ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: I'm Gonna Be a Producer; Wisdom from David Merrick and Annaleigh Ashford's Kinky Accent

By Seth Rudetsky
06 May 2013

Annaleigh Ashford visits the Chatterbox.
Photo by Robb Johnston

Each of the freed men made a statement and all were the same theme; essentially they were happy to be free and grateful to the Innocence Project. That's it. No bitterness. One of the men was from Minneapolis and said that every morning he wakes up and is filled with joy that he doesn't have bars around him. I kept waiting for the "I'll never forget the injustice that was done to me" but I never got it. I saw the man afterwards and I asked him why he is not filled with sadness/anger/rage at how unfair it all was and by how many years he lost. He said that if he concentrated on that, it would eat him up inside.

Of course that's true, but how is able to do that? I'm constantly raging to anyone who will listen about not getting the role of "Boy" in the sketch "Boy Meets Girl" when my 4th grade class did Free to Be You and Me and he's not thinking about being wrongfully imprisoned? What is wrong with me? I left feeling mortified about my shallowness. (And, quite frankly, still wondering why Michael Lager was cast as the boy and I only got to sing a section, not even the whole song of "William's Doll." So unfair!) If you want to help with the Innocence Project, go to innocenceproject.org. And if you want hear what song Norm sang, which was amazing, listen here. And if you don't know the hilarious sketch from Free to Be… that I was not cast in, watch here!

I saw I'll Eat You Last starring Bette Midler and loved it. She's so engaging and so likeable, and the play is so interesting. Of course, if you're under 30, you may be thinking "Who???" the whole time she talks about people like Robert Evans, Allie McGraw and Gene Hackman, but I was hooked as soon as she dished Barbra's late 70's perm! I also saw The Call at Playwrights Horizons and, of course, I loved seeing Kerry Butler who is great in everything. But I was super happy to see my friend Kelly AuCoin who was excellent! I've never seen him in a New York play. I only know him from an Ohio musical. That's right, we went to Oberlin together and he was in the production of Runaways that I music directed. To this day, I'm obsessed with that show. Watch!



I had Best Featured Actress Tony Award nominee Annaleigh Ashford on the Chatterbox last week and I asked her about the accents the cast had to learn for Kinky Boots. She told me it was Northhampton, but soon she found out her accent was so good it was actually unintelligible. During tech rehearsal, director Jerry Mitchell had it with the bizarre vowels and told her, "Annaleigh! I can't understand you! Just speak like Mary Poppins!" She told him that Mary Poppins is from London. He then said, "Fine! Just talk like Sandy from the 'Grease' movie." Huh? Olivia Newton-John is Australian! If she can pick any random celebrity to speak like, why not Rula Lenska? PS, what country is Rula from? England? Then why the name Rula? Is it really "ruler" but with a British accent? And what is Rula actually known for? Literally just this commercial?

OK, here's a final shout-out for those in the Bayou! Audra McDonald and I are a-comin' for two concerts on May 18th! Get thee tix at broadwaynola.com!

And for my fellow New Yorkers, i'll be doing a fundraiser with some sassy Broadway folk for the public school in my Upper West side 'hood! It'll be at The Computer School on 78th Street and Amsterdam next Monday, May 13th at 6:30! Buy your cheap tix here and peace out!