"It's the week of the release, y'all." I'm paraphrasing "Waiting for Guffman" because I didn't know what other show biz expression relates to a book being released. Break a binder? My point is, "Seth's Broadway Diary" comes out this Wednesday and I'm having a book release performance "between shows" as they on Wednesday, meaning at 5 PM. If you can't come, you can order it DressCirclePublishing.com.
The show is going to be fab! Some of the celebs in the book are going to read the section of the book that features them and then some will sing a li'l something, too! I have Hunter Bell, Anika Larsen, Marc Shaiman, Kelli O'Hara, Judy Kuhn, Chip Zien and Matthew Broderick all doing readings, as well as lots of other celebs (who are mentioned in the book) showing up to take photos!
I was on a ship all last week where you have to pay for internet access, so e-mailing all these people and asking them to make an appearance at the book release basically cost me my entire advance. Yay? Speaking of ships, James and Juli came for the first few days of the cruise and then went home because Juli had to go back to school. Well, they left on a Tuesday and took two planes: one from St. John New Brunswick, Canada to Montreal and then Montreal to New York. By the time they got got home, Juli's asthma was acting up and they had to go to the ER! Juli had some breathing treatments and they left around 6 AM. The next day was our two-year wedding anniversary. I spent the day in beautiful Bangor, Maine where the cruise stopped James and Juli spent the day recovering from an entire night in the ER... and then went back again that night! The good news, Juli's treatment at the hospital really worked the second time. The bad news is, they were up for two straight nights in a row; Juli is 14, so she recovered in five minutes and looks great. James is in his 40's so the lack of sleep has made him look like Jessica Tandy's stand-by for Driving Miss Daisy.
My book, "Seth's Broadway Diary," is a compilation of my Playbill.com columns which started back in 2007. In January of 2007, I started writing a weekly recap of the Grease reality show and when Max Crumm and Laura Osnes were finally chosen as Danny and Sandy, Playbill.com asked me to stay on and write a weekly column about whatever happened during my week. My publisher has divided the columns by year and "Volume One" takes place from my first column in April 2007 through the end of December 2008. I spent a while editing them and it's been so fun to read. It's also prompted an increase dose in Ginkgo Biloba. For instance, I was editing the section about interviewing Barbara Cook when she was preparing for an Obama fundraiser with Audra McDonald. As I read it, I wished that I'd had been able to see it. The following column was about how much I loved seeing the concert! I totally forgot I went! That's either a cute story or the first warning sign of future severe memory loss.
I have one section about being asked to do a reading of Terrence McNally's The Ritz on a Sunday morning. I had no idea it would lead to my first role in a Broadway show. Here it is: "I did a little tiny reading of Terrence McNally's The Ritz at the Roundabout Theatre rehearsal studios. And I mean we literally just read it. The Ritz is a 1970's play about a man on the run from the mob who hides out in a gay bathhouse. The Roundabout reading starred Kevin Chamberlin as the man on the run, Brooks Ashmanskas as the bathhouse slut and Rosie Perez as Googie Gomez, the Latin singer who can't sing. When I was first called to do it, I went from completely thrilled I'd have a funny role to terrified that I was being asked to read stage directions. We all know that job is thankless. Your lines consist of, 'Lights up' and 'He exits' and 'End of Act One.' I knew that I would have tried to add subtext to each dry line and been boycotted from reading Act Two."
"Thankfully the director, Joe Mantello, got someone else for the stage directions and cast me in multiple roles. I don't want to overly impress you, but I ran the gamut from 'patron' to 'snobby patron' to 'patron.' I had up to and including five lines. But it was very cool to be asked to do it. I felt like a true theatre insider! Speaking of which, Michael Riedel mentioned me in his column about the Grease reality show and said I was the only theatre insider who was watching. I was actually very excited to be called a theatre insider in print! But, I would like to say, for the record, there is at least one more. Three weeks ago I got a frantic cell phone call from a one Mr. Jonathan Groff from Spring Awakening. He had neglected to TiVO that week's episode and seemed more devastated from that than from the aftermath of when his character whips Lea Michele with a switch. I had the episode still on my TV and quickly made him a VCR copy. My point is, there were at least two theatre insiders watching the Grease show — three, if you count Kathleen Marshall."
PS, I love that these columns are so old that I talk about recording things on a VCR. I don't think Juli even remembers them existing. Remember how whenever someone used to say, "I don't know how to work a VCR!" it meant they were really old? Now it means they're really young. It reminds me of when Varla Jean Merman held up her little blank-faced dog and told the audience her name was "Mrs. Danvers." I laughed and glared at the people in the audience who didn't realize she was referring to the mean housekeeper in "Rebecca." My laughter stopped when Varla politely said, "If you get that reference, you're gay... and old."
PPS, for all my sassy commenting that I had "up to and including five lines" in the reading of The Ritz, by the time we were on Broadway, my lines numbered three (3) total. I still remember them: "We're busy," followed by "I said we're busy" and culminating in Act Two with "Careful, Googie." Wow! That Ginkgo Biloba is working!
Over the weekend, James and I were at an outdoor café and chitty-chatting about various Broadway shows and a guy overheard and started chatting with us. We wound up going back-and-forth with opinions about the current season which could take up my whole column, but I want to focus on some amazing stories he told us about Bob Fosse! Turns out, his Mom was a Fosse dancer and Fosse was a family friend. He told us that after Fosse won the Emmy, Tony and Oscar, he asked Fosse if it was the best day of his life. Fosse said no. As they say on "The Simpsons," WHA-???
Fosse told him that the best day of his life happened when he was on a movie studio set. No, not "Cabaret," for which he won ye olde Oscar; this happened back in the day when he was dancing in films. His idol was always Fred Astaire and one day Fred Astaire himself was crossing the lot and it looked like he was going to walk right past Fosse! Fosse couldn't believe he was seeing Fred Astaire right in front of him! When Astaire was about to pass Fosse was excited simply to see him. Then, the most amazing thing happened; Astaire looked as Fosse and said, "Hey, Foss!" The fact that Fred Astaire knew who he was made that day the best day of his life! I'm not saying it's basically what happened to me when I met Barbra Streisand, but you do the math. One idol + recognition that s/he knows who you are = best day ever! Speaking of Fosse, the tour of Pippin has opened and I got an e-mail from Andrea Martin, who's playing the role of Berthe again in San Fran and L.A. She wrote us that Matthew James Thomas, who's reprising his role as Pippin, wasn't feeling well during Act One. Andrea started her song "No Time At All," went up on her trapeze, and near the end she got to the part where she says "I want to sing this part just to Pippin." She pointed to him... and he wasn't there. Literally not on stage. She waited... and suddenly he came out. And by "him" I mean his understudy wearing the exact costume. She finished the number with a different actor than whom she started with and, by the way, she said he was amazing! He never had a put-in rehearsal but he nailed it. Live theatre!!
OK, this week is the Virginia Theater Conference where I'm doing a the key note address and a master class and then I have shows coming up in New Orleans, San Antonio and Detroit! It's all listed on sethtv.com/see-me-live/calendar/. Peace out and enjoy the delicious cool weather!
(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.)