Onstage & Backstage: Why Was Nancy Opel Hanging Upside Down Onstage During Honeymoon in Vegas?

News   Onstage & Backstage: Why Was Nancy Opel Hanging Upside Down Onstage During Honeymoon in Vegas?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Seth with Megan Hilty
Seth with Megan Hilty Photo by Monica Simoes

Hello! I'm on an early morning flight to Los Angeles from JFK and listening to the Broadway audio channel on United Airlines. I'm sort of obsessed with the mix; it's such a crazy conglomeration of current hits like Matilda the Musical, classics like West Side Story, shows that had a short Broadway run like Bonnie & Clyde and finally not even Broadway, but Off-Broadway and not even a big hit but randomly a show that ran for six months in 1986; Olympus On My Mind. Really? I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it (Martin Vidnovic sounds amazing), but I haven't heard anything that random since this video of Julie Andrews doing all three roles in "At The Ballet."

Speaking of Off-Broadway shows, Megan Hilty told the story about being hired and then un-hired as Audrey for the Little Shop of Horrors national tour during my "Obsessed LIVE!" show on YouTube.com. You'll have to watch it to hear the details of that, plus the story of why Ana Gasteyer immediately ceased being an operatic voice major after her professor sang like a Tibetan monk while lecturing, as well as why Ramin Karimloo opted to not enter for part of a song during a recent performance of Les Miserables. The entire show had a live audience and was filmed and edited by the amazing Mark Ezovski at the beautiful YouTube studios in Chelsea. You can watch it here.

Everybody sings stunningly…except Megan Hilty. Why such a diva, you ask? Well, she actually did belt up a storm but we couldn't get the rights to the song for YouTube! So, Mark edited it out of the show... and put it right here on Playbill. Watch! It's Megan and I singing "Suddenly Seymour"!


Speaking of belters, I had Sutton Foster on "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM talk show. She's finished filming her new TV show "Younger" and loved doing it! She plays a 40-year-old mom who can't get an entry-level job because she's considered too old. She finally winds up getting a job… but only because she pretends she's in her 20's. She also gets a boyfriend who's age-appropriate… if she were in her 20's. Werk! I asked Sutton if she had to do a sex scene and the answer was yes! And it was her first! There was a lot of blushing and looking down when she talked about it... but of course, I kept asking for details. Basically, she told me she didn't want to "improv" the scene, so she asked the director to literally tell her what to do. It was a way to think that way the camera was filming the character having s-e-x and not her. P.S. The closest I've ever come to filming a sex scene is this shot of Mandy. If you love Sutton's amazing singing, get thee to SethTV.com and watch the full concert I did with her in Provincetown. She sings "Anything Goes," "Being Alive," "I'm the Greatest Star" and so much more! And if you wanna see us live, come to Ft. Lauderdale in March!

On my "Chatterbox," I had Paulo Szot, who's about to begin a week singing at 54 Below. I asked him if he had an mishaps during South Pacific and he told me how he always considerately put a breath freshener in his mouth before the kissing scene but one night, he ran out of his signature mints. Usually, they were really small but, at one performance, he only had a huge one available. He knew he couldn't do the scene with a giant candy in his mouth. He was already a native Portuguese speaker doing a French accent….why add even more problems to being understood? He decided he would cut up the candy backstage and pop it in his mouth before he went on. He got a scissor to slice into four pieces and did it... as well as cutting was an enormous gash in his hand. Paulo then described his dresser running around the room while emitting a terrified, high-pitched scream. I assumed his dresser was a young girl and he then informed us it was a man. Interesting.

Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara
Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara Photo by Joan Marcus

Paulo wrapped his hat around his hand to staunch the bloodflow and entered the stage. He kept his hands in front of him in a somber pose and did the whole scene that way. Unfortunately, at the end of the scene, Nellie was supposed to take his hat and then use it a fun prop while she sang "Wonderful Guy." Near the end of the scene, he wound up whispering to her sotto voce, "Don't take my hat." Already an odd comment. And then he added, "I bled all over it. " Horrifying. Of course, a part of me wishes she had taken it anyway and sung "Wonderful Guy" while playfully flinging his blood-soaked hat around the stage. It so would have added a terrifying Wes Craven subtext to the show for that night. Regardless, after the performance, he went to the ER and had five stitches. And he still has a scar!

I had Nancy Opel from Honeymoon in Vegas on last week and she told us that during previews they decided that she would fly (!) for her final entrance in the show. Naturally they used Flying by Foy which has been doing flying on Broadway since Peter Pan but unfortunately they picked the worst day to train Nancy. Why? Because it was the day of NBC's Peter Pan live! So, 99 percent of the Foy people were on the NBC set. There was only one person available to train Nancy and it went OK. But not OK enough. That night, Nancy got to the part of the show where she's supposed to swoop in, while singing, and then swoop right back out again. Well, she took off fine, but soon found herself wobbling. By the time she got center stage, she had turned completely upside down. But, because Nancy is an old-school Broadway belter (she was the Evita cover in the original company) she kept right on signing. Full-out.

Opel with Rob McClure
Opel with Rob McClure Photo by Joan Marcus

As a matter of fact, her belt was so confident that co-star Brynn O'Malley assumed there was nothing wrong and somehow they had changed Nancy's entrance to make her upside down. When Nancy remained in that position, Brynn thought that Nancy felt overconfident and got stuck upside down while trying to add a sassy flip. Finally, when it was obvious Nancy was immobile center stage and would not be leaving anytime soon, the stage manager announced that they had to stop the show. Nancy was eventually turned right-side up and slowly taken off the stage. Now, normally, when a show stops, it's in the middle of the first act or second act… meaning there's plenty of show left for the audience to enjoy. Unfortunately, Nancy had the last joke in the show so when they finally resumed the show after the long delay... there was only 24 measures left to the finale. AKA around 30 seconds! If I could describe what happened using the title, it would be Honeymoon in Vega……….s.

Of course, everyone's talking about the Oscars but I spent those hours in the airport. I flew to Vegas Sunday night and missed everything. But, of course, I've been reading about it all and that brings me to last week's "Seth Speaks" when I had Andrea Burns on the show. She told us that one day last year, neither she nor her husband Peter Flynn could pick up their son, Hudson, from school. Andrea asked her friend who agreed to do it. Her friend mentioned that Hudson could hang out with her at work. That night, when Andrea picked him up, she got some news:Turns out, her friend is a casting director and was working on a new film. Hudson was his usual charming self while hanging out in the office… and by the end of the day, the director had given him a role! Andrea told her, "You had one job. Picking up Hudson from school. I said nothing about getting him cast him in a feature film." Regardless, Hudson wound up getting one line in the film. And that film happened to win the Oscar for Best Picture! Yes, Hudson is the kid in that video clip they always show who asks "Who is that guy?" So cool! Andrea Facebooked about it last night ending with the hashtag #howwillItalkhimintolawschoolnow‬? Brava! And finally, I'm coming to Philly! Come see me do Deconstructing Broadway on March 8! If you want a little sample, here's my fave: Barbra and Bea Arthur. 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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