ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Disaster by Skype, My Celebrity Party and Stritch Meets Walsh

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Disaster by Skype, My Celebrity Party and Stritch Meets Walsh
A week in the life of actor, radio host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Seth with Robin Duke and Andrea Martin
Seth with Robin Duke and Andrea Martin


I'm writing this on Andrea Martin's deck that looks out onto the beautiful Toronto River. PS, I have no idea if there is indeed a "Toronto River" but I'm in Toronto and there's water in front of me, ergo Toronto River. Robin Duke (from "SNL") came to visit and we took the picture located here in the column. And by took "the picture" I mean, took 23 pictures. Every single one we took either had Andrea's face in the dark, Robin looking in the wrong direction, my stomach looking [AUDIO-LEFT]fat, and a host of other problems that made us late in leaving for our tech rehearsal. It literally segued into Andrea demanding we go upstairs and take the picture on the master bedroom deck for better lighting. I wish I could post them all online. Literally took 20 minutes for a photo.

Anyhoo, having this lovely Toronto view is the great part. The sad part is that I agreed to do this gig before I knew I'd be in rehearsals for my 1970's Disaster Movie Musical (that happens on May 23rd !) so I'm devastated that I have to miss two days of rehearsals. BUT, apparently this is 2011 and there are many means of communication. That's right, I finally got Skype on my Mac and watched rehearsal from Toronto. It was amazing! It was literally like I was there; I was able to give ideas, change or add lines, and Denis (Jones…the director) was able to ask me questions whenever they came up. The only annoying thing was, even though I was "at" rehearsal, I was really just a face on a computer, sitting on a desk. Whenever I wanted to pipe up with a comment, it involved a lot of arm waving, yelling and continuous pointing to my own face until someone noticed me. I got to watch the scene where George Dvorsky is trapped in a room on the ship and seawater starts to flood in. I don't want to ruin the plot, but suffice it to say things don't turn out so well. Especially after two sharks appear.

Ana Gasteyer in Wicked.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

I started the week with a benefit for the Upper West Side JCC, with a cast that included Tituss Burgess, Andrea Burns, Andrea McArdle and Ana Gasteyer. When I interviewed Ana last on Seth Speaks (my new radio show), she told me that even though she starred in Wicked for more than a year, she's forgotten most of the show. She said it extended not only to the various songs she sang, but to the actual plot. Basically, she pretty much only remembers she played the green witch. After that, blank. Ha, Ha, I laughed. Cut to: we did a sound check for the JCC event and ran "The Wizard and I." I then discovered she wasn't telling me one of those exaggerated talk show stories. She literally had forgotten large parts of the lyrics…and melodies! I think it must be from doing sketches on "SNL." You cram them for one week and then put them out of your head. Luckily, by the time the show came, we had time to review (and print out the lyrics!) and she brought down ye olde house. Afterwards, Ana and Andrea joined me at Citrus (on 75th Street) for dinner and the conversation turned to getting busted for dishing someone. Ana has a good friend (whose name you'd know from TV) who was auditioning for a film. Well, sometimes when you go in for films, the casting person has photos of the people starring in the film outside the audition room. So, the famous friend walked in, pointed to a photo of one of the big stars and entertained the room by saying, "Look at this one! She wasn't exactly hit with the funny stick, was she?" Meaning, she's decidedly not funny. A woman looked up and simply said, "I'm her mother." Yowtch! And then the famous friend got cast in the movie. Excellent. I'm sure it's not at all awkward on the set.

