ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andrea Martin in Pippin
By Seth Rudetsky
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Here's my last column of 2012! First of all, I've added more clips to SethTV.com including a hilarious TV show I did with Jack Plotnick years ago where he played Evie Harris. If you've never seen his hilarity as Evie, watch my "Best of Obsessed!" compilation that was just posted on Playbill.com, featuring Evie, Constantine Maroulis, Randy Graff, the cast of Disaster! and Liz Callaway. Watch it here:
Speaking of Jack, he stayed with me last week after his first directing gig. He co-wrote the film "Space Station '76" and it's chock-full of stars: Liv Tyler, Jerry O'Connell, Matt Bohmer and Patrick Wilson. Such a brava! E News just did a piece on it…take a gander.
I'm writing this from the Hyatt Regency in Boston where my family and I have been on a mini-vacation. We came up here to see Andrea Martin in Pippin, which is playing at American Repertory Theater (the same place where Once and Porgy and Bess began). Diane Paulus (Hair) is the director, and the concept for the show is really cool. Normally, all the players (except Pippin) are part of a traveling troupe of performers. This time, they're a traveling troupe of circus acrobats. And they're brilliant acrobats. Yet they all sing, dance and act. Brava on being quadruple threats! And quadruple-jointed. Andrea plays the grandmother (originally played by Irene Ryan) who sings "No Time At All." When she was offered the part she told the director she would love to do it if she could also do something acrobatic. Well, Andrea was right to ask because the song has always been a crowd-pleaser but now it's a show-stopper. I can't reveal anymore but it's so thrilling! As soon as the song ended, James leaned over and said, "If this comes to Broadway, she's going to win her second Tony Award." Brava!
It was such a pleasure hearing the Pippin score, which I think is one of the best written for Broadway. And it's mind-boggling to know that Stephen Schwartz was in his early 20s when he wrote both the music and the lyrics. When you hear it you realize that he was a pioneer in a new Broadway sound that would be echoed by Jason Robert Brown, William Finn, Andrew Lippa, Tom Kitt and so many more who have roots in the singer-songwriter style. When I was seven years old, my parents decided to take the money that would have been spent on an out-of-town vacation and use it to see three Broadway shows: The Pajama Game (with Hal Linden and Barbara McNair), Grease and Pippin (still with Ben Vereen). It was a few years ago (!) but I still remember the white gloves at the beginning of "Magic to Do" and I remember when the lyrics were flown in on a banner so the audience could sing along during "No Time At All."
It was so moving to me to see Andrea Martin sing that song and for me to remember it as one of my first Broadway experiences. I've been obsessed with the score ever since and, as a matter of fact, my very first deconstruction was about Pippin (and Billy Porter). Here it is.
And speaking of Deconstructions, I just put up a new one featuring the cast of Hairspray, specifically Shoshana Bean.
After Pippin in Boston, we all went out to eat something and Andrea brought out her iPhone so we could all open an app she's obsessed with called Akinator, the Genie. It works by guessing a person you're thinking of — and it's completely mind-blowing. I thought of a person and the app asked me around 14 questions. Basic ones (like, "Is it a woman?" and "Is she alive?") to specific ones (like, "Is she on a Disney show" and "Was she married to someone famous?"). Suddenly, it asked if I was thinking of Carly Simon! The answer was YES! So freaky! We kept doing random people and having the best time and when we decided to ask about Andrea, she told us that she's not one of the celebrities the Akinator knows. We thought that was crazy but she assured us that she's tried numerous times, and so had her brother, Debra Monk, Victor Garber and others, and it never, ever guessed her. How could she be not famous enough? It was depressing to think that a computerized app was a starf*cker. Then Juli decided to have the Akinator guess a celebrity and she wouldn't tell us who it was. It asked her a round of questions and suddenly the Akinator asked her if it was Seth Rudetsky! We all literally screamed in the restaurant. So hilarious that I was on it and not Andrea!
