I'm writing this to you from the beautiful Hotel Del Mar in Santa Monica which overlooks the Pacific. Why bring a jacket? I thought as I packed. It's June! Turns out, today features something the pool attendant told me is called "June Gloom," which means the sun doesn't come out til the late afternoon. Also known as the same time I'm in sound check. Yay?
I'm here doing two shows with Sutton Foster at the Broad, and I'm sure I'll have plenty to write about afterwards, but let me start first with some amazing things you can buy for charity! I wrote last week about the big, fat Broadway benefit my husband James and I are putting up June 29 for You Gotta Believe, the organization that help older foster kids get adopted. It has a crazy amount of stars in it and you can get tix at YouGottaBelieve.org, but besides buying a ticket to the show, you can also help support the organization by bidding on some of the phenomenal stuff we're offering on Charity Buzz! It just went up today and we things like a coaching session with the stunning Laura Osnes or four "front of the line" passes to the Universal theme park in LA and four for the one in Florida. Those passes are amazing and they literally mean you go to the front of the line! Two tix and a meet and greet with the hilarious Lewis Black or two tix (and a swag bag) to "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." And my favorite: a "Smash" game night! Yes, you can hang out and play a full game night with "Smash" stars Megan Hilty, Ann Harada, Christian Borle and me (I had four lines on one episode). Plus, for you sports fans (anybody?) we have four tix to a Houston Rockets game in the sixth row plus a signed James Harden jersey. Don't outbid me on that one! Get thee to CharityBuzz.com/YouGottaBelieve!
This week I had two-time Tony nominee and Something Rotten! star Brad Oscar on my "Chatterbox." His first Broadway gig was being a swing for Aspects Of Love. He understudied all the male character roles and made his Broadway debut during previews! The weirdest time he went on was when Sarah Brightman had taken over the lead. Brad was playing the role usually performed by Walter Charles. Sarah Brightman played the part of an actress, and Brad was playing her manager. One of the interesting thing about doing a show is how a wig and costume can make you look like someone else wearing the same thing. Two people can look completely different in real life but put them in the same costume with the same wig and they could both star in Side Show. So, one night the announcement was made to the entire cast the Brad was on for Walter Charles and the show began. In the first scene, Sarah was supposed to finish singing and then Brad would join her and she would complain to him about the size of the house. Well, Sarah sang, Brad joined her and when she turned to say her line, she saw Brad... and didn't speak. Not only did she not speak, she started looking around. Why? She was trying to find Walter Charles. Never mind that an announcement was made, never mind that Brad was standing in the exact position where Walter stood every night and never mind that he was wearing Walter Charles' exact costume. Sarah assumed there must be some mistake as she frantically craned her neck looking for Walter. When I finally asked Brad why this happened, he yelled, "She's going into space!" as if that explained it. Interestingly, this article claims she just postponed her $52 million odyssey into space so now what's your answer, Brad Oscar?
Brad told another story that I think is hi-lar: He was cast in the original Broadway company of Jekyll & Hyde, and one day the director told them to make up characters for a gritty London street scene. Everyone started acting like tipsy drunks or brazen women but Brad laid down on the floor. Why? Well, it was the same director as the one for Aspects of Love, and Brad had experience with how he treated the ensemble. During the tech rehearsal of Aspects of Love the ensemble was doing some elaborate staging and the director asked for one of the curtains to come down. So, every night they all had to do their fully staged scene behind a gauzy curtain that was basically impenetrable by the human eye. Because of that, Brad knew everyone doing their amazing character work in Jekyll & Hyde would eventually wind up doing their staging completely in the dark and so he decided to lay down for the scene. He told everyone his "character" was "tired." Of course, he was correct and to this day John Treacy Egan, who did the show as well, is so annoyed that Brad got to lay down eight shows a week while John basically starred in a real live version of the song "Dancing in the Dark."
While Brad was playing Santa in the Radio City Music Hall show in Branson, Missouri he got a call from his agent that they were looking for a Nathan Lane understudy for The Producers. He flew in and sang David Friedman's "My Simple Christmas Wish," which is a brilliant song. If you've never heard it or want more details, please watch my deconstruction of Alix Korey's imcomporable rendition. Well, apparently Brad nailed it as well, because he immediately found out he'd be swinging the show and covering Nathan Lane, which soon turned into covering the role of the director Roger DeBris and the Nazi Franz Liebkind as well. During rehearsals, the guy playing the Nazi injured his knee so Brad started going on for the role. He wound up doing most of the run in Chicago and when the show transferred to New York, they offered Brad the part. But he still covered Nathan as well and eventually took over for him! Brad got a Tony nomination during The Producers and he just got his second nomination for playing Nostradamus in Something Rotten!.
