ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Peter Gallagher Makes Music; Lonny Price Talks Company

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19 Nov 2012

Peter Gallagher
Peter Gallagher

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


Hello. Yes, I am writing this on a computer. Sadly, it is a new computer. That's right, I still have not found my backpack (containing my laptop) that I left in a cab last week at JFK so I went out and bought a new computer. The "fun" part is that the computer I left in the cab is only a year old and just two months ago I spent $250 replacing the broken screen. To add to the "fun," my backpack also had my checkbook. Yay! However, I still have a small shred of hope that I'll get everything back because the computer has iCloud which tells you if it's gone online and so far it's been offline so I think it's sitting in some random lost and found. The question is, "Where?" The answer is I may never know. The subtext is constant anxiety.

What else? Oh, right! I had Peter Gallagher as a guest on my SiriusXM talk show "Seth Speaks." I've known Peter ever since I left him a note at the stage door of Noises Off asking him to do my "Chatterbox" 11 years ago. He had never met me, but he called me, said yes and I found out what a nice guy he is! A year later, I asked him to be Nicky Arnstein in my Actors Fund Funny Girl concert, and he was so fantastic. Not only such a great actor and singer (and so good looking), but because my concept for the concert was having a different Fanny Brice for each scene/song, he had to rehearse and perform with a multitude of women. He was so gracious and supportive with every single one. All of those ladies felt the pressure of having just one scene/song to bring down the house, and he was their rock. The weirdest part for him was Julia Murney, with whom he did the scene that led into "People." In the show, it's Fanny Brice's first kiss and they both acted the moment so beautifully. But Peter Flynn (the director) and I had made sure we cast the show with the Fannys getting progressively older. Not only was Julia much younger than Peter, Peter remembered that back in the 1970s he used to play with her father when she was just a little kid! And now he was smooching with her on Broadway. Not since Frederick Egerman (see plot of A Little Night Music). Here's the evidence.

I told Peter that when he was cast in Jerry Zaks' Guys and Dolls I had only known him from "sex, lies and videotapes," and judged him as a Hollywood actor trying to infiltrate Broadway. I didn't know he was a Broadway baby back in the 1970s. He told me that his first open call was for the revival of Hair, and he wound up being cast as the understudy for Claude as well as the soloist in "Electric Blues" (he sang "An old fashioned me-e-e-e-elody…."). Well, when he was in previews for Hair he was also in callbacks for Grease. He didn't have an agent at that point and no one had told him you probably shouldn't be auditioning for other shows when the current show you're in hasn't even opened yet. He wound up being cast as Danny Zuko in the bus and truck tour. He went up to the director and creators of Hair and told them that he had this great opportunity to play the lead in the tour of Grease and asked if they would mind if he quit. He added that not only had he never seen the country before, he had never even been on an airplane. They thought about it and, two days later, released him from his contract. But before he left, the director asked him if he wanted to go on as Claude! I thought that was such an amazing offer to get, but Peter told him that he had never had a rehearsal and he would be way too terrified to do it. Peter was replaced and went on to do the Grease tour and the Broadway company.


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