Onstage & Backstage: Why Did Lea DeLaria's Teacher Name Herself "Sister Marine"?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Why Did Lea DeLaria's Teacher Name Herself "Sister Marine"?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Is it almost the end of July? That means in two weeks I'll be in Los Angeles! I'm doing Deconstructing Broadway at Largo again August 4. There may be some readers of this column who have never seen a deconstruction, so here's a link to my Les Miserables, which is one of my favorites and most so-called "controversial." I'm assuming controversial means something that garners a string of, "OMG I love this" comments immediately followed by someone else posting, "You're an idiotic American."

I've had to delete half of them because there seems to be a decided lack of sense of humor from lovers of Les Miz that comes out in hostility or a mind-boggling need to educate someone who's clearly not serious. Someone recently took the time to actually post underneath the video that Les Miserables translates to mean "the miserable." I guess there was no way I could have known that and needed their amazingly helpful elucidation. Here's the link to the video, and please forward forward all hostile/educational comments to SethsDeleteButton@LightenUp.com. And come see me at Largo

Foster in <i>Anything Goes</i>
Foster in Anything Goes Photo by Joan Marcus

I have to write about all the fun Provincetown shows I've been doing! First, Sutton Foster came up and did three shows at the Art House. She was just getting over the laryngitis that plagued her ever since her honeymoon in Italy last month. However, all it meant is that she couldn't hit the sustained D at the end of "Anything Goes." Everything else was a brava. We talked about how we first met doing Grease back in the '90's and she told everybody that she made her Broadway debut playing Sandy while her brother, Hunter, was Roger. What's amazing is that at the end of that show, the entire cast would line up for the final bow. Danny was in the center, then Sandy and then Roger. Sutton said it was amazing bowing on Broadway for the first time holding the hand of her brother. She claims they both looked at each other incredulously during it and their subtext was "Broadway? We're from a small town in Georgia where the high school had cows on the football field!" Speaking of Georgia, Sutton's first big role was playing Annie in a local theatre's production. She talked about the picture of her that's on the internet and why it looks like it's from the 1940's; turns out, they couldn't get a red wig for the photo shoot, so they decided to shoot it in black and white. Why? Because the wig was actually gray! Yes, young little Annie was actually posing with Sandy while wearing an Estelle Getty "Golden Girls" old biddy wig! Add a G-R to the title and you got Grannie.

Sutton came to Provincetown two weekends ago, right in the middle of getting ready for The Wild Party which she just performed last weekend. She was a little nervous about having to miss two days of "play practice," (as my friend Traci Lyn Thomas always calls it) so she asked if she could sing "Maybe I Like It This Way" using the lyrics and then practice her counterpart for "What Is It About Her" by having the role of Burrs sung by... James! She knew James had played the role opposite her "Bunheads" co-star Stacey Oristano because the video of them is online here.) Of course, James said yes and he was so excited (and they sounded great…watch!) Then we went to see Sutton play the role and we loved it. That score is so fantastic and the Encores cast was delish! I wish there was a full recording of the new cast, but in case you don't know the music, please watch my deconstructing of the original Queenie, Julia Murney, sounding amazing!  The following weekend I had the hilarious, sassy songstress and "Orange Is The New Black" star, Lea DeLaria. Lea told us she grew up in the Midwest and went to Catholic school. That prompted her to do a hilarious riff in which she first claimed that all Catholic schools only have three nuns. Apparently, it's "all done with mirrors." She said there's always the young novice nun working as the music teacher who doesn't know anything about music but can play the zither, the incredibly old nun whom Lea had in her school and her friends claimed was a topless waitress at the last supper and then the nun who looks like an old-school "Ring of Keys" butch lesbian. She said that nuns pick their own names and the butch lesbian nun always has a man's name. She asked people in the audience to tell the names of the nuns in their schools who were the most obviously butch and sure enough they were all "Sister Hubert" and "Sister Michael." Of course, the nun in Lea's school had the best butch name ever: Sister… Richard… Marine. Marine! Like "Join the marines." Amazing!

Lea also told a hilarious story about what a bad student she was: one day her junior high school class had an assignment to write a poem and Lea completely blew it off. The next morning, at the last minute, she scribbled down verbatim lyrics to the number one song on the radio from that month, rightly assuming her teacher wouldn't know anything about pop music. She handed it in and forgot about it. The next day they each got their assignments back and the Sister told them they all did a good job, however "there was one student who poured her heart and soul into the writing of her poem…" and she asked Lea to read it in front of the class! Lea was then forced to stand in front of her 7th grade classmates and read, with a straight face the following:

"I've been to the desert…
on a horse with no name…
it felt good to get out of the rain…"

Of course, all the kids started laughing hysterically and instead of the nun figuring out the fact that Lea was giving a dramatic reading to the current hit song by the band "America", she turned to the class and yelled, "What is wrong with you people? Lea has opened up her soul while writing this poem! You're all heathens!" and Lea totally got away with it. Brava plagiarism!

Lea talked about her Broadway debut which was On the Town. She told us that the first person cast was Jesse Tyler Ferguson right after he graduated AMDA. He played the young World War II soldier from a small town on leave in Manhattan for one day and she played the seen-it-all cab driver. They had great chemistry and wound up working together many times after that. Here they are doing the taxi number when they appeared on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" back in 1997. There's a lyric in the song about Tobacco Road, which was a long running hit back in the '30's about lower class people. After it closed, a play called Angel Street opened which was basically the same, but it was instead about upper class people. When you're doing a matinee and the audience is only elderly people, you usually won't be getting a lot of laughs. When Lea and Jesse would be doing a matinee, they knew they were in for a laugh-free show when they'd sing the Tobacco Road joke and get sounds of recognition because that reference only makes sense to people who were seeing plays in the 1930's!

And finally, I'm very happy that my new young adult book, "The Rise And Fall Of A Theater Geek" is selling so well! I was thrilled to see it was number one on Amazon until I read how many sub-qualifications there are in terms of category. It's the number one seller for New Releases… in Children's Fiction… on Social Situations. I don't even know what that means. But I'll take it! It's also number 30 in humorous and number five in theatre, so combined it's number 20 in something-ish. Perfect! Keep my ranking high and order here, or get thee to a book store. Kelli O'Hara post a photo of her and a King and I child with the caption "Teaching the wise words of Seth Rudetsky to the future of Siam...one child at a time." I love it! And now, I'm off to do the New York Civil Liberties Union's Broadway Stands Up For Freedom with a ton of Broadway stars. Get tix 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.)

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