ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Brief Encounter with Jonathan Groff

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Brief Encounter with Jonathan Groff
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Hannah Yelland
Hannah Yelland Photo by Joan Marcus

Greetings from Provincetown. As Christine Ebersole sang, it's "Another Winter in a Summer Town," but it's actually more like "Another Summer Day during Another Winter." It's almost as crowded as the summer, and the weather is almost as beautiful. I'm sitting in my lovely room at the White Wind Inn (with fireplace!) and writing this before I go to dinner and do my show. Being here is much more relaxing than it was getting here. As I wrote last week, James and I were supposed to leave on Sunday, but the blizzard [AUDIO-LEFT]ixnayed our travel plans. Ditto for Monday. So that night, we trudged through the snow to Studio 54 and saw Brief Encounter. We both loved it. There was so much creativity in the direction and the cast members were not only great actors but great musicians. There is non-stop music (mainly Noel Coward songs) throughout the whole show performed by the cast who sing amazing harmony and play all of their own instruments. I was a classical piano major at Oberlin Conservatory, and my favorite piece has always been the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto. Turns out, that music is the theme of the show, and the cast performed it as a choral number at pivotal moments. The arrangement was so beautiful and there was something so moving about hearing it sung that I literally began to cry while they were singing it. It's definitely the kind of show I'd see more than once…with a hefty supply of tissues.

Turns out, James and I weren't the only ones seeing it because we were stranded in New York. Sitting in front of us was Jonathan Groff! He was supposed to fly back to London to do Deathtrap, but the blizzard canceled his plans. I saw him right before the show began and told him we'd chat during intermission. He told me there wasn't an intermission and then, just to sound show-bizzy and make me laugh, he said, "She's ninety minutes." Ew. After the show, we couldn't stop talking about how much we loved the music, and he said that all he wanted to do was record a CD of Noel Coward songs. We walked with him in the freezing snow to 42nd Street, and then James and I went home to prepare for our trip the next morning.

Jonathan Groff, with Simon Russell Beale, in Deathtrap promo art
photo by Hugo Glendinning

Tuesday morning dawned, and we were determined to get to Provincetown no matter what. Well, I was. James was more determined to get to Boston and then see if we'd go to P-town that night or the next day. We left at 10 AM to get our 11 AM train to Boston. After walking down our un-shoveled street, we realized we were not going to get a cab to take us to Penn Station, so we hightailed it to the subway. And by "hightailed" I mean "walked incredibly slowly, old man-style, because the sidewalks were covered in slush with a hefty dose of ice as well." I bought James sturdy winter boots for just this reason, but instead he opted to wear the sneakers I got him last year that caused him to fall down icy stairs and break his shoulder. Yay. I was very supportive of his choice and definitely didn't give him the silent treatment all the way to Penn Station. Anyhoo, we got to Penn and our train was delayed an hour…then an hour and a half…and finally was running two hours late. All James wanted was a nice relaxing night, and since we were supposed to catch a 5:50 flight from Boston to P-town and our train would not get in 'til around 5 PM, James wanted to get a hotel for the night in Boston. But I was determined to get to the White Wind Inn in P-town! I finally manipulated him into going along with my plan to rush from the Amtrak station to the airport in the hopes we could make the plane. I knew my friend Michelle Haynes from Cape Air would do everything in her power to make it work for us. I also told James we could easily take a bus if we missed the flight, but he was adamant that he did not want to take a long, uncomfortable drive all the way to the tip of the Cape. We finally got into Boston's South Street Station at around 5 and ran for the Silver Line, which is actually not a train but a bus that goes right to the airport. Our flight was leaving from terminal C of Logan Airport, and the bus first stopped at terminal A, then terminal B and, naturally, we got off at the next stop. Well, after getting all of our bags and desperately looking for Cape Air, which was nowhere to be found, we were told that we were in terminal B! Why would the bus stop twice in the same terminal!?!?! Is there a terminal B and a half? It was definitely a ton of fun running an entire terminal, carrying all of our bags at 5:45, trying to make a 5:55 flight.

