ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: How Did I Survive a British Natural Disaster and Still Make it Onstage on Time?

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

Jessie Mueller
Jessie Mueller (Photo by Joan Marcus)

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I'm back in the US of A! Of course, I'm already working on my next show and I'm super psyched I just added Jessie Mueller from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical to Not Since High School! That's the benefit I'm doing Aug. 24 where Broadway folk sing their "big song" from the high school role that put them on the map. All the money is going to Juli's middle school to help their after-school music program. As opposed to the school's regular music program? No. All they have is after-school music.

So frustrating! It's like all of us accepting airplanes charging us to sit in an exit row. Remember when it was free? Then airlines started charging to see if people would have fit and at first people were outraged but soon accepted it. It's the same with the arts. Public schools used to have theatre, music and art as part of the regular curriculum. It started being cut down to nothing and, after the initial protests, everyone soon accepted that schools no longer have giant choruses, bands, orchestras and musicals. #Depressing.

Anyhoo, I thought this benefit would be a great way to raise awareness about what we need to have back in schools, raise some much needed money and finally hear Julia Murney recreated "I'm Still Here" from her teenaged performance in Follies. Get tix here.

Here's what happened in London Towne: My show was planned for Aug. 10. Also planned that day: a hurricane. Yes, so-called Hurricane Bertha started underneath Florida and had the nerve to cross the Atlantic Ocean and come ashore in the UK! When I heard I'd be battling a hurricane for ticket sales, I was terrified I'd be playing to an empty house. Who the hell would want to leave their "flat" to see a comedy show and risk being washed away by flooding and/or being impaled by flying objects? Luckily, YeOldeWeather.com said it would be gone by the time my show began. However, it was still going to pass over London that afternoon. Cut to: my tech rehearsal. James and I were sitting outside in Leicester Square because, despite my fears of a deluge, the weather was actually fine. Perhaps a tiny bit cloudy.

In Kensington Gardens
 

My tech was scheduled for 2:30 PM and at 2:28 James decided to film us walking over to the theatre... around 100 yards. As he's filming, you can hear me chatting about being in London and how the hurricane was predicted, but so far all it's done is given us winds up to 10 MPH. Suddenly, I heard vague screaming near me and within two  seconds everyone was shrieking and fleeing because Leicester Square during into a wind tunnel surrounded by a monsoon. AH! Of course, James, for comedy reasons, kept filming as everyone was running around us and you can hear me screaming, " I'm sorry Hurricane Bertha! I believe! I believe!" The Guardian newspaper posted a photo of Millenium bridge at 2:15 and then minutes later to show how crazily quickly everything changed. Look!

Anyhoo, we made it to my tech, and the show went fantastically! Of course, I hate to brag but I shall do so under duress; I got numerous five-star reviews and they asked me to come back in February! Frances Ruffelle (the original Eponine from Les Misérables) came to see it and I used one of her clips in the show! I was demonstrating the delicious use of straight tone to vibrato and played "One Day More" where sings "...but he never saw me there!" and holds it straight-tone for a while as the camera comes closer and then she finally gives it full sassy vibrato. Watch

We went out to brunch, and I was commending Frances on her high belt and she said she forced herself to develop it after trying out for the West End Annie when she was a kid. The first thing every girl had to sing was "Happy Birthday" and she could never get up to the high note on the last "Happy BIRTH-day dear..." She finally figured out if she placed her voice in her nose, she could do it. However, by then she was too old for the show. But it then became her signature sound that I loved! She told us she did a demo of Miss Saigon when she was still playing Eponine and now thinks she sounded like a chipmunk. But I love it! Listen.

Speaking of Eponine, last year I was playing "A Little Fall Of Rain" on my SiriusXM radio show and when the song ended I came back on and said, "... and she's dead." Cut to, someone tweeted me and wrote, "Thank for spoiling Les Miz! Now I know Eponine dies." I tweeted back with, "It's so obvious she dies! Eponine sings, "And rain will make the flowers..." Silence. She doesn't sing the last word!" Frances saw the tweets and wrote back, "Maybe I forgot the lyrics." Brava! She and I did an Obsessed video together all about her signature pose as Eponine. Watch. PS - Speaking of the West End production of Annie. Andrea McArdle played Annie, but do you know who played Molly, the youngest orphan? Catherine Zeta Jones! True!

