How Christian Borle Convinced Sutton Foster to Perform Chess

Seth Rudetsky   How Christian Borle Convinced Sutton Foster to Perform Chess
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth remembers Audra McDonald and Will Swenson’s wedding, plus how Sutton Foster and Julia Murney came to star in the 2003 Chess concert.
Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster Monica Simoes

I’m writing this column from my couch. I love to be outside surrounded by trees but every time I’ve tried to write this on my deck, I’d wind up covered in sweat because the sun was burning. I’d then hightail it back inside and hope for the time of year when I could sit in delicious temperate weather, enjoy nature and type. Well, it went immediately from “it’s too hot to sit outside” to “it’s too crazily cold to set foot outside.” It’s like that Twilight Zone episode (spoiler alert?) where the earth has shifted on its axis and is now closer to the sun so the weather is brutally hot and everyone is dying of thirst. Then, right at the end, the lead woman wakes up to find she was having a nightmare. Turns out, the earth has shifted on its axis, but the opposite way. The earth is not boiling hot…it’s freezing. Yes, from a nightmare to a living nightmare. Yay?

Anyhoo, speaking of global warming, I interviewed candidate for New York State Senate Jen Metzger this week. She and I went to Oberlin at about the same time but had no interaction because she was in the college and I was in the conservatory. The twain rarely met, not only because that’s how Oberlin is, but I tried to get around taking my college academic requirements by eschewing classes where you had to study and taking things like Mime. Regardless, Jen is now running for State Senate in District 42, which happens to be where we moved! She has amazing democratic values, while her opponent Annie Rabbit has repeatedly voted against marriage equality.

Speaking of which, because there are people not like Annie Rabbit, James and I just celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary!

Seth  Rudetsky 10.22.18

We visited Audra McDonald and Will Swenson this weekend because it their daughter, Sally’s, second birthday. We all realized we have the same anniversary month because we got married about two weeks apart.

Seth  Rudetsky 10.22.18

For me, the highlight of their wedding was when Lonny Price told me before the ceremony how delicious the donuts were. There was a bunch of donuts sitting out in a giant ornate pile. I then informed Lonny that the donuts he assumed were appetizers were part of a giant display that was actually the wedding cake! Yes! Lonny ate part of the wedding cake before the wedding.

Seth  Rudetsky 10.22.18

The low-light was when I commented to Audra/Will on how thankful I was that they had so many vegetarian options like the delicious popcorn I was shoveling down my throat. That’s when they informed me that the treat I so enjoyed was bacon popcorn. Still devastated—and atoning to the vegetarian and kosher high powers. Speaking of donuts, Will and Audra kept that theme by having Halloween-themed donuts at Sally’s birthday party. Look at the “scary” spider!

Seth Rudetsky 10.22.18

And, as for Audra, if you want to watch me force her to tell the most hilarious/embarrassing stories and hear her sing the most glorious songs, come see us at The Town Hall Monday November 12 in NYC! Get tickets here.

Back to Jen Metzger: The thing I loved the most about her is that Jen lives such a green life and drives an electric car! When James and I first started dating we watched the devastating documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? (that was our sexy dating life) and I thought the electric car was kaput. Turns out, they’re alive and well and not only did Jen get an electric car charging station in her hometown of Rosendale, New York, she convinced her local police department to start driving them! James and I both loved her and James’ mom, Elizabeth, was especially fond of her because Jen complimented Elizabeth’s jelly made from home grown jalepeño …which Elizabeth insists on calling “Jalepeeno.” I can’t.

Seth  Rudetsky 10.22.18

I had Melissa Manchester on my radio show because she just came out with a new song “A Better Rainbow,” which is her plea for all Americans to vote! She said it was inspired by watching Obama’s second inauguration and seeing the capital lit with golden light. I love the images in the video. Watch!

We talked about Melissa’s work in Las Vegas and she told us that every few weeks she’d have to do a performance to present to the people who worked in Vegas so they’d promote it to visitors. Of course, it had to be at a time when they weren’t working so those shows started at 2AM! At first that seemed super late to me until I realized I used to work at Rose’s Turn piano bar every Monday from 9PM to 3AM. My two sidekicks, Elaine Brier and Kristine Zbornik would always belt up a storm at 2AM.

Wait! I just remembered Elaine immortalized one of her classic “Rose’s Turn” numbers for an Obsessed! video. Watch!

Last Monday, I was the music director and host of Best In Shows, a yearly benefit put together by Bill and Dorothy Berloni for the Humane Society.


Bill is the animal trainer for Broadway ever since he first trained Sandy for the original production of Annie. I’ve been hosting/music directing this benefit since it began, but this year I was also the honoree! I got the “Sandy Award” and it was so wonderful! Ana Gasteyer presented it to me with her new mutt next to her onstage. Before she began, she told people that her dog loved to tear things up and read a list of things people should immediately put away because her doggie had a history of tearing them up. It started with general things like tissues and segued into incredibly specific things like an eCigarette/vape device her mother uses for what she claims is medicinal cannabis. So hilarious.

There were also some incredible performances throughout the evening. The most fabulous ones featured the singer starring next to a doggie onstage. Adam Kantor performed next to Trixie, a Pomeranian who starred in Bullets Over Broadway, and sang the song he sings every night in The Band’s Visit called “Answer Me.” Spolier alert: Trixie didn’t answer. But it was great! Watch!

The most moving performance of the evening was Marc Shaiman (whose birthday is today!) playing and singing a beautiful song by Wendy Francisco. He talked about how much he loved the video, which was animated, and how impressed he was that the song is so beautiful and moving and yet so simple. It’s all in C with no accidentals (meaning everything is sung and played on the piano’s white notes). Watch!

If you’re interested in getting a new best friend, get thee to You put in your zip code and the kind of animal you want to adopt…it’s like! You can also foster a doggie for a while if you have a time commitment. Contact the Humane Society or Animal Care Center or Bideawee!

And finally, I was looking around on YouTube and came across this video from the Chess concert I did in 2003 for The Actors Fund. We had asked Josh Groban to star in it and he then suggested Lara Fabian, the Canadian pop star, to play opposite him. I always loved her voice and was excited to hear her sing Florence. We asked Julia Murney, who had triumphed the year before singing “People” in our Funny Girl concert, to play the smaller other female role, Svetlana. Well, a few weeks before the concert, Lara suddenly had to drop out! We then scrambled and asked Julia to switch to the lead role (and learn it in a very short amount of rehearsal) and she said yes.

At the time, I was subbing Thoroughly Modern Millie and went backstage during intermission to ask Sutton if she’d play Svetlana. She didn’t know the show very well, but Christian Borle was playing Jimmy at the time in Millie and he basically acted out the whole show for her in her dressing room and told her she had to do it. Anyhoo, I haven’t heard Sutton and Julia sing their duet in years and was so blown away watching this!

Raul Esparza, Adam Pascal, Josh Groban, Julia Murney and Sutton Foster.
Raul Esparza, Adam Pascal, Josh Groban, Julia Murney and Sutton Foster. Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Note to Chess fans; there is a version of this song with Whitney Houston and her mom, Cissy. I gave Julia and Sutton the amazing climactic notes the Houston’s added to “…why am I falling apart!” After I posted it on Twitter, Julia replied with tidbits:
1) That rake (meaning the stage was tilted) was so steep that we're standing like linebackers for fear that we'll go tumbling off the stage
2) Sutton is wearing my dress & jewelry
3) Which means there was a moment when we shared a size
4) To quote the song: I was ever so much younger then!

Click here to watch it!

Peace out!

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