Onstage & Backstage: Which Elphaba Had a Falling Spell and Which Christine Lost a Tooth During Phantom? | Playbill

News Onstage & Backstage: Which Elphaba Had a Falling Spell and Which Christine Lost a Tooth During Phantom? A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Stuck at the airport!
Stuck at the airport!

Hello from LaGuardia airport! Why am I not writing on the plane, you ask psychically? It's because my flight to Dallas was delayed due to either fog in NYC or bad weather in Texas. That means I got delicious extra time to scour the airport bookstore and play with the amazing free iPads that LaGuardia has everywhere. Bring on the delays! Anyhoo, this week began high above New York City in the beautiful Rainbow Room. I hosted a show for a visiting bunch of business people featuring Liz Callaway. We were backstage with her pianist Alex Rybeck talking about bizarre performing experiences, and I recalled the time I was with Kristin Chenoweth at a private school gala and the entire audience talked non-stop throughout her songs. And not just whispering – full-volume, I've-taken-voice-and-diction-and-I-know-how-to-project-my-voice-to-the-back-row chattering. It wasn't as if Kristin was unknown at that point and no one knew who she was. She had actually already won a Tony Award and was about to film The Music Man with Matthew Broderick! Speaking of which, the only time they stopped talking was when she hit the high note at the end of "'Til There Wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-as You!" And the only reason they stopped talking is because they were curious where that sound was coming from. Not because they suddenly realized she sounded amazing. Afterward, Kristin and I went out for dessert and laughed and laughed because it was so horrific. Liz Callaway (sister of the great Ann Hampton Callaway) has the same attitude when she gets those audiences.

She was performing in Florida, and the audience was chattering during her entire show. At one point, a town official walked to the side of the stage, motioned her to come over and then apologized on behalf of his city. Of course, she was in the middle of her show, so it was weird to stop in the middle of her patter, walk to the side of the stage and receive an apology, but she appreciated the gesture. Finally, she spoke of playing Grizabella in Cats and started her finale, "Memory." Naturally, the audience listened with rapt attention. No. Actually, they started slow dancing. What? Why? She kept singing, they kept dancing and then to add to the bizarreness, right when she got to "Touch Me-e-e-e-e-e!," the band who was performing after her, got onstage and loudly started setting up their instruments. They clanked and clunked all through the climax of the song and when she held her last note, they "hilariously" joined in for the final eight measures. Alex Rybeck was furious. Liz's reaction? With an enormous grin she told Alex, "I can't wait to call Ann and tell her what happened!"

Tuesday was a very exciting day because I met with Eric Myers, my book agent for lunch. He just moved to another literary agency that has some amazing young adult authors and we were discussing the next book I'm writing. I felt very Jamie Wellerstein (see Last Five Years), and then I hightailed over to Random House because the first printing of my newest book just came in! I so clearly remember writing it on my laptop and it was very exciting to see it in book form! It's called "The Rise And Fall Of A Theater Geek" and it takes place over three weeks in New York City. It's about a 16-year-old Justin Goldblatt getting an internship working for a TV star named Chase, who was just cast as the lead in his first Broadway show. Justin hopes his internship will somehow lead to him also becoming a Broadway star (how?) but basically everything goes wrong. Instead of being discovered, he's stuck living with his cranky-a** grandmother while his friends get an internship at a modeling agency and completely drop him. And the TV star's personal assistant won't even let Justin near the theatre. Plus, Justin starts getting notes dropped off for him mysteriously at his grandmother's brownstone with no signature. Is he being stalked by a real-live Phantom of The Opera? It's a combination comedy/mystery/theatre-lover's book, heavy on the Jewfro. And I can't stop checking Amazon for my ranking, and it got to number one here!

At last week's Chatterbox, I had Kate Reinders and John Cariani, who play the romantic couple in Something Rotten! It's very sweet how much they like each other in real life. Kate wanted everyone to know that John wrote the play Almost, Maine and that it was the most produced play in the country last year, surpassing A Midsummer Night's Dream. Why so specific about what it outsold? Because in Something Rotten! John plays a playwright who wants to do better than Shakespeare, and in real life he actually is a playwright who did better than Shakespeare! I had to bring up the fact that Kate was the female lead of the ill-fated Beach Boys musical Good Vibrations.

