ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Music Director Steve Marzullo, Plus Remembering My Salad Days at Oberlin

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22 May 2012

A poster of Wendy Bye Bye Birdie.">
A poster of Wendy "Spring" Springer with Tommy Tune in Bye Bye Birdie.

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


Greetings from Wilmington, Delaware. I've been traveling back and forth all week doing Andrea Martin's Final Days: Everything Must Go. The DuPont Theater is the longest operating theatre in the U.S. (100 years!) and the lobby has pics from past productions. The Bye Bye Birdie tour came through in 1991 and the cast featured a lot of people I became friends with later on in the '90s: Paul Castree, Jessie Stone, Susan Egan, Marc Kudisch, etc. When I arrived in Wilmington I got a Facebook posting from my friend Spring (who was known as Wendy Springer when we did Grease together) saying that she's in Europe and had recently downloaded both of my books ("Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan") to her iPad. She wrote that she just finished them and loved them both. Cut to: Right after I read that posting I went to the DuPont lobby, and directly outside the main doors is a big picture of Tommy Tune — and off to one side is Wendy Springer! No wonder Facebook traded at such a high price last week; it can foreshadow what photos you run into.

This week I interviewed Steve Marzullo, whom we all call "Marzullo." He has a new CD called "Show Some Beauty" that features amazing singers like Rebecca Luker, Andrea Burns, Terri Klausner and many other folk. His music is going to be featured on June 4 (along with the David Zippel and Kerrigan and Lowdermilk) at the hip, new 54 Below, underneath Studio 54. Tickets are here.

Steve Marzullo on "Seth Speaks."
photo by Robb Johnston

Marzullo is also a pianist and conductor (he did my recent Disaster!) and I subbed for him on Grease, Seussical and Mamma Mia! Usually, people get sick of shows that they play for a long time, but Steve has been playing Mamma Mia! since it opened in 2001 (more than 3,000 performances) — and yet when he cleans his house, he listens to ABBA! Either he loves it or he's the first musician to have Stockholm Syndrome. He relayed a story that I entitle "Back at'cha": When he was music directing the original Once On This Island he felt that cast members were adding too many riffs and starting to change melodies from the Ahrens/Flaherty score. He firmly asked everyone to sing only what was on the page and to not add any embellishment. Well, the song "Mama Will Provide" was then being rehearsed, and Kecia Lewis-Evans sang her part as usual. At the end of the song, she went up to the E as written. But, right before the song ended as she held the E, she quickly popped up to a G sharp, just to sass Marzullo. Well, instead of being irritated, Marzullo gave her a "right back at'cha" and told Kecia he loved it and she should sing it eight times week! Busted. And now, it's officially in the score! Listen how great Kecia sounds.

If you don't know Marzullo's music, here's Audra MacDonald singing "Some Days" with me playing at an rFamily Vacation in Ixtapa. If you don't remember, we were constantly having breakdowns due to the flies that seemed to be everywhere. During this performance, Audra not only had to deal with a fly attack but literally changed the lyrics on the spot to comment on what was happening. Hi-lar!


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