Onstage & Backstage: Why Did Max Crumm Almost Faint Onstage During The Fantasticks?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Why Did Max Crumm Almost Faint Onstage During The Fantasticks?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Delicious breezes, palm trees and sun! Yes, I'm writing from Tampa and loving the break from cold, cold New York. I'm here doing Deconstructing Broadway at the Straz Center. I fly home and then, one day later, I fly to Los Angeles to rehearse and perform the Actors Fund concert of Disaster! which is happening Jan. 25 (and it already sold out. Yay!).

Anyhoo, first, a menagerie update; So, we now have almost-15-year-old Sonora, 11-month-old Mandy and 9-month-old Romeo, the cat. We have a backyard in our brownstone apartment and I've been told numerous times by James and Juli to keep the door closed because Romeo can run out. Of course, I've been living here for four years and left the door open the entire time, so I'm still not used to closing it. Last Monday, I let Mandy into the backyard and left the door a little open because it wasn't that cold out. Ten minutes later, I heard Juli ask how long the door had been open. Uh-oh. I come out of my bedroom with James and we say we're sure the cat is downstairs (we have a duplex). We look downstairs in all of his usual hiding spots... nothing. We come upstairs and look everywhere. Nothing. Finally, we open the dreaded back door and decide to look around. Our backyard is surrounded by a wall and I said to Juli "I'm sure the cat didn't climb out." She said, "Really? That's what cats do. CLIMB!" Good and valid point. Also, the walls in the backyard were originally all cement, which would be impossible for the cat to climb up. But James has covered them all in bamboo... AKA the perfect material for a cat to sink its claws into and use to climb up and over.

Well, you must be asking, surely you stood still and listened to see if you could hear the cat somewhere. We did, in fact, stand listening but there wasn't any point. Why? Well, Romeo had a collar with a bell on it, but every time he walked anywhere, at various times of the night, the bell would ring and Mandy would bark because she wanted to play. James and I had had it and told Juli to take the collar off the cat ASAP. "But," she responded, prophetically, "that's how I can hear where the cat is." Ignoring her, we took off the collar so there was no more bell sound and when the cat moved anywhere. He only weighs around four pounds so wherever he moved, he made as much noise as a feather landing on a feather. So, imagine my guilt: I'm the one who left the backdoor open and I'm the one insisted the collar was taken off the cat. Isn't that a great feeling? After around an hour and half (for real!) I spoke to a psychic I know. I just wanted to know if the cat was outside or inside. I knew we'd find him eventually if he were inside, but the outside was getting super cold and he's a size zero. The psychic tuned into to Romeo and she asked me if our outside stone was white or dark. Hm... I looked… and sort of neither. It was concrete. But... wait a minute... downstairs there were white stones!!! Then she asked me if we had a metal, spiral staircase. AH! Yes, we did! Downstairs! "So," I asked with incredible relief, "the cat is downstairs?" "Not necessarily..." she answered, cryptically. What the-? She was literally seeing the downstairs! Wasn't that what Romeo was seeing? Or was she tuning into his memory? Before I could get into it, James checked the couch for the 80th time, but this time he unzipped the cushions and turned the couch upside down. He walked away and when he checked under the couch for the 81st time, Romeo was there! This whole ordeal took two hours! Turns out, my psychic is a genius... she just has commitment issues.

Max Crumm
Max Crumm

On "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM radio show, I had Max Crumm who plays Matt and Ed Watts who plays El Gallo in The Fantasticks. I used to play for that show in the '90's when it was at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, the theatre where it first opened in 1960! I love playing that music so much, so I asked Maria Banks, who plays harp for The Fantasticks, to come on my show so we'd have the full "band." We did that amazing overture and "I Can See It." I loved it so much! I wanted to know about any recent mishaps and Max said that recently there was a tiny nail sticking out of the stage and his knee skidded across it. He noticed that it hurt, but thought he'd only have a little cut. Cut to, he looked down and his white pants were totally red from blood. Max then had to hit a freeze onstage and he's one of those people who pass out from seeing blood so the whole time he was frozen thought he was going to hit the deck. During intermission, the pianist approached him and, turns out, she has full medical training (!). She was able to get the wound under control and ye olde show went on. Ed's mishap wasn't medical but was just as noticeable; during the song "Round and Round" he has a numerous sections that are rythemic and very fast. He was supposed to sing:

"We'll be in Bengasi or maybe Bombay.
I understand Indja is terribly gay.
The natives assemble on feast day and play."

Sam Harris
Sam Harris

During one performance, when he started to approach "feast day" he couldn't remember the term. He, however, knew it started with an F. So, in a panic, this is what he sang:

'We'll be in Bengasi or maybe Bombay.
I understand Indja is terribly gay.
The natives assemble on Facebook and play."

I'm impressed by his ability to conjure up a two-syllable word under pressure but decidedly not impressed by his adding a social media reference to something written in 1960.

"Try to remember... the kind of Sept-My Space..."

On Thursday, I had the delightful Sam Harris at my "Chatterbox." Sam wrote a great autobiographical book last year called Ham and now he's starring in the theatrical version! It's playing at Ars Nova and it's been directed by Billy Porter. We all did Grease together (I took over as the pianist/asst conductor, Sam was Doody and Billy was Teen Angel) and Sam was hilarious re-telling the story of his audition. He was 32 at the time, and Stuart Howard, the casting director, was nervous that the Weisslers would think he was too old. Stuart knew Sam didn't look too old, especially when he'd be onstage in a theatre. So, when Sam auditioned, he made sure the Weisslers saw him as an audience would. How? Well, Stuart opened the door to the audition room, told the Weisslers to close their eyes (!) and when Sam finally walked all the way at the other end of the room, he allowed the Weisslers to finally open their eyes. Sam was not having it, so he marched right up to them, pointed to his face and told them to try to find a wrinkle (they couldn't). Interestingly, for all of Stuart's fears of Sam being to old to play a high school student, there were many actors older than Sam in that show playing teenagers, including one stint of Debbie Boone playing Rizzo... when she was 44! I guess when Rizzo thinks she might be pregnant in Act Two, her friends were less concerned with her being labeled a "tramp" in the lunchroom and more impressed with her peri-menopausal fertility. Sam has some amazing stories about his house burning down (twice!) when he was a kid as well as great stories about Aretha Franklin and Donny Osmond in his book. And he was at the Liza/David Gest wedding! His live show is even better because he sings up a storm. Get tix here.

I first loved his voice when I saw him on "Star Search" back in 1984. Listen how crazily high he goes!

Well, the casting for the L.A. concert of Disaster! is finally done. We really wanted to use Jonah Verdon, who played Ben and his twin sister Lisa Off-Broadway because he was excellent and got amazing reviews. Unfortunately, apparently people get older and Jonah was looking less like a little boy and more like the teenager that he is. A great casting director in L.A. sent us a video of a boy she thought would be perfect and we decided he was! His name is Baylee Littrell and if his last name sounds familiar, it's because his Dad is Brian Littrell of The Backstreet Boys! Baylee is adorable, funny and sings great! I flew down to Atlanta to give him a one-day coaching session on the role and, turns out, that's where Jonah lives, too! Jonah came to the end of rehearsal to give him some tips and symbolically pass the torch. Look how cute they both are!

Baylee Littrell and Jonah Verdon
Baylee Littrell and Jonah Verdon

Well, I'm leaving Florida soon for California and I'm back in the sunshine state Feb. 14! I'll be with cutie Cheyenne Jackson at the Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale. Get tix here. If you miss him at NY's Café Carlisle this week, come to Florida on Valentine's day! It'll be much nicer weather. On that note, peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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