What Happened When Harry Connick, Jr. Pranked Kelli O’Hara During Broadway’s The Pajama Game?

Seth Rudetsky   What Happened When Harry Connick, Jr. Pranked Kelli O’Hara During Broadway’s The Pajama Game?
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares hilarious onstage mishaps from Cheyenne Jackson, O’Hara, and more.
Kelli O'Hara and Harry Connick Jr. in <i>The Pajama Game</i>
Kelli O'Hara and Harry Connick Jr. in The Pajama Game Joan Marcus

I am in Kansas today doing Deconstructing Broadway at McPherson, then back in NYC for a day-and-a-half and then I hightail it to Hartford, Connecticut, to deconstruct the The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (plus Donny And Marie and so many more ’70s shows) on Thursday.

If you don’t know, The Donny and Marie Show had an ice-skating rink featuring a bunch of skaters. The Brady Bunch Hour had a swimming pool with swimmers who also doubled as dancers. My name for them is based on the simple equation: swimmers + dancers = swancers. Anyhoo, here is a highlight from one of their nine episodes featuring an opening joke that I’m still trying to figure out:
Mike: Maybe they’re right!
Carol: Maybe they’re wrong!

Me. What?

And here, we spotlight Greg funking out with a few “swancers.” Enjoy!

Come see my show Thursday at Charter Oak Cultural Center.

The very next day, I’m going to Boston to continue “The Seth Rudetsky Series” at Emerson’s Colonial Theater with Cheyenne Jackson. Get tickets here!

His riffs are so fluid! I just found this video from a performance we did 11 years ago. SO GOOD!!!!

Speaking of 11 years ago, this is a photo from performance we did on a cruise. He brought the sheet music to “Feeling Good” but forgot the page that had the piano solo. I said I would try to fake it and told him not to call attention to it or else I would get nervous. So, of course, when I started the solo, his version of “not calling attention to it” was walking to the side of the piano and putting his face in his hands three inches from mine and watching everything I played. Mean and hilarious!

Cheyenne Jackson and Seth Rudetsky
Cheyenne Jackson and Seth Rudetsky

Come see us Friday night!

This week I interviewed Mark Linn-Baker, who is starring at 59 E. 59 Street in Michael Tucker’s (L.A. Law) new play Fern Hill with an amazing cast. Tickets and info here.

I asked him about the “Linn” and the answer was that old chestnut. When he joined the union, there was another Mark Baker and he had to differentiate his name from the other actor. I asked why he couldn’t just use “L.” and he said it had to be the full middle name. I was about to say “What about Stephanie J. Block?” but then remembered she didn’t add the J to differentiate herself from another Equity member, she added it because of another Stephanie Block known as the “razzle dazzle preacher” whose mail she kept getting.

Anyhoo, Mark told me he was the first actor to try out for the role of Benjy Stone in the film My Favorite Year. It was Richard Benjamin’s first film as a director and he felt he shouldn’t hire the very first actor that came in, so he kept auditioning other people. Finally, Richard decided he actually could hire the first actor that came in and Mark got to do this. (Note Adolph Green in the background.) Watch the trailer here.

I just found this clip of Mark and Bronson Pinchot from an ’80s award show, and I love how real they play it, yet comedic, and so not reading cue cards. (P.S. Note Joann Worley in the opening shot.)

I also had Harry Connick, Jr. on Seth Speaks, talking about his brand new Cole Porter CD and his upcoming return to Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. I remembered this hilarious story that Harry’s co-star, David Turner, told me about One A Clear Day You Can See Forever. Normally, there’s a scene that’s supposed to begin with Harry (a psychiatrist) giving a lecture about hypnosis. David, in the lecture hall, comments to someone that he'd never be susceptible to hypnosis and, of course, as soon as Harry snaps his fingers, David falls asleep. Harry tells the class once a patient is asleep, they can add some post-hypnotic suggestion like, "When I say the word Wednesday, you'll take off your shirt." He then snaps his fingers and David wakes up. At the end of the scene, Harry tells the class, "See you next Wednesday," and David immediately starts taking off his shirt. Audience laughs and end of scene.

