Onstage & Backstage: How to Stop a Broadway Star in the Street

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: How to Stop a Broadway Star in the Street
This week's look into the life of Seth Rudetsky reveals the only way to get a Broadway star's attention on the street, behind-the-scenes scoop on his 2002 Funny Girl concert and Andrea McArdle's hilarious memories of life as a Broadway kid.
Stephanie J. Block, Andrea McArdle, Seth Rudetsky, Betty Buckley and Brian Stokes Mitchell
Stephanie J. Block, Andrea McArdle, Seth Rudetsky, Betty Buckley and Brian Stokes Mitchell

My non-stop traveling is winding down. I begin rehearsals for Disaster! (which is coming to Broadway!!) on Jan. 4 and after that, I ain't a-travelin' for a while. Speaking of Disaster!, why not take advantage of a delicious discount code and get your tickets now? Get thee to Ticketmaster and use the code BFR2!

Back to my out of town forays: I'll be at NOCCA in New Orleans on Dec. 14 with Michael Cerveris and at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 2 with Audra McDonald and Will Swenson. After that, peace out Newark/JFK and LGA airports. I'm only going to be at rehearsals in midtown or in my apartment on the Upper West Side! Speaking of the Upper West Side, James and I were on our way to Best Buy on 63rd street when we saw someone walking by us wearing sunglasses, a cap and earbuds. Hmm...familiar-looking. The person was under 5 feet tall, and I knew that Jen Cody was out of town, so it had to be none other than Kristin Chenoweth! Naturally, I ran in front of her and started doing a full-out jazz dance combination from the 80s. First, she ignored the crazy person, then — after my layout — she realized it was me. We all wound up standing on the corner of 67th street, chatting up a storm. (P.S. James and I never made it to Best Buy).

Not surprisingly, the subject came up that she can hit an E above high C and I reminded her that I made her hit an F (!) when we did the Actors Fund Funny Girl concert. This was the one where I cast a different woman playing Fanny Brice for each song (i.e. Sutton sang "I'm The Greatest Star," Lillias White sang "Don't Rain On My Parade," Idina Menzel sang "Cornet Man" and so many more!). Anyhoo, Kristin sang "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" and was hi-lar as the pregnant bride with Jason Danieley as the fantastic high tenor. There are so many moments I loved in the song, especially when Fanny is looking for her stage number. (Most Broadway shows have numbers on the very end of the stage. I.e. Zero in the middle, then a two feet away is number 2, then 4 etc. It helps people know where to be when they’re doing dance numbers and/or walking around so they’re in the light and so they don’t block people behind them.) Anyhoo, right in the middle of the dance break, Kristin looks down and says "10…I’m looking for 10…." We both commented how much we love that line and how inside it was. Also, I’m obsessed that she’s pregnant, in a wedding dress and wearing pointe shoes. In this version, we added the section from the film where various brides speak about "the winter bride," "the spring bride" etc. I don't remember if it was Dev Janki (the choreographer) or Peter Flynn (the director), but one of them suggested that the brides be played by drag queens. It added an extra elememt of amazingness because when they all stood next to Kristin in heels, they were a foot taller. The very end of the song has Jason hitting an amazing B flat while Kristin upstages him with a D, E flat and then the aforementioned F! Watch the whole number here: 

I began the week in Los Angeles, doing Deconstructing Broadway at Largo. I feel so hip performing there because the other comics are folks like Judd Apatow and Sarah Silverman. Speaking of Sarah, I was just re-watching her appearance on Seth Speaks, my SiriusXM talk show. She's a major musical theatre lover and I had her do an impromptu sing-along with me on the piano. It was filmed for YouTube and it's very Sarah Silverman in that the title of the video says "Broadway Medley" immediately followed by "[Explicit]." Watch! 

As for more travel, I flew to Toronto on Friday to do a benefit with Andrea McArdle for Fife House, a great organization that helps folks with HIV/AIDS. We were traveling through the Lincoln Tunnel on the way home from the airport and she laid two stories on me that made my head nearly come off. First of all, she said that back in the 70s, her Mom and other moms of kid performers would carpool from Philly and New Jersey to NYC for auditions and bookings. Andrea said that, one day, her Mom brought in a bunch of kids to various show biz locations (for voice overs, commercials and rehearsals etc.) and picked them up again to take them home. While in the Lincoln Tunnel she yelled, "I forgot Timmy!" and went back to get him — by making a U-turn. Once again, she was in the Lincoln Tunnel and made a U-turn. Take that in. Ok. Moving on.

Andrea also recounted the hilarious/terrifying story of driving her car through the tunnel with Martin Charnin (who created Annie) and she ran out of gas. Not "Oh, it’s almost empty! I better fill it up soon!" I mean her car literally stopped moving. In the middle of the Lincoln Tunnel. While I sat slack-jawed hearing the story, she told me that she got on her phone to see how to get some gas ASAP when suddenly an emergency vehicle pulled up next to her. Turns out, they have cameras everywhere and when they see a car in distress, a vehicle is dispatched. She told the guy what was wrong and he gave her a can of gas! Andrea, who was playing Belle at the time, called Disney and got the emergency worker and his family tickets to Beauty And The Beast so I guess it all worked out.

Speaking of Andrea, she mentioned doing the big Leading Ladies Carnegie Hall concert. Everyone was belting up a storm (Jennifer Holliday, Lea DeLaria) but they had her do an arrangement of "Tommorow" that was in head voice! She was outraged, but did it nonetheless. Watch!  

That style of singing is what originally prompted a call from the team at Beauty And The Beast. Andrea was 38 at the time, so when she heard she was being considered for Beauty And The Beast she was devastated that she would now be considered for Mrs. Potts. She started experimenting to see if she could keep her arm in the teapot spout position for an entire show, but she soon found out she was being offered the role of Belle! She accepted and learned the score in her new-style Disney head voice, but on the day of her put-in rehearsal, all the heads of Disney were there and she asked if she could show them how she’d like to sing it — AKA belt the whole thing. She tried it once and they immediately gave her a big thumbs up! She was very happy she got to belt all of Belle's songs because it meant she "never needed to warm up." Brava? Here she is belting the phrase "Here! Where she meets Prince Charming…." So good! 

All right, everyone! Don't forget, next Monday and Tuesday is the Gypsy Of The Year competition: the most amazing show on Broadway (besides the Easter Bonnet Competition). Get tix asap at BroadwayCares.org. And while you're at the show, you can get an autographed copy of my new book: Seth's Broadway Diary. A stocking stuffer or menorah filler. Peace out!

Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.

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