Onstage and Backstage: Who Rearranged a Trip After Getting Tony-Nominated?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage and Backstage: Who Rearranged a Trip After Getting Tony-Nominated?
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth reveals which 2016 nominee really wasn’t expecting it and details about the almost-creative team on the original La Cage Aux Folles.
Seth Rudetsky
Seth Rudetsky Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Attention Pennsylvania! I’m taking you by storm! And/or performing in your state twice (two times).

First of all, tonight I’ll be with the great Michael Cerveris doing a show to support the Pittsburgh CLO. Get thee to PittsburghCLO.org for tix (and get thee fast!) to the 7:30 PM show! Then I’ll be with Kelli O’Hara at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday, June 14. I was just at the Kimmel Center last week with Megan Hilty who, as usual, sounded fantastic. She has such a big voice. I’m dying for her to do a Broadway show where she gets to really belt up a storm. In Wicked she sang soprano, in 9 to 5 she sang country, and in Noises Off she had the nerve not to sing at all. Get thee to an all-Judy Garland musical!

Seth with Megan Hilty
Seth with Megan Hilty

P.S. Speaking of Noises Off, she was completely surprised to be nominated for a Tony Award. On the morning of the announcement, she and her husband were awake and watching the nominations…not because she thought she’d get one, but because she hoped some of her friends would. Her baby wanted to go into another room so she followed and soon Brian yelled “Hey! Your show was nominated!” She was super happy. Then he yelled, excited but slightly incredulously, “You were nominated!” And when she says she wasn’t expecting to be nominated, she’s not just saying it out of false modesty. She actually planned a trip out-of-town throughout the awards season. And I don’t mean a trip to Boston that she can cut short to get back in time for the Tony Awards. I mean a trip to Australia! She was sure she’d be available, she booked concerts in multiple cities…including one concert that would make her miss the actual Tony Awards. She’s performing in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, which also sounds like the names of three girls who go to an Upper West Side private high school.

Anyhoo, the concert producers were very accommodating to her and moved her final concert to the afternoon so she can begin her 30 hour trip home early enough to make the awards. Yes, she lands at 3 PM on the day of the Tony Awards! I told her she needs those “pretend you’re awake” glasses that Homer wears on The Simpsons.

I had John Breglio on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show, and I asked him about his fabulous new book I Wanna Be A Producer. It’s a really great guide to how to actually be a producer on Broadway, filled with great information and really amazing Broadway stories. If you don’t know, he began as a huge entertainment lawyer (starting with working for Michael Bennett, with whom he grew up with, on A Chorus Line!), and then he started producing Broadway shows.

One of the stories I loved from the book was about the original La Cage Aux Folles. Alan Carr, who was a big Hollywood producer, saw the French film La Cage Aux Folles and told John to leave his office and go to the Paris movie theatre and see it ASAP. John left during the afternoon, saw the film, loved it and agreed it could be a great musical. Alan Carr wanted to buy the rights, so John called the original playwright and found out that another producer was vying for the rights…David Merrick! They got into a bidding war…but David Merrick finally dropped out. Why? Because most rights could be bought for around $10,000 in those days, but Alan Carr kept bidding higher and higher til he got to $100,000! P.S. That’s $328,000 today. (Thanks, Google!)

Alan really believed in the story and knew it could be a great musical. That’s why he engaged a great team to write the show; Maury Yeston for the score, Jay Presson Allen for the book and Mike Nichols to direct. Now, you may know that these folks didn’t wind up doing the show. That’s because the famous agent, Sam Cohn, was representing them and kept doing his signature agent wheeling and dealing by asking for more and more money (in royalties). John Breglio advised Alan Carr that he’d have great difficulty paying back his investors if he also had to pay that amount in royalties. So, one day they went to Sam’s office, and Sam was gearing up to negotiate. Instead, Alan told him that he was withdrawing the offers entirely! John told us that Sam used to chew on Kleenex during meetings (!) and Sam was so shocked by Alan’s statement that he spit out the Kleenex! P.S. I immediately interrupted and told John that my dog Mandy also chews Kleenex. I’d rate his level of interest in that fact at a 3 (out of 100).

La Cage aux Folles Playbill - Aug 1983
La Cage aux Folles Playbill - Aug 1983

Anyhoo, Alan was able to let the creative team go because he knew that Jerry Herman was very interested in writing that score so he already had a back-up in place (adding Arthur Laurents as director and Harvey Fierstein as book writer). The nice part of the story is that the show went on to be an enormous hit! The sad part is the story John told about Australia; the show barely ran due to the fact that people were afraid to come to the theatre because they knew the show attracted gay people to the audience, and they didn’t want to sit in seats gay people might have sat in because they thought they could give them AIDS.

This is the kind of bull that gay people and people with AIDS have had to deal with and continue to deal to this day. If you are so inclined, feel free to channel your outrage into making a donation to Broadway Cares at BroadwayCares.org.

And finally, if you’re looking for some summertime reading, don’t forget I have Seth’s Broadway Diary Volumes One and Two out in paperback and Kindle!

Here’s Stephanie J. Block reading a section from the book and recreating the message she left for Shoshana Bean where she gave her a full coaching on how to sing Wicked. Hilarious and a brava!

Peace out and enjoy the (finally) nice weather!

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