Onstage & Backstage: The Behind-the-Scenes Scoop From My Spot at the Tony Awards!

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: The Behind-the-Scenes Scoop From My Spot at the Tony Awards!
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Let's talk Tony Awards! Actually, let's first start pre-Tony awards. This week I'm getting ready to do a show with Sutton Foster at the Broad in Santa Monica (June 14), and she sent me an amazing text. However, it wasn't about the show; A while back she had asked me to send photos of my new puppy, Mandy, because she's going to have an art gallery showing in Provincetown when we perform there over the 4th of July weekend. Well, last Tuesday, she sent me her painting of Mandy that going into the gallery showing! I love Sutton's circle style of painting and how she captured the expression Mandy makes all the time. Look at the eyes! Mandy's nickname is "Wrink" cause whenever she's curious, she wrinkles her whole face. She's obviously a Botox-free doggie (for now).


On Thursday, I had the fabulous Michele Lee on my "Chatterbox." Now, I've had sold-out crowds before, but this "Chatterbox" was so oversold, it was cra-za-zy. There were people in every seat in the audience, people on the actual stage, lined up in chairs to the side, people sitting on the piano bench, and two rows sitting completely behind us. It was amazing and a fire hazard. Michele is doing an all Cy Coleman show this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 54 Below so I asked her about her bravura performance in Cy Coleman's Seesaw.

If you don't know, the show started out of town in Detroit and was in major trouble. The producers fired the director and choreographer and brought in Michael Bennett to fix the show. He started by firing tons of people. As a matter of fact, he called his friend Tommy Tune to come and choreograph some numbers in the show and when Tommy demonstrated one number to him, Michael gave him the part and fired the actor who was playing the role. What was upsetting for Tommy is that he had been the best man at that actor's wedding! Yowtch! But it's one of those things where the director makes the decision and taking a stand doesn't make a difference. Years later, the same kind of thing happened with The Light In The Piazza.

Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison in <i>The Light in the Piazza</i>
Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison in The Light in the Piazza

The out-of-town production starred Celia Keenan-Bolger in the lead and Kelli O'Hara as one of the Italian family members. The creative team asked Kelli to come in and audition to replace Celia, and she refused. She loved the role she was playing and, more importantly, thought Celia was fantastic and didn't want her to be replaced. They told her that Celia was being replaced no matter what (she looked too young for the part) and that refusing to audition wouldn't make any difference. Eventually, Kelli got the part and Sarah Uriarite Berry took over the role Kelli had played. Kelli got a Tony nomination for it and Celia wound up being cast in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee…and got a Tony nomination that same season as well! Anyhoo, the amazing news back in the 1974 was that Michael Bennett asked Michele to take over the lead in Seesaw. The horrible part was it was starring her best friend, Lainie Kazan! It was one of the those things where whether Michele said yes or not, Lainie was going to be let go, so Michele said yes. And… she and Lainie stopped talking. They had been best friends up until then, but after Seesaw….silence. Michele was too uncomfortable to reach out and Lainie was too devastated. And then…Lee Grant saved the day. What? Yes! Years later, there was a New Year's Eve party at Lee Grant's house and when midnight came around, everyone started singing "Auld Lang Syne." During the song, from across the room, Lainie and Michele locked eyes. They kept singing, moving closer and closer, and by the end of the song they were hugging! Ever since then, they've been best friends again. PS, Michele said the whole thing was very "Knots Landing," and I agree. It's like the "Very Special Broadway Episode" that never was. PS, if you never got to Michele's amazing belt in action during Seesaw, watch this. And then get tix to her 54 Below show right here.