 
 

I'm very excited because the Leicester Square Theatre in London asked me back to do a whole weekend of shows in February! For those of you who don't live "across the pond," you can instead see me stateside. Come to Buffalo on Sept. 19 and I'll be hauling out the same material. Without the jet lag. And I'm doing two shows in San Francisco at Feinstein's Sept. 13-14! Get tix here

Seth and West End Producer
 

While I was in London, I did a British edition of "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM radio show. I interviewed the so-called "West End Producer." He's a man who came to prominence on Twitter, tweeting the dishy things people think but don't say out loud. Why can he do that? Because he goes everywhere in a full disguise. Seriously! He wears an enormous rubber mask over his entire head at all times. He has an ascot on that covers his neck, but he showed me that underneath his mask is another one in case the ascot moves. He also has gloves on at all times so you can't tell how old he is or even his race! He speaks in a hilarious, very upper class British accent and calls everyone "dear." Also, not only do all of his tweets end with #dear, he also has a book out called "Everything You Wanted To Know Acting, but Were Afraid To Ask... Dear." His tweets are so fun: Actors! Always make sure you're well lit. Sleep with the spotlight operator. #dear or Actors! Leave them wanting more. Only do half the play. Then bow. And go home. #dear

Eva Noblezada and Seth/span>
 

I then interviewed Eva Noblezada, who plays Kim in Miss Saigon. She's so fantastic in the show, and it's shocking that it's she's only 18. So mature! However, I asked her for her most embarrassing moment onstage and she revealed that when she was playing Maria in a school production of West Side Story she had to pee and had very little time to do it. Her dresser was pressuring her to speed it up so she did the ol' dancer trick of moving her leotard to the side… but she forgot she was also wearing a dress! Eva said she did the entire dance at the gym scene where she first meets Tony with a pee-stained white dress!   That suddenly reminds me of me and my childhood friend Kevin Gerber. When we were around 12 or 13, we recorded ourselves on cassette singing famous Broadway musicals... but re-wrote them to be about dogs. We performed Gypsy which was re-titled to Jip-Sy and we changed West Side Story to Ruff Side Story. The reason I bring it up is I remembered he played Maria and during the part of "Tonight" that goes, "Today! The world was just an address, a place for me to live in," he re-wrote the lyrics to be "Today! My heart feels it's on fire. I pee on neighbor's tire..." I thought it was hilarious. Still do!

Brian Gallagher, Megan Hilty and Seth
 

Speaking of having to use the bathroom non-stop, I'm here in Provincetown with an eight-month pregnant Megan Hilty! These shows are her last hurrah before she hunkers down and gets ready for the baby. Because she played Glinda for so long, we knew she had to sing "Popular" in our show. Right before, she wanted to make sure the audience knew the story of Wicked. She stood at the mic and said, "For those of you haven't seen Wicked, I'll sum up the plot. Wicked is about a beautiful blonde girl... who changes lives." And cue.

In conclusion, I miss London. However! I don't miss the signature Dowager Countess passive-aggresiveness everyone has perfected. I was at a book store and noticed a man looking at a whole section of books. I went over and stood to the right of him to look at the same books. Suddenly, he turned towards me, and with a very irritated high class accent says, "Excuse me! Am I in your way?" I thought it was odd that he was asking what had the words of a polite question, yet he sounded so outraged. He wasn't in my way since he was next to me so I said, "No, you're not. Thanks!" Then he was even more exasperated and sputtered, "I'm trying to look at the books!" I couldn't understand what that had to do with me. I said, "Um... I'm just standing next to you." He was apoplectic as he explained, "I'm looking alphabetically!" Apparently, he was looking across the entire row of books and therefore didn't want anyone next to him. Finally, I realized his first question, "Am I in your way?" was completely passive/aggressive. I thought it through out loud and said "So... you weren't wondering whether you were in my way. You were saying I'm in your way." He answered, "Exactly!" I realized he wanted me to move. So I did. Back to the USA.

OK, everyone. This Thursday at 5 on "Seth's Broadway Chatterbox" I have cutie/great singer James Snyder from If/Then and Cry Baby. Get more info at SethTV.com and 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.)