ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Brian Bedford, Nicole Parker, Those Mormon Kids

By Seth Rudetsky
07 Jun 2011

Patti Murin in Lysistrata Jones
photo by Carol Rosegg

On Friday I saw Lysistrata Jones, whose title I'm obsessed with. It's based on the fact that the opera Carmen was turned into a contemporary musical by changing the name to Carmen Jones. I love the implied theory that any old show from yesteryear can become contemporary by simply adding "Jones" to the leading person's last name. Hilarious. The title role was played by Patti Murin who was great. Really funny, sassy dancing and great high notes. As a matter of fact, Jack Cummings III who runs The Transport Group, told me I had to come because I'd be obsessed with the belting. Everyone knows that high notes are the carrot to dangle in front of my face to ensure my presence. The cast was so talented and they all did Dan Knechtges' choreography so well. I was super impressed that so many people nowadays are such triple threats. I used to love looking at cast lists from the 1950s: there was a "singing chorus" and a "dancing chorus." Nowadays, they've been combined and they're called "the ensemble." But, my questions is, what happened to the dismissive comment people used to rattle off about a certain type of guy: "He's just a chorus boy". Do they say, "He's just an ensemble boy"? It doesn't really sound insulting. Just blandly factual.

On June 6, my schedule included going to Birdland to see Show Some Beauty which is a concert featuring the songs of Steve Marzullo. Steve wrote "Some Days," that great song Audra McDonald performs all over the place. I played it for her at a marriage equality rally, the rFamily Vacation in Club Med Mexico and, tying back to my first paragraph, on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." Here's one of her many performances of it

The Birdland show celebrated Steve's first CD. Ann Harada, Michael Winther, Rachel Ulanet, Judy Blazer, Sally Wilfert, Stephanie Card, Andrea Burns, Ric Ryder, Terry Klausner and Heidi Blickenstaff sang.

The hilarious Nicole Parker was my guest on my Playbill Obsessed video. I first saw her do her Ellen DeGeneres imitation on "MadTV" and I asked her to incorporate it into her Broadway career. What follows is what would happen if Ellen played Elphaba. Translation: 90 percent chatter and 10 percent singing.

I had Tony Award nominee Brian Bedford on my new Sirius/XM talk show, "Seth Speaks," which airs every Sunday at 5 PM. He's so fantastic in The Importance of Being Ernest, but do you know where he's not fantastic? Playing "Celebrity." I play every week with my guest, and, after I explained the game to him, we put on the timer so he'd have a minute to guess as many celebrity names as he could. I pulled the first name out from the hat of names the audience had filled out before the show and said, "She's blonde, she starred in Wicked,, she's really short…" Silence. I continued, "Um..she won the Emmy for 'Pushing Daisies.'" Staring. Finally I got a response from him which was simply, "What?" "What" what? Could he not hear a certain word I said? A phrase? Was he actually questioning the whole concept of the game? I think the answer is yes to all of the above. I haven't seen that many layers of subtext in one word since he, as Lady Bracknell, intoned "Found????" You people who saw the show know what I mean. I decided to break down her name into syllables. "OK. On December 25th one says 'Merry' what?" Silence. "Um…what's the word after 'Merry'…?" Silence followed by an eyebrow raised to the audience. Shockingly a full minute went by. Buzzer. I haven't seen a game played like that since Martin Short, who only guessed five names in 60 seconds. Of course, when I confronted Marty with being terrible at "Celebrity" he countered with, "Well next time put some actual famous people in the hat." Ouch. And accurate.

O.K., this week I begin rehearsal for the official reading of Disaster! We're moving forward with the piece and almost the entire cast that performed it last time is able to do it again. It's very exciting. And by "exciting," I mean non-stop rewrites, phone calls, scheduling conflicts, re-casting the people that aren't available, finding a stage management team, getting flight preferences so Jack can fly in etc. Peace out til next week!

(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.)