ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Biking With Audra McDonald, "From Broadway With Love" and SNL Stars Visit Unbroken Circle

By Seth Rudetsky
July 22, 2013

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

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I'm back at the lovely Anchor Inn in Provincetown, sitting on my balcony. But this time, instead of facing Commercial Street, my room faces the back so I'm looking at the beautiful bay.

Audra McDonald and I arrived today after taking a JetBlue flight out of Newark and then hopping on Cape Air. I always feel I have to warn people before they take Cape Air because those planes are tiny, but Audra was completely comfortable. When she was a kid, her dad used to fly the whole family in a very similar plane. We got to Ptown around 11 AM and decided to rent bikes. Why? Because when you get on one of those small flights, they have to be very specific about what they're carrying, AKA, before we got on the flight, Audra and I both had to tell our weight! Out loud! We were so plummeted that we immediately had to do cardio, which was counteracted right afterwards at tech rehearsal because the Fudge Factory is directly next to the theatre.

I arrived at tech and offered Audra an enorous homemade chocolate peanut butter cup, or as she wrote on her Twitter account, I "forced her to eat it." Delish! The concert was amazing but Audra and I were obsessed with the amount of adult ADD on display (we both have it). First, a large part of the tech rehearsal was spent looking for Audra's iPhone (turns out, she had left it in her room), then that night the stage manager called "places" and we were late because I was still writing the list of songs we were doing. Afterwards, as we were leaving the concert, I couldn't find what I did with the big book of music, and then at dinner, Audra couldn't remember what she did with her driver's licence. Yay! It's fun to hang out with us!

Speaking of fun, Audra apparently had a lot of fun at Unbroken Circle. According to this video, she not only cried, but she also laughed off two major parts of her body. Take a look at this evidence: unbrokencircletheplay.com/celeb-testimonials. If you, too, want to lose your rack, come see the show this Wednesday or Sunday!

Linda Eder

This week on my SiriusXM show, "Seth Speaks," I had Linda Eder, who's performing July 22 at The Town Hall and then coming to my neck of the woods (Provincetown) in August! I asked her about the difficulty of raising a child while performing as a singer, and she remembered one night she came home after a long concert and found out her son hadn't done his chores. She said that she really let him have it, but her voice was fried so she wound up letting loose with a barrage of angry, raging words...in a very soothing whisper. He, of course, thought it was hilarious.

I also had Van Dean and Brian Stokes Mitchell on the show. Van and Brett Boles put together a huge concert called From Broadway With Love that was performed in Newtown, CT to help the town come together after the Sandy Hook shootings. The whole concert is now available on DVD/CD/Blu-Ray and features some amazing Broadway performances (Stokes, Michael Cerveris, Nikki Blonksy doing "Good Morning Baltimore", Capathia Jenkins, Richard Kind, Linda Eder and many more) and a full 40-piece orchestra! You can also watch it July 26 at 10 PM on WNET/13 and CPTV and July 30 at 10 PM on NJTV. The group that put it together is now rehearsing a production of Seussical that will run Aug. 9-11 in Newtown with 80 local kids and the amazing John Tartaglia as the Cat in the Hat! All the info about the concert and Seussical is at FromBroadwayWithLove.org.

On "Seth Speaks" I also had my young friend Maddy Ruff. Maddy is the stepdaughter of Ray Marchica, who I've known since the 90's because he was the drummer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," and the daughter of Nina Hennesey. I've always been so impressed with Nina, because she was in a ballet company and also was in Les Misérables!  It's so rare to find people who can dance and sing at that level. Maddy is in her early 20's and when she was a teenager, she was a piano student of my ex-boyfriend Aaron. For a few months, she was complaining about a pain in her leg which she assumed was a muscle strain. When she began to limp a little she went to a doctor and found out she had a rare childhood cancer. She got a lot of chemotherapy, but there was a good chance the cancer could come back and if it did, it would certainly be fatal. Therefore, she and her doctors decided to amputate her leg.

