ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Revisiting My Past With Ralph Macchio and Avoiding Disaster! on Opening Night

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06 Nov 2013

Seth and Jack Plotnick at opening night of Disaster!
Photo by Monica Simoes
When we first performed Disaster! back in 2011, it was for an "Only Make Believe" benefit. "Only Make Believe" is an organization run by Dena Hammerstein that brings theatre to hospitalized children. I've done their benefit every year, and this year it happened to fall on the same night as the opening of Disaster! But I remembered a benefit I did years ago and decided to steal a page from Sutton Foster's playbook.

Back in 2002, I put together a benefit of Funny Girl for the Actors Fund. A few weeks before the show, Thoroughly Modern Millie added a Monday show on the exact same date! I didn't know what to do because Sutton was supposed to sing "I'm The Greatest Star" in our show! Well, Funny Girl was slated for 7:30 and Millie was at 8, so Sutton got in her wig and mic, did the opening number for Funny Girl and then when she finished her song, she exited up the aisle, out of the theatre and ran over to the Millie theatre and did her show. So, because Only Make Believe began at 7 and Disaster! at 7:30, I knew we could do both. Haven Burton, Jonah Verdon and I got into costume and at 6:45, ran to the Bernard Jacobs Theatre (Where Once is playing), did the press line and went backstage. Ian McKellen came onto the Once set and introduced us. We came out, performed the "I Am Woman" segment from the show, hightailed offstage and ran back to the theatre. Ten minutes later, we were onstage! So perfect for my A.D.D.: Crazy overbooking, last-minute panic and trying to be in two places at once. And by "once" I mean Once. Pun humor! Without an actual pun... or humor.

Opening night for Disaster! was star-studded! The guests included Charles Busch, Jan Maxwell, Christine Ebersole, Charlotte d'Amboise, Capathia Jenkins, Aisha de Haas, Rachel Bay Jones, Lillias White, Julia Murney, Brian d'Arcy James, Andrew Lippa, Jerry Mitchell, Rory O'Malley, Brenda Braxton, Priscilla Lopez, Victor Garber, Daniel Reichard, Laura Benanti, Mo Rocca, Jennifer Cody, Jeff Richmond and Tina Fey. I can actually look at the audience from backstage during the show and it was so fun to see my friends laughing up a storm. What's crazy is that there were people there who knew the show, yet they acted like it was their first time seeing it. Anika Larsen (who's starring in Beautiful on Broadway) had done previous productions and afterwards she said she came prepared to fake laugh for two hours. She told us that she prepared her diaphragm for non-stop phony chuckles but wound up laughing up a storm for real! My favorite after-show comment was posted by Ann Harada on her Facebook wall; her son Elvis told her, "This is the best show I have ever seen in my life." I'll take it!

OK! I have Disaster! this week (get tix at DisasterMusical.com) and then I fly to Tampa this weekend for two deconstructing Broadway shows at the Straz Center! Get tix here 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.)

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