ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Kristin and Christiane

A week in the life of actor, musician and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth

My house is freezing as I write this. What's the good of three fireplaces when you stink at lighting a fire? I tried to get one going and ended up with pieces of black, charred newspaper surrounding an unlit og. I would put on the heat, but because this place is so big, our Con Ed bill for 11 days was like $300!!!! So, we now spend our time in the house constantly freezing in total darkness.

Anyhoo, the week began with seeing the fantastic Shoshana Bean concert (directed by Billy Porter) at Lincoln Center. The whole first half was Barbra Streisand songs, and it was the first time I've ever been at a concert where I L-O-V-E-D every single song. The second half featured songs from her [AUDIO-LEFT] dance-tastic debut CD "Superhero," but they were arranged (by James Sampliner) to fit in with all of the Barbra stuff. There was even a medley where she went back and forth between her songs and Barbra's classics, and it blended seamlessly. Brava! There's one song from her CD called "116" about the street she used to live on in Harlem with a boyfriend she's no longer with that you must listen to. It's gorgeous/devastating. Click here.

Shoshana told me that she did a safe-sex video when she was in Las Vegas starring in Peep Show, and she gave me a fabulous shout out. It starts with her putting on make-up and warming up in her dressing room. First, she does the riff from Godspell that she knows I've been obsessed with for nine years, and right after that she raises one eyebrow and hauls out my old chestnut: Still got it. Take a gander here.

On Tuesday I interviewed the multi-talented Kristin Chenoweth, who's performing in Love, Loss and What I Wore Off-Broadway. We've known each other since 1998, and when we sat down to chat at Sirius/XM she said that doing these interviews with me always makes her think how far we've come since we first met. I agreed. She's won a Tony Award and an Emmy Award and I (editors note: Impressive credits to be put in once they actually exist). We talked about her upcoming Broadway show. Kristin told me that she recently did a reading of Minskys (by Bob Martin, Charles Strouse and Susan Birkenhead) and she loved it, but she knew she'd have to commit a full year to it, and she has too many other projects cooking. So, when she was offered the revival of Promises, Promises, which she'd only have to do for a limited amount of time, she was thrilled. She's playing Fran Kubelik, the part played by Shirley MacLaine in the film "The Apartment" and then Jill O'Hara in the Broadway musical and Betty Buckley in London. Kristin made the mistake of going on a theatre message board and saw posts from people complaining that she was too old for the role. Of course, the next day was the photo shoot, and she was a wreck. The director, Rob Ashford, told her to relax and that there are no references in the show about how old the character is. Kristin actually first played the role when she was 19 years, and remembers having zero idea what it was about. Back then she thought, "I can't relate. I'll never have my heart broken.." Now, years later, she told me that she finally "gets" the role and is dying to play it. I love hearing stories about young people playing roles with life experiences way beyond them. I inappropriately played Harry in my high school's production of Company when I was 14 (!). I had to sing "Sorry/Grateful" about the dichotomous feelings you have in marriage. The lyrics are "You're always sorry, you're always grateful etc…" but, quite honestly, all I cared about was showing off my belt and vibrato. Let's just say that throughout every contrasting emotion I sang of, I made the same acting choices I would have made if the lyrics were "La, la, la, la…"

Kristin recently had to cancel a concert she had with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra (where she was replaced by the amazing Julia Murney and Megan Hilty). All the press release said was that she was sick but, of course, I wanted details. Turns out, she had swine flu! Speaking of which, I was on the crosstown bus, and the woman across from me was on her cell phone and this is the conversation I heard: "Hello? Yeah, I have to talk to the doctor. I have swine fever, and he told me to check in every hour." First of all, how can she not know it's called swine flu? Secondly, the doctor told her to check in every hour, but didn't suggest she STAY HOME? I was mortified and wanted to immediately move the hell away from her...but my social graces prevented me from looking obvious about it. So, I just sort of slowly got up and feigned I had important business at the front of the bus — business that involved not being incapacitated for weeks. Kristin and I also talked about her hair extensions, which she claims she's addicted to. I'm constantly running into people, commenting how thick their hair is and then having them inform me that their hair is laden with extensions. I was sitting at Birdland with Carly Jibson, and I asked her why women don't just use their natural hair. She told me I'm "so 2006." Hmph. By the by, I had that conversation with Carly at Miranda's show. Miranda is one of those youtube girls who thinks she's an amazing singer, but is actually awful. Miranda was created by Colleen Ballinger, and Colleen is such an amazing actress that thousands of people think Miranda is a real person. Her youtube channel gets tons of hate-filled comments that Colleen loves because they're usually from girls who really are Miranda. They'll write, "You're an awful singer. You have no talent!" Then if you go to their channel, it's videos of them sitting in front of the camera saying, "Here's me singing "Defying Gravity" and they clank. Thank goodness I was a teenager before the internet because there'd be so many videos of me out there doing my "amazing" rendition of "Sorry/Grateful." Someone videotaped me deconstructing Miranda singing "And I Am Telling You" at her Birdland appearance. It was so much fun because her whole show is improvised. Take a gander here.

