ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Passport to Theatrical Adventures

News   ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Passport to Theatrical Adventures
A week in the life of actor, writer, music director and Chatterbox host Seth Rudetsky.

Ciao from 30,000 feet. I'm on the Alitalia flight to Rome where I'll then transfer for a flight to Barcelona. This is the first rFamily Vacations in Europe, and I'm psyched. If you don't know, rFamily Vacations are for gay parents and their kids but this time, we don't have a kid along. Juli still has school next week, so James and I are doing a working/romantic vacation. Aaahhh. However, let me first talk a little about the lead up to the flight.

James left his passport on top of the suitcase the night before our flight because that way he'd be "sure to remember it." I thought it should be put away in the knapsacks we carry every day, but he said we'd be walking through New York City with them, and they could get lost. It was smarter to leave it within plain sight and then put it in our bags as we left. Cut to, we packed and as we got into our car to go the airport, James suddenly realized that he had no idea where his passport was. I didn't lance him with my first reaction, which was [AUDIO-LEFT]" I told you so"…but mainly because we were standing on the street under the blazing sun and I was too hot to muster the energy. Instead, we threw the suitcases on the sidewalk and started rifling through them, and he then ran into the house to search the bedroom. It wasn't in the house, and we finally found it, buried in one of the suitcases. We made it to the airport with plenty of time, and all's well. However, that kind of happy ending doesn't happen for everyone. Anika Larsen (from the recent Xanadu tour) is the other singer on the cruise. When she was packing her passport, she took a quick peek and discovered that it expired! Luckily, they let her on the flight without a passport after I vouched it was really her. That last sentence was brought to you by the year 1975. What really happened is that she has to pay (a lot) to get her passport expedited and then she can fly to Barcelona. But they can't do anything on the weekend, so she's going to meet the cruise on Tuesday at one of our Italian ports. Her solo show isn't scheduled until Thursday night, so it works out fine — except for the medication she'll probably have to start taking after her heart briefly stopped when she looked at the expiration date.

Juli at the piano

Next… iPad, iPod, we all scream for iPad! What? Ignore that and let me say that Juli is obsessed with winning an iPad in a contest she entered where you had to make something out of Moishe's Moving Company boxes. My friend Jack Plotnick came over, and they both came up with the concept and design of the box piano. I put the picture up in this column and if you sympathize with a little girl's need for something that's an incredibly expensive toy she has no actual need for, please vote! And because I know most of you need a break every afternoon from work, please vote daily. We're too cheap/poor to buy her one, so please help a little girl eat…if "eat" means download free apps and play mind-numbing video games for hours. Go here for the actual voting: http://apps.facebook.com/contestshq/contests/34092/voteable_entries/4985874?order=recency&%3Bview_entries=1&ref=mf

This is my first Alitalia trip, and I can't help but notice that they employ a flight crew whose facial expressions have two looks: blank and sneering. Let's just say I don't think they're fans of my Sirius/XM radio show...or humans in general. They're not flat-out rude, but that's like saying the Elephant Man wasn't completely horrific-looking. I'm so nervous whenever they come by to do any service. It reminds me of being in high school when your teacher assigns you a lab partner who's one of the cool kids: They do what they're supposed to do, but you know that inside they completely hate you. At one point, the male attendant just leaned across us and closed our window shade. No comment…or facial expression. I guessed it was because the movie had begun… but usually there's an announcement asking the passengers to do it as a courtesy. And as soon as the movie began, the cabin lights were turned on to full power. So…they don't want the film ruined by the light spilling in from the completely black night outside our window, but a myriad of 200-watt fluorescent bulbs are a must for viewing enjoyment. Of course, as I was writing this, I heard another woman complaining to her mother ("That flight attendant is a b**ch!), so we just had a full gossip session. She told me that the passenger next to her ordered a wine, but her tray table wouldn't come down. As she was fiddling with it, the flight attendant said, "Will you hurry up, please? I don't have time to stand here all day!" Hmm…at least her English is good.

