By Seth Rudetsky
09 Apr 2012
Oy! Time to loosen ye olde belt. And I don't mean Patti LuPone's high belt. I mean the one cutting into my gut. Yes, last night was the Seder — and, boy, are my pants tight. I had the Seder at my place and it was full of the usual side comments while the Haggadah was read. There were a lot of old chestnuts bandied about but a new one was added by my mother. When she read the section about the Jews having to cast their sons into the river and only keep their daughters, she whispered to me, "The beginning of drag queens." True 'dat! Speaking of Passover, on Wednesday I played the title role in Rachel Shukert's Everything's Coming Up Moses at the 92nd Street Y. The Jews in the audience went crazy for the first lyrics of "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Normally the song starts with, "You can pull all the stops out, 'til they call the cops out…," but in this version Matt Cavenaugh sang, "You can stand and sing 'Aleinu', 'til they shout 'Dayenu!'" Brava. In the afternoon, when we were staging "Some Hebrews" (aka "Some People"), I told Michael Schiralli (the director) I needed something to take off the wall at the end of the song (to sell), like Mama Rose does. So Rachel added two lines that I loved before the song to set up the ending. I looked at the wall and said, "Aaron, that's a nice mezuzah. How much do you think I could get for it?" Aaron yelled, "Moses! That's my retirement mezuzah!" The Gypsy fans in the audience got the reference and I loved it because it made no sense. What's a "retirement mezuzah"!?!
Speaking of Gypsy, I called the most recent Tony Award-winning Mama Rose a few weeks ago to see if she'd do some shows with me in Provincetown. I left her one of my signature babbling messages and signed off with a quick, "Peace out, Patti! Take it up the octave!," just because I love her high belt. Later that day I got a message, "Seth. This is Patti. I got your message." Then, she carefully asked, with every word articulated, "Did you say 'take it up the octave'?" Pause. Uh-oh. I didn't know what was going to follow: A lecture about how taking something up the octave could potentially hurt your vocal cords? A curt, "I will not!," followed by a click? Instead, she burst into signature Patti LuPone laughter. Phew! And she agreed to open up the "Broadway At The Art House" series! Yay! Go to PtownArtHouse.com for tickets and let the belting begin.
|photo by Corey Hayes|
Melissa also talked about how tennis technique can be applied to theatre. First I glared, but then when she explained, I totally got it. She told me that she once was using all of her arm effort to slam balls over the net until Patrick told her that tennis balls actually go the fastest when you hit them with a relaxed arm. Who knew? It's the same with singing: Relax and you can get the high notes. Hm…maybe someone should have told Peter. She also said that when you miss a ball playing tennis, you have to immediately forget about it. You can't miss a ball and start thinking, "Why did I miss that? Usually I have an amazing forearm. Wow. Maybe I need to work on — " And…you missed the next ball. It's the same thing with performing. If I miss a laugh, I can't be devastated and obsessed it or else the rest of my performance clanks. Melissa also brought up how sports stars lose all the time. She was in the elevator with Venus Williams at a recent tournament and was totally star-struck. She later mentioned it to Patrick and he remarked that Venus had just gone home. Melissa was dumbfounded but she began to realize that great sports stars lose all the time and then they have to move on right away. It's the same with actors.... auditioning every day and constantly rejected. Speaking of which, my favorite/most depressing rejection happened to my good friend Kristine Zbornik years ago. She tried out for this headache-y Off-Broadway revue. Right after she sang, they gave her details about the contract. She then realized she couldn't do the show because it paid so little. She would have had to quit her other job, which paid a lot more. With the new gig, she wouldn't be able to make rent. Once she found out, she apologized and told them that she couldn't do the show because she couldn't afford it. The next day she got a call from them telling her that they weren't casting her in the show. What the — ? She already told them she couldn't take the job!!! I guess they were just clarifying that even if she could, they were rejecting her. If you've never seen Kristine, here's a classic clip.Continued...