ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: What Broadway "Angel of Music" Was Driven to High School in a Cop Car?

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26 Aug 2014

Seth at Not Since High School
Photo by Monica Simoes

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


Wow! Last night was amazing! I put up a show called Not Since High School which was for Juli's after school music program. Why after school? Because there are basically no arts anymore during the school day. Apparently, the kids have to do academics all day long so they don't have time in the school day for music, theatre, etc. Here's my question: In high school, my school day went from 8 AM to 3:15 PM and we had time for chorus, chorale, special chorus, band, orchestra, theatre... and there were tons of kids from my class who went to Ivy League schools. How come they were able to combine academics with the arts but nowadays there's "no time"? It makes me crazy. Regardless, I'm accepting what is (for now) and at least trying to help what little music programming exists. I will give details about the show, but let me first start at the beginning of the week!

On Wednesday, my niece Eliana came to town with her friend Sarah and I took them to see the matinee of Cinderella. It was Sarah's first Broadway show (!) and she loved it. The cast is so great! And the onstage costume change from the rags "Crazy Marie" wears into the gown the fairy godmother is wearing and Cinderella's dowdy clothes into her ball gown are amazing! On a side note, I was reading one of my old columns and there's a whole section devoted to me getting my first iPhone and then promptly returning it because of the non-stop misspellings that happen because my fingers are too fat and the fact that the battery runs out crazily fast. I wrote that my iPhone lasts as long as August: Osage County. Yes, three hours makes a lengthy play, but a short battery life.

That was written in 2008 and I still spend every day complaining about my spelling errors and the horrific battery life. Today, I charged my phone all night and it ran out of battery at 11:30 this morning!!! Anyhoo, Cinderella was about to begin and, not surprisingly, my iPhone screen was black. I ran to the stage door, hoping I'd see someone I knew who would charge my phone. I didn't. But Jeff Pew, a sassy ensemble member who was coming down the stairs, told me he was a fan and asked to take a selfie with him. I, in turn, begged him to charge my phone! He plugged it in somewhere in the wig room and I came back during intermission to get it, only to find that he and Todd Buonopane (who's great in the show, FYI) used my iPhone to take crazy shots of themselves throughout Act One. How immature! And exactly something I would do.

After the show, we all went backstage and the girls got to take a photo with the leading ladies. I saw the hi-larious Nancy Opel, who plays the wicked stepmother and is getting ready to do Honeymoon in Vegas. As I was chatting with her, I realized we were in the Broadway Theater, the same one she made her debut in as the understudy for Patti LuPone in Evita back in 1980! As she was learning the stepmother role for Cinderella, someone was describing where the area is to cross the stage and she told them she needed no further instruction because she had done it many, many times back in the day. Of course, we laughed about her Evita uterus fall. If you don't know what I mean, watch this "Obsessed"! 

Backstage at Cinderella

On "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM talk show, I had Julia Murney and Kerry Butler. Kerry talked about graduating from high school and hearing that Blood Brothers was coming to Broadway. She had seen the show in London and loved it. She begged her agent to get her an audition, and she got one! After she tried out, she gushed to the director that she "loved the show so, so much" and her dream would be to "just watch the show every, single night." Well, cut to, she got cast as the swing, so her job was to watch the show every single night!

Julia was on my show to promote Not Since High School and, turns out, she went to the same middle school where Juli is going now. She was in the school's big choir (which no longer exists!) and heard someone singing a Christmas song that was being done in the concert. Julia started singing along. The choir teacher heard her and asked how she knew the harmony. Julia didn't know she was singing harmony. She was just singing what she knew from listening to the Muppets Christmas Album! Nonetheless, the choir teacher loved it and had Julia sing the harmony line with another girl at the concert... and it was Julia's first time singing a solo in public. She found out she was a good singer because she was in a school chorus.

This is my point! If we don't have school choruses, bands, etc., it will be much harder for kids to find out what they have a natural talent for! One of the fun things about Not Since High School is hearing the inappropriate shows high schools do. Julia had one of my faves: Her high school, filled with teenagers, decided to do Follies. Follies, as she describes it, is a musical about people "past middle age" who are coming to grips with their life. Not surprisingly, Julia sang the "I've seen it all, I've done it all" song "I'm Still Here"... when she was 17. She went to NY's Performing Arts High School and they hadn't yet completed building the school auditorium. So they performed Follies in the school lobby. Why? Because it had an enormous grand staircase that they used as the set! Perf!


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