What Plot-Spoiling Mistake Did Keala Settle Make During Her Broadway Principal Debut?

Seth Rudetsky   What Plot-Spoiling Mistake Did Keala Settle Make During Her Broadway Principal Debut?
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares an onstage mishap from Keala Settle, plus behind-the-scenes stories from Hairspray and Celebrity Big Brother star Marissa Jaret Winokur.
The cast of <i>Hands on a Hardbody</i>
The cast of Hands on a Hardbody

Hello from Chicago where I’m getting ready for two (sold out) shows with Patti LuPone at Steppenwolf! Well, the Oscars happened last night and, shockingly, Broadway got respected by Hollywood. I mean, Lin-Manuel Miranda was a presenter! And not for some weird craft award, but for best song! That’s a big deal! And Allison Janney won an Oscar! Speaking of Lin and Allison, I actually did some “film” work with them. Around nine years ago, I was on a reality show for MTV about finding the next Elle Woods for Legally Blonde. Lin decided to do a parody of the Legally Blonde show, but make his about finding the next Piragua guy for In the Heights called Legally Brown. It was so much fun to film! He let me say whatever I wanted, not matter how rude. I decided to underlay my entire character with relentless passive-aggressive hostility. Here’s me in an episode focusing on Hunter Bell. In one scene, you can see future Oscar winner Allison Janney being completely over Hunter Foster’s non-stop crying. I watched it last night on the plane to Chicago. So funny!

P.S. I kept watching and saw the finale video where I guess I decided hostility wasn’t enough and I added a healthy dose of racism! (P.S. I also remember coming up with my joke about Norm Lewis being old and OMG it’s so mean!)

Back to Broadway on the Oscars. I love that instead of getting some pop star I never heard of to sing the song from The Greatest Showman, they used Broadway star Keala Settle, who sang the song in the movie! James and I were so crazily excited for her. I was first blown away by her when I saw her Les Miz performance as Madame Thénardier. I had to have her display to the world what I thought was so brilliant so I filmed an “Obsessed” with her showing off her amazing-ness.


If you don’t know, Keala’s first time originating a lead on Broadway was Hands On A Hardbody, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. It was a musical based on a documentary about a real contest that takes place in Texas where a group of people compete to win a truck. Basically, they have to stand next to the truck with one hand on it for as long as they can. Whoever remains the longest wins the truck. I asked Keala if she ever made a mistake during the run of the show, and she did. Keala was in the middle of a scene and… she let go of the truck. She said she put her hand back on very quickly, but let me remind you that the entire plot of the show revolves around a contest where each person has to keep their hand on a truck and she took her hand off the truck.

SO! I’m about to print a spoiler alert about Celebrity Big Brother so stop reading right now if you are planning on watching the season that just ended.


Now I shall go on:
James and I have never watched the show but we saw the our friend Marissa Jaret Winokur (the original Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray) was going to be on, so we thought we’d watch a little bit to support her. If you don’t know, it’s about a bunch of celebrities who are forced to stay inside a house and someone is voted off every episode. OK. Within five minutes…possibly two minutes…we became obsessed. Like crazy obsessed. Not just watching the show every time it was on TV, but James and I were constantly slumped over his laptop watching the livestream. Let me note, the livestream is not a fully edited show. It’s just raw footage of celebrities stuck in a house with the cameras on for 24 hours a day. And we watched for 24 hours a day. On a side note, years ago in L.A., James, Juli and I went on a car trip to the zoo with Marissa and her family and Andrea Martin. So, as soon as the show started airing I told Andrea to watch because I thought she’d get a kick out of seeing someone she knew on a reality show.

Anyhoo, James and I are watching all the time. For one week, we were on a cruise and somehow got the WiFi to work well enough to watch the episodes AND the livestream. It was relentless. Finally, it was the finale. Marissa was doing really well and was one of the last five in the house! Frustratingly, James was in New York and I had to be in Las Vegas during the finale. That meant the show would air three hours later for me than it aired New York. Would James wait til I got home to watch it? No. Well, would he wait the three hours in New York and then watch it three hours later so we could watch at the same time? No. He had to watch it at 8PM when it aired. I got it.

Marissa’s son Zev
Marissa’s son Zev

I told him not to reveal anything to me. I wanted to watch it all unfold. He warned me that I better not check any social media because people would be posting who won and he knew I’d be devastated if found out. I got it and vowed not to look. Finally, the show ended in New York and I had an hour to wait until it began on the West Coast. No social media for me! I was just going to eat dinner in my hotel room and wait to watch it on TV. James and I were texting while I was eating and my phone dinged again. I knew it was James. Well, it wasn’t James. It was Andrea Martin with this text: Marissa just won celebrity big brother.

Yep. Everything I had planned for was destroyed with one text. One low energy/no capital letters/no exclamation text. I WENT CRAZY! When I told her how devastated I was, she told me she had no idea I had been watching. HUH!? I reminded her that I was the one who told HER to watch it in the first place! Of course, within minutes we thought it was hilarious and I immediately texted Sean Hayes the whole story. However, my build was so long and arduous, he told me to speed it up and wrote, “My God! Not since ‘The English Patient.’”

Speaking of Marissa, I interviewed her right after she won for my talk show, Seth Speaks on SiriusXM. What was very sweet is that Marissa basically did the show for her ten-year-old son, Zev. Whenever they go away, they watch a season of Big Brother. When Zev saw they were doing Celebrity Big Brother, he told her to be on it. She pretended like it would never happen and didn’t say anything until the big reveal. You can watch him find out she’s going to be on it during the first episode, but Marissa said they didn’t show the whole reveal. She unwraps a package that has Celebrity Big Brother swag and when he sees it he freaks out and asks what it means: “Are we going to be get to be in the audience?” She replies “Even better.” Then he says, “Are we going to get to go into the house once?” She replies “Even better.” Finally he figures out that she is going to be on the show and he FLIPS OUT. Look at this photo my friend Jamison Stern took of Zev’s reaction. So sweet! Marissa also told me that Zev basically stayed home from fourth grade the entire time she was on to watch the live stream. What a mom! Here’s the hilarious “Obsessed” she did with me featuring a hi-larious story of comeuppance about Miss Jenifer Lewis from black-ish.

And I must end this column with the absolute Keala Klassic… “Nobody Cares.” Watch it and then adopt the phrase into your life ASAP!

Click Here to Shop for Theatre
Merchandise in the Playbill Store
Recommended Reading: