ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Why, Oh, Why Ohio?

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Why, Oh, Why Ohio?
 
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director Seth Rudetsky.

Seth outside Oberlin's Wilder Hall
Seth outside Oberlin's Wilder Hall

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I spent my college years in Ohio. Every January, Oberlin has something called "Winter Term" where students do some sort of a project and get credit for it. One of the main reasons for Winter Term is to give students the chance to get the hell out of the state because it is so effing freezing. I, of course, stayed every Winter Term because I always conducted a musical. My first year there it was 20 degrees… . And that was before the wind chill factor. On a side note, I cannot believe how [AUDIO-LEFT]literal our society has become. The "wind chill factor" is a noted meteorological expression that tells us what the temperature feels like when combined with the wind. For years, we were all able to understand it. Now, however, people don't have the focus to understand something with the slightest metaphor so the expression has been changed to the "real feel" temperature. Ugh! It's so on the nose.

Now, if I may, let me rage about movie previews. Why would I want to go see a movie when the preview has told me the entire plot? You not only get the premise but then the exposition is shown. That's followed by every twist and turn of the movie except the ending credits. Whenever a preview begins for a film I'm considering seeing, I look like a crazy person in the movie theatre because I have my head down so I can't see anything and my hands over my ears. P.S. when did I turn into my father?

All right, my point in bringing up Ohio is that I am back again in that freezing state during Winter Term. What was/am I thinking? I'm playing Betty Buckley's Broadway By Request and doing my own show as well. The trip here bordered on nightmare: I was supposed to fly out Friday morning, tech Betty's show and then play it Friday night. Well, Thursday at around noon I get a call from Delta telling me that my flight to Columbus, Ohio, scheduled for Friday morning has been cancelled! That's right, because New York expected a little snow in the A.M., Delta decided to do a pre-emptive canceling. The next flight on Friday wouldn't get me in until that afternoon and what if that was cancelled or delayed? Betty called and begged me to come out Thursday. It was 1:30 when she called and the flight I got booked on was for 4:40. I rushed home from Sirius/XM, packed and hightailed it to LaGuardia. When I got to the gate at 3:30, they announced that because of weather conditions in Columbus, my 4:40 flight was being postponed to 6:07. P.S. why such a specific time? Why not 6:10? Are they trying to show how accurate they are about when planes leave? If so, why not leave at the original 4:40 time! Anyhoo, I resigned myself to waiting until 6:07 but then at around 4:30 they suddenly announced we were going to leave at 5 PM. Yay! That euphoria lasted only a few minutes because they then announced that the flight was no longer delayed…it was simply cancelled. Yowtch!

Sonja, from the Springfield Arts Center, got me a reservation on the 9:30 flight to Columbus. So I "only" had to wait at LaGuardia airport for a total of six hours. I landed at around midnight and got to my hotel at 1:30 AM…just in time to welcome in the coldest day of the year so far in Columbus.

Betty Buckley

Betty, however, was in a great mood because she's loving working with director Scott Schwartz and co-star Tovah Feldshuh on Arsenic and Old Lace at the Dallas Theater Center. I'm going to try to book a Texas gig while the show is running so I can come and see it. Perhaps I can deconstruct for the Super Bowl Halftime show? Speaking of deconstructing, my newest one just went up on the Sony Masterworks site. And, if you're not sitting, please promptly do so I can drop this bomb on you: I deconstruct a soprano! Now, people have to take that common expression out of the popular lexicon; "That'll happen when Seth Rudetsky deconstructs a soprano," and replace it with; "That'll happen when Seth Rudetsky deconstructs more than one soprano." (AKA never.)

Chris Moore, the executive director of the Springfield Arts Council, came backstage and showed me amazing programs from Sweet Charity and West Side Story from his college years at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. What I loved is that it featured Linda Wonneberger on the cover as Charity. Linda is Laura Benanti's mother! And, in the West Side Story program there's a picture of Bernardo played by Marty Vidnovic…Laura's biological father! Chris (Baby John) told me that both he and Linda (Anybodys) had injured their arms during West Side Story and performed the show with their arms in slings. He recently re-connected with her on Facebook and she told him her arm is still crooked. It paid off for Chris, however, because that arm injury kept him out of Vietnam. So, maybe one day, the cast of Spider-Man will say, "It was worth it."

Back to the West Side Story program; also featured is the great opera star Kathleen Battle as Maria! Oh, I'm sorry, she's actually listed as "Kathy" Battle and her role is "ensemble." Remember that fact, all of you young people who are devastated when you don't get a lead role in a school show. You, too, can grow up to be a world-class opera singer and win three Grammy awards…and scandalously be fired from the Metropolitan Opera for diva-like behavior. And, PS, to be fired from the Met for being too much of a diva is a major achievement. It's like being fired from "The Real Housewives" for being too skinny.

I've recently become obsessed with the bruhaha surrounding the book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." It was written by a Chinese mother who raised her American children with no play dates, sleepovers, school plays, etc, and instead, made them devote hours of piano and violin practice every day, as well as ridiculously high academic achievement. First, I saw a review of the book on Emily Skinner's Facebook wall so I posted it on my ex's wall (he's first-generation Chinese). His reaction was hilarious. He simply wrote "…And?" Then, "Everyone knows an A is really an A minus if an A plus was available." Then I read a moronic OpEd piece saying the mother was "too easy." He wrote that letting the children learn to navigate social issues like sleepovers is "far more difficult than any class at Yale." Huh? Why such sweeping exaggeration? Why couldn't he write that it's also important for children to learn social skills? Perhaps his mother should have raised him with no playdates until he could write an article without meaningless hyperbole. Anyhoo, my fascination with the saga wrapped up when I was signing autographs after the show in Ohio. An adorable six-year-old Asian girl approached me with her Mom and Grandmother. Her Mom told me that she listens to my show every day. I then asked the girl if she was an actress and she said "No." And by "she" I mean "her Mom." I mentioned the book and her Mom said that she's nothing like that. She then immediately followed it with, "I've told her if she wants to be an actress she can, just so long as she has something to fall back on." I told her the old adage, "If you have something to fall back on, you will." She ended it with, "I told her she can go to Columbia in New York as long as she majors in engineering." Phew. I'm glad she's nothing like the Asian mother in the book. It's totally appropriate to tell your six-year-old what major they're "allowed" to have when they go to their Ivy League University in 12 years. And I'm out. I have more traveling to do this week; I'm going to Belleville Canada to do Andrea Martin's show next Saturday. Find tickets here. And I just got asked to do a benefit with Audra MacDonald for the Desert AIDS Project in Palm Desert, CA. She recently texted me and here is the transcript:

AUDRA: When do we do that benefit in Pasadena?
SETH: A.) It's Palm Desert. B.) It's March 12th.
AUDRA: Stop yelling.
SETH: That was a mezzo forte.
AUDRA: Yes, but high mix.

Obviously Audra and I went to Juilliard and Oberlin, respectively. That back-and-forth joking would have brought down the house at a conservatory function…and gotten us labeled as nerds anywhere else.

OK, when you're done reading this, take a look at my new Playbill Obsessed video starring Steven Brinberg as Barbra Streisand singing her "Pioneer Medley." Hi-lar. Peace out!

Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.)

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