ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: After Gypsy of the Year, a Quick Getaway to Dublin

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: After Gypsy of the Year, a Quick Getaway to Dublin
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Seth at Gypsy of the Year
Seth at Gypsy of the Year Photo by Monica Simoes


Hello from Gate 86 at Newark airport. I'm on an airplane, but I'm not on my way to do a gig. I'm going away for two days and this is the first time in a long while that I'm out of town purely for fun. A few months ago when I hit 25,000 frequent flyer miles, I got "Elite Access" on Continental Airlines. It's so great because I now get upgraded to First Class whenever there are seats available, and it happens all the time. James had around 2,000 miles left to fly before he got Elite Access and he had to get them by Dec. 31 or else they wouldn't count. We didn't want to spend the next year traveling with me being upgraded and him sitting in the back, next to the scullery maid, a la "Upstairs Downstairs." So, we decided to find the cheapest flight we could take where he'd get the miles before the end of the month. Cut to: Dublin, here we come! Right now it's Friday night at 7 PM. We leave in a few minutes and land at 7 AM, Dublin time. We're staying Saturday and Sunday and high-tailing it back Monday morning. Since this is also supposed to be a romantic weekend where we don't worry about work, I decided to leave my cell phone at home. No cell phone! iPhones don't work in Europe anyway, but I still miss the security of having it in my pocket. It's so weird not to have it constantly one inch away from my hand, but now James and I can really focus on each other. *Silence*.

This past week began with the 2011 Gypsy of the Year competition. It was my fourth time hosting and, yet again, it was so much fun. The whole opening number featured a reunion of the original cast of Grease to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Everybody still looks amazing. Adrienne Barbeau still has a fabulous figure (and muscular arms), and backstage I mentioned her twins and she told me she gave birth to them when she was 51! Yowza! The whole cast sang portions of "Summer Nights," "There are Worse Things I Could Do," "Mooning," "It's Raining on Prom Night," "Born To Hand Jive" and "We Go Together."

Adrienne Barbeau
photo by Monica Simoes

Right after the number, I made my first entrance for the show trying to hold back tears because I was so moved while watching from the stage-right wing. It was a combination of the thrill of seeing a group of actors recreate so many classic Broadway moments and remembering being a kid in the '70s, watching that Grease commercial over and over again. I pulled it together, did my opening bit (getting some delicious larfs) and the competition began.

The numbers were introduced by me or by a voiceover, and once in a while an actor would go out for a special section (like introducing the judges). Halfway through the show, right after one of the numbers ended, I didn't hear a voiceover, so I ran onstage to introduce How to Succeed. In the middle, I heard noise from offstage. I turned to glare and then saw it was Tom Viola in the wings, motioning me stage right. Ah! I remembered that there were a few intros I was supposed to do away from center stage in order for the crew to set props. So, I moved to the right and continued my intro. Then I heard more noise. I'd had it. Right before I hauled out my supersonic glare I saw that I wasn't being told to go stage right, I was actually being told to get off the stage. That's right, I wasn't supposed to be introducing How to Succeed at all. I had come out at the wrong time. P.S., not only did I come out at the wrong time, but the moment I upstaged was Judith Light's incredibly moving introduction of the moment of silence. That's right. The one truly somber and tender moment in the whole show began with me a.) babbling center stage, b.) babbling stage right and then c.) babbling as I fled the stage. As I clanked my way offstage, a regal and glorious Judith Light entered the stage and gave her impassioned and moving speech that led to the moment of silence. The only reason I wasn't 100 percent mortified about my onstage clunkery is because I remembered that Daniel Radcliffe is now on Broadway and I hoped he somehow put a forgetting spell on all the muggles in the audience.

Seth with Daniel Radcliffe

Speaking of Daniel Radcliffe and my mortification, they went hand-in-hand at the next day's performance, Dec. 6. On Monday night, my dog Maggie had an upset tummy and woke me up a few times during the night to let her outside. The next morning, James took one look at my puffy sleep-deprived eyes and told me I had better wear some make-up at that afternoon's performance. When I got to the theatre, I saw one of the off-stage vocalists and I asked her if she had any kind of under-eye concealer. She did, and I asked her to put it on for me in the hallway. When I was done, I joked that we didn't have a mirror and it would be hilarious if she made me up to look like a clown. At least, I thought I was joking. Well, the two-hour show was almost over and Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters and Daniel went onstage to announce the winners. I remembered that Juli is obsessed with Daniel and decided to corner him when he left the stage. So, after the show I ran up and asked him to take a photo with me for Juli. We got the shot. When I looked at it, I was surprised that there was some glaring light shining on my face and yet not on his. Then I wondered why it was only around my eyes. Then I realized that the concealer put around my eyes wasn't so much "concealer" as it was "clown white." Look at the picture of me and Daniel and tell me why no one told me I looked like a crazy albino raccoon during the whole show! I was so horrified that I immediately sent the picture to my friend Jack Plotnick and begged him to do a little photo editing to make my eyes not look so crazy. Look at the retouched photo he sent back.

The retouched photo!

Now we're in Dublin and I'm looking at the Irish Sea outside the window of our hotel. We landed at 7 AM, took a bus and a train and got to the Royal Marine Hotel at 9:30 AM. After a four-hour nap from which I almost had a breakdown trying to wake up, we went out to lunch. We saw lots of stores we wanted to check out but by the time we decided to visit them, they were closed. Yay! I forgot that in Europe no one feels the need for anything interesting after 6 PM. I accepted that the stores were not an option anymore, so I decided to get some coffee. We walked over to the coffee café and that was closed. And, the mind-boggling part is, the coffee place was called "Insomnia." Insomnia? What nerve! Don't claim you have insomnia if you're asleep by 6!

This week on "Seth Speaks" I interviewed Rachel Shukert, who recently wrote Eight Days More, the story of Chanukkah as told through the songs of Les Miz. For the last two years I've played Moses in Everything's Coming Up Moses, her story of Passover as told through the songs of Gypsy (hilarious) and now I'll be Judah Macabee in her recent excursion. I'm obsessed with her opening lyric, which was inspired by the time she played Brigitta in a touring production of The Sound of Music, when she was a little girl. One day the kids were sitting around backstage and somehow they realized that the lyrics of "So Long, Farewell" fit perfectly with the lyrics of the prologue of Les Miz. You know…the part that goes "Look Down, look down, don't look them in the eye…" can be replaced by "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, etc…" In the Chanukkah version, the show starts with Jewish prisoners singing.

ALL: Oppressed, oppressed,
we'll always be oppressed.
Oppressed, oppressed
It's what the Jews do best.

SOLO: The sun has gone
to bed and so must I.

ALL: That's not this show
It's by another guy…. Eight Days More will be seen Dec. 15 at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca and you can get tix here. L'chaim!

O.K., it's now my last night in Ireland and I have to get to sleep because we have to wake up super early in order to catch the 6:10 AM shuttle to the airport so, "So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!"

(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.)

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