OK, back to America for a recap of last week. On Wednesday I interviewed Bryan Batt, who just came out with a book about his childhood called "She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother" (available online and in bookstores). Essentially, he would regale his friends with his south of the Mason Dixon line childhood memories, and one day Paul Rudnick said, "Either you turn this into a book or I will!" Bryan and his partner run a store in New Orleans called "Hazelnut" (www.bryanbatt.com ) but spend time in NYC. A few years ago, Hurricane Katrina was aiming towards Louisiana, and they were in New York. His goddaughter called and told him that she'd handle it. She boarded up the store and drove his dog and his mom to Texas before the storm hit. He and Tom wanted to thank her, so they planned a big vacation with her to Paris. Right before they were about to go on the trip, Bryan was offered an audition for a TV show…but it was in the middle of his vacation week. Of course, I would have cancelled that vacation faster than you can say deperaux, but Bryan told his agent that he couldn't make the audition and if they didn't find someone, he'd love to come in after he got back. He went to Paris, had a great time and when he got back, they held another round of auditions. Normally on TV, you audition for the casting person, then the creative team and then you have the big, scary final audition for the network. Bryan went in once for the creator of the show and got cast as Salvatore on "Mad Men." And had his delicious Paris vacation! Best of both mondes.

He told us that he was the understudy for the lead in The Scarlet Pimpernel, and his most mortifying moment onstage happened on the night he completely split the back of his pants! Unfortunately, he was then supposed to be led to the guillotine with his back to the audience! He looked around at the ensemble and quickly snatched a shawl off of one of the townswomen. He sassily tied it around his waist and then made his way to the guillotine…as The Scarlet Gypsy Woman.

On Tuesday, I went to City Hall because Audra McDonald asked me to play for a big Gay Pride celebration that was headed by Christine Quinn, who's the head of the City Council. Let me just say, it's not fun hanging out with super-celebrities because nobody is interested in talking to you, let alone recognizing your body of work. Not even if you cough the words "Sirius/XM" or "A-mahzing" repeatedly into your fist. But just when I thought I was the most un-famous person in the world and Audra was the most famous, Wendy Williams, who hosted the event, stepped up to the mic to introduce Audra and began with "Audrey McDonald has won four Tony awards…" Just in case we didn't catch the wrong name at the beginning, she ended the introduction with a slow, "Ladies and gentleman…Audrey…McDonald." The good news is she didn't pronounce my name wrong…because it wasn't mentioned. Speaking of being recognized, a woman came up to me at the Tony Awards party and said she wanted to meet me. I modestly asked why (AKA, is it my radio show or my deconstruction videos?) and I prepared myself to respond with either the insightful, "It's wonderful how satellite radio can reach so many" or the inside scoop of "The deconstructions are something I first started just for my friends." As I took a breath to launch into either response, she told me that the reason she wanted to meet me was because she'd "want to meet anybody who worked with Tony Shaloub." Silence. I then muttered "um…I'm not in Lend Me A Tenor". I tactfully left out the part where I had begged and pleaded with my agent to get me an audition (to no avail). PS Who did she think I was? Hottie Justin Bartha? Italian Anthony LaPaglia? Grande Dame Brooke Adams?

Also, I finally saw Fela! on Broadway. I thought Bill T. Jones did an amazing job telling the story of Fela and a brilliant job with the staging. Of course, I loved hearing Lillias White bring the house down with her song in Act Two. At one point, they asked the audience to rise and learn a dance step. I noticed the man in front of me had gray hair but was doing the step full out. Sassy! "Aw…" I thought, "a business man from New Jersey is getting in touch with his inner performer." I then caught a glimpse of his face and realized that his inner performer also had an outer performer…with many Tony Awards. It was Tommy Tune! Either I need glasses or 6' 6" doesn't hit me the way it used to.

OK, now I'm sitting in my stateroom with the balcony door open. We just sailed from Barcelona, and the sun is setting on the Mediterranean. The first stop is Monaco where James and I are going to catch a train to Nice. Romantic! I'd love to write more but quite frankly I just discovered that the main restaurant here has a crepe bar, and it's imperative that I get a chocolate one tout de suite. Until next week…Ciao Bella! *

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.

Seth with Bryan Batt and Jack Plotnick
Seth with Bryan Batt and Jack Plotnick
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