ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: What Pop Star Stopped the Show in A Chorus Line When She Was a Teenager?

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

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Seth at "Broadway Stands Up For Freedom" (Photo by Monica Simoes)

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Hi from lovely Provincetown! I'm sitting on the porch of the beautiful Anchor Inn recuperating from my early morning torture otherwise known as boot camp. Literally 180 sit-ups with so-called "breaks" every minute or so to do burpees which are something horrific I shan't describe them a family column. The worst part is I was scoping out the rest of the people exercising and spotted someone in fairly bad shape. She was the slowest and the one most winded by everything. Let's say her name was "Colleen.

Well, every ten minutes or so the instructor would give me a shout-out which I appreciated... until I heard the full sentence. It was always "Good job, Seth... and Colleen!" Yes. It was a tip o' the hat to the two class losers! Everyone else got individual praise but we were lumped together with the subtext of, "Even though you both can't keep up at all, brava on your subpar attempt. A for effort!" I couldn't take it and finally I stormed up to the instructor and told her "FYI, I go to a trainer three days a week, and I do cardio the other three days! So I'm actually in good shape!" I forgot the rule that if you have to literally tell someone you're in good shape, it usually means you aren't.

This week began with the yearly New York Civil Liberties Union benefit I perform in called "Broadway Stands Up For Freedom." I have a calendar on my SethTV.com website with a tab called "See Me Live." It lists all my upcoming events and my interns keep it up to date. Well, on the day of the event, I checked to make sure it was listed and noticed that it had been added to calendar not as "Broadway Stands Up For Freedom" but as "Broadway Stands Up To Freedom." I thought it was so hilarious because that one word makes the cause of the event the complete opposite. I then used that mistake as the basis for my act that night; I spoke the audience about how everyone in the theatre supported freedom... but I then asked if there's such a thing as too much freedom. For example, should everyone be allowed to sing any Broadway song they wanted? I asked them to hold their answer until I did my deconstruction. I don't have a film of my performance, but to give you an example of a Broadway song in which the person perhaps shouldn't have had the freedom to record whatever he wanted, please watch my deconstruction of "Heaven On Their Minds" stat.

Speaking of SethTV, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, I've always known that Sarah Palin is obsessed with me "Single White Female"-style, but now she's pushed it and she's starting her own online subscription network! Two years after I began SethTV! Well, I checked out what she's offering on her site and basically she's stolen everything from me, but SethTV is still only $5 a month and her network is $9.95! The main difference is she can see Russia from her house and I have Audra McDonald in mine.

Seth's mom with Norm Lewis at the stage door

On Tuesday, I went for a second time to see the amazing Norm Lewis in The Phantom Of The Opera. You must go! So thrilling to hear his voice singing that score! I took my mom, who beyond loved it. It's also hilarious to me that even though she's such a theatre insider, she's still so naïve about certain Broadway basics. During intermission she grabbed my arm and said, "Norm is so fantastic in the role. He had better win a Tony for it!" I then informed her that only original cast members can win a Tony for a role and Norm was 25 years too late. We went to show with Barbara Baekgard and some of her pals from Vera Bradley, the company she co-founded. Barbara is hilarious and was telling us how much fun she used to have when the company first started because they were so small that they could do anything and not have to deal with the HR department.

The story's premise has to do with the fact that she named the company "Vera Bradley" after her mom. Second of all, when it first started out, Barbara was in charge of many things, including collecting debt. At one point, a certain store owed them $50 and she called and told that it was due. The owner called back and left a sassy message saying, "We do not owe you any money and even if we did, I doubt Vera Bradley would drop dead over $50" —meaning that a successful company like Vera Bradley wouldn't care about such a low amount. Well, Barbara told me the week he left that message happened to be the same week her Mom, Vera Bradley, passed away! So, Barbara wrote a comeback to, "We do not owe you any money and even if we did, I doubt Vera Bradley would drop dead over $50." She printed out obituary and faxed it to him with a note that simply said: "You do... and she did!" So funny!

James is also obsessed with Norm's performance and wanted to see it for a second time and bring his mom, Elizabeth. James told her that Norm is the first black man to star in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera and that he is brilliant in the part. Well, his Mom got to the theatre before him and phoned him in confusion. This was the conversation:

ELIZABETH: James, I'm here on 44th street, but it says the show is Phantom of the Opera.
JAMES: Right. That's the show Norm is starring in.
ELIZABETH: Oh! (pause) I thought you said it was Fiddler On The Roof.

That's right, she thought Norm was the first black man to star in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. Phiddler on the Roof? It reminds me of the amazing Jason Robert Brown lyric from The Last Five Years. Sherie Rene Scott sings about being at the kind of summer stock where there's one troupe of actors and sometimes the casting is perfect and other times, people have to be slotted into whatever role is left. She sings about an actor named Carl "playing Tevye... and Porgy." Love it! Watch

Backstage with Adam Pascal

My Not Since High School benefit is coming up Aug. 24! It features Broadway folk singing songs from their big high school role, and it was so great the last time I did it. This year will benefit my kid's public school music program which is basically non-existent. I'm having such a great time finding out what roles people played when they were young because some are so hilariously inappropriate. At Bebe Neuwirth's first "Chatterbox" years ago, she told me that when she was a teen she basically foreshadowed her performance as the blank-faced Lillith on "Cheers" by starring in her high school production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as Nurse Ratched! So perfect!

Julia Murney, who's going to sing in Aug. 24 benefit, told me she played Carlotta in high school. In other words, she was a teenager singing about the ups and downs of her long and varied career by singing, "I'm Still Here." She'll be recreating that performance in the benefit! I really want to get in touch with Jessica Simpson so she can do her amazing "Music and the Mirror" tour-de-force. As a teenager, she added two high E's to the song! Watch! And get Not Since High School tix here

I'm here in Provincetown doing my Broadway series at the Art House and this weekend features Adam Pascal. Right now he has a goatee, but during Rent both he and Anthony Rapp were clean shaven and had blond hair. As a matter of fact, sometimes there would be fans at the stage door who got them mixed up. During that time, there were a lot of interesting job offers and at one point he was asked to narrate a Discovery Channel documentary on hippos. It sounded so cool that he said yes right away. He recorded the voice over and the show aired in the late '90's.

Cut to years later when he and Anthony started doing Rent again. One night, Adam went to a bar after the show. A woman approached him and told him he was really good in the show. Adam thanked her and she then said, "Um... you might not remember me, but I was the producer for the Discovery documentary you narrated a long time ago." Adam realized who she was and they chatted some more. Finally, she said, "Well, I wasn't going to tell you this since I never thought I'd see you again but since we're both here, I might as well. You know, when you first showed up at the recording session and started doing the lines, I suddenly turned to the recording engineer and said, 'Oh no! I wanted the other one!'" Sorry Anthony! Not since I read the book about Hal Prince where he's quoted saying that he cast Madeline Kahn in On The Twentieth Century because he mistook her for Bernadette Peters!

All right, this week there are auditions in San Antonio for the first regional production of Unbroken Circle! It's so exciting! The Woodlawn Theatre is doing a fall production and the auditions are July 30-31 with callbacks Aug. 2 (same day and theatre as my Deconstructing Broadway show!). If you want info about the auditions or you want to license the show, get thee to UnbrokenCircleThePlay.com and see the new-fangled website. And get tix for my show here. On that note, 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.)