ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: From Texas to Disaster!

By Seth Rudetsky
30 Jan 2012

Seth in Disaster!
So, May 23 came, the benefit show went fantastically and we then got some funding to do a two-day reading. The next step was rewriting some stuff and then doing an out-of-town tryout. Out-of-town? I barely leave the Upper West Side! As a matter of fact, when my friend Traci Lyn invited me to her wedding, I said I'd only go if it was scheduled for a Wednesday between shows and located in a church on my block.

In November, I went out to lunch with James and was complaining about having to take the show to a regional theatre when he suddenly pointed across the street: Yes, the theatre where I first saw Forbidden Broadway and then did Forever Plaid would be perfect for Disaster! I called my manager Orin Wolf, who also produces, and he agreed to help us get the show going.

We began rehearsals on Jan. 16 and I have never felt more like I was in a Mickey-and-Judy film. Jack told me a theory that when you try to put something creative out into the universe, every day something will try to stop it. BOY was he right. Among the obstacles: we got news that we suddenly needed thousands of dollars we didn't know we needed. And we had to get approval from various unions or we'd have to shut down. That sort of thing. It's been crazy. Yet, so much fun. First of all, we're doing a show in a theatre that seemed crazily cramped with a four person cast, yet we're a 15-person cast! We're doing full production numbers so close to the audience that if I didn't have such an awful extension, I'd kick someone in the teeth. And we not only have everyone on stage performing, we also have a full rock band. Now I know what my Grandmother felt like in steerage when she came here from Russia.

Lauren Kennedy in Disaster!

Last week, we started rehearsals on Monday and did our dress/tech (and first run-through) on Sunday afternoon, leading up to the 7 PM curtain. Suddenly, in the middle of Act Two, we found out that we hadn't properly timed the tech and we had to leave the stage so the theatre could set up and prepped for an audience. Not only had we never, ever run the show, but we had never done the last 20 pages of Act Two with any props, costumes, band, etc. While we were backstage waiting to go on, Kathy Fitzgerald tried to cheer us up by saying, "It's like summer stock. You know, where you put up an enormous show in 10 days!" Lauren responded simply, "But we didn't have ten days." Ouch.

Well, the show went so well. I watched the audience while we were doing the finale ("Hooked on a Feeling") and was terrified that I might see a sea of blank faces. But even though our first show ran long, they were all smiling. We hadn't "lost them" as we say in the "desperate-to-get-approval" business.

We're only playing 'til the end of February. For more information, visit www.DisasterMusical.com. Come see every disaster that rocked your local movie screen in the 1970s, and hear every song that you danced/cried/made-out to in the 1970s! And my horrible, unflattering '70s hairstyle!

(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.)