When we got to Cape Air, they told us that we didn't have to rush because our flight was delayed. Ahhhh. Then they told us that, because of mechanical problems, they were only going to have one plane instead of two. So only the first eight people who checked in could be on the flight. Suffice it to say, that wasn't us. They then kindly offered to drive us all from Boston to Provincetown. When I told James we were, after all, going to take a long car ride to the tip of the Cape, he had the same reaction Carol Channing had when she was told that Barbra would be doing the film version of Hello, Dolly! But before we could leave the airport and look for a hotel, Cape Air came through and got another plane so the remaining passengers could fly. Yay! Well…right before we landed in Provincetown, the wind picked up and suddenly we all saw the lights of Provincetown retreating in the distance. That's right, because of the high winds, we turned around in the air and were diverted to the nearest airport, Hyannis. The good news is, I got my wish and made it to the White Wind Inn by Tuesday night. The bad news is Cape Air got us all to Provincetown by paying for the cab ride. A lengthy, lengthy cab ride. To the tip of the Cape. The one that James was adamant he didn't want to do and the one I assured him we wouldn't. I'm glad that James believes in the sanctity of marriage and is still honoring our engagement.

Anyhoo, we wound up having a great time and the White Wind Inn is beautiful and had a great breakfast every day. I performed at the Art House, which was so much fun, except for the tech rehearsal when the heat was broken. I literally had to wear my coat and scarf the whole time. Fre-zee-zing! Speaking of heat, I'm pretty sure I'm going to spend the summer performing in Provincetown! Yay! But before that, I have gigs coming up all over the place. I'm coming to Springfield, Ohio, Sioux City and Ft. Lauderdale! (info at www.SethRudetsky.com. Natch). Also, I just posted my top five favorite "Obsessed" videos from the last year. And, in the process, completely busted Juli for her signature unbrushed "but I did brush it!" hair. Watch: http://www.playbill.com/multimedia/video/4463.html

Seth in rehearsal

Last week, my sister Nancy and niece Eliana went to see the Lion King tour in their hometown of Virginia Beach and loved it! However, Nancy noticed that there were percussionists in the box seats and she assumed, therefore, that they were accompanying pre-recorded music. She started raging and thinking "This is Seth's cause celebre. I must register my displeasure!" At the curtain call, she saw the cast gesture to the pit and thought, "What nerve! They're gesturing to a person playing a tape recorder. Outrageous!" After the show, she went down the aisle, completely against the traffic of the exiting audience to "confront" the person running the pre-recorded music. Of course, she instead saw an entire orchestra in the pit. Excellent. Really worth having a fit for the entire show. As she was relaying the story to me, I asked, "So you stormed down the aisle past all those people to get to the pit?" and she answered, "Well, I recently had somewhat of a weight gain so it wasn't quite storming. I'd say that I shuffled down the aisle." Speaking of those two (clowns), they're both flying up to New York to see our favorite show, In the Heights on its final Sunday. There won't be enough tissues to control our non-stop crying. And, from what Nancy's implied, there won't be enough carbs to control our non-stop eating. Happy New Year!!!!*

Seth Rudetsky has played piano in the pits of many Broadway shows including Ragtime, Grease and The Phantom of the Opera. He was the artistic producer/conductor for the first five Actors Fund concerts including Dreamgirls and Hair, which were both recorded. As a performer, he appeared on Broadway in The Ritz and on TV in "All My Children," "Law and Order C.I." and on MTV's "Made" and "Legally Blonde: The Search for the Next Elle Woods." He has written the books "The Q Guide to Broadway" and "Broadway Nights," which was recorded as an audio book on Audible.com. He is currently the afternoon Broadway host on Sirius/XM radio and tours the country doing his comedy show, "Deconstructing Broadway." He can be contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.)

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