What Did Liza Minnelli Say to Leslie Kritzer Backstage at Funny Girl?

Seth Rudetsky   What Did Liza Minnelli Say to Leslie Kritzer Backstage at Funny Girl?
 
This week Seth reminisces with the Beetlejuice stand-out and talks to future stars from LaGuardia High School, the famous New York City school that inspired the movie Fame.
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Leslie Kritzer Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Back on the road! I just got back from Baltimore and D.C. (more on that later), next week I’m in Greece, then I have a lot more gigs this summer!

First of all, on July 8, I’m starting The Seth Rudetsky Series at Boston's Emerson Colonial Theatre, and my first star is Jessie Mueller. Speaking of first, she was also one of the first people we asked to sing, “What The World Needs Now Is Love” for Broadway for Orlando—and she got us Carole King and Sara Bareilles! Watch here!

Jessie was also the first person to text us right after the 2016 election and ask us to create what became Concert For America. The fun part is, I never know what what we’re going to sing at one of my concerts with her, but I know we’re going to do this song! Watch here!

So come see us in Boston on July 8 along with my other guests, Cheyenne Jackson and Kelli O’Hara! (Tickets here!) Also! For those of you in the Rocky Mountains, tickets have gone on sale for Deconstructing Broadway in Colorado Springs, Colorado on July 16. Get thee! (Tickets here!)

Now…happy post-Father’s Day! We had a great pre-Father’s Day treat when James and I were honored by the New York Civil Liberties Union for our work with the LGBT community. First we heard from NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who talked about how great it was that the NYPD finally apologized for raiding the Stonewall Inn in 1969. She dryly added that it “only” took them 50 years. She also told us that, even though it is great that the NYPD apologized, she feels they still have work to do.

Seth Judy

Donna spoke of a trans woman who was walking home through a local park after her bus dropped her off, and was arrested by New York City Police officers for being in the park after it was closed. When asked her name, she gave her original first name and the name she now legally has, and they charged her with “false impersonation” and “trespassing.” The NYCLU has filed a lawsuit on her behalf along. Brava!

Donna then presented us with our awards (which are stunning!) and asked us to come up and speak. James and I told everyone that combining social justice with the arts is something we love to do, so we wanted a singer during our segment. Judy Kuhn and I both went to Oberlin, which is a bastion for liberal causes and amazing music, and I thought she’d be perfect to sing. But I also knew she was starring as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof in London, which is a long commute to downtown NYC. But I also knew her run was about to end, and found out she was flying home two days before the event. But I also thought two days was not enough time to get rid of jetlag and she probably wouldn’t want to perform since 7 PM NY time is 1 AM London time! But, pushy-style, I texted her anyway... Not surprisingly, considering who she is, she wrote back from London with a big, “YES! I love the NYCLU and you guys!” So we brought Judy onstage who gave a fantastic performance Fun Home’s “Ring of Keys.” Thank you, Judy!

Then James came back to the stage and spoke of living in Texas when Juli was a toddler and she was still his niece. His mom was Juli's legal guardian, and the horrible Republicans in Texas were trying to pass a law making it illegal for gay people to adopt or foster. He brought Juli to the office of Tommy Williams, the state senator from where his mom lived. James thought that if the senator saw how happy Juli was with him, it would change his mind. The senator was unyielding about supporting the law. Finally, while Juli was bouncing on his lap, James pointedly asked, “So, you’re saying that if my mom died, you would rather Juli not be raised by me? Her uncle, to whom she first crawled? To whom she spoke her first word? You would rather she be raised by complete strangers?” He replied that it was exactly what he was saying and, if James, Juli and his mom didn’t leave, he was going to call security. Seriously. By the way, keep telling me that there’s no difference between political parties. Anyhoo, the law didn’t pass, and James legally adopted Juli! But there are plenty of states that keep trying to pass similar laws and the ACLU is constantly in court fighting them…and winning! Join the NYCLU and see their annual show Broadway Stands Up For Freedom! Info here: NYCLU.org.

At Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM radio show, I interviewed Leslie Krtizer who is currently killing it as two different roles in Beetlejuice. I just found this clip of the Easter Bonnet Competition opening number I wrote (choreographed by Chris Gattelli) where Leslie makes a fabulous guest appearance touting her special skills, sung to “Some People.”

Sample:
Some people have skills deluxe
Drive a stick shift
Or own a tux…

Also, please enjoy Michael Lee Scott’s line reading “She is amazing with kids…” Watch here!

Leslie told us that she was super-involved in creating moments in Beetlejuice, and I need to make sure you note the amazing backbend she added at the end of her big number in Act Two!

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Leslie Kritzer and Adam Dannheisser Matthew Murphy

Speaking of amazing numbers, she did tons of them when she starred as Fanny Brice in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Funny Girl back in 2001. (Critics raved.) She does a hilarious retelling of Liza Minnelli coming to see the show that includes Liza coming backstage and “complimenting” her by saying (with a huge smile), “I’ve never seen anyone work harder!” Thanks? Then she recreated Liza going old-skool and asking Leslie if she wanted to go to a diner and have a “Coca-Cola.” Anyhoo, at her last appearance on my radio show seven years ago, Leslie also talked about her audition for the Broadway revival of Funny Girl (which wound up being canceled) where she wasn’t cast as Fanny—Lauren Ambrose was. She ended the segment by singing a bravura “I’m The Greatest Star.” You can watch it here. (And, note, the person sitting to her left, enjoying the whole thing, is my other guest: Max Mutchnick, co-creator of Will & Grace!)

I also had a bunch of kids on Seth Speaks from NYC’s LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, aka the “Fame” school. The kids have been protesting the changes that have happened in the school over the last few years, even staging a sit-in last month. As the students said during my show, LaGuardia is supposed to be for the most artistically talented kids in NYC, but there's a new focus on academic grades.

Seth LaGuardia

On a positive, let’s remember how amazing the film Fame is! A few years ago, I interviewed Laura Dean who played Lisa, the dance major who’s kicked out of the program and then almost commits suicide in front of a subway train. Laura said that in the original script, her character actually did commit suicide! But the studio told the scriptwriters that they could not have a lead character die. Phew! During all of her dance scenes, she’s busted by the dance teacher for not trying hard enough. The teacher keeps yelling, “Where’s the sweat, Lisa?” Turns out, there was no air conditioning where they filmed and Laura was actually covered in sweat! They had tons of leotards and tights that she had to keep changing into after every take because they’d all be soaked! Even though Laura is a great singer (she was amazing playing Mrs. Walker on Broadway in Tommy) she wasn't written into the big final song because her character had not been alive to do it in the original script. Alan Parker, the director, told her repeatedly that she would not be in the final song. Well, Laura is one of those people who walks around singing and one day, she was in the bathroom of the church on 46th Street where they filmed the school scenes. She was singing as usual and, since it was co-ed, a guy heard her. He told her she had a great voice, and she laughed and quipped, “Hmph! Alan Parker doesn’t think so. He’s not letting me sing in the film.” Well, the guy who heard her singing was the right person to impress because it was Michael Gore who wrote the score! He wound up using her to record the demo for the entire finale, and then giving her the first solo. Laura is the one who sings the beginning of “I Sing The Body Electric” and sounds amazing on the high note. Watch here!

Seth Betty

Finally, I spent Sunday with James, my sister Nancy and her husband Allan seeing a great production of Disaster! put on by Cockpit In Court Summer Theatre near Baltimore, Maryland.

And I closed it all out by seeing Betty Buckley bring the house down in Hello, Dolly! at the Kennedy Center. What a beautiful theatre and fantastic production. Get thee! (Tickets here!)

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