ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andrea Martin Gets Prickley; Laura Osnes Goes from Soprano to Belter

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Andrea Martin Gets Prickley; Laura Osnes Goes from Soprano to Belter
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Norbert Leo Butz
Norbert Leo Butz

My June 18 benefit is sassing up! It's called Not Since High School, and I'm having people sing songs from (inappropriate) roles they did in high school. I just added one of my faves to the line-up: Norbert Leo Butz. Yes, he's won two Tony Awards, but more importantly he has amazing hard R's. Obsessed. If you don't believe me, watch this! When I wrote to Norbert and told him what the theme was, he replied: " I did a lot of bad work in high school. The choices are endless...." I'm right there with him. Joining Norbert are Mandy Gonzalez, Josh Henry, Melissa Errico, Chris Jackson and Lisa Lampanelli (!). You can get tix here.

Right now, I'm in an exit row and loving the extra leg room. Delish! This time I'm flying from Chicago after spending Mother's Day weekend with Andrea Martin doing her show. We have one (1) day off, and then Tuesday we start a full eight-show week in Wilmington, Delaware. Exhausting. For tix, go here

What's that you say? When did I first perform in Delaware, you ask? Well, years ago I was doing the Grease revival on Broadway, and the national tour needed a pianist for one night. The Amtrak ride is very short, so I was able to go back and forth in one day. It was all uneventful except for one thing. First of all, you should know that if you play in an Broadway orchestra pit, sometimes you wear headphones because it's not always east to hear the instruments you're supposed to hear (depending on where you're sitting). For instance, you always want to hear the drums so you can lock into the rhythm, but you won't be able to do so if the drum set is completely behind Plexiglas. My point is, during Grease the rhythm section all wore headphones so we could hear each other. Besides having a volume control for guitar, bass, etc., there was also a control to hear the vocals onstage. Most pit players on Broadway don't turn that volume up because they just wanted to hear their fellow musicians, but I, of course, am always obsessed with how people were singing. And, I was especially excited to hear the cast of the national tour after hearing the Broadway cast for years. All new singers! The first big song in the show is "Summer Nights," and I remember freaking out when I heard the girl playing Sandy. She had such a good voice! I wasn't able to meet her that night in Wilmington, but I heard she was the sister of someone I knew in the Broadway cast. Months later, she came into the Broadway cast as a replacement for a few weeks, and I was finally able to meet the guy-who-played Roger's-younger-sister…Sutton Foster! She not only sounded great, but she added so many funny moments as Sandy that when she went on, it was known as the Carol Burnett version of Sandy. And now, she's the proud owner of two Tony Awards. And, I'm a proud watcher of the Tony Awards. Here we are together when we did They're Playing Our Song. And while we're talking about Obsessed, check out the upcoming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…Constantine Maroulis!

James and Juli came with me to Chicago. During the Mother's Day performance, Andrea came out as Edith Prickley and added a special moment where she introduced her "daughter," Penelope Prickley, AKA Juli. Juli came out in full leopard print and said, "Happy Mother's Day, Dear!" followed by her version of the Edith Prickley laugh. Check out the photo of them getting ready in Andrea's dressing room mirror.

Andrea Martin and Juli prepping
Laura Osnes on Seth's Broadway Chatterbox.

This week I interviewed the lovely Laura Osnes at Seth's Broadway Chatterbox. She's gearing up to do her first solo show at the Café Carlyle but, of course, I had to ask her about doing "You're The One That I Want," which was the reality show where they cast Danny and Sandy for the Grease revival. It's also what got me my first job on Playbill.com because I was hired to write a recap each week that then led to my current column. When the reality show was in casting, Laura was playing Sandy in Minnesota, and her director gave her the weekend off to go to L.A. and audition. She was asked to be one of the Sandy contestants and wasn't able to go back and finish her run as Sandy. We talked about "Grease Academy," which was the so-called training school where 50 contestants were whittled down to the final 12. It was so awkward to watch; they all stood in a room singing the same song, in unison, as the heads of the show walked around "listening" and then tapped people on the shoulder to reject them, saying, "You're not Sandy." Laura said that it may have been brutal for the at-home audience to watch that awkward two-minute segment on TV, but in real life it took them two hours! They had to keep setting up camera shots to catch the reaction of the people being destroyed by rejection. Laura was supposed to get married in March right after the TV show ended, but NBC decided to extend the TV show by two weeks, so she had to postpone her wedding to the summer. She wound up winning (so it all worked out), and I asked how she was able to move from Minnesota to NYC to do Grease. She said that NBC moved all of her belongings for her and gave her an amazing apartment. Oh, I'm sorry. Actually, NBC gave her $2,000 in moving expenses (a.k.a., enough for one suitcase) and connected her up with a broker. Wow! I guess it saved her the time of typing in www.CraigsList.com.

