ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Who Wears Short Shorts? Cheyenne Jackson Wears Short Shorts!

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

Seth with Cheyenne Jackson
Seth with Cheyenne Jackson

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Yes, it's time for another installment of airport headaches. Let's go! So, I have shows almost every weekend in Provincetown at the Art House and Cheyenne Jackson was booked for July 4-6. I usually leave early morning on the day of the show but because Hurricane Arthur was slated to skirt the East Coast on Friday, my manager/producer of the series (Mark Cortale) asked me to leave Thursday. And by 'asked', I mean 'begged.' This meant that I had to cancel my "Chatterbox" and rush to the airport right after I did my SiriusXM show with guest star, Andrea Martin. I hopped in a cab at 49th street and, after a half hour, I made it! ...to 42nd street. The traffic was crazy. My flight was for 5:34 and it was looking like I wouldn't make it to the airport until 5. I had already checked in so I thought I'd still be able to catch my flight. Then my driver told me he was going to get me into a different taxi with a new driver because he had to get his cab back to the garage or he'd be charged a $40 late fee. There were no cabs around so I told him that I would pay him the extra money. (And by "I", I mean Mark. I decided he can write it off as a force majeure.)

I was getting nervous that the security line would be long and I'd miss my plane when I got there, so I checked the flight status on my cell phone, wishing it was a little delayed. Yay! It was! Unfortunately, I wasn't specific when I wished: It wasn't delayed 15 minutes, it was delayed 90 minutes! This meant it would get in to Boston at 8:10 PM, and I'd miss my 8 PM Cape Air flight to Provincetown. We got to the airport and I immediately called Cape Air. They told me they'd probably be able to get me on the 9 PM flight. Yay! Then I found out my flight was delayed until 9:50 PM. Son of a-! I ran to a different airline (United) to see if I could get on one of their flights to Boston so I'd make my connection. Turns out, they were all sold out. I asked to get on a wait list. Well, you can only be on a wait list if you purchase a ticket and they couldn't sell me one because they were sold out. I hung out in the United section and kept going back to the counter to see if a seat would become available. Suddenly, one did! Yay! "Would you like to purchase it?" I was asked. "Yes, ma'am," I replied. "Great," she said. "The price is $913."

Wowza. Even I couldn't force (majeure) Mark to pay that. So, I resigned myself to taking the 9:50 flight. Since I'd be landing after the last Cape Air flight, Mark told me he'd get me a car from Boston to Provincetown. He called me a half hour later and told me he couldn't get me a car so he booked me a hotel and an early morning flight on Cape Air. Well, now I'm waiting for my 9:50 PM flight and there's a crazy thunderstorm at Newark so they've issued a "ground stop." That means that no planes can land here, so the plane we're supposed to take is delayed. What does that translate to? How about my 5:34 PM flight is now scheduled to leave at 11:30 PM!

Follow up: My plane got into Boston at 1 AM. I went to the hotel and got into bed at 2 AM. I then woke up at 6 AM to fly to Provincetown. And now, the point of this entire story which is basically me bragging: After four hours of sleep, I got to Provincetown and took a step class. Yes! I still got it! (Exercise addiction with no actual results).

Elle McLemore, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alice Lee
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

This week on "Seth Speaks" I had the three Heathers from Heathers. I, naturally, asked about onstage mishaps and Jessica Keenan Wynn who plays Heather Chandler told me about her recent stint on the Les Misérables tour where she played the Factory Girl. She said that right before her solo in "At The End of the Day," the zipper of her skirt split and the whole thing started falling off. She grabbed it with one hand so she wouldn't wind up showing the audience her full French bloomers. However, she still had to continue with the staging of the number. So, when she got to the part where she has to push Fantine, she help up her skirt with one hand and pushed with the other. The audience, I'm sure, thought nothing was wrong since people push other people all the time with one hand. But how about when she got to the part where she's supposed to furiously choke Fantine and also had to do that using only one hand?

