Why Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Wrote ‘Your Daddy’s Son’ for Ragtime

Seth Rudetsky   Why Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty Wrote ‘Your Daddy’s Son’ for Ragtime
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Audra McDonald shares behind-the-scenes Ragtime history, and Seth serves namaste hands on Will & Grace.
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald Catherine Ashmore

I am leaving town a lot this month!

I’m in New York for only a few days this week, and then off to Westport, Connecticut, this Saturday for a concert with Kelli O’Hara, and then Sunday I’m in Chicago doing two shows at Steppenwolf with Audra McDonald! Speaking of Audra, we were talking about Ragtime. The very first reading of the show was in Toronto, and it was only Act 1. Sarah, her character, didn’t sing very much—just part of “Wheels of a Dream,” some of “New Music,” and “President.” A day or two after the first readthrough, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty came to Audra and told her that they weren’t taking advantage of her voice, and knew they had to give her a song. They also told her that they realized they had to get the audience on her side so they would support her being with Coalhouse. Therefore, they had to show her reason for doing the unspeakable act of burying her own baby. Lynn and Stephen told her they wrote a song for her the night before, and presented her with “Your Daddy’s Son.” Listen!

Cut to: Her third Tony Award.

Right after my shows with Kelli and Audra, I fly to L.A. to do our 13th Concert for America. This time we’re benefiting the National Immigration Law Center, which is the only national organization that helps low-income immigrants. Here’s a video of Marco, who’s going to be speaking at our concert. It has a delicious happy ending!

I’m so excited that we have Dear Evan Hansen Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones in the concert. Her voice is crazy. Nothing is out of her range. Here she is singing “Streets of Dublin” in the same key that a guy would sing it in. She’s like “Shrug. I’ll just do it up the octave.” Watch!

You can get tickets to the L.A. Concert for America at ConcertForAmerica.com. And you can also watch the livestream there on the day of the concert: September 21 at 6 PM PT.

After the concert, I have Deconstructing Broadway in Wichita, Kansas, Rhapsody in Seth in Hartford, Connecticut, and The Seth Rudetsky Series with Cheyenne Jackson at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston! Everything is listed at SethRudetsy.com/appearances.

People keep asking when my episode of Will & Grace will air, but I don’t know yet. I think in around two months! What I can tell you is what it was like to film. Short answer: FUN! Basically, it’s like doing a play. There were three sets that were in front of a live audience; in the center was the classic Will apartment, stage left was another apartment set that was not stunningly decorated, and stage right was AnnieCon, where I did all my scenes. If you were in the audience and not seated in front of a set where the action was, you could watch on TVs that were everywhere.

Max Mutchnick, who co-created the show, made sure my dad and his wife, Gloria, were seated in the front row, right in front of my set so they had a great view of my antics. What was really fun/scary was the right after we filmed each scene, the writers would convene with Max and David (the other co-creator) and then they’d come up to the main players and give them new lines! So you spent the week rehearsing the scene (with tiny line changes each day) and then suddenly you had to do the scene again, but this time there were a lot of new lines and you had to nail it on the first take (or be mortified in front of a giant live audience). I was really happy because they gave me some great new lines plus they asked me to add “namaste hands,” which I always think is hilarious/pretentious.

Now for the craziest thing that happened; James and I moved out of NYC in November of 2017 because we wanted Juli in a different high school. Now it’s 2019, Juli has her high school diploma and I’ve had it with commuting more than an hour just to get to the city. I told James we had to get a one-bedroom apartment to stay in a few days a week. Well, back in 1998 when I was first hired on The Rosie O’Donnell Show, I had an amazing one-bedroom apartment in the 70s by West End Avenue. It had a little balcony that I loved to eat breakfast on while looking at the back of pretty brownstones. As a matter of fact, I knew it was the right apartment for me when I first met the real estate agent, went to the balcony, and saw my good friend Kali Rocha on her balcony right across the way! We literally lived right across from each other! If you don’t know Kali, here is her hilarious bitchery as the flight attendant in Meet The Parents. So much blinking! Watch!

When James and I decided to get an apartment again last month, he suddenly said, “This is crazy, but why don’t you see if your old apartment is available?” I was on StreetEasy looking for apartments and I put in my old address, and there was only one apartment listed and it was ….. my old apartment!

James and I hightailed over to see it again and, end of story, we moved in last Wednesday! We’re so happy! When I called my friend Paul Castree and told him we were moving back in he said, “OMG! That was the classic ‘Seth Era’ apartment.” He meant that it was the apartment where we’d constantly have brunches and game nights, and watch hilarious videos. In honor of that, and because you can go home again, this Friday I’m getting the old gang together (Paul Castree and his husband Stephen Spadaro, Chris Fitzgerald, Jessica Stone, my college best friend Tim Cross, my ex-boyfriend Aaron Dai, and my ex-girlfriend from my teen years, Anne Martin), and we’re going to re-watch the videos we loved back in the day. For instance, it’s where we first became obsessed with Karen Morrow’s amazing voice belting “I Had A Ball," and it where we would obsessively watch clips from The Brady Bunch Hour, the short-lived variety show from 1977. From watching those videos so many times and hearing everyone’s hilarious comments, I was able to create Deconstructing The Brady Bunch Variety Show, and perform it around the country. Here’s a clip I did at a benefit for marriage equality at the Gershwin Theatre where Wicked is playing. Watch!

Speaking of The Brady Bunch, the new show A Very Brady Renovation began on HGTV this week. They are renovating the actual house used for the exterior shots on the show to make the interior look like the set from the original. We’re so excited because we know Eve Plumb who played Jan and later starred in James’ play Unbroken Circle, and Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia and later starred as Rizzo when I did Grease on Broadway! Here’s a really fun interview with Eve (and us) featuring clips from Unbroken Circle. Watch!

Anyhoo, as soon as we got the new/old apartment we texted our friend Andrea Martin. She immediately texted back that we were not allowed to furnish it with used furniture from Housing Works. Well, when we got her text we were standing in Housing Works! I saw Tina Fey later that day and told her the story because I thought it was hilarious. She appreciated Andrea’s Martin sass and agreed that we shouldn’t just buy used furniture, and mentioned West Elm. I remembered that her friend Jim Holbrook, on whom she based the character of Damian in Mean Girls, now works at West Elm so I texted him, and he and his design assistant picked us out the most amazing furniture. Look!

I was away with Audra in Cape Cod when the furniture arrived. Jim put it together, arranged it all and it looks so great!

And the best news is, Mandy and Bagel love it!

Peace out!

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