ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: David Garrison to the Rescue, Plus Megan Hilty Is a Smash

By Seth Rudetsky
30 Apr 2012

André De Shields
André De Shields

A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

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I'm back in NYC after a whirlwind tour of Cleveland. And by "tour," I mean one performance at PlayhouseSquare. Next up is Chicago and then Wilmington with Andrea Martin's hilarious show (tickets here). This week, I had a jam-packed "Seth Speaks" at SiriusXM and it was delish. First I had Andre De Shields as a guest, and I told him that I was obsessed with Ain't Misbehavin' when I was a kid. He talked about when it first opened in Manhattan Theatre Club's 1970s location, which was all the way on the East Side. He didn't know if it was going to be a big hit or just play out its initial run, until one performance when he noticed someone in the audience. He told us her name with a five second pause between each segment: "In the audience was…Jacqueline… Bouvier….Kennedy…Onassis." That was the first clue that they were going to be a mega-hit, then he noticed big-time Broadway producer Gerry Schoenfeld and then Manny Azenberg. It finally transferred to Broadway, where this little five-person show won the Tony Award for Best Musical! And it won over giant shows like On the Twentieth Century. What a coup! I did a deconstruction of some of my fave moments. Within the video I recreate a clear memory I have of being in sixth grade and loving Nell Carter's voice and trying to get somebody, anybody in my small Long Island neighborhood on board with me. This was before the internet, so there was no way to find other people who loved things like amazing placement in the mask and straight tone to vibrato. I was therefore consigned to forcing my friends to listen to various songs and hoping they'd connect. One afternoon in sixth grade, I called my friend Michael Smith, put the phone receiver next to the record player speaker and played him the end of "Cash For Your Trash." After it played, I started yelling into the phone, "She just belted an E! She just belted an E!" The silence I heard on the other end conveyed, "I don't know what belting is, I don't know what an 'E' is, I'm 11, what's happening!?"

Andre's first big break was in The Wiz and before it opened they kept asking him to audition for either the Lion, the Scarecrow or the Tin Man, but he told them he only wanted to play the Wizard. He got the gig and had an amazing entrance where he walked down a giant staircase in crazy, enormous heels. He learned how to do it without falling down because the director Geoffrey Holder gave him specific instructions that involved rolling your foot forward to feel the edge of the step. Who did Geoffrey learn it from? The glamorous Lena Horne! And so it is passed down.

Juli post-makeover



Speaking of glamour, Juli won a free makeover at The Body Shop on Saturday. We don't let her wear makeup (except lipstick when she see Broadway shows) but we allowed her to get a full face of makeup for fun. Look at the picture on the side and tell me if you're surprised that her favorite TV show is "RuPaul's Drag Race." Seriously!

I also had the lovely Megan Hilty on my radio show and she revealed that she got "Smash" after one audition! She wasn't even going to go in because the description of the role specifically stated that Ivy is an amazing dancer and Megan simply "moves well" as we say in the euphemism business. But her agent convinced her to go and she did her audition on tape. Usually, after an initial TV audition, you're called in at least one more time and then one final time for the network executives. Instead, Megan got a phone call asking her how tall she was. She wanted to know why and her agent told her it's because Steven Spielberg likes to know how tall someone is when he's watching their tape. Megan told her agent her height and then drank coffee at Starbucks while obsessively thinking "Steven Spielberg is watching me right now." This was the beginning of pilot season and Megan was prepared to deal with tons of headachey auditions as well as the call backs and rejections and instead she was told by her agent not to try out for any more shows because she was going to get Smash. I reiterate: after one audition!

At my show, she sang a song from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which she's about to do at Encores!, and she sounded great! She also sounds great on my audio book (it just came out last week). Here's the link to the audio book.

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