We then talked about her first Broadway show — Anna Karenina. She had a song where she's supposed to put on a hoop skirt while she was singing. One night, the hoop skirt got caught on her head and she couldn't get it off. She sang the whole song with her face peeking out the hoop-skirt opening and then had to exit with the skirt around her face. Mortifying. Who was in the audience that night? The Weisslers! They were producing My Fair Lady, and instead of boycotting her for wearing a costume as a wig, they asked her to come to the callbacks for Eliza. After around 11 auditions (!), she got the gig opposite Richard Chamberlain! Unfortunately, her experience was marred by a vocal injury on the road. Eliza screams when she's forced to take a bath. The director really wanted the show to be dark, so he wanted the shrieks to be terrifying. In order to save her voice for an eight-show-a-week run, they pre-recorded her screams. Unfortunately, they asked her to record them late at night after an all-day rehearsal and when she let loose with some blood-curdling screams in the recording studio, she burst a blood vessel! She was out of the show off and on during the national tour, but thankfully came back with full sass for the Broadway production. Look at this great clip I found of her singing during the 1993 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Amazing!
My fave story, however, doesn't involve Broadway. She was cast on the TV show, "Central Park West," and her character was pretending to be pregnant to trick her boyfriend. She remembers that she had some crazily-written line where she told her doctor that she needed to have a baby already. It was something like, "I'm not a rhino. I can't gestate for 15 months!" She didn't really know how to make that line work (understatement) and right before she filmed it, Lauren Hutton (who was also starring on the show) came over and gave her some advice. She whispered, "If you ever have a line that you can't make sense of, just say it while crying." In other words, the subtext will be, "I'm so hysterical, I don't know what I'm saying." Melissa turned on the tears and it worked! P.S., her boyfriend was played by John Barrowmanand I found a clip that begins with his shirt off. Not since Zac Efron…
OK, everyone. This week I'll be seeing some of the slew of new Broadway shows that seem to be opening every day — and enjoying the amazing spring weather. Don't forget, the Easter Bonnet Competition is coming up soon! Get tix here at BroadwayCares.org. Peace out!
(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.)