ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Mutchnick & Seth

By Seth Rudetsky
28 Nov 2011

Max Mutchnick
photo by Robb Johnston

Max told us about being interviewed for "Inside the Actors Studio." First of all, Max said this happened before Sean Hayes came out. He told us that an "Inside the Actors Studio" interview actually takes around eight hours and then it's whittled down to one hour. The whole cast of "Will and Grace" was there, but they were each interviewed separately. Before Max went on, James Lipton told Max that he will never have another interviewer who is more prepared. I'm not going to say "famous last words," but let's just say that Max came out and James Lipton immediately talked about the bold choice Max had made by having the two gay male leads played by two straight actors. Lipton kept asking questions about it and Max told us that he finally had to do what people never do during an interview: He asked Lipton to stop, the audience had to leave for a hiatus and Lipton had to be informed to ixnay on the aight-stra!!!

Speaking of aight-stra, I also recently interviewed the out recording artist, Matt Zarley, whom I met in the 90's when we did the A Chorus Line tour through Europe. He was Mike in Europe, but on Broadway he played Mark. However, at one performance he almost had to go on for another character because he was the only one who could sing high enough. Who was the character? Richie. That's right, the one who sings "Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball." And, quite frankly, the one character who has an actual line clarifying that he's black! Normally, if a white guy understudies the part he changes Richie's description of himself from "…and I'm black." To "…and I'm straight." Unfortunately, when the guy playing Richie injured himself, it was after he made it clear to the audience that he was black. It's sort of a racial spin on the Mary Ingalls character on "Little House on the Prairie." Remember? She was on for years and suddenly her character went blind. Well, Richie was in "A Chorus Line" for an hour and suddenly his character became white. Of course, the actor playing Richie was able to finish the show, so the non-traditional production never happened. But I asked Matt for more musical theatre mishaps, and he told us that once when doing Cats, the dance captain was walking around backstage and tripped over a wire. Simply a wire. Well, it not only caused all of the sound system to cut out, it also caused a complete blackout in the theatre. I don't quite understand how one wire controlled everything, but I love it! It's so house of cards. Matt has a new CD out, and you can get it and hear clips at http://mattzarley.com/. Brava!

Matt Zarley

Now I'm on hour two of our 11-hour train ride back home. Montreal is a city that speaks French and English, but in many places French is dominant. As soon as we arrive, I walked into our hotel and said "hello" to the receptionist. She pointedly said "Bonjour" back to me with a "You are in a French-speaking city" attitude. I ignored the vague hostility and instead became excited to try out my French, so I immediately said "Ca va" to her. This time, instead of speaking French, she pointedly responded, in English, "I am fine." In other words, her attitude began with "How dare you greet me assuming English is my native language?" followed by "How dare you think your French is good enough to converse with me?" That's right, she was angry I spoke English and then angry I spoke French. I was not deterred, however, and kept hauling out my French throughout the trip. Jack Latulippe, who brought me up to Montreal, was a great host and actually told me that I spoke with barely an American accent. He chose not to comment on the fact that I can only conjugate in the present tense and only with verbs ending in "er."

On Saturday night, we begged Jack to take us to an authentic Montreal restaurant. Unfortunately, he did. It was a very hip and popular restaurant that served Italian food with a Montreal spin, meaning the menu was full of "delicious" items like tripe, rabbit and wild boar. Despite the horrifying majority of food choices, the dinner actually wound up being delicious (I got fish, James pumpkin ravioli and Juli meatballs) and afterwards, Jack took us out to a dessert place that's an entire restaurant dedicated to chocolate. It was mind-bogglingly good. The next morning, however, there was a call back to the time in England when James got the black pudding thinking it was chocolate or something else delicious and discovered it actually consisted of intestines. This time I got a bagel at a buffet and saw little plastic cups with some kind of cream cheese inside. Just to clarify, I asked what kind of cream cheese it was and discovered it wasn't cream cheese at all. It looked like cream cheese but was instead a "Montreal specialty": ground up beef and pork. And coupe!

Next Monday and Tuesday is the Gypsy of the Year, and I'm hosting for the fourth time. It's one of my favorite things to do, and I can't wait to stand in the wings and watch all the acts! You can get tickets at www.BroadwayCares.org. Before Gypsy of the Year, I'm heading up to the Art House in Provincetown to do Andrea Martin's show Dec. 4-5 (tix at www.PtownArtHouse.com). Alors, au revoir, mes amis….a la semaine que prochaine!

(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.)