Onstage and Backstage: Remembering Backstage Mishaps at Disaster!

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage and Backstage: Remembering Backstage Mishaps at Disaster!
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals Disaster! shenanigans, and co-star Jennifer Simard remembers her accidental entrance at Sister Act.
Seth Rudetsky
Seth Rudetsky Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Yay! This column will be posted while I’m in the studio making the CD of Disaster! It’s going to be one of those all-day recording sessions that starts at 9 AM and goes til 11 PM. Not surprising considering we’re recording 32 songs. Yowza! I guess the 1970s had a lot of hit songs to choose from, and Jack and I wanted all of our favorites.

Anyhoo, there are two things that happened during the run of Disaster! that I forgot to write about; one event was backstage when I was trying to sass up my hair. It was really long so I had to wet it to keep it from turning into a giant Jewfro. I saw a spray bottle of water that someone had “hilariously” labeled Vodka. I sprayed it all through my hair, combed it and went onstage. I later found out from my dresser that in order to get rid of the sweat smell in costumes, dressers often spray them with vodka! Turns out, that spray bottle label wasn’t a joke! Who the hell ever heard of vodka being in a spray bottle? I literally wet my entire head of hair with a fifth of vodka, and I’ve never felt more ready to play Joanne in Company.

Seth and the mysterious brown liquid
Seth and the mysterious brown liquid

Speaking of liquids, at the top of of the show, I would come onstage in a wetsuit as if I emerged from the Hudson River. I would then hold up a beaker filled with brown liquid to represent the sediment I’d been extracting from the river. Well, one night, right before I went onstage, I wanted to make sure I had something to drink before I sang my first solo. I took a swig from my water bottle…and then realized I wasn’t holding a water bottle. I had taken a swig from the beaker with the brown liquid. I might add, the unknown brown liquid. The brown liquid that had been in the beaker since rehearsals began. You may say, how could you do that? I will say that it’s very typical A.D.D. to not connect your actions with your body. Sometimes I’ve wanted to throw out a newspaper that was in my left hand and instead thrown out my wallet that was in my right. The point is, I swigged the mystery liquid, was horrified and then immediately sang “Hot Stuff.” I ran into Jennifer Simard backstage and told her what happened. She then told me that now at least she’d be able to tell people what caused my death that evening. Stage management contacted the prop department and informed me what I had drunk: Basically a healthy gulp of RIT dye. Did it do any damage? I guess we’ll find out at my next colonoscopy.

Speaking of Jennifer Simard, The New York Times posted a video of her singing her big nun song and it’s so good! Watch it!

She and I were talking about doing a show and making a wrong entrance and she told me about her time in Sister Act. The big climax of the show happened when the villain came out brandishing a gun. He confronted Patina Miller (the Whoopi Goldberg part) and Victoria Clark, who played the Mother Superior. After they triumphed over him, all the nuns would run out and celebrate. Well, Jennifer was backstage waiting for her cue, and she saw a nun go onstage. She panicked that she was late for her cue and ran out, center stage. Well, the “nun” she saw run out was actually Victoria Clark. But by the time she realized it, it was too late. Jennifer was forced to stand onstage “looking tough” while the Mother Superior and Patina won the fight with the villain.

Patina Miller and Victoria Clark in <i>Sister Act</i>
Patina Miller and Victoria Clark in Sister Act Joan Marcus

Did the audience know why she was standing there? No. Did they even know who she was? No. As a matter of fact, her character name in the show was not a name. It was “Female 11”…. or as she was known in the script “F11.”

The performance during which this happened was on one of the very important nights when the critics are there reviewing the show. She was terrified Jerry Zaks, the director, saw her bizarre entrance and was going to fire her. Thankfully, right after the show, she ran into someone from the creative team who told her that Jerry happened to go outside right before her bizarre entrance. Phew! F11 kept her gig…and is now living comfortably on my computer keyboard as a function button.

Michael gets fit for his Lisa wig
Michael gets fit for his Lisa wig

In other news: My friend Michael Longoria just came out with his first CD! He grew up in L.A. and had no idea about musical theatre. Then he saw West Side Story on TV and saw people who looked like him (he’s Mexican) singing and dancing and realized he could do it, too. He went to an arts high school and got a big scholarship to NYU. When he graduated he got a gig in Hairspray on Broadway covering the white kids in the ensemble…and the black kids! And, he admits, he would sometimes cover the ensemble girls as well. It’s a living. Then he got the role of Joe Pesci in the original company of Jersey Boys and played Frankie Valli twice a week. Now, he tours with the Midtown Men featuring the other three original stars of Jersey Boys.

Also, he was the original Ben/Lisa in the very first performance of Disaster! Now, we have an actual 13-year-old playing the young twins, but at first we thought we needed an adult, and Michael’s amazing range was perfect for the part. Watch how fabulous he is!

Here’s a cut from his album:

And you can order it on BroadwayRecords.com!

Peace out and, if you’re in Philly, come see me and Megan Hilty tomorrow at the Kimmel Center!

P.S. Here’s the full length Obsessed! I did with Megan, Ana Gasteyer and Ramin Karminloo. Enjoy and peace out!

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