ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Carol Burnett Brings Seth to Tears

By Seth Rudetsky
01 Oct 2012

Cover art for the recently-released Carrie CD
Speaking of Laura Dean (who played Sue, the nice girl, in the workshop of Carrie), we discussed his ill-fated thriller musical and where it went wrong. Pitchford said that the contract they signed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (who produced it) stipulated that the writers not be allowed at rehearsal. Hence, they didn't know how the show was being directed. I'm sure it was a "pleasant" surprise when they saw that the high school students wore gym outfits that looked like white togas. What was even more horrible is the way it all ended; the show opened to not great reviews but the cast was called in for a talk from the main investor/producer. He told them the show would remain open and they would get past the negative reviews. Yay! Everyone was overjoyed. The investor/producer then left in his limo, told his business manager to close his bank accounts and flew back to Germany!

Not only did the show close right away but no one was paid! Fast-forward to 2012 and a revised revival, Off-Broadway. The first CD of the score has finally been released, starring Marin Mazzie

Last week was very exciting because a new DVD came out featuring tons of episodes from the original "Carol Burnett Show."  I was scheduled to talk with Carol, Vicki Lawrence and Tim Conway on "Seth Speaks," but first they were booked for a special show where lucky SiriusXM viewers got to come in and ask them questions. The cast was in the large studio that has enormous glass windows and there were listeners inside and crowded into the lobby as well. James came with me because he also grew up obsessed with the show, and we stood in the lobby and listened to comedienne Amy Schumer interview them. I was hoping to entice Carol and Vicki to sing something when I interviewed them and Amy must have been told to see if they'd be willing to sing. Unfortunately, she was told to do it during her show! So, she mentioned to Carol and Vicki that there was a piano behind her. Carol and Vicki acknowledged seeing it. Then Amy asked if they'd be willing to sing. Carol and Vicki both asked who would play the piano. Amy told them that the producer didn't quite tell her that part. There was a pause and I turned to James and asked, "What should I do? Should I run in there?" Two seconds later, I pushed past the crowd, went into the studio, hit a starting pitch and started playing "I'm So Glad We've Had This Time Together." Carol and Vicki joined in and it was fabulous. Well, as they were walking out, I was semi-freaking because I grew up loving that show so much and couldn't believe I was finally going to get to meet them all. First, though, they had to go to another interview. Carol came up to me and thanked me for playing and asked my name. I said "Seth" and another producer told her that she was going to be on my show later that afternoon. Suddenly, her face lit up and she said, "Seth!?!?! Oh! I listen to your show all the time!" I could not believe she knew who I was. Of course, tears immediately came to my eyes because I was so happy. Who would have thought when I was a little boy on Long Island watching her show (I was 11 when it went off the air), I would one day meet her and she would tell me she listened to my show!?!?! All three of them then sat down with me for a chitty-chat (first airing this Sunday at 5 PM on SiriusXM Stars) and, of course, right after my initial question Tim Conway asked if he was also required to speak that fast. Hmph. Carol revealed that the biggest compliment she can get is when people tell her that they watched her show as a family…with their parents or grandparents. And, P.S., that's exactly what James told her. Hers is the show that always reminds him of his grandfather because they watched it together. I asked her about doing Once Upon a Mattress and she said that when the show closed Off-Broadway the entire cast picketed in front of their theatre (in full costume) looking for a new venue. They moved to Broadway and went from the Alvin to the Cort to the St. James to the Winter Garden. She said that Neil Simon quipped, "Have you seen Once Upon a Mattress? Don't worry. It'll soon be coming to a theatre near you." I brought up the character of Eunice, and Carol, as usual, mentioned that the "Family" sketches were her favorites. I told Tim that I loved how he always spoke to "Mother Harper" like she was deaf, and I told Carol and Vicki how obsessed James, Juli and I are with the sketch where they play "Sorry." Suddenly Carol and Vicki immediately recreated it for me on the air. Carol went into her character voice and screamed: "It was a seve-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-en!!!!!" Then Vicki, as Mama, said calmly "Eunice seems to be of the opinion that it was a seven. So I will just move the yellow man back seven spaces, then I will move my blue man ahead seven spaces…landing on your green man sending him back to start. Sorry!!!!"

Seth with Tim Conway, James, Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence

This week also starts the airing of "Seth's Reality" Episode 8 on www.SethTV.com. It features me in Provincetown rehearsing with…Patti LuPone! There's amazing footage of her singing "Anything Goes," "A Boy Like That," "Invisible," "Buenos Aires" and "Rainbow High"! And just wait until the entire concert goes up! Here's the preview of the episode. Watch for some delicious tidbits. And now, peace out and Happy October!

(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.)