How Rachel Bay Jones Made It Into Hair’s Famous Nude Scene for One Performance

Seth Rudetsky   How Rachel Bay Jones Made It Into Hair’s Famous Nude Scene for One Performance
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals the change made for Hair’s final performance, how Liz Callaway’s now-husband used her Broadway show to win her over, and what it was like to play for the original Angels in America.
Theresa McCarthy, Mary Testa, and Rachel Bay Jones
Theresa McCarthy, Mary Testa, and Rachel Bay Jones

Happy snow day! I’m firmly ensconsed in our new house with James, the doggies and Juli because there is a crazy amount of snow outside and school was canceled. Speaking of which, one of my favorite writers, Paul Rudnick (who wrote the play and film Jeffrey) has an alter ego named Libby Gelman-Waxner who wrote for Premiere magazine. Libby is an assistant buyer in junior’s activewear who “reviewed” films with hilarious quips and observations. I loved when Libby dished directors who brag about going to film school. She wrote: “Film school is basically a two-year version of a snow day.” Hilarious! You can read Libby columns and buy her book here.

So, here’s part two of my column that began on Monday:

Seth Rudetsky and Rachel Bay Jones
Seth Rudetsky and Rachel Bay Jones

After I did two shows with Pati LuPone, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale to perform with Rachel Bay Jones at the Parker Playhouse. After moving to NYC and being cast on Broadway after her first audition (Meet Me in St. Louis), Rachel had some bad experiences with the business and left NYC for many years. She moved back when she was in her late 30s. Her boyfriend/partner Benim Foster kept trying to get his agent to represent Rachel, but it wasn’t working. Finally, it was announced that Hair was coming back to Broadway and Benem told his agent that Rachel was perfect for the show. Finally, his agent finally agreed to get her an audition and she got cast! Back on Broadway after 20 years!

Rachel was in “the tribe”—as they’re called—but also played one of the parents. That meant that she wasn’t in the nude scene because it happened right after her scene as the parent. Well, she felt there was no way she could be in Hair on Broadway and not be naked onstage for at least one performance. So, for the closing show, they made her a costume that she was able to get out of in time to do the famous, end-of-Act-1, full nudity reveal. She did it! I asked her what it was like to be nude on a Broadway stage. Her answer: cold. (P.S. Rachel sounded fantastic during our shows. Her voice and acting is so amazing!!)

The next day, James, Juli, and I did a weeklong cruise around the Caribbean. So many fun Broadway stories! Here are some highlights:

One time Liz Callaway was on a theatre cruise that crossed the Atlantic. She was talking to a nameless theatrical diva (not musical theatre, straight plays) who told her a crazy story. One day, the diva was on a transatlantic cruise and the captain announced that they would be at a point in the ocean that is the furthest place you can be from land. It’s literally in the middle of the ocean with land as far away as possible. Well, at 3 AM during that night, she convinced him to do what he said violated all maritime laws…turn off all the lights on the ship! Yes, he allowed the entire ship to go dark so she and the captain could stand on the deck and see the stars in the sky with no other light coming from anywhere.

But then the ship that plowed towards them, didn’t notice the blackened shape in the darkness, crashed into the hull and killed everybody. Just kidding. That didn’t happen, but it could have!!!! WTF!?! I guess looking at the stars was worth the risk of killing everybody onboard.

Liz Callaway in <i>Baby</i>
Liz Callaway in Baby

Then we were having dinner with Liz and her husband, Dan Foster. They have an amazing story about how they became a couple that includes Dan actively trying every possible way to get her to date him. He was constantly seeing Baby, (the musical she was starring in), waiting at the stage door, leaving her messages on her answering machine, going to the Broadway Show League baseball games and otherwise doing what we now label as “stalking” or what amorous/non-woke people in the 1800s affectionately called “courting.” Anyhoo, it all worked out and they’ve been married since the mid-’80s and have a wonderful son. However, around a year after they got married, Dan got audited. A very stern woman from the IRS confronted him about the Broadway show tickets he had written off as an expense. She wanted to know why he claimed a business expense for seeing Baby 14 (!) times. He explained that he was an actor and was doing research because he was hoping to play the role of Danny one day, which he then did in the Chicago production. She glared and denied it. Well, he decided, why not come clean? He babbled that the real story is he was in love with the woman playing one of the leads and she wasn’t really interested and he kept seeing the show over-and-over again because he couldn’t stop thinking about her and now they’re married. The woman then un-glared and immediately accepted it as a write off. Brava honesty!

And finally, I’m very excited because Playbill has uploaded all of my OBSESSED videos to YouTube. Here’s one that just went up and is so great and very timely. It stars Lindsay Mendez, who just started previews singing “Mister Snow” in Carousel, and Ashley Park, who is about to start previews in Mean Girls as one of the three mean girls! The singing in this is amazing!

And speaking of previews, I’ve now gotten to the age where shows I did in their original version are being revived. Yes, Angels In America is in previews back on Broadway! No, I wasn’t onstage in the original production, I was the pianist. There wasn’t a live orchestra, but we had a big fancy recording session (with the wonderful Ted Sperling conducting the band) and I played all the underscoring that was used in the show. The coolest part was the section when Prior (Stephen Spinella) and Louis (Joe Mantello) had a dance sequence and I played a beautiful version of “Skylark.” The current production stars Nathan Lane, for whom I will always be thankful because he wrote a fantastic quote for Seth’s Broadway Diary, which is now up to Volume 3, which reads:

“‘If you don’t happen to have a nice gay Jewish nephew who is a musical genius and hilariously funny with ties to musical comedy stars and an obsessive need to pick apart every single note of their careers, and who also comes home and tells you all about it while dishing them and ordering Chinese take-out not to mention counting calories all at the same time, then Seth Rudetsky is your man. Please buy this amaaaaahzing book so he'll stop e-mailing me.‘ -Nathan Lane.”

Angels in America is in two parts and sometimes Nathan is performing six hours a day! The least you can do for this tireless Tony Award-winning actor is buy the book he’s promoted. Here’s the link and peace out!

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