ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Patti LuPone Makes Dreams Come True and Getting Sexy With Megan Mullally

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03 Sep 2013

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera
Laura Marie Duncan

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

It's September! I spent the last 10 days of August in Provincetown doing "Broadway at the Art House," and next weekend is the last in the series. Sad face. However, I'm very happy it will star Chita Rivera, because it will be the first time I've done a full show with her. My obsession with her began when I was a little kid (age eight, when my sister went to see Chicago and bought the cast album, as opposed to Patti LuPone, who I became obsessed with when my friend Allen Hahn bought me the Evita cast album for my Bar Mitzvah).

It's still so cool to me that the people I grew up obsessed with are now the people I get to perform with, and this weekend and last weekend were extra amazing. During my senior year of college, I had a boyfriend named Tod, and 50 percent of our relationship was spent obsessing over Betty Buckley and Patti LuPone. I was the first to introduce him to the Evita cast album, and he became as obsessed as I was. When we visited New York in the spring of 1988, we saw Anything Goes together, which we taped from the audience on a walkman and then listened to non-stop. (We were devastated when Tod's car was broken into and the bootleg was stolen.) Well, these many years later, we're still friends and our obsessions haven't waned. I told Tod to come up to P-town to see Patti's show because I knew he'd flip out... and then I got an idea. When Patti was in London, she sang the "Eva and Magaldi" duet with the guy who was playing Magaldi on the British tour. Since Tod sings, I asked him to learn the Magaldi part so when he got here we could run it and I could "practice my piano part."

Manoel Felciano and Patti LuPone in Sweeney Todd.
photo by Paul Kolnik

I didn't want to put pressure on him, but I thought if he knew the part, I could surprise him by bringing him onstage. On Friday, we met at the Art House, went through it and he asked me if I was going to surprise him and bring him up onstage. Busted. I admitted my plan, and he promptly had an anxiety attack. After I gave him a talk about "taking chances" and "living in the now" and anything else I could plagiarize from Drs. Phil and/or Oz, he agreed to do it. Patti did a brilliant show and after her final song, came out for an encore. I told the audience the story about how Tod and I obsessed about Patti in college and then told everyone I had a clear memory of sitting in my off-campus house and fantasizing with him about how cool it would be if one day I'd be getting phone calls from Patti. I started crying, because I couldn't believe the fantasy came true a million times better than I ever dreamed! Here I was playing for Patti LuPone, and he was singing with her! It was really amazing. And the audience loved it!

The whole Patti show was so much fun, because I asked the audience to write down questions for her and I'd ask them. Someone asked her favorite moment from Sweeney Todd, and she said she loved doing "Not While I'm Around" with Manoel Felciano because she felt she left the stage as an actress and was simply in the experience with him. Well, it was a super-appropriate question, because we planned on doing that song! Well-Strung, the singing string quartet, also performs at the Art House, and Edmund Bagnell played Tobias in the Sweeney Todd national tour. He came up to the stage with his violin, and they did a gorgeous version of the song, including the scene. So great!

Mark Cortale, Tod Winston, LuPone, Seth and Edmund Bagnell





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