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It reminds me of the book I'm reading right now (and loving so much!) It's Rachel Dratch's "A Girl Walks Into a Bar…" and she talks about doing her two-person comedy show with Tina Fey at the HBO Workspace in LA for lots of important Hollywood types. Not only did Rachel's pants rip in the front (not the back... literally the entire fly area), but it happened to be the one night when she decided she couldn't have visible panty lines so she wasn't wearing any underwear! The book goes into more details and gives the outcome but I'll just tell you to buy it, because it's amazing! I emailed her to come back on my radio show so hopefully I'll have more stories to share from her.

Cheyenne Jackson at the 2008 Tony Awards

Now it's Sunday, and we've sold out all three of Cheyenne's shows so he's coming back for the last weekend of August! He sang up a storm during all three shows and I'm so obsessed with his placement. I cannot believe how high he sings in "Don't Walk Away" from Xanadu. When he sings "All through the-e-e-e-e night" at 4:12 he's sustaining a B! And, before you watch, note that before he performed, he was told by the shows powers-that-be that his shorts might be too short for the telecast and too risqué to help the show get on a national tour. Cheyenne told them that they had been using his bod to sell the show on various talk shows all year long and he'd be continuing in that tradition and not wear culottes on the Tony Awards! He then decided to wear the shortest of his shorts. Now watch.  

Cheyenne grew up in a small town in Idaho and told us that his family had an outhouse and no running water when he was a kid. He then mentioned that his Mom always gets annoyed when he says that and reminds him that they didn't have running water for "only" five years. He then informs her that five years is actually a significant amount of time. As a kid, his school was so conservative that when they went to go see the Les Misérables national tour, the students had to have their parents sign a consent form because of the "Lovely Ladies" scene featuring prostitutes. "Lovely Ladies"? How about all the non-stop genital references I've noted? Watch!  

Seth, Jinkx Monsoon and Cheyenne Jackson

After high school, he lived in Seattle where he worked in sales and did theatre on the side because he was too scared to try to make it in NYC. He was in a production of The Prince and the Pauper with Marc Kudisch who told him that if he ever came to NYC, he'd set him up with his agent. After 9/11, Cheyenne realized he didn't want to be an old man who had regrets about his life so he moved to NYC to try to get onto Broadway. Kudisch set him up with his agent as promised and Cheyenne's first audition was for Thoroughly Modern Millie... to be Kudisch's understudy! It was an ensemble part that also understudied Gavin Creel. He did great on the acting and singing and was put in the final call back with four other guys. But then came the tap audition. Cheyenne had never tapped in his life, but had done tap shows where he was hidden in the back and "sold it" by moving only his upper body.

Well, that trick wouldn't work when choreographer Rob Ashford asked each guy to step forward and do a time step. The first three guys stepped forward and nailed it. Cheyenne opted out of faking it and simply told Rob, "I don't know how to tap. But," he added earnestly, "if I get this job, I'll work really hard and learn!" I don't what sound happens when three actors roll their eyes in perfect unison, but I think that sound permeated the air right after that comment. Regardless, Cheyenne got the job and immediately took tap class day and night at Broadway Dance Center... with a class full of six-year-old girls. It worked and soon he was not only tapping in the chorus, but he went on for Marc Kudisch three weeks later! I couldn't find a video of me and Cheyenne doing a Millie song but I found one of me and Gavin. Notice how he forgets the start of the second chorus, looks over at me, randomly says my name (?) and then completely skips the bridge and goes to the modulation. Yay live theatre

I asked Cheyenne how he got "30 Rock" and he told us that Tina Fey came to see the Encores! production of Damn Yankees (where he starred opposite Jane Krakowski). Tina Fey went up to him after the show and stated matter-of-factly: "I like your timing and your big Midwestern face." A little while later, he was doing Finian's Rainbow and Tina again saw him after the show. This time she said, in her direct and methodical manner, "We've written a role in the show for you, and I would like to gauge your interest." He responded, "It's very high." And thus he got cast. Watch his amazing version of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" as he warms up the audience for the 30 Rock live show! When I told him I was obsessed with his riff on "Here I am, baby!" he surprised me by doing it during the "Daily Shout-Out" video I made for SethTV.com. Watch

OK, this week is the start of my Tuesday musical theatre master classes ( sign up here) and then I come back to Ptown next Saturday and Sunday for Ana Gasteyer! Get tix here PtownArtHouse.com and here's one of my favorite Obsesseds I did with her. Watch and then peace out! 

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)