After she played Sandy, she replaced Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific, and that's really what legitimized her presence as a Broadway ingénue. As a matter of fact, soon she'll be playing Cinderella in the first Broadway version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical! At one point, Laura was up for a role in a proposed revival of Brigadoon that never happened, but I had her sing a gorgeous song from it at the Chatterbox. Likewise, I asked her to sing a song from her Tony-nominated role in Bonnie and Clyde. From soprano to belt. You can watch the whole interview and hear both fabulous songs on my new TV network www.SethTV.com. And, while you're there, you can make fun of my mind-bogglingly greasy forehead in the promo reel. I haven't seen that much oil since I ordered a Costco size bottle of Newman's Own Italian dressing. Can't my producers spring for some face powder? Oh, wait. I'm the producer. That's why nepotism doesn't work.

Laura Osnes in South Pacific.
photo by Joan Marcus

On my SiriusXM show, Seth Speaks, I interviewed the gay couple team from Season 10 of "The Amazing Race" known as Tom and Terry. I first met them because Rosie O'Donnell brought them on one of her cruises, but at that point I had never seen the show. I'm now obsessed with "The Amazing Race," and it was so much fun getting inside scoop. First of all, the whole show is taped over five weeks and when you're chosen to do it, you're only allowed to tell three (!) people. You have to sign something saying that if you don't adhere to the rules, you can be sued for ten million dollars. Yowtch! Their respective bosses knew why they were leaving, but none of their co-workers did. Tom's co-workers thought he was adopting a baby. Terry's co-workers, however, thought that the five-week leave was because he was getting a sex change(!). The horrible part is that because the season before theirs didn't do well in the ratings, the producers decided to make their season based on "Survivor," so they never had enough food to eat, and they had to beg for money on the street. AKA, they were living the lives of actors. Tom and Terry lasted for a lot of episodes until they got to Vietnam. They were told they had to spend the day and night at the Hanoi Hilton, which is the nickname for the horrific prisoner-of-war camp where people like John McCain were held. Tom couldn't understand why the contestants were dreading it because he's not that knowledgeable about 1970's history. He literally thought they were all going to Hanoi and would be staying in an actual Hilton Hotel. He was horrified when he and Terry had to sleep on a plank in a rat-and-roach infested outdoor area. The next day's challenge was to row to another location, and they wound up rowing for three hours in the wrong direction! In total they rowed for eight hours, and they were the last team to check in. Tom and Terry said they weren't allowed to tell anyone the outcome. Unfortunately, Tom's mother chose the night of their elimination to have a dinner party and view the episode with all of her friends. She called Terry and said, "I know you're not eliminated tonight because I just saw a coming attraction for next week, and I see you and Tom running in the background." Turns out, when "The Amazing Race" films coming attractions they put doubles of teams in the background so viewers can't figure out who's coming back. Tom and Terry didn't go home right away when they were eliminated. Instead they checked in with the other eliminated teams in Portugal but under fake names. Why? Because there are "Amazing Race" stalkers who travel the world trying to find contestants and events while it's being filmed. Bizarrely, at one point, Terry was doing a task in Beijing and running across a park when he heard his name called. Turns out a co-worker was on vacation in Beijing and saw him! They both told me that James and I should come on the show as a team, and I told them that as soon as I'm stressed while traveling, I turn into a horrible person and am incredibly mean to anyone with me. They obviously suspected that because they immediately said, "Perfect! That's what the network wants!" Great. I'll be the Broadway version of Omarosa. I'm out.

Speaking of "out," peace out! And, come visit me in Wilmington!

(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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