ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Seth Is a "Bunhead" Plus Lisa Lampanelli and Andrea McArdle
By Seth Rudetsky
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
I am leaving Broadway for television! I put that there because I think journalism courses tell you to have a first sentence to “hook” the reader. Now let me refine: I’m not actually on Broadway right now, so to claim I’m “leaving” it is not possible. And the “television” I’m so-called “leaving Broadway” for is actually only one (1) episode. So, the opening sentence really should read, “I’m doing two scenes on a dramedy” but I thought I’d lose readers from the blandness.
Here’s the story: Around two weeks ago, my agent called me (I’m giving you a moment to let the shock wear off just as I needed to) and asked me if I’d be interested in doing an episode of "Bunheads." I told him Y to the E to the S! He didn’t know many details but asked me if I’d keep the third week of January free and that he’d know specific dates soon. I was very excited and immediately texted Sutton (Foster), who wrote that Amy Sherman Palladino (who created "Bunheads" and "Gilmore Girls") is a fan of mine and Sutton told her to write me into the show! Yay! I found out a few days ago that I have to be in LA to film on Jan. 28 and 29, and they’d like me to do the script read-thru today (Monday) while on the phone. So exciting! I got the cast list on Friday, and my friends Tim Cross and Anika Larsen were visiting. I looked down the list of people on the show and saw that my character’s name is “Seth Rudetsky." Wow! The same “character” I played on "Smash." I’m now officially a “crossover character." Not since Phoebe’s twin on "Friends" appeared on "Mad About You." Of course, the more I looked at the cast list, the more I noticed how far on the bottom I was. Tim first thought that perhaps it was in alphabetical order, but then we realized it wasn’t. I finally said, “Maybe the list of characters is in order of the size of the part,” hoping to be contradicted. I gave a brave smile, and waited for someone to say, “No way! I’m sure you have a lot of lines!” But instead, Anika looked closer at the cast list and said, “You may be right. The only other character listed underneath your name is 'Disgruntled Dancer.'" Well…I think that sounds like an enormous part. Probably Amy spent so many hours writing lines for "Disgruntled Dancer" that she didn’t have enough time to come up with a character name. Anyhoo, I’m very excited to film anything with Sutton! The last time we worked together was on They’re Playing Our Song. Yes, we got to kiss, but it was completely closed mouth. This time I’m taking it up a notch to make-out session. You know what they say: What happens on television, stays on television. If you missed our performance, here’s a fun video of us.
Now, why were people over at my house on Friday, you ask (telepathically)? Because I’m obsessed with a game Anika Larsen showed me last year. It’s like Celebrity, but it’s called Salad Bowl, and first you choose a letter from the alphabet. Then everyone has to write down seven things that start with that letter: celebrity names, objects, song titles, song lyrics, etc. Anika always gives the example of the letter O; it could be Obama, Onion Quiche, “Oh, Say can you See," etc. There are two teams, and during the first round you have to give clues to make your team guess what you pulled out of the hat. In the second round, everything is put back and now you can only give a one-word clue. Just one word! So hard! Everything is put back again, and this time you have to act out your clues like Charades. Anyhoo, I love this game so much that I’m starting a series on SethTV.com where I film game nights at my house! So, on Friday I had a bunch of friends come over and we filmed everything. I will update 'ya when the show’s been edited and put up.
Speaking of SethTV, I just added the documentary called "Zbornik Developing" by Aaron Mark. Kristine and I first met working at Rose's Turn in the Village back in the early 90’s. If you got to see Into the Woods last summer in Central Park, you saw her fabulous performance as Jack’s Mother. This documentary is about the preparation and performance of a new act she did a few years. It is so funny yet moving. And, it’s so easy to identify with her anxiety of putting up a new project for the first time. Watch the trailer here. Watch the whole documentary at www.SethTV.com.
This week on Seth Speaks (my SiriusXM talk show) I had Lisa Lampanelli, who was hilarious! She’s working on a one-woman show for Broadway (with former "SNL" writer Alan Zweibel) and is in the process of revising it because there were sections about her being overweight, but last year she had the surgery where they removed a part of her stomach (!) and since then she’s lost 95 pounds! I asked her about "Celebrity Apprentice" and specifically about Donald Trump’s hairstyle. I can’t repeat a lot of what she said, but she made a joke about a comb-over, somehow related it to seeing Susan Boyle’s crotch and ended by saying, “Talk about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’!”
My favorite story involved her doing her act on tour. She found out the Westboro Baptist Church was going to protest her. If you don’t know, they protest many things they think are pro-gay, and they purposefully pick things that hurt the most people. For instance, they claim that the U.S.’s tolerance of homosexuality is why there are American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, so they’ll show up and protest at military funerals. So, when Lisa heard they were coming to one of her shows, she decided to use the protest against them: She racked her brain to think what would really annoy them and finally announced that for every person who showed up to protest, she would donate $1,000 to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. She told me she thought around ten people would show up. Well, turns out 44 people were protesting! She was about to pony up $44,000 to GMHC but then decided it would piss them off more if she made it an even $50,000. Brava! She’s constantly bragging about how “rich” she is and told my audience what a big sacrifice it was to shell out $50,000 because “that’s what I get paid for like… ten minutes of stand-up."
I spent Saturday night at the fabulous 54 Below to see Andrea McArdle’s show called 70’s and Sunny, which highlighted her 1970’s life and musical influences. First of all, her voice sounded amazing. She’s always in good voice, but this is the first time where I heard her sing tons of songs that were all in consistent high, belty keys. Brava! Secondly, her song choices were so much fun. She began with that 70’s hit "Native New Yorker" and sang it while walking through the audience in crazy high heels working her tight, sexy dress. As she sang, she walked over to various people and sang segments of the song to them. When she saw me, I was thrilled she decided to dedicate a verse to me; however, the lyrics she chose to sing while pointing her finger right at me were “You're no tramp, but you're no lady…” Compliment? Insult? Get back to me. She sounded phenomenal on “Got To Be There” and “Meadowlark," but I was most obsessed when she sang “Wherever He Ain’t,” which she first performed in Jerry’s Girls when she was 18 years old. I’ve always been obsessed with that record (yes, record — I first got the album from the Oberlin Library), and she sounded exactly like the recording. I’ve done so many deconstructions at this point that I can’t remember them all, but I know that the Andrea McArdle one was one of my very firsts. Watch!
54 Below is right underneath Studio 54, and Andrea said that we were in what used to be called the “Naughty Room." She would know since she used to actually go to Studio 54 when she was a teenager. She admitted that she never did anything naughty, but she bragged about her experiences. She was very proud of the fact that she met Peter Allen upstairs. “When I was 13!” she said proudly. And then added, slowly, “on a school night.” Wow! At the end of the show she mentioned that Alec Baldwin used to be a busboy at Studio 54 and reminded everyone to tip the waitstaff because “one day we’ll all be working for them!”
Tonight, I’m hosting The Concert at Second Stage which celebrates new musical theatre songwriters. There are a ton of songwriters represented including Peter Mills, Jeff Blumenkrantz and John Bucchino, and there are so many amazing singers like Mary Testa, Robin de Jesus, Bryce Ryness and Darius de Haas. Here’s one of the great songs that will be performed tonight. Tix are available here.
And, finally, Juli’s 11-year-old friend Annabelle was visiting over the weekend and told us about her recent experience with the iPhone’s so-called Siri. Annabelle asked Siri, “Where is Zabars?” and Siri replied (in robot voice) “I-have-found-14-gay-bars." Brava!
(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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