ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Big, Fat Post-Tony Column

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Big, Fat Post-Tony Column
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
Betsy Wolfe and Lindsay Mendez
Betsy Wolfe and Lindsay Mendez Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Happy post-Tony Awards! Let me start at the beginning of the week. I went to Washington, DC, to do my Deconstructing Broadway show, and it was amazing. Totally sold-out and a delicious standing O. However, it was part of a Jewish Music Festival, and the locale was the Washington JCC, aka, Jewish Community Center. Aka, everyone there was a direct descendant of my mother — whether male or female. My show was at 8 PM, and at 7:30 I went to get a bite to eat at the Whole Foods down the block. Everyone I passed had a [AUDIO-LEFT]Sally Rudetsky-type comment.

"You're walking the wrong way," said while pointing.
"Don't forget," with wagging finger aimed at me," the show is at 8."
"Are you sure you'll make it back in 25 minutes?" said while pointing to watch.

STOP! I left Long Island to escape that. How dare it re-appear in our nation's capital? My mother claims she was home all Monday night, but she's apparently figured out a way to teleport all the most annoying aspects of her personality. I spent the whole show prepped for someone in the audience to yell out, "Why does your hair look like that? Is that 'in' now?"

Speaking of Judaism, I'll take this opportunity to haul out one of the famous Jew-related stories from my family. When you read this, make sure you have a rabbi's Eastern European accent in your head and my crazily fast-paced rate of speech. This is a telephone conversation I had with my rabbi when I was going to sing part of the service at Shul the following Saturday. NOTE: He was in his 70's.

RABBI: (with Eastern European accent, a dab of phlegm and said very slowly) Hello-o-o-o-o?
SETH: (babbling) Hey, Rabbi! It's me, Seth. I'm singing Anim Zmiros this Saturday, and I'm just wondering if you have a preference for the melody. Since there are so many to choose from, I want to make sure I choose one that you like and not just one that I like, but, of course, the choice still has to be one that I know or else I'd be standing up there and I won't know the melody at all which would be bizarre and mortify me all at the same time.
RABBI: (exact same line reading) Hell-o-o-o-o-o-o-o? fin. My sister Nancy and I are obsessed because he didn't say, "Can you speak slower" or simply "What?" He was obviously so confused as to what I was saying, who I was and if I had been even speaking actual words or it was just static that he had no choice but to start everything again from the top as if I had never spoken. Now whenever I say something Nancy doesn't understand, she'll pause and haul out, "Helo-o-o-o-o-o?"

At my Sirius/XM Live on Broadway show, I interviewed Betsy Wolfe and Lindsay Mendez, who sing back-up for Sherie Rene Scott in Everyday Rapture. I asked what it was like doing the show before it came to Broadway when it ran at Second Stage. They said that the subscription audience there skews older and, at that age, people don't always like salty language. They both remembered an older man walk-out that was mortifying to them because a. the only way to exit that theatre is to cross in front of the front row, so everybody got to see it happen, and b. He not only walked out, but he paused on the way out, turned around and waved both arms towards the stage in a classic "Feh!" move. Hmm…was his name Sally Rudetsky?

I just did my Deconstructing: The Brady Bunch Variety Hour show in Harrisburg, and I was able to add a plethora of new clips because I got so much amazing information from a new book dedicated solely to the "Brady Bunch Variety Hour." It's called Love To Love You Brady, and it's AMAZING. So many fun facts! Like… Mike Lookinland (Bobby) didn't want to do an all-singing/all-dancing Brady Bunch show, so when the network called and made him an offer, he decided to get out of it by saying that he would only do it if they doubled his salary…and they did! Here's a link to the book…so fun! http://www.lovetoloveyoubradys.com/

If you recall, last year I missed my train from Harrisburg back to NY and therefore missed the Tony Awards dress rehearsal. I thought nothing could be worse. Until this year… when I managed to make it onto the correct train at 7:20 AM. I staggered blindly to get some coffee and a bagel from the dining car and discovered…there was no dining car! It's a three-and-a-half-hour trip! The only time I've gone without coffee for that many hours is when I briefly thought I was pregnant (long story). PS, I just started subscribing to Sarah Silverman's tweets and that was a tip o' the hat to her comedy. BUT, speaking of pregnant, after one of my shows, I met a fan who told me that he and his roommate listen to me every day and, as usual, his roommate thought I was morbidly obese. Why? I asked. He said because my radio show is called Seth's Big Fat Broadway. I explained that it's just a figure of speech…and, besides, it refers to Broadway, not my bod. Regardless, he told me that his roommate refused to believe I wasn't fat. I asked if he had a computer, and he said he did, so I told him that the solution was to show his roommate a picture of me from my website. Then he'd see what I look like. He informed me that he already had. Silence. And…I'm out.

This Friday I'm returning to my old high school to participate in a benefit that's raising money for a music scholarship in honor of the late Joe Sugar, who was in charge of the music program for where I lived on Long Island. I'm going to play "Rhapsody in Blue," which I played with a full orchestra back in 1986 at Oberlin College. Quite frankly, that was a few years ago, and it's not the easiest piece in the world. Why do I insist on hauling it out again? I feel a little like Anne Bancroft in "The Turning Point" pathetically holding onto her ingénue dance roles. And, add a large smattering of Carol Channing doing Hello, Dolly! well into her 70's. Can't I move on? Can't she? The answer is an emphatic "No." For info go to http://www.facebook.com/JoeSugarMemorialScholarshipFund.

I got to see the Tony Award dress rehearsal, which was so fun…except for the bizarreness of watching people "win" the Tony. Every time a winner would be announced ("for this rehearsal only"), someone from the crowd would run up to the stage and accept the award. Then they would make a "speech" and instead of acknowledging how weird it was that they were pretending to be someone else and/or making a joke, they were obviously told by the producers to make it realistic. So, you'd hear a winner announced and then someone you didn't recognize would get up to the stage and start talking about how the whole project was a labor of love, and how hard the whole creative team worked and after a while I couldn't help but start to think… "Is that Bill T. Jones? I didn't know he was white…and a woman."

All right, I'm signing off. Come to City Hall tomorrow at 5:30 PM if you're around! I'm playing for Audra McDonald who's singing in a big, fat gay pride event. And, again, let me reiterate: The event is big and fat, and not me…pretty much. Peace out!

* Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.

A shot from the Tony Awards dress rehearsal
A shot from the Tony Awards dress rehearsal Photo by Matthew Blank
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