Now to the Tony Awards! I was hired by "Entertainment Tonight" again to cover the red carpet as well as the winners, and I had a great time! My friend Jack Plotnick went with me and took tons of photos. We're obsessed with the picture of me and Tony Yazbeck where both of us are completely silent and staring in a trance. Was it before I asked him questions for the camera? During? Were we both trying out for "The Stepford Wives"? I had so many hilarious experiences throughout it all. First, Sutton Foster: I asked her to describe her role on "Younger" and she told me she plays a 40-year-old who pretends she's in her 20's to keep her job. I then asked her what age she thouth I could play if I did "Younger." She said "45." I then clarified I wanted to know the younger age I could play. She then clarified "42."


I moved on to my next interview. I ended each one with "Truth or Dare" and many people chose "truth." The question that kept coming up was, "Have you ever had a showmance?" which is a term that refers to having an affair with a cast member. Basically, every single Tony nominee or presenter I spoke to said yes. I wasn't surprised, but I can't say the same for the Kelsey Grammer. When he answered "yes," his wife, who was standing next to him, immediately asked "With who???" Uh-oh! Was a domestic squabble about to happen on the red carpet? He then reminded her he had already told her it happened years ago in his 20's and we were therefore spared another "Knots Landing" Very Special Broadway Episode.

The most succinct answer to the whole thing came from Sting:
SETH: OK, Sting! Truth or Dare?
STING: No. (leaves)

The good news for people who are always nervous about Tony Award ratings is Les Monves told me that he loves Broadway and as long as he runs CBS, they will always do the Tony Awards. Yay! If you want to have fun, watch Adam Feldman's favorite 25 Tony Award performances.

Bryan Cranston talked about being a producer of Finding Neverland and when I said he should replace Kelsey Grammer, he nodded and told me I was very insightful. Aha! So, you heard it here first! He didn't confirm anything, but that audience may one day be filled with "Breaking Bad" fans. After the red carpet, I was in a special room set up for "ET." We had our own lighting, cameraman and a piano so I could launch into song with the winners. Annaleigh Ashford talked about the next season of "Masters of Sex" and how it takes place in the mid-60's. I commented that her make-up was very "of that time" a la Barbra Joan Streisand and then launched into playing the "Evergreen" intro. She immediately started humming as Barbra and then we segued to "Don't Rain on my Parade," which she nailed!

John Cameron Mitchell came in with his special Tony Award and, for some reason, we ended his segment with him singing "Til There Was You." He also talked about trying out new jokes while he was playing Hedwig and how those lines would be in the sequel he's working on. My favorite, which he did to the camera (and I don't think will air!) was about Hedwig being from Germany and references World War II. At one point, Hedwig says, "Listen, I had an uncle who died at Aucshwitz! (pause). Granted, he fell from a guard tower…"


My favorite interview was with Ruthie Ann Miles who won for The King and I. I asked her what ethnicity she is, and she said her mom is Korean. My ex-boyfriend is Chinese American, so I know all about Asian parents. Therefore I asked her on a scale of 1-10, how crazy her mom is. She said that growing up, her mom was at "10 and a half." Now, however, her Mom will complement Ruthie on how she looks, but when she was a kid, her mom would look her up and down and say, "You need a bike." When my ex was a kid and brought home a test where he got a 99 his mom would ask what happened to the other point.


I asked Ruthie if her mom would finally feel she's successful now that she has a Tony Award. Ruthie said she didn't know. Therefore, I said we should call her. I got out my cell phone (by the way, all being filmed), Ruthie gave me her mom's number and I dialed. As I was dialing, Ruthie commented that her mom wanted her to be a dentist. Her mom answered, and I asked if she is proud that her daughter won a Tony and if she should keep pursuing acting. Her mom said "Of course! Of course!" Yay! Then, because I had my suspicions, I added, "Should she also pursue being a dentist?" and her mom immediately said "Why not?" I knew it! Ruthie and I took a photo of her examining my teeth and I love her expression. I the concern/judgement on her face looks like she wants to do dental work. She clarified that the expression means, "I see you've had some work done." Perfect!

I'm planning on posting these videos soon but until then, watch me on ET tonight on CBS. 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.)

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