ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Seth Gets "Smash"-ed; Audra McDonald and Will Swenson Get Hitched
08 Oct 2012
Seth shows off his camper
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
This week started with me filming "Smash"!
First, I was so happy it was being filmed right here in Manhattan instead of Astoria, Queens. I'm notoriously lazy and hate traveling out of my neighborhood for anything. Years ago, my friend Traci Lyn invited me to her wedding in Texas, and I told her I'd only go if it were held in my actual apartment building on a Wednesday between shows. Anyhoo, the episode takes place at the opening of Liaisons, the musical version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. I got the script on Thursday and memorized my lines in the same amount of time it took to speak them: 10 seconds.
When I got to the set, it was a combination of treated like a guest star (here's your personal camper!) and like a glorified extra (bring your own clothes). The camper (they don't call them trailers) was parked on Broadway right outside the Letterman theatre. When I walked up, I saw the name "Seth" on the door. The PA who greeted me told me that she had first written my character name on the door, which she didn't realize was also my actual name. Apparently, people walking down the street recognized it, and she decided to get rid of the "Rudetsky," obviously to prevent a crowd forming. PS, I looked up the definition of crowd, and it says "a large group of people"; I say two to three people is large. My camper was great with a TV, sound system and a mystifying bathroom. I say mystifying because I drank a lot of iced coffee and used the toilet but then had no idea how to flush it. I spent an inordinate amount of time walking around the bathroom thinking that various light switches would flush the toilet. Finally, I saw there was a foot pump underneath (!) that flushed it.
Seth with "Kat" and Christian
Anyhoo, since the episode was about the opening of Liaisons, it was filmed at the Broadway Theatre, which is empty since Sister Act closed. I had heard I was filming the scene with someone name "Cat," and I thought it was Cat Deely from "So You Think You Can Dance," but turns out it's the nickname for Katharine McPhee! Who knew? I guess it's spelled "Kat." I went over to the theatre and when I got there, I was delighted to see that Casey Nicholaw was the director! I met Casey in 1986 (!) when I was a 19-year-old music intern at The Equity Library Theater, and he was in the chorus. Since I was playing myself, I asked if I could make the lines more in my style. He said yes, and I made some changes including turning "Can we talk off the record?" into "Can you give me some inside scoop?" as well as shoe-horning in the word "a-mazhing." Yes, that old chestnut. Not since Carol Burnett's Tarzan yell. The other actor in the scene was Christian Borle, who I've known forever, so I was very relaxed when we rehearsed. We ran the lines and went to do hair and makeup and to get into our costumes… or more accurately my own clothes. The really fun part was when the PA asked me what I wanted for breakfast, and I was able to give her an order for the on-set chef! Mmm…delicious! Well, I'm on a diet, so let's just say, mmm…egg whites. After a half hour, the PA told me they were ready to film, and when we walked back to the theatre, there were a ton of extras dressed in their opening-night finery. I stood in the lobby of the Broadway Theatre, which was glammed up to look like a big Broadway opening and saw a pile of souvenir programs for Liaisons. The cover photo had the cast (including Sean Hayes and Megan Hilty) in full period hair and make-up, and I was excited to open it and read the mock bios. However, once I turned past the amazing cover photo, I saw that the inside stayed what it originally was: a full issue of Us! TV trickery! I had my mic put on, got powdered down a little, and we started to film the scene. Suddenly, I was nervous! For the first few takes, my body was having its signature physical reaction: left leg shaking. Hopefully, the final version won't look like I'm nervous but simply that I'm going through a severe drug detox.