Well, after I found out it was able to guess me I knew Andrea must be in there. I took the iPhone and answered all the Akinator questions but this time instead of telling it that Andrea is American, I said no. It kept mentioning different countries and finally when it got to Canadian, I said yes. Andrea is from Maine but SCTV fans all think she's Canadian. It asked if she's been on Broadway and in hit movies and suddenly it asked if I was thinking of Andrea Martin! Yay! She's still got it!
Speaking of that, she's in such incredible shape because of her eight-show-a-week acrobatics, but the two of us are always complaining about how fat we are. I wanted her to know that I dropped off a little gift for her before the show, so I texted "I left something for you at the stage door." She wrote back, "Please let it be a girdle."
Right now I'm in the pool area in the Hyatt and there are three 'tween girls in the water who are performing in The Nutcracker next door. How do I know they're dancers? Well, the fun game they're doing right now is extending their right leg completely up to their ear and then seeing if they can walk that way across the length of the pool. I love "games" that are actually excuses to show off amazing flexibility.
I had John Bolton from A Christmas Story, The Musical as a guest at my recent Chatterbox and we discovered that we shared a very similar childhood. First of all, we were both obsessed with Dynamite magazine. If you don't know, Dynamite was like People magazine for kids. You were supposed to read it 'til age 12 and then graduate to Bananas, which was for teens. But both John and I kept getting Dynamite well past the cut-off date. We admitted it was our secret shame. I remember my friend Anne visiting me when I was in high school and then calling me later and asking in a completely miffed voice, "Did I see Dynamite sitting on your table?" I was mortified, and claimed it was an old issue. She then asked me how that was possible if the cover featured Seinfeld. (PS it wasn't Seinfeld, but it was someone else who became famous that week and my cover-up was blown wide open.) John and I also shared an obsessed with Annie — and a devastation that boys weren't in the show. He went a little further than me, though. He read a book about Broadway shows and in the Annie section it said that every night, at 8:07, the overture began to play. Therefore, from that day on, he would go into his room, put the album on at exactly 8:07 (he lived in Rochester and was therefore in the same time zone as Broadway) and he'd go under the covers of his bed just like he was at "places," along with all the orphans on Broadway. He would then do the show along with the record. Brava on the commitment! (As well as the blurred line between reality and fantasy.)
John and I also share a healthy respect for today's pop culture but a worship of the stars from yesteryear. He was on a soap opera for a few episodes and he noticed than an extra looked familiar. He stared and stared and finally asked her if they knew each other. She shrugged and said that she was originally from Boston. Suddenly, he thought "Boston. Hmm…all those kids were from Boston…" He then freaked out when he realized it was Donna from "Zoom"! Anybody?
John and I did many Actors Fund concerts together (Dreamgirls, Funny Girl and Chess). And speaking of which, if you're feeling charitable, you can donate to the Actors Fund and your gift will be doubled 'til the end of the 31st! They not only help everybody in show business (actors, dancers, ushers, musicians, stage hands etc.) but lately they've been helping the many Hurricane Sandy victims who are struggling. Go to The very first Broadway show John and I did together was How To Succeed… where I was a rehearsal pianist/pit sub and he was the cover for Finch (Matthew Broderick) and Frump (Jeff Blumenkrantz). Of course, it's always a nightmare going on for a role when the audience is there to see a certain celeb. If an announcement is made before the show, there's always an audible audience reaction. Usually, one can avoid it by turning down the squawk box (intercom) in one's dressing room. But poor John had to make his first entrance for Matthew as a window washer high above the stage. In other words, he had to get to his perch before places which was when they announced, "The role of Finch usually played by Matthew Broderick will be played by John Bolton," and John would be set to go on when he'd be affronted by devastated and angry groans. Since there was no squawk box to turn down he said he had to put his hands over his ears in advance to block it out.
Speaking of denial, I've been eating non-stop since the Playbill Broadway On the High Seas cruise and I'm w-a-y too scared to weigh myself. I'm going to keep up my binge 'til Julia Murney's traditional New Year's Day pancake fest and then I'm back to low carbs. Until then, dig in and Happy New Year!
(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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