ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Celebrating Mother's Day and Catching Up With Andrea McArdle

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

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Happy post-Mother's Day! This week had a duo Mom celebration; the first was Tuesday, which was her birthday. I took her out to eat with a bunch of friends and posted a Vine video of her many attempts to blow out her candle. Note how I wrote candle, as in 1 (one) candle, and yet the Vine shows that it took her three full attempts to blow it out. And before you think I'm making fun of a frail old woman, just know that she has tons of sass and energy. She's always the person who has two masters degrees but can't do the basic things:

Mom: This door does not open. I've tried to for 10 minutes.

Seth: Mom, the knob turns the other way.

Mom: Oh. For Mother's Day, we had my mom, my sis and James' mom come over for brunch in our backyard on Sunday. Delish! Then I took my mom to see Forbidden Broadway. I love that show so much, and I felt so emotional because I realized I've been seeing it since I was a teenager in 1986! I first went with my sisters when it was at Paulson's (which changed its name to "Steve McGraw's" and now "The Triad").

I think that was the year I saw Barbara Walsh do a hilarious Barbra Streisand imitation as she sang "Somewhere." It started by busting those echoes Barbra did at the beginning of the song. Instead of just singing the word "Somewhere" over and over with a lot of reverb like on the Broadway Album, Barbara Walsh sang a string of two syllable words; "Memories... People... Barbra... Streisand." I also saw the famous "Chita/Rita" number which is sung to "America" and consistently notes "Chita is Chita and not Rita." I just found it on youtube starring Dorothy Kiara and Christine Pedi. It's so great, but for some reason it cuts one of my favorite lyrics. I loved the part that was sung to the "I'll buy a ticket to San Jaun" section:

Chita: I am a versatile actress.
Rita: Long as you stay on the mattress!
Chita: I can play any role I choose.
Rita: Gypsies, Italians and black Jews!

Anyhoo, this year's edition is hilarious as always. Everyone in the cast has such fantastic voices and there are so many great busts about Broadway. One of my faves was about the use of projections in musicals which was demonstrated using a junior high school-style overhead projector! Then Mia Gentile sang "Let It Go" (sounding amazing!) as Idina Menzel and the song was all about girls trying to imitate Idina and giving themselves vocal damage. I was totally obsessed with the last line, which was changed from "The cold never bothered me anyway" to "My nodes never bothered me anyway." Brava!

The evil Bangs with Stole (me!) around her neck

Last week I finally got to see some of the cartoon series I'm working on! It's called "Fashionista and Glamour Girl" and stars Joan Rivers as a seamstress by day/fashion superhero by night alongisde Christina Milian, who plays her cohort, Glamour Girl. They're joined by their sidekick dog, Splendido ( Michael Urie), and in this episode they help out a fashion emergency told to them by Diane Von Furstenberger (Susie Essman). The emergency was the work of evil mastermind Bangs (Melissa Rivers) and her only ally, Stole, the fox around her neck (me). I love how they drew the fox to (sort of) look like me! You can watch a sneak preview here

Before Mother's Day, I went down to the Poconos with Andrea McArdle to do a show in which she sounded great, of course. On the way down, we were in the Lincoln Tunnel and I joked about how horrible it would be to have to turn the car around. Of course, Andrea, who has worse A.D.H.D. than I do, mentioned that she was driving Martin Charnin through the tunnel one day and she ran out of gas. Not the ol' needle being on E which means you're low on gas. She meant literally no-more-gas-and-the-car-completely-stops. Suffice it to say, someone had to come rescue them, get gas into her tank and long story short, it ended with Andrea getting the guy tickets to Beauty And The Beast.

At our show, she talked about how excited, then devastated, she was years ago when she did a guest appearance on "Dance Fever." First she was excited because she was never considered cool by her high school classmates (Broadway was nerdy) so "Dance Fever" would give her amazing street cred. She assumed she'd be booked with some amazing hot singer like Donna Summer, Peter Frampton or Elton John. Instead, she showed up ready to meet someone from the cover of Rolling Stone and was horrified to find out that the guest singer was... Ethel Merman! Ethel was promoting her disco album and sang a funked-out version of "Alexander's Ragtime Band." If you don't believe it, here's a video of the song she did on the show! I watched it, thinking Ethel would look awkwardly stiff, but she actually has great body awareness... countered by horrible taste in what songs to add a disco beat to. Take a gander

Andrea McArdle
photo by Robert Mannis

Andrea was also uncomfortable seeing Ethel because it wasn't the first time they had met. That happened a few years before at a fancy show biz event, and the people introducing them brought Andrea in front of Ethel and said, "This is Andrea McArdle. She sings better than you do!" And then a photo was immediately taken. Andrea says they both look so tight-lipped and uncomfortable that it looks like one of the portraits on "Awkward Family Photos."

I told Andrea about the Joan Rivers series I was working on and asked if they ever met. She said that back in the 70's Joan used to complain about hearing "Tomorrow" all the time and that she was going to vomit if she heard Andrea sing it one more time. Of course, People magazine called Andrea, told her she was being busted in Joan's act, and asked for a statement. Andrea was a kid (AKA way too honest) and told them, "I think it's so cool she knows who I am! Because I've never heard of her!" Right now, Andrea is touring around with Maureen McGovern, Faith Prince and Donna McKechnie in a show that is music directed by John McDaniel called 4 Girls 4. They're all over the place, including Provincetown! The first show I did on Broadway was Les Miserables and Andrea was playing Fantine right after I began. Here she is singing " I Dreamed A Dream" back in the day! 

Kerry Butler

Speaking of former Belles from Beauty and the Beast (Andrea was the longest-running one), I had Kerry Butler and lots of cast members from her show, Under My Skin, as last week's Chatterbox. I just saw her at Carnegie Hall in the Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman salute by the NY Pops. She was part of the finale where they had most of the original leads from Hairspray recreate "You Can't Stop The Beat." It was so good. Watch!

Kerry was busting herself for being a bad dancer and never was it more apparent then after she performed on the Tony Awards. Marissa Jaret Winokor ran into her backstage and told Kerry that she had never seen the number from the front until she taped that performance and watched at home. She complimented Kerry on making her character (Penny) look so incredibly clunky/awkward and said it was hilarious. Kerry quietly informed her that "You Can't Stop The Beat" is where Penny finds her soul and, actually, she was trying to look like an amazing dancer throughout that number. Silence. The good news is: Kerry's new show is a comedy and there's no dancing! You can get tickets here

Speaking of plays, my friend Jason St. Little who directed James' Unbroken Circle, just flew down to Texas to direct the regional premiere of James' Art and Science at the Uptown Players theatre in Dallas! James is from Texas and played Burrs ten years ago when Uptown Players did The Wild Party. He's so excited that they're now doing his play! I posted footage of him from ten years ago doing a big Wild Party number with Stacey Oristano who later played Mindy Riggs in "Friday Night Lights" then Truly Stone in "Bunheads" and then starred in Disaster! If you're in Dallas, go see Art and Science which starts performances May 30. Look at the logo they made... I love the foreboding phone receiver off the hook!

All right everyone, this Thursday I have " Seth's Broadway Chatterbox" with Danny Burstein and then on Friday I'll be doing interviews for the Drama League on the red carpet for their big awards ceremony. I'm not saying I'll be spending most of the time interviewing James Franco; I'm just saying I'm obsessed. Then I'll go to the luncheon so I can see Disaster!'s nun, Jennifer Simard, on the dais with her fellow nominees like James Franco. Peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)