ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Anchors Aweigh on the Playbill Cruise and Memory Lane with Rory O'Malley

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06 Aug 2013

Jennifer Simard
Jennifer Simard

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.


Hello from Norway! And goodbye to James! Wah. The good news is Unbroken Circle (the play he wrote) is going strong Off-Broadway. The bad news is, James got on the cruise Sunday afternoon and left Tuesday morning. He has to get back for the Wednesday matinee, which is especially important because it's Jennifer Simard's first performance playing his sister, Edna. If you've never seen Jennifer's brilliance, watch this Obsessed video I did with her. And come see the show Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday! UnbrokenCircleThePlay.com.

This is the third country I've been to since starting the "Broadway On The High Seas 3" AKA the Playbill Cruise. First, James, Juli and James' mom Elizabeth and I flew to Stockholm, Sweden. Not only is it the home to Peter Joback (the current Phantom) and ABBA, but it's also a really gay-friendly country! First, the flight attendants told us that SAS Airlines has been giving domestic partner benefits since the '80's! They also told us that this weekend was the gay pride festival in Stockholm. We assumed it meant that gay people in Stockholm would be celebrating.

Turns out, it meant that Stockholm would be celebrating! Everybody was part of the celebration. There were tons of families and kids carrying rainbow flags and there were flags flying in front of theatres and on the trams and buses. It was amazing! At one point, a bus went by that had the word "Sofia" above the driver's window because it was the final destination, but James and I decided that in honor of gay pride, every bus driver put the name of his favorite "Golden Girls" character in their front window. I was holding out for the Blanche bus.

Leaving for Stockholm

The good news about Stockholm was that we stayed at a beautiful hotel called Nobis. The bad news was that we got there at 9 AM after flying all night and they told us our room wouldn't be ready until at least noon. James' mom's rom happened to be available so I told him to go sleep there since he hadn't slept at all on the plane (I fell asleep for two hours). Juli was wide awake and wanted to stay up so she was fine, and I decided I'd take a nap in the inner hotel lounge. There was hardly anyone there and there were tons of chairs, including a couch that was as big as a bed. I went to the couch and laid across it, but within five minutes someone walked over and told me that napping wasn't allowed. I guess the hotel has a strict "no nap" policy. So, I stayed up til noon. No room. 12:30. No room. Finally, 1:15 my room was ready. I went up, got settled in and then remembered that all the Playbill entertainers were scheduled for lunch at 2 PM. Suffice it to say that by the time I went to bed, I'd been awake for enough hours to have seen Nicholas Nickleby, both parts of Angels In America and the original Les Miserables featuring all four "Little People" verses.

The next day we went to "Grona Lund" which is a Swedish Amusement Park. It was very old school...in the sense that no one seemed to care if people fell and killed themselves. There was a fun house that you entered by climbing a ladder that had separate rungs for each foot. Each rung continuously moved up and down, separately. So, if you didn't lift your foot off in time, you wound up being forced into a crazy split. I haven't stretched since 1991 and was on the verge of falling off many times. I looked down and noticed there wasn't a safety net, but there was a concrete sidewalk. No one seemed to freak out, though! I saw one mother climb it one-handed because she was holding her toddler under the other arm. The father, meanwhile, was climbing it with their baby strapped to his front. As ABBA sang, Mamma Mia!

James, Juli and I went through the entire funhouse, which really was fun. It had so many different areas, including a wall of mirrors, a bridge you crossed where the walls moved in a circle around you to make you feel like you were starring in "Vertigo" and it finally ended with a "magic carpet ride." You were supposed to sit on an actual carpet and then a trap door would open and you'd slide down a super fast sliding pond with two hills. That was it for me. I remembered that on the way to that area, there was a door that had Swedish writing I couldn't translate literally, but it looked like an emergency exit. I decided to make a beeline to it and had to push my way backwards through the entire line that was waiting. Of course, everyone I passed knew I was pushing through them because I was too scared to go on the magic carpet ride that toddlers were on. How do you say "mortifying" in Swedish?

Outside the Funhouse


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