How Donna McKechnie’s Left Arm Saved the Day

Seth Rudetsky   How Donna McKechnie’s Left Arm Saved the Day
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth recounts his trials and tribulations after tearing a tendon, plus what to expect from his Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out!
Seth Rudetsky, 2016
Seth Rudetsky, 2016 Matthew Stocke

I’m on the plane from San Francisco to Newark because last night I did a show with Christine Ebersole at the Nourse. I was onstage playing for her and kept thinking how shocking it is that Christine has the same exact same voice she had when she was in her 20s. It is so clear and youthful….literally stunning. I’m very excited to hear her opposite Patti LuPone in War Paint…someone else whose voice is locked in 1979. The exciting news is, I played piano for Christine’s entire show. Why is that so exciting, you ask via telepathy? Because a little over a month ago, I was getting out of the subway and there was a line of people walking in at the same time. I tripped a little and started to fall into them so I grabbed onto the pole. Well, I kept going forward and holding the pole and my arm hyper extended a bit and suddenly I felt something pop. It hurt! I got off at 23rd Street with James and he said we should go to Urgent Care. The bad news was: The doctor was pretty sure that my bicep tendon had separated from my bicep. The good news was: Once he heard my last name, he told me he was a huge fan of mine. Well, even that wasn’t enough to soothe me. I was so annoyed when I looked up the injury online and it said it was something common that happened to men between the ages of 50 and 60. What the-? I’m not 50 yet! Why must I always be ahead of my time!? Well, the accident happened on a Friday night and the following Monday was Gypsy of the Year which featured the three “Turkey Lurkey” ladies doing the original Michael Bennet choreography. I was the host and my first bit after the opening number was a deconstruction of Michael Bennett choreography from A Chorus Line, ending with me doing the final moments of “Music and The Mirror” and holding that classic Cassie pose. If you don’t know, the bottom half of your body should be in a lunge, your right arm is back and the left is forward. I planned that when I began dancing, Donna McKechnie was going to come out and join me. Sadly, on the day of the event, I couldn’t move my left arm into the forward position. I basically couldn’t lift or straighten it. I kept trying to see if I could do a version of that pose but my left arm was more useless than

(Choose one)
A. Teaching my mother anything computer-related
B. Asking me to cut sugar and carbs.
C. The new French professor character on The Affair

Anyhoo, I gave up on doing the whole Chorus Line section but James, who had been watching me practice, suggested that instead of Donna McKechnie doing the dance with me, she instead assist me in the final pose. And that’s what happened! I recreated the brilliant staging at the end of “At The Ballet,” then “Dance: 10 Looks: 3” and then I explained to the audience that I was going to show the end of “Music and the Mirror” but I had busted my bicep tendon and couldn’t extend my left arm to do the last signature pose. Right before I hit the pose, Donna ran out from the wings, stood behind me and, on the button, provided her left arm! It was an amazing weird/3-D version, but it worked. She then looked at my pose, lifted my chin to fix my line, and exited. Corrected by Cassie!

P.S. You can see how useless my left arm is in this video I made with Matt Morrison to promote our upcoming concert in Sarasota we’re doing this week. I filmed it right after surgery and took off my sling, but I basically couldn’t move it out of a bent position. I try to make it look like it just happens to be handing there, but it basically looks crazy:

Well, that week, I met with a surgeon who told that I didn’t have to get surgery…but I’d lose 60 percent of my arm strength as well as 40 percent mobility. Cut! I scheduled surgery for Thursday of that week and it took around 90 minutes. If you like to know what it consisted of, I’ll tell ya, if not skip this next section: They cut into my arm, found the tendon which had retracted up, pulled it down then drilled a hole into my bone (!) and tied it to a type of button they put on my bone.

Afterwards, I woke up and felt fine but that’s because I was still numb from surgery. James was there and the nurse told me I should take the pain killer before the anesthesia wore off. She also provided this fun anecdote: “My mother had similar surgery last summer and she didn’t take her pain pill early. Well, then the anesthesia wore off, and I heard a blood curdling scream!” Yay! I was so excited to know that if the pain killer didn’t work well, I had that to look forward to. The good news was, it really didn’t hurt very much and I hardly took pain killers. The bad news was, I couldn’t play piano for a month! Well, I’ve been in physical therapy since a few days after surgery and last night was my piano debut. Happy to say...I still got it! I was even able to play “Around the World” from Grey Gardens and that’s the type of song that makes your tendon flee from your bicep. If you want to hear me and Christine in concert, below is the show we did at NJPAC from Take a gander!

Finally: James and I were in London right after the election, wondering what we could do to help. We thought we should do a concert on Inauguration Day. Right after that thought, Jessie Mueller texted us and said she thinks there should be a big concert celebrating America. I told her we thinking the same thing and we were on it (see text below).

Seth Rudetsky Text 1.9.17

The end of the story is…it’s happening! After people watch the inauguration, they can come to Town Hall (or watch us on Facebook Live!) for a concert celebrating America (hence Chita Rivera is going to perform “America”)! We just put up a website where you can get more info and tix…and sign up for viewing parties at We just looked at that list recently and there are people signed up all over the country (including Hawaii) and “across the pond” in London! Peace out and stay tuned for more!


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