Eve Plumb and Ana Gasteyer at Unbroken Circle.
She was going to the Performing Arts School at the time and when she came back, they were doing The Pirates of Penzance. She auditioned and wound up not getting Mabel or even one of the side ladies. No, she was cast as one of the pirates (!), which she thought was hilarious because not only did she have the requisite short hair, since it was just growing back from chemo, but she also only had one leg! Perfect! She just graduated college and now has her first CD called "Don't Fall." Her website is RuffSongs.com and her release party is July 23 at Iridium. The party will be a family affair since her mom is also doing her CD release at the same time! Not since "The Partridge Family!"

Maddy told me that recently she was doing gigs in a wedding band and she couldn't believe the contrast between the meticulousness of how weddings are planned vs. how haphazard the music companies handle themselves. For instance, after watching various videos, a bride found a band (featuring a lead with long blonde hair) she thought was perfect and got the music company to hire them. When the wedding was about to happen, the company realized that the band she picked wasn't available so they told another group of musicians to show up and pretend they were the band! The told Maddy that she couldn't answer to "Maddy." She had to tell everyone her name was Rebecca! And, they added, if anyone asked why she had brown hair, she had to say that she dyed it right after the video! Not since Running On Empty (Anybody? That 80's movie about people in the witness protection program?)

This week at Unbroken Circle we had two "Saturday Night Live" stars come! The Wednesday matinee had Tina Fey in the audience and the Wednesday evening had Ana Gasteyer! Tina was there with her husband Jeff Richmond, and they were telling me about three different songs they're writing with Nell Benjamin for their musical version of "Mean Girls." So exciting! Tina also told me about what she called the "worst job in New York." During the week's horrific heatwave, she had passed a man dressed in a very heavy-looking robot costume walking about Times Square. She was so horrified by what he had to do that she actually took a video which she then showed me. It's so hard and fun to watch because as you watch you know it has to be over 100 degrees in his costume but it's not even like what he's doing is worth it in terms of results. He's simply walking like a robot in a heat stroke-inducing outfit while everyone in Times Square completely ignores him. The video is hilarious/devastating.

Michael Urie's point
After the night show, James, Juli and I went out with Ana and her husband Charlie. Ana recently took her daughter to see a "One Direction" concert and, because of the crowd screaming, she brought along her own pair of earplugs which she wore for the entire concert. She also took a "Soul Cycle" class in West Hollywood, which is like a spinning class, but with blasting music. She spent the whole time miming her complaints about the volume of the music to the people around her who didn't respond. They were all actually there to excercize, while she spent the class turning to everyone, trying to make eye contact while pointing to her ears. No one cared!

James, Juli and I went to see Buyer and Cellar, which was written by James' friend Jonathan Tolins and stars Michael Urie. He plays various characters in the show but mainly a young actor and a very famous movie star. It's about the real-life and bizarre underground mall that Barbra Streisand built to house things like her doll collection, old costumes/dresses and "shoppes" that serve frozen yogurt. Really!

Michael was so great in the show...really amazing timing. And there were so many funny lines. There's one I was obsessed with goes something like, "'The Mirror Has Two Faces' stars Barbra Streisand as a frumpy Columbia professor of something, no one knows what, and also stars Mimi Rogers as Barbra's beautiful and stunning sister, which is perfect casting. (pause) What?!" At one point during the show, Michael took off his shoes and I immediately thought I saw an amazing arch/point. I confronted him backstage and I was right! He said that while he was at Juilliard the dance majors used to have a breakdown that he had such amazing facility, yet didn't dance. Look at the photo! Buyer and Cellar just announced that the run is open-ended so get thee ASAP.

Speaking of Barbra, I did a new deconstruction featuring her! Also, Patti LuPone, Julia Murney and Bernadette Peters! Watch it here!

And this week a new Obsessed video came out starring my hilarious friend Paul Castree where he re-creates his audition for The Wedding Singer. Watch

All right, time for another bike ride with Audra. Peace!

(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.)