ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Getting Kinky With Stark Sands; Anything Goes for Rachel York

By Seth Rudetsky
May 28, 2013

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


To paraphrase Parker Posey from "Waiting for Guffman," "It's the week of the show, y'all!" That's right, Unbroken Circle starts previews on Wednesday. We have a contest to give away two tickets to the first day of previews so save money and go to facebook.com/UnbrokenCirclethePlay

I'm seeing the first performance at 2:30 PM then hightailing it to Tampa where I'm presenting the upcoming season at the Straz. Then I fly a little west of Florida to New Orleans and do a show with Megan Hilty! Get my whole (headache-y) schedule/buy tickets at SethTV.com.

Speaking of New Orleans, I got back and felt extra fat from the non-stop eating. I decided to go jogging but thought that if I did it outside instead of on a treadmill, I'd have a better workout. I didn't want to haul around my whole wallet, so I just took a credit card. I feel I have to carry something in case I get the urge to buy something and/or I pass out from exhaustion and someone has to identify me. Anyhoo, I kept my credit card in the same pocket that my phone was in. When I got home, I discovered the card was gone! Why? I decided it possibly had something to do with me taking my phone out to check the time. Essentially, every five minutes on the five minutes, I would think, "Surely, it's been 45 minutes and I can go home now." I'd check my phone and then angrily put it back in my pocket. On one of those many trips in and out of my pocket, my charge card must have joined in and never went back in. I was in denial for two days and refused to cancel my card. Surely, I'd get it back from a passerby. Crickets. Finally, I got a new card and went a full three days without losing anything else. Then on Friday, I showed up at Unbroken Circle rehearsal to do some videos. They came out so well! Everyone in the cast talks about why the show is special to them, and they all have a hilarious comment about their character. Watch the videos at UnbrokenCircleThePlay.com.

Well, right before I filmed, I went to check my phone messages and realized that this time, the reverse happened. That's right, I retained my credit card (firmly ensconced in my wallet) but now I had lost my iPhone! That's called "mixing it up." I had a "great" time retracing my steps in the pouring rain and finally realized I left it in the cab. Of course, I had no way of reaching the cab driver because I hadn't taken a receipt. Now, before you get mad at me, just remember that when I left my laptop in a cab back in November, I also hadn't taken a receipt so there was no way to trace it. Wait. You should get mad at me. Anyhoo, I did the lost-iphone-App thingy (where it beeps and shows a message with a phone number to call) and soon a passenger in the cab called me! She was on her way to LaGuardia and wouldn't be back til Tuesday (!) but the cab driver was kind enough to come back to the city and met me on the corner of 57th and 6th. And who says cab drivers are surly? Well, I do, based on experience, but this one was super nice!

Stark Sands
Photo by Robb Johnston

Anyhoo, before that happened, I had Stark Sands from Kinky Boots on my Chatterbox and, it sounds corny, but he's a delight! First, I asked him about his name. Essentially, what's up with it? Or, as the kids say, what up? Turns out, he's a (fraternal) twin and since he looks more like his mom and she wanted to use her maiden name for one of her kids, he got it. Dare I name our next child Rudetsky? Does it sound Waspy like Stark? Get back to me. Stark actually went to school with another oddly-first-named Tony nominee from this year: Charl Brown. Turns out, his story is, his dad was named Charles and there was already a son from a previous marriage named Charles. They decided to name him after his dad but differentiate him by ixnaying the last two letters of "Charles." Dare I name our next child Rudets? Any better? silence.

Stark made his film debut in "Die Mommy Die" written by and starring the great Charles Busch. Stark said it was a fantastic way to begin because Charles was so helpful and gracious. He also gave Stark a list of all the old films he had to watch to understand the style of "Die Mommy Die." Watch this clip with the two of them. I love how Charles does his "trip," as he calls it. The hilarious vowel change in "I toured (toooored) with a band" and the complete voice change on "…and fully acquainted with its dangers." Watch it here! 

