ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Hurrying Home for the Hurricane; Marin Mazzie Talks!
By Seth Rudetsky
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
What a nachtmare! Let's start pre-Sandy: Last Thursday I flew to Pittsburgh's City Theatre to do Seth's Big Fat '70s Show (aka Deconstructing '70s Variety Shows). As you know, I'm obsessed with natural disasters, and I was getting more and more excited that Hurricane Sandy could come to New York. My first performance went fantastic and I wound up getting a delicious review. However, soon things began to get stressful. The storm was going to cover much of the East Coast and I began to get nervous that my flight after my Sunday matinee was going to be cancelled.
James thought that LaGuardia Airport was more likely to have cancellations (because it's so near the water), so he suggested I get another reservation, but for a flight to Newark…just in case. I used my miles to get a flight that was scheduled to leave right after my matinee so I felt I was covered. Two different flights, two different airports. Cut to: right after my Saturday matinee I got an email telling me my flight to Newark was cancelled and re-scheduled to Monday! What? I knew the hurricane would be in NYC by Monday and there was no way the flight would leave.
Then I got another email telling me my re-scheduled Monday morning flight was cancelled and moved to Monday afternoon. I knew that my other flight to LaGuardia was probably going to be cancelled as well (it was), so I consulted with the theatre and they kindly let me cancel my Sunday matinee so I could fly back that morning. I got a 6 AM (!) flight and arrived back at my apartment by 9 AM.
That afternoon, however, things got much worse. I saw the signs. I knew she would probably arrive by Sunday afternoon, and I was right. I didn't know if my apartment could take the brunt of her, but I knew I had no choice. As I predicted, by late afternoon I was enduring the full impact of…my mother! That's right, Hurricane Sally made landfall at 5 PM Sunday. She arrived with her two shi tzus, with whom she has a very special relationship. For one thing, she insists they won't eat unless she literally hand- feeds them. That makes sense because, as we all know, dogs do not eat when they're hungry, they only eat when coerced by an 80-year-old woman speaking baby talk.
All right, let's go back before the storm and reflect on last week. I had the fabulous Marin Mazzie on as my radio guest "Dueling Diva" because Christine Pedi, my regular co-host was out of town. Marin played the mom in the recent revival of Carrie and we were discussing the moment that she had to stab Carrie (played by Molly Ranson). She told me that she was always scared she would actually stab her. I didn't understand why, since those fake knives retract on contact. Turns out, Marin told me that those fake knives don't always retract; they stab people! Marin had the nerve to say she was scared? What about Molly? Which would you rather have: The emotional wound that comes from stabbing someone by accident, or the wound that comes from a knife embedded in you? That's like the ol' "This hurts me more than it hurts you line" that's hauled out right before a massive spanking. I didn't believe it when I was five, and I don't believe it now.
We talked about her childhood and I mentioned that I loved the story she told in her act at 54 Below, about the time she sang "Evergreen" at her Catholic School's "Blessing of the Rings" ceremony and Sister Alice Patrice made her change the "inappropriate" lyrics (see my earlier column about that). I knew that her school in Rockford, IL, had a lot of Broadway folks come through it (Paul Castree, Jodi Benson, Joe Mantello), but she added to that list by telling me that the pianist for "Evergreen" was Robert Greenblatt — the current head of NBC!
Marin and I were talking on the air and I brought up her husband, Jason Danieley, who's currently starring in Sunday in the Park With George at Chicago Shakespeare Theater). I told her that now that I'm married, it's weird for me and James — we've always celebrated our anniversary as the anniversary of our first date, but now we probably have to switch it to our wedding anniversary. Marin told me that we can celebrate both; she and Jason commemorate both their wedding anniversary as well as the date they "got together." I thought she was referring to their first date until I asked how she celebrated the day they "got together." She smirked and muttered, "Well…," and I immediately cut to a song.
I then brought up Passion (which is to be revived Off-Broadway this spring with Melissa Errico and Judy Kuhn), and I made her tell my listening audience one of my fave stories: At the beginning of Act One, the curtain would come up and Marin would sitting, nude, on Jere Shea's back. Well, Jere's back was aching before one performance so he put something on it to ease the pain. Unfortunately, he didn't wipe it all off before the show began. So, at "places," Marin got on his back, the curtain went up, and soon she began to feel something in her nether regions. What did she feel you ask? How about the burning sensation of Ben Gay! Imagine what Ben Gay feels like on your skin and now imagine what it would feel like on (fill-in-the-blank). Marin finished the opening number and ran backstage and asked her dresser for cold, cold water. She said she was literally running around singing the Sweeney Todd song "City on Fire." Of course, she changed "city" to a word that starts with a P and ends with a Y. Then she sang it on the air. I thought it was hilarious 'til I got a tweet from someone telling me her four-year-old is now running around singing that song. With the new lyric. Hm…maybe she thinks it's about a cat on fire?
I taped a special Halloween version of "Seth Speaks" called "Seth Shrieks," and it was super-fun. My first guest was Rosie Perez, who was promoting The 24 Hour Plays (go here for deets), and I asked her about her childhood Halloween memories. Turns out, she never went trick-or-treating because she grew up Catholic and it was considered pagan/evil. She told me that every time she ate a piece of someone's Halloween candy, she would cross herself. I loved hearing that, and thought, "Finally! A fun holiday Jews enjoy that Catholics are jealous of!" And don't tell me that Jews have plenty of fun holidays. Name me one Catholic School girl pining to celebrate Simchas Torah.
I also had Jim Faro on the show. He is one of the creators of "Blood Manor," one of those scary houses that's filled with actors who jump out and terrify you. I went to one of those when I was a teenager and I screamed like a crazy person the whole time. He said that often there'll be a macho guy forcing his girlfriend to come with him into the house. She'll be begging to not have to do it, but the guy will laugh and insist. Then Jim will watch them both on the video monitor and within minutes he'll see the guy hiding in back of the girl. I'm dying to see the video feed and deconstruct it! He also told me that he has a deal telling customers that if they lose control of their bladder, they get a free t-shirt. Seriously. And every day he gives out at least three free "I P*ssed Myself at Blood Manor" shirts. Wonderful? You can see video footage here.
During "Sandy," James and I watched many episodes of "Homeland" because we had only watched half the first season. So, now we're finally about to start Season Two. It's so good! Hopefully the airports will re-open soon because I'm looking forward to taking a break in Orange County at the end of next week and doing my show at the Rose Center on Friday, Nov. 9 (for tix go here). Before I go, though, I'm doing a big benefit on Broadway for Only Make Believe. That's on Nov. 5, hosted by Sir Ian McKellen. Find info at onlymakebelieve.org.
While you're waiting for the subway to start up again, watch my recent "Playbill Obsessed!" video with Benjamin Schrader from The Book of Mormon below. Meanwhile, I'll spend my time frantically trying to find out whether my mother's neighborhood is flooded, and if it has power. I'm not saying I want her out of my apartment as soon as possible, I'm just saying… Hm. Don't have the energy to make something up. Peace out and stay dry!
(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.)
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