ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Mario Cantone in P-Town

By Seth Rudetsky
August 6, 2012

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



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I'm on a JetBlue flight back from Boston. I was up at 5 AM (!) to catch my 6 AM Cape Air flight to Boston from P-Town. I know that seems like last-minute, but Cape Air is so Mom and Pop that you can saunter up to the counter to get a boarding pass at 5:45 and there's an "it's all good" attitude. I came up to New England to do two shows with Mario Cantone at the Art House in Provincetown on Saturday and Sunday nights. Mario was great. The show featured him singing and me interviewing him, which was really just me asking a simple question that would launch him into a hilarious ten-minute tirade. One of my favorite things he said was about Paula Deen. He was raging about how everyone turned on her when she got diabetes. He couldn't understand the anger coming towards her. He yelled, "She has diabetes. She didn't give you diabetes!"

He performed in Provincetown only once before, when he was 19 years old, for the summer. But he was traumatized from being heckled and didn't come back 'til now. I asked him what his comedy was back then and he said he did imitations, like Julia Child. He did an amazing version of her voice and her late-in-life bent over body, telling the audience "My hump is actually made of pecorino and parmesan." Then he started miming putting a cheese grater on his back. "Say when!"

He doesn't do Julia any more, but he had tons of recent material because he's working on a new show he hopes to have on Broadway by the spring. I asked him what he watches on TV and he instead told me what he would never watch: any shows featuring "The Housewives." "They're who-o-o-o-o-o-o-ores! The Housewives of Who-o-o-o-o-o-ore-ange County!" He also raged about the teen parents in his neighborhood. Twice, he's rescued a baby carriage on 9th Avenue that was rolling into traffic because the mother wasn't paying attention. One of the young ladies was standing with her boyfriend and kept apologizing profusely.

"Oh, Tito! I'm so sorry. I'm the worst mother. Tito! I'm so sorry!" Then her eyes widened when she recognized Mario from TV.

"Oh! I remember you…" she said

"You remember me!?!?!" he yelled back. "Remember your child!!!"

He grew up loving musicals but was only interested in seeing the original cast. When he was 12, his sister told him she got them tickets to Chicago.

"And," she said, excited. "Guess who's in it?"

"I know who's in it." he replied. "Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon."

"No!" she said. "Gwen Verdon has been replaced by…Liza Minnelli!"

He glared at her and said, "Then I'm not going!" Seriously! He refused to see it because it wasn't the original cast. I love it!

We talked about him doing "The View" and he told me some hilarious jokes he did on the show about the hosts. He busted Whoopi Goldberg's admitted penchant for pot smoking by imitating her fade out/inability to read the prompter. "We'll be right back after…oh, I don't know." Then he said, "Whoopi. I thought your 'hobby' was supposed to cure glaucoma." Then he busted Barbara Walters for loving Justin Bieber so much. He told her she had no right being obsessed with someone who was born after she received her lifetime achievement award. He continued with, "I know why you're so into him, Barbara. Because he's a compatible donor!" Hi-larious!

Beth Rudetsky at Seth Speaks
Photo by Robb Johnston
A few months ago, my sister Beth was on Facebook and was "friending" her favorite mystery writers. She started a little correspondence with Zoe Sharp, one of her favorite British writers. Beth told her that she was a composer/lyricist/singer and sent Zoe one of her songs. Zoe loved it and asked Beth if she would write music and lyrics for a promotional "trailer." First of all, I've never heard of a so-called book trailer. However, when I was four years old ('til I was 6), my family spent the summer in Montauk living in a trailer. Two parents, four kids, one dog. So much fun when I was a kid. Would kill myself before doing it as an adult. Anyhoo, apparently a book trailer is like a movie trailer, but for books. It's a video that has scenes from the book, or at least scenes that represent the tone of the book and there's music throughout it all. So, Beth got Zoe's book ("The Fifth Victim") and wrote a song called "The Victim Won't Be Me," based on what the book is about. She went to Millrose Music recording studio and played/sang the song along with cellist Mairi Phaneuf-Dorman. Zoe had the trailer made with Beth's song and it got great comments and reviews. Then, J Carson Black, another mystery writer, saw the video and asked Beth to write a song for her newest book called "Icon." I love how Beth has created the most specific niche for herself. Beth wrote a song called "Vengeance" based on the book and recorded the piano/vocals and orchestrated it for Mairi and Karl Kawahara on violin. When Zoe Sharp did her video, it was produced and filmed in England. This newest one was going to be done in the U.S. and Beth was suddenly in charge of producing it! She got Mark Ezovski (who films for Playbill.com and does all my SethTV.com shows) and hired Jessica Phillips (from Leap of Faith) as the lead actress. Then she hired a lead actor who I'm very familiar with…James! That's right, old school nepotism. They filmed in NYC (even though it takes place in an Arizona desert) and it came out great! It's so weird for me to watch James and Jessica as a couple. It's very real and now all I want to do is dye my hair red because apparently that's what James prefers. Watch it here

On my SiriusXM show ("Seth Speaks"), I celebrated the release of the video with Beth, Mairi and Karl who performed the song live! And it was a brava! You can watch that here.  And, thanks to the miracle of the phone, I was able to interview them all along with J Carson Black, who lives in Arizona. Here's the interview

Last week, I did a master class and Deconstructing Broadway at French Woods Performing Arts Camp. I knew that my friends Melissa Errico, Andrea Burns and Jason Robert Brown went there so I was excited to finally see it. I also found out that three of Maroon 5 met there! Well, I decided I must send Juli there next year. It's amazing! Not only a wonderful theatre program (where the musicals use full orchestras) but an enormous music program (classical and rock), art (ceramics, silk screening, animation), film, roller skating, circus (!) and a ton more. I literally wanted to live there. I also love what a stereotype it was in terms of typical obsessed theatre teens: I watched a rehearsal of the current musical and, of course, I saw a bunch of 15-year-olds doing Company. It was so fun seeing a teen Joanne say "Sometimes I catch him looking and looking. I just look right back." I wound up getting so emotional watching it because I also was 15 when I did Company in high school (I was Harry). It was like reliving my youth. P.S., I was so impressed with them. They were doing "Side By Side," which had tons of dancing and yet when they'd run by me in the middle of a dance step, I could hear they were all singing full out. It's such a bust on Broadway producers who add pre-recorded vocals to their shows claiming that it's difficult to dance and sing. Then why can 15-year-olds do it!?!?!

And finally, on Saturday I finished editing this week's episode of "Seth's Reality," and I love it so much! It's all about the first performance of my musical Disaster and brings back such great memories! Here's the preview. You can watch the full show at SethTV.com.

OK, I have to sign off ASAP. Why? Because I still haven't finished my sequel to "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan." If you recall, it was due June 1. Does anyone know if a contract with a book publishing house is binding? Get back to me as soon as possible and 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.)