ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Crazy for Ana — and Shoshana

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Crazy for Ana — and Shoshana
A week in the life of actor, musician, music director and talk show host Seth Rudetsky.


Attention: For those of you who read my column yet wonder what the line reading of "Brava!" or "Anyhoo" is, you can finally hear it. That's right, I'm going into the Playbill offices every week and recording my columns into podcasts! I try to read it word for word, but I always wind up adding some side comments for extra sass. You can listen to today's column and the last few weeks here.


The week began with me hosting a benefit for the Sonnet Repertory Theatre which is dedicated to doing Shakespeare. Here's what I know about Shakespeare. Silence. So, essentially, I did my version of talking about Shakespeare which awkwardly led to a terrible segue into my old deconstructing chestnuts. Like "Hi, everyone. Troilus and Cressida is about two people. Um…Mary Martin and Julie Andrews are also two people. Let me deconstruct their versions of The Sound of Music." And Scene.

Jenn Colella (Urban Cowboy High Fidelity) performed and we were gabbing about Broadway shows backstage. She told us that when she does a Broadway show, she makes sure to clean out her dressing room on opening night. Ouch. Yet practical. [AUDIO-LEFT] This week I also saw Girl Crazy at Encores! First of all, I was so proud of Chris Diamantopolous who played the leading man. Back in the '90s, I went up to Canada to music direct a Canadian production of Forever Plaid. Chris was cast as the understudy for two roles and he had literally just graduated high school! So talented. He's got a great voice but unfortunately was just cast on "24," so we've lost another great singer to TV. But we gained a great one from TV. I met Ana Gasteyer years ago when I was writing for "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and she was on "Saturday Night Live." She knew my friend Jack Plotnick and one day we both found ourselves working out at the NBC gym. When you join that gym, they give you old-school high school blue gym shorts that I immediately put in the bottom of my drawer. I was therefore shocked to see Ana working out while wearing them and, even though I didn't actually know her, I had no shame in going up to her and busting her for wearing the NBC-issued gymwear. We started gabbing and she asked me to vocal coach her for a musical audition she had. Since then she's gone on to do three musicals on Broadway including my Funny Girl and Hair concerts (where she sounds amazing on "Dead End" on the CD). Right after she did Hair she got cast in Wicked. We were both so excited when she got cast and we both couldn't believe there wasn't any chatter about it on the theatre message boards. I said that I would get the discussions rolling and asked my friend Frank Conway from BC/EFA to post something about it. Around an hour later, Ana and I learned the lesson "Be careful what you wish for."

The responses to Ana being cast were CRA-ZA-ZY and all implied that she was an old, withered crone. We thought they were HI-larious yet scathing. One said, "Ana Gasteyer is playing Elphaba? Who's playing Glinda? Patti LuPone???" Another yelled "GREEN MAKE-UP CAN'T HIDE WRINKLES!!!!" When we read them we were laughing hysterically/devastated…and we've both now gone off the message boards. I went cold turkey and Ana's husband made it restricted on their computer like parents can do when they don't want their child to go to a porn site. I think because Ana always played character types on SNL, people think she not only started doing the show in the '90s, but that she herself was also in her 90's.

Seth Rudestsky and Shoshana Bean

This week I interviewed the fabulous beltress, Shoshana Bean. She was the third Elphaba in Wicked, but auditioned to be the stand-by in the original production. She had to sing "Defying Gravity" for the audition and I asked her how she learned it since the CD obviously wasn't out yet. She told me that she called Stephanie J. Block who did all the first readings of the show. Shoshana left her a message asking her how the song went. She expected Stephanie to call back and sing a little of the chorus and verse…just enough to give a sense of the song. No. Shoshana said that Stephanie left a message and was obviously calling from a street corner because you could hear traffic noises in the background. She said "Hi" and then proceeded to sing the en-ti-re song…full out. With all the acting choices and every fully belted note. Shoshana said it was hilarious and AMAZING. I also asked her to re-tell the story I wrote about in a former column about when she sang "Defying Gravity" and the cherry picker that's supposed to rise and make it look like she's flying, didn't work. She wound up unhooking herself from the contraption and just singing the song while walking back and forth at the lip of the stage. My favorite part is that the ensemble ran on and panicked because it didn't look like she was flying over them. So, they made the bold choice of laying on the floor thinking that would do the trick. It didn't. (Shoshana and I re-created it in the accompanying photo.) Shoshana's doing a concert at Lincoln Center on Nov. 30 that I'm psyched to go to. The second half is going to be songs from her CD "Superhero" and the first half is all Barbra Streisand! YES! Go to Shoshanabean.com for more info, and go here to watch my deconstruction of her amazing version of "I Believe in Love" from my Hair CD.

On Wednesday I had a commercial audition and on the way out I was reminded why kids should not go into the business. A mother was walking out with her four-year-old daughter and said to her, "Downstairs I have a surprise waiting for you!" The girl looked thrilled and the mom suddenly focused in on her and said, "Now, that's the face you should have made at the audition. Did you make that face?" The girl nodded. Then the mom followed with a fervent, "Are you sure????" OY! That's the kind of horrible dialogue that I have in my head after an audition, but it's my unhealthy voice talking to me, not my actual mother!

Speaking of my family, my sister Nancy who lives in Virginia had a computer-age meltdown. Last week she decided to send a funny e-mail to her Rabbi because they're friends and they're always sending funny stuff back and forth. He sent back a response and instead of using the internet abbreviation of LOL or ROFL he wrote UILillOyO! She was mortified that she wasn't cool enough to know the newest lingo and tried to figure it out. She assumed that the "U" was probably "you," the "I" referred back to the Rabbi, then "LILL" must be a sassier version of "LOL" and the "Oy" made it Jewish-y. But she had no idea what the final "O" was. A smiley face without the smile? She felt too un-hip to ask him what it meant, but after two hours she finally bit the bullet and wrote him an e-mail asking him what it stood for. Well, turns out, it wasn't the newest abbreviation for Southern Jews, it was an example of what happens when doesn't lock their keyboard. That's right, the rabbi had his phone in his pocket and while he walked, random letters were pushed by the movement of his pants…including the send button!

Fascinatingly, his particular gait managed to press just the right letters to get "oy" in the mix. It's a miracle!

On Saturday we saw In the Next Room or the vibrator play. We totally enjoyed it and thought Laura Benanti was fantastic. It's so hard to go from being a musical theatre performer to doing plays and both Michael Cerveris and Laura have done it. Brava. After the show we saw Michael backstage carrying his big cute mutt. His dog is 15 and has some trouble navigating the stairs so Michael carries him up and down. Very sweet! Speaking of dogs, we're busy cleaning up dog hair from all of our dogs and trying to frantically unpack because we've invited people over for Thanksgiving. What were we thinking? Well, I'll write all about it next week. Hopefully I'll have such a humorous take on it that you'll want to say UILillOy O! Peace out!

Seth Rudetsky is the host of "Seth's Big Fat Broadway" on SIRIUS Satellite Radio and the author of "The Q Guide to Broadway" and the novel "Broadway Nights." He has played piano in the orchestras of 15 Broadway musicals and hosts the BC/EFA benefit weekly interview show Seth's Broadway Chatterbox at Don't Tell Mama every Thursday at 6 PM. He can be contacted by visiting www.sethrudetsky.com.

Seth Rudetsky and Shoshana Bean
Seth Rudetsky and Shoshana Bean
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