Onstage & Backstage: When Hal Prince Says, "Um...You Can Go," You Don't Think You Got the Part, Right?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: When Hal Prince Says, "Um...You Can Go," You Don't Think You Got the Part, Right?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Adam Pascal
Adam Pascal

What a fun week! First of all, I spent last weekend in L.A. with Adam Pascal. Why? Because he's starring in a one-night Actors Fund concert of Disaster! here in NYC! We did it in L.A. and raised great money for the Fund and now we're going to do it one more time March 10! The cast has Adam playing opposite Kerry Butler plus Kristy Cavanaugh, Kevin Chamberlin, Max Crumm, Charity Dawson, Saum Eskandani, Baylee Littrell, Maggie McDowell, Jennifer Simard, Will Swenson, Rachel York and Christine Ebersole! You can get tix here.

Right I saw Adam in LA, I flew into Las Vegas to promote the new season at the Smith Center and record an episode of "Seth Speaks" for SiriusXM. First of all, the Smith Center is big, stunning theatre that was just built and their upcoming season includes one of my favorite shows, Ragtime. I was looking on YouTube for a good clip and I found one where Audra McDonald is singing "Wheels of A Dream" with me playing piano during a family vacation in Mexico. Non-traditional casting-style, the role of Coalhouse was played by James (!) and there's a shocking guest appearance by me at the end. It's so great! Watch!

For "Seth Speaks," I had stars from various shows that are playing in Vegas. First I had Mark Shunock from Rock Of Ages who told me that there's a performance every night. Oy! Not since summer stock! When I was at Surflight Summer Theater we ran from June-August with a show every single night. Our day off was literally a "day off." We had Sunday off during the day but then went right back and did a show that night. Of course, all we wanted to do with our lives was musicals so it was amazing doing a show every night. No wanted a night off! Speaking of Surflight, if you don't know, it's a gorgeous theatre on Long Beach Island, NJ (a great beach town) and they've just declared bankruptcy! I'm sure Hurricane Sandy flooding the island didn't help ticket sales, and now they've announced they have to close. If anyone's reading this who wants to buy and take over a theatre, get thee to Beach Haven, NJ and buy Surflight ASAP! Alums include include Charlotte d'Amboise, David Loud, Richard Kind and so many more talented folk like Iris Rainer Dart, who based the summer stock section in Beaches on Surflight! Here's the article about the closing.

Mark Shunock
Mark Shunock

Back to Vegas. I had Keith Thompson and Philip Fortenberry on "Seth Speaks" as well. Keith is the conductor of the Vegas company of Jersey Boys as well as the composer of Idaho, a new musical that was done at NYMF and will soon be presented by the Smith Center. He had a big group of folk perform two songs from the show and the audience went crazy. Philip is the pianist for Jersey Boys, and I used to be his sub when he played for Saturday Night Fever and Seussical on Broadway. The part you play in the orchestra is called the book and there are a lot of piano "books" on Broadway that are easy to play. One can be a good-ish pianist and be able to play a Broadway show. But there are certain books that require you to have some serious technique: for instance, Victor/Victoria almost gave me tendonitis as well as Ragtime and Seussical. Phil is one of those pianists that could play any book on Broadway because he's an actual classical concert pianist. When the film "Behind the Candelabra" was made, they needed a pianist that could play the crazily difficult stuff Liberace would do during his concerts. Phil got the gig and recorded all the music used in that film! At first, they were just going to show his hands in close-up and Michael Douglas would do the full shots with his hands moving around the piano, but then they decided to film Phil playing everything while wearing Liberace's crazy outfits…and superimpose Michael Douglas' head on Phil's body. It totally works! Look! I also had the two stars of Steve Wynn's Showstoppers come on the show for a chat and a song. Showstoppers is basically an entire show of 11 o'clock numbers ending with "One" from A Chorus Line and the whole thing is accompanied by a big, delicious 30-piece orchestra! Kerry O'Malley told me that the director is old-school and everyone had to show up to rehearsal totally done up…full hair and make-up! I love it! I asked both of them to tell me of a past audition and Kerry remembered trying out for Into the Woods and doing really well until the final callback. She knew she blew it and afterwards called her agent to tell him she definitely didn't get it. That phone call was followed by her agent calling back to inform her she actually did get it. That happens all the time! People think they're horrible... and then they get cast.

