ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: What Show Tune Did You Sing in High School?

By Seth Rudetsky
25 Jun 2012

Lisa Lampanelli sings "Friendship."
Photo by Joseph Kelberman
Next, came Lisa Lampanelli who was a teenaged Reno Sweeney. We dueted on "Friendship" and ended each verse by telling the audience about a school friendship that went terrible wrong. Hers was about her best guy friend whom she wound up making out with and then never hearing from again. She revealed that it was one of the many guys she "turned gay." I told a story about my friend who told me she was getting me a sweater for my bar mitzvah because all the ones I wear "are so ratty." However, I thought there were more verses and was so disappointed I never got to tell my story about the two Michaels I was friends with for years. They didn't really know each other but eventually I introduced them. One weekend they invited me to have a slumber party but I couldn't make it. On Monday I asked how it went and they told me that at the party they decided "we don't like you anymore." And we never spoke again. Devastating! And, P.S., when did ending a long-standing friendship become a slumber-party activity? What happened to ghost stories and pillow fights?

Next up was Christopher Jackson from In the Heights, who told us that his first onstage role was in Oliver! as The Artful Dodger. He was the only black kid in the show and sassily commented that casting him as a thief was racist. He gave us "Consider Yourself" once through, sung as he did as a kid (with a Cockney accent) and then he performed it as he would as an adult…R&B style. It sounded great and completely inappropriate.

Christopher Jackson delivers "Consider Yourself"
photo by Joseph Kelberman

Next, Corbin Bleu came onstage and sang a song from way back when he was in high school. Five years ago. I knew he had gone to a performing arts high school (with Fergie, FYI!) as well as attending Debbie Allen's dance school, so I asked him to do a song in which he could "bust a move." He did "I Can't Stand Still" and not only danced great, but his body looked amazing. I told him how in shape he looked and he said, "You should have seen me months ago," which I took to mean "I was so out of shape and I'm so proud of how far I've come." He actually meant, "You should have seen me months ago because I was in better shape." Hm. "Thank you" would have sufficed.

Susan Blackwell came onstage and told everyone that when she was in high school she was cast as Anita in West Side Story, causing her to "hit the tanning bed pretty hard and spray my blonde hair black with Halloween bullcr*p." She launched into "A Boy Like That" but spoke over every musical break and it was hilarious. At one point she informed us, "Because my high school was so small, they had to cast most of our gang members from the middle school. So, in the second act, when Anita nearly gets raped by the Jets, I was so much bigger than most of Jets, it looked like I could have easily raped them." At the beginning of the song, she told the audience that if they were shocked she played Anita, just wait 'til they find out who played Maria in another high school production. During the part where Anita sings "Just wait and see, just wait Maria! Just wait and see!" she sang "Just wait and see who played Maria, just wait and see!" and the audience suddenly heard a high soprano singing "Oh, No Anita no! Anita no!" sung by…Lisa Lampanelli! That's right! Lisa "sang" some more and then took a break to tell the audience that she went to high school in Connecticut, even though she is Italian, she was cast as the Puerto Rican Maria. She said, "That's because Italians are the Puerto Ricans of Connecticut." Brava!

Melissa Errico came back onstage and told us of the many roles she played at French Woods Summer Camp including the title role of Evita at age 11! Who was her Che, you ask? Why, it was that fiery Latino, Jason Robert Brown! Jason Roberto Brown?

Melissa Errico performs "A Call From the Vatican"
Photo by Joseph Kelberman

Melissa's mom would always mail her costume pieces. Melissa remembers singing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" in her mother's nightgown. She asked, "Why? Was Evita supposed to have woken from bed?" Then she told us that she played the sexy, sexy role of Carlotta in Nine when she not very much older than the title age. Well, she was 14.

Finally, Mandy Gonzalez came out and told us about playing Maria as a teen in The Sound of Music. Her high school rehearsals consisted of her teacher plugging in a TV and playing the movie. The cast was told to copy what was onscreen. Seriously! Mandy played Elphaba last year in Wicked, so at the end of her rendition of "I Have Confidence" we immediately segued into "Defying Gravity" because the songs have a similar "I-still-got-it" attitude. She sounded so great on her soprano and then thrilling on her high crazy belting! And the whole thing was filmed and will be shown on SethTV.com so feel to sign up ASAP!

Right after the performers, I screened an episode one of my reality shows and it was so much fun to actually hear a whole crowd react to the show as opposed to just James.

In other news, does anyone have a sequel to my book they can lend me? Mine was due June 1. If not, peace out!

(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.)