ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Easter Bonnet Fun and Keala Settle and Nikki M. James Talk Les Miz

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28 Apr 2014

The Disaster! bonnet

I put together a "sketch" for Disaster! which featured me and Judy Gold, and really just Judy Gold. I introduced it by saying that Disaster! is a 1970's disaster movie musical and features an earthquake, tidal wave, killer bees, etc. but it doesn't feature the biggest disaster of all which Judy Gold and I both endured: Having a Jewish mother. I then admitted that the premise was simply a reason for Judy to reenact some of her classic stories about her mother. You can watch them here

She began the segment with a new one; her mother called and said:
"Judith... the Fleischmans came to see your show last week."
"And?" Judy asked. "What did they say?"
"They said they couldn't find parking for 45 minutes!"

At the end, I told the audience that I couldn't decide what kind of Easter bonnet to use in the sketch. So, first I introduced the Disaster! Easter bonnet (modeled by Juli!) which was an enormous disco ball that had landed on a body (like the poster). Then I said we also had a Jewish Broadway bonnet, and Jonah Verdon came out. I asked him to bow his head as if in prayer and that revealed a yarmulke (the Jewish part). Then I counted to three, and the big Jewish star wrapped around his head lit up. That was the Broadway part! Right afterwards, all the people wearing Easter bonnets gathered on the stage for awards section of the show which were read by a bevy of stars. Juli and Jonah got to be onstage with Fran Drescher, Idina Menzel, Bryan Cranston and Denzel Washington. And I got to be in the wings shouting, "Smile! Stand up straight!" It was a wonderful combination of Mama Rose and Abby Lee Miller.

Keala Settle

On "Seth's Broadway Chatterbox," I had Keala Settle and Nikki M. James, who are playing Madame Thenardier and her daughter Eponine in the current revival of Les Misérables. Last year, Keala was nominated for a Tony Award for Hands On A Hardbody, which was a musical based on a documentary about a real contest that takes place in Texas where a group of people compete to win a truck. Basically, they have to stand next to the truck with one hand on it for as long as they can. Whoever remains the longest wins the truck. I asked Keala if she ever made a mistake during the run of the show, and she did. Keala was in the middle of a scene and she let go of the truck. She said she put her hand back on very quickly but let me remind you that the entire plot of the show revolves around a contest where each person has to keep their hand on a truck and she took her hand off the truck.

Before Hands on a Hardbody, she spent a few years as Tracy Turnblad around the country in Hairspray. It was a great experience that she thought couldn't be replicated, so she decided to leave performing (!) and became a sound person at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. One of the shows she worked on was The Wiz starring her future daughter (in Les Miz) Nikki M. James! Nikki played Dorothy in that production and told me that at one point, she tripped on a bunch of stairs and almost fell into the audience while singing "Home," the big 11 o'clock number. She steadied herself and finished the song. When she came backstage, no one said anything about her tripping. Instead, someone in the cast complimented on her new riff! That's right, when her body went down the stairs, her voice went out of control for a measure, but she's so musical that the only involuntary notes her body would allow her to sing were in the chord and Mariah Carey-esque. Brava!


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