There are then two more Wednesday references throughout the show that end with David taking his shirt off—a “running gag” or a “call back” as we say in show business or “the biz.” Cut to: One night, Harry got mixed up on lines in the opening scene and forgot to say the part about Wednesday and taking off the shirt. David didn't know what to do but felt he had to play the scene as directed. So, when Harry told the class, "See you next Wednesday," David stood onstage and started taking off his shirt. The audience was silent, horrified, and mystified. Why did a main character randomly start taking off his shirt? David was mortified and, while he was backstage, figured out how they could cut all of the future Wednesday references.

Unfortunately, he was never backstage at the same time that Harry in order to tell him face-to-face, but he assumed someone would tell Harry how they were going to change the script. Well, when you assume…

David came out for the next scene, now as Harry's patient. Harry put him to sleep as per the script and then, because Harry knew he had forgotten the Wednesday take-your-shirt-off reference in the first scene and no one told him how to cut, he came up with a way to “save it.” Yes, just before David woke up, Harry added: "And, uh, just for kicks, when I say the word Wednesday, take off your shirt." He then said "Wednesday," and David was forced yet again to take off his shirt for an audience that was (as before) silent, horrified, mystified, but now, not just turned against David, also completely judging the psychiatrist character for shockingly unethical behavior. "Just for kicks" you're making your patient take off his shirt? For whose kicks? You’re supposed to be a legitimate doctor? On A Clear Day You Can See Malpractice?

Harry also remembered doing The Pajama Game with Kelli O’Hara and playing an April Fool’s prank. Before the matineé, he called her and claimed he had bronchitis and couldn’t go on. He then showed up at the theatre. He said Kelli wasn’t particularly put out by the fact that he was going to miss the show because she is a Broadway pro and was used to having understudies go on…so his April Fool’s prank was a bust.

Well, at the end of Act 1, Harry always pushed Kelli offstage while she sat in a chair. He had to make sure he turned quickly, or else she could get hurt. During that performance, he didn’t make the turn quick enough and she fell off …and broke her wrist! He was mortified and devastated. She didn’t blame him but was too upset/in too much pain to talk to him so he let her have space and prepared to do Act 2 with her understudy while she went to the hospital. He felt horrible all intermission and wracked with guilt. Then when Act 2 began…Kelli was shockingly raring to go.

Yes, it was true he didn’t quite turn her chair fast enough, but he didn’t break her wrist. That was Kelli’s April Fool’s joke on him! He’s still annoyed because his April Fool’s joke didn’t invoke feelings of guilt and he claims he is still planning on revenge. (Note: Pajama Game ran in 2006, so he apparently plays a long game).

I was talking to him about his new album and told him he has the same accent as James (my husband). James is from Texas, Harry is from New Orleans, and they both pronounce the “a” in a word like “many” like the “i” in “hit.” So, when Harry sings “Anything Goes” on his album, it sounds like “Inything Goes.” Harry (at first) denied it but then told he will never be able to stop thinking about my face judging him every time he sings the song from now on. I just kept smirking and singing “Inything Goes” and finally he calmly stated: “You know what are, Seth? You’re a d**k.” I thought that was so direct and hilarious!!!

Speaking of hilarious, my friend Kristine Zbornik is one of the stars of The Full Monty at The Argyle Theatre in Babylon, Long Island. I can’t tell you how funny and creative she is. She created this character called Anita Lomax, who is an aging star, active alcoholic, and always blames others for her problems. Asked how her audition was for Sunset Boulevard she says she knew she wouldn’t be cast. “They had their minds made up about me way before I fell into the orchestra pit.” Here’s a quick clip of her as Anita, calling out “Andrew, Lloyd and Webber.”

That clip is the flip side of the joke where she talks about her new favorite lyricist: “His name is Alan and Marilyn Bergman.”

Go see her in The Full Monty! Tickets here!

Peace out!

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