Onstage & Backstage: What Happens at James Lapine's Bar Mitzvah...Doesn't Stay at James Lapine's Bar Mitzvah

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: What Happens at James Lapine's Bar Mitzvah...Doesn't Stay at James Lapine's Bar Mitzvah
 
This week's look into the life of Seth Rudetsky takes us behind the scenes of James Lapine's bar mitzvah — 47 years in the making — plus a sneak peek in the first Disaster! creative meetings and a childhood story from Marin Mazzie.
At the commercial recording session
At the commercial recording session

The final column of 2015! As well as the final column before I begin rehearsals for Disaster! We start Monday, January 4th and then it's just a little over a month until February 9th, the first preview. I'm really happy rehearsals are beginning because the fact that the show is actually going to Broadway (!) has felt very unreal most of the time. The times it felt real were the times that I was in a group that's part of the show: either the photo shoot with the cast, the recent recording session for the TV/radio commercial and the production meeting we had with the heads of every department. That one was really cool.

Jack and I met with the stage manager, music department, production manager, set designer, costume designer, head of the stage hands, and lots more people. At one point I looked around the room and thought "OMG… all of these people, all of these top theatre professionals, are here working on the show that I started writing with Jack on my laptop in 2011." There were so many amazing moments, especially when Tobin Ost, our set designer, started describing the set and showing it on a little model. It was cool to hear him and the others talk about moments in the show like "when the earthquake happens" or "when the sharks appear" because I thought, "I remember when we first wrote that. It was just words on a laptop, but now it's become real." It's like saying "I want a unicorn," and suddenly everyone is talking about the food they're buying for your unicorn.  

Jack took this picture of me during the <i>Disaster!</i> production meeting
Jack took this picture of me during the Disaster! production meeting

Speaking of disasters, I tried to be organized over the weekend and do my laundry. I put in the detergent, was about to load the laundry and by chance — just by chance — I looked inside the washing machine. OK. Take a breath. There was a giant, giant water bug inside. I flipped out and ran the hell up the stairs back to my apartment. An hour passed. Surely, it's gone. I went back downstairs. I forced myself to peek over the edge. Still there. AH! Finally, I decided I had to get it out of there somehow with the least contact possible. I decided I'd pick up a broom to see if I could edge him up so he'd crawl out. Well, when I picked up the laundy room broom, suddenly a roach fell from it! I screamed so loud and so above my range and ran out of there, promptly taking my clothes to the laundromat. If you wonder why I have such trauma attached to this kind of situation, please read this asap!

THE washing machine. Don't look inside!
THE washing machine. Don't look inside!

This week I saw Noises Off, which was so fun! When I was in Provincetown over the summer, James would go to Andrea Martin's apartment and run lines with her and it was so fun for him to see her saying those same lines on Broadway! A few weeks ago Andrea came over because she wanted me to write something with her. James Lapine was being honored and had the fun idea to turn the evening into the bar mitzvah he never had. Andrea was going to be out of town during the event so Christine Ebersole was asked to read what we wrote. I couldn't print it when we first wrote it because it was before the event, but now I can! When you start reading the part of James Lapine's aunt, read it in the voice Andrea used for Libby Wolfson on "SCTV." If you don't know what that is, first watch this promo she did recently for a women's health center: 

Then imagine Christine Ebersole reading the letter in that voice. Here it is:

Andrea Martin couldn't be here tonight, but she sent this message:

James, my darling. Congratulations. I'm devastated I can't be here, but it was the only night the Weissler's would give me a ticket to see Rumer Willis in Chicago.

However, I ran into your Aunt, Freida Lapine-Goldblatt, who mentioned that she wasn't invited to tonight's festivities. I offered her my ticket but she declined saying, "I still have four unused tickets to Passion. I'm good." However, she wrote this letter, which I'm hoping Christine will now read.

James, or Yacov as we called you at the Mansfield Ohev Shalom synagogue. Mazel Tov.

What an honor for a Jew. And yet, I read the guest list…Bernadette Peters? Andrew Rannells? Christian Borle? I haven't seen this many non-Jews in a room since the open call for "Ordinary People." What, you don't like your own kind? Tovah Feldshuh speaks very highly of you!

Anyway, what is this fakacta thing? The quote we all associate with bar mitzvahs is, "Today I am a man." Not an old man. And certainly not a man of your age.

Forty-seven years ago, I begged. I pleaded. I said "Yacov! Do it now. Get bar mitzvah'd. You're 13. What else do you have to do all day? Put down "Je M'appelle Barbra"  and pick up your haftorah."

Think about the gifts you missed. All those bonds that would have matured by now. You could have used some of that money to keep Amour running. Now, I know tonight there's a strict "no gifts" policy. But honestly? Andrew Rannells was on two TV shows. He could easily write a check for double chai.

As for me, you still have a standing invitation for the high holidays out in Teaneck. We have a lovely cantor. Loves Broadway. I mentioned your name. Not familiar with your work. But is a huge fan of Pasek and Paul.

Mazel Tov, Yacov. Better late than never. And in conclusion, very important: Could you get me two tickets to Hamilton?

Marin Mazzie in <i>Bullets Over Broadway</i>
Marin Mazzie in Bullets Over Broadway Photo by Paul Kolnik

I had Marin Mazzie on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show. Right away I commented on how people mispronounce her name (first name should rhyme with Aaron, last name is May-zee) and she said that during Bullets Over Broadway, James Gray, who was the swing, was in the audience and heard someone say during intermission, "I just love that Marnie Mazzle!" Everyone was so obsessed that her dresser had "Marnie Mazzle" printed out and put on her dressing room door! Marin also talked about her ovarian cancer diagnosis that happened a few months ago and the great news that she just finished chemo! She definitely believes that being positive makes a big difference and didn't want to think that the chemicals of chemotherapy were harsh on her body. Instead, she thought of how it was clearing out the cancer cells and would call it "Healing Therapy." Her husband, the amazing tenor Jason Danieley, has been keeping a blog about the whole experience and his updates are fantastic. Check it out and you can also hear the Marin interview.

Marin is about to appear at Feinstein's/54 Below on New Year's Eve doing her 70s show called Make Your Own Kind Of Music. It has such great songs and hi-larious stories about her childhood. My total favorite is when she sang "Evergreen" in her Catholic School, and Sister Alice Patrice — or "SAP" as the kids called her behind her back  — objected to the lyrics. Not all of the lyrics, but specifically "You and I can make each night a first. Every day a beginning." What to do? Well, Marin wound up singing the song as is and when she got the questionable lyric, the melody remained, but the lyric didn't. Barbra is known for her signature humming and Marin simply appropriated it in order to avoid offending the clergy. That's right, it wasn't a "What Would Jesus Do?" it was a "What Would Barbra Do?" Of course, the audience probably thought she forgot the lyrics, but the important part was "SAP" was placated. Side note: Her pianist for that concert was none other than Bob Greenblatt who is now a major bigwig at NBC and one of the main people responsible for NBC's yearly live musical!

Now, if you don't know about the Barbra hum, watch this stunning video. Apparently, when she was filming the concert sequences for A Star Is Born, she performed "The Way We Were" for the crowd. It's an amazing video! 

And finally, I hope Xmas was great for those of you who celebrate. I began by talking about Andrea Martin, and here's one of my favorite Xmas "SCTV" skits with Andra and Catherine O'Hara.  

Happy New Year, in advance, and "See you next year!"

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