ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Here's to the Ladies Who Lunched

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Here's to the Ladies Who Lunched
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.
The Addams Family star Jackie Hoffman
The Addams Family star Jackie Hoffman Photo by Joan Marcus


Is it possible to type when your fingers are frozen? Yes, this article proves that it is.It is freezing in my house. Why not put on more heat, you ask? Because even though we used a minimal amount of heat/electricity last month, our Con Ed bill was still $1 ,000! I love having all this extra space in my new place, but in order to heat it, I need to make an Odd Couple revival salary to afford it. PS, I'm still obsessed with that amazing "Simpsons" joke where they walk past a theatre marquee in New York promoting, "Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in $$$$$$$."

On Thursday I had lunch at delicious [AUDIO-LEFT] 44x10 with Bebe Neuwirth, Krysta Rodriguez, Carolee Carmello and Jackie Hoffman, who are the four leading ladies from the The Addams Family musical. I'm writing a feature on them for the March Playbill, and we had a great/delicious time. If you've seen Jackie's Joe's Pub shows, you'd know that she's always complaining about not getting gigs. One of her biggest laments is about not even being able to get an audition for Fiddler on the Roof. Well, true to form, as soon as we sat down, she noticed that her bread plate was empty and she quipped, "Look! It's just like Broadway. I didn't get a roll." Brava on the double meaning. I bit into my delicious roll and asked her what the audition was like for the role of Grandma. She remembered that she looked at the scene and noticed there was a little salty language in it, so she figured she could do one of her original songs. The language in her act is more than a little salty, and this particular song is about her resenting being asked to do non-stop benefits. It begins with: "F*** you for asking me to do a show for free!" and then repeats that theme many times. When the song was over, she received a sea of blank faces… and no call back. However, that was for the initial workshop, and later on she was asked to go in again…this time for the Chicago-to-Broadway production. She was slated to do the Doug Cohen/Douglas Carter Beane musical Big Time, which would mean that she'd have to choose between the two if she got cast as Grandma. She knew she couldn't sing the same song she sang before (non-stop cursing = blank British faces), so she decided to sing one of her songs from Big Time because it was fabulous and always brought down the house. She told me that she "had the chutzpah" to call the composer and ask for a copy of the music…but not tell him she was using it to audition for a show that would prevent her doing his show! He got the sheet music to her, she auditioned and got Addams Family and subsequently chose to leave Big Time. Doug Cohen, the composer, called her a few days later and warily asked, "Jackie, did you use my song for your Addams Family audition?" Jackie admitted she did. She told me that she then literally heard a wail emanate from the phone. The good news is Big Time was postponed, so hopefully she can eventually do both shows!

Speaking of auditions, Carolee was starring in Mamma Mia! when she was asked to come in for the reading of Addams Family. She looked over the monologue and was surprised that there were all of these great Broadway ladies at the audition. She then found out that the audition wasn't for the reading, it was for the Broadway production! She frantically took out the monologue and this time gave it more than a once over. Apparently, she sassed her audition because she got the role of Alice Beineke. She and Terrence Mann (the original Rum Tum Tugger in Cats) play a couple who are visiting the Addams family manse. She told me that she and "Terry" have a completely different style of acting in a show eight times a week. Carolee loves to figure out how something should be played and then lock it in. Terry, who plays Mal Beineke, likes to make different choices each night. And, I mean different. Bebe said that there's one entrance he does that has a totally new take each night. At one performance it was sultry and seductive, and Bebe whispered to Nathan, "Here comes Barry White." The next night it was high energy and rock n' roll-ish, and Nathan whispered, "Look. It's Rum Tum Mal."

The ladies were all telling me that Jackie has a section of the show where she gets to improv, and I asked for an example. Bebe told her to tell me about the Dec. 31 line. Apparently, on that night, Grandma croaked out, "It's New Year's Eve. I'm going to go up to my room for some Dick. (long pause). Clark." We were all talking about Jerry Zaks, who is coming in to oversee the production, and Bebe mentioned that he was in the original cast of Fiddler on the Roof. I nodded, but then said I thought it was the national tour. She was adamant that it was the Broadway production because he knew a family friend of hers who played the Constable. I then said that the Grease tour was his first big credit, and that happened in the 70's and Fiddler was more of a 60's show. I mentioned that maybe the Constable did the tour as well. I could tell the whole table was annoyed at my obsession with minutiae, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. I whipped out my cell phone and texted Jerry. Of course Jackie yelled, "You have his cell phone number? I don't have his cell phone number!" I ignored her and typed away. I wrote that I needed to know whether he did Fiddler on Broadway or on tour. Lunch ended before I heard back from him, but as I walked up Ninth Avenue I got his text: "Alas. Only on tour." HA! I don't want to say, "I told you so, Bebe,"…so I'll write it: I told you so, Bebe.

James and I saw A View From the Bridge, and I was so thrilled to see my old The Ritz buddy Matt Montelongo in the cast! As everyone knows, Liev Schreiber is a great character actor, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that Scarlett Johansson is so wonderful onstage. Side note: Is there any Arthur Miller play that doesn't end in total devastation? Can't it ever work out for anybody? Man alive. If I wanted to be depressed for two days I could have stayed home and read my eighth grade diary.

Steve Brinberg (center) with Christopher Fitzgerald and Seth Rudetsky

At my Sirius/XM Live on Broadway show I interviewed Steven Brinberg who performs as Barbra Streisand literally around the world. I asked if he ever met the great one, and unfortunately he hadn't. But…Donna Karan had a birthday party recently that Barbra couldn't make, so (through her people) she asked Steven to go instead! She told him what to sing and even got him hooked up with a real Donna Karan outfit. He said he only wears knock-offs for his concerts, and he knew the one for the party was real because it was so heavy. Is that the mark of a great outfit? Leaden weight? His patter as Barbra is so hilarious. In one intro "Barbra" will refer to her pianist and say, "We've been working on a new album for…how long? Two years?" and the pianist will correct her with "Seventeen years." She'll go on and casually say, "Two years, seventeen years. It doesn't matter. We just wanna do it till we get it right." We were telling Barbra dish, and he told me something about Lainie Kazan, who was Barbra's understudy in Funny Girl before she went on to do movies. Lainie told him that she ran into Barbra in New York. Lainie ran up to her and said, "Barbra! It's Lainie!" Barbra looked confused and said, "Um…did we go to high school together?" Yowtch. I guess she never saw "Beaches." Since we're in the middle of awards season, I was remembering back to the late 90's when I was one of the writers for Rosie O'Donnell during the time she hosted the Grammys. I don't remember if she used any of my jokes, but I remember one she didn't use. I think it was the year of all those lady singers: Natalie Imbruglia and Tori Amos and Jewel etc… I wrote that Rosie should come out onstage rubbing her butt and say, "Ow! I fell backstage. I think I Tori Amos." Anybody? It was a tip o' the hat to Cole Porter's "If she thinks your behavior is heinous…kick her right in the Corialanus." Nobody. 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 contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.

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