ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: All in the Addams Family

Seth Rudetsky   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: All in the Addams Family
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

The Addams Family star Jackie Hoffman
The Addams Family star Jackie Hoffman Photo by Joan Marcus

To everything, turn, turn, turn….We're on a carousel, a crazy carousel…Spinning wheel, got to go round.

No, I'm not a light rock FM station, I'm describing the amazing sensation I've had for the last three days. Every four months or so, I get a sinus infection, and the liquid clogging my head gives me vertigo. Usually, I can take a Claritin D and it goes right away, but this one is relentless. The "fun" part is, I couldn't take off any work. On Thursday, I had to do my radio show and my Chatterbox after taking two Dramamine, and I was so out-of-it, I sounded like I was interviewing people while lying on the Equity cot. I then had to fly to LAX the next day and do Broadway by Request with Betty Buckley. My friend Jack Plotnick came to see me do the show, and he was obsessed with my old-man walk onto the stage. [AUDIO-LEFT]Then, at the beginning of the second act, I deconstructed a CD of Betty singing "The Writing on the Wall." On the last note, I hit my signature pose and literally fell out of it because I had no balance. When did I start needing to wear a LifeCall bracelet? Regardless, the show went great, and Betty was in great voice. Speaking of Betty and her voice, she's going to be my guest in my Deconstructing Broadway show this coming Monday at New World Stages! I'm going to deconstruct some old video footage of her, and then she's going to belt up a storm (while I do more deconstructing)! Go to OnlyMakeBelieve.org for tickets.

This week I took Juli to see The Addams Family. First, we went to dinner with Kevin Chamberlin, who is so loveable as Uncle Fester, plus hits an amazing high C in the show! I told him about being busted in Disneyworld when I was with Audra McDonald; She went to the bathroom, and I saw a guy looking over at me. It's always fun when I get recognized, so I nodded back. He walked over and said, "Um…I don't want to bother you…" I smiled graciously and said, "It's no bother," as I wondered whether he had a pen I could use to give him my autograph. My concern for a writing implement was moot because he then looked past me and, instead of asking for my signature, asked excitedly, "Were you just eating with that woman from 'Private Practice'?" My gracious smile slipped away as I said, "Yes, I was," and I then pretended I was looking for my wallet in my pocket and not a Sharpie. Kevin topped that one by telling me that Gerry Vichi was in a hilarious commercial a few years ago, and one day a guy walked up to him on the subway, pointed at him and said, "You're funny!" Gerry thanked the guy and told him it's always nice to be recognized for your work. The man then walked up to the elderly woman sitting next to Gerry on the subway, pointed at her and said, "You're funny." This was repeated throughout the car.

Juli loved The Addams Family and told me she wants to see it "100 more times." I was very moved at one point in Act Two when Jackie Hoffman comes out and sings a reprise with Kevin and Nathan Lane. She's been working the comedy circuit and the Off-Broadway world for many years, and it was so thrilling for me to see her singing and dancing onstage in a big Broadway show opposite big Broadway stars. Plus, getting major laughs. Brava!