Speaking of the Tony Awards and The Producers, I was with Kevin Chamberlin in L.A. and he talked about being nominated for the role of Horton in Seussical which was during the same season as The Producers. He said it's really relaxing to deal with the awards season when you know there's no chance of winning. Before the actual Tony Awards, he and his friends had a party and then crammed into a car which drove them to Radio City Music Hall. Kevin said that a few of them (not him) were enjoying some not-quite-legal cigarettes and when Kevin opened the door to step onto the red carpet, a cloud of smoke exited with him as well. As soon as he stepped out, he saw Mel Brooks standing there who looked at him and yelled, "Hey, Chamberlin! Ready to lose?" Hilariously direct! Instead of feeling defensive or depressed, Kevin's first thought was "OMG! Mel Brooks knows my name!" That last story I wrote about I actually heard while I was onstage with Kevin this weekend. Now, why would I be onstage with Kevin during a Sutton Foster concert? Well, I mentioned in the first paragraph that I'd have plenty to write about after the concerts and boy, do I. It's now Monday morning and I'm on the plane ride home. Here's the story: Two weeks ago, Sutton went to Italy for her honeymoon. Near the end, she got laryngitis and completely lost her voice. She wound up having to cancel her symphony concert appearance in Boston. Days went by and she soon began to panic because we had a super high-paying corporate gig on the Friday after the Tony Awards and then two sold-out shows at the Broad. When I saw her on the Tony Awards red carpet I was relieved and mentioned that her speaking voice sounded great. She nodded but then demonstrated her singing voice. Silence. Uh-oh. A few days later, she realized she had to cancel the corporate gig and let me just say, she missed out on a lot of money. Basically, it was a 30-minute gig for what I used to make for an entire year in my early 20's! But she really couldn't sing a note. She went to the doctor who told her that she was healing and she could possibly sing on the following Sunday if she went on total vocal rest. She became mute and downloaded an app called "Speak For Me." I decided it was related to the Phantom's app called "Sing For Me (My Angel Of Music)." Anyhoo, she would write in what she wanted to say and her iPhone would say it. Soon, she began to use all the acoutrements the app had like adding various accents. Not long after that, she began programming it to say incredibly dirty things which she said onstage at the Broad. Let me just say that the 11-year-old "Bunheads" fans in the audience now know a very creative way to refer to the male genetalia.
Anyhoo, I had wifi on the flight from New York to LA (the night before our concert) and I suddenly got a text light up my laptop. It was Sutton writing that she just got to LA and tried to sing for the first time and she could not. She didn't know what to do. PS, my flight had left at 7:30 PM so all of this was happening at 10:30 PM the night before the concert! Thus followed a series of frantic texts with the producer Mark Cortale and the people who ran the Broad. Do we cancel? Do we hope something will change tomorrow? Do we make it simply an interview? We decided to ask some celebs in L.A. to join to see if they could handle the bulk of the singing and hope for the best. The next day I showed up at sound check not knowing what I was going to hear…but amazingly Sutton actually sang! She was able to sound like her old self…up to around an A. After that it basically air with a weird tone attached. The good news was, there were plenty of songs she could do…if I put them in the key of B. As in B. Arthur.
I lowered everything and we told the audience how sick she had been. Sutton felt incredibly vulnerable and nervous and kept apologizing to me, but she wound up putting on an amazing show. Instead of sliding up the high note at the end of "Anything Goes," she instead slid down to a low note. It was hilarious! Plus the we special guest star Kevin Chamberlin in one show who sang "Alone In The Universe" from Seussical and we also had Cheyenne Jackson make an appearance in the other show! Cheyenne told everyone that he moved to New York right around this time 15 years ago and immediately got cast as Marc Kudisch and Gavin Creel's understudy in Thoroughly Modern Millie. A few days after he began, Gavin took a leave to film "Eloise At The Plaza" and Cheyenne started playing Jimmy. He and Sutton talked about doing the show together, and he told us about one specific time he remembered being in a laundry cart with her onstage. They were crammed in and she was sucking on a Ricola. He looked at her and said, "Six weeks ago, I was in Seattle watching you win the Tony Award and now I'm sitting across from on Broadway." She smiled in the cart and said, "Dreams come true." How great is that!
This week I'm doing a visit to the amazing theatre camp Stage Door Manor to give a talk about my book "The Rise And Fall Of A Theater Geek." I just started doing camp and school visits so email me at [email protected] if you want to set one up! While I'm at Stage Door Manor, I'll be speaking with Todd Graff because he's working on a sequel to one of my favorite movies (which happens to be based on Stage Door Manor): "Camp"! So excited! And speaking of my new book, I just (obsessively) checked Amazon.com, and it's listed as the number one new release for Young Adult and Young Adult LGBT issues! You can order it here and keep me at number one!
And finally, relating back to the Tony Awards, I mentioned last week that I interviewed a lot of the winners right after they won. My new intern Lilly Claar filmed all the interviews and made an amazing video featuring Kelli O'Hara singing coloratura, John Cameron Mitchell telling a hilariously inappropriate joke as Hedwig and me calling Ruthie Ann Miles mother on a cell phone. So fun! Watch here and 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.)