ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Saving Cats (Not the Musical), Plus Craig Bierko

By Seth Rudetsky
November 14, 2011

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



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It finally happened. Juli has been begging for years to get a cat, but we already have two dogs and didn't think they would want a cat in their midst — except as a delicious dinner. Cut to: Juli's grandmother lives next door to a farm in Washington Heights (really!) and suddenly has a mouse infestation. We read that cats give off a smell that make mice wanna take a hike so we told Juli she could have a cat at her grandmother's apartment. I was out of town, so they all went without me to New York Animal Care and Control. That's a shelter where the animals are held for a few days and then euthanized. P.S., I hate that term because it's actually a euphemism; euthanizing an animal is supposed to happen when it's in too much pain to stay alive. These animals are killed because no one wants to adopt them. It's devastating. So many animals are young and healthy, but are given up because of financial problems or a landlord suddenly not allowing animals. One woman had to give up her dog for some reason and spent a half hour in the waiting room hugging him. James said it was heartbreaking. After hanging out in the cat room, Juli found a gray cat she really wanted. However, a young boy who was behind her in line also wanted the gray cat. There was a black cat that Juli liked as well and the shelter woman told her that because black cats are considered bad luck they are rarely adopted. Seriously? Yay. It's fun living during The Crucible. James told Juli that if she adopted the black cat she'd be doing a mitzvah because she'd be saving the lives of both cats. While I was silently in a rage that James, who grew up going to a Unitarian Church in Texas, thinks he can use the word "mitzvah," I nonetheless appreciated James' point and give Juli a brava for adopting the little black cat now known as Princess Penelope Panther. In conclusion, please be like Bernadette Peters and adopt some animals. Even if you're not 100 percent interested, go to www.petfinder.com. It's so fun to look at all the different cute animals!

Juli and Andrea Martin as Edith and Edith Jr.

And speaking of cats, I was hanging out with Andrea Martin (she just performed at the Hangar Theater) and we were talking about career low points. She remembered going in to audition for the voice of a cat for a pet food commercial. When she got there, she saw the role actually specified "Senior Cat." Devastating. Regardless, Andrea read the commercial with her version of an old cat voice. Halfway through her audition, they cut her off and told her that the old cat voice was not necessary and that her regular voice was perfect. For a senior cat. And thus, the low point got lower.

Back to Andrea Martin, I'm doing her show in Provincetown at the Art House Dec. 3-4. We decided to do an online promo for it and I went to her apartment with Juli to film it. Andrea played Edith Prickley and Juli wound up being written into the script as Edith Jr! Will post the video soon but take a look at how hilarious they look together.

At the Hangar Theater in Ithaca this past weekend was Tim Pinckney, whose play Ever So Humble was a big hit there this summer. Tim also works at the Actors Fund where he produces their big concerts. He was talking about the upcoming concert of The Visit starring Chita Rivera and John Cullum. Chita told him, "I haven't worked with John since 1492." I laughed when he told me because I thought she was joking about how old they are. Turns out, there was a flop musical called 1492. Who knew? And speaking of dates, we somehow segued the conversation to be about Gregg Edelman, and Andrea asked, "Wasn't he in 1774?" 1774? We were all obsessed with the fact that she could get that title wrong. Doesn't every American know that date? Is 1774 a little-known musical about the fascinating two years before 1776?

Craig Bierko
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

My guest on "Seth Speaks" was Craig Bierko, who is starring in Standing On Ceremony alongside a ton of great actors. He talked about how nervous he was to do the recent concert of Company because it would only be a two-week rehearsal period. But then he thought about his high school choir teacher, Mr. Trautwein. Mr. Trautwein was very influential to Craig, especially his expression, "We Go On" (pre-dating Tim Gunn's "Make It Work"). Craig decided to do Company as a tribute to Mr. Trautwein, who had recently died. After the concert, he made sure to go up to Stephen Sondheim and tell him why he did the concert and Sondheim said, "We all have a Mr. Trautwein in our lives." Craig knew Mr. Trautwein would have loved the fact that Sondheim actually spoke his name. But, following that touching story, Craig and I were laughing about his role. He played Peter, a part no one necessarily knows right away (he's the character married to Susan and they're getting divorced). To prove that it wasn't a well-known role, Craig would tell people that he was doing Company and then make up the name of the character he was playing (usually "Glen"). They would vaguely smile and nod. Then he would correct himself and say he was actually playing Peter. Literally same reaction.

I, of course, had to mention the big career choice he made back in the '90s. He was offered the role of Chandler on "Friends" and turned it down. He was offered two different sitcoms at the same time and decided to go with the other one. What's interesting is that Matthew Perry is one of his close friends, and when Craig auditioned for Chandler, he was actually doing a Matthew Perry imitation! We also talked about Craig's online talk show called "Bathing With Bierko." He hates the fake intimacy of talk shows and also doesn't understand why every talk show host has a desk. He doesn't understand why it's so universally accepted. He asked, "What in their line of work necessitates them having a desk? What do they need it for?" Thankfully, I sit behind a piano during "Seth Speaks." We ended my segment by playing "Celebrity," which I always do with my guests. But before we began, Craig told me that he hates games. I still forced him to play and his answers were all passive/aggressive and hilarious. The first person I had to describe was Nancy Grace. I said, "She's on CNN! She's blonde! She's hostile!" He responded, "Kristin Chenoweth"? And I'm out.

Last week on "Seth Speaks," I had Sarah Silverman and I wrote about how she knew the lyrics to tons of Broadway songs. Turns out, there was a video made of her singing all these songs with me and it got onto The Huffington Post, The New York Times online and Perez Hilton! Take a look

Speaking of videos, I have a new Playbill "Obsessed!" video up. It's me and Melissa Errico. She recreates one of the most amazing onstage body mic mishaps from High Society. Watch!

Tonight, Nov. 14, I'm performing at the Shubert Theatre for Only Make Believe, a great organization that brings theatre to hospitalized children. It's going to be hosted by Brad Oscar and Brooke Shields and feature Daniel Radcliffe, Chris Meloni, Forbidden Broadway, Memphis, Nikki James and more! Go to www.OnlyMakeBelieve.org for details. And peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.)