ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Michael McGrath at the Chatterbox and Alice Ripley in P-Town

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04 Sep 2012

Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath
Photo by Robb Johnston

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


Hello from Logan Airport. We just left Provincetown, and it is definitely the end of the season. The streets were hardly filled, one of my fave coffee places was closed, and the weather seemed to say, "Take care, summer. I'm out." Everywhere was chilly, grey and drizzly. It was essentially a live version of Christine Ebersole singing Grey Garden's "Another Winter In A Summer Town" without the Tony Award. But I'm not saying goodbye to P-town yet. I'll be back Saturday and Sunday at the Art House with one of my favorite singers, Judy Kuhn! I first loved her in Les Miz and then became obsessed with Rags and Chess. If you've never heard her, watch this video where I deconstruct her soprano and belt and focus on the passive-aggressiveness of Cosette. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NytOXSH1SDQ

I interviewed recent Tony Award winner Michael McGrath (Nice Work If You Can Get It) at the Chatterbox a few weeks ago, and the whole thing is up on www.SethTV.com. One of the crazy stories he told me involved doing Grease. He had played Doody many times back in the 80's, and one day he was in his house in Massachusetts and got a call from a director he worked with before. She told him that the guy playing Doody in her current production got injured, and she asked Michael if he could go on that night. He said yes. She then said the production was in Wisconsin. It was already mid-afternoon, so he raced like a lunatic to the airport, got a late afternoon flight, flew to the Midwest and when the plane landed, it was 7 PM!

The Fire Side Theater is so popular that there was a police escort from the airport to get him there as fast as possible. There was also a dance captain sitting in the backseat with him going over the show. Michael knew the lines, songs and dances, but the guy kept saying bizarre things like, "Enter at noon. Exit at 3 o'clock." What? Finally, Michael was informed that the show was being performed in the round! The actors knew where to enter and exit from by thinking of the stage as a big clock. Michael got to the theatre and there were thousands of people in the audience because it was a "star package," meaning the show had a headliner; Danny Zuko as played by The Brady Bunch's Barry Williams. Thankfully, everything went fine. Except that no one warned Barry Williams that Michael usually adds a split leap over the head of Danny Zuko during "Hand Jive." So Barry came out of a crouch a little too fast, and the top of his head connected with the bottom of Michael's crotch. But, the good news is, the damage was apparently minimal because Michael still fathered a daughter.


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