ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Down to Orlando and "Down, Back, Knock…Down, Back, Knock"

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Down to Orlando and "Down, Back, Knock…Down, Back, Knock"
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Aaron Lazar
Aaron Lazar Photo by Aubrey Reuben

First, let me say that even though I'm out of town for the next two weeks, I'm going to be in NYC at the end of April, and I'm doing a big show!

"Only Make Believe" is a great organization I've raised money for over the last seven years (they bring fantastic shows to hospitalized children) and on Monday, April 26, I'm doing a benefit performance for them of Deconstructing Broadway at New World Stages. This is the show I've been performing around the country, and I'm so excited to finally [AUDIO-LEFT]be doing it in New York. I'll be deconstructing all-new audio and video clips, plus hauling out encore performances of my signatures, including such chestnuts as the brilliance of Patti LuPone versus the straight tone of Madonna, the boy who sings the devastating head-voiced "la" in the Sound of Music's "Do Re Mi" and a shocking video of Cher playing Maria in West Side Story. PS, she also plays Anita, Tony, the Sharks and the Jets. Seriously. For tickets and info go to www.OnlyMakeBelieve.org.

Now, onto today's flight. It's 8:30 in the morning, and I'm on my way to sunny Orlando with James and Juli. Remember my column a few weeks ago when I was complaining and I wrote that it sounded like the parody article from The Onion written by a very entitled woman called "My Personal Shopper is the Worst"? Well, let me continue in that vein and say, this is the worst first-class I've ever been in! Last night, James, Juli and I got an email saying we'd been upgraded to first class, and we were super psyched. This morning, on the way to boarding, I didn't stop to buy a book because they always have a delicious selection of newspapers in first class, plus there are so many TV shows and movies to choose from when you have a personal television on the seat in front of you. Nor did I buy breakfast because I knew I'd be eating one of their elaborate meals. Cut to: We sat down, and I asked for a newspaper, figuring I'd start by pretending I read The Times and then immediately segue to The Daily News. The flight attendant simply said, "We don't carry newspapers." But…? Since when? "For a long time now." Well, maybe I can hop off and quickly go to the airport bookstore…and, cabin doors closed. What was I going to read? Oh, well, who cares…I'll just see what the little TV set in front of me has to choose from. Wait. All I see in front of me is the back of the seat in front of me. But… last week on Delta I had tons of TV shows and movies to choose from…and I was in coach! I notice here in first class, there's just a little TV set hanging in the front. Well, let me check what new release they're showing…what the-? They're only showing sitcoms? Let me just see which ones…"In the Motherhood"??? Wasn't that cancelled last year? Why not haul out an episode of "Joey" while you're at it? Oh, well, I'm sure I'll be so tired after eating all of that breakfast food they're going to serve. Ah! The flight attendant approaches. Let's see…what are my choices? I'm sorry? There are no choices? A croissant and fruit? Am I at some horrible weight loss spa? Get me out of here! This is the worst first class ever!

Anyhoo, today is not the end of my traveling. Next week I go to Torrance, CA, and Bend, OR, to play Broadway By Request for Betty Buckley, and then on my day off in between those gigs, I'm doing my auditioning master class in San Juan Capistrano. For more info and to register, go to www.SethRudetsky.com. Speaking of which, my dad is coming to see the show in Torrance and asked for details. I told him to go to Betty Buckley's website. He then wrote me back, miffed, because he only saw info for someone named Betty Lynn. I then wrote him an outraged email informing him that Lynn was Betty's middle name and asking who else named Betty would have information on BettyBuckley.com! He then wrote me back and asked, if he didn't go to middle school with her, how was he supposed to know Lynn was her middle name? Point taken.

I had A Little Night Music's Aaron Lazar at my Sirius/XM Live On Broadway show. He said that no one in his show complains about being tired because right before they do, they think about Angela Lansbury who's in her 80's and hasn't missed a show yet.

