ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Hosting Gypsy of the Year and Talking With Tyne Daly

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16 Dec 2013

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


What an exciting week! Here goes: First, one of my favorite magazines, Entertainment Weekly, asked Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to take over as editors for the week to promote that they're hosting the Golden Globes again this year. Amy and Tina posted their choices for the "Must List" and their "must" theatre choice is Disaster! For real! We are freaking out at the theatre. 

It's so exciting because we just opened and this is such an amazing endorsement. One of our cast members, Saum Eskandani, was thrilled because he said EW was his entertainment bible when he was a kid. A kid? I thought, "That's not possible because EW began in 1990 and I was already out of college by then." Then I remembered we have Disaster! cast members who are still in their twenties, and whatever excitement I felt about the "Must List" turned into a mental note to buy under-eye cream.

Regardless, look at the picture they put in Entertainment Weekly! It's the big number from Act Two ("A Fifth of Beethoven") featuring Mary Testa, who's standing in the middle. If you want to see that '70's song and many more, you can get tix at DisasterMusical.com, and you can also come to some of the special matinees we've added for the two December holiday weeks or our New Year's Eve show at 6:30 PM. It's a "must" (according to Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Sally Rudetsky).

The next amazing thing that happened last week was Gypsy of the Year. That's the big celebration show that occurs after the six-week fundraising period for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This was my sixth year hosting (!), and I love it so much. What was extra cool is this year the original hosts were there, too! The very first Gypsy of the Year happened in 1989 at the St. James theatre where Gypsy was playing. Tyne Daly and Jonathan Hadary were the hosts and they did Gypsy of the Year just 12 days after their opening! It's so amazing they agreed to do it because there's so much stress before you open, and usually people need weeks to recuperate and not add anything new to their plates. They did it because they believed in BC/EFA, and they told the audience last week that they were so amazed when that first show raised $70,000.

Tyne remembered telling that first audience she hoped it would become a yearly event. It certainly did, and it went from raising that initial $70,000 to last week's total... over $4,000,000! Unbelievable! And, if you don't know, the money doesn't fund research. It goes directly to help those affected by HIV/AIDS and pays for things like food, rent and medical bills. Plus it gives grants to The Actors Fund, The Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic.

Tyne looked stunning and was wearing a necklace she admitted was first worn by Joan Collins during "Dynasty!" How did she get it? "My dresser stole it." Excellent!

This year is the last Gypsy of the Year that will be helmed by Michael Graziano because he's decided to leave BC/EFA. He requested that I write the opening number and that the great Devanand Janki and Robert Tatad direct and choreograph it. Dev's concept was to feature Ethel Merman (!) lecturing new gypsies on what it was like being a gypsy in the old days. First, I was overwhelmed and complaining non-stop... then I had a great time writing it. The great Klea Blackhurst played Ethel (fantastically). She's about to be featured on the upcoming Marvin Hamlisch documentary "What He Did For Love," which will be shown on PBS, because she was one of the stars of The Nutty Professor, his last show.

The song was sung to "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" and one of my favorite lyrics was about how lazy Ethel thinks current gypsies are: "You're all a bunch of babies/ I toured while I had rabies...". Then the current gypsies tell her how much harder it is nowadays:

"Olden musicals would bore us
You had a singing chorus
The dancers were separate, that's fact!
Now we sing and do the dancing
Plus we also have to act!"
ETHEL (spoken): "What? I never had to act!"


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