Of course, the opposite happened with me: I auditioned to be a singer/dancer for Hershey Park when I was 16. They taught a hoedown-style combination and I learned approximately two percent of it. Every time they ran it, I would do the first two steps and stop. I soon realized I could never learn the whole thing unless I had a good eight hours for them to slo-o-o-o-wly show me every step. I finally decided to flee the room so I wouldn't have to be mortified when they broke us down into small groups and made us do it. However, when I hightailed it out there, I didn't tell anyone in charge. Of course, I heard from someone later on that when they were breaking everyone into groups there was the awkward "Seth Rudetsky!" Silence. "Seth Rudetsky?" Silence. Then someone in room offered "Um…I think he left." After that dance round, they asked people to stay and sing. I walked right up to a monitor outside the room and, full of supreme confidence, said "Hi! I left the dance audition, but can you ask them if I can sing?" I knew I would blow them away with my 16 bars. (Can't remember if it was "I Feel a Song Coming On" or "Brother Can You Spare a Dime"). The monitor came back out and I started to walk past him holding my music and asked (rhetorically), "So, can I sing?" Before I could walk in the door, I was shocked by his answer: No. My point is, I'm sure Kerry was amazing but thought she was horrible and here I was, not only horrible but literally fleeing a dance call and yet had the chutzpah to assume they would still hire me based on my amazing voice. PS. Is "chutzpah" Yiddish for delusion? Get back to me.

Randal Keith from Showstoppers had a similar experience. He had his when he was living in Chicago, he had the biggest audition of his life…auditioning for the national tour of Phantom. It was a horrible winter day and by the time he trudged through the snow and got there, he was told to go right in. No time to prepare! He started "Music of the Night" and after 45 seconds they completely cut him off. Yes, they cut him off before the signature high note! The people behind the table conferred as he awkwardly stood onstage. Suddenly, Hal Prince looked up, saw him standing onstage and said, miffed, "Um…you can go." Ouch! Randal was devastated that he barely got to sing and obviously didn't get it…and, of course, soon found out he was hired. Yay show business?

Last Saturday was my birthday and I had such a fun party! We know that Mandy, our new puppy, turned one in February so we decided she'll have the same birthday as me! Check out our joint birthday cake shot! If you know me, you know that I extend my birthday for a long period of time so I have more than one day to enjoy it. Because of that, I've barely opened any presents, but one of them now ranks as one of the best of all time. Liz Callaway is one of my favorite Broadway singers and one of the first ladies to "mix" on Broadway. That means she combines her belt and head into her what has become her signature sound. Well, whenever she emails me she'll end with "Love, your favorite mixer" or she'll sign her name and underneath write "I'm mixing as fast as I can" or one time she gave me her CD and on the cover she had a photo of herself looking quizzical to which she added the thought bubble, "Should I belt or mix that note?" So, on my birthday she bought me the most appropriate present she could ever give: a mixer! Yes, an actual hand mixer from Sur La Table and she added her face to the center of the packaging as well as pieces of paper with printed lyrics from her hit songs where she bolded the actual words she mixes! I laughed so hard! She told me she re-watched my deconstructions to know which lyrics I mention that feature her mixing. Here's me deconstructing her brilliant rendition of "Story Goes On" from Baby and here she is in her workshop of Carrie.


In performing news, I'm coming to Philadelphia this Sunday to do Deconstructing Broadway! I have Disaster! rehearsal that morning and then I hop on Amtrak, do my tech rehearsal and then perform the show that evening. Come see look exhausted! Tix here. In honor of Kelly Bishop and I having the same birthday, here's my deconstruction of the brilliant "At The Ballet."

(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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