Onstage & Backstage: What's Going On Backstage During Disaster! Previews?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: What's Going On Backstage During Disaster! Previews?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth gives the insider look at Disaster! during previews, the crazy backstage gymnastics that go on and his visitors in the first week.
Seth Rudetsky and Lea Salonga
Seth Rudetsky and Lea Salonga

We finished our first week of previews! So much to write about. So, Monday night we did our final dress rehearsal, which was also the first time we ran the show from start to finish. One of the coolest things I got to experience was "Hot Stuff," the opening number, from backstage. I have an entrance at the beginning and then again at the very end, and, during the middle of it, I stand in the stage right wings. The number takes place at the opening night of New York's first floating casino and discoteque, and, throughout it, there are hundreds of cool people from the 1970s flocking to the casino.

Of course, we don't have hundreds of people in our ensemble, so Jack (our director) and JoAnn (our choreographer) staged it so people enter from stage right to stage left, run behind the set to stage right again, change their entire costume and wig and enter again. It makes it look like a slew of people continuously arriving and entering. The cool thing is the fact that the ensemble is also singing back-up harmony during the song, but half the time they're doing it offstage during the quick costume/wig changes. It's so much fun to see people hunched over while their dresser's are frantically putting them in new outfits as their wigs are being snatched off and replaced while they're fully belting out their harmonies. It's such a perfect image of backstage theatricality! I’m so impressed!

The dress rehearsal was very exciting for us but it couldn't compare to the first preview with people who actually bought tickets! The coolest thing for me was when I realized I would no longer be going home after rehearsals, like I had been doing for the last 5 weeks. Instead, I was going to be doing a Broadway show at night! Needless to say, it was extremely thrilling. I had done Disaster! Off-Broadway many times, but I had never performed it for that many people! It was an amazing feeling to hear laughs fill the theater.

Of course, like in most previews, there were moments that clanked and that's why we've been rehearsing every day. You need an audience to see what works and what doesn't, and now we're making little changes to make sure everything works. No one in the cast seemed to be exhausted…until our four-show weekend.

We had a Saturday matinee and night show and a Sunday matinee and a night show…a so-called "four-show weekend." At one point, I was running backstage to get to the other side to do a big chase scene with Roger Bart, and I passed by Kevin Chamberlin and Faith Prince, looking completely shut down. As I passed them to go onstage, Kevin said, "We've hit a wall. Have you?" It was so hilariously honest! The good news is, we got through the week and there've been so many fun people who've come. One night we had Carolee Carmello, Jeanna de Waal, Heidi Blickenstaff, Wayne Brady, Lea Salonga, Hunter Bell and Telly Leung. Looks at me and Max with them!

And Lea was there with her castmates from Allegiance. They made a great video where they all get killed in a disaster. Watch:

Tonight, we welcome some of our Broadway friends to Disaster - On Broadway, but it appears that George Takei, Lea Salonga, Telly Leung, and the cast of Allegiance - A New Musical did NOT #PrepareForDisaster!

Posted by Disaster - On Broadway on Wednesday, February 10, 2016

And last night my comedy idol, Andrea Martin, came!

And, my sister and her family and my mom came to the Sunday matinee! It was very cool to be doing the show on Broadway in front of my family!

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James asked me if I go to my dressing room during the show and the answer is no. I have to stand in the wings the whole time and take notes (while Jack JoAnn and James are taking notes in the audience) so we can make changes the next day. The hardest part is being onstage playing my role while surreptisouly taking notes in my head to write down later.

In one scene, there's a huge explosion that hadn't been loud enough for a few shows. Finally, on Thursday, it was really loud. Yay! I was so happy it worked. I had to remember to tell the sound designer it was perfect! Of course, right after the explosion, someone forgot their line. SO annoying! Silence. I was waiting, for someone anyone to speak. Who's the scatterbrained actor who wasn't speaking!?!? Finally, the brilliant Jennifer Simard, who plays the nun, looked at me and asked awkwardly "Is this it?" Why such a weird phrase? Because the next line was supposed to be "This is it." And I was the nightmare actor who forgot to speak. Busted!

Juli has started taking a stand-up comedy class and loves it! It's being taught by my friend Linda Smith, who is an amazing stand-up. We met when we were both comedy writers on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. I was watching some of her stuff on YouTube and laughing so hard. She talks about being Italian and getting big hair over the summer. She said the humidity can change it overnight. She'll go to bed with her hair looking good and suddenly, in the morning, it's enormous. She then says, "The same thing happens with my ass. I go to bed and it's normal. Wake up…it's huge!" She adds, "…pretty sure it's the humidity."

Anyhoo, her class is great (mainly for adults, but there's another teenager, so Juli doesn't feel totally weird). This one is sold out, but you can take her next one! Register here! Speaking of Linda, Max Crumm and I were laughing about Judy Gold, who is a great stand-up and played Shirley Off-Broadway. I told him about the time Linda, Judy and I worked on the Rosie show and Judy was home. Linda instant-messaged her (remember that?) because she saw Judy was online. First Linda wrote, “Hi, ass!” Judy didn't write back. Linda wrote again "ASS!" No response. Linda kept going with a slew of curses, mainly to make Judy laugh. Finally, Linda got an instant message back that said this: “Linda. This is Judy's girlfriend. I'm trying to teach my 10-year-old niece how to use the computer. Thank you." Hi-lar!

P.S. If you think Linda curses more than Judy, you're mistaken. When Billy Porter left Kinky Boots, Max Crumm put up a ludicrous Facebook comment proudly announcing he would be taking over the role of Lola. P.S. If you don't know, Max is not black. Well, Judy saw the announcement and thought it was real! She wrote him the most supportive letter ever telling him what an amazing time this is for him that he needed to "take it all in." He wrote her a sweet email thanking her for being so kind but that he had posted the status update as a joke. She simply wrote back, "F--- you, C---." And there you have it! Come see Disaster! You can get discounts throughout previews! Go to Ticketmaster and put in the code SOC1!

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