ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Twas the Shopping Day Before Christmas | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Twas the Shopping Day Before Christmas
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Christine Ebersole chats with Seth on the cruise
Christine Ebersole chats with Seth on the cruise Photo by Krissie Fullerton

It’s Christmas Eve, and I j-u-s-t bought the last present I needed to get. I pretty much started shopping two days ago. I’d love to blame it on the fact that I was away on the Playbill on the High Seas cruise, but the reality is that last year I had plenty of time in NYC yet I was frantically shopping on Christmas Day itself. And, ps, nothing was open. I literally had to go to one of those stores on 8th Avenue that only caters to tourists, and essentially all of my presents featured some aspect of “I heart New York.” Anyhoo, this year I was able to find everything I wanted to buy, and I’m on my way to my mother-in-law’s house for severe acting out with food. Delish!

This week I had a little Playbill cruise reunion on my SiriusXM talk show, Seth Speaks. Jason Danieley and Christine Ebersole came by, and we told stories about what it was like spending ten days in South America. Jason and I wound up leaving a day before Christine, and she told us what she did on her last day below the Equator. She and a group from the cruise spent the day in a favela, which is the extremely poor section of Rio de Janiero. It’s also where Michael Jackson shot the “They Don’t Care About Us” video. Christine said it was really wonderful. First there was a drumming circle, which she joined in on, and then one of the men in the circle invited her into his house. She described it as incredibly tiny and yet his whole family lived there. She also noticed that, despite the poverty, everybody in the favela seemed extremely happy. Speaking of poverty, she was mortified when, after an hour passed, her husband Bill whispered, “I’m surprised no one’s recognized you.” What? She was about to glare and tell him that his comment made no sense when a young woman approached her. The woman pointed at Christine and asked, “Actress?” Christine slowly nodded and then the woman said, in perfect English, “I saw you this morning in 'Confessions of a Shopaholic'!" Brava Bill for being psychic!

Jason Danieley
photo by Krissie Fullerton
Marin Mazzie (Jason’s wife) couldn’t be at the SiriusXM show because she had a gig in Texas, but I remembered a story Marin told on the ship that I love. Back in the ‘90’s, she went on the national tour of The World Goes ‘Round with Kander and Ebb. They were playing in a city where her understudy was from so Marin (graciously) planned on letting her go on for a performance. Her understudy invited everyone she knew from her hometown, and Marin made plans for a delicious dinner. Cut to, an hour into her dinner, Marin got a phone call at the restaurant (this was before cell phones). The other actress in the show had sprained her ankle and couldn’t continue with the show. That meant that Marin’s understudy had to take over the other role and Marin had to come back and finish out the show. Unfortunately, Marin was enjoying her night off from the show, and her way of enjoying was drinking a glass of wine. Or more. Before you judge, there was no reason she shouldn’t drink because she didn’t have a show! Cut to, not only did she have to rush back to the theatre and go on while slightly (or more) tipsy, she had to start from the part of the show where she was on roller skates! And, she had to do a cartwheel! I’m obsessed with the announcement that was made when the show started up again. Because Marin was returning after her understudy was on for her, the announcement was “Ladies and Gentleman, the role usually played by Marin Mazzie will be played by… Marin Mazzie.” What? The sweet and mystical part of the story is that after it ended she was approached by someone at the stage door. He was very sickly looking, but she soon recognized him as one of her old college friends. He had advanced AIDS and had planned on coming to the show just to see Marin. Naturally, he was very upset when she was out but then elated when she came back! He was so sick that, sadly, he died shortly afterwards, but it was as if he was meant to see Marin perform no matter what, and the universe conspired to make it happen.

Speaking of a mystical universe, I saw Jackie Hoffman’s A Chanukah Charol, and it was great. It’s a one-woman show where she plays a variety of roles; most notably the narrator (as Patrick Stewart) and the Ghost of Christmas Present (as Shelley Winters a la The Posiedon Adventure). There were so many hilarious lines, but one of my favorites is when she talks about performing for Jewish groups or non-Jewish groups. Jackie said she always knows when she’s not performing in a synagogue because she’s able to go an entire show without someone yelling "LOUDER!!!!" I was also obsessed with her imitation of her mother serving a holiday meal: "There’s veal, steak, chicken, brisket, white rice, yellow rice, potatoes, kugel, latkes and tsimis. I spent all day making food. Please take food. I hope there’s enough food." Pause. "Food."

All right, finally let me remind you to join www.SethTV.com, where I just put up the amazing Leading Men concert with Norm Lewis and Jonathan Groff…as well as the fabulous Patti LuPone concert from P-town! And, for a nice holiday treat, here is the video of me, Andrea McArdle and Lilla Crawford (original and current Annie) rehearsing for Gypsy of the Year. And, yes, all of us sing “Tomorrow”. Enjoy and peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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