What You Missed at Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Concert for America in Chicago

Seth Rudetsky   What You Missed at Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Concert for America in Chicago
This Tuesday in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth recounts his travel escapades, plus the highlights from the March 20 Concert for America in Chicago.
In rehearsal for Concert for America in Chicago
In rehearsal for Concert for America in Chicago Courtesy of Seth Rudetsky

Right now, I am on the flight home from Chicago with James. They announced that the flight was fully booked, but next to us in an empty seat. Why? Well, last night after the show, we ran into Alice Ripley in the hotel lobby. She didn’t want to have a midnight snack with us (and Chita Rivera and Melissa Manchester) because she had an 8:30AM flight. We told her we were on the same flight but we didn’t mind being tired. We decided to meet in the lobby and ride to the airport together. Well, I basically think it takes 30 minutes to get to any airport, no matter what city I’m in. It’s not actually based on fact and it’s a horrific theory. The point is, I decided we should meet at 6:45 to get to our 8:30 AM flight. James, as usual, checked WAZE, the a traffic app he’s obsessed with that tells you when you’ll arrive somewhere. It’s often devastating. You can see that a 20-minute trip will take 43 minutes, but WAZE’s horrific prediction is always right. It’s basically like having Cassandra installed in your phone. #LiteraryReference #OneOfTheFewIKnow.

Anyhoo, turns out it wasn’t the 30-minute trip I it assumed it was. It said it was going to take 55 minutes to get there. We knew Alice only had carry-on so she could get there whenever, but we had two giant suitcases to check. She was basically two minutes late, but I texted her that we were jumping in a cab and she should meet us there. We got into the car and when we got on the expressway, the driver checked WAZE. Waze said 55 minutes, but the electronic sign on the expressway said “O’Hare was 25 minutes away!” Aha! Take that WAZE, you know-it-all downer.

Long story short, it took exactly 55 minutes. I hate that app!

Anyhoo, we were at the gate and Alice texted. She was indeed at the airport. Yep, she was at Ordway! She typed it by accident into her Uber and got into the car without checking her ticket again. We felt so bad! But I explained that the exact same thing happened to us when we arrived at Heathrow…only to find that our plane to Rome was leaving from Gatwick.

Regardless, none of us are in a bad mood this morning because last nights concert was so amazing. Alice did a beautiful solo version of “Who Will Love Me As I Am.” There are so many highlights to talk about!

Here are a few: The audience completely flipped out seeing Chita Rivera do “All That Jazz.” I think those of us in NYC get used to seeing legendary performers do their signature numbers. Being in another city, I could feel the energy from the audience who could not believe they were seeing the person in front of them they’d only heard on a recording or seen on TV. There was such joy and energy coming from the crowd! We asked Ana Gasteyer to sing “The Wizard And I” because she was Elphaba in the original Chicago company of Wicked. Of course, she hasn’t done the show in years so during tech she was panicking over lyrics. She kept forgetting “No father is not proud of you. No sister acts __?” Finally, she remembered the word was “ashamed.” Her trick to remembering the word was “I feel ashamed I’ve forgotten the lyrics.” Whatever helps!

I went to Ogden elementary school with singer Andrea Langs and first saw her perform in the fifth grade production of Grease. She sang “It’s Raining On Prom Night” and it was the first time I heard a peer with a…vibrato. I FLIPPED OUT! More on that in a minute.

Sidebar: Let me add that my class didn’t get to do Grease with it’s tuneful score and fun characters. Instead, we got to do a play written by our teacher. That’s always fun and surely equal to a Broadway hit show. Well, the “good news” is the exciting and comedic topic she picked was summed in the show’s on-the-nose title: How A Bill Becomes A Law. Does anyone have any NoDoz left over from the audience who were forced to stay awake watching? At least when I went into sixth grade I got to live my dream of starring in the school musical. Oh, right, I forgot. My teacher, said our class couldn’t do a musical that year because we were “bad.” Yay! The good news is, I’ve seen his recent anti- Hillary Facebook posts so I know he’s still the same horrible person he was back then.

Cut to, Andrea Langs and I became the musical there go-to kids. We co-wrote the sixth grade graduation song. Sung to the tune of “Send in the Clowns.” Natch!
“Isn’t it sad?
All good things end?
Just when you get used to them
They disappear
Our Ogden School”

First of all, where’s the rhyme scheme? A, B C, D, E? Second, all “good” things? Both Andrea and I hated school! Talk about writing what you don’t know. Anyhoo, the point is, Andrea moved to Rockford, Illinois, had four kids, and one of them is a musical prodigy. Her name is Emily Bear, she’s 15, she’s been on the Ellen show numerous times, has seven CDs and her producer is Quincy Jones. Yowza! Emily played a crazy technical “Flight Of The Bumblebee.” The audience gave her a standing O. Amazing! Here she is when she was even younger:

Then, my friend Marya Grandy sounded so good on “Brave.” I love her voice! Here’s her Obsessed:

We had Chicago fave Lynne Jordan do “Respect” and she belted an incredible sustained F! Werk!

Melissa Manchester not only sang two great songs BUT we wound up hanging out after the show (when Alice went to bed). I asked her about the Song and Dance tour specifically to verify the pranks I had heard about. Danny Herman and Scott Wise were on the tour and were constantly pulling pranks. Classic things like: They would have a secret rehearsal with all the dancers except for one. They’d re-learn a part of the dance combination, but to the opposite side. So that night, 9 out of 10 of the dancers would do a unison step going all the way across to stage left and one (1) poor dancer would be doing the same step… all to stage right. Can you imagine what he felt like, doing something he did night after night, and suddenly everyone else is doing something completely different? So hilarious!

Anyway, I asked Melissa about something and she verified it: At the last performance of Song and Dance, she was in her dressing room getting ready for the closing night party. When she was finally all dolled, up, she opened her dressing room door and it was blocked…by a brick wall! I just love how they came up with ideas and completely followed through!

People also flipped out over the Chicago Children’s Choir. The kids are from every zip code in Chicago and they are trained! Completely quiet during rehearsal, so focused, and amazing musicianship! And we also had Alex Newell—my new obsession! His riffs are so fluid and his voice is so crazy high. He walked into rehearsal and I said, “Here’s Alex to belt some crazy high notes.” He shook his head and said “A sensible mix.” Hi-lar!

Tickets for our next concert Tuesday, April 18 at Town Hall in New York City are on sale now! We’ll see Tony Award winner LaChanze, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, The Public Theater’s Oskar Eustis, upcoming Torch Song Trilogy star Michael Urie and, yes, Vanessa Williams! MORE to be announced soon! Get thee to ConcertsForAmerica.com.

Finally, next Monday and Thursday, I’m doing an all-comedy show at 54 Below with Kevin Chamberlin, Kerry Butler, and Roger Bart! Come see us in action and get tickets here.

Now peace out!

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