Onstage & Backstage: "I Believe!" Which Injured Broadway Star Had a Miraculous Recovery When He Won the Olivier?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: "I Believe!" Which Injured Broadway Star Had a Miraculous Recovery When He Won the Olivier?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Cheyenne Jackson
Cheyenne Jackson Photo by Karl Simone


Sigh. It's already September. Did the summer even happen? Why does it feel like the last two months was over in five minutes? And yes, why would it take forever for the clock to go from 3:00 to 3:07 at when I was in high school? Speaking of school, this week marks the beginning of Juli starting eighth grade. Holy cow. When I met her she was in first grade. I know she got older every year, but this year it's really hitting me. I now totally understand why parents keep having kids. I suddenly miss everything about her being a little kid. All I want to do is launch into "Sunrise, Sunset" and/or the lesser known "Stop, Time" from Big. Do any fellow parents know that song? Listen to Barbara Walsh here and cry

This weekend I'm here in Provincetown performing with Cheyenne Jackson, who's getting married in two weeks! I asked Cheyenne about his first name and, turns out, it was taken from the 1955 TV show "Cheyenne." His dad thought "Cheyenne" was so cool that he decided to change his own name! He went to the court house to do it legally and when he got there, the judge literally laughed at him. Why do so many judges have the mean essence of Judge Judy? Why is she allowed to be so obnoxious to people? "I'm talking". Who cares? Speaking of which, I tried to find Cheri Oteri playing Judge Judy on "Saturday Night Live" and was only able to find one sketch (!) and it's on an Asian website, but Cheri is hilarious and it features a "sneaker-upper." Ana Gasteyer told me that's the term on "SNL" when a comedian is playing someone famous and they're suddenly "surprised" by the real person. Watch

Anyhoo, after being laughed at the Idaho version of Judge Judy, his dad was so mortified that he kept his original name. Instead, he told his wife he'd like to name their son Cheyenne. Cheyenne's mom soon gave birth to a son and immediately decided the name Cheyenne was too weird. His Dad said he'd be fine naming their second son Cheyenne. Well, the second son was born and again his Mom was like Cheyenne = too weird. Finally, the third son was born and his Dad finally got his way! You know what they say: "Third time's the Ch(arm)eyenne". Next week at the Art House in Provincetown, I'll be performing with the mind-bogglingly talented Gavin Creel. He came over to my apartment a few days ago to go through material and, as a joke, he added an amazing high Bb to the end of "What Do I Need With Love?," one of his songs from Thoroughly Modern Millie. I immediately told him it was now the required way he must end the song and we had to film it. Watch

Gavin Creel
Gavin Creel Photo by Joan Marcus

Gavin told me that when he was doing The Book of Mormon in London, he began to have knee problems from a dance move in "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream." It was always hurting but he was still able to do the show. Then, on the day of the Olivier Awards, he happened to pass the show's physical therapist who was going to the gym near Gavin's apartment. Gavin then decided to do some warm-ups for the award that night because he was nominated and had to sing "I Believe." While he was doing some jumping jacks, his knee completely gave out! Ah! Thankfully, he knew his physical therapist was nearby so he called him, and he told Gavin that he couldn't put any weight on his knee. Gavin spent the day getting treatment and finally felt like he'd be able to get through the number. Well, he not only got through it, it went fantastically! Watch here.

He was hoping, however, that he wouldn't win. Why? Because he didn't think he'd be able to bend his knee enough to climb the stairs. Cut to, he did win and Gavin said as soon as he heard his name, his knee made a miraculous recovery and he jumped out his seat and ran up the stairs! Here's his speech

Eliana with James Snyder at <i>If/Then</i>
Eliana with James Snyder at If/Then

My sister Nancy and her family came to visit last week and we had a great time! I got Nancy and her youngest daughter Eliana tickets to If/Then and they loved it! Except for the so-called tree. Here's the backstory: Years ago, and I mean years ago... like 1993... I got Nancy tickets to see the national tour of Once On This Island in Washington, D.C. and she has never gotten over the ending. Spoiler alert: The leading lady dies but is reborn as a tree. It's sort of a sad/happy ending but Nancy was traumatized. To this day Nancy will ask me, before she sees anything, if anyone "turns into a tree," meaning does the show have a devastating ending. Well, I forgot to warn her that it didn't work out for every character in If/Then and after the show she called me, raging, "Why didn't you warn me that someone turned into a tree??!?!?"

I will end this column with the sad news that Sondheim star, Victoria Mallory, passed away over the weekend. I had Victoria and her longtime friend, Kurt Peterson (Dear World, Young Buddy in Follies) on my Chatterbox five years ago. Here's an excerpt from that column about her wonderful Broadway career:

Victoria Mallory
Victoria Mallory

"Victoria and Kurt were boyfriend and girlfriend in real life and played boyfriend and girlfriend (Tony and Maria) in the late '60's Lincoln Center revival of West Side Story. After that, Victoria auditioned for Follies and when she finished singing, Hal Prince told her she was wonderful but there as no role for her. She said that she didn't need a role and would do anything just to be a part of the show. He took her up on that offer and she was cast as one of the ensemble members. Victoria really was thrilled just to be in the same room as the creative staff. She remembered watching in awe as Michael Bennett staged the famous and haunting Follies prologue. After a week and a half, Hal asked her to play a waitress in one of the scenes and she was very excited. Then, Stephen Sondheim called her into a room and told her that he wrote a song, "One More Kiss," and she'd be singing it with Justine Johnston who played Heidi (Victoria became "Young Heidi")! She was thrilled. Then, Michael Bennett found out she could dance, so he put her into the Red number and the "Loveland" number, and she understudied Young Sally and became swing for "Buddies Blues." She wound up having the best time ever!

"Finally, well into the run, Hal Prince called Victoria into his office. He told her he had a new show he was working on and asked her to read from the script. She remembers reading around one sentence ("Oh, Henrick...") and he immediately told her she had the role of Anne in A Little Night Music! During Night Music, Victoria was no longer dating Kurt. Instead, she was dating her onstage husband, Len Cariou (who played Frederik Egerman). She remembers that she and Mark Lambert (who played Henrik, Fredrik's son) would wait offstage for their entrance, every night, and watch "Send in the Clowns" sung by Glynis Johns to Len Cariou. Ironically, in the show, there's a line near the end, "Have you heard? Henrik and Anne have run off together!" Cut to, in real life, Henrik (Mark) and Anne (Victoria) did indeed run off together! And they've been married ever since. They have a daughter, Ramona Mallory, who starts her run as Luisa in Off-Broadway's The Fantasticks this week. Brava good genes!" 

That column came out in 2009 and Victoria and Mark's daughter then went on to do the revival of A Little Night Music, playing Anne, the role her mother created in the original company. The whole chatterbox with Kurt and Victoria can be viewed here, and here's a link to Kurt and Victoria singing "Tonight" from West Side Story…the song they first sang together in their early 20's! 

All right, everyone. Have a great beginning of September and if you want more of Victoria's wonderful Night Music performance, here's my deconstruction of the brilliant "A Weekend In The Country." 

(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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