ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Back from Chicago . . . and All That Jazz

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Back from Chicago . . . and All That Jazz
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Karine Plantadit
Karine Plantadit

I'm writing this on the flight home from Chicago. I had planned to write it on the flight to Chicago, but when we took off, I leaned back for some quick shut-eye. I had a very uncomfortable nap, opened my eyes and got out my computer… just in time to hear the stewardess announce, "All electronic equipment must now be turned off." What the-? How did three hours pass?

Regardless, I flew out this morning, did a show this afternoon, and I'm now on the plane home. I played for Andrea McArdle at the Wilmette Theater, and the show [AUDIO-LEFT]was faboo. I asked her about doing State Fair with Kathryn Crosby, and she remembered that one time in the dressing room, she asked Kathy to lend her some lip liner. Instead of the lip liner, Kathy said, "This is what you need," and wrote down the phone number of a plastic surgeon. Ouch! I'd hate to hear what she'd offer me if I asked to borrow her Spanx. Of course, I asked Andrea for more Annie stories, and she said that when she started previews, her family was warned not to get an apartment until the reviews came out, so they were staying at the Manhattan Howard Johnson. She and one of her orphan friends were being tutored in the room, and when the tutor took a break, Andrea and her friend dropped a water balloon from the window. Unfortunately, it dropped on the worse target… a cop! He ratted on her, and she and her family were subsequently kicked out of the Howard Johnson. It's like when a rock star trashes his hotel room and gets kicked out, but it's the Norman Rockwell/13-year- old girl version.

When I left Boston last week, I knew the Boston Globe was going to have a review of my show. I told my mom that I was not going to read it. She argued that I should read it if it's good, but I held my ground. Cut to: all it took was a link sent to me from my manager with a subject line saying, "What a Rave Review," and I completely reneged on everything I claimed I stood for. I'm ashamed to say I not only read the review but then sent it to all my closest friends…and posted it on my Facebook profile. All right, I admit it. It's a drug. Speaking of which, let me get another hit; click here to read my crack addiction.

On the train to Boston, I was looking through my Blackberry photos and found a fun picture of Juli with Zoe Donovan…Audra McDonald's daughter. I knew my mom hadn't seen Zoe in a few years, so I showed it her. She immediately said, "Oh! She's so beautiful." Then, "You know, she looks a little like Juli." Really? I decided to take a closer look to see what the h*** she was talking about and then noticed that she was holding my phone with her thumb completely over the side of the photo with Zoe. So, apparently, Juli looks a little like Juli. And I'm out.

On Wednesday, I interviewed Karine Plantadit from Come Fly Away, who was just nominated for a Best Featured Actress Tony Award. When I was subbing in the orchestra for Saturday Night Fever, she was part of the couple that competes in the big disco dance contest. There was a black couple, a Latin couple and Tony Manero and Stephanie. A part of her was always frustrated because no matter how well she danced, it was still a scripted show, so the Latin couple always won. Well, cut to one performance where there tons of injuries and so many people out that there was no Latin couple… and she finally won! Brava bad knees/rotator cuff injuries! Karine thinks that Twyla Tharp initially cast her in Movin' Out because of her commitment at the audition. Twyla had people dancing up a storm and finally announced that the ladies should take out their pointe shoes. Karen was mortified because she hadn't done pointe for years and had no pointe shoes. She told Twyla that she didn't have any, and Twyla told her to do what she could. Karine put on her sneakers…and did the whole combination en pointe! Ow! Where's the front of the foot cushion? Where's the ankle support? That's dedication . . . and a complete disregard for one's own safety.

Speaking of safety, during one performance of Movin' Out, Karine was being held up and spun by her dance partner. Since she was being held in the air, she closed her eyes. Unfortunately, so did her partner. Their spinning got more and more frantic and more downstage until they spun right off the stage! Seriously! Both Karine and her partner landed in the front row, but they didn't cause any audience member injuries because they happened to land in the two front row seats that were empty. Movin' Out or 1950's sitcom episode? All that's missing is Karine having a loving cup over her head and her dance partner being ten pounds overweight and wearing a house coat.

At the Chatterbox, I had Tony nominee Katie Finneran, who brings ye olde house down eight times a week in Promises, Promises. She told us that she first became interested in musical theatre when she was a little girl and saw the Barbara Cook at Carnegie Hall album on sale at a garage sale. Katie had long blonde hair and thought, "That looks like me. Therefore I can do what she does." She listened and then realized she couldn't do exactly what she does, but it got her interested. She went to Carnegie-Mellon for one year, but dropped out because she couldn't afford it. Because she was studying Uta Hagen's book, she decided to call Uta Hagen and see if she could actually study with her live-in-person. Katie moved to New York, auditioned and started taking acting with Uta until she passed away. For years, she had a string of terrible jobs to support herself including washing floors at a very expensive gym. At certain points, she also worked the food counter, and she informed us that rich people want bottled water in their shakes, not tap water. How did she find out? One day she was making a shake for Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy's sister), and Katie poured tap water into the blender. Katie did an amazing imitation of Lee's horror at seeing the tap water infiltrate her shake. Lee then flung down the money for the shake and walked away without taking it. Of course, Katie didn't even realize until later what set her off… "Too much banana?" she offered weakly. Katie said that she doesn't read any reviews, although she knows that she's getting good notices for this performance. She thinks that if you believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones. Also, it's not the work sometimes, but the role. She said she feels proud of the last role she played and thinks her work was just as good, but she knew that this part would get better reviews because it's more flashy. I was nodding non-stop as she spoke even though it was essentially one hour after I read my amazing Boston Globe review and literally sent it all over the internet. Outer nodding, inner shame.

On Saturday, I saw Claudia Shear's new play Restoration at New York Theater Workshop and loved it. My friend Tina Banko plays a beautiful Italian woman, and she was great. It's so weird seeing someone you know play something totally different than they are, but I totally bought it! The play was one of those things where it's about something very specific and therefore it becomes universal. Claudia plays a woman hired to restore Michelangelo's David, which I've never been particularly interested in seeing before, but now I must. After the show I was chatting with Tina, and when Claudia walked up, Tina asked if she knew me. I know Claudia from Celebrity Autobiography, where she told me she watched my deconstructions online. She said to Tina, "I'm a big fan of Seth Rudetsky." A few minutes later, Claudia lit up a cigarette, and I asked, "What's with the cancer stick?" Claudia immediately said, "F*&% you, Seth Rudetsky!" I love how both sentences ended with my name but had vastly different meanings.

OK, tonight is my Deconstructing Broadway show at Don't Tell Mama, which I'm doing as a warm-up to this weekend when I'm performing it at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on Saturday. For info on both shows, go to sethrudetsky.com. I'm actually transitioning the name of the show to the same name as my Sirius/XM radio show: Seth's Big Fat Broadway. Unfortunately, after the brunch I had this weekend, the word "Broadway" should be changed to "gut." Hmm…I guess that title wouldn't pull in an audience. Don't forget, I'm in the middle of my "31 Deconstructions in 31 Days," so go to http://sethrudetsky.com/blog/ to see some David Carroll, Barbra Streisand and Betty Buckley. And on that note, 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.

Katie Finneran and Seth Rudetsky at Seth's Broadway Chatterbox.
Katie Finneran and Seth Rudetsky at Seth's Broadway Chatterbox. Photo by Robb Johnston
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