Aaron also talked about the time he was first in NYC. He moved into what he called a "roach motel." He said he literally woke up every morning and would have to kill roaches with his shoe. Next door was a woman who would cower and make noise whenever you passed her. There was always a stench coming from her apartment, but he got used to it. One day his friend came over and told him the smell was crazy, and he had to do something. They called the police who wound up having to bang down her door and, turns out, she had dead cats hanging up all over the apartment! That's why he was eager to get a national tour and get the h*ll out of town. He went in for The Scarlet Pimpernel tour, assuming he'd understudy Chauvelin, the baritone part. Well, when he sang, they asked if he could sing "Into the Fire," which ends on an A flat. He knew that was way too high for him but, desperate-actor style, smiled and said yes. Unfortunately, they then asked him to sing it and even more unfortunately, the adrenaline made his voice able to hit the last note. He was offered the understudy position. The good news was, he was the second understudy and therefore would probably never go on. His first night on tour, he sat in the audience and watched the show. He thought to himself that the Pimpernel was straining his voice and wondered how he would make it through the show. Cut to, ten minutes later, the curtain came down due to "technical difficulties" and then went back up with the understudy on! The next day, the guy playing the Pimpernel left the tour, and the understudy took over the part — which suddenly made Aaron the first understudy! He finally had to go on and got over his fear of the high note but was terrified of the guillotine in Act Two. They told him he had to put his head in, and when the "blade" came down, he had to move his body back and then knock on the floor to signal a crew member to open up the trap door so he could escape. If he didn't move back in time, his neck would be broken by the guillotine! Typical understudy-style, he got to run it with the actual guillotine once at 7:25 PM on the night he had to go on. Of course, instead of putting his head down, then moving it back and then knocking, he put it down and then knocked. He heard the panicked cry of the stage manager screaming, "BACK," and he moved it back just in time. Essentially, he was almost killed...and then it was "places." He said that throughout the whole show, instead of thinking about his next line or song, he just kept repeating, "Down, back, knock…down, back, knock." The mantra paid off, and his neck remains intact to this day.

I'm writing this section after being in Orlando for two days. We went to Disney Hollywood, Disney Animal Kingdom, and today James and Juli are at Magic Kingdom (I had my master class). We owe it all to Michael Wanzie, who runs all the theatre events at The Parliament House and can hook us up with anything Disney. It's amazing. We got such VIP treatment, I felt like I was Michael Eisner (before he was fired). And, my "Brady Bunch Variety Hour Show" went so well. The audience was over-the-top loving everything and incredibly savvy. At one point, I mentioned that Eve Plumb didn't do the "Variety Show" because she had just done a TV movie. I rhetorically asked if anyone knew what the title was, and someone immediately called out "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway." Later on, I said that Barry Williams, who played Greg, left the national tour he was doing to star in the "Variety Show." Yet again, I asked if anyone knew what musical he was in and before I could finish the sentence, someone yelled out Pippin. I couldn't believe it, and I told them they were the savviest audience I'd ever had. I qualified it by saying they were savvy about a very specific and bizarre subject, but savvy nonetheless. At the end of the show, I always get a group of people to come up, then I teach them choreography from one of the Brady finales and we do it in front of the screen, "Rocky Horror" style. It worked better than ever before because Wanzie hooked me up with a costume house, and I gave everybody 70's colored outfits and amazing wigs to wear for the number. I always play Mike and since Juli was in the audience, she got to be Cindy. She begged to keep the wig. Speaking of which, she got a dinosaur at Build-a-Dinosaur, and she also got a little outfit for it. I asked if it was a boy or a girl and she said, "Look at the outfit. A girl!" Then she paused and added, "Unless it's a drag queen." Brava!

And now, I'm in the Orlando airport waiting for our flight home. The end of our vaca wound up being even more fun than the beginning. On Saturday, after my master class, I posted something on Facebook about being in Orlando. It was read by Joel Abels, who wrote his best friend, Audra McDonald, and told her I was in Florida (they've known each other since they were ten!). She texted me that she and her adorable daughter Zoe were at Magic Kingdom, and they soon hooked up with James and Juli, and we all wound up going out to dinner Saturday night. Sunday we went back to Animal Kingdom, and then she drove us to the airport. Audra and I have known each for around 20 years. Back then, I was playing auditions one afternoon for an industrial, and she came in and sang something from Dreamgirls. I thought she was a brava, so I got her number and asked her to sing in the volunteer hospital shows I do for Lifebeat. Since then, we've hung out/worked together many times, including me playing her graduation concert at Juilliard! We all had a great time this weekend, but perhaps the most exciting moment came Saturday night; I had told Michael Wanzie that both James and I love "Project Runway," and we each had a private crush on one of the designers whose name is Jesse. When Wanzie dropped us off for dinner with Audra, he first asked us to turn our backs. We then turned back around and were face-to-face with…Jesse!! Turns out, they know each other because Jesse is also an actor and starred in the Orlando production of The Little Dog Laughed! I was speechless, mainly because I was drooling, but also because I didn't want to appear too lecherous in front of his wife. That's right, wife. Hmph. James and I had just seen her play, Belle, at Disney Hollywood and thought she was great. And very, very lucky. Sigh.

OK, good-bye from Orlando…soon, hello from Torrance, San Juan Capistrano and Bend, OR!


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.

Audra McDonald, James, Seth, Zoe, Jessie Lenoir, Juli, Brittany Berkowitz LeNoir and Michael Wanzie
Audra McDonald, James, Seth, Zoe, Jessie Lenoir, Juli, Brittany Berkowitz LeNoir and Michael Wanzie
Today’s Most Popular News: