Onstage & Backstage: Why You Should Never Trust Seth with Opening Night Gifts

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Why You Should Never Trust Seth with Opening Night Gifts
This week in the life of Seth Rudetksy, opening night of Disaster! finally arrives, and we learn what he gave his whole company to mark the occasion (plus the story of the Gypsy Robe!).

Yay! Disaster! opened and it was amazing! I have so many things to write about Firstly, a big tradition is getting fun gifts for everybody on opening night, and one of my big traditions is leaving everything for the last minute. For weeks, James, Jack and I had been planning to put together a photo album for the cast and creative with shots of the cast in rehearsal, tech, performance and various publicity events. We thought it would be a great chronicle of our journey to Broadway. I said I’d be in charge of it, which is basically like the iceberg saying he’d be in charge of the Titanic. So, of course, a few days before opening night, I suddenly realized I had to get all the photos sent to the photo store so they could print them into books. Jack and I went to store and I started finding the best photos we had and putting them into this machine that could then organize them into a book. Well, after 30 minutes of uploading the photos, the machine stopped working. I basically had a sh*t fit because the process had been so arduous, and I had to do it all again.

Jack helped me and calmed me down and we re-uploaded everything. Again, the machine stopped working. Again, I was furious at the store, and Jack was the soothing voice. This happened five times! Finally, we got the photos uploaded and then spent 45 minutes putting them into the perfect order. The photos come out in various sizes in the book and we had to choose which photos looked best in what size. We finished the entire book and it looked great. Yay! It was sent to be printed into 34 books…and the store then told us there was an error and we had to do it all again. For some reason, at this point, I was no longer upset. I actually found it funny.

Yes, the good news was Jack no longer needed to soothe me out of my fury. The bad news is, he started crying. Seriously! It was the most bizarre turn around since Kevin Spacey is revealed to be the bad guy in The Usual Suspects. Anyhoo, we finally got the books printed and they looked great.

On the day of opening night, James and I took a trip downtown to SoHo. First to Moo Shoes so I could get a belt and shoes that looked leather but weren’t made from animals. I love that store so much!!! Then we went to Economy Candy which sells every kind of candy possible, and we got a slew of 70s candies to give out for opening night. I also went back to the photo store and made specialized mugs for lots of Disaster! folks. My favorite one was for Lindsay Lavin, who’s been the production assistant since the first rehearsal. I first met her when she asked to be my intern, and then I heard her sing and became obsessed. Listen!

I saw her play Maureen in Rent and she was a brava. Anyhoo, she’s been amazing about getting me protein shakes and coffee throughout every rehearsal. Well, I had to print out a text message interaction on her mug and this was it:

During tech rehearsals one day, I texted “R u doing a coffee run?” She wrote back “Uhhh what dear?” It seemed unlike her, but I assumed she was simply sassing me. Lacretta Nicole who plays Levora also wanted Starbucks so I sent both orders and wrote: “We would like a Frande flat white, eight sugar in the raws on the side, Venti chai latte no water and three pumps of mocha.” She wrote: “YOU MUST be joking”. I couldn’t understand why she thought the order was so outrageous! I admit it was a little specific but usually she just gets what people want. I suddenly realized the problem: I was indeed texting Lindsay…but it wasn’t Lindsay Lavin. It was Lindsay Mendez! Lindsay who played Elphaba in Wicked for the 10 year anniversary! Here’s the recent (hilarious) Obsessed! I did with her.

She and I just did the Playbill cruise together, and I’m obsessed with her getting my text and wondering why the hell I was sending her the most elaborate coffee order! Lindsay (Mendez) immediately followed her text with “That’s a GOOD cup of coffee” based on the game Andrea Martin and Martin Short play where they have to pretend they’re doing a coffee commercial and say, “That’s a good cup of coffee,” as realistically as possible. All the Playbill performers played it on the cruise and had the best time. Here’s Andrea Martin showing how to do it:

Finally, it was time to go to the theatre. The first tradition on opening night is the Gypsy Robe Ceremony. The whole cast gathered onstage with Equity representatives. They told us the history which began in 1950 with Gentleman Prefers Blondes. A chorus member sent a robe to his friend performing in Call Me Madam. A rose from Ethel Merman’s costume was then attached to the robe and sent to a chorus member from Guys and Dolls, and ever since then there’s a been a robe sent on opening night of each Broadway musical! There’s always some kind of memento from the former shows attached to the robes. Once the robe runs out of room, a new one is made. The Gypsy Robe is given to the person on an ensemble contract with the most Broadway credits. In the case of Disaster!, it went to one of my best friends, Paul Castree, who’s done nine Broadway shows! The person who gets the robe then walks counter clockwise (?) three times while every cast member touches the robe. Then the gypsy robe winner visits every dressing room…and thus the show is blessed. Both Roger Bart and Kevin Chamberlin had tears in their eyes during the ceremony because you feel so Broadway doing it!

Paul Castree and the 2015-2016 Gypsy Robe
Paul Castree and the 2015-2016 Gypsy Robe

After that, we all went to our dressing rooms to get ready and look at our various opening night gifts. I got so many great ones and haven’t even finished opening them yet! One of my favorites was from the aforementioned Paul Castree who framed the Playbill cover and title page. So fantastic! And Mano Felciano made magnets with signature sayings from the show. Not to give anything away, but my favorite was a big magnet that says “dickbag”. Brava!

Onstage & Backstage Mar 14 2016_2

Then the show began. It went so well! Kerry Butler ran up to me after the first scene and said it was an amazing opening night house. I didn’t know what she meant until she told me that usually the audience is filled with producers/investors who’ve seen the show so many times that they no longer laugh at the jokes. But we were getting amazing laughs from the get-go!

Seth&#39;s sister, Beth, and Roger Bart on opening night of <i>Disaster!</i>
Seth's sister, Beth, and Roger Bart on opening night of Disaster!

There were so many celebrities there and I’m devastated I didn’t get photos with them all! Darrell Hammond, Neil Patrick Harris, Vanessa Williams, three women from SNL—Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Ana Gasteyer—half the cast of Kevin Chamberlin’s TV show Jessie, three women from The View—Rosie O’Donnell, Michelle Collins and Barbara Walters—Marin Mazzie, Santino Fontana, Norm Lewis and so many more! It was incredible! I can really only look at the audience at the end of the show and it was my favorite part of the whole evening because my family was in the front row! Yes, my parents have been divorced since 1980 and were therefore sitting in seats A1 and A22, but I could see them if I did a full iPhone-style panorama scan.

Opening Night Party at Hard Rock Café
Opening Night Party at Hard Rock Café

We then all high-tailed it to the party at the Hard Rock Café, and halfway through we had such a cool old-school Broadway moment: Jim Brady, the company manager, called me and James (who’s one of the producers) over to a quiet area. Kerry Butler and Roger Bart were nearby and came with us. Jim told us that we got a great review in The New York Times and The Times gave us a “Critics Pick!” It was so thrilling! I haven’t read any reviews but it was so fantastic to hear about the critics pick (from Time Out New York, as well) and all the amazing quotes we now have hanging in front of the theatre! What quotes you ask??? How about:

“Deliciously giddy with a sensational cast” – The New York Times

“Ridiculously Funny” – Variety

“Delightful and Ingenious” – Entertainment Weekly

“Guaranteed laughs! Side-splittingly funny!” – Associated Press

and one of my favorites, referring to Jennifer Simard’s Act One song as the nun, “The funniest four minutes on Broadway!” – The New York Post.

All right, I’m out! This week we have a Monday night show and a four show weekend so come see us! DisasterMusical.com. Peace out!

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