Patrick Wilson
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Tuesday I recorded my second Seth Speaks show and it was so fun. I had Patrick Wilson as my celeb guest. I can't take the gorgeousness. I first met him in 1997 when he played the role of Chopin in Harmony by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, and, 14 years later, he actually looks better. On last week's show, I played the game Celebrity with Ana Gastyer because I had once invited her to my birthday party which was going to be a game night… specifically Celebrity (where one player has a hatful of celeb names and gives clues so the other player can guess). So I invited her to my Celebrity Birthday Party and she said yes, but sounded miffed on the phone. Finally, we spoke a few days later and I found out she thought that having a Celebrity Birthday Party meant I was only inviting celebrities! What the — ? Like, I was having my birthday party so I could make it into Walter Winchell's column?? Anyhoo, I played Celebrity with Ana on my first radio show and she only guessed five names in the one minute allotted. But then Patrick and I played…. and he got 11 names! We still got it! I then made him re-tell my favorite Full Monty story which begins when they were doing the final strip from the show and at one point, the guys realized the light cues were off. They didn't know if the cues were ahead or behind, but they knew they were off. Suddenly, they all realized the cues were ahead. This was a nightmare because the song normally ended with all the guys getting totally nude and a big light from behind would blind the audience. This was immediately followed by the curtain call. That night, the guys realized that the blinding light would come one cue early and then, when they became totally nude, the lights would be up for the curtain-call cue. In other words, the nude scene would have the brightest lights of the night. They all accepted they had to finish the number, and right before Patrick took it all off ,he locked eyes with someone in the audience…a ten-year-old girl. He said that when the final moment came, she looked horrified and he ran the gamut from trying to convey sympathy with his eyes Norma Desmond-style, to complete annoyance that the girl had been brought to the show in the first place.

Seth with Barbara Walsh
photo by Robb Johnston

This week I'm interviewing one of my comedy idols: Martin Short. I cannot tell you how excited I am! Seth Speaks airs every Sunday at 5PM ET on Sirius/XM Stars, channel 107. At my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show, I interviewed Barbara Walsh who is so funny and talented. I asked her about playing Joanne in the revival of Company. During the run, she met Elaine Stritch at a fancy lunch. Elaine took one look at her and said, "You're too young for the part." Barbara was confused because she was actually older than Elaine was when she played it. The lunch itself was actually an interview with the both of them for a magazine. And by "interview," Elaine did all the talking. At the end of the lunch Elaine told her, "I'm gonna come see the show, but I won't tell you when because I don't want you to be nervous knowing I'm in the audience." Cut to: Elaine shows up wearing a white suit with a white cap and sits in the fifth row. If a lighthouse could get a ticket to a Broadway show, then Elaine was that lighthouse. The nice part is that afterwards Barbara was backstage after the show and heard, "Where's Barbara? Where's Barbara?" Elaine found her, held her face in her hands and told her how wonderful she was. Someone then asked for a photo of the two of them, and suddenly Barbara was confused because she didn't hear any joke being told. Why was she thinking a joke was told? Because at the moment the picture was taken, Elaine threw her head back in laughter. That's right. Apparently, Elaine likes to take all photos with her signature At Liberty head-thrown-back, mouth-agape pose.

Last week, I posted on my Facebook that I couldn't get my iPhone to work with my computer. Everyone had advice for me and suddenly I had a message from Alison Fraser. Turns out, the guy who runs her website, Kristopher Monroe, was over at her place and kept seeing people posting wrong advice under my profile! He couldn't take it anymore, so he asked her to message me that he would look at my computer if I wanted. The delicious part is that he lives around the corner from me. I dropped off my computer and got it back the next morning, completely sassed out! Everything was updated, cleaned and sassified. I literally thought I was going to have to buy a new computer because so many things were clanky, but now it's like I have a brand new model. Essentially, my computer pulled a Hollywood star routine: it went away for a "rest" and came back looking completely different. Kris also does computer training for show biz folks so I commandeered him into showing me things like transferring my old phone contacts into my new iPhone. That's right, for months my response to almost every text I've gotten is "Who is this?" Yay! Now I know it's my boyfriend and not my mother when I receive a text saying, "See you tonight, sexy." And on that inappropriate note, let me wrap it up by saying that this week I'm seeing the opening night of Lucky Guy starring Leslie Jordan and Varla Jean Merman. 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.)

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