ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Patti LuPone Saves the Day, Striking a Pose in St. Petersburg and Donald Trump's a Phantom Fan

By Seth Rudetsky
12 Aug 2013

Norm Lewis
Norm Lewis

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

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Greetings from Poland! I'm at the tail end of the Playbill Cruise in the Baltic and it's been fabulous! I wrote last time that Norm Lewis arrived in Stockholm, sailed with us for one day and then hightailed it back to the USA because he had to film an episode of  "Scandal." He told me it was a day and night shoot so he shot the first scene at 8 AM and was finished by 8:15 AM. Then he had to wait 12 hours to shoot the second scene. That's a long intermission!

Anyhoo, he was supposed to fly from LA to NYC to Helsinki and then meet us in Estonia. Unfortunately, his plane from LA was an hour late and that meant his missed his connection. He wound up flying to Frankfort and then meeting us the following day at our next port, Lithuania. It wasn't that big of a deal because his big concert isn't until tonight, but he was scheduled to do a "Chatterbox" with me and there was no way to makes sure all the passengers knew it was cancelled. Patti LuPone's "Chatterbox" was scheduled for a few days later but when she heard Norm wasn't able to do his, she volunteered to do two! She said, "Seth and I are so funny together and we've plenty to talk about." So, even though their "types" are different, Patti LuPone was finally Norm Lewis' understudy. Brava non-traditional casting. Not since Carousel.

The cruise spent three days in St. Petersburg, and I was very torn about what to do. Putin has passed very anti-gay laws that really violate human rights, and I didn't want to go there and support the economy or go there and be blithely enjoying myself while so many people are suffering. First, I decided to boycott the entire three days and stay on the boat, but then James and I thought that it was a protest that would essentially make no impression. Then I decided I would take a photo of myself in Russia holding a sign that said, "I'm a gay, Jewish Russian" (my grandfather was born in Russia).

Seth strikes a sassy pose



Well, the night before we docked, we were talking to Willie Aames (aka Tommy Bradford from "Eight Is Enough") who is the cruise director. He's also horrified by what's happening in Russia. When I told him my plan, he warned me that wherever I'd be, there would also be police and I would most likely be arrested. James would be in the USA by the time and the thought of trying to get out of Russian jail with the help of my mother-in-law and Juli seemed like a bad episode of "I Love Lucy," so Willie suggested I take pictures of myself throughout St. Petersburg in sassy dance poses. James and I loved the idea. We decided that the pictures would illustrate the message that a horrendous government can't kill spirit. Well, I took some pics in my signature A Chorus Line poses and got Juli into the act, too. Take a gander!

Patti LuPone did the first show on the boat and was, not surprisingly amazing! Every song was belted. And every song had crazy high notes. And she had a ton of songs. Throughout the show, Howard McGillin and Norm Lewis kept throwing each other terrified glances with the subtext of, "Do we also have to sing 8,000 songs and hit non-stop notes at the top of our ranges?" The show she did was called Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda and it features songs from roles she could have/would have or should have played. One of the highlights was her rendition of "Trouble" from The Music Man. Everything about it was thrilling...including the fact that she knew so many lyrics. Who knew she could rap? I told her we have to do it at our upcoming Provincetown show Labor Day weekend (for tix, get thee to PtownArtHouse.com). For an encore, she talked about the joy of doing Anything Goes and walked into the audience and found Howard McGillin. Then she sang all of "I Get A Kick out of You" while sitting next to him. It was amazing!

Seth and Juli in Russia



 Continued...