ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, King of the Desert; Plus Josh Groban and Andréa Burns

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11 Feb 2013

Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

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


Hello from United LAX-to-NYC flight 280. It's 5:40 in the AM but I'm pretending it's NYC time so I don't feel so crazily tired. Last night (Saturday) was the Steve Chase Awards in Palm Springs and I played piano for Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who was the host. The Steve Chase Awards is a big gala show/fundraiser for Desert AIDS, a great organization that helps people in the Palm Springs/Desert area affected by HIV/AIDS. Represented were Broadway (Stephanie J. Block), Broadway crossover to TV (Megan Hilty, Matthew Morrison), rock (Melissa Etheridge) and Hollywood (Queen Latifah). As well as Brooklyn (my father). That's right, my dad and his wife Gloria live out there and I had a great time visiting them (with my friend Jack Plotnick). We did our signature Palm Desert visit which consisted of wandering to various thrift stores and taking "comedically" staged photos.

Seth and his dad Ed Rudetsky

Jesse Tyler Ferguson was hilarious in the show. And even though he's now a TV star ("Modern Family"), he hasn't lost his Broadway roots. During rehearsal, he regaled me with Broadway stories. First, he told me about being in On The Town, his first Broadway show. He was in his early 20s and completely terrified before the first preview. The whole show begins with all three sailors coming out onstage and saying a line; the first sailor runs out and yells "New York City!" The second (Jesse) runs out and yells "In 24 hours!" Jesse said that the two lines set up the entire premise for the show — three sailors are on leave in "New York City" for specifically "24 hours." Well, Jesse was so nervous his first show that the premise was decidedly not set up; the first sailor ran out and yelled "New York City!" Jesse ran out, panicked, and simply repeated "New York City!" I guess it's appropriate to repeat the location since the first song is "New York, New York." It's nice to know the audience definitely knew the locale of the show. On The Town is where Jesse met his good friend Lea DeLaria. She played Hildy the taxi driver (and, P.S., got amazing reviews). At the Desert AIDS benefit, he told the audience that he once saw Lea walking down the street ahead of him so he decided to surprise her: he ran over, threw his arms her neck and exclaimed, "I caught me a big ol' lesbian!" Lea turned around…and it wasn't her. It was a short, Asian man. And Jesse's face matched his own hair color.


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