At my Chatterbox on Thursday, I had Christiane Noll, who is fantastic as Mother in Ragtime. She told me that she auditioned for Jekyll and Hyde way before it came to Broadway. After she sang, she went home and got what she called a Mafioso-type phone call from Frank Wildhorn. Christiane picked up the phone and found out she got the job by Frank intoning in a low voice, "Welcome to the family." Scary. Hmm…does Frank also work in "construction"? Luckily, she stayed with it through the out-of-town tryout and then on to Broadway without getting whacked. I've actually known her since the early 90's. I met her at my first big NYC job: playing for Sara Lazarus' amazing audition class. I was two years out of college, and she had just graduated Carnegie-Mellon with many of my friends. She wasn't in the theatre department (she was a voice major) but she was utilized to make the theatre majors nervous. Whenever an actress was "acting up," the powers-that-be would ask Christiane to come sit at rehearsal and take notes. Of course, she never took over the part, but she was used as an intimidation technique. She mentioned that she remembered being asked to come to rehearsal for A Little Night Music at Carengie-Mellon. I asked her if she saw the crazy performance where my friend Jack Plotnick couldn't sing… and she did! Jack was playing Henrik, and he completely lost his voice so the director came up with two (crazy) solutions. During the song "Later," Jack mouthed the words while Billy Porter sang the song backstage into a microphone. The problem was, Billy's microphone wasn't turned on! Jack started moving his lips and the audience heard nothing. So, after a few measures, Jack was forced to "sing" the song AKA speak it in a throaty rasp. Meanwhile, while he was "singing", he, and only he, could hear Billy backstage riffing and sassing it stunningly. Then during "A Weekend in the Country", Ty Taylor (who is a brilliant tenor) sang Jack's solo while walking right behind him. Ty was supposed to represent what was going through Jack's mind. So Jack walked around with a "thinking" expression on his face while Ty belted in back of him. And for those of you that think this kind of thing only happens in colleges, just remember the story I wrote about in this column about Linda Eder. She lost her voice during previews of Jekyll and Hyde. Linda acted all of her scenes, but moved her mouth during all of the songs while the understudy sang it backstage! And, PS, her understudy was Emily Skinner (who also went to Carnegie Mellon). By the way, speaking of Jack, he'll be teaching his amazing acting class here in NYC and also giving a $10 seminar that explains his whole technique! It's a brava. Go to www.JackPlotnick.com for details. And, we'll be hauling out our comedy show Mortification Theater with Tom Lenk (from rock of ages) on Thursday at 6PM at Don't Tell Mama. If you haven't seen us together, here are a few samples.

This week, Julie White and I are co-hosting The Gypsy of the Year Competition. You can get tickets at BroadwayCares.org. I just got an email informing me that I'm sharing a dressing room. Before I could have a diva fit, I read the rest of the email informing me that I'm sharing it with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig! FYI, I may never actually get onstage.

At the end of this week, I'm seeing the Chelsea Symphony Holiday Concert. Every year they do Aaron Dai's "The Night Before Christmas," which was written for narrator and orchestra. It first starred Richard Kind, then Ana Gasteyer, then David Hyde Pierce, and this year the reader is one of my idols… Charles Busch! Here's a video of my friend Ana Gasteyer (who's hi-lar in The Royal Family) performing it. http://sethrudetsky.com/blog/2009/12/06/ana-gasteyer-and-the-chelsea-symphony-the-night-before-xmas/ Get tickets at www.Chelseasymphony.org.

OK, I'm off to The Gypsy of the Year. And remember that old theatre adage: If the dressing room's a-rockin', don't come a'knockin'!

Seth Rudetsky and Christiane Noll
Seth Rudetsky and Christiane Noll