Sands and Seth's boot
photo by Robb Johnston

Stark loved starting out with that film, but did not like doing a film with Peter Weller, who was a so-called method actor. Since Peter was supposed to dislike Stark's character in the film, he disliked him on the set as well. That's fun. To be disliked on and off the set. At one point, they were all given their director-style chairs to sit in during filming. When Peter saw that his said "Peter Weller," he had a cursing fit. "Who the $%^* is Peter Weller!?!" he yelled since he, as a method actor, was not Peter Weller. He was his character at all times. Although, why would his character have a director's chair on a set in the first place? Was his character making a film? I guess I don't understand the method. I'll have to do a Ouija session with Marlon Brando. Anyhoo, even though Stark was doing film and TV, he really wanted to do theatre. Luckily, casting director Jay Binder saw him in a film where he played a soldier. He asked him if he'd fly to New York to audition for a play.

Stark auditioned and was told that was great, but they were getting pressure to find a name actor. If they couldn't get on, the role was his. Luckily, they couldn't get one and Stark was cast in Journey's End which led to his first Tony nomination! Stark didn't expect to get one for Kinky Boots but watched the nominations because he wanted to see how many the show received. He really wanted his co-star Billy Porter to get a nomination and was thrilled when he heard Billy's name called. Billy was the fourth nominee and there was only more slot for a Best Actor nominee after Billy's name was called…and it went to Stark! He's super happy he was nominated but told the audience that he wants everyone to vote for Billy. Very sweet! At the end of the show he sang his 11 o'clock number from Kinky Boots and sounded so great. You can watch the whole thing on SethTV.com so get thee!

Seth with Rachel York
Photo by Robb Johnston

This week I had the amazing Rachel York on my SiriusXM show, Seth Speaks. I subbed in the orchestra and, at one point, was associate conductor for one of her big Broadway shows, Victor/Victoria. Speaking of Tony nominations, it's so completely mind-boggling that she wasn't nominated for her portrayal of Norma. She was beautiful, sounded great and got some of the biggest, and I mean biggest, laughs I've ever heard in all my years playing Broadway shows. Here she is doing a short scene in Act Two. I'm obsessed with the relentless nervous giggling at the beginning. Watch it here!

Right now, she's starring as Reno Sweeney in the national tour of Anything Goes where she gets to show off her tapping chops, but the one thing she doesn't use is her amazing skill at impersonations. She can really recreate voices so well and I remember my friend, Joe Thalken (whom I subbed for on Victor/Victoria), telling me about tech rehearsal. It led to a quote we now always say to each other. The cast was doing mic checks, and when Rachel was asked to test her mic, she did it by singing "I Have Confidence" as Julie Andrews. Julie heard her and simply said, "Can it, Rachel!" Joe and I are obsessed with saying that phrase in Julie's voice. It's like when "Top Chef" judges talk about the different flavors in a dish; "Can it, Rachel" as Julie Andrews has all the directness and sass of the expression but is tempered with her signature soprano voice and British accent.

Rachel also talked about doing Victor/Victoria the month that Liza Minelli replaced Julie. First of all, I'm so crazily excited that Liza is back on Netflix' new "Arrested Development" episodes. Her vertigo collapses that happen every time the door closes in the first episode are hilarious. Anyhoo, Liza didn't have a lot of time to rehearse, but nailed the first performance. After that, it was similar to what happens with understudies; they focus incredibly hard on their first performance, do it perfectly and as soon as they relax for the second performance, they start to make mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes happened at the end of the first act. Victoria is supposed to tell Toddy (played by Tony Roberts), "Even when I was a second-rate hoofer, I had my own dressing room." Unfortunately, one night it came out, "Even when I was a second-rate hooker, I had my own dressing room." Brava! A whole new backstory was added to the character.

OK! Don't forget about my Unbroken Circle discount code; go to BroadwayOffers.com and put in UCSETH. I hope I see "y'all" (the show takes place in Galveston) there. Peace out!