ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Memories of Easter Bonnets Past

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22 Apr 2013

Rehearsing this year's opening number
Rehearsing this year's opening number

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

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Hello from somewhere between Wisconsin and New York. I'm on the flight back from Milwaukee where I just had two performances at the Marcus Center. I did my Deconstructing Broadway, and it was super fun. The audience was so savvy! I mentioned that when I was a little boy in the mid-70's I went to see the very short-lived revival of The Pajama Game. I then asked if anyone possible remembered who starred in it for the one month that it ran. Both nights someone called out "Hal Linden"! Brava on obscure Broadway knowledge. My only objection is when I first asked the audience to guess the name of the show I saw by Adler and Ross someone yelled out The Pajama Game but pronounced it mid-west style (The Pa-jeh-ma Game). I'm doing Deconstructing Broadway again in London and I'm nervous that if I ask for the name of the show, someone's going to yell out The Pyjama Game. PS, if you're in London on June 22nd, get tix here!

This Monday and Tuesday is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' annual Easter Bonnet Competition, so I thought I'd write a little about my experiences with this fabulous event. I started working on it way back in 1992 as a rehearsal pianist for the opening number. It was so much fun! We rehearsed at 890 Studios and I had just started working as a sub pianist on Broadway. I played my first Broadway show that year which was My Favorite Year. However, because of its limited run, I always called it My Favorite Week. Anybody? Working on an Easter Bonnet opening number is like working on a brand new Broadway show: rehearsals, costume fittings, orchestra rehearsal etc. At the time, I was the music director for Pageant Off-Broadway which Bobby Longbottom directed/choreographed and he was also in charge the opening number. We performed that year at the Palace Theatre where The Will Rogers Follies was playing and I remember the dancers using the giant staircase that the set had. The next year we were at the Broadway Theatre where Miss Saigon was playing, and this time I was the rehearsal pianist and the pianist in the orchestra! What stands out about that rehearsal period is the horrific raked stage of Miss Saigon. If you don't know, a raked stage means that the back of the stage is higher than the front. It's essentially one big slope. This allows the audience to see things at the back of the stage, but it's also responsible for numerous injuries on Broadway. The rake in Miss Saigon was six feet!



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