Speaking of The Addams Family, I also interviewed Wesley Taylor, who plays Wednesday's (Krysta Rodriguez's) love interest. He had a devastating "Lady or the Tiger"-type moment a few months ago: When the show was near the very end of its run in Chicago, people started goofing off a little. He wanted to make Krysta laugh onstage, so near the end of Act One, he made some lascivious faces towards Bebe Neuwirth, who plays Morticia. Here's where it all failed: First of all, Krysta didn't see him making his sexual faces, so there was no pay off for him. Secondly, Bebe did, and she simply looked miffed and confused. Thirdly, this was right when Jerry Zaks came to help out the production. The next day, Jerry had a meeting with every cast member, and when he met Wesley, he immediately asked, "Were you flirting with Morticia at the end of Act One?" Wesley was then faced with the dilemma of either a) admitting he was joking and getting reprimanded by the new director he wanted to impress for being unprofessional, or b) lying and saying it was an acting choice and having his new director think he has no concept of his own character. Finally, he went for the "choice" option, and Jerry looked at him horrified and told him to "never, ever, make that choice again." And, he hasn't. I had Karen Mason and Gregg Edelman on my Sirius/XM Live on Broadway show because they're both part of the new Primary Stages Concert Series. I asked Karen about being the standby Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Of course, typical understudy-style, she had pretty much no rehearsal before she had to go on the first time. At the end of the show, she's supposed to shoot Alan Campbell, and they had told her to make sure the gun was hidden in her hand at the beginning of the scene by her flouncy sleeves. When the moment arrived, Alan started walking away, and she lifted the gun to shoot him, but now her flouncy sleeves were caught in the trigger. She pointed the gun but couldn't actually get it to shoot. She kept trying to pull the trigger, and he kept walking, and soon he was going to be off the stage! I guess she could have taken a running leap and tackled him, but then how would she have killed him? By belting in his face? Well, right before it was too late, Karen heard a gunshot…from offstage. Apparently, there was a stagehand who waited in the wings as a contingency plan if the onstage gun didn't go off. What did the audience think that night? Max was waiting in the bushes with a rifle?

Then, I asked Gregg about one of the weirdest things that ever happened on Broadway. It all began when he was doing Into the Woods and got nominated for a Tony Award. On a Wednesday afternoon after the nominations, he got a call from Stephen Sondheim. Why? Because Sondheim had gotten a letter from Gregg complaining that, after all the hard work Gregg had done on the show, Sondheim didn't appreciate him. The letter was chock-full of more complaints like that and signed by Gregg, but… Gregg didn't write it! Sondheim knew it wasn't from him but wanted to give Gregg a heads up that someone was forging his name out there. Cut to, Gregg is then walking out of the theatre to get a cup of coffee to settle his head and he hears, "Mr. Edelman!" said in a tone not unlike a headmaster to an unruly child. Who was standing there, glaring and holding a letter in his hand but…the late Gerry Schoenfeld! The head of the Shuberts! He had also gotten a letter from Gregg. This one was different from Sondheim's but also contained a litany of complaints about not being appreciated. It was on special-made stationery to look like it was from Gregg. Gregg said that it had printed on the top: "Gregg Edelman goes Into The Woods." He was mortified and explained that he did not write the letter and walked out of the theatre, hoping the whole thing was over. No. There was also a letter sent to… critic John Simon!!! Gregg had to put that fire out and was soon on the phone with the next recipient of an angry letter…the late Isabelle Stevenson (She was the head of the American Theater Wing…aka the Tony Awards)! Unfortunately, she was the only one who remained non-plussed after his explanation. He thinks she didn't quite understand what he was saying and thought he was calling to apologize for sending the letters. The only response he got from her was a chilly "…I see." I'm obsessed with what an elaborate scheme it was. Gregg's suspicion is that it was sent by someone to try to prevent him from winning the Tony Award. It's so Jackie Collins, I love it!

OK, this weekend is my last week of flying around for a while. I'm going back to Florida, but this time to beautiful Fort Myers! I'm doing a master class and my Deconstructing Broadway show. Go to creativetheaterworkshop.tix.com to get tix. I will end with a hilarious text I received from my mother: Victoria Clark was my guest a few weeks ago on my Sirius/XM show, and she sang the beautiful "In Buddy's Eyes" from Follies. She has such a great soprano voice, and she ended the song on a beautiful pianissimo in head voice. My mom wrote this to me that afternoon: Seth, after Vicki sang, a man in the audience said, "Boy. She's some belter." WHAT?!?! Yay! My mom knows the difference between head and chest voice! My work is done. Peace out!


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 contacted at his website SethRudetsky.com, where he has posted many video deconstructions.

Karen Mason, Gregg Edelman and Seth Rudetsky
Karen Mason, Gregg Edelman and Seth Rudetsky
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