ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: What Made Jane Lynch Walk Out of the Audition Room?

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

Seth with Caissie Levy, Cheyenne Jackson and Jeremy Jordan
Seth with Caissie Levy, Cheyenne Jackson and Jeremy Jordan

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This week I start going to Provincetown for the Broadway Series at the Art House. The shows are Saturday and Sunday (June 28-29) with one of my comedy idols, Andrea Martin. She always has such a hilarious turn of phrase. She was just doing Act One at Lincoln Center and she told me about a new comedy bit she was trying. I told her it sounded good. She asked me, "You know what's it's not?" and then immediately answered "Remotely funny." Get tix for us (and for the following week's show with Cheyenne Jackson) at PtownArtHouse.com.

Speaking of Cheyenne, I spent last Monday with him and some other amazing people at the New York benefit for The Trevor Project. Back in the '90's, there was a fantastic Oscar-winning short film called "Trevor" by James Lecesne. It's about a pre-teen kid who is figuring out that he's gay and becomes suicidal. The film is extremely moving; is also so funny and charming. Here's the trailer. Because of that film, there's now the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for young people who are figuring out their sexuality. The number is (866) 488-7386, and there's tons more help you can find at TrevorProject.org.

This year's benefit was directed by Adam Shankman, and I was asked to play piano for Caissie Levy, Jeremy Jordan and Montego Glover. Both Caissie and Montego had amazing back-up singing provided by the Broadway Inspirational Voices led by Michael McElroy. Michael was a Tony nominee for Big River and was the original Flick in Violet and we've known each other since I was doing summer stock in 1989! He constantly tells me that even though his career has spanned many years, the one thing people always bring up with him is the "Obsessed" video we did together. It's all about horrific riffs and dead-eyed vibrato. Please treat yourself and watch this.

I brought Juli to the show because she begged me. To hear me accompany three Broadway stars, you ask? No. Because YouTube sensation Tyler Oakley was there. She was giddy thinking about meeting him and was so happy when she did. He was incredibly kind and took two so-called "selfies" with her. I don't actually understand what he does on YouTube, but Juli is obsessed and it's garnered him an enormous amount of subscribers. The reason he was being honored is because he asked his viewers to not get him a birthday present, but instead to donate a little something to the Trevor Project. His audience is mostly tweens and teens and he hoped that their small donations would eventually add up to $150,000. Instead, he raised $525,704! Isn't that amazing?

Tyler Oakley and Juli
Here Lies Love star Jose Llana visits The Chatterbox
Photo by Robb Johnston

The other honoree was Arianna Huffington, and she was introduced by Neil Patrick Harris. She commented on how they were similar by remarking that Neil came out in 2005 and then got married. "His coming out was followed by a marriage. My marriage was followed by a coming out." Brava wordplay referring to her now gay ex-husband Michael Huffington. Wanda Sykes hosted and there were appearances by Rob Thomas, Lucy Liu and trans violinist/vocalist Tona Brown who happens to be performing at Carnegie Hall this Wednesday. Watch her here and get tix here

Here Lies Love is playing at the Public Theater, and it's the story of the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and their reign in The Philippines. I didn't know much about them except the ol' closet-full-of-shoes chestnut but, turns out, they were nachtmares. The musical, however, is so well-staged and choreographed, and the people in the show aren't the only ones moving around. Turns out, the audience stands for the entire 90 minutes and surrounds a stage that sits in the middle of the room like a kitchen island. When the stage changes directions, there are ushers/people movers who direct everyone where to go while the stage rotates. Of course, I immediately asked the publicist to be in the area that has seats once I heard "stand for 90 minutes." Quite frankly, once I hear "stand for any amount of time," I request a seat. I'm not saying I'm a cranky old man... I'll let my written words express that.