John Cariani and Kate Reinders
John Cariani and Kate Reinders Photo by Joan Marcus

I remember there were barricades around the stage door, which are usually put up when there are big stars in the cast so the audience doesn't accost them. We were laughing about the hilarious Don Richard and Jen Cody, who played Officer Lockstock and Little Sally during an Easter Bonnet sketch that year. Little Sally claimed that unlike other shows, Good Vibrations used those barricades to keep the audience in. Hilarious. I asked Kate about the time she played Glinda in Wicked opposite Ana Gasteyer, who I'm good friends with. She remembered a matinee where they both ran onstage after the "One Short Day" quick change and for some reason Ana completely fell. They both laughed about it as Ana got back up. Then they did the night show, and, at the exact same moment, Ana fell again! As Ana was getting up, they both heard her dresser offstage saying (full volume), "Oh my God! Twice in one day!?"

I aired a Mother's Day special for Seth Speaks on SiriusXm (that'll repeat this whole week) with Josh Groban, Caroline Rhea as well as the mom from It Shoulda Been You (Tyne Daly) and her two daughters (Sierra Boggess and Lisa Howard). Firstly, Caroline Rhea is so funny! She told us her daughter is 8 years old and then mentioned how weird it is that she gave birth when she was 42, but is now 36. Sierra regaled us with one of the worst onstage injury stories I've heard. When she was playing Christine in the Vegas Phantom, the whole set was automated, and suddenly the computer opened all the onstage trapdoors. So, when Sierra ran out to sing "Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood?" she fell down a trap door (!) and stopped herself with her arms so only her head was sticking out. But, when she first fell, she knocked out her front tooth! But, in "show must go on"-style, she kept singing, even though she sounded crazy with the missing tooth. And, PS, all the audience saw was a head. The stage manager came out and stopped the show and she was brought to the hospital. While she was in the ER a commercial came on for Phantom. She said the dichotomy was crazy as she pointed to her glamorous self on the screen and said to everyone (with missing tooth), "'at's me!" They had to replace her tooth and because she lost it so traumatically, it took two years for it to finally be complete. While she was in the ER that night, she couldn't believe how crazy she looked so she kept making jokes. When her boyfriend showed up, she pointed to her missing tooth and sang, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" Answer: no.


I had a great time filming three new Obsessed's this week. The first one just went up, and I based it on a conversation I had with Adam Jacobs (who plays Aladdin). He told me that when he played Marius in Les Miz, he had to deal with the fall-out from "Bring Him Home." Yes, that number is beautiful, but Marius is laying at the feet of Valjean and in direct line of being constantly spit on. I recreated the three biggest spitters, and he had to guess who they were. Watch our recreation here!

Seth and Aunt Phyllis aka Sprayye Arden
Seth and Aunt Phyllis aka Sprayye Arden

Finally, James and I didn't get to spend Mother's Day with our moms because we were both out of town, but we're going to have a celebration later on. I wrote last week about the double birthday brunch we had for my mom and her sister, Phyllis. I found out that my Aunt Phyllis and I are very similar and both grew up planning on getting stage names when we got older. I didn't like Seth and wanted my first name to be "Stephen" (the p-h makes it cool) and I planned on using my middle name (Dennis) as my last. But I'd make it special by spelling it Denys. Anybody? Nobody. Well, turns out my Aunt Phyllis wanted to change her last name (Sheerin) to "Arden." I guess as a tip o' the hat to Eve Arden and/or to be listed first in a cast list. The kooky part is she also told me she planned on changing her first name to "Spray." Ok. First of all, "Spray" isn't a name. Nor has it ever been. Nor shall it be. But as special as that name is, it wasn’t enough for her. She had the same idea I did about spelling her name in a cool way to separate herself from the crowd, so she planned on her first name not being spelled "Spray" but rather "Sprayye." Why? Or should I say "yy"? Anybodyye? Nobodyye. And on that note, I'm out! Byye!

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