ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Prepping for "Bunheads," and Celebrating Phantom's 25th on Broadway

By Seth Rudetsky
29 Jan 2013

Hugh Panaro
photo by Monica Simoes
Sierra regaled us with stories about going to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sydmonton estate. First of all, I hear his estate is right near the real Downton Abbey so I'm desperate to go. Secondly, she had a real "Downton Abbey" experiencel she was there to sing for the Queen! No, not The Dowager Empress, the actual Queen! Her majesty is a big fan of the song "Sing" that Lloyd Webber wrote and Sierra did a royal command performance for her in his living room. Her details about preparing for it and her wonder that she's even there in the first place are amazing. You can watch the whole Chatterbox on SethTV.com and make sure you stay 'til the end when Sierra sings "Think of Me" with a sassed-up ending.

And finally, speaking of Phantom, I went to see the 25th-anniversary Broadway performance on Saturday, Jan. 26. OMG! It was amazing. First of all, for some reason, I got amazing seats up front and in the center. Also, the show was in phenomenal shape. The whole cast was at their best; people around me kept commenting on how amazing Hugh Panaro's acting is. Bravo! I've played in that orchestra since the early '90s and it was so incredible to hear them from the audience. The strings sounded fantastic! After the show, Hal Prince and Cameron Mackintosh came out onstage and Hal said he was proud to say the orchestra had 27 players. Yay! If you don't know, most current Broadway shows are charging tons of money and have 15 players or less.

Cameron Mackintosh
Photo by Monica Simoes

Cameron spoke of how Sir Andrew was first going to just produce the show with already-composed opera music but then his wife Sarah Brightman inspired him to write the score. Sarah herself then came out, looking great, and told us how she loved seeing the show and how new actors always seem to bring out different aspects of each characters. Then, three more Phantoms joined Hugh Panaro (Ramin Karimloo, Peter Joback and John Owen-Jones ) and they all sang the title song with Sierra. We were sitting in the center of the orchestra seats, but the left and right side of the audience had previous cast members. When the back-up part came (He's here, The Phantom of the Opera) they all suddenly started signing. It was so cool to be in the middle of that sound! Then all the Phantoms sang "Music of the Night" and they sounded great. Especially Hugh who had just sung the whole show! It was so thrilling and I became very moved when I realized that I'm a part of the Phantom family. I've played both keyboard parts on and off and since 1993! Here's one of my favorite musical phrases with one of my favorite Christines. And I've also had some hilarious experiences being in that pit and one was so cra-za-zy that I made a video about it.

Don Pippin, the famous Broadway conductor (Oliver!, Mame, A Chorus Line, La Cage aux Folles, etc.), sat in back of me during the show. After the show, he said it reminded him of the night that A Chorus Line became the longest-running musical on Broadway. He remembers thinking that nothing could ever top it. I thought he was feeling bad that Phantom has now run much longer, but instead he added, "A Chorus Line is still the longest-running American musical." Touche!

And on that note, it's time for me to memorize my "Bunheads" lines. We film tomorrow!

(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.)

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Hugh Panaro, Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo
Photo by Monica Simoes