Anyhoo, James and I were in the balcony in delicious seats and had a great time. I feel like the time hasn't ended, however. Why? Because the title song refuses to leave my head! The melody repeats over and over again inside my cranium and has gone from "catchy" to "ever present and debilitating." At first it was enjoyable but now the relentlessness is horrific as the Marcos' reign. I'll post the link to watch some highlights, but I'm nervous to unleash that melody on my readers. I feel like I'm a character in "The Ring" that's about to give you a VCR tape of a girl who'll wind up haunting and killing you. Enjoy

Rachael Harris with Juli

On Wednesday I had Rachael Harris on "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM talk show. Rachael has been in "The Hangover" and played Chris Meloni's wife on "Surviving Jack" but Juli knows her because she plays the mom in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" films. I, however, have known Rachael for years, because she and my friend Jack Plotnick (who wrote Disaster! with me) went to high school together back in Worthington, OH! We did a video together back in the mid-90's in LA when Jack and I were doing our sketch comedy show at the Comedy Central Workspace. She called me once I was back in NY and asked for advice about doing a one-person show. The next thing I knew, her career had far surpassed mine. Rachael told me that s"SNL" alums went to. She was performing in one of their Sunday shows and the next day got a call from someone saying he was Christopher Guest.

Seth with Kate Flannery and Jane Lynch

The Groundlings would constantly pull pranks like that on each other by pretending to be someone else or, right before the curtain would go up, they'd say "By the way, Steven Spielberg is in the audience tonight." So, when she heard "This is Christopher Guest" she responded with "F*** you, who is it?" Well, it was Christopher Guest, who had seen the show the night before. She was mortified but agreed to meet with him about an upcoming film. She spoke to her manager and he gave some advice: Since she had created so many great characters at The Groundlings, and since Christopher Guest's films had crazy characters, he told Rachael that should chat with Christopher but throughout the conversation she should slip in and out of her myriad of characters. I'm so obsessed thinking what a terrible choice that would be... he's asking her about her childhood and she puts on a "hilarious" cockney accent and talks about being the youngest chimney sweep in London. Silence. Thankfully, she thought about it and decided it was a horrible idea. They met and chatted and he cast her in "Best in Show." I couldn't find a clip online, but here she is being a horrendous shrew with Ed Helms in " The Hangover." 

I also had Jane Lynch and Kate Flannery on "Seth Speaks." Jane was here doing her first cabaret ever at 54 Below and Kate was signing with her. Kate played Meredith Palmer (the alcoholic) on "The Office," but we first met doing the workshop of Thoroughly Modern Millie! The differences between us were that I was the music director and she was in the ensemble, but the similarities are we both weren't asked to the Broadway production. Wonderful! Anyhoo, I asked both she and Jane about any bad auditions and Jane remembered going in for a commercial about a cancer center where you'd be put into an MRI machine and look nervous, but come out looking hopeful and thinking that you're in good hands. The casting call had ten people come in the room at the same time (!), and since the camera would be filming everyone going into the MRI from above, all the actresses were asked to lay on the floor. Then the casting director told them he was going to walk across the room, stand above each person auditioning and watch them make the scared and relieved face.

Jane decided she wanted out and came up with the only excuse she could think of: She raised her hand and told them that she had a conflict. She explained that she couldn't be touting the benefits of this cancer center because she was already featured on a commercial for another cancer center. How many cancer center commercials are on TV?

Kate didn't have a terrible audition story, but she did have one about the aftermath of one. She had gone in for a gig and then asked someone in her agents office if she got a job and they said, "Well, it says here... you didn't get the job because of your age and your looks." Kate thought she had perhaps heard her incorrectly because the woman had literally no affect to her voice as she read the devastating reasons, so Kate asked her one more time. The women then, emotionless, repeated the exact same information. Well, at least Kate's hearing is up to snuff. Then she and Jane sang an amazing 60's version of "Far From The Home I Love." Have a listen

This week I have members of the original cast of Zanna, Don't! at my "Chatterbox" on Thursday because they're having a reunion concert at 54 Below this week. The cast featured my good friend and recent Tony nominee from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Anika Larsen. If you want to see how much I loved Zanna, Don't!, watch this. And speaking of my YouTube deconstructing videos, I'm trying to get 10,000 subscribers, so if you like my obsessions, please subscribe. And then, peace out!