there was another understudy who was competitive and literally tried to sabotage her during an understudy run-thru. They were standing backstage, and suddenly the understudy told Vicki that it was their cue. Vicki said that it wasn't her entrance yet, and the other understudy said, 'Yes, it is!' and pushed her onstage! It was very "Showgirls"…without a staircase and/or horrifying lap dance.

She actually didn't want the role of Smitty in How to Succeed. . . because she had just given birth a month before and was getting two hours of sleep a night. Of course, she got the gig and the show had such a nice long run that her son was able to come see it! Unfortunately, it also ran long enough for him to learn how to talk. He was sitting in a box seat with his dad, and when Vicki began a scene with Matthew Broderick, she suddenly heard "Hi, Mommy!" The audience started laughing, but Vicki tried to stay in character. The scene continued and so did another "Hi-i-i-i-i-i, Mommy!" Finally, she heard the sound of a muffled "Hi, Mommy" as her son was obviously taken out of the box seats and spoken to sternly by his dad. The scene finished, her son came back and Vicki exited out the big double doors onstage. As she was walking out she heard, "Bye-e-e-e-e, Mommy." That's what I call a shout-out! (Anybody?) We talked about her vocal technique, and she said that she never had a vocal problem throughout the whole run of The Light in the Piazza. Unfortunately, the show was so emotionally debilitating that she was having tons of physical problems, but the voice never gave out. I complimented her on the consistency of her accent. So many times I've heard actors have an accent when they do dialogue but then totally drop it when they sing (see: "Jim Nabors' Greatest Hits"). I love how in "Dividing Day" she sings, "Dashing as the day we met, only there is something..." and pronounces the word "only" "own-ly" like a southern belle. She said that the mother of one of her son's elementary school friends is from the South and Vicki had her record the entire script and lyrics into a tape recorder (three times!) so Vicki could copy her.

One of the reasons she had a hard time getting cast in Piazza is because people only knew her as a comic actress, and they didn't think she could do a dramatic part. Now she said it's the complete opposite, and casting agents nervously ask her agent if she can do comedy. Yay! It's fun having a whole body of work and only being remembered for your last job.

Her new CD, "Fifteen Seconds of Grace," was just released, and she's celebrating with a big, fat show Nov. 26 at The Kaplan Penthouse in Lincoln Center. I'm going to the late show, FYI, and more info is at her website, www.victoriaclarkonline.com.

By the way, speaking of "big, fat," that's the name of my radio show on Sirius ("Seth's Big Fat Broadway"). After The Ritz one night, an audience member approached one of the other patrons and asked what role I played. He said that I was the guy in the unitard during Act Two and the audience person was mind boggled. "Then why is his show called 'Seth's Big, Fat, Broadway'?"

What's the confusion? It's called "Seth's Big, Fat Broadway" not "I am big and fat on Broadway." Although, I do admit I am always complaining about my weight on the air. When I was on "Law & Order: CI," a midwestern woman (yet with a southern accent) called the Sirius message center and left me this message: "Seth, I saw you on 'Law & Order' … and you looked totally different than what I thought. From the way you talk, I thought you'd look like the lead from 'La Cage aux Folles'...the French version. Let me describe him: He's fat, he's got a big butt…he whistles, he whoops…and he's adorable. But, you! (here's where it got crazy)…you look like Hugh Jackman!" I guess anyone you expected to whistle, whoop and have a big butt and then doesn't, immediately looks like Hugh Jackman.

This week there was a theft at The Ritz! At the end of Act One, Rosie Perez (as Googie Gomez) does a big medley that's supposed to be a mess. At the end, she does a high kick, "accidentally" kicks off her shoe, then angrily throws it offstage. Well, the shoe didn't quite make it offstage and sat all the way stage right for the rest of the number. As Act One ended, there was a blackout for a couple of seconds and when the lights came up, the shoe was gone! It was very "Murder, She Wrote"… without a murder and/or four-time Tony Award winner.

Coincidentally, one of the original Ritz cast members (who played a bathhouse patron) came to the show and was chatting with me as I collected for BC/EFA. He said that Rita Moreno would kick her shoe into the actual audience, yet it was never stolen. He finally asked her how she always got it back, and she told him that she wrote something on the inside of the shoe: "There is a seven-foot tall Puerto Rican who will attack you as you exit if you don't return this shoe."

He was shocked to be seeing a show in Studio 54 because he used to come here when it was the famous disco. He said that in those days the bathroom had all these colognes you could apply, and it was useful when people were using the stalls to take drugs. If someone was hogging the stall too long, you'd take one of the colognes and start spraying over the top of the stall so they'd flee. I guess you could tell that someone was a heavy drug user if they reeked of Halston Z-14.

Rosie Perez in "crazy half pantsuit-half dress" in The Ritz.

Back to Googie's number. Right near the end, there's an amazing quick change, where Rosie disappears behind a curtain and goes from a turquoise pantsuit to a purple sassy dress in literally four seconds. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work Tuesday night, and she wound up in half the dress and half the pantsuit. All of us patrons watch the show from the box seats, and it was impossible to keep a straight face. She looked like a moth that hadn't quite come out its cocoon. (See photos.) Back to the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I generally dislike the Broadway performances because I hate watching lip-synching. The whole point of Broadway is the fact that it's live, so it's always a downer to me to watch a song that I like turned into an Ashlee Simpson concert. And, can we also discuss commercialism under the guise of children's entertainment? "Look! There's a giant balloon of Snoopy (OK, that makes sense)… And the Hamburgler (hmm…pushing it)… And North Fork Bank (what the . . . ?).

Here's a question: What do M&Ms mean to you? Broadway! They do? For some reason, Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele stood on top of an M&M float and sang "Give My Regards to Broadway." I ran into Jonathan on 49th Street Wednesday night, and he told me that it was gonna be a sort of rock version of the song. I guess by "rock version," he meant a version that retained the lyrics of the song but dispensed with that pesky melody/rhythm and any original chord changes. However, I will say that they both sounded amazing! There was a fabulous high note that I had to rewind twice! And I loved Xanadu. Could Kerry Butler or Cheyenne Jackson possible sound/look any better? Short answer: no.

We ended the week with a fabulous birthday party for Kevin Chamberlin where Rosie Perez's friend baked a delicious tres leches cake. The translation of "tres leches" is "Do not eat this if you have to wear a revealing towel eight times a week." OK, I have a busy night. I'm seeing Franc D'Ambrosio at Symphony Space at 7:30 PM and then Vicki Clark at 9:30. Who says I keep myself busy so I don't have to feel my feelings? Short Answer: My therapist.

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(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. His first novel is titled "Broadway Nights.")

Kevin Chamberlin cuts his "tres leches" cake backstage at <i>The Ritz</i>.
Kevin Chamberlin cuts his "tres leches